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Old 04-21-2005, 08:16 PM   #1
Raewyn
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Dear TMS members,

In your opinion, what would be the best "look and feel" that a text-based MUD could possibly give you? Obviously, it is different than looking at two oak desks (or something similar), where one is stained and polished and the other is simply bare.  Text-based worlds are also interactive and may or may not have the ability to be read like one would read a book. So, how do you get around it?

Specifically, when just looking at rooms and objects in a MUD, what do you like to see as a first impression? Do the room lines have to be a certain length? What kind of colors do you like to see (and do they make a difference?)? Does the type and placement of color have an effect on your perception of the game (red room title, green exits, for example)? Do items have to be descriptive, or does 'green fern' suffice?


If it is not going to be a picture, what is the next best thing you can do with a thousand words?

Thank you! :)

Raewyn

Edit (04/21) - Apologies, after reading it again it no longer looked like a newbie question. :( (Does simply being a newbie count?) :)
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Old 04-21-2005, 09:18 PM   #2
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I like detailed descriptions, but I write for a living.  I think that long descriptions are for books, though.  When I play MUDs, I don't like to read long descriptions to find something I am looking for.  I like IRE's systems in which they have the basic objects and you can look at them for further detail.  However, I do not like their systems because it has many objects in the description that are not physically there.
             So in summary, I believe that a MUD should have a basic outline with more detail when one wishes to "look" at the object.  This means that when looking for a specific object, I wouldn't have to sift through a giant mound of text in the room, I would have a basic list of objects with which I could pinpoint the exact thing I was looking for.
I think what I want is there to be the basic outline of the object, such as "clay pot" instead of "clay pot with a motiff of a bull on it sitting on a table on the west side of the room", while I like to be able to visualize a MUD environment somewhat, I do not have all day to sit around looking for something.
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Old 04-21-2005, 10:17 PM   #3
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Consistency is also important - especially on any MUD where timing and combat are important. Having exits clearly listed, lists of objects and/or people in the room differentiated from the room description itself would also be more important, since the life of your character may depend upon that kind of short, sharp awareness of your surroundings.

Conversely, I can imagine that in a MUSH having the character's positions about the room embedded into the room description itself would be much more like a novel - describing the dark corner of the inn and having someone sitting in that corner described in the one sentence sounds very fitting (pity the coder who tries to do it though .

Room descriptions themselves should read like a book - most people can read anywhere from 70 to 90 characters across before moving from the end of one line to the beginning of the next becomes an effort. Typeface/fonts etc are in their client settings though - up to them to fix that side up. Lastly, I tend to encourage first-letter capitalisation in room names just so it's a bit obvious.

Colour tends to be a love/hate thing. I'll tread the middle ground and say I don't mind it, but of course I'd never read a *novel* where the words were all coloured.
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Old 04-22-2005, 12:16 AM   #4
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Moved Don't worry about it, I'm not going to jump on you for posting in a forum then deciding later it was the wrong one.

As for the topic at hand, like has been said consistency is a great plus for me. Room descriptions that are roughly the same number of characters across lend a professional feeling to a world, whereas I find ones that vary anywhere from 60-80 characters to the clients maximum line length is off-putting.

Colour... I can handle a bit of enforced, understated colour like set room titles in one colour, exits in another, and objects in a third. When putting colour in a MUD you should try and pay attention to HCI concepts and avoid combinations that clash or might be invisible to people with certain types of colour-blindness. The ability to customise it or turn it off is always good.

Spelling and grammar. I can forgive a certain laxity, but there's nothing worse than running from an area where the builder has obviously been careful to use proper English and typed out their room descriptions lovingly, to one that has been haphazardly put together by someone with a minimal grasp of spelling and grammar. It just doesn't look professional.

I've mentioned looking professional a couple of times, because for me this is what separates the "serious" MUDs from the ones being run by people who figured out they could run a stock codebase and started yelling "Me too! Me too!". If a MUD has a professional look then it's immediately obvious that the owners have at least some pride in their work and are serious about running an effective, well-designed game.
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Old 04-22-2005, 05:51 AM   #5
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Exclamation

Let's see if this post makes the link on the front page correct again (it was still pointing to the newbie forum).

My personal opinion towards room descriptions are quite concise, if I have to say it myself:
1. a room description should wrap at around 75 chars width.
2. a room description needs to be written using proper english.
3. use color sparingly, if at all.
4. don't describe things that can be moved out. Ie. don't describe a vase on a table. Put in a vase on a table.
5. as written by Ilkadarios, make detailed descriptions available for everything, but keep the default description short and use keywords that can be figured out.

