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Old 06-20-2014, 01:03 PM   #1
MightyK
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Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

This thread's longform title might be: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization During Player Population Decline.

I've thought about this idea for a long while in my years as a player and a staffer, and have just now been able to put it into finer terms. First, I will start by describing some general norms for muds and how they might relate to this discussion.

Most established MUDs with dedicated players form an 'elite' cadre of veteran players, a hardcore and dedicated subset of the MUD's population who understand the game mechanics well enough to excel. There is usually a growing gap between the 'rewards' these players reap and that of the new players.

Most 'elite' populations involve social cliques and circles, where there is a hierarchy or competing hierarchies. These cliques rarely stay within the bounds of IC interaction, which can create problems when trying to regulate the game, especially in regards to leadership positions and fairness. A common instance of an 'elite' hierarchy phenomenon I've seen on three different mud's involves what I call a golden ladder complex, which I've described in a previous thread.

http://www.topmudsites.com/forums/ta...ayerbases.html

A MUD's staff usually listens to their established and 'most elite' players. This is only natural. But is it wise?

When a MUD's population starts to decline, it is usually the 'elite' population that is the last to leave. It makes sense, because they often have the most time and effort invested into their characters, so have the most to lose by leaving. I've witnessed MUDs today that, in order to placate this dwindling group of 'elites', have given into their demands or suggestions (that usually come with an apocalyptic ultimatum by these 'elites') no matter how ridiculous or extreme, including deleting many Guilds/Clans/Groups arbitrarily, eliminating RP requirements, destroying the theme of the mud, eliminating hundreds of rooms for nonsensical 'belt tightening', and various other fixes that have done nothing but drive the MUDs in question into further decline. Many of these changes have alienated the few 'non-elite' players who remained.

My question is, at what point does placating the dwindling 'elites' becomes less valuable than the actual assets of the MUD? At what point does a MUD's staff decide that they would rather go in a completely different direction -- even if that means losing these veteran players? It seems that MUD's are often incorrectly valued. A game with an immense room count, an enriched world, unique environments and mobs is a great asset, one that might -- by itself -- outweigh the headcount of entrenched veterans.

A related idea is that perhaps the problem doesn't exist with the MUD, but with the jaded attitude of these veteran players.

There is, in my view, a point where the MUD staff has to look at the decline clinically. If they've been listening to an 'elite' cadre the entire time, and the MUD has continued to suffer as a result, then they aren't having the desired effect. There needs to be option to dramatically change things, fundamental things, regardless of what the hardcore players wish.

At some point in population decline, the MUD itself is more valuable than the remaining players.
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Old 06-20-2014, 01:44 PM   #2
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

Nice OP!

My own philosophy is that I refuse to be held hostage by people who consume rather than create content. If the people working hard on the game agree that a change will make the game better and more fun tomorrow than it was yesterday, then we do it.

It is exceedingly rare to find a player who can track and assess game evolution over time without falling prey to their own bias. Those who can are an invaluable asset in trimming the rough edges off new features. They will never tell you not to change something just because it would not be to their advantage, or because they would have to learn some new tricks.

In other words, the players you should listen to are the players who want the game to evolve, same as you.

There's also a very real sense in which an indie niche game lives and dies based on the excitement level of its implementers, not of its player base. I have often found that a big change alienated some players, but invigorated us to do more, including incorporating the best ideas coming from the players. Activity in the heavens, in turn, acted as a catalyst to energize existing players and to bring some inactive players back.

And even those who have a knee-jerk reaction to any change are never to be counted out, especially if they feel that they'd turned their back on a vibrant game that merrily went on without them.
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Old 06-21-2014, 12:25 PM   #3
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

Excellent response Plamzi. It's what I would have said, only better.

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Old 06-24-2014, 04:49 PM   #4
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

Wonderful reasoning, plamzi. I wish more GMs thought like you.
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Old 06-25-2014, 08:59 AM   #5
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyK View Post
A MUD's staff usually listens to their established and 'most elite' players. This is only natural. But is it wise?
Quote:
Originally Posted by plamzi View Post
My own philosophy is that I refuse to be held hostage by people who consume rather than create content. If the people working hard on the game agree that a change will make the game better and more fun tomorrow than it was yesterday, then we do it.
I suspect in most cases the above two scenarios are the same, just from two different perspectives. The players propose changes they want to see, the admin (usually) listen, and if they like the suggestion they implement it. The more experience the player has with the MUD, the more likely their proposals will match the vision of the admin, and therefore the more likely they are to be implemented. There will always be some players who dislike any change, and they will then blame other players for making the suggestion, as well as the admin for "placating" the players. On one occasion I actually had two directly opposed groups of players simultaneously accusing me of pandering to the other!
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Old 06-25-2014, 09:43 AM   #6
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

Exactly what plamzi said!

