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Old 10-02-2003, 08:06 PM   #1
Estarra
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One of the standard "rules" when writing room descriptions is not to repeat descriptions in multiple rooms. However, there are exeptions to every rule, and I'm curious when other builders allow exceptions to this rule. The obvious exception, of course, are maze rooms which are meant to confuse by their uniformity. However, what about a stretch of road that spans 100 rooms? Would you allow repetition in this case--if so, how much?
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Old 10-02-2003, 08:48 PM   #2
malaclypse
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I think repetition can have the same effect a thematic design does in a level. It can add consistency to a place that would logically be repetitive visually. On the other hand, I don't think any two room descriptions should be exactly the same, so I think repeating more than a few sentences should be avoided.

Just one mans opinion...

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Old 10-02-2003, 08:49 PM   #3
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As much repetition as possible without getting the players lost. In other words, if it's a long stretch of road with no exits except at both ends, it could all be the same room description and it wouldn't matter.

On the other hand, if there are exits in between, then it would make sense to give different descriptions near the various exits, to give the players a sense of where they are.
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Old 10-02-2003, 08:51 PM   #4
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If I may be of service -

There are no hard, fast rules for anything, including repetitive room descriptions. That said, the experience of a number of good builders has been that monotony breeds monotony, that is, overuse of repetition can quickly lead to boredom. Or worse, confusion, frustration, and the eventual loss of a player.

If it will help, come up with ten or more road room descriptions, then vary each of those descriptions to make more descriptions. As you build the road, keep in mind the environment the road is in. Imagine yourself on the road. Is the road taking you from a plain to a forest area, or vice versa? You can include these descriptions in the road. Does the surface of the road change from gravel to dirt to cement? Does the road zigzag, curve, or go straight? Can you see mountains or hills or rivers from the road? Is the road in good condition? If not, are there potholes, bumps, cracks, crevices, makeshift bridges, or anything else in the road? Off the side of the road are the grasses high or low? Are there grasses at all? What about rocks, old walls, tree stumps, maybe an interesting shrine? The list is long.

I hope this helps.

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Old 10-02-2003, 09:08 PM   #5
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You could put in milestones too, with the usual "Sir Zoran was here" type messages. Tracks, smudges, and other little details that hint to your road having a past might be interesting as well.
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Old 10-03-2003, 12:00 AM   #6
Jazuela
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I'm not fond of repetitive descriptions, but I was taught as an IMM in a game where the requirements for descs were exacting, and it wasn't allowed except in mazes.

That said..

I don't have too much of an issue with it in certain situations. A long road that stretches from one end to the other would probably look the same in the middle, with a different "sameness" as it approaches each end. Something like...

At this end of the road, the shadow of a monstrous tower looms overhead to the west.

Or..

The bustle of merchants and traders creates a dull roar a few leagues off to the north.

Something to indicate that you are, in fact, nearing the end of the road.

It would also help break up the monotony (and dissuade newbies from immediately creating walking scripts) if you include something "different" every few rooms. Maybe in the desert, a tiny cactus reaching up for life from the sand. Or on a long desolate road in the city, perhaps a bench people can sit on to look out over the crowd and rest their feet before moving on.

My personal preference is for every single room in the entire game to be unique, but again that's how I was taught to write room descriptions, and I wrote hundreds and hundreds of rooms for that game during a 3-year span. I also prefer having "objects" imbedded into the room that you can interact with. So if the description says "The monstrous tower looms its shadow to the west" - then you would be able to look at the tower and see a separate description - even though the tower "object" doesn't appear separately as "also here" (since it isn't really there - it's off to the west!.

Anything that isn't described in detail within the room description itself - whether it's a painting on the wall, a stand of trees, a crowd of merchants, the horizon, should (in my opinion and with my preference) have some way of looking at it to see the detail.
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Old 10-03-2003, 10:59 AM   #7
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On our mud (as on other muds, no doubt) there are a several long roads winding through and linking areas. However, by graduating minor differences in the terrain, pointing out differences in the details of things a traveller would see, both up close and far away (and tossing in the occasional secret exit to a hidden off-road area) keeps things from being boring.

A good rule to remember is, if the builder feels bored when writing it, so will the player feel when reading it. So when building so-called 'boring' sections, take frequent breaks, do something else, but always come back to it with fresh ideas, you'll soon discover that you fill up the space and sometimes even WANT just a few more in-between rooms just to add one more thing.

