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Old 04-05-2008, 02:28 AM   #1
Threshold
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Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

So you run a mud, and you have some great, creative builders. Everything is perfect, right? Well, not always.

1) What techniques do you use to properly and effectively channel the creativity of builders so it stays within a common vision?

2) What do you do when a builder makes something really great and extremely creative that simply does not fit with the theme or style of your MUD?

3) If you have a great builder that you really want to keep, but you can tell they are feeling stifled creatively, what can you do to remedy the problem? Do you simply have to part ways at that point?

I have never had to deal with these types of problems (yet - although I have been personally guilty of #2 and had to just scrap it or