I've also been VERY fortunate that over the years I've had several players who would quickly tell me "Suggesting this is going to nerf my character... but this really needs to be changed/fixed/toned down/etc".

It's a rare breed of player, but a much appreciated breed.
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Old 06-25-2014, 10:50 AM   #7
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

For regular listeners, this is probably a repeat, but I wanted to point out that I try to be extremely open to all player feedback and ideas *when they relate to improving the user experience*. We often implement UX improvements the same day they were suggested.

But when it comes to matters of game evolution and balance, I take everything players have to say with a minecart of salt. Sure, we may tweak things based on their feedback, but frequently not in the way they expect, and only after we get independent confirmation using observations and/or feedback from other players.

I know that these days, when there's a real dearth for players, some admins like to advertise being very flexible and accommodating. I don't. To me, the proverbial game that gives players everything they ask for is doomed to die a quick death. Most players will quit in disgust very soon after they get all they wished for.

The adage "careful what you wish for" rings so true to me in this context that at some point I was seriously considering implementing a god mode as a quick and hassle-free way to get rid of players who habitually whine instead of contributing to the health and growth of the game.
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Old 06-30-2014, 08:43 PM   #8
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

I'm of the mind that the Players of a MUD actually 'sell' the MUD to any new player that has an interest in it.

Its this interaction, or lack of, that makes or breaks a MUD--and contributes to its demise. Because 'selling' the MUD has the effect of convincing said player that the MUD in question is worth the time and energy they will be putting into it as well as bringing their friends into it.

But if your VP's are more interested in playing God and reluctant in even dealing with the new player, then I say its time for the VP's character to have a terrible fall from grace. In fact, the more of them falling , the better because it'll open up new opportunities for RP between the VP's and the newbies.

Unfortunately, you also risk alienating your VP's by knocking their characters (which they'll whine that they've spent years of work getting them to where they are, only to have you take them out for no reason at all) out of their safe spots causing them to leave and bad mouth your MUD. In this case, you should make it quite clear that the MUD is suffering from their selfishness and hogging of resources and their lack of desire to 'mix' with the newbies.

Its either tell it to them, or shut the MUD down because you cannot afford to maintain a 'exclusive private club' just for them anymore.

its that simple.


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Old 07-01-2014, 12:52 PM   #9
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

The answer to this is the same whether your game is a small group, a large group, a hobby, or a business. It is also the same whether it is a game, organization, or business. That is, this is a Marketing question and all changes, modifications, upgrades, or maintaining status quo should be based on product delivery that is the basis for all marketing utilizing the basic questions of customer service:

1. What does your current customer want?
2. What does your potential customer want?
3. What is your product model?
4. Will keeping things the same meet questions 1 and 2?
5. Will making a proposed change meet the expectations of 1 and 2?

Take any top quality service course or marketing 101 at your local college and they will go into detail on these subjects.
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Old 07-02-2014, 08:44 PM   #10
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
The answer to this is the same whether your game is a small group, a large group, a hobby, or a business. It is also the same whether it is a game, organization, or business. That is, this is a Marketing question and all changes, modifications, upgrades, or maintaining status quo should be based on product delivery that is the basis for all marketing utilizing the basic questions of customer service:

1. What does your current customer want?
2. What does your potential customer want?
3. What is your product model?
4. Will keeping things the same meet questions 1 and 2?
5. Will making a proposed change meet the expectations of 1 and 2?

Take any top quality service course or marketing 101 at your local college and they will go into detail on these subjects.
Absolutely not, I can't disagree more. If my current customer wants a H&S where they can cast magick missile at the dark, then they're welcome to play some other game. My game doesn't have that, and won't have that, and I don't give a flying fig if that offends someone.

I might only have one or two players in my game, but it will be the game I created, or it will cease to be my game. I wouldn't make a game to placate the masses. I'd make it to entertain myself. Everyone else is welcome to play as well, and I'd probably love to hear suggestions for improvement, and at some point I'd probably seek advice and assistance. But ultimately, it's MY game, not theirs. If they want a game that doesn't quite fit my vision, they are absolutely encouraged to make their own game.
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Old 07-02-2014, 09:52 PM   #11
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
The answer to this is the same whether your game is a small group, a large group, a hobby, or a business. It is also the same whether it is a game, organization, or business. That is, this is a Marketing question...

