'I am really busy in RL!'
or How to Motivate your Coders
Every single mud administrator has surely faced the same problem, how to actually get the immortals to work. Sometimes it feels like the builder/wizard position is only a sign for the player to retire. They play the mud actively, logging in daily despite school, work etc. and get the requirements to become a wizard. After the promotion they work around for a couple of days, until disappearing almost completely. When you ask them about what is going on, you hear explanations of how their real life has suddenly become much more active, how they would love to be at the mud, but simply just do not have the time anymore and so on. So eventually they are returned back to player status. And not so surprisingly, after that they start to login again actively and play the mud daily.
Naturally it is more than possible that other responsibilities do actually take over the mudding time. But in the cases where the absence happens only when the person is an immortal and not a player, it is a sure sign that something is wrong with the wizardship itself.
The most obvious explanation is that the person really had no idea of what is involved and expected of them as an immortal. Many players still harbour an idealistic picture of an all-powerful god who can do whatever they want. The truth is usually very far from that.
As much fun as creating new things and areas may be, it is still a very lonesome job. After all the discussed ideas and excellent planning, it is still the immortal who has to sit in front of the computer and make it all happen. Most new coders end up doing areas as well and once you have done a few rooms, it becomes fairly monotonius in that the basic work involved never changes.
Coding also does not give the sort of instant satisfaction that playing does. Even if the new coder is allowed to tinker with mudlib files, they usually need to wait for somebody else to check up that it is alright before the code is used etc. The coder may be asked to spend months doing an area that might not be opened to the players until six months.
Another problem is conflicts of desire. Many players have an idea of what they think is wrong with the mud and they become immortals with the intent of fixing the situation. First off, they might be faced with the reality that they simply will not be allowed to work on such important things until they have done a lot other tasks first. Secondly, even if they are allowed, they may find that their opinions do not quite match with the administrators and the immortals ideas are turned down.
A viable possibility is also just that the player finds themself incapable of doing the things they wanted to. The best of dreams and ideas may be crumbled by the harsh reality that the immortal has no clue how to code them, gets frustrated trying to learn and gives up.
There are some steps which can be taken to lessen the previously mentioned problems.
It should be made clear what sorts of responsibilities are expected of new immortals. Before a player decides to become an immortal, they should have some idea of what it is about.
If nothing else, they should be required to write out an application that states what exactly they do plan on doing after becoming an immortal. If the application states that the person wants to completely rewrite mud combat from scratch, then perhaps they should be talked to first.
After promotion the new wizard should write out a detailed plan about their first project. This will help for everybody to get an idea of the size of the project and how feasible it actually is for a first task.
A very large first project is not a good idea. If the immortal starts small and actually sees the fruit of their labour it encourages them to do more. If it is just a simple new sword that is put into the game, that players use and praise the coder for, it will make a big difference.
Each new wizard should have one higher wizard who serves as their mentor. This way the new wizard always has somebody to turn to with questions and coding problems. The mentor will keep track of how the new immortal is doing. This will help the immortal to feel that somebody cares about their well being. Having a close admin friend will also merge the immortal better into the wizard community and make them feel more part of it.
The admin should practice a lot of positive reinforcement, give praise even from small tasks. One example would be to ask the immortal to write a new help file for something that is missing and then letting all the players know who wrote it.
The ideas and thoughts of new immortals should not be dismissed based on the fact that they are new. Many of the new immortals are much more in touch with the player community than administrators who have not had the time to really play in a long time. While the new immortal might not have a real grasp of what is codeable or in balance, they can still give valuable thoughts on what is going on in the player world.
If the immortal really wants to work on something else than what is required, then at least they should be given hope that if they do the required work well enough, they will get new responsibilities. Same goes for any sort of advancement on the mud. Nobody can work very hard for a long time unless there is some hope of being recognized and rewarded.
Most of all, listening to the new immortal is important. They should be made to feel that they are a full member of the immortal staff and what they do and think has an actual impact. I think that is what everybody wants, regardless of rank.
Feor has been playing and administering muds since 1994. Feor can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.