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Old 10-14-2003, 04:26 PM   #1
Jaenelle
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Question

What muds have people been on that have the best helpfiles? I've checked out some muds and have so much problems helping myself that I get frusterated and leave. Do others have this problem? How should helpfiles be deseigned in your opinion to be the most helpful to newbies AND experienced players. Even on my homemud I reread helpfiles on a regular basis. I'm always getting new spells and skills that I can't possible remember what they all do. So helpfiles shouldn't just be aimed at newbies right?

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Old 10-14-2003, 07:30 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Jaenelle @ Oct. 14 2003,15:26)
What muds have people been on that have the best helpfiles?  I've checked out some muds and have so much problems helping myself that I get frusterated and leave. Do others have this problem?  How should helpfiles be deseigned in your opinion to be the most helpful to newbies AND experienced players.  Even on my homemud I reread helpfiles on a regular basis.  I'm always getting new spells and skills that I can't possible remember what they all do.  So helpfiles shouldn't just be aimed at newbies right?

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What we try to do is have a comprehensive set of helpfiles and then list which ones would be most useful to newbies. The help files are broken down into 21 sections with each section having from a few to as many as 50+ help files.  Not everything is part of the main help structure though. Except for overviews of the skills (each of which may have as many as 60 individual abilities/spells in them), all the individual ability and spell info is not accessible unless you're part of the class that has the skills those abilities/spells are in.

I'll tell you what can be really useful to newbies though, at least in our games: Help files that can be written by players and apply (and are accessible) only to members of a particular organization. For instance, guilds and cities in Achaea can compose help files that contain everything from directions to important places in the city to promotion requirements for that guild to the legal code of a city, and so on.

Another thing we do that has proven to be reasonably effective is provide searching mechanisms. http://www.achaea.com/HelpView.cgi shows you what I mean. The major functionality is there but one feature that's missing is the ability to just view a listing of all available help files, or all help files in a section, via the web.

We also provide a .pdf manual for players that can be found here: http://www.achaea.com/manual.htm.

As you can probably guess, I believe that the more ways there are to communicate how to play to players, and the more ways they have to look up that information, the better.

--matt
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Old 10-14-2003, 07:34 PM   #3
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Hmm.. Help file drift, like continental drift, can often bury real information when the people that should be making the help files decide it is less critical than game design. Often this sadly seems to happen very early on and then they throw up their hands and decry that actually making real ones are a) never needed in the past and b) would take too much work. lol

But seriously, I doubt there is a mud that doesn't experience this to some extent. Ages of Despair, where I play has extensive and deatailed help, but even so, the help files for individual races often don't 'quite' match the statistical list of all races. There is a feature of cleric called Persona that has never been documented (and won't be until they find someone to run the guild again). Class restrictions require looking at both the classes sub-guilds, since the restriction file isn't 100% accurate. And so on... It is about 98% accurate I would say, save for things intentionally left undocumented, but they cover neverly everything imaginable, and even some things I half the time can't even remember the help files for. lol

I doubt any muds have extraordinary help, but Aod's are probably better than average. Assuming you can find the correct link to take a look. I suspect the one posted in the info on AoD is still listed as agesofdespair.org:5000, which hasn't been correct for over a year. The correct one is aod.mine.nu:5000, though the old adress will be resurrected for the web page at least, eventually.
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Old 10-14-2003, 09:52 PM   #4
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The method of accessing the helpfiles is important as well. The search engine should be permissible enough to allow for mispellings and typos - within the game, we use a soundex-based search for that. Helpfiles should also suggest alternate entries based on their content, as a way of leading someone through a chain of related entries.

In addition to the helpfiles, we also offer a downloadable quick-reference guide (put together by one of our players, in fact) that contains the most commonly-used commands, skills, and references, both in a PDF format and in spiral-bound physical-copy format through our web store.

There's also a continually-updated Adventurer's Guide that also references individual annotated help files, as well as explaining them in context for a novice's specific needs.

