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February Mud of the Month
Aalynor's Nexus

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Interview with the Mud Gods

1. Why was Aalynor's Nexus created?

Aalynor's Nexus was created to fill a void. We were looking for something that balanced role-playing with real-time adventure. We were looking for the traditional role-playing game, the kind where you sit before a Gamemaster, and your character is a piece of paper, your fate controlled by a set of dice, and with a whole vivid world brought to life through words.

The many worlds we came across tended to one extreme, or the other. From exclusively role-playing to solely combat oriented. We wished something more. We wished something complex in its role-playing, with an intricate plot, and yet with the action and adrenaline of combat.

We still do not claim to have found this, yet we do believe we have taken a significant step towards it.

2. What is it about the game that you most like? What do you most dislike?

Our favorite part of the game is that for some people, a growing percentage, really, the game and world has come to life. From a Gamemaster's perspective this is immensely satisfying.

The recent history of the realms would not be the same, nor would Aalynor's Nexus itself be the same, if people such as these were not in the realms. To all of us, the point is to have a strong role-playing environment, and sometimes, when lurking invisibly hearing a veteran player fill in the background story as to what's going on to a new player; these are the times that we feel that we've done something right.

As for our dislikes, it is the other side of the same coin: the players who don't fall into that percentage. We've recognized from the beginning that this sort of game is not for everyone. We do not wish to cater to the majority, but the minority. And from time to time we unfortunately encounter those that have strong opinions about what we've done wrong, and how it should change. We've been fairly tolerant, however, we have a definite plan for the way things are, and where they are going which has been thought out and reworked many times. Of these few, the worst are those that take license to move into and out of character as it suits them, typically unwilling to accept any negative aspects or repercussions from their actions. Fortunately for us, and our dedicated role-players, the dragons are often hungry.

3. What advice do you have to offer anyone interested in starting a mud?

Don't. Or, more appropriately, don't think that the MUD starts when the game goes up. There are too many MUDs around which suffer from some severe problems which could have easily been dealt with before they opened to the public.

The trick and the truth of it is that to make a good system, you have to fight back the urge to bring up your system until it's really ready - it's hard to do, but ultimately, it is better to have your system evaluated on its strengths than its weaknesses.

4. Where do you see the mud in one year? What has changed the most?

That's hard to predict. Plot-wise, We can't even begin to make the attempt. The players help to shape the world too much, and while we know what we have in mind, as they say, all plans fall apart when they come into contact with the enemy.

We don't consider the players our enemies, but the statement rings true.

The world will definitely expand, as our player's explore the boundaries and fringes of the known world, and perhaps drive back the goblin hoardes which currently block their passage, or perhaps they will find another way to travel? Who's to say? Anything is possible.

The mages and cleric's will continue to research spells, the bard's will most likely pen new songs, and the world will continue to enrich itself through the continued and consistent contributions from our players.

Everything will most likely be affected by one or more changes as time goes by -- some drastically, some so minor that no one will notice -- but as to have us predict where we'll be in a year, that's impossible. We're still often overwhelmed by where we are now, just over a year from when we started.

A Brief History of Aalynor's Nexus

Aalynor's Nexus was born as a gaming world that no one cared about. It was to be a testing ground, a place to experiment while we continued work on our more expansive vision of a virtual reality. It was to be our backyard, our mud puddle, so to speak.

And then something went horribly wrong.

It was December of 1996 when what was to become Aalynor's Nexus first appeared on the Internet. The world itself was small to say the least, it was nothing more than a skeleton built upon a stock platform. All that existed in terms of the geography was the City of Nexus itself, which was created rather quickly with little thought of its expansion.

We unleashed a rather 'scruffy' bunch of immortals on the world, recruited from elsewhere on the Internet, and the world began to take shape. It did not, however, take the shape of anything our player's are now familiar.

The world quickly began taking on the traditional look of a MUD, with the paradigm that says that bigger is always better, and that to get and keep players you must give them whatever they want.

This hurt our sensibilities. A lot. And so, the unthinkable happened. We began to care about our little experiment. And with a deep sigh, we undid what we had begun....

We took a step backwards and began laying down the framework for our 'ideal' game, that was at this point, over one hundred pages of printed text. This was quite unpopular. Many people vanished during this paradigm shift, when they realized that this was not be to be a world where you would be given everything on a silver platter. And similarly, the 'scruffy' immortals also departed, with some even betting that Aalynor's Nexus would never be a popular system (for the most trivial reason: that we had removed the numeric prompt that gave an indication of your health, in favour of prose outputs from verbose commands.)

