Speaking the Language
Iím a storyteller. Iím not a mechanical genius or a computer whiz. I create worlds, characters and stories.
And for more than five years now, Iíve been building online worlds without having much knowledge about coding. I got lucky and built teams to work on my projects that included several talented coders, so I was content to stick with my storytelling and world building, and left the clockworks and gear springs to them.
Thatís a good way to live, if youíre not an absolute control freak and you donít mind getting coded systems on someone elseís timetable.
Iíve been a control freak, but never that absolute. And for five years, I felt okay with waiting to get systems when a coder could get around to it.
If youíre going to run a MUD, even if you donít know how to code when you open the doors, learn the ropes as time goes by. Learn to be self-sufficient.
What Iíve learned during the past five years is that *no one* is as devoted to a game as its creator. If you want something coded quickly, to your specifications, you can assign it to a coder. But will that coder make enough time to get it done soon enough for you? It can be a tremendous source of frustration for you and for him as days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and youíre asking repeatedly: Is it done yet? And heís answering repeatedly: Not yet, but soon. The coder may mean well, but he may have lots of other balls to juggle and he doesnít consider yours to be a top priority. And maybe your idea shouldnít be a top priority project ≠ but who else is going to do it, right?
Itís easy for someone who purports to be a writer to shun the idea of coding. After all, I donít need to know how to use Quark or a printing press to write the great American novel. So why should I have to learn to code to tell stories and build worlds on the Internet?
Why? Because itís the nature of the medium. Even if you donít need to know how to use publishing software to write a book, you at least need to know how to work a typewriter, word processor or a personal computer.
During the past month, at long last, Iíve started learning MUSH coding. I should have done this years ago. Of course, back then, I was among the unwashed masses that start up their own games thinking they donít need to code ≠ all you have to do is post a friendly recruiting note about needing coders and they fall from the sky like snowflakes, right? Right. If the snowflakes are falling in Death Valley.
Iím not quite ready to code massive and intricate systems on my games, but I am learning the essentials, the basic building blocks for a foundation upon which to build my expertise. When I have coding down, Iíll be a triple threat: A storyteller, a world builder and a coder. No longer will I have to wait for my ideas to be implemented by someone who doesnít necessarily share my drive and dedication to the project.
Itís one less thing to get nervous and antsy about, and it helps alleviate the load on your coders ≠ and maybe it will encourage them to step their productivity up a notch if they see a non-coder outperforming them. Give it a try!
Wes Platt is the creator of OtherSpace: The Interactive SF Saga and Chiaroscuro: The Interactive Fantasy Saga. He's a head-wiz on Star Wars: Reach of the Empire. (All games can be reached through his official site at www.jointhesaga.com.) He also produces Brody's MUD Index (mudindex.jointhesaga.com), a free quarterly periodical in PDF format that offers MUD listing opportunities. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.