Muddled Times
Issue:Issue 29, March 2005

The Skill Gap in MUDII

How good are you at MUD? Ever considered it? How good do you think you are compared to your fellow players? I wonder, if you think you're good enough to make wizard in the current MUDII climate. I've been putting some thought into it, and I've come up with a reasonably clear way to categorise how good people are at the game, and how good you are. It also highlights a problem with the system (or perhaps, a natural and intended bottleneck) where there is a distinct and yawning skill gap between the sets of players in The Land. So what do you need?

(1) Knowledge of The Land

Firstly, and most importantly, you need to know The Land. You need to know its ins and outs, its secrets, its puzzles, and its mysteries. It's something that comes with time, experience, and a large dollop of snooping, asking for clues, and cheating by asking people for stuff via ICQ. However, realistically, once you attain a certain level of knowledge, you have enough to make it to wizard. Strictly speaking, this knowledge is simply 7 tasks-worth, but to make wizard, you don't just have to master the game's mechanics. What you have master is knowledge of fighting, because unless the game is an empty shell, that is what you will need to do to make it. Unless you fancy sneaking your way up there, and no-one's gonna manage to do that. Right? Right guys? Guys?

Anyway, you must use your knowledge to interact with number two, which is

(2) Speed

Speed has a number of different aspects. First, there is speed in navigating The Land, which is really a part of (1). So you must be able to go from the island in the evil wood to the eagle's nest without really thinking about it. That sort of thing. Then there is speed in a fight. This is the ability to think on your feet: mostly it's learnt, so you need to know when to re-attack, when to steal, when to blind and cripple, when to flee, but you have to do it extremely fast and at the right time (which is also part of (3) ).

Then there is arguably the most important aspect of speed for normal players - speed at the beginning of the reset. You have to have your reset start down pat - within minutes of entering The Land, you need enough kit to make a difference. Yes, often you will get a head start on other players and get to gather some kit at your leisure, but at some point in your wizrun, you will start a reset with another player intent on wiping you out. Beware if you quit on them as soon as you realise: that gets your average wizmort really riled up and intent on destroying you. You need to be as fast as they are at gathering it. And here's the key, and the reason for the title of this article.

There is a skill gap in MUDII. Your average mud player has a basic lack of mud knowledge. But there are a decent amount of people whose mud knowledge is enough to make wizard. They have the knowledge, but do they have the speed?

This is of course, tested. How is it tested? By competition from other players, and at the higher end of the spectrum, competition from wizmorts. To succeed and make it to wizard, you must be as fast as a wizmort. If you're unlucky, you have to be as fast as the very best wizmorts. (Whether or not Turrican's reputation matches up to his actual skill, or indeed, if he plays wizmorts much at all any more is only known to the wizards - but you bet your bottom dollar if you're beaten soundly it's blamed on him.)

How do you get that fast? Well, imagine throwing yourself face first into a brick wall to make yourself as tough as bricks. That's pretty much it. You have to fail, and fail, and fail. And you need to learn each time, and work it out, and practice your speed.

So what's the problem? It's incredibly demoralising. Building up a character in MUD takes time, and a certain level of emotional investment. Losing a succession of warlocks is a killer - the loss of power is tangible, and the thought of doing the spring for the 4020330112th time can drive you nuts.

(3) Luck

Not to mention, you have to be lucky. We're all familiar with the capriciousness of the touchstone. The lurking danger of sharks. Whether the dragon will choose today to fry you into crispy toast. There's not much to say about it, and even less you can do to control it, but you'll need it. Because have a little bit of bad luck, and every ounce of speed you've got won't be worth a damn. Which is where part (4) comes in.

(4) You have to want it.

BOY you have to want it. Because the gap in skill (and I count 'skill' as the combination of knowledge and speed) is so vast between wizards and mortals that to truly rise to the required level, you have to take a LOT of punishment, you have to take a fair amount of abuse, and you have to be ready to take the crippling disappointment when your 204320 point mage cops it to a shark.

You have to want it SO HARD that you'll pick yourself up again and again until you finally hit the correct level of speed and knowledge and teeter there long enough for your luck to hold and for you tumble over the edge into immortality.

So ask yourself these questions.

Do you know enough?

Are you fast enough?

Are you feeling lucky?

And most of all,

HOW MUCH do you want it?

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