TriadCity Reviewers' Guide
Notes and Suggestions
Thanks so much for your interest in reviewing TriadCity! We appreciate it greatly!
If you have questions, please contact Mark Phillips.
These are some themes which are interesting to us:
- Text. The mega-success of 3-D graphical MMOGs, especially World of Warcraft and Second Life, is certainly very impressive. Although we very much admire a lot of the user-generated content in SL, we find the cartoonishness of the graphical experience off-putting. For us, our own ability to form excellent pictures in imagination is so much more powerful and fulfilling. We don't think this makes TriadCity retro. We think it makes it better. Many people agree: TriadCity frequently attracts refugees from these cartoon worlds.
- Universal city. Instead of deriving from the traditional MUD sources - DnD and Tolkien - we've based TriadCity on the "universal city" idea of Modernist literature, especially Eliot's The Waste Land. In TriadCity all cities of western culture and all historical epochs are present simultaneously, along with fantastic and surreal elements, blended together inside a framework which is essentially satirical. So the setting is urban, is not "medieval", and you'll find cowboys, Greek philosophers and astronauts together in the same mag-lev subway train. The fun of this is that we can ambitiously set out to take snotty satirical pokes at pretty much everything, and have a reasonably coherent structure for doing that.
- Subjectivity. Two characters may walk into a room together and perceive that space differently, either subtly or radically depending on the intent of the author who created it. Subjectivity is a Modernist convention, but, we don't know of this ever being done in any other online environment.
- Violence exists but is not privileged. In TriadCity there are many paths to character growth. Traditional MUD-inflected violence is possible: you can seek and kill monsters if this moves you. But, violence is not a privileged path to advancement, and can often be exactly the worst possible option. Note that in TriadCity death is permanent - killed characters don't respawn. We do intend there to be a rich and vibrant afterlife experience, but it's not there yet. This is a major disincentive to mindless hack and splatter.
- More women than men. From the beginning we've made gender parity a primary goal. We're happy to have achieved it and then some - in TriadCity, women players actually outnumber men by a small margin. Four of the top five players are women. Granted women are participating in online environments in increasing numbers nowadays. Nevertheless this is an achievement we're proud of.
- More adults than not. 30% of TriadCity players are in their 20s; 25% in their 30s; 10% are older. The 40-and-older group is very active, and provides many of our world's most beloved characters. 30% of all joins are teenagers - smart ones. Many of this last group have played TriadCity for years and are now adults with kids. We emphasize that TriadCity is for "smart grownups". We're very, very happy when younger people join! But, they're not our focus, and they don't dominate our online culture.
- MUD & IF. TriadCity originates in the MUD / RPG genre, emphasizing social interaction over individual experience. World authors are free to create IF-like experiences, though. Probably the major difference is the parser, which is far less rich than contemporary IF parsers seem to want to be. We sometimes debate the priority of implementing natural language processing into our client. Do you think we should?
- Authored by real writers. TriadCity's lead author, Mark Phillips, is sorta kinda widely published in Europe and America, including some of the most respected online literary journals. He and Gary Smith, SmartMonsters' CEO, are invited to speak at literary events from time to time, for instance the Richard Hugo House 6th Annual Inquiry on literature and games. TriadCity is cited in The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism as an example of new, emerging literary forms.
- Literary references. There are bezillions of literary references and in-jokes, including NPCs who are more understandable if you've read the book. This isn't strictly necessary - although borrowed characters are a common theme in Postmodernism - but it's part of the fun.
- Nondeterministic causality. Our experience with TriadCity has taught us that literary forms are dependent on their modes of distribution. Literary works distributed in bound form inevitably have a linear structure, indeed whole genre such as mystery fiction or picaresque novels exist to exploit the effects made possible by this inevitability. TriadCity is a very different experience, where players are more than mere readers, and fixed sequences of events can't be imposed. Traditional linear fiction is based on and explores deterministic causalities; in TriadCity determinism is pretty much impossible and the causalities explored are structural, probabilistic, stochastic. Yes, that's a mouthful. Players aren't required to worry about this. Authors, maybe a little.
- Very large numbers of individualized non-player characters. Many thousands of NPCs live in TriadCity. These are computer-driven "flat" characters, using E.M. Forster's term. We individuate them via vast libraries of computer code which authors can assign in simple or complex combinations, making them comparatively easy to write. Why so many? In part, to make the TC experience feel more genuinely urban. We want the sidewalks to be crowded in the afternoons, less so at night. Unlike typical MUDs or IFs, TriadCity NPCs aren't standing in one place waiting to be killed, or explored, or etc. They have jobs to attend to, homes to sleep in, shopping to take care of, players to steal from or lie to or be helpful toward. No, they can't converse with you. Maybe one day.
- Interesting chatterbots. Chatterbots based on the personalities of Oscar Wilde, Douglas Adams' depressed robot Marvin, Eliza the classic robot psychotherapist, and others will intervene into in-game conversations. Oscar's hilarious.
- Big, but small. Although there are a lot of rooms online - 17,654, being exact - this is only a fraction of the c. 100,000 projected. The player base is very small. We're not actively advertising at this time, so growth is primarily via word-of-mouth. We do encourage you to refer your friends. But we're not expecting a huge explosion in popularity any time soon.
- All-original, stable code. The code's entirely new. Plays like a Diku/Circle derivative, but with very different emphases, for instance, the imposition of the elaborate subjectivities on character experiences mentioned above. The environment is extremely stable. Servers don't crash, bugs are small and subtle and nearly always limited to the newest features.
- Downsides. The project is a commercial failure, thus we have only a very small volunteer group adding content and programming. There's nearly always work going on, but, compared with Blizzard's ability to throw a gazillion developers into adding new continents to WoW, forget about it. The world is just beginning to be fleshed out enough to sortof start to see how it all fits together. There's so much context missing that a lot of the features existing today really kinda make no sense. They will. But, maybe not this week. It can be a rough ride for newbies. Really depends who's on with you. If nobody's there, which is often the case, good luck to ya. We're adding an optional opening tutorial which we hope will help with the rudiments of game mechanics and character maintenance. If you're familiar with the MUD tradition this'll be easier. If you're coming from an Interactive Fiction background, you may fail to get the parser working.
- Awesome players! The good news is there's a vibrant long-term core of wonderful players who understand this world and love being part of it. Become familiar with them and they'll make your experience great. The TC ethic is collaborative, and all the folks without exception are helpful. We hope you'll join them!