Sdescs, names and recognition?

One topic we’ve been pondering on the staff side revolves around how characters are presented within the game. In many of the games we’re familiar with, such as Harshlands and Armageddon, characters are primarily identified by their short descriptions, without any “recognize” or “remember” function.

For instance, if you encounter a short, withered old man, he will always appear as such, and you’ll need to rely on memory (or external aids like notepads) to recall his name is Michael.

Contrastingly, some MUDs display characters by their names, so a character named Michael will always be represented as “Michael” on the screen, sometimes supplemented with a flexible summary description line (think Sindome).

Then there are MUDs where players have the ability to code a recognition system, which alters how characters are presented to them in subsequent interactions.

I wanted to initiate a discussion on this matter to gauge people’s preferences. Currently, we’re utilizing personally-set, inflexible short descriptions so ‘the athletic, pink-haired young woman’ will consistently appear that way to you.

What’s your preference?
If we DID utilize a recognition function, how would you envision this working?
Any pros and cons you can think of for the various options?

I would be very disappointed if we didn’t have a recognize function. For one thing, it’s easy enough for the game to remember things for me, saving me the trouble of taking notes. Secondly, as a screen reader user, I consider it to be an accessibility barrier.

To elaborate further on this point, it makes it more challenging to direct speech to someone, especially when there are two or more people in the room with a specific trait, and when the game’s parser isn’t flexible enough to allow me to select a trait that isn’t shared by others. As an example, let’s say there are three characters plus my own in a location. Two of them have blonde hair, and of all three, only one of them has green eyes. If I can’t match based on that one unshared trait, that becomes a bit more work.

Sighted people can easily double-click or click and drag to select text, copy and paste if needed, or simply look and type. For screen reader users, that’s a bit of a different process. Yes, selecting text and copying is certainly possible, but it takes us away from the input line, and by the time that’s done, there’s more than likely things to catch up on, which makes it a rush to try to pose, just to catch up.

Also, I’m failing to find reasons why such a system would hamper anyone’s RP. I’ve seen MUDs with an ‘introduce’ feature, so for the naysayers, maybe just don’t implement that part. I’d be fine with manually typing something like: recall <sdesc> as <name>. That would still allow for those who didn’t want the feature to completely avoid having to use it.

I’m all for a recognize command. I find it very hard sometimes to target the right person when in a room full of six ‘tall, scarred man’ characters. Beyond this, it’s sometimes straight up hard to remember people’s sdescs and it feels like something the character would associate it with.

This can also allow people to use the disguise skill, where that would invalidate the recognition, or if someone’s fully covered up and all that. It’s a lot easier for everyone to react and participate in a room that’s: John, Jimmy, Jenny, James and Janet rather than, tall, scarred man, short, bearded man, buxom swarthy woman, wide, bald man and one-eyed scarlet-haired woman. (especially if this is a group you hang out with a lot / your own in-group)

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Question for Brandon regarding screenreader use here, if a recognize/introduce style function worked to add the name bracketed after the shortdesc, instead of replace it, would that work?

The short, fluffy-haired old man (Thomas) stands here.

Or does it need to replace it entirely?

Fleshy (yes, this is how I refer to you) good point made there about disguise skill implications.

It would be better if the name came first, and then the sdesc. We can’t really skim read like sighted people can. We can make the speech shut up and we can move between lines, which interrupts what was previously being spoken, but there’s no way to skip past parts in line while it’s speaking.

There’s obviously various concerns here amongst which is disguising and how it affects a recog.

I think how it should work is:

Recog is based on the SDESC and the PERSON, os if someone’s sdesc changes, you would need to recog again.

The format I think could be interesting is:

Name (sdesc)

Amos (an average man)


I’d prefer to lead with sdesc so the appearance was always seen first, but if this is problematic with screen readers then we need to do what supports accessibility.

If both would be accessible to screen readers I think I’d prefer:

A tall, red-headed man (James) is here.


James (a tall, red headed man) is here.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that makes it inaccessible, but it would be less than ideal simply because if, in that moment, I only need to care about John, and not his appearance, I can stop there; however, with sdesc first, now I have to hear information that may only be relevant to me part of the time, so let’s say 8 out of 10 times I don’t need to hear the sdesc of the person, I would be forced to anyway. It slows things down. This is something I would fix for myself using a trigger.

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Right okay, I’m with you. Alright I think we’re definitely best with going Name (sdesc) after using some recognition/introduce command then. That’s excellent to know, thank you for your help with that!

Nothing new to add other than support for the recognize command.

So far sounds great, main thing I’d like to see added would be a way to do recognize-related behavior for characters who aren’t currently in the room. Some ideas:

  • peruse the list of recognized characters and their last seen sdesc (maybe all sdescs you’ve seen on them, in order?)
  • merge two recognized characters by indicating you think they’re the same character
  • describe a character to someone else to share a recognition, may or may not require a photo?
  • view and edit private notes about a particular recognition, would be nice to see a little asterisk or something in-game to indicate this recognition has notes

Also what do folks think about the characters face being significant in a way that’s different (and presumably more significant) than their sdesc? Maybe a recognition could indicate whether it’s based on their face (would endure sdesc changes unless their face became covered) or just their sdesc, and maybe a character could be described to you with a photo of their face to give you a face-confirmed recognition of someone before you’ve met them?

Lots of interesting directions to take this, not sure if some of this is overboard though

Loving that out the box thinking there. I think this could potentially solve some of the issues around metagaming and cheating with OOC information.

However, I can see several issues with it. Every single potential nook of recognizing a face would need to be mapped. For instance, if someone draws a person, and that is no longer implemented, wouldn’t people hate that you can’t use that information to recognize someone?

I think this is definitely worth some deep-dive discussing, I’d like to garner everyone’s thoughts and feelings on the potential of something this involved.

I like this line of thinking too. I’m kind of going in circles trying to come to a conclusion whether or not I feel like linking new sdescs to characters should always be manual or not because I could probably present points for both sides of that argument.

One thing of note is that I’ve never seen any MUD make use of nonvisual methods of recognizing people, of which there are many. Not all of them directly point to someone as strongly as being able to recognize faces would, but when piecing little clues together, the end result is usually conclusive. Also, a lot of these are things you could notice from a distance.

Smell is a big one. Does the person have a signature scent? Either natural or the result of a fragrance they apply to themselves, such as perfume or after shave. Have they been smoking or drinking recently? If so, that’s obviously detectable. Certain drugs alter the body chemistry enough that it can be detected. Certain diseases, such as cancer, have an odor of their own. Leather - if it’s real - has a very strong scent.

There’s also a lot that can be gleaned from what you can hear. Footsteps can tell you a lot, such as, what type of footwear they have on, and if they’re intoxicated. The sound of their breathing, coughing, and sneezing can also be good indicators. Keys jangling; does it sound like they have a lot of keys, or very few on their keyring. Or, perhaps, are they carrying their keys clipped to a belt or a pocket book?

This is a non-exhaustive list, and I’ve tried to keep it out of the realm of absurdity. Admittedly, I’m not sure how this could be used in a MUD setting, but I’m putting the information here in the event it may be useful.