Something has been kind of gnawing away at me for awhile, so I'm going to start by writing about that. And then I'm going to make an announcement of sorts - one that probably won't surprise many people.
IRE as a whole has been making a push towards newbie-friendly, because MUDs are something of a dying breed. Novice retention is important to keep an influx of new blood into the game, something I think we can all agree on. As such, the games have become much more streamlined. There have been many quality of life changes that improve the playing experience of even veteran players, for which I am grateful; progress and improvements are always nice, and I'm glad that we have coders/admin who are able and willing to put forth the work.
There has been a damaging shift as well. I tried to sort of figure out how to put this in the Oleis AMA thread, but apparently that didn't come across quite like I wanted it to - to be blunt, and with all due respect, this game has no teeth. This game has no struggle. And this game has absolutely zero point. You cannot win at any point in this game, because they have kiddie-proofed it to the point that you cannot lose. To clarify, my character can be killed. I don't care, and most people don't care, that they die. Death is a minute or two of afk, with nothing else lost. There is nothing else you can do to me if you dislike me. You 'can' emote at me, or yell at me, but neither of those things are satisfying, and neither of those things will result in a win or a loss - think to yourself how many times you've satisfyingly won an argument over the internet. Now count how many times it devolves into screaming back and forth 'YUH HUH' and 'NUH UH'. I would imagine the second number is much higher, and it is the same here as well. The simple fact of the matter is, there's no meaningful way for a player to beat another, save in the most artificial constructs possible, such as the Delosian Duel (where the admin have to start it and reward someone with an item that no one else has). There is no organic conflict, there is no organic mechanism for doing anything to elevate yourself over another player.
Even pvp, one of the biggest draws of IRE, is flat - it's just code versus code, and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. If you don't have an AI, you won't win. And when AIs get sufficiently advanced and identify the 'magic bullet' for each fight, it will come down to a ping contest, or a matter of class matchup and luck. Neither of which is a particularly compelling thing, for me. I don't care who lags more, or which class has the edge on another - I miss the days when I was an awful fighter and pvp actually gave me an adrenaline rush, back when I fought without so much as an auto-raze script and that was actually viable. But, in the spirit of making combat more accessible, we've had an influx of things that render the older, harder, more real means of pvp entirely unfeasable, and there's really no going back now.
So without pvp, without any meaningful combat/war system (though I know one is currently in the works), we're left with events as the only way things change. Events are limited too, locked down. An organization cannot leave their city - no Sciomancer guild in Bloodloch, academies/city choice restricted based on guild, class picks cut in half by tethers. Nothing player-run can truly change, without colossal effort. The last time anything really changed on player initiative on any major scale was the re-branding of Spinesreach into the Republic (or maybe the Syssin into the Syndicate, I forget which order that occurred in). No matter what happens however, the Sciomancers will remain in spinesreach. The guilds are locked to a city, and more or less at their mercy due to guards/enemy statuses. Orders have little to no impact on cities either, and cities don't even influence the world around them that much. Maybe when factions come out, there'll be a slight influx in the ability to change the world, but I'm not overly optimistic about that either.
Divine events are the last stand, of sorts- though I suppose it would be more accurate to call them admin events. Especially lately, it feels to me that these are scripted from A to B regardless of what players do/want to do/say. They are cut scenes, progressing the story towards some unknown point in the future. I've attempted to run player events to upset things, change things, or even just get something interesting and new happening - the Abyss event that occurred awhile back stands out the most, to me. For those who don't know, the Carnifex spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a RL month (likely more) planning an assault on Dhar's realm, the Abyss. We were encouraged on by admin, gods giving us interesting items/help/what have you. Everything we got indicated this would work, this would be something interesting - instead, when it was finally time for the event, the portal fizzled and some monster came out. We bashed it for awhile until a room echo told us we killed it, then we got honors lines and went home. Point A, Point B. The end, no matter what. I'd point to Neventesh, raiding BL after Enorian didn't manage it successfully. To whatever that dragon's name was. To the Shadow Plague Saga, to every major event I've been involved in, there has been a conclusion written for it since before it properly began. I can't think of a single time I feel like I actually contributed in a meaningful way to the conclusion/end result, and that's something I dislike. I want to help tell a story, not have a story told to me while I run around in the background.
I know I'm complaining a lot, and this is very long, but I'm not quite done yet. It isn't that I'm a bitter player who hates the admin and wants to raise a fuss. I wish I could enjoy the game. I wish I could find a niche where I fit in that doesn't feel artificial; but when the only things that change are surface-level tweaks driven entirely by players, without them having the ability to meaningfully influence the game? It's frustrating, it feels fake, cheesy, forced. There's no way an org can ever lose, so there's no way an org can ever win. Our padded text-world has tape over all the edges, so we don't accidentally hurt ourselves/upset someone else by beating them - no war system because it was griefy/unfun, Order Wars are discouraged by forum thread after forum thread because they're unfun, pvp nothing more than code vs code, and now guilds are locked down and REQUIRED to have a simple set of requirements to allow anyone to join and get class. Events are flat-feeling, with no player input changing the world in a unique way; turn on your basher and wait for the admin to tell you you've won, is how it tends to feel. Accessibility all around - but the game has gone too far. I recognize I am currently a minority. I enjoy challenges, I like struggling. And a loss can be more fun to play out than a win. And it's not entirely fair to the game, or the admin, to make these comparisons or complaints. As a business, IRE's goal is to make a profit and get players to invest money into the game. If it wasn't a safe investment, people would make less overall. The admin want players to be happy, and people tend to get unhappy when they lose, so taking the teeth out of losing seems to be a good way to keep people involved. And this game can never be what I miss so much, Atonement - it has too many players, the codebase/level of polish is prohibitive to the quick sort of plot changes that could be made, and a few other key differences that have more to do with game design than my current focus.
This was originally written as a brainstorm, but now that I've written it I've decided to post it- to whoever managed to wade through all that writing, thanks for hearing me out. To the rest who want a tl;dr: I miss feeling challenged, I miss feeling like I was a part of the game world, and like I could make a meaningful difference. I miss being able to win, and being able to lose and it actually sting. I'm taking something of a break, and it might be a permanent one - I'm just not having fun any more. I gave all my alts up a week or two ago, and I'm definitely dropping way down with online time on Toz, so I wanted to say goodbye while people actually vaguely remember who I am.