For over eight months things progressed rapidly through revision after revision which implemented much of the gaming system we had envisioned. The world expanded, and the Timeline progressed, with an increasing number of characters taking part as main characters in our collective story, all contributing to and advancing the plot.

At the end of the development cycle the system was closed for the Time of Darkness during which a major overhaul occurred, which tidied up the code, and added much functionality which wasn't possible through minor revisions.

And so, a year after its uneventful birth, the world no one cared about is where no one dreamed it would be. We still work on our 'ideal' gaming system, with portions of it implemented on Aalynor's Nexus as time permits. And perhaps, some day, we will build another world, having learned from our mistakes. For now though, and perhaps always, Aalynor's Nexus is our baby.

What the players are saying!

From Vesper, Holy Warrior, Child of the Light, Emissary of the Lord of Light:
"But you know I don't like computer games very much!", said I. Pushing me into the chair in front of the computer, he said, "Just try this game I found! I think you'll like it!" I continued to protest weakly as we discussed what kind of character I should create for myself. I then ascended into the realms of Nexus, finding myself in a strange and intriguing world, full of vivid descriptions and interesting characters.

I began to explore this inviting world, mapping out the city so that I might find my way around. At first, I rarely strayed from the company of my husband's character. However, as time progressed, I became more independent. I learned names and histories of those who were more experienced than I, and began to integrate myself into the City of All Races. I found allies and friends, powerful deities, formidable challenges, small defeats, and larger victories. The mystical energy of this world drew me back again and again.

This is a fascinating place, I assure you. This is a land where one person really can make a difference. Personal histories are encouraged so that all may "write" themselves into the over-all storyline of the world. Role-playing is not only encouraged, but enforced. It is not merely about battles, although there are plenty of challenging enemies to subdue, but it is also about the ties that bind us all together in the city. Our common goals, our sense of unity, our tolerances of differing opinions and beliefs. The intertwining of all of these features brings the MUD to life.

I had an opportunity to explore other worlds, and did so. I found nothing which even approached the integrity and richness of Aalynor's Nexus.

My husband and I made a trip across the continent to meet the exceptionally creative minds behind this fantasy world we have found so entertaining. My young son even has his very own character he enjoys playing. For my family, the people within Nexus have become extensions of our own family, where we all live in a world in which one is only limited by the boundaries of imagination.

Wilem, Wizardress, Keeper of the Vine, Emissary of the Mistress of Revelry:
I have been playing on Aaylnor's Nexus for nearly a year now, in real life I am an Engineering Technologist, 31 years old, and a parent of beautiful baby girl. Yet as busy as my day is, it is not complete if I do not get in a couple hours on the Nexus!

I played pen and paper RPG's for years, Aalynor's Nexus is the only MUD I have found that can give me the same feeling of realism and excitement! It is a fantasy realm, full of dragons and goblins and trolls. The City of Nexus is a wondrous place, where many races, Human, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits and others live in harmony. Yet the Nexus stands nearly alone, besieged with attacks from Goblins and Dragons who have taken all the rest of the continent, and from the mysterious Void, which sends demons and Cultists to attack the citizens. Into this world you can step and make a difference! Whether you choose to be a magic wielding wizard, a Holy Paladin, or a burly Barbarian, you can make a difference.

The action is superb and realistic, but the role-playing is simply fantastic. Take Wilem, my Wizardress, she started as all others do, yet through role-playing is now the Emmisary of the Goddess of Merriment. The interaction with the world and people about you is simply the most realistic, most enjoyable experience possible in a MUD.

Jingle, Nightblade:
Aalynor's Nexus provides a quasi-mediaeval, fantasy style role playing environment, based on magic use and combat, with the society structured as a series of guilds and religious groupings, where players seek to defend the city and its surroundings against the encroaching hoards. The predominant storyline is of this constant war, however, as with any society there are a wealth of sub-plots, which can be instigated by the players. The reaction that a player has to a certain storyline make take this down a path which the deities may not have previously considered, thus meaning that the Nexus has a degree of unpredictability which makes it feel more real.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Aalynor's Nexus is that the focus is not so much on killing targets, but on high quality role playing which is encouraged and rewarded. Most established characters have well defined personalities, reacting and acting in the manner which you expect them to. Additionally you have the enjoyment of developing a character which can be as like or unlike the "real you" as you choose. Success in Aalynor's Nexus does to some extent follow the usual role playing paradigm, with experience gained through being involved in combat. However, once reaching a certain level, the whole killing issue reduces and the most important thing is to play your character convincingly and to ensure that the character develops as a separate entity. This does mean that you don't shoot up levels quick, but again the Nexus is not a place where the important thing is what level you are, rather about what you contribute to give the world a sense of being. You value other characters for acting in role as well as for their combat skills. In this way, eventually you come to feel like you have two lives, one in real life and the other a virtual life; and one of the main reasons for playing is the "realness" of the characters.