Take a look at the TBA website at http://welcor.n3.net, specifically the menu points "specifications" and "why build ?". As you'll see, the above is more or less what we try to teach there.
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Old 04-22-2005, 08:57 AM   #6
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Bad formatting (including line-wrap at 80+ characters), excessive colour, poor spelling and grammar, inaccurate information, etc - these are the sort of things which give a bad impression.

But to give me an actively good impression I would need to see more than just a lack of mistakes - I would want to see the descriptions change to reflect my interaction with the mud, to make me feel that I'm really in the world and not just the spectator of some generic, static scene...

You are walking through a forest, the leaves on the trees a mottled brown from the onset of autumn. Many leaves have already fallen to the ground, and they crunch dryly beneath your shoes with every step. The sun is beginning to rise on the eastern horizon, its red glow barely visible through the tall trees.
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Old 04-22-2005, 11:30 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by
In your opinion, what would be the best "look and feel" that a text-based MUD could possibly give you?
Depends on the type of game.  But Consistency is the most basic requirement that I need.  I want a game consistent with the theme, consistent with the feel, and consistent with the type experience that the game is trying to impart.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Text-based worlds are also interactive and may or may not have the ability to be read like one would read a book. So, how do you get around it?
I'm a big IF fan.  And while I don't want it to read like a book, I want the characters to feel like they are IN a book.  Also, the key word in that quote.  INTERACTIVE!  Make the game INTERACTIVE.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Specifically, when just looking at rooms and objects in a MUD, what do you like to see as a first impression?
I don't look for anything specific.  

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Do the room lines have to be a certain length?
YES, they need to be consistent, and logical.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
What kind of colors do you like to see (and do they make a difference?)?
I'm torn on this.  It really depends on the game.  If I'm playing a PvP (Which I don't do a lot of) I want IMPORTANT Information to be colorized.  Otherwise if I'm playing I'd rather not have any color.  However, as an Implementor, I want my players to be able to colorize as they feel fit.  Color in text, I don't think helps convey much information in a flowery description.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Does the type and placement of color have an effect on your perception of the game (red room title, green exits, for example)?
Of course it does.  The color draws the eye towards that word, list, or phrase.  But it can be distracting.  Drawing the eye away from more important information.

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Do items have to be descriptive, or does 'green fern' suffice?
Depends.  If it's just filler like most muds use, then 'green fern' is fine.  But if you want an interactive game, a more in depth game, you need to describe how players can interact with it, codewise.  I want to be able to 'feel fern' or 'taste fern' or 'pick fern' or even 'hide behind fern'.  But, that's just me.  

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If it is not going to be a picture, what is the next best thing you can do with a thousand words?
If you can't make a movie, write a book, right?
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Old 04-22-2005, 01:18 PM   #8
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Dynamic room descriptions are always a good way to captivate the reader (read: player). If your mud has the capability, different descriptions for night and day, summer and winter etc. are always a good way to go. A Theseus and random phrasings of the same sentence also give a room the feel it's not just a static world. Also, room descriptions should be written for the people who will read them, read every object described, and attempt to interact with them in as many ways as possible (at least using the five senses).

The room long, the first impression as it were, shouldn't really be any longer than 5-7 lines (even 7 is a bit much). Every object described needs at least an extra description you can view or smell or touch (and it's always much better if this isn't a circular description.. becomes a little pointless then).

The use of 'you' in a long description is always a big no-no in my book. Same with having descriptions of things you can't see (ie. "This house has a fresh and rosy smell." - look is for viewing with your eyes.. use smell for finding out such information).

Good spelling and grammar is a given. For line length, I'd go with anything between 75-79 max. Colourwise, I can't stand MUDs that make you go blind. I usually play with a black background, and prefer all room descriptions in white (bold maybe for the titles, and it doesn't hurt to have the exits in a soft colour like cyan). As long as there's some separation between title, exits, long desc and objects it can look fine - though, this is just what I'm used too.

NB: I used 'should' a lot of times here.. these are just my opinions, not the be all and end all of room building.
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Old 04-22-2005, 02:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Alsta @ April 22 2005,19:18)
The use of 'you' in a long description is always a big no-no in my book.
I couldn't disagree more.  The use of 'you' is a vital part of any description written in second person, allowing the player to better identify with their character and improving their immersion in the game.