1. What does your current customer want?
2. What does your potential customer want?
3. What is your product model?
4. Will keeping things the same meet questions 1 and 2?
5. Will making a proposed change meet the expectations of 1 and 2?
This set of points makes a very big assumption, and then goes on to simplify. With both combined, I would not be surprised if people here find a lot to disagree with.

The big assumption, in my observations, is only true for a very small number of MUDs in existence. The majority of devs / admins I've crossed paths with *do not* regard their players as customers.

For some devs, players are entirely redundant--they seem to enjoy the process of designing something that may or may not ever be playable.

For others, players are more like house guests. They are welcome to come an enjoy your virtual world for free, as long as they respect the rules of hospitality, rules that may vary wildly.

Even for a game like mine, and a handful of others I know of, which does aspire to treat players as customers, the points you've listed don't do justice to the complexity of the task. For example, in an online game, there's a nigh-impossible balancing act wrapped all inside #1 of your points. Namely, what do you when players want to dominate other players while nobody wants to *be* dominated.

And how do you weigh the value of potential vs. existing customers in the context of MUDs which currently all but fight fisticuffs over players? If you try to do that objectively, you will have to conclude that an existing player is worth 100 potentials. And then what? Do you just do whatever your current players ask, even if you think it's pleasure-killing and game-killing? Do you only cherry-pick their best ideas but still feel unfulfilled as a hobbyist game dev because the whole experience becomes just like your day job?
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Old 07-03-2014, 10:13 AM   #12
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

While I understand your points, Plamzi, my understanding of the OP's original question related entirely to marketing (how to keep current customers while bringing new ones in). This is a standard customer retention while obtaining new market share and involves practices done in the business industry and taught in sales and marketing on the most basic levels.

If Devs/Admins do not care about marketing or understand it then there is nothing you can tell them to help them other then to point them to a sales/marketing class.
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Old 08-18-2014, 12:24 PM   #13
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Re: Veteran Player Placating vs. Asset Utilization

I've seen a mud (which I've played for 13 years) do exactly the opposite, go in the direction of 1 new player is worth more than 1 elite/veteran player. The outcome was not all that surprise to me, as the initial idea seemed great. It is a RP/PK enforced mud and the common complaint was that the elite core was driving off newer players in the way the game was played. A two tiered system sprung up from which came a Hardcore mode and a Moderate mode.

The idea started out great, but the realization that in terms of PK, the Moderates had a difficult time (allowed less rare/unique equipment than the Hardcore counterparts in exchange for less corpse looting and a cool down timer on when the other player could kill them again) in terms of getting anywhere. They were only allowed to go to T in cabals and if they wanted to go further, they had to switch to Hardcore. Everything was still geared to the elite/veteran player.

To make a long story short and skip over everything else that happened in the last six years, the population of this mud declined. Despite several assertions, PK trumped RP and left newer players with a bad taste in their mouth. Newer player retention was simply not possible when all the best rewards went to the elite/veteran who could PK. Cabals were even less RP friendly, encouraging constant PK with a capture the flag system that demanded defending one's own flag and capturing the other, rewards for killing other players, and a land army capture system similar to RISK. RP was essentially "If you're from this cabal and I'm from that, you die", which was a shame when there was so much more potential for politics and deeper character development.

This leads me to disagree that a mud will ever have a greater value, especially an intrinsic one, if it cannot evolve for its players. I was even, at one point, asked to stop trying to change the way things have been for years. While it is understandable that there is a "core" component to the spirit of any mud, sometimes it is essential to look at possibly changing this for player growth.

When the two-tiered PK system went in, this mud saw huge growth. After the realization came that it still catered to the elite/veteran core, who have years of experience over any newer players, the decline of the mud population came rather quickly.

As a veteran member of this community, I still lament the fact that I used to be one of the people who didn't want to see any change. I don't need to go on about apocalyptic sermons or dooms day visions. The dusk is already here, especially when one looks at the age of the average mudder. Most of us started doing this as teens. Now we have families and jobs. Even the amount of time to dedicate to the game is falling for the core of players still dedicated. Getting a younger generation involved becomes even more difficult with the launch of gaming systems like the Xbox One and PS4.

I once brought FIVE new players to the game. All quit in less than a year. Two come back from time to time, but the lack of change in the way the mud is run becomes apparent. Cosmetic changes to the assets are not enough if the end game is that the veteran players continue to see the core they practically worship still in place. They worship that core because it caters to their play style. Keeping a few around while rebuffing a chance at growth is pure insanity.
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