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Old 04-27-2009, 07:39 AM   #1
Sergeytov
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Failure

It's one of those things MU administrators don't talk much about in the open. We all hear stories about entrepreneurs who have failed in the past before finally succeeding, so I'll talk about the failure of my last MU effort, somewhat generalized. I'm not asking for advice on 'how to do better', but I do hope this helps someone out there. For those who have failed as well, go ahead and share your story, it'll be like group therapy. :>

Late last year, I opened a science fiction mush, designed to be RP oriented. I'll talk more about it as I ponder my failure.

1) I opened in mid-December. - Let's face it, a bad time of the year, with Christmas right around the corner, schools being out of session, and people being brain dead from finals.

2) 'Personal' - Within a week after I let players in, I lost sight in an eye for a couple days, then was hit by an SUV two days later. This put a damper on my ability to handle things. - The good news on this front is I planned for this with having someone else who I trusted to handle things while I recovered (and was on pain medication). This severely degraded my physical condition to run a game.

3) I chose an 'obscure' theme. - I chose an original theme (strike one, since these have no inherent fan base like a Star Wars MUSH for instance). I chose 'science fiction' as a theme (more like 'soft science fiction, it aimed to be somewhat realistic, no FTL, death rays in a can-sized container and such, but was meant to focus on social/political stories). Finally, I went for a 'modern' feel. No faster than light travel, no 'magic' and so on. Perhaps I chose something too close to life for people to feel comfortable with playing. - I saw this 'theme' was rare, so I decided to try it out for myself.

4) I relied on players too much. - I was working on creating a setup for players to run most stories. This was a big mistake. I'm not saying players can't or shouldn't run their own storylines in any context (I thought it was a good idea in mine), but ultimately, I should have been more active in getting storylines up and running and giving players things to latch onto, which leads to:

5) Story Hooks - I tried to add story hooks, but I didn't give players enough of an opportunity to latch onto them, or scream 'story hook, use me!'

6) Code - Bugs weren't the issue, generally. I lack evidence, but I have a fear I had code for the sake of having code, rather than serving a needed purpose.

7) Marketing - 'Critical mass' in playerbase size never happened. In part this is a combination of many other factors, but marketing is one I'll say here. I didn't do enough.

8) Mind Blank - In the embryonic stages, I should have had storylines ready to go and latch onto. Point 4, again. Without planning for this, tires spun.

Those are my 'initial eight' that I've thought of. Would I try again? Not right now, but I wouldn't rule it out either, I am certainly armed with more knowledge this time around. I'd also say the experience was worth it.
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Old 04-27-2009, 10:46 AM   #2
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Re: Failure

First of all, I hope you're doing better. As someone who's had more than their share of medical issues these last nine years, I can sympathize greatly.

Quote:
3) I chose an 'obscure' theme. - I chose an original theme (strike one, since these have no inherent fan base like a Star Wars MUSH for instance). I chose 'science fiction' as a theme (more like 'soft science fiction, it aimed to be somewhat realistic, no FTL, death rays in a can-sized container and such, but was meant to focus on social/political stories). Finally, I went for a 'modern' feel. No faster than light travel, no 'magic' and so on. Perhaps I chose something too close to life for people to feel comfortable with playing. - I saw this 'theme' was rare, so I decided to try it out for myself.
Honestly, your theme sounds a million times more interesting that Star Wars or some other fantasy stuff. While the fanbois might get a hard-on for lightsabers and Boring Fett, more mature players would probably be drawn to actual science fiction, not space fantasy.

Quote:
4) I relied on players too much. - I was working on creating a setup for players to run most stories. This was a big mistake. I'm not saying players can't or shouldn't run their own storylines in any context (I thought it was a good idea in mine), but ultimately, I should have been more active in getting storylines up and running and giving players things to latch onto, which leads to:

5) Story Hooks - I tried to add story hooks, but I didn't give players enough of an opportunity to latch onto them, or scream 'story hook, use me!'
Yes, players can often be blind to even the most obvious attempts at initiating plots. I don't think dumbing it down is the key though. A dumb player is like a tree. Doesn't matter how slowly you speak to it, it still isn't going to do what you say.

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6) Code - Bugs weren't the issue, generally. I lack evidence, but I have a fear I had code for the sake of having code, rather than serving a needed purpose.
Not sure what you mean by this unless you're talking about levels and experience points and other stuff like that.

Quote:
7) Marketing - 'Critical mass' in playerbase size never happened. In part this is a combination of many other factors, but marketing is one I'll say here. I didn't do enough.