IMO the 'no you' rule is just an outdated fashion among muds that lack the ability to utilise dynamic descriptions.  It also completely contradicts the rest of the gameplay (the other in-game messages use 'you'), further distancing the player from the scene in which their character exists.

http://www.theinspiracy.com/ArPOV.htm

"...to gamers, second person narrative should have a familiar feeling. Perhaps this rings a bell: "You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. You see a pointy stick here." Classic text adventures were often written in second person, implying that "you", the player were somehow participating in the adventure described. In fact, "the medium of participation" is a basic definition of interactivity."

http://www.ruthnestvold.com/2ndper.htm

"The use of the second person in any form is an invitation to projection, be it onto a character or a fictionalized reader in the text, drawing the reader into the text in ways other forms do not."
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Old 04-22-2005, 03:52 PM   #10
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First off, Interesting read's KaVir!

I'm going to draw a middle point here. I think when most Head Builders layout that the use of you is forbidden. They are worried about the Builder forcing an emotion, or thought on the character that may not mesh with the players view of their character. They may not be able to express that this is what they mean when the say, "Don't use you in building".

You stand in an apparently empty hallway. Is a good description as far as I'm concerned. But then I'm into light on the description camp.

Of course, using you is completely different when the game and the character are responsive to the world around you. Recently we've discussed a system that hooks into our senses code, wherein, if the characters go around eating a lot of bitter foods, they will start to increase a bitterness enjoyment variable. So when they use a bitter food, the character might get a message stating: You enjoy the bitter beer. Whereas a character without a high bitter enjoyment would get a message stating: The bitterness in the beer makes you pucker. (or whatever).

In this case, where through interaction with the environment the player influences the feelings of the character, I feel it is appropriate to give force feelings and emotions on the character/player.
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Old 04-22-2005, 06:09 PM   #11
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Just a quick thought,

Has anyone done a coloring scheme where Items which are better then the one you have equipped appear in a different color? Or a EQ style Color the name of a MOB depending on the same algorithm as the consider command?

If so, do you have any thoughts on it?
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Old 04-22-2005, 06:34 PM   #12
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The use of 'you' forces a reaction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
"You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.
How do you know it's a maze of twisty little passages? It could just be hallway in a cave. You know it, because you are being told that. Doesn't the experience of passing through those twisting passages give you that knowledge?

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Originally Posted by
You see a pointy stick here.
How does the reader know that? You could be glancing around at the walls instead. This is forcing the person to look at the pointy stick, not allowing him to look around the room a little to find the pointy stick.

Classic text adventures are 2 decades old - they can be used as good historical research, but not as modern references. If they were, I'd be multiplaying LOTR on the spectrum.
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Old 04-22-2005, 08:15 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Alsta @ April 23 2005,00:34)
The use of 'you' forces a reaction.  
No, it simply provides the information in an immersive way - the player is no longer some bystander reading a neutral description, but is instead looking through the eyes of their character, seeing what their character sees when they type 'look'. As I pointed out already, this is the thing second-person excels at - drawing the reader in, making them feel as if they are participating.

The word 'you' is used on every mud I've ever seen when typing 'grin', or 'draw sword', or 'inventory', or any one of a number of other commands. The 'look' command should be no different.
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Old 04-22-2005, 08:57 PM   #14
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This is forcing the person to look at the pointy stick, not allowing him to look around the room a little to find the pointy stick.
"There is a pointy stick here" does exactly the same.

It is possible to make the same assumptions about the player or character with or without using second person. By eliminating "you" from descriptions you don't solve the problem - and, as KaVir pointed out, you lose some immersiveness points.

Consider the following three examples:

It reminds you of a light bulb.

It resembles a light bulb.

It looks like a light bulb.


All three sentences make the same assumptions - namely that the player (or character) has seen a light bulb before, and that they consider whatever they're looking at to be similar for some reason. They differ in the degree of involvement for the reader/player. I find the first one strongest emotionally, the last one completely neutral (even boring).

Dynamic descriptions get the best of both worlds, even if they are limited to what the game knows about your character. If the game mechanics have no way of knowing you're glancing at the walls or your group member's cleavage instead of the pointy stick, it won't make a difference whether the stick's description uses "you" or not. Because, how would you know there's a pointed stick there?
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Old 04-22-2005, 09:08 PM   #15
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Looking at a room is not the same as grinning or drawing a sword. If you grin, you grin - nothing more too it. Different ways to grin, sure, but it's still a grin. A look is a glance around the room. It's a first impression of a room. If I look into a room, my first impression would be the colour and material of the walls, the floor, and (depending on the height of the room) the ceiling. It wouldn't be the obscure piece of wood lying in a corner (unless of course that was the only object in an otherwise empty room).

