I played Armageddon for over a decade, then got deployed overseas. After that long deployment, and taking some time to rest, I decided to check back at my old haunt for what roleplay could be found.
Over the course of the few months I had given Armageddon another try, I was shocked to see how far the game had fallen in the three years I had been away. The game's staff desperately removed Tuluk, a major playing area of the game, in a bid to push players closer together. But the player count has gone down. I remember times that I would see 50 to 60 people logged in at Armageddon's peak times, in the evening. But that number has fallen to about 20.
Further, the players that remain have become more toxic than ever. The game's discussion forum's active members usually promote self-serving ideas for the game, things that are not good for the game but for themselves. Actual roleplay is hard to find in the game, where characters usually focus hard on skill advancement while neglecting deeper character development.
The staff members are generally unfriendly as well. At the beginning of my character's existence I was told to submit monthly character reports on what I was doing. In response to my first character report for the first month of play, I was asked why I was bothering to submit character reports as my character was deemed unimportant, and was discouraged from sending future reports unless my character was doing something that required staff assistance.
Lastly, a player has started a campaign on the game's forum to write positive reviews for the game in an effort to recruit players:
I have to say that this appears to be an effort to game the system. Armageddon should be avoided at all costs. There are better roleplaying games with more players out there. Armageddon is not the top dog by any stretch of the imagination.
The nice thing about the game mechanics is their familiarity, for the most part. Beyond that, the game loses its uniqueness and luster. Armageddon is a heavily modified DIKU game and many of its features are familiar to a player that has played hack and slash MUDs derived from the DIKU code base. It's understandable that such an old game would be based on such an old code base, but it almost seems strange that a roleplaying-intensive game would use such a combat-heavy system. The age shows through in things like the crafting system and the guild and subguild system, which forces characters into a specific pre-defined role as opposed to something the players define themselves.
The patchwork quality of add-ons to the DIKU code base is most visible in the attempt at creating a complex emote system which allows for targeting other characters through the use of different symbols. This is far too complex of a system for the minimal payoff of seeing emotes that target your character in the first person, when a simple third-person perspective would do the trick. If it's good enough for 99% of MUD and MUSHes why does Armageddon have to be different? It doesn't increase immersion at all, and comes off more like the result of a programming class exercise than something done with any forethought. The craft system is arbitrary and players who create recipes seem to try to make the recipe as obscure as possible to prevent anyone but themselves from creating it.
Armageddon's selling point is its extensive documentation, perhaps the most extensive of any roleplaying MUD. But it falls short by making much of that documentation irrelevant through the removal of locations from the game. With Allanak as the only real center for roleplay, there are no true external threats and roleplay quickly becomes tiring across new characters ending up in the same city, over and over, hoping that something will be different. The fact that the playerbase and staff largely hate Tuluk suggest to me that this second city will never be opened or used again, even though it would provide a unique foil to Allanak.
A community is best judged by its active members, in which case it is, frankly, horrid. A quick peek into the game's Discord channel will show you an endless feed of spam about nothing in particular. Try to ask a question and you will often be told to "find out IC", even if there is no way to do so. Stay around Discord long enough and you will see that the community uses former players and staff as scapegoats to achieve their own popularity. Leave the game, on good terms or on bad, and you become persona non grata to anyone around Armageddon that matters. I don't need friends badly enough to facilitate this high school behavior by being a part of it, so instead I just watch as former staff and players are mocked by current staff and players, even though they are not around to defend themselves or explain their side of their story.
Head to the game's message board, the GDB, and you'll find players who think that revenge porn is the victim's fault, that racist ideologies are just fine, and that people who like Tuluk "must be homosexual". And that's just from the last month, although to the moderators' credit, posts have been edited and deleted since. Even so, if I wanted to hang out with these kinds of cretins, I'd buy a Tiki torch and shave my head.
To make a long story short, I was banned erroneously by staff for having a similar IP address to someone who had stolen and leaked Armageddon's code. I was told in one curt message that I was being banned for participating on a forum responsible for stealing and distributing Armageddon's code, and before I could ask "what forum?" I was booted out of the game with no explanation beyond that. I only learned of this forum after I was banned, looking at Mud Connector to find that another Armageddon player had their IP address tracked on a different website not affiliated with Armageddon. Lacking any particular desire to appeal a ban for something that I hadn't done, lacking much of a desire to get involved in this drama, and given my experience of the above and below, I felt that now was as good a time as any to leave Armageddon, with the only thing previously holding me back being my character's connection with a few others and my friend's insistence that I keep trying the game.
