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MUD: A Living Fantasy World

By William Murphy on August 27, 2015 | Interviews | Comments

MUD: A Living Fantasy World

MUD is a brand new MMO from indie studio Pure Bang Games, based in Baltimore Maryland. Built upon the ideals that made Multi User Dungeons the precursor to what we now know as MMORPGs, MUD seeks to bring players into a world that reacts to their choices. We spoke with project lead Benjamin Walsh about MUD, its many systems, and when we can expect to get our hands on the game.

MUD has already been greenlit by Steam, and the team just launched a Kickstarter to round out funding, but Ben assures me that the game will be made one way or the other. The Kickstarter just keeps the studio from having to see investors or publishers while they retain total control of the project.

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Ben got his start way back when MUDs were the only type of “MMO” out there. Back then, he always wanted them to evolve into fully realized living worlds. But nothing ever changed in MUDs, and when MMORPGs broke through with WoW, still… nothing ever changed. Mobs remained static, everyone was “the hero of legend”, and while fun these games weren’t worlds.

MUD, when it releases into beta at the end of 2016, will be a world that’s fully effected by its players. Build a town, and NPCs will move in. Kill all the sheep and the wolves will go hungry and look for a new food chain (like you…). If you gain enough fame or infamy in the world, a nemesis may appear and challenge you. These are just a few of the ways the game world will react to its players, Ben promises.

Before we go further, yes MUD is being designed as an open PVP MMO. Ben was a big fan of Shadowbane in the day, and believes that if the right systems are in place, open PVP can be a lot of fun… even to players who might shy away from the idea.  But that won’t stop Pure Bang from opening PVE servers should enough players want them. They’re also toying with the idea of an item players can craft or buy in-game that will shield people from PVP when it’s active.

There will be mechanics to protect player cities and towns from griefing, but if you’re a jerk you’re going to be alone, without friends. Unless of course those friends are also jerks. There will be world bosses that need multiple people to take down, and Pure Bang believes that the game’s content and sandbox elements will naturally bring people together, and let the PVP focus mostly be between guilds or clans.  Still, as an aside, you can bet I’ll be playing on a PVE server myself. I’m not a carebear, but after DayZ and ARK, I know full well that giving people the option to kill anyone usually ends badly for my patience level.

Speaking of ARK and DayZ, both games (along with the obvious Minecraft with the destructible voxel-based world) serve as inspiration for MUD. Survival is a big part of the game, with food being necessary to fight off starvation.  But unlike those games, the server populations will be much larger. No more than 10,000 characters will be allowed to “belong” to a server, but Ben and team are still working on how many concurrent and logged in players will be allowed in at a time. It will definitely be more than the usual 50-100 we see in other survival sandboxes.

“We want servers to be communities, not just having all players feel like faces in a crowd. We want you to know your neighbors, for names to be recognized and reviled. To do that, we have to take a careful approach to how big we let server populations be,” Ben said.

The combat of MUD is more hack-n-slash than traditional RPG. Think Elder Scrolls or Trove, with a first-person to third-person viewpoint where what you have equipped determines what kind of spells and actions you can use. Want to be a mage? Find or craft a wand or a staff. Want to be a tanky type character? Grab a shield and sword. The progression of MUD will be more in your character’s ability to craft and create items than it will be level and stats.  Combat is purely skill-based, so if you don’t aim properly you’ll miss your target. No magic missiles guided by divine providence in MUD.

Additionally, while there will be a storyline and lore that the world lives by, there’s no real scripted questing and no exclamation mark-filled hubs all over the world. There will be procedurally based questing, and Ben gave the example of a town full of people who are all afraid of a nearby dragon in the mountains. If you gather friends and go off to slay him, you might just get a huge reward. Most of MUD’s content will be triggered events like this, but there will also be GM-led events as well.

The goal of Pure Bang is to have both player-run and official hosted servers. Pure Bang is aware that players love to run and mod their own servers and since MUD will be a one-time purchase (no subscription fees, but there may be cosmetic upgrades as a form of additional paid content) it only makes sense that players be allowed to host their own servers should they want to. 

One of the Kickstarter’s stretch goals ties into this. Creative Mode, if unlocked in the funding, will allow players to build and craft in a solo environment, and then export what they’ve made to the game as a recipe to be used or shared with other players. You could conceivably build a whole town in a solo creative mode, and then export it into the live game to be built.

I asked if there’s then a concern for cities of penises and other questionable designs, and Ben said that while it’s definitely a concern they want to give players that kind of freedom. They expect and hope that players will self-regulate this sort of thing (who wants to live in a penis-house?), but Pure Bang can and will step in if they need to.

While buildings and towns are all able to be made by the players, items, armors, and weapons are traditionally 3D modeled (not voxel-based). So while Pure Bang would love to one day have a pipeline like Planetside 2 for allowing players to create and submit their own weapons and gear, it’s not in the cards right now. But everything the devs bring into the game will be craftable by the players.

Another stretch goal will be biome-specific resources. If you live in an iron-rich area the weapons and armors you’ll wind up making will be made of iron. If however you go hunting or live in a spider-infested forest you’ll wind up making a lot of silk or carapace armor. Your location changes both your looks and your abilities, because it’s what you wear that defines your abilities.

For those wondering, yes you will drop your items when you die. In PVP, this means you’ll likely lose everything you were wearing, but MUD will have banks, safes, and all of that to keep back-up gear on hand. You can and will want to run to where you died to retrieve your items if possible, but Pure Bang is designing MUD to be a jump-in and out style of game. You may lose gear, but it won’t be hard to craft or find new gear when you rez. That’s the general gameplay loop of death. They want you to fear dying, and work with other players to survive the darker dungeons of the world.

Your fame and infamy level will affect how the world around you reacts, and what sort of questlines and adventures you have available at any given time. There will be multiple factions in the game as well, so if you’re always helping the mortal enemy of one faction, chances are they won’t appreciate your presence when you come looking in their territory. 

This ties into the emergent AI system called Bravery that Pure Bang is using. A lone wolf might recognize a player as a threat if they’re armed to the teeth with cool weapons. Maybe they’ll run away from you at first, but in so doing they’ll lead you to their pack… and then the tables will be turned as they’ll team up and take you on. Giants on the other hand are huge, massive enemies who won’t easily be scared by even a group of players. Essentially, Bravery will act as a way for the games NPCs to “consider” the amount of danger you pose.

MUD is in pre-alpha stages right now with the early access period slated to begin in March of 2016. A full public beta is expected by the end of 2016, sort of like Minecraft’s where the game was in beta for years after “launching”.  Being a small indie studio, Pure Bang expects and plans on making lots of changes and additions before officially “launching” MUD.

If you’re interested in backing, the Kickstarter is live now. $30 or more will get you into the beta, $40 will get you into the alpha early, while a donation of $20 or more will get you into the final game as $20 will be MUD’s retail price when it’s officially available on Steam. You can learn more on the official Kickstarter page.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.