It should be up to the player to decide what they see when they look into a room (as much as the room creator can make it possible). Forcing a person to see an obscure object without any exploration, just by a cursory glance is poor writing in my opinion. I'll stand by that, until next time I walk into a forest and see a half-buried bronze coin engraved with a silver sword - upon my first glance.
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Old 04-23-2005, 01:38 AM   #16
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Alsta said: "Forcing a person to see an obscure object without any exploration, just by a cursory glance is poor writing in my opinion."
That too is a problem unrelated to the use of the word "you." It has to do with timing, not perspective. The obscure object could hide in a subdescription, or require a second or third glance or simply a certain amount of time to be spent in the room. Such implementations can be achieved with or without second-person perspective.

***

More significant than perspective, I believe, is the tone of any particular description. Without appropriate pacing, voice, etc., the player will feel out of place whether the description claims he is the actor or an observor.
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Old 04-23-2005, 06:30 AM   #17
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Ashon wrote: April 22 2005,189
Quote:
Originally Posted by
Has anyone done a coloring scheme where Items which are better then the one you have equipped appear in a different color? Or a EQ style Color the name of a MOB depending on the same algorithm as the consider command?
We have a system where mobs are defined not only by levels but by tiers, meaning that a tier 4 level 40 mob is harder to kill and yields more exp than a tier 2 level 50 one. The tiers show up as a colour code, a vertical | in different colours in front of the usual mob desc that you see in the room. It’s very discreet, and doesn’t interfere much with the design. For objects we have no similar system, but I guess it could be easily implemented, based on AC, avg dam, or addaffects.

Apart from the tier code we use colours in an informative way; for instance exits are a different colour than the room descs, mobs are always cyan and objects dark yellow. Sometimes we highlight certain words like ‘SIGN’ in the room descs too. The colours can de turned off by players of course, but they are part of our design, and without them the game gets a bit harder to play.

I’ve seen a system in another Mud where the colour of the room desc reflected the sector of the room, for instance firsts were dark green, fields light green, water blue, road and city grey etc. I liked it at first because it was logical, but as a design it soon became too gaudy. There really aren’t enough Ansii colours that go well together and are legible against bot a dark and light background. Perhaps if one created an entirely new colour system, with more subdued and well co-ordinated nuances, this might be an idea for a mud design.

When I started as a Builder I used to make real objects for everything in the room, and reset them there in the orthodox way. In a ‘crowded’ room, that could sometimes add up to a long list of objects below the room desc.  Because I dislike spam and prefer room descs to be reasonably short (4-8 lines is my ideal), I have later come to use a different method.

Now I mention all the objects in the room desc and write extra descs for each one, so that you can look closer at them. In the cases where you need to handle them (containers, portals, climb/descend/jump objects) I reset the actual object but with a no-display flag, so that you only see it in the room desc and when you type look <keyword>. Objects with a take flag I sometimes reset directly, but more often inside a container, so that you have to first LOOK TABLE to se that there is a drawer under the table, and the LOOK IN DRAWER, to see the object inside it.

I like this system for two reasons, it keeps the display of the rooms reasonably short and sweet, and it also makes the players who are too lazy to read the room descs miss a lot of the best stuff.

One more thing about the general room design; I like a zone to look good when you move around in it. That means that in a ‘travel zone’ or a grid I keep all descs short and at even length (usually 4 lines), which gives a nice ‘flow’ when you walk through it. More important rooms, for instance inside a city or even inside a house or castle, usually get a longer desc, because player tend to spend longer there. The more things there are to look at in a room, the longer time they spend in it, so this works with the ‘flow’ too.
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Old 04-23-2005, 06:43 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Alsta @ April 23 2005,03:08)
Looking at a room is not the same as grinning or drawing a sword.
From a writing perspective, of course it is - you enter a command, and the mud informs you what happens. If I type 'look', then that means I want my character to look around - I then expect to see whatever he saw.

Quote:
Originally Posted by
If I look into a room, my first impression would be the colour and material of the walls, the floor, and (depending on the height of the room) the ceiling. It wouldn't be the obscure piece of wood lying in a corner (unless of course that was the only object in an otherwise empty room).
As Burr points out, that has nothing to do with the use of 'you', but instead with the style of writing.

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It should be up to the player to decide what they see when they look into a room (as much as the room creator can make it possible).
What?! Why should the player decide what they see? Do you get to choose what you see in real life when you look out the window? When playing a pen&paper RPG, does the GM tell you "You see...." or does s/he ask you "What would your character like to see when s/he looks around"?

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Forcing a person to see an obscure object without any exploration, just by a cursory glance is poor writing in my opinion.
And has absolutely nothing to do with the use of 'you'.