To see a good example of what I mean, [plug]come visit our mud at telnet://crimson.wolfpaw.net:7777 [/plug], head north from the guildmaster to town square (where the minstrel is) and then walk in a generally east-ish direction. Keep doing it (you can go for quite some way) See how many times the 'mood' of the road changes. Even roads CAN be interesting!
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Old 10-03-2003, 12:30 PM   #8
Adelai
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While I don't like repeating descriptions, I don't mind them being used in situations where the zone is unlikely to be used as more than a way to get from point A to point B. We're one of those HnS muds that encourages people to RP if they want, but if not we won't dock them anything, so that prolly skews the answer though
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Old 10-03-2003, 05:11 PM   #9
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I am no big fan of repetitive descs myself – I suppose most serious Builders aren’t. True, they do have their use in mazes and large gridzones that are monotonous by nature, (for instance large deserts, open sea, vast grasslands). But even in these gridzones I prefer individual descs, as far as possible - with one significant exception. We have a 3000 room large grid called Open Space, and in this all descs are similar, unless you are very close to a planet or space station. The only thing that varies is the room co-ordinate, which we put in to facilitate navigation in the grid. That makes sense to me – there’s not much to see in open space and it adds to the sense of vastness.

Most Muds that try to create a consistent and at least partly ‘realistic’ world have to use quite a lot of ‘filling zones’. It looks stupid if two large cities are placed 3 rooms from each other, or if an Elven settlement lies next to a Goblin village. So we put the ‘travelling’ areas in between, forests, mountain ridges, roads. The ‘distance’ problem can be handled in two ways; either by separating the ‘real’ zones with a grid, or with a linear road. Personally I prefer the grid, but of course a linear road needs a loss less rooms to achieve the same distance.  But whatever your choice is, all these road rooms need descs.

The first advice for those descs is obvious, and has already been suggested. Describe what you see along the road, not the road itself. The character of the landscape, buildings you pass, landmarks, villages, solitary trees. There are only a limited number of things to describe in the road itself, but the landscape it passes through varies continuously, and can paint a nice total image of the topography of the zone.

My second advice would be to keep the road descs pretty short and pretty even in length. Two 4-line rooms are better than one 8-line, if you have problems thinking about things to describe. I even prefer two 2-line rooms to one 4-line desc that gets repeated. Short and to the point is never really wrong. And equal length gives a nice rhythm as you move along the road.

I used to admire Builders who could produce loads of 15-line descs, but over the years I’ve come to regard this as bad building instead – as a way for the Builder to boost their ego. The room desc is just one part of the zone and a Mud is not static. It’s meant to move about in, and things are meant to happen continuously. People talk, there are objects and mobs in the rooms, some of the mobs roam about, some even attack you. So if the room decs are too longwinded, they may spam you out of the screen, and it’s especially irritating if you move around a lot.

Too long descs, especially  in a ‘Travel area’, usually only achieve one thing – they make players put ‘Brief mode’ on, and that is something most Buiders hate to see. If you have a lot to say about a certain room, it’s a lot better to use extra descs for this. This way the players have a choice, the interested and/or ambitious ones look for the extras and get valuable info from them, the lazy ones ignore them and miss out on some goodies until they learn better. In a travel zone I usually go for 4 liners, while a zone like a castle, where there is more to look out for, I might make the descs 7-10 lines long, with lots of extra descs.

I am no big fan of the trick of swapping one sentence in an otherwise identical desc either; it quickly gets as boring as the identical descs. And the main object of a desc isn’t to fill so-and-so many lines of text (the number depending on the Builder policy on the Mud). If all you use the desc for is to fill out the space; then I’d say it’s better to stick to repeated decs. Or to leave the generic part of the desc out altogether and just use the part that changes. Again – a 2 line original desc is preferable to a 6 line repeated one.

But the main object is for the desc to be INTERESTING, ENTERTAINING and/or AMUSING – and to provide some useful info about the zone. Each good zone should have a consistent topography, climate, vegetation, wildlife and population. It should also have a plot or background story.

So my third advice would be to use this info in the room descs. I know this is somewhat controversial, since some fundamentalistic Builders claim that a room desc should only describe what you see in the room. But I don’t care. I’d rather read some useful background info about the nature of the country you are travelling in, or some entertaining gossip about the social and political intrigues in it. So this is what I usually do with my own entrance roads. I write down the topographic characteristics of the zone, and the background story and plots that are the foundation for the Quests in it. Then I chop this info up in nice 4-line pieces and use them as descs.

This isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, because creating a zone is not exactly like writing a novel or a short story. Sice you move around in a zone, you cannot use a continuous story line. Each desc must be able to stand for itself, regardless of what direction the room is entered from. So it needs a bit of extra work, after you’ve written down the story. Still, if used right, this could be the foundation of a really good zone. And if nothing else, descs like this are a darned sight more interesting for the player to read, than just describing the ruts in the road and the nature of the grass on the roadsides.
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Old 10-03-2003, 05:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Molly O'Hara @ Oct. 03 2003,17:11)
Personally I prefer the grid, but of course a linear road needs a loss less rooms to achieve the same distance.  But whatever your choice is, all these road rooms need descs.
By grid, do you mean a wilderness-map type grid or connecting a vast space with actual rooms with 9 exits in every room? It seems to me it'd be annoying to navigate a MUD that's entirely a grid but perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you mean.

Quote:
Originally Posted by (Molly O'Hara @ Oct. 03 2003,17:11)
It should also have a plot or background story.  So my third advice would be to use this info in the room descs.
This is an intriguing solution. I'm big on quests and background, but I'm not sure how one would incorporate that into the description. Looking at a room, how could one know that it is inhabited by green robed tiger people who ride giant grasshoppers who have a taste for flesh-eating carnivorous plants that have evolved from sentient sunflowers? Could you give us an example of what you mean?

Thanks to everyone for all the input! My goodness, a topic that stayed on point!
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Old 10-03-2003, 06:31 PM   #11
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Estarra wrote
Quote:
Originally Posted by
By grid, do you mean a wilderness-map type grid or connecting a vast space with actual rooms with 9 exits in every room?
What we use is a Wilderness grid, with basically four exits, one for each cardinal direction. From that grid you either go up or down to get to the 'real' zones. Or in some cases you enter a portal of some  kind, or climb/descend some object. The descs of the Grid are generically set by the code, dependant on the sector type, but I usually exchange them manually for individual descs.

Also - grids are not totally boring, they can be quite useful 'hunting zones' if you add enough roaming Mobs to them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Looking at a room, how could one know that it is inhabited by green robed tiger people who ride giant grasshoppers who have a taste for flesh-eating carnivorous plants that have evolved from sentient sunflowers?
This is a valid objection and exacly one that I expected, which is why I described the method as 'controversial'.

The answer is of course that you cannot. But - like I said. I don't really care. As long as the desc is interesting to read, I don't give a hoot if it is somewhat OOC - possibly because the Mud I run is not RP intense.

So I'd just brazenly write something like: 'Rumour has it that this part of the world is inhabited by green robed tiger people, who like to ride giant grasshoppers, who have a taste for flesh-eating carnivorous plants that have evolved from sentient sunflowers... The problem being that the plants sometimes devour the riders...''

Well, perhaps not quite as blatant as that, but it's still the general idea. Unorthodox - but entertaining, is the motto.
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Old 10-03-2003, 10:41 PM   #12
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On Dartmud, we deal with 'connecting' rooms with our hex-map. The wilderness is an actual hex display like the ones found in pen-and-paper strategy games, with various symbols for the different terrains. If you just look, you'll see a very brief description of the room and what's in it, but when moving what you see is the hex grid display. The room descriptions are repetetive but the hex grid changes.
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Old 10-04-2003, 12:55 PM   #13
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I'm sure we've all been in boring, repetitive landscape at one time or another in real life but what we usually don't notice is there is always a minor change with each step taken in any direction. It's those minor changes that people key in on and consider as "progress" towards whatever goal intended. Even in the most boring terrain of all, an ocean, there are subtle differences ranging from the height of swells to mysterious plops of water from invisible things. I've always focused on about a 4-5 line formatted room with those minor changes to both the base redit and directional descriptions and it works well.

Simulating distance with our medium can be one of the most challenging tasks facing any text based world and I have a technique I would like to share. Like Molly's idea (a narrator, who'd a thunk it, our Molly! Tsk Tsk) it's somewhat controversial but works well in application. Create a generic set of 20-25 rooms that are similar but change ever so slightly as I described earlier and copy 4x to 100. Have your coder create a format cube 10x10 that changes the directional exits each reset or reboot so you aren't limited to NSEW in all etc. Each set of 100 winds up with a fixed exit to a new zone, it can reasonably be duped as a full zone to expand an area as many times as you wish AND like a true wilderness or ocean you get lost really easy but keep a 'sense' of direction because the exits never change. The only real hard part about this is to keep in mind that the mountain or island off in the distance (if you can see passed the trees or clouds) used as an exit desc landmark must be carefully considered if used because of the variable relocation.
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Old 10-04-2003, 01:51 PM   #14
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The thing with horizon images, is perspective.

If I'm on a 2-mile long stretch of beach, and there's a mountain range 40 miles off on the other side of the bay, my view of that range isn't going to change from one end of the beach to the other.

