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Old 10-13-2012, 12:06 PM   #1
CaptainLepidus
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Looking for builders, or building tips

Hi,

I'm a coder working on a new MUD (after all this time). It's web-based and set in a post-apocalyptic steamjunk universe. I'm not using any code base - half the fun is inventing my own engine. This means that I can add basically any features that are necessary.

The world, ideally, would be large and fully open. Players could explore anywhere (within reason) at any time. This means building will be a lot of effort, but more on that in a second.

As to gameplay, there will be combat, as well as exploration, and ideally a strong social element. The main thing to keep players interested would be periodic "events" - game-wide events where any player could take part, and the world could change because of it.

Now, here's where I'm stuck: I can write acceptably, but building a large scale-world is hard for a beginner. I'd appreciate some help on this area - whether it be people building for my MUD, or simply tips on how to build properly. If anyone's interested in helping out, I can provide more detail on the current plans for the world.

Thanks!
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Old 10-13-2012, 12:11 PM   #2
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

Is the world room-based, coordinate room-based, or roomless? Do you have dynamic descriptions? And how big do you want the world to be?
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Old 10-13-2012, 12:16 PM   #3
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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Is the world room-based, coordinate room-based, or roomless? Do you have dynamic descriptions? And how big do you want the world to be?
The world is coordinate room based. Every room has coordinates, and I define "passages" between two pairs of coordinates.

Dynamic descriptions - not entirely certain what you mean by this? Could you clarify? I'm not actually a huge MUD player, I'm more of an IF guy, so I'm not clear on all the terminology.

The world would be as big as possible, which seems like a bit of a silly goal, but there you go. Ideally I'd continue to expand it constantly. I have at least 3 settlements planned and there would be other things to explore in the "wasteland" as well - I'm not sure how many rooms that'll translate to. As mentioned before, I'm not a huge MUD player, so I'm not really sure the number of rooms I'll need.
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Old 10-13-2012, 05:42 PM   #4
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

For world size, do you want everything to be a room, or are you planning some kind of overhead view roguelike 2D map for when you're in the wasteland? That's a common mud approach to compromising between vast wilderness and time-to-build.

Dynamic descriptions are similar to static descriptions, only some words are replaced dynamically by the mud in response to the current environment (time of day, season, weather and so on) and who the looker is, what they're wearing, what their status is, etcetera.

For sheer number of rooms there are a few metrics you can go by. How many players are you shooting for? What will be the ratio of exploration/bashing/RP? Since you're doing coordinate-based it'll be a little more tricky as you'll have to finesse distances between major settlements so that it's interesting to travel between them but they're not too close that it feels constrained. You might want to consider scripted travel through 'dead zones' where nothing is built on certain ranges of coordinates, in order to control travel distance.
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Old 10-14-2012, 11:19 AM   #5
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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Originally Posted by Ide View Post
For world size, do you want everything to be a room, or are you planning some kind of overhead view roguelike 2D map for when you're in the wasteland? That's a common mud approach to compromising between vast wilderness and time-to-build.

Dynamic descriptions are similar to static descriptions, only some words are replaced dynamically by the mud in response to the current environment (time of day, season, weather and so on) and who the looker is, what they're wearing, what their status is, etcetera.

For sheer number of rooms there are a few metrics you can go by. How many players are you shooting for? What will be the ratio of exploration/bashing/RP? Since you're doing coordinate-based it'll be a little more tricky as you'll have to finesse distances between major settlements so that it's interesting to travel between them but they're not too close that it feels constrained. You might want to consider scripted travel through 'dead zones' where nothing is built on certain ranges of coordinates, in order to control travel distance.
I did want everything to be a room ideally. But I'm no longer sure that that's possible. So I might look into alternative approaches.

Dynamic descriptions - I might have a day / night cycle and have the room descriptions reflect that, but I think that'd be as far as I'll go.

