Midgaard Message of the Day

Back in the day, many world authors used ASCII art to provide what they thought was a gloss of sophistication to their Item or Room descriptions. Thirty years ago we did it ourselves, with frankly no thought to the havoc ASCII art plays with screen readers. Goes to show how vision-centric the thinking was at the time, despite the MUD genre being a perfect idiom for blind or visually-impaired players.

Prompted by players, we've finessed our server code to display the original ASCII only to players we believe to be sighted. If we know the player is visually-impaired, we display a short alternate message explaining why we're not throwing ASCII gibberish at them.

We thought at first we'd provide alternate descriptions, e.g., do what the ASCII does without the ASCII. In practice this has turned out to be unreasonable. In nearly every case, the ASCII art is an area map, that is, a visual representation of the area's topography. Explaining that in words would be just as cumbersome as letting screen readers barf on the original. In a few cases the offending ASCII is just a border around a textual signpost, which we happily removed. We've bailed on the others. We display a short "this is ASCII" message and that's it.

We hope you agree this is a reasonable approach!

Addendum by Meghan and Lisa, our two player-contributers who've built our Midgaard world from disparate source files they've found offered on the 'net:

It's interesting to us that, by and large, ASCII art in a source file corresponds to mediocre writing throughout the Zone. This isn't always true of course but we've found ourselves remarking on it many times. In our experience this has also been true of source files which use ASCII codes or other symbols to decorate text with particular styles. It's as if the authors wanted to camouflage poor writing with flashy effects. As we clean the source files of spelling mistakes, typos, and other annoying glitches we've removed this formatting, too. We hope this makes Midgaard more safe not only for blind players but for others who value the medium for its literary possibilities.

Stay safe out there! Meet you in The Middle Ages!