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Old 09-25-2002, 04:04 PM   #1
Miyamoto
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After having built around 20 areas in my mudding time, none smaller than 100 rooms, none bigger than 200, I've found myself challenged to come up with both exciting, populated and well-used areas, and varied ones, with new and unexplored themes.  I tend to build cities of some sort.  Not all of them are walled in, stone and mortar cities, but I can class most of them as some form of a city: a tree-top city of elves, the encampment of an army (tent city), dark warrens of goblins (underground city), a big city (a big city), the Keep of a sorceror (city of minions around him), a Coliseum (enough spectators to have its own area code), etc.

I was just wondering how many other quality ideas have been built on, or could be built on, that would spice things up.  I realize that, unless it's a town or city of some sort, its usually just wilds, nature and what lives in it, terrain of some sort, but I'd love to hear ideas for non-city or unique-city areas that are creative.
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Old 09-25-2002, 05:36 PM   #2
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For idea generation, you might start by combining other ideas. For instance, combine an under-the-mountain city/fortress with an polar wilderness zone to get, say, a city carved out of an iceberg.

Or combine a tree-top city with an underground city and a village to get a village built under tree roots that arch high above ground.

Combine a camp with a fire and brimstone city to get a band of nomadic blacksmiths who hire themselves out like mercenaries...or something.

Also, you might take one of the base concepts and change one of its important qualities. Um...take a canyon and instead of having it cut by a river or the wind, have it cut by a type of moss-like plant that eats up the dirt for nutrients and then floats away in the breeze, spreading its seeds over the canyon but taking the rest of its mass to form the topsoil of a nearby zone.

Or if you'd like to do something with more thinking involved, you might try the refugee approach. If a group of homeless xxxxxx discovered or conquered a yyyyyy, how would they change it to make it suit them? (This, of course, depends on the place being adaptable to their needs, or their being adaptable to what it provides.)
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Old 09-25-2002, 06:18 PM   #3
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Actually, I am in the thinking-stage of designing a LARGE 500-1000 vnum area that is a badlands/wastelands variety.

My idea originates with the use of many 1-way exits. All over the area, there will be unique objects to give a sense of direction, BUT if you do not have a guide, or a map, or knowledge of the area to guide you, you can become hopelessly lost. Oh, did I mention almost everything is poisonous, deadly or hunting you?

It is not an evil area, just VERY tough. Without a guide, it is very likely you would die before crossing this area to safety.
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Old 09-25-2002, 10:07 PM   #4
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Nice, Burr. The idea of combining ideas and creating a single unique one isn't new, but your examples were sweet.

Anyone got any favorite areas they've played, and why?
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Old 09-25-2002, 10:45 PM   #5
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Well here's an idea...why do the smae old, "everyone does it" European type areas..why not something psuedo-Egyptian or Japanese? Equipment restrings would be easy (especially if you have Pallidum's Complte Guide to Weapons, Armor and Castles) Maybe try a different area of the globe durning the middle ages..how about a Mongol encampment for a vill? Or even a town that's akin to a Russ town near Constanople from way back when?
There's some ideas..
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Old 09-26-2002, 02:05 AM   #6
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ooooh. TG_Hammer, I wish I had the time to do what you have planned. That sounds beautiful.  I also liked Burr's way of taking oft used ideas and combining aspects of them for a new motif.
 One of my favourite ways of doing something different is to design a personality, usually with a form of madness, or preoccupation, then designing an area off that person, with various parts being warped by their madness. Or even an area built around their virtues. What of a castle where it is impossible to do certain dastardly deeds without repercussions from the inhabitants, even your own equipment?
 My favourite was a Tower in the swamps, home to a Lich who wanted to experiment on ways of making other races into liches, in a bid for the ultimate in immortality. His tower was filled with his successes and failures. Some of them so dastardly that the experimentor had to protect himself from his own work.
 Another was based of his rival, who sought immortality along a totally different route. Both eventually ended up damned by their own devices.
 I like CSmith_fan's suggestion for the other cultures. My take on that uses the references, then I change the titles, or some of the naming styles to keep the same flavour, but remove the full cultural references.  (Mainly because our mud could not really take an Arabian Nights area, but does benefit from one with an Arabic flavour.)  Fantasy and historicasl reference works are invaluable, as are the monster manuals for games like D&D and GURPS. Their descriptions of habitats have given me too many ideas for areas.
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Old 09-26-2002, 09:36 AM   #7
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On the mud I play there's a few areas similar to what TG_Hammar mentioned. I haven't explored either of them in depth so I don't know intricate details of how flavorful they are or anything, but they're interesting.