As to players, I'll admit I haven't given it a whole lot of thought. (I realize I've come awfully unprepared for this, but at the same time, I'm not here to try and make the best MUD ever, only to have fun.) I guess I can't expect all that many. What I'd like to do is expand the world as/if the player base grows - I'd love to make the game interesting enough that it would generate a few regulars, but I don't know that I'll be able to hold player's attention. I guess I'll find out!

For distances, I've been having trouble with that. The player begins their journey in a collapsed mine. Upon escape they come to a road. How many rooms should I make them travel before they reach the first settlement? I want there to be enough that it's realistic and gives me space in the future, but I don't want to be forever writing and I don't want them to have to walk for many many rooms to get anywhere. I didn't want scripted travel too much - I'd want treks through the wasteland to be different each time. (And probably involve combat or some sort of interaction.)

As to exploration/bashing/RP ratio, I'm shooting for something like 2:1:2. Combat grinding, for me, has never been all that enjoyable, but I'm a huge fan of exploration and roleplaying. However, if I can't make it interesting enough, I'll see about adding in more mobs.
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Old 10-14-2012, 02:03 PM   #6
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

Unfortunately, I don't have a link, but:

Have a look at the epitaph mud development blogs. He talks about a lot of these issues and his solutions; I especially liked the one on exploration, wherein he talks about how you might have sort-of scripted event nodes with some degree of randomness: i.e. go explore the hill, keep following the road, or if you're skilled enough, notice the grove of trees. Good stuff there, and you should be able to find it through google. That, and his stuff on all the integration with wordpress and phpbb he's doing, but those don't apply here.

Personally:

Never, ever, use the word you in a room description, never ever tell me what I'm doing, and make sure all descriptions work even if I'm coming from the other side; spellcheck and grammar check are your friends; and make sure the room title is descriptive but concise, as many use the brief setting. Avoid the ellipsis, show don't tell, and remember that rooms aren't movies, they're still pictures. If you describe a body falling to the floor because of an assassin (yes, I've seen things like this), remember that body will still be falling when I come back 6 hours or 6 weeks later; if there's a corpse on the floor, make it an item that can be moved/destroyed, etc. The list of things like this go on, but the important thing here is that room descriptions (unless you're doing dynamic stuff) are constant, unchanging, and will be the same forever.

As for world size: not too big. I don't know how to put it better than that, but I've seen a lot of muds where the worldmap is bigger than all areas put together and there's no easy way to find areas, and it just doesn't work. I'm not so much talking about size here as the feeling of size, if you know what I mean: focus on quality, not quantity; if everything is of good quality, move on. Eventually, the world will grow without feeling like filler.

I'm visually impaired, so this particular advice may or may not be useful; I at least agree with it: avoid ascii art, or provide a way to turn it off. If you make an ascii worldmap, provide a clever mechanism for making cool room descriptions from the data, describing the mountain range to the north and the smoke from the settlement to the north-northwest, etc. People always look at this one, when I bring up that blind people can't use the worldmap, and think it has to be a separate system for the blind, but I don't think that's the case. If you go with a worldmap, there's a whole lot of room for creativity with dynamic descriptions and the like.

Depending on specific setting, there's a lot of room for alternative ways of travel. You can provide the 50-room-long road, the magical portal, the train, the interspacial quantum uncertainty device, or maybe all of them. Or maybe you've got a really wierd setting, and people travel about by praying to the great old ones, between islands in the sea of chaos, and your level determines how far you can go/likeliness to survive that particular ritual...

The last thing. A lot of muds fall into the trap of "let's guess the syntax" games. This isn't fun. Really. I've seen a lot of clever solutions to this; consider coming up with one.
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Old 10-14-2012, 03:19 PM   #7
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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Originally Posted by CaptainLepidus View Post
For distances, I've been having trouble with that. The player begins their journey in a collapsed mine. Upon escape they come to a road. How many rooms should I make them travel before they reach the first settlement? I want there to be enough that it's realistic and gives me space in the future, but I don't want to be forever writing and I don't want them to have to walk for many many rooms to get anywhere. I didn't want scripted travel too much - I'd want treks through the wasteland to be different each time. (And probably involve combat or some sort of interaction.)
Well it depends on things like length and variability of room descriptions, how feature-dense each room is (do players harvest there, pray there, etcetera), whether there's a travel delay (some games lag movement for a second or two after you move -- sometimes you mitigate this with a running skill or something like that). When bashing or hunting a lot of players will speed walk (i.e. input long strings of movement commands at once) and turn off room descriptions anyway.

