How soundpacks elevate the MUD experience

ko-fi Written by Andruid
Published
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Soundwaves overlaid by the text: "Beginner's guide to MUD Soundpacks."
Soundwaves overlaid by the text: "Beginner's guide to MUD Soundpacks."

What are MUD soundpacks and how do they enhance the experience for players? Find out in this beginner's guide.


Table of Contents

    If you’re here, you’re probably already familiar with the text-based worlds unique to MUDs.

    But did you know that your MUD experience can be enhanced with sound? This beginner’s guide will take you through the ins and outs of MUD soundpacks, a feature that can add a whole new layer of immersion to your virtual adventures.

    Because soundpacks can be a community-driven effort, this guide is written for both game creators and players.

    It’s for curious readers who might be thinking of creating or using a soundpack but aren’t sure where to start or what to expect.

    What are MUD soundpacks?

    MUD soundpacks (or “sound packs”) are curated collections of audio files that can be installed and used alongside MUD clients to enhance the gaming experience.

    Soundpacks can include a variety of audio elements, such as background music, environmental soundscapes or atmospheric sounds, combat sound effects, and more.

    What are MUD soundpacks used for?

    Often, the purpose of a soundpack is to create a more immersive experience, but soundpacks are also an important tool for making games more accessible to screen reader users.

    In both cases, the sounds provide additional cues and information beyond what is given by the text.

    Enhanced immersion

    By introducing audio cues and ambient sounds, soundpacks allow players to imagine and experience the game’s virtual world in a more dynamic and immersive manner.

    For example, imagine walking through a virtual forest and actually hearing the rustle of leaves, or engaging in a battle and hearing the clash of swords. These audio snippets can add a new layer of realism to the game and make it feel more interactive.

    Accessibility

    Auditory cues can help screen reader users navigate the game world, interact with objects, and engage in combat more effectively.

    For example, combat spam can be particularly frustrating for players. By disabling spammy or repetitive combat text and enabling audio cues for important events, a blind player can more easily keep up with a hectic battle.

    For tips on how to build a less spammy MUD, check out my interviews with Niamh and Khufu. They both offer excellent advice on how to approach code changes with accessibility in mind.

    Types of sounds used

    Soundpacks can include a variety of sounds that serve different purposes.

    For example:

    • Ambient or environmental sounds: Background noises like wind, rain, rustling leaves, running water, or the chatter of a busy marketplace. These sounds help players feel immersed in the virtual world.
    • Action sound effects: Clashing swords, arrows whizzing by, magical explosions, mystical energy charging, etc. These sounds are triggered by specific actions like swinging a sword, opening a door, or casting a spell.
    • Event sounds: A hearty cheer or sad trombone, booing, applause, or victorious trumpet. These are special sounds for in-game events like completing a quest, defeating an opponent, losing a PvP battle, or discovering a hidden treasure.
    • Character sounds: Spoken dialogue, greetings, grunts, villainous laughter, and other sounds tied to NPCs.
    • Background music: Music specific to certain areas, designed to support that zone’s specific ambiance.

    As you can see, there are a lot of ways that sound can be incorporated into a text-based game!

    How soundpacks work

    At this point, you might be wondering how it all works. How does the MUD client know when to play a specific audio file? How does it know which file to play?

    Well, there are a couple of ways it can happen:

    • client-side triggers
    • MUD protocols

    Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

    Using client-side triggers

    A sound trigger is a specific audio cue that is set to play in response to a particular event or input. Sound triggers are usually created and configured by the player within their MUD client.

    For example, a player may set up a sound trigger to play a sound effect when they receive a private message from another player or when their character’s health drops below a certain threshold.

    The advantage of sound triggers is that they’re highly customizable and allow players to create personalized audio alerts for events they consider important or noteworthy.

    Modern MUD clients such as Mudlet and MUSHClient both support sound triggers.

    Using MUD protocols

    MUD protocols are sets of rules or guidelines that MUD servers and clients follow to communicate in the background about things like sound.

    The MUD Sound Protocol (MSP) and MUD Client Media Protocol (MCMP) are the main protocols that allow a MUD server to instruct the client to play specific sounds at specific times, based on in-game events or actions.

    How do MUD protocols work?

    When you’re playing a MUD that supports MSP or MCMP, the server sends special commands embedded within the game’s text output. These commands are invisible to you but are recognized by the MUD client.

    When the client detects a protocol command for sound, it looks up the corresponding sound file in the installed soundpack and plays it.

    For example, let’s say you’re in a battle and you land a critical hit. The MUD server might send an MSP command like !!SOUND(sword_clash.mp3)!! along with the text description of your action. Your MUD client, recognizing the MSP command, would then play the sword_clash.mp3 sound from your soundpack.

    Differences between protocols

    Without getting too technical:

    • MSP is older and more focused, designed specifically for sound. It’s widely supported but limited to audio.
    • MCMP is newer and more versatile, designed to handle a variety of media types. It’s not as universally supported but offers more advanced features.

    Clients that support MSP include:

    • Mudlet (Windows, macOS, Linux)
    • TinTin++ (Windows, macOS, Linux)
    • MUSHclient (Windows)
    • ZMUD (Windows)
    • CMUD (Windows)

    Mudlet also supports MCMP.

    If you’re interested in the technical side of MCMP and how to implement it with Mudlet, I recommend this article on the Mudlet wiki. For more resources related to MUD protocols, check out my MUD Resources page.