Some players are good, and fun to play with, but the vast majority of roleplayers here are uninteresting at best, and incompetent at worst. From accidental and permanent killings, to overuse and over-reliance on one word socials, to inconsistent characterization, to ignoring the documentation on in-universe bigotry and racism, to an overabundance of players that think they're on a sex MUSH, you will quickly come to wonder why this game is designated as roleplaying intensive when it rarely gets more intense than the taste of a baked potato.
Game Mechanics: Interesting combat system. Really confusing cure system with zero documentation on it, the idea being that you figure it out in-game by dying repeatedly. Crafting system is very lazy and many crafts you can achieve without any tools. You can branch a craft skill and just immediately start making stuff without any expected teaching done. You CANNOT learn a new skill or craft that isn't in your chosen Guild or Subguild no matter the roleplay done. You cannot change your stats no matter the roleplay done.
Feature Set: Interesting setting, very post-apocalyptic and kind of harsh depending on the role and location. Magic system looks pretty neat, haven't played with it yet because you need Karma to do so. They don't do account reviews for Karma, which is basically a Role Play Point which establishes you being seen as capable and trust-worthy. Karma is only given by Staff to their selected players. This Feature is what cost them 2 points for me. By reading their forums, following Discord, and then reading forums put up by players, you get a sense of extreme, deeply-rooted favoritism. I saw Staff in Discord themselves state that there are Admin who will just deny/close requests from Players they don't like and that So and So will never get Karma, or Karma is only for So and So. Seems really unbalanced.
Game World: SO SMALL. You have very limited options of where you can play as a New Player. You are forced to play in Allanak. It is hard to find a job unless you're wanting into the Arm of the Dragon (local soldier squad) or the Byn (local mercs). The Merchant Houses are difficult to track down and half the active players I saw on while playing were Nobles/Templars who didn't want to RP with the riffraff. So much shade is thrown on the official and unofficial forums about consolidating the game world to how little it is.
Community: Really, really unwelcoming unless you have a friend in the mix. They are toxic and hostile on the forums and worse in Discord. They can be extremely offensive, talking poorly of other races, political preferences, sexual preferences, and gender. They throw around completely inappropriate and derogatory comments about other players as well and Staff and their appointed Helpers join in. Really immature and makes me, personally, feel unsafe being there so I bounced.
Staff: Rude, flippant, and aids the inappropriate and offensive atmosphere in their forums and Discord. It is really, really bad when they brag about just closing Requests or denying them because they don't like a Player. The favoritism is rampant. You can see it in Discord when Staff flirt and praise this group of Players and are sassy and crude to another group.
Role Play: Lots of great and active players. I greatly enjoyed playing with those I met, even the ones who were super mean in-game but let me know in OOC what I was doing wrong and how to do it better so my scum could survive.
All in all. I really don't think the game is for me. I liked the setting and the RP I was met with. The in-game side of the game is great. The OOC side is really, really, really bad. I don't think its okay that Staff permits and encourages the offensive crap that goes on in Discord. I think it is really deplorable that they make fun of Players, sexual orientation, race, gender, or if a Player feels sexually harassed.
Game mechanics and features:
When the game was young, the features were great and superior to those offered by other games. It's been a lot of years now and having come and gone from the game for over twenty years, as well as spent some time on other games that wax and wane in popularity, I've got to admit that the the game isn't aging well at all.
There's some re-hashing and cleaning up of old features, but nothing new that competes with games like Labmud or even SoI. The latest huffing and puffing is about guild changes, but as far as I'm able to tell, they aren't actually doing something new with this, they're just watering what already exists down to provide more, but weaker choices. The magick system not only hasn't seen new functionality, but it's actually been downsized and diminished from what it used to be.
Neglect isn't enough for those who mismanage the game, they've got to strip it down, too.
There isn't as much of it as there used to be, but contrary to what a lot of these reviews tell you, there is still a lot to see out there. I knew a lot of the people who made those zones, wrote those descriptions and imagined up those cultures. They're long gone from the game now, but I know they, like myself, would be happy to know there are still people out there seeing and exploring them.
Skip the general discussion board, it was always a craphole and it's only fermented with time.
It used to be the staff existed to engage with players and make the game interesting. Now, it's nothing but a bunch of middle management types that haven't got an ounce of imagination to share between them. I'm amazed beyond all measure at how they can take something as rich with opportunities for fun and choke the life out of it, all while patting themselves on the back at a job well done.
There's still some good RP to be found, but like everything else that once made the game fun, it gets harder to find every time I give it another go.
