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Library: BatMUD article 2004 spring

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Author: tsuran
Date:Feb 10 2004

A translation of BatMUD -article that was published in a Finnish gaming
magazine. Original was written by me, translation was done by Shardik (thanks)
and final touches to translation were made by me.

-Tsuran

BATMUD

Tagline: Only few games can offer challenge and surprises even after years of
playing. This makes BatMUD an exception, the oldest players have been around
over ten years.

Text by: Sami Paju - Tsuran Windforce

I started playing BatMUD in the spring of 2001. The beginning in a huge
fantasy world was not easy. Learning to know your character and the game
mechanics had to be done through an ascetic telnet window using commands
entered as text. The information flood seems massive at the beginning, but
playing becomes easier quickly enough, when you realize, that you don't have
to read everything that appears on screen. There are many various
help-commands, but the best help is received from other players, who are
rather keen on helping you out with difficult questions. There is also a
newbie discussion channel and newbie helper players, who are obliged to help
you getting started.

The game begins in the village of Pleasantville, which hosts all the mandatory
services for an adventurer. The village itself is located right next to the
biggest city of BatMUD, the Batcity, and there is a number of areas nearby
designed for beginner adventurers. These you can explore either alone, or in
groups of up to nine players.

Character creation in BatMUD goes without problems. First you choose a name,
then the background of the character from five options: magical, nomad,
civilized, good religious and evil religious. After background you choose the
race of the character, from the 31 possibilities offered in the beginning.
There are six important abilities in the game: strength, dexterity,
constitution, wisdom, intelligence and size. Each ability affects on how well
the race is suited to any of the game's 30 different guilds. In addition to
this each race has its own mini guild. The races also have special abilities,
such as infrared vision or fast spell point restoration.

YOU SEE SOME TREES

For people accustomed to the continuously improving graphics we see today,
BatMUD may cause some headache. All 'graphics' have been implemented with
ASCII. Reading the text on the screen and using your own imagination helps to
outline the surroundings of your character. Fortunately BatMUD has a huge
'outer world', where a small piece of  the map will be shown when you move.
Also some cities in BatMUD have a similar map system to help you move around.
Moving in such places resembles the old versions of Nethack.

The telltale 'question marks' in the outer world are a different matter,
entering these you will usually just see the text describing the room and the
exits that lead out from it. The areas vary from ones designed to beginners to
very difficult ones, where even a group of nine experienced players might get
into trouble. Some areas contain humour or references to, for example, movies
and literature. Or does Smurville, the land of Wainamoinen, or a book that
will send you to the world of Dragonlace when read ring a bell? Some areas
also contain small quests that may reward the player with money, magical item
or something else when solved.

The characters advance levels in adventurer's guild by using the experience
points  gained from exploring areas or killing monsters. The required amount
for the next  level can be halved by solving a level quest. The quests get
more difficult depending on the level, which they make cheaper to achieve. The
first ten levels are spent in the training of the character's chosen
background. The next five levels will complete the training in the guild of
your chosen race, where you can start to invest experience points in learning
different skills and spells, of which BatMUD lists nearly a thousand
different. The skill system is percentual and the higher your percent in some
skill, the more expensive it is to train it.

After reaching the sixteenth level the player can join a guild of his choice,
from  those that are available for his background. To get properly started it
is almost  necessary to choose nomad as your background and join either
barbarians or rangers  so you can get experience points with sufficient speed,
but if you are more interested in exploring than in combat, other backgrounds
will work too. Especially with Invisibility spell it is rather safe and fast
to explore plenty of areas, which gives you a nice amount of experience
points. While your character's total experience goes up, other guilds will
become more and more playable. Also combinations of multiple guilds are
possible. However, the cap of 100 levels will eventually become a limiting
factor.

THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME

A large part of the bat realm is scattered with cities built by other players
for themselves. You can almost always find stores, a bank, residential areas,
a healing crystal and a portal, which allows you to teleport to the cities
built by the coders of the game, the wizards.

A newcomer's first objective is to find a place to live from one of the cities
built and owned by other players. The house is important, because it serves as
the storage for the players' items and usually as a starting point when the
player connects to the server. When the connection is cut off by issuing the
quit command, all the carried items will drop on the ground and eventually
disappear. Without the storage chests acquired to the house the only way to
preserve your equipment is to either cut your connection to the server or use
the ld command, which will result in the same, though even then only the worn
items will be saved, and everything in the inventory will be lost. Until the
player finds a place to live, he is largely dependent on items received from
Saint Damogran, donated to him by more experienced players. These items are
free, so losing one is not a major drawback.

In addition to cities of their own, players can establish secret societies.
These differ in nature from bunch of friends to commercial guilds that allow
you to spend experience points to improve an ability; more strength or
constitution for instance. The societies may also have their own communication
channels that resemble IRC quite a lot, like the other, public, channels of
the game.

The numerous communication channels are one reason why BatMUD is an extremely
social gaming environment. After couple weeks of playing you start to add
names on your friends list. Many of the players being Finnish, discussion and
asking for advice can be done without stunning knowledge of English language.
Also the inbuilt Finnish - English - Finnish dictionary provides assistance
when collision with language barrier seems to be unavoidable. Getting to know
MUD friends is easy if you visit some of the numerous meetings that gather
players together all around Finland. Also smaller events are organized, such
as the manse+ soccer frenzy of players from Tampere, or the floorball played
in Helsinki.

ENDLESS STORY

There is no consistent storyline in BatMUD. On the other hand the user
interface, guilds and the realm are a subject to constant development, because
as old coders retire, many experienced players ascend to wizardhood themselves
and continue the work. Now is an excellent time to try out BatMUD, because
compared to the situation a year ago Bat is a lot more friendly for the
newcomers. The player count has actually increased significantly during the
past months. Over 500 players have been online at the same time during peak
hours.

The lack of a major plot can also cause boredom occasionally. In the end there
aren't that many different challenges, unless you want to go through all the
missions and mini quests that can be found in the game. Character development,
however, manages to keep you hooked from year to year, and becoming a skilled
player rather requires intelligence, patience and effort than just a lot of
experience points and high end equipment.

From time to time comes periods, when making money and experience points is
not enough, and you will get bored and take a break from the game. Still you
may find yourself occasionally logged on BatMUD, reading newsgroups and
chatting with friends. Eventually the strangely enchanting game world will
draw you back to the game after break. There is a lot to experience and new
features are added to the game constantly.

Even death will not be the end of an eager adventurer. The healers can raise
your  character from the dead. If you wish to change your race or guilds, you
don't need to  start over, because druids have a spell that allows you to go
through a reincarnation process. The character will be created again from the
beginning, but you will get most of your previously achieved experience points
with you. The items saved in your house will also survive all this.

BatMUD's attraction is crushing. The players who have spend hundreds of days
of gametime are a proof of this. However, the attraction will not be
immediate, it requires that you spend time learning the game, getting
introduced. After this you feel like being free in a totally new world filled
with hidden secrets, imaginative monsters and fascinating treasures. And the
best thing is, that playing BatMUD is entirely free.


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