Muddled Times
Discussion:Forum post

The decline of MUD2?

I've been assuming for a while that clearly MUD2 must be on the decline; MUD2 is an out-dated style of game; Surely players move on from MUD2; Surely no-one would discover MUD2 amongst all the MUDs out there. The net result has to be that MUD2 is in the decline. Doesn't it? I set out to get some data to challenge my assumptions.

Ideal would be to capture raw minutes of game time spent playing by each of the distinct accounts. That would be pretty close to the actual data to test my hypothesis. Sadly, I don't have access to that kind of data. I settled on forum activity as a proxy for on-going engagement with MUD2. It's not perfect because perhaps people hang on longer chatting about playing the game than they actually do playing the game. The advantage of this proxy data is that it's easily available online.

After a few hours I'd successfully scraped all the player posting activity on (sorry, Foddy, if it turns out your paying based on bandwidth usage). Now I had the raw data. But how to interpret it?

My first attempt was a snazzy looking "streamgraph" of each player's postings on the forum. I figured that this would be fun because I made it an interactive chart that folks could hover over and learn from interacting with it. For whatever reason it was so slow even on my beefy computer that I couldn't make it part of this article without making you all think your computer had died. Shame. I wish I'd had more time spare to spruce it up. Here's a screenshot:

The chart ... looks nice ... but so what? The non-interactive version of this is not all that interesting. The most interesting find here is that there's no obvious drop off in the number of posts. It looks like there might be some seasonal waxing and waning although it's hard to distinguish the seasons here - I didn't dig into that. The forum posting activity here makes it look like 2008 to 2011 was the peak of MUD2 activity since the forum began in 2001. Could be. 2013 looks like a more active year than 2005. Late 2014 through early 2015 could be a drop off, but then 2015 to date looks like yet another peak. So far this chart is full of surprises. This data doesn't indicate decline at all to me. On the other hand, maybe this view on the data is too misleading. Time to keep digging. Damn it. I thought I'd have the article wrapped up by this point. Ahem.

It seemed to me that digging into activity broken down by how long players had been around might generate some insights. By this point I was getting lazy and settled on Excel for quick and easy charts. Less pretty. Much quicker to put together. Here's what I came up with:

So what is this telling us? We can more or less ignore 2001 through 2003 because that's the different groups of tenure establishing themselves. Pretty much around 2004 posts start being dominated by players that have been posting for longer than 2 years. There are some exceptions around 2005 and 2008-2010, and again around 2013-2015. What I learn from this chart is that MUD2 is pretty sticky. Most people posting on the forums have been around for 2+ years. That's not all that surprising. This made me want to investigate the uptake of MUD2 by new players. How many new players are actually playing MUD2 for the first time (well, at least posting for the first time)?

As a side note, throughout this article I've been excluding accounts that were created but never posted to the forums. I figured that that would likely exclude the players that created multiple accounts for themselves.

Here's what the numbers of new players posting looks like month to month:

Wow. This surprised me. Yes, the level of new players posting to the forum from 2013 onwards is nothing like 2002-2004, but even from 2013 on there is a regular trickle! Is MUD2 on the decline? Somewhat ... but nowhere near the kind of decline I'd assumed. I would have guessed a lot of activity around 2001 and then pretty much nothing after that. This looks very different to the decline I had imagined. The new player posts combined with the first chart of post activity really makes me think that true decline is a way off still.

Yay for our community and yay for MUD2 - we and MUD2 must be doing something right!


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