I've previously written how Lusternia has been mired in an escalation of conflict which has diluted the meaning of the conflict, and the aftereffects of that escalation, notably the almost complete extinction of culture. Because of that, I've been playing around with another MUD called Akanbar.
In a lot of ways, Akanbar serves to remind me of what's been so great about Lusternia when it isn't giving in to its worst impulses. Akanbar has virtually no events, is rife with bad grammar and even spelling errors, has minimal and shallow roleplaying from most people, and succumbs to the wrong-headed (but surprisingly popular) idea that you shouldn't be told how your skills or the mechanics work, you should have to figure it out by trial and error. (As a particularly egregious example, some things are cured by smoking herbs in pipes, but the help files not only don't tell you what is cured by which, they don't even tell you the commands used to fill, light, and smoke a pipe.) And its history is very minimal, mostly resembling a thinly-veiled story of why the creators decided to make the MUD.
And yet for all that, Akanbar's been more fun than Lusternia. Now, I'll admit some of that is the "new car smell" that comes from everything being new, the process of discovery. And a bit more comes from a friend who retired from Lusternia a long time ago getting involved in Akanbar, someone who's always fun to roleplay with but with whom I've had no chances to roleplay in a long time. (She and I are playing fraternal twin sisters.) But some of it is just that, even if Akanbar is kind of bad, and compared to Lusternia's best it's awful, compared to Lusternia right now, it's still just a lot more fun, and that shows how far Lusternia has fallen.
There are some glimmers that Lusternia is recovering, coming back out of its long sleep, but they are fragile at best: another nudge in the wrong direction and it could easily be reversed. It's still the case that the fighting has little or no connection to the reasons for the fighting, and while it's not quite 24 hours a day anymore, it's still almost omnipresent and tends to knock down any attempts to do something else before those attempts can get anywhere. But at least those attempts, very tentatively, are being occasionally made again. If things get better, the 20/20 hindsight people will point to this as proof that it was always going to get better. If it takes a while longer, this will be forgotten, so those 20/20 hindsight people will just point at something else.
For its part, Akanbar has some good things. While some of the skills are dumb (it takes a lot of investment to get some very basic things, even more so than in IRE games), a lot of them are very cool. (I especially like how the Shadows skillset acts like what Dreamweaving tries to be in Lusternia, only without the bug-plagued implementation.) It's also nice to see a combat system which has some of the interesting elements of Lusternia and other IRE games, but is five notches less complex, so that it's actually probable that if I keep around long enough, I can be a good combatant. And since roleplaying is pretty minimal, I have a real chance to make an impact on the shape it takes; it's easy to be a big fish in a small pond.
The contrast, though, still makes me ache for a MUD like what Lusternia used to be. For as many MUDs as there are out there, it's disheartening how many of them suck; and not just that they suck, but that they do it by choosing one of the same three or four paths rather than at least sucking on their own terms. I suppose those paths are the ones that attract almost all the customers. That's why I could never run a successful MUD; I'd be too interested in making something new instead of something that enough people would like. I can force my ideas into marketable shapes to some extent, but only to a certain scale; bigger than that, and anything marketable makes me say, "why bother, someone else is already doing that, in fact everyone else is already doing that" and lose interest.