I think websites have become very important to MUDs as well, which is why we have focused a great deal of attention on putting together an informative website with access to a great deal of information that a player would want, novice or not.  It's not just helpfiles that are informative, but player-written guides around specific sections of the game, specific classes, specific species, equipment groups, that sort of thing.

Community is important, as well. There is the opportunity to ask other players for help in our Discussion Forums. Additionally they provide a great resource of historical commentary from players on various aspects of the game.

And of course, the web-based helpfiles themselves are able to be annotated by our players to provide additional information that we may have forgotten to include or just didn't think to add. We review these annotations fairly frequently (probably not as often as we should, but we try) and may incorporate the information contained within them into the helpfile itself.

There is a danger of overwhelming the novice player with too much information at once, which is why we have a specific section - the first section, in fact - on the website that focuses on novice adventurers. This way the novice is given a good launching point for the game's various information systems.

No system is perfect, however, and maintaining such a large website resource takes a great deal of attention, so it's definitely a labor of love.
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Old 10-15-2003, 12:37 AM   #5
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Question

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Help Keywords : 'MIASMA 'MIASMA OF PAIN''.
Help Category : Attack Spell.
Related Helps : Acid Blast, Frost Breath.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Syntax: cast 'miasma' <victim>

This spell calls forth a cloud, or Miasma of Fog. The magical effects
of this fog cause intense and terrifying pain into any who come into
contact with it. As the Cloud is manifested directly over the
enemy, their destruction is assured, and their fate, sealed. This
cloud forms around only one opponent.

Primary stat: Intelligence, Wisdom.
Affected by : Luck.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Here is such as one of our helpfiles looks. It refers to related files, lists syntax, and the category. (so it would be possible to list all attack spell helpfiles) It also lists the stats that affect such a spell. I sometimes wish for a more compact way to list the stats that affect a skill or spell rather than reading the helpfile all the time... but such as it is. :)

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Old 10-15-2003, 02:00 AM   #6
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Helpfiles should be cross-indexed, and searchable. A good model that worked for me was:
[*]First find complete-word matches[*]Failing above, find partial-word matches to the prime keyword(s) requested[*]Failing above, find complete word matches to secondary keywords (ie, 'scabbard' as a secondary word for the helpfile 'sheath')[*]Failing above, compare requested helpfile name with socials, looking first for complete-word and then partial-word matches. If found, show the 'social' helpfile[*]Failing that, perform soundex matching (KaVir.Org) and see if it matches one of helpfiles' primary keyword (ie, they misspelled "sheath" as "sheathe" or "sheth")

In my experience, I have found it is more rewarding to use an onion metaphor for helpfiles, allowing the user to delve into successively deeper layers if they so choose, while providing general information on the top for the casual persuer. It is possible to create a relatively intuitive delving mechanism for immediate jumping to the deeper layers:

help sheath
help search sheath
help index sheath
help sheath 3 (third level helpfile)
help sheath 3 highlight scabbard (to highlight the location of 'scabbard' in the third tier helpfile)

Another, immeasurably helpful concept was the ability to 'assist' someone else - to queue the helpfile most recently read by you to another player.

--Robbert
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Old 10-16-2003, 09:15 PM   #7
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I prefer helpfiles to be much less detailed. They are an ooc construct, so should contain only the necessary ooc information, such as syntax, and a very basic description of the command.
On an RP mud, it is important (and much more fun) for information to be learned through in character means.
Even on a H&S, figuring out such things as what stats effect what skills is part of the charm and challenge of the game.
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Old 10-17-2003, 12:57 AM   #8
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There is a balance though. You do not want to fusterate players when they can not find anything out. Especially with commands. Don't know how the give command works? TOO BAD. I can almost understand not having helpfiles on every spell and skill... or have the helpfile just come up when you learn it and it is your job to write it down or remember it... but not giving helpfiles on in game commands just seems silly. I like helpfiles and I like them to be useful. Since many MUDS are text based environments, a detailed description of what a spell does is useful. Otherwise you just see a one line on your screen. So and so casts such and such on so and so... it almost takes away from the atmosphere if people do not know more about the spell/skill and have some little story behind it knowing what it does.


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