The description of the "imbedded" mountain range, then, could be identical in each beach room. Or perhaps, since it's only there for added atmosphere, you might have the mountain object in a specific part of the beach, implying that during daylight hours it's where the waters reflect least on the sand, thus providing the best location for a view of those snow-capped peaks.

Maybe in the surrounding beach rooms, you might have variations of sand and shells - perhaps scattered molusks where the water crashes against an old tree trunk in one place, or an ancient and bloated hull lays overturned a few yards off into the water, its wooden carcass covered with seaweed.

There are a myriad of ways to describe the same basic view of an area. I just absolutely love seeing each room give me something different to notice, even if it's unimportant and trivial.
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Old 10-06-2003, 11:27 PM   #15
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For me, Areas have purposes. Some of my areas are purely puzzle areas. Meant to challenge people with Mobprogs and the sort, in such areas, it is obvious the Descriptions aren't as important as say.. A Hidden City full of portals and secrets.

The First I would opt to use some sentences over if need be, not to a hideous extent but it is obvious that a hall to connect two places together is going to be quite dull. Both in the setting and to write about.

The second, each description would be very descriptive to give hints on what to find.
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Old 10-07-2003, 06:57 AM   #16
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Copied rooms sucks IMO.

The building rules for our upcoming MMOG/MUD are NO copied rooms whatsoever, which I personally think is a minimum requirement for a quality text-based game.
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Old 10-07-2003, 07:11 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by
The building rules for our upcoming MMOG/MUD are NO copied rooms whatsoever, which I personally think is a minimum requirement for a quality text-based game
Then how would you suggest a mud should go about creating mazes?

And what approach would you suggest for a mud which wanted to have automated player-created buildings (for example a combat-oriented mud in which the players could construct military buildings)?

And what about other forms of automated description generation that might well end up creating identical rooms (for example, a mud in which each city had literally tens of thousands of buildings)?
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Old 10-07-2003, 08:40 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Oct. 07 2003,07:11)
Quote:
Originally Posted by
The building rules for our upcoming MMOG/MUD are NO copied rooms whatsoever, which I personally think is a minimum requirement for a quality text-based game
Then how would you suggest a mud should go about creating mazes?

And what approach would you suggest for a mud which wanted to have automated player-created buildings (for example a combat-oriented mud in which the players could construct military buildings)?

And what about other forms of automated description generation that might well end up creating identical rooms (for example, a mud in which each city had literally tens of thousands of buildings)?
Ahh, I was more speaking generally for "normal" mud style areas.

I guess there are times when copies can be good.

"Overland wilderness" is perhaps another area where you could use "copied" (dynamically maybe) created descs too.
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Old 10-07-2003, 11:32 AM   #19
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It simply comes down to the concept of what a "quality" text based game is.  You could have the most elegant and detailed descriptions in the world and still have a down-right terrible text based game.

Maybe I'm just being naive here, but we have zones with copied room descriptions over at Necro and I would like to think we were still a "quality" game.
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Old 10-08-2003, 02:31 AM   #20
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Question

Even for an area that is almost entirely the same it is worth taking the time to differentiate between rooms. There are many ways to say the same thing.

"A strong grassy smell pervades the air, emenating from the lush grass"

"The lush grasses carpeting the area give rise to a strong grassy odour"

"Verdant grass covers the area releasing it's grassy perfume into the air"

Three snetances, all saying the exact same thing, now the english purists may get upset at me for poor sentences, but it illustrates my point. You can reuse descriptions without copying. Then you can rearrange the order in which you mention the items in the rooms, and you can have  varying items to describe, ie:

On a cobbled road accross a grassy plain, you can have info on:
1) The road, (what is is doing? is it flat, meandering as if the road designer was drunk; What is it made of? cobbles, dirt, stone, bitumen, weird alien non-slip glass; What does it look like? bright yellow, dull grey, dusty, broken...)
2) The grass on the plain, (What does it look like? thick dark green strands, tall skinny yellowish stalks, jagged black daggers of plant life; How big is it? again, tall, towering, clipped, each blade a meter wide; What does it smell like? green, chaff, rotting meat; Is it waving in the wind? <- this should possibly be avoided incase your weather system, says it is totaly calm, but it is a very very rare situation, for there to be no wind at all on a generally flat open area)
3) The plain itself, (Is it dead flat, rolling small hills, broken up by rocks/trees/bare dirt?)
4) The view, what is on the horizons
.....

and each of these (and more) can have multiple facets to describe, by varying what is described, and the sentence structure and content, you can keep the impression of "sameness" without needing to duplicate unnecessarily.

Just my 2c anyway
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