One is a swamp where everything is random. You may exit one room to the east, and end up in another room where the exits go north and south. Many people have starved to death while exploring it, not to mention all the deadly swamp critters, some of which can eat you and you have to hack your way out of their stomachs before the acid kills you. There's even a skill called navigation which helps you keep from getting lost, but I'm not sure how it works. I have no idea how large this area is either.

Another is the Underdark, which isn't filled with drow or anything but has more nasties than anyone's ever been able to report about. This area is rumored to have 10,000 rooms, but I doubt even the most skilled explorers know everything about it. The main reason it's never been conquered is that it's damn near impossible to map accurately because rooms twist back in on themselves so you may have 6 rooms that all share the same space, except they're on different levels and the only way to tell which levels they're on is if you have high spelunking skill, which makes it easier to tell whether you're going up or down. Oh and did I mention spells are nigh on impossible to cast in some rooms? Very evil place.
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Old 09-26-2002, 09:56 AM   #8
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I have built everything from villages of "guardians" protecting a semi-hidden ancient holy place to large cities that have everything and anything going on, including an encampment outside for travelers who can't afford the inns. I also build "ethereal" areas that exist only within the mind or areas that are designed around emotions. These are limited, as they are hard to fit into the genre of a general fantasy world.

I generally use three basic steps to come up with an idea.

First, I find out what the game needs: what "space" in the world is empty and what is near that spalce. What race in the world lacks any racial areas, what bit of history has never been flushed out in an area, what difficultly level is limited, what parts of the world lack civilized encampments, etc.

Second, I go seek inspiration. I have found inspiration from reading about Egyption tomes, reading Plato and Aristole's treatisies on the perfect society, reading archeological books on ancient civilizations, reading through dictionaries of animals and plants for unusual non-human cultures, searching the web for one little point or idea that strikes me the game world could use, etc. Resources that generally have nothing to do with a fantasy world, thus avoiding the mistake of repeating what has been done before a million and one time.

Third step is to take what I discovered that caught my interest and mold it into an area that fits the need of the game. If I love the ritualistic nature of how egyptions are entombed and get caught up in Plato's utopia society based an a very well structured, detailed heiarchy of life positions, perhaps I would end up building a city with the citizens in a strict heirachy which all outsiders would be expected to adhear to and underneath the city would be catacombs with eleborate tomes for when the highest ranking citizens die. The materials described in the rooms themselves would reflect the class of citizen who lives in that building. The goods sold in the markets would reflect which citizens are likely to buy them. The citizens as they walk the streets would have strict levels of finery they could wear. The tomes would be made of everything the highest ranking member has access to, his lifes finest possessions with him. Quite the place to raid, if you can do it without being caught.

Anyway, rather than take what has been done before, begin anew with non-fantasy sources. That is my suggestion. That doesn't mean another area out there won't exist with similar ideas, but at least you'll have the fun of exploring a concept that is far out of your normal daily thoughts.

*wanders off to go draw up a nice utopian city with catacombs*

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Old 09-26-2002, 10:18 AM   #9
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I get my inspiration from real life.

I've built an entire section of wilderness based on my study of a single tree. A smaller area, only 6 rooms, based on an old hermit's cabin in the woods back when I used to go to summer camp.

I even ran an event around that hermit's cabin area, a blatant ripoff of an old folk tale in a nearby town where I live.

I've noticed interesting colors by watching the sunset and built entire areas based off the colors.