8) Mind Blank - In the embryonic stages, I should have had storylines ready to go and latch onto. Point 4, again. Without planning for this, tires spun.

Those are my 'initial eight' that I've thought of. Would I try again? Not right now, but I wouldn't rule it out either, I am certainly armed with more knowledge this time around. I'd also say the experience was worth it.
Perhaps your goals in terms of pbase size were the problem. Saying "I want fifty players" and failing to attract that many has nothing to do with features, code, marketing or themes. Sometimes, you just can't get fifty players because they don't exist. They're out playing another game that they found first (let's face it, players will often stick to the first game they discover, no matter how pathetic it may be).

Success is only what you define it to be. If your definition is itself not obtainable, then no amount of work will allow you to reach it. Furthermore, just because you don't reach your definition of success does not mean failure (beyond the failure to reach YOUR goals). There are no givens as to what constitutes success and failure in a MU*. Some aim for quality, others for pbase size and even still others want a combination of both.

Just some thoughts to consider. Hope you've recovered from your health issues.

Take care,

Jason

Last edited by prof1515 : 04-27-2009 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 04-27-2009, 11:03 AM   #3
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Re: Failure

I think your game sounded fine, as described. Of course, this is coming from a mud owner that can be described as about as niche as niche can be :P . Many times I have been tempted to run something more recognizable but I was a tabletop RPG publisher long before I attempted to run a mud and I still have a wealth of ideas floating in my head that I would like to see completed in book (or other) form.

For me, muds allow me to create something, effectively "publish" it for play and see a little world I envisioned in my head come to life. To be honest, if I have a single player, even just once in a while, that is awesome, but my real goal and measure of "success" is to simply complete a creation. This simple fact is also why I adamantly stick to my guns with players who complain, want to argue or "screw" around with my worlds. If it doesn't fit my vision, it ain't happenin'. There are literally scores of other muds out there that might be more appealing to one of these example.

My suggestion is this: if you want to attract a playerbase and "succeed" in that arena, don't make a niche game and, possibly, throw in with an established milieu/genre mud. If you want to "succeed" in your creative endeavors, build any sort of mud you want and do it exactly like you envision it to be.
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Old 04-27-2009, 12:23 PM   #4
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Re: Failure

(A quick aside: Don't worry, I fully recovered from the accidents that happened early in my MU*'s life.)

Both of you brought up what my 'goals' were. Excellent point.

If there were five players who'd come around (or even less) and have a good time? Awesome. Ultimately the place became a ghost town (where I was the only one on) for various factors, and I couldn't put in the work immediately to give it the love it needed. As to what happened with me? For playing I ended up joining the playerbase on another game most of them played on as well. I'm reasonably happy with how things are turning out so far.

Quote:
Quote:
6) Code - Bugs weren't the issue, generally. I lack evidence, but I have a fear I had code for the sake of having code, rather than serving a needed purpose.
Not sure what you mean by this unless you're talking about levels and experience points and other stuff like that.
Without over analyzing each and every coded thing I did (for the purposes of this thread, I'll likely bring up many of my coded efforts elsewhere), I realized one of the things that I enjoyed best was working with and writing code. It's something I did far more often than be in the trenches trying to kick up activity. If I do another project, it'll likely have far more focus on code. In the works talking with a couple people about joining a staff to work on code projects, so I can do what I enjoy without the other responsibilities that sapped me.

Quote:
Many times I have been tempted to run something more recognizable but I was a tabletop RPG publisher long before I attempted to run a mud and I still have a wealth of ideas floating in my head that I would like to see completed in book (or other) form.
One of the ideas I thought of (unfortunately I haven't studied up on legal issues involved) is to attempt to create a 'Tabletop MU*', basically a text Open RPG that's more a toolbox for players to work with to run online tabletop in a MU* environment, rather than ORPG. Reason I held off is a) legal and b) I'd want to think of a way to differentiate from ORPG, which does its job rather well, I think (I've used it combined with Skype).
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Old 04-27-2009, 01:47 PM   #5
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Re: Failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voidrider View Post
For me, muds allow me to create something, effectively "publish" it for play and see a little world I envisioned in my head come to life. To be honest, if I have a single player, even just once in a while, that is awesome, but my real goal and measure of "success" is to simply complete a creation.
I could have written almost the exact same thing. I do not consider player-base numbers to be a measure of how close I am getting to the game-world I envision. I understand the urge to do so, and the mechanical implications of numbers needed for role-play to happen often, as well as the catch-22 of the "create/log in/type 'who'/log out" dilemma.