Quote:
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I'll stand by that, until next time I walk into a forest and see a half-buried bronze coin engraved with a silver sword - upon my first glance.
Which is another issue entirely - and one which dynamicd descriptions can support.
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Old 04-23-2005, 11:42 AM   #19
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KaVir wrote April 23 2005,06:43
Quote:
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As Burr points out, that has nothing to do with the use of 'you', but instead with the style of writing.
I couldn’t agree more.

I get really tired of the endlessly hashed and rehashed subject of using or not using the word “you” in descriptions. I have no problem with the word you itself, I actually use it quite often in my own descs. However we have a general rule against descriptions that presume an emotion or action from the player’s side, like for instance ‘You feel very scared’ or ‘You are shivering in the cold’. (I could actually live with sentences like ‘You get an uneasy feeling of being watched’, provided the area is full of roaming, high level, aggressive mobs that may also be invisible or hiding/sneaking. Or ‘This place feels very secure and peaceful’, provided the room is set as peaceful, or the area is a low level one with no aggressive mobs at all. In these cases I think the sentences convey useful information about the general character of the area.

We also explicitly forbid expressions like ‘You are standing…’ or ‘You are walking…’ for the simple and logical reason that the player could actually be sitting, resting, swimming or flying.

But what KaVir describes is a totally different system for descriptions; code generated, dynamic descs, where the code checks for time of day, room sector, weather and the body position of the player. In this case expressions like ‘You are standing…’ or ‘You are walking…’ would of course be totally okay, because it would reflect what the player actually is doing at that very moment. A code generated, dynamic desc is built up by parts of sentences like the below example (correct me if I am wrong):

‘You are walking/standing/resting/flying/ (body position) in the middle of an open field (sector). The air has a cool crispness (season) and you can feel that it’s been some time since it last rained (weather). The sun is setting in the west, colouring the sky blood red (time of day). A forest edge bars the sight to the east, otherwise the terrain lies open in all directions (room exists).’

You could probably quite easily make the code check for the players level in comparison with the hardness of the zone and whether the player is new to the zone, or has visited the same room several times before, in which case you could also add a sentence like:

‘You are very familiar with the terrain, and feel confident that you could handle any problems that might crop up.’ or ‘This is unknown ground to you, so you proceed with caution, keeping a close watch.’

I have also seen some very advanced examples of coded, randomised descs that were put together by a number of different elements describing different types of terrain, vegetation, topography etc. I forgot who made them (perhaps it was Ytrewsu?), but they looked really impressive, certainly a lot better than many desc you see in sloppily put together muds. Obviously some skilled writer, with a good sense of the value of words, had been involved in creating the elements that were the foundation for the randomisation.

Personally I feel a bit divided when it comes to code generated descs however. Although they can be made to look pretty good, and I can see the use for them particularly in PK based muds, I still feel that they’ll always be a bit ‘generic’ and repetitive, and never could totally replace a well written individual desc. If you are blessed with a staff of very talented builders, (like we are), I would never want to forfeit the imagination, creativity and ‘flavour’ that a really skilled builder can add to the descriptions. If you have a problem in finding good and active enough builders, I guess that dynamic descs would be a better choice than settling for low quality descriptions.

The only place where I would consider using dynamic descs myself is in grids (large filling zones between the ‘real’ zones. I always disliked repeated descs, so I usually try to write individual ones even for the grids, but that really can be a pain-in-the-ass at times – (I mean how many ways are there to describe a 400 room big prairie or open sea?). So maybe some day we might implement dynamic, sector based descs for our wilderness grids, but I realise that this needs quite a lot of initial work, to write all the random sentence parts and make sure that they always fit together.

It would be interesting to hear how many hours it took to set up the randomised desc system that I described above. Perhaps whoever created them has a reply to that?
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Old 04-23-2005, 12:12 PM   #20
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Long descriptions with no formatting is my pet peeve. Page-long paragraphs with important information scattered all through the text really don't add to my patience for carefully savoring an area's mood, no matter how well written. Run-on paragraphs happen in notes more often than rooms, but just seperating any descriptions of exits from the description of the room itself makes it much more readable.

Consistancy in coloration is also extremely helpful. If you make that extra blurb in the longdesc for exits, go ahead and make it green, but make it green for any other blurbs too. Don't color an entire area's room titles bright yellow for no reason, it's distracting. And if you must make that %RR%Ya%Gi%Cn%Bb%Po%Rw item, keep it to non-takeable, or non-wearable and non-sellable items; Nothing destroys the mood of the game like a gritty no-frills, completely functional broadsword worn next to ThE HaPPy rAInbOwHAt.
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