That said in my experience I'd say rules of thumb are:

Distance between...

* Points of interest in a town: 3 rooms
* Two points of interest in a terrain (e.g. a forest): 5 rooms
* Two settlements on a road, like a city and outlying village: 10 rooms
* Two major towns: 20 rooms
* Two major cities: 30 rooms
* One end of a continent to another: 75 rooms

Note that since most muds do not use coordinate-based rooms you'll have a trickier time with spacing things out. Distance elasticity can be a wonderful thing .
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Old 10-15-2012, 04:24 PM   #8
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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Well it depends on things like length and variability of room descriptions, how feature-dense each room is (do players harvest there, pray there, etcetera), whether there's a travel delay (some games lag movement for a second or two after you move -- sometimes you mitigate this with a running skill or something like that). When bashing or hunting a lot of players will speed walk (i.e. input long strings of movement commands at once) and turn off room descriptions anyway.

That said in my experience I'd say rules of thumb are:

Distance between...

* Points of interest in a town: 3 rooms
* Two points of interest in a terrain (e.g. a forest): 5 rooms
* Two settlements on a road, like a city and outlying village: 10 rooms
* Two major towns: 20 rooms
* Two major cities: 30 rooms
* One end of a continent to another: 75 rooms

Note that since most muds do not use coordinate-based rooms you'll have a trickier time with spacing things out. Distance elasticity can be a wonderful thing .
So a square continent would be over 5,000 rooms?! I didn't realize quite how much work this would be getting into it, I think. But the best thing to do is probably just to get started.

The proportions seem fairly accurate, I shall use them approximately. I don't think I'll give any time limit to walking around; my server is slow enough as it is I'm hoping players will leave room descriptions on - the meat of the game will be in them - but I guess that's in my nature as an IF player. I'm trying to avoid grinding which means in general, players will only wander around the desert when they actually have somewhere to go and something to do.

Camlorn:

I find you to be a very useful tool to impart information to the player, and have trouble writing without it. I'll try to avoid it, but it is hard...

I won't be having filler in the sense I've heard it described here, some room descriptions will obviously have to be unoriginal but everything will (hopefully!) be a room. That way it'd be easy, in a moment of boredom, to turn that "A deserted wasteland." Room into something interesting. So the world size will be directly dependent on how many rooms I decide to create.

I don't think I'll go with an ASCII map; those in MUDs have always annoyed me. In a roguelike I appreciate it but it just doesn't make sense to me in a MUD.

Yeah, I'll probably have train stations or such like that allow you to go through rooms much, much faster.

I'm trying to add as many aliases as possible to the MUD, I'll also see if I can implement something that checks plural versions of the keyword, and that sort of thing. I don't have any genius solution to it yet, though. I'm working on it!

Thank you both for all your help so far, by the way! It is much appreciated!
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Old 10-15-2012, 06:50 PM   #9
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

There are as many ways of building as there are Builders. Its best to figure out what style you think fits best with your Game.

I myself perfer to keep the basic discriptions down to about 100 typed words, and any detailed (closer examinations) to about 50 typed words or less. There's no real need to draw up an incredably large paragraph on most things for the preliminary view, because those could be saved and spread amongst the areas that warrent closer examination.

My advice would be to read mondern fanasty novels to see how the authors style their words when creating a room and its contents, and go from there.