Leaves on the ground in autumn become a shady knoll of 5 or 6 rooms.
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Old 09-26-2002, 06:46 PM   #10
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How does one build an area inspired by a color?
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Old 09-27-2002, 01:57 AM   #11
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I've built a variety of zones. My favorite is called the Goth City. The name pretty much says it all, it plays on the modern goth culture. There's a variety of goths, from students and teachers to wannabes, business people, clubs, etc etc. When stuck on an area idea I build on that.

Asdie from cities there's a lot of things. One area idea I don't see a lot of, and have yet to see a good one of, is a circus or fair idea. I've seen a couple that are okay, but I think with a bunch of progs or scripts, you could make a killer area.

Other area idea could be a set of ruins, you could place it anywhere, in desert, forest, tundra, at the bottom of the ocean, or anywhere else.

How about a settlement of jumberjacks, or a series of mountains that are home to a group of bandits that attack anyone travelling across them? Or what if you stumbled across a forest or desert that was inhabited by strange creatures you'd never seen elsewhere? how would you explain how they got there, and why they couldn't get out?

You could do an area that's a cult of people who worship one particular thing. It could be funny, like oranges or bill gates, or maybe they're a leftover cult of a god that's long since been forgotten. You could have a city hidden deep in a series of tunnels, maybe long forgotten by the outside world. How would they react to strangers, and what kind of affects happen after 10 generations of no contact with the outside world?

I've also seen houses and mansions, gardens, graveyards and deserted towns.
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Old 09-27-2002, 03:34 PM   #12
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I find that sometimes as I am building one area, I get ideas for other areas that I could build when the one I am working is ready for players (rather than use completed, is any area really complete?). I keep a notebook to jot down inspirations and other ideas on mobs, equipment that come to mind.

I find that this helps me immensely when I am ready to start a new zone, perhaps this may help you come up with more of a variety of areas.

Sometime when I am playing on a mud, I will see something that seem like a cool idea and rather than plagarized the zone. Pick a small think that I thought "WOW!" on and brainstorm around it.

Hope these ideas help.
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Old 09-27-2002, 08:08 PM   #13
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One useful tool for building unique areas: relief maps.

Sound stupid? Just spend some time staring at relief maps and visualizing the roll of the hills, the view across the river, or the feeling you would get after leaving a forest to arrive on the shore of a beautiful lake.

Another idea if you build a lot of cities: take a walk in a major city and just let the crowd pull you along, turn a corner, view the skyline, then look straight up and feel the immense awe at such creations. Take those feelings and use them as a shaping stone for whatever ideas you have in your realm. I know personally I am much better at rural areas because I live in a very rural area. I know personally some builders who are awesome at describing large cities that they have never seen. They know the "essence" of a city is not the buildings within the city, but the effect the city has on the people walking in its midst.

Open your heart, close your eyes and dream a little dream while Life inspires you.
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Old 09-27-2002, 11:14 PM   #14
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One of my ideas that would take forever to build and would have to do it in the freetime i have out of my freetime .

Build an area where the rooms change are shift every once in awhile. Don't really have any good ideas, but that would just be fun to build, and I think people would really love it.

Just depends on your time and the MUD you build it on.
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Old 09-28-2002, 01:11 AM   #15
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I have always wanted/desired to build a huge world with a group of builders.

It would consist of a few towns, and beneath them would be a hidden entrance to some underground complexs. The complexs would lead to the cities by way of a style of maze, but would also lead to some waiste lands, or even onto a road or whatever random area would fit a theme. I once started such an area an due to not getting along with some saff we disband the project.

As someone else said, I feel that combined areas always add to some adventure. However the areas need to be linked and have some componets to enter certain areas from one place to the next. IE. obtain a key from a foreman on level one, that will grant access to level 2 and so on and so forth.

What I have seen with many builders, unless they find adminstrative staff they can get along with, people have a hard time fully getting inspired - or - sticking with the theme. This is due to the lack of drive the head of the staff uses to inspire the area developers. On one game, I have seen a major amount of adventuresom (sp? not sure if that is a word) areas which they offer the playerbase. this is the key in building, imo. Offer some adventure, areas that take knowledge to get thru or into in order to have fun or even search out some pk.