It's hard not to feel old when talking about the game, so maybe it's time to stop.
I tried my best to set a fair score for each category but I'm not going to restrict myself to writing within those categories because I'm not a big fan of review breakdowns. If you excuse my language I'm a big fan of the shit sandwich style of writing feedback. In other words if you must criticize something then stick your criticism (the shit) between two nice things (bread? mmm). Anyway, no more cussing. Let's begin.
BREAD SLICE ONE
Armageddon bills itself as a roleplaying intensive game. Its tagline is "Murder, Corruption, Betrayal". It is set in the harsh desert world of Zalanthas where you can't even get a drink of water for free. The documentation is extensive. So extensive, in fact, you likely won't be able to read it in one day, or three, or ten. This is not a bad thing. The more fleshed out the game world is the better it tends to be. Clearly Armageddon benefits from being over 25 years old as it has had all that time to form, and reform, and define itself. The idea of Armageddon is extremely good and extremely sound. It has a lot of potential, and undoubtedly hundreds if not thousands of people have found Armageddon fun at one point or another.
Creating a character is relatively easy. There are lots of resources available to a new player, including sample characters, a walkthrough, the helper system and the General Discussion Board. Picking a guild and subguild is easy. Writing a background is pretty easy provided you understand you are writing a Level 1 character here. Keep those origins humble.
Then you enter the game. There's a newbie tutorial that's helpful if Armageddon's your first MUD. There's a pre-game shopping area where you can gear your character up before they head out into the harsh world. Allanak, here I come!
THE ... POOP
This is where the disappointment starts to set in. You start in the local tavern's dormitory and wander into the bar. You're looked at. You try to introduce yourself. There's several people at the bar to introduce yourself to. And... nothing.
It's not like I'm talking to NPCs here. These are PCs. They're talking to each other. They're just too busy to talk to me. One of them is trying to get laid. The other is trying to play hard-to-get. The third is looking for an elf to beat up. The last one is wearing a hood indoors and is keeping to themselves. One or two of them look at you, sure. But they don't respond. They don't try to inquire further.
It's fine. I'll just give a prompt. "I'm looking to join the Byn, who can I sign up with?" The Byn is a mercenary group and the recommended clan for new players. I'm hoping that by the grace of God there is a Bynner in the tavern willing to recruit me right then and there. Wouldn't that be lucky? I can play a mercenary and learn about this deep game with some in-character friends.
Then I get my first response. "Sign? What do you mean by sign?" someone asks. Then it hits me. The stupid little thing I had forgotten. Most people in Zalanthas are illiterate. They can't read or write. In fact, for most people, it is a crime to read or write. So I try to correct myself via the out-of-character command to try to explain that my character wouldn't say "sign", that they would know people can't write, that he can't write, and he would use a different word like "join". "Sorry, I meant to say join!"
The response I got was out-of-character: "You said sign so roll with it."
Roll with it. Roll with it how? I made a genuine mistake as a newbie. I tried to tell them that I was a new player and made a mistake and would appreciate if it was just ignored this one time.
"Sorry but no. In-character actions have in character consequences," was the response I got. Generally, this is a philosophy I can agree with. However, these are my first few minutes into the game. Making such a simple mistake in my first few minutes of play, surely, was forgivable? Apparently not this time.
I hate to admit it but at this point I started to shake at my keyboard. All those hours reading the documentation and crafting a character, and my character could be arrested or even killed for saying "sign up" instead of "join" within the first few minutes of play. I moved my mouse over to the X on my MUD client and closed out. I'll try again tomorrow, I thought.
And, yes, I logged in the day after. People were, again, at the bar. I tried to introduce myself. "You were the guy that said sign up last week right?" By last week they meant the RL day before (1 week in-game is 1 day RL). Some completely different character remembered that I had made a mistake yesterday, although this was a week ago in-game, so this character had the words "sign up" in his thoughts for over a week.
I tried to work past it, then I closed my MUD client again. This time, I decided to spend time with my kids. I'll try again tomorrow, I thought.
I did not try again the next day.
Trying to ask for help was a nightmare. Between the spammy Discord, the unfriendly forum and the unresponsive live helper chat I could not get a word in edgewise. My introduction to the community was piss-poor and frankly I didn't expect it to get better than that.
BREAD SLICE TWO
It's nice that these features are there. It's nice that some players will be able to find them useful. It's nice that I got my character approved within minutes. It's nice that so many people are so passionate about Armageddon. Maybe I could give it another try sometime. Right now though I just don't feel up to it.