Darren
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Old 10-15-2012, 08:46 PM   #10
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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So a square continent would be over 5,000 rooms?! I didn't realize quite how much work this would be getting into it, I think. But the best thing to do is probably just to get started.
Well, at first no, because most muds don't use coordinate-based rooms. But over time as the mud grows most definitely.
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Old 10-16-2012, 02:01 PM   #11
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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Well, at first no, because most muds don't use coordinate-based rooms. But over time as the mud grows most definitely.
Hmm. Looking at this, I realize there is no way I'll ever be able to do this on my own. But my hope is that if I can build the basic gameplay I can attract some interest from builders. So I'll start small; just the first settlement and some simple combat. After that I'll release it to a few MUD players.
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Old 10-16-2012, 06:02 PM   #12
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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I find you to be a very useful tool to impart information to the player, and have trouble writing without it. I'll try to avoid it, but it is hard...
Related (and somewhat heated) discussion here. My view can be summarised as "The problem is not with using "you", or with telling people how they feel - the problem is with sending potentially inaccurate information."

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I don't think I'll go with an ASCII map; those in MUDs have always annoyed me. In a roguelike I appreciate it but it just doesn't make sense to me in a MUD.
Maps are also something of a controversial subject, but it's the direction most modern (game-oriented) muds are going.
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Old 10-16-2012, 06:23 PM   #13
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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Related (and somewhat heated) discussion here. My view can be summarised as "The problem is not with using "you", or with telling people how they feel - the problem is with sending potentially inaccurate information."


Maps are also something of a controversial subject, but it's the direction most modern (game-oriented) muds are going.
So, would
"The upper body of what may have been a man lies on the ground. Blood is pooled around it, but it appears to have bled out. The face is unrecognizable. The rocks must have crushed him. You silently wish it was a painless death." be acceptable, in your view? (Actually, it's for an examine <object> text, but the basic idea is the same.) In my game, there are no races or classes, so most characters are generally the same physically; but I can see how you might be roleplaying a heartless monster and this description wouldn't make sense to you. I guess I'll have to add dynamic descs :P

As for maps, I may have a map, but I doubt it'll be shown in game. It's possible I'll have actual physical maps though, which may be represented as ASCII art, or just some detailed descriptions.
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Old 10-17-2012, 04:35 AM   #14
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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So, would
"The upper body of what may have been a man lies on the ground. Blood is pooled around it, but it appears to have bled out. The face is unrecognizable. The rocks must have crushed him. You silently wish it was a painless death." be acceptable, in your view?
I'd personally leave off the last sentence, unless it was a dynamic description with some means of tracking compassion (eg a "soft hearted" hindrance, or a high "humanity" attribute, etc).

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I guess I'll have to add dynamic descs :P
You'll need them for at least some things (combat messages, socials, etc), the only question is how extensively you want to use them. Rooms? Objects? Mobs? Players? Help files?

If you support two-character colour codes like "^r" for red, "^b" for blue, "^o" for orange, etc (as many muds do) then you've already got the basic infrastructure for a generic dynamic description system that can be used throughout the mud.

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As for maps, I may have a map, but I doubt it'll be shown in game. It's possible I'll have actual physical maps though, which may be represented as ASCII art, or just some detailed descriptions.
If your players really want in-game maps, they can always use a mud client with a graphical automapper, that's not something you can feasibly prevent. It's mostly the newbies who will suffer, as they're the least likely to have a decent client (or know how to configure it), and the most likely to get lost, confused and frustrated. Retaining newbies is hard work, particularly when the playerbase hasn't yet reached critical mass, and it's a subject that's been discussed quite extensively.
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Old 10-17-2012, 12:19 PM   #15
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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I'd personally leave off the last sentence, unless it was a dynamic description with some means of tracking compassion (eg a "soft hearted" hindrance, or a high "humanity" attribute, etc).


You'll need them for at least some things (combat messages, socials, etc), the only question is how extensively you want to use them. Rooms? Objects? Mobs? Players? Help files?

If you support two-character colour codes like "^r" for red, "^b" for blue, "^o" for orange, etc (as many muds do) then you've already got the basic infrastructure for a generic dynamic description system that can be used throughout the mud.