Thank you for granting me a little validation to my thoughts and beliefs.
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Old 04-27-2009, 06:57 PM   #6
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Re: Failure

There are certainly worse things in the world than trying and failing. The timing might not have been great, circumstances might have worked against you, and the theme might have been daunting (or, to some, unpalatable). But it was definitely an effort worth making and, if you ever find the itch to try it again, I'd recommend it.

As you know from watching things evolve and change at Jointhesaga.com, even being established and off-and-on successful isn't a guarantee for survival.

Chiaroscuro was probably the best of our games from a player-driven activity standpoint - it had a fairly straightforward fantasy theme that people could latch onto and run with pretty easily - but without an active staffer corps to keep promoting it and helping to move that activity along it slipped into a coma and we eventually had to pull the plug. That was a sad day.

Another sad day? The death of Star Wars: Reach of the Empire. That was based on an established, hugely well-known property, but, again, without a reliable staff contingent to keep things hopping, it withered.

Now we're down to OtherSpace and Necromundus - both go through their fits and starts, with Necromundus lagging population-wise far more than OtherSpace. The economy of staff focus and effort takes its toll. I'm in no rush to shut Necromundus down, I think it has a lot of promise and possibility, BUT...I've killed my darlings before.

Does that mean I'd only ever do OtherSpace after that? Probably not. I can almost guarantee that I'd get it in my mind to do something new again down the road. Might not be a MUSH, per se. But...something.

Keep at it. Sometimes you get lucky and it all clicks!
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:18 PM   #7
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Re: Failure

I think alot of Admins and Players can sympathize with this story, but much heartache and wasted time can surely be avoided if you follow the advice here: http://www.topmudsites.com/forums/mu...r-own-mud.html

An ounce of preparation can avert a pound of cure.
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Old 04-27-2009, 11:51 PM   #8
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Re: Failure

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Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
I think alot of Admins and Players can sympathize with this story, but much heartache and wasted time can surely be avoided if you follow the advice here: http://www.topmudsites.com/forums/mu...r-own-mud.html

An ounce of preparation can avert a pound of cure.
I agree.

Heartache avoided? Yes. I don't think I 'wasted time' on my efforts, what I received for my effort and money invested was well worth it. As for following your rules? I actually completed those steps previously. The one about 9 out of 10? Yup.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Brody
As you know from watching things evolve and change at Jointhesaga.com, even being established and off-and-on successful isn't a guarantee for survival.
And I even remember a couple that didn't get off the drawing board.

A quick aside on Necro: I liked much of the concept since the first day of beta (almost three+ years ago now, was it). I passed along some of the work on my current testbed to a couple of your staff over there I'm in regular contact with to look at.
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Old 04-28-2009, 03:24 AM   #9
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Re: Failure

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Heartache avoided? Yes. I don't think I 'wasted time' on my efforts, what I received for my effort and money invested was well worth it.
I'm sorry Sergeytov, I didn't mean to insinuate you wasted time. That was more of a general comment for others as this thread seemed more of an open forum about ideas. I'm guessing you gained alot in your trials.
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Old 04-28-2009, 03:36 AM   #10
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Re: Failure

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That was more of a general comment for others as this thread seemed more of an open forum about ideas.
No insult taken. *fistshakes at the quibbles of text and things being lost in translation*

I intended it as an open forum about ideas, certainly. Having read your other thread on building your own MU*, I think this thread might be part of another potential rule that is at least implicitly covered in the thread: Listen to those who have done it before. - You (the generalized you) might not agree with us, you may think we're crazy, and you may point out that we ourselves are far from perfect in this hobby/business of ours, but we form a knowledge and experience base that you can access. Not only that, many of us are willing to share that knowledge and experience with someone who asks.

Of course, the reason I say it's implicit is simple: Someone reading advice on how to start a MU* is already following that rule. :>
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Old 04-29-2009, 10:08 AM   #11
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Re: Failure

The lessons learned from creating a mud (whether it "succeeds" or "fails") are pretty invaluable. While we've not really had a "failure" yet, we've had several systems fail, which is kind of the same thing on a smaller scale. There's been several times when something seemed pretty awesome in my head, and it got coded. Then the players didn't use it or care for it at all.
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Old 10-14-2009, 08:12 PM   #12
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Re: Failure

Most successful business people fail many times before they succeed.

So failing at your first mud is not reason to believe you'd definitely fail if you tried again.
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