Discovering the MUD (and time constraints and RSC LORE)

Time constraints and RSC LORE

Working on RSC seven days a week, I do not have the time to continue writing the RSC LORE series. When I am finished with RSC, I will reorganise my worldbuilding and return to the series.

Discovering the MUD

It is important to understand that I consider all text-based fiction, printed or digital, that allows the reader/player to interact with the story by making choices to be “interactive fiction” (“IF”).

When I started working on RSC near two years ago, I knew little of IF. Honestly, those old “Give Yourself Goosebumps” gamebooks were my only exposure to it.

Now I consider IF a distinct discipline of art, as there are a plethora of forms it can take. RSC, for instance, is a work of choice-based IF, but a more popular form of IF is parser IF, with which you type commands instead of selecting choice text.

I intend to explore the many forms of IF in my article “The making of RSC,” but my intent with this post is to introduce a specific text-based game and discuss its relevance to IF and general writing.

Where to begin?

Researching IF,  I happened upon the acronym “MUD” on more occasions than one, though I hadn’t dared investigate until two weeks ago. To summarise the MUD Wikipedia article, a MUD is a “Multi-User Dungeon,” a text-based multiplayer video game.

Intrigued by the possibility of a text-based MMORPG, I found the r/MUD subreddit, where I made a post titled “Where to begin?” It was responded to with haste and detail, and from all the MUDs there recommended to me, the first seemed to best match my preferences.

Sindome

The MUD first recommended to me was “Sindome,” which is technically a “MOO.”

Sindome has strict rules of conduct which exist to preserve the beautiful and grotesque world created by its game moderators and players. Roleplay (RP) in Sindome is required, and metagaming is prohibited and policed with tenacity.

I do not wish to break rules of conduct by writing about my in character (IC) experiences, though I believe it is acceptable to discuss the general premise of the game.

The premise

As stated on the website, Sindome is “a cyberpunk roleplaying game set 85 years in the future.”

If you are unfamiliar with cyberpunk, do yourself a justice and “Blade Runner” and “Blade Runner 2049.” If you are seeking a comprehensive list of cyberpunk artworks, many are listed on the “Inspiration” tab of the Sindome website.

Withmore City, the prime setting of the game, is a futuristic, dome-enclosed city of four layers. The lowest layer is settled by the dregs, while the highest is the domain of the distinguished.

Expect neon signs, holograms, clones, gangs, bars, suicide booths, soup kitchens, corpses, sex shops, video walls, nightclubs, pickles, prisons, factories, dodgy alleys, drug vending machines, pimps, fallout shops, ad-blimps, abandoned buildings, brothels, burnt out cars, street judges, GRID terminals, hobos, tube stations, pickpockets, food stands, scummy hotels, and steaming manholes, and expect all listed above and a million things more to be rendered in text.

If you enter an intersection, for instance, you will be provided with an evocative textual description of the intersection, within which might be sections of differently coloured text indicating something you can interact with. You will also be provided with movement options, primarily in the form of cardinal directions. But what bursts my brain is that if another player/playable character (PC) enters the intersection, a description of them will appear, and you may be able to interact with them, in an IC manner.

IF and general writing

Interactivity

You may be wondering how you make your character interact with their environment.

Sindome uses commands similar to works of parser IF. You can type whatever you wish into the client, though it will only recognise and act upon words and phrases it recognises.

You could type “north” to walk north, “look at graffiti” to inspect at a piece or a collection of graffiti, or “say Where can a guy find some pickles around here?” to track down the true desire of all sane humanoids.

Reading

Reading improves writing, but it is best to read good writing.

Sindome’s prose immerses you with very few lines. It is sharp and brutal, and you will quickly feel the recycled air pushing down on you.

If you want to advance your prose and learn how to generate a cyberpunk tone, heed Sindome’s descriptions. Look at and question everything. Stop and smell the corpses.

Creating and roleplaying a character

Good stories have great characters, and Sindome forces you to create a believable character. In fact, to get certain jobs, your character’s “history” must be submitted to and accepted by the game moderators.

For it to be accepted, you must detail:

– Your character’s date and place of birth.
– Their family (their parents at minimum).
– Their personality traits (strengths and weaknesses/flaws).
– Their education and employment history.
– Interesting past experiences.
– Their achievements.
– Why they have the stats and skills that they do.
– Why they came to Withmore City (honestly, you’d have to be mad).
– Their goals and motivations.

You can also customise your character’s voice, appearance, and how they might look standing in the street or sleeping in the alley adjacent to it.

Though creating your character is a small step towards participating in RP.

Sindome exists in “real-time,” meaning that an hour in Withmore City is equal to an hour in real life. If you exit the game while your character is prancing down the street, they will collapse against a bin and sleep.

By interacting with the environment, NPCs, PCs, and game moderators in real time — by participating in real-time RP —  you experience every peak and trough of your character’s story arc first hand. Every friend and enemy gained. Every triumph and failure.

Some characters have existed since Sindome came online in 1997, to put it in perspective.

Shared storytelling

While other MUDs might focus on game mechanics, Sindome focuses on RP and shared storytelling, and in this way, it is similar to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), for which I might write a similar post.

It is compelling because it is social storytelling — a shared hallucination. But it is also valuable for any writer who intends to collaborate at some point in their career.

Cheap possibilities

I think Sindome interests me because it illustrates the versatility of text.

Text is cheap.

You can write with a piece of paper and a pencil… and you can create an entire universe with a book of paper and a box of pencils.

You can jump from a whispered conversation to an epic space battle in a single page… and you can witness fifty worlds through fifty pairs of eyes in a single book.

Text is possibility.

I can create a work of choice-based IF like RSC… but I could also evolve into a text-based MMORPG.

Now that is an idea.

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