If your players really want in-game maps, they can always use a mud client with a graphical automapper, that's not something you can feasibly prevent. It's mostly the newbies who will suffer, as they're the least likely to have a decent client (or know how to configure it), and the most likely to get lost, confused and frustrated. Retaining newbies is hard work, particularly when the playerbase hasn't yet reached critical mass, and it's a subject that's been discussed quite extensively.
Actually, my MUD is fully online - it won't work with a normal MUD client. I might look into adding support for that, though; would probably help my player base quite a bit.

I'll see what I can do with dynamic descs - the more the better, but I don't want it to be too much work.

Since it's online, I can use any HTML styling, though I might go with color codes like that if I ever do add a system for native clients.

What I meant by a non-in game map was a map accessible from the website not the game.
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:00 AM   #16
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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Actually, my MUD is fully online - it won't work with a normal MUD client.
Ah, sorry, I missed the comment about it being web-based. That would certainly stop people using existing clients with automappers.

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I might look into adding support for that, though; would probably help my player base quite a bit.
Another controversial subject Some people argue that support for older clients should be dropped, but I'm not one of them. If your target audience includes established mudders, then I think there are significant benefits in supporting existing mud clients.

Newbies probably won't care, although those used to playing browser games may expect more graphical elements (such as maps). You might want to check out some of the other muds with browser-based clients, if you haven't already.

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I'll see what I can do with dynamic descs - the more the better, but I don't want it to be too much work.
Depends how far you want to take it, but support for hand-written dynamic descriptions is relatively easy to implement. It's the computer-generated descriptions that get tricky (related discussion here).

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Since it's online, I can use any HTML styling, though I might go with color codes like that if I ever do add a system for native clients.
If you're using HTML styling already then I'd suggesting sticking with it, and just have a conversion function for older clients (I have one that works the other way for generating web content from mud data). That'll also make it easier to use MXP, should you later wish to support it.

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What I meant by a non-in game map was a map accessible from the website not the game.
But if your mud is already played through a browser, why separate them?
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Old 10-18-2012, 11:30 AM   #17
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

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Ah, sorry, I missed the comment about it being web-based. That would certainly stop people using existing clients with automappers.
Yeah

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Another controversial subject Some people argue that support for older clients should be dropped, but I'm not one of them. If your target audience includes established mudders, then I think there are significant benefits in supporting existing mud clients.
Ideally I'd like more players, although actually I'm hoping to target newer players - players without expectations of the genre. I want to do something new here, and I think I have an opportunity. Being relatively new to the MUD community, I can probably see MUDs from a different angle. But I wouldn't mind some older, more experienced players as well

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Newbies probably won't care, although those used to playing browser games may expect more graphical elements (such as maps). You might want to check out some of the other muds with browser-based clients, if you haven't already.
I've already seen a few, but it's my understanding that these are simply web-based MUD clients; my game works on an entirely different system. So, for now, I'll be sticking with web-based.


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Depends how far you want to take it, but support for hand-written dynamic descriptions is relatively easy to implement. It's the computer-generated descriptions that get tricky (related discussion here).
Yeah, I can see the issues there. I might do something like, for example, (height:5), where if the player was higher than five feet that would give something like "short" and taller, "huge". But, I can see how that could lead to issues.


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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
If you're using HTML styling already then I'd suggesting sticking with it, and just have a conversion function for older clients (I have one that works the other way for generating web content from mud data). That'll also make it easier to use MXP, should you later wish to support it.
MXP? The traditional MUD format? And yeah, for now I'll just stick to HTML.


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But if your mud is already played through a browser, why separate them?
Well, it could be in game, but the idea is that it isn't player-specific - every one sees the same map. That way they have to figure out where exactly they are in the world. I think that's a lot more realistic than a minimap that shows the player's location.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:57 PM   #18
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Re: Looking for builders, or building tips

Just realized I haven't been exactly clear; I'm using rooms, but each room (and by extension, each object, NPC, and player) has a set of coordinates. This is just to make spacial relationships easier.
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