The commitment given by the Gamemasters is also of note in the Nexus. They are relatively fair, responsive, reactive to criticisms and suggestions and pro-active which means the world continually improves. This commitment has resulted in the fact that within the confines of a text based virtual world, Aalynor's Nexus is one of the best games I have played on the Internet. The descriptions of the various areas, objects and mobiles are well written, the command structure is extensive (yet not too complex), the help system is complete and there are few bugs (and when these are identified they are rapidly fixed).

Renton, Arch-Mage of the Council:
You're asking a writer, a Joycean none the less, to tell you what he likes about a computer game? Be afraid of the esoteric, be very afraid. Then, ask the same question I did when I first sat down to think about this. What strange forces of nature would bring an otherwise intelligent fellow, or so he hopes, to spend 1,070 hours sitting in front of his computer engaged in what some would call a waste of time? I wish I could tell you exactly. I do know the following. The creators of Aalynor's Nexus came into this project with a well- thought out and complex plan of what they thought a MUD should be. In addition, it has become clear that they have the knowledge and fortitude to stick to these principles. Off the bat, I find that worthy of respect and, as such, play to contribute and take part in the project.

But, it takes more that. I've developed a personal emotional investment as well. Renton has a wife, friends, a job, a religion, and an overriding philosophy that he tries to spread. Perhaps if one spends so much time in one place with one group of people, these things develop naturally. I sat down and had a chat the other day with another player whom I used to spend a lot of time with.. We had drifted apart and I started to think about why. It occurred to me that I had gotten married and started to spend more time with my wife's friends, letting some of my older ones slide away. Then it occurred to me how real the situation was. These are all things that you may expect in a serious role-playing or social MUD. The difference is, it is not so serious, so bound by outside rules, that one does not feel comfortable playing their character. There exists throughout the game an overriding sense of balance that the Gamemasters try very hard to maintain. Balance between serious role-playing and simple player usability and enjoyment. Balance between player input, which is great, and the overriding story line and philosophy. Balance between the classes and their abilities. Balance between sitting around town talking and running off with a group to beat up some monsters. The possibilities abound, and each affords an equal level of enjoyment. Sometimes, of course, this balance gets disrupted for whatever reason, but the Gamemasters have the sense to realize this and keep things under control.

I do not want to give the impression that all you can do on Aalynor's Nexus is sit around town and role- play. All of the thought and balance that have gone into that aspect have been carried into combat. It is fun to go off and fight. When I first came, I found the design of the combat system very natural and easy to understand. You can pick it up fairly quickly. However, there exists as your character develops the need to very seriously consider tactics both group and individual in nature.

I guess my main point is that the Aalynor's Nexus system, the overall philosophy that drives it, is easily accessible [to] anyone who comes to play. If you make the effort to try and understand this philosophy coming in (I would suggest hitting the Nexus web page and BBS), and if you put in the effort inherent in that philosophy, you will have a complete, balanced, and, most important, fun experience. This does not mean that we are looking for people who will blindly conform, because it is the non-conformists that help drive the story. But it does mean that those who play the non-conformist do so in a manner that makes sense in terms of the overall story line. Aalynor's Nexus is an attempt at realism and, as such, it is an attempt at maintaining the inherent balance that does in fact exist as well as the inherent imbalance and the occasional slip into chaos. When you come, and I hope you do, be ready for all of these things. Be ready to be happy and sad, angry and in love, aching to fight or happy to sit in a tavern . . .expect all of these things and more. But most of all come for the enjoyment of being involved in the combined thought and effort of those that have come before you and to which you will undoubtedly add.

[ Connect to Aalynor's Nexus | The Aalynor's Nexus Homepage ]

Historical Notes and Answers to Questions were written by Nym and Alexi , the Developers and Authors of Aalynor's Nexus Fantasy World. Special thanks goes out to Vesper, Wilem, Jingle and Renton who took the time to submit their comments. And notable mention to Trista, Pandora, Andaras, Kyorl, and Erisar for their continued contributions as Gamemasters.

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