    And if you’re curious, some long-running MUDs that offer soundpacks include:

    It’s important to note that MUDs offer varying degrees of soundpack support, and the availability and quality of soundpacks will vary from game to game.

    Often, a game’s soundpack is a community-driven effort rather than something “official” from the game’s creators.

    How to tell if a MUD offers a soundpack

    To find out if a MUD already has a soundpack available, you can follow these steps.

    Step 1 is the easiest and will usually yield results if the game has a soundpack, but you can keep going down the list until you get an answer.

    1. Visit the MUD’s website: Start by visiting the official website or forum of the MUD you are interested in. Look for any information or announcements related to soundpacks or audio enhancements.
    2. Check the wiki or other documentation: Many MUDs provide documentation or user guides that detail the features and supported functionalities of the game. Look for sections or references to soundpacks, audio, or accessibility options. For example, Alter Aeon has an area of the website dedicated to “Blind Support.”
    3. Browse the community forums: Browse through the game’s community forums or discussion boards. Often, players share information about available soundpacks or may have discussions regarding audio enhancements.
    4. Join the Discord server: If the game has a Discord server, pop in and check for an #accessibility channel or ask other players on the server if there’s a soundpack.
    5. Log into the game: If the game doesn’t have a Discord server or a lot of documentation on the website, you can try creating a character and logging in. They may have a newbie channel or OOC channel in the game where you can ask about soundpacks.
    6. Contact the MUD admins: If you’re unable to find information about soundpacks through the above methods, you can try contacting the game’s staff using in-game or out-of-game methods.
    Alter Aeon's homepage with an arrow pointing to the Blind Support link.
    As an example, Alter Aeon’s website includes a link to Blind Support in the sidebar.

    Remember that not all MUDs support soundpacks, and even if a soundpack is available, it may not be exactly what you want or need.

    If you’re really enjoying a game and it doesn’t have a soundpack, you could potentially create your own – with or without help from the community.

    Purpose and personal preference in soundpacks

    Speaking of preferences, it’s important to remember that soundpacks are designed to serve different purposes.

    A soundpack created by blind players for other blind players may be very different from a soundpack created by players with sight, for example.

    While drafting this blog post, I asked bscross, a screen reader user and fellow MUD enthusiast, for his take on soundpacks.

    (You may remember him from my interview with Vadi, the creator of Mudlet; bscross was involved in the testing of Mudlet’s accessibility updates.)

    He admitted that he rarely, if ever, uses sounds provided through MSP because:

    1. the sounds are usually just for flavor and aren’t that helpful for navigating the game as a blind player, and
    2. they’re usually low-quality stock sounds.

    He added, “Sound packs can be a personal experience. That’s why I would prefer to make my own or tailor one that has been made so that it suits me.

    If I go to a MUD developer and ask them to change a sound, maybe they will do it. If I ask them to add a sound for this specific condition, maybe they will do that, too. They do have to consider all their users though, and not just me.

    Plus, I’m not going to go to them and ask them to use better sounds. I’m picky and I know that, so I take it upon myself to make sounds that I’m good with hearing 30-50 times in a fight.”

    The takeaway here?

    MUD sounds are a great way to elevate the text-based gaming experience, but there’s no one-size-fits-all pack that will suit everyone perfectly.

    If you’re a game creator thinking about designing a soundpack for your game, you need to first decide what the purpose of the soundpack is – who is it for? – and then involve that group of players in helping you create, test, and refine it.

    Enhancing sound with quality audio gear

    And finally, to fully appreciate a modern, high-quality soundpack, it makes sense to have some decent audio gear.

    I’ve found that a good pair of headphones can make a world of difference, especially if you’re playing on-the-go from a laptop.

    Be sure to check the battery time, whether or not it comes with a charging case, and the dimensions before you buy – some designs are a lot smaller than others.

    That’s it for today, but in the future, I hope to work on a guide to help you create your own soundpack step-by-step.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do I install a MUD soundpack?

    Installing a MUD soundpack usually involves downloading a zip file containing the audio files and a configuration file. Once downloaded, you’ll need to extract the files into a specific directory within your MUD client’s installation folder.

    After that, you’ll have to configure your MUD client to recognize and use the soundpack, which is often done through the client’s settings or preferences menu.

    Where is the soundpack stored?

    The soundpack is usually downloaded and stored locally on your computer. The location (what folder) will depend on the client and soundpack configuration.

    Once installed, it is integrated with your MUD client, allowing the client to play the appropriate sounds at the right moments during gameplay.

    Can I use a soundpack from one MUD in another MUD?

    Generally, soundpacks are designed for specific MUDs and may not be compatible with others. However, some creative players adapt soundpacks for use in multiple games by setting up custom sound triggers.

    Keep in mind that doing so might require a good understanding of both the MUD client’s settings and the game’s events that you want to associate with sounds.

    Are soundpacks free to use?

    Most soundpacks for MUDs are free to download and use, especially those available on the game’s official website or community forums. However, some may be part of premium content or created by third-party developers who charge a fee. Always check the licensing terms before downloading and using a soundpack.

    Do soundpacks affect game performance?

    In most cases, using a soundpack should not significantly impact the performance of your MUD client or computer. However, if you’re running on older hardware or have limited system resources, you may experience some slowdown.

    If you notice performance issues, try disabling some of the more resource-intensive sounds, like high-quality ambient sounds, to see if it improves your experience.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. “Be excellent to each other.”