I hope this all makes sense and am willing to discuss it all more, but as of now I better make this my last post as I am a bit drunk.
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Old 09-28-2002, 03:47 AM   #16
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Heh, TG_Hammer, I already built your wasteland zone. Sure enough, it's not 1000 rooms, but it's big enough to have players getting lost there for ages, since I use a lot of evil Builder's tricks to make it appear much bigger than it is. The guiding signs are all there - if you look for them - it even has a path marked by stakes, hence the name 'Llano Estacado'. Of course, the story is that Comanche Indians and outlaw bands, change the position of the stakes, to lead the unsuspecting wanderer astray... *snicker*

It's a desert, where the hot sun damages you continuously during daytime (by taking away hp), unless you stay in the shade and only move at night. It has a couple of waterholes, but one of them is posioned. It even has a mirage, that teleports you to another part of the desert, to make you more confused. It has some nameless graves and secret hiding places, like crevices and holes under stones. Some of these contain useful things, others contains aggro ghosts, scorpions or rattlesnakes - or both. And the animal population changes with the time of day, there is a totally different set of animals coming out at night, when the daytime animals go to sleep in their burrows.

The bad players shun this place like hell, since it is set as no-recall, no-teleport, and no-summon, and since finding the only way out is rather hard, at least the first time. The good players love it, because of the quests and challenges - (and rewards) - and they help keeping up its legends, by telling wild and exaggerated stories about their hardships and adventures at Recall Point.

Apart from that, one method that I continuously use for my zones is the 'scale trick'. I make a pretty large grid, with varied topography, and in this grid I put the entrance to a number of subzones. In the smaller scale, the grid, this entrance it just one room. You enter it and get to a new, much more detailed zone, a city, a castle, or an island. It's like looking at a large map, and then looking at an enlargement of a part of that map. Very effective, and it leaves you with the feeling that there is an actual world surrounding you, not just a path you walk along, as most zones are designed.

Using this method, I've built a large Space grid with different planets (for our Future Dimension), and the Mediterranean Sea, with surrounding countries, like Greece and Egypt, for our Pre Historic Dimension. Egypt was great fun to build, me and another Builder cooperated about it, and we both spent a lot of time studying myth and history of Old Egypt, to make it true to period, down to the slightest detail. So now it has temples, villages and countryside along the main artery, the River Nile, and above all a large desert in which the entrances to the Temple of Hatsepsut and the Valley of Kings are hidden. And you know what the old Pharaos used to do with their tombs to keep the graverobbers out, don't you? They are full of mazes, collapsing roofs, bottomless wells and other cute traps and Deathtraps. And of course of treasures beyond belief...

I wonder why the evil zones are so much more fun to design than ordinary ones. Perhaps I am just evil at heart, hehe.
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Old 09-28-2002, 04:20 AM   #17
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Remind me never to play in any of your games Molly. They sound frustrating and EVIL! But aside from that, What I'd love to hear is this (Maybe in a new topic?): "What are some of those evil builder tricks" that you use?

As a coder this interest me... I'm always looking for someway to enable builders... or a way to write an algorithm to get rid of builders...
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Old 09-28-2002, 01:42 PM   #18
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[/quote]What I'd love to hear is this (Maybe in a new topic?): "What are some of those evil builder tricks" that you use?[quote]

Most Builder tricks are very simple, but if used right they can be very effective nevertheless.

The oldest trick in the book is of course to link the rooms in circles. Most unexperienced - (or lazy?) - Builders do this the wrong way, using too small circles. If you look east and see yourself standing a bit away, this gives the trick away immediately, and is a sign that the circle is too small. You should have a line of at least 10 rooms before you form the circle. Or you can dislocate the circle a couple of rooms, to make it a bit more confusing. That way, if you use a grid that is 10X10 rooms, and add an identical grid in the direction east, while at the same time dislocating  the new square one room south, it seems almost endless to the inexperienced player. They can wander in the direction east for ages, without getting back to the same room.

Making doors hidden is a very easy trick, but the players very quickly learn to type SEARCH 10 times in every new room the enter, so it soon becomes pointless.

Another simple trick, often used in mazes, is to use one way exits, leading back to a room in the other end of the maze. If the maze is big enough, it can take a very long time to figure out the path through it.

A fourth trick is to use a maze with jumping exits, either by coding it or using a random exit script. (Personally I am not too fond of this technique, I think all zones should be mapable on a grid, but that's just my preference).

A fifth trick is to use hidden portals, climb objects, water that you have to dive into, or obstacles that you have to jump to get along. If you make the long desc invisible in the room by using the colour code, and add a 'hidden' flag, so the object doesn't show up on the command 'get all', the player needs to read the room desc to get a hint that the portal or whatever even exists. (And we all know how many lazy players that run around with BRIEF mode set).

If you want to be REALLY evil, you don't put the hint about the portal in the room desc, but in one of the exit descs, or even in a look behind/above/under desc (we've implemented those extra options to OLC).

A bit more sophisticated is of course to use scripts. Basically almost anything that you can code can also be done with scripts. You can use command triggers, to turn an ordinary mudcommand, like 'east', into something quite different, and the player will never have a clue what happened, unless you put in some echoes to give a hint. You can use commands like 'pull lever', 'push button', 'move stone' to open a new exit

The basic thing when you use tricks like this is to be fair about it. Always put a hint about the hidden stuff somewhere in the zone, if not in the same room, so that the attentive player has a fair chance of finding his way around. It's all too easy to make a zone that is next to impossible to play, but that's not what good building is about. I detest zones where you can only find the hidden secrets by stumbling over them out of pure chance. (One of the reasons why I hate this is of course that I suspect that the sneaky Builders do it to ensure that nobody but themselves and their closest friends get access to the goodies in their zone. )

If you want to get along as much as possible without Builders, all you need to do is to get the Wilderness code. Once this is implemented, you can create a grid in 2 minutes, and change the generic room descs just by changing the sector of the room. This is something I myself find rather boring, but I still use it occasionally for 'travel areas' to put some space between the real zones. Almost all muds boasting about vast worlds with over 100000 rooms use a wilderness grid in some form or other.

If you want to make your good Builders happy, add some extra options to the OLC code, like the opportunity to make different descs for day and night, or winter and summer, listen/smell/taste/feel descs, look behind/above/under descs, portal types that give the player different messages when they enter them etc. Bad builders will not use these options, because they mean lots of extra work, but the good ones will love them, because of the field of new opportunities they open.

Juust some suggestions from a very old fox...
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Old 09-28-2002, 04:11 PM   #19
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To answer the question how I can make an area based off the inspiration of color:

I live in New England, which is famous for its autumn colors. You could look at a dozen leaves and never see the same exact shade repeated in any square inch. If I'm working on a swamp area, I might imagine the swamp in my mind..it's wet, but also has thick air, murky or even brackish water...and the color scheme would be all sorts of shades of browns and grays, with a touch of deep orange for spice. Every room would reflect the colorscheme, and every object I build would be based off that set of colors.

So a single tree rising out of the swamp in room #24 might become an sinewy umber shadow ascending from the murky depths. Mossy tendrils of earthy brown hues twist and turn off crooked branches, swaying like the gown of a ghostly woman reaching for her lover.

That says Swamp to me.

Then over on the hilltops, it's crisp, pristine..that's kelly green, pine green, and pure white, with jet black shadows for contrast. Instead of asking, "what does a hill look like?" I ask myself, "what does green look like?" "What will make me shiver with cold here?" And the writing flows pretty easily that way.
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Old 09-28-2002, 09:50 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Molly O'Hara @ Sep. 28 2002,1:42 pm)
If you want to get along as much as possible without Builders, all you need to do is to get the Wilderness code. Once this is implemented, you can create a grid in 2 minutes, and change the generic room descs just by changing the sector of the room.
All Excellent Suggestions and things, as a coder, I had never thought of.

I abhor the idea of wilderness areas, but I asked simply because I was looking for ways to tweak my dynamic system. Which of course automagically creates areas for me. Without having a good grasp on good builder techniques (much like you do) I tend to get boring areas, that need more 'intrigue'.

And of course thank you for being the magician that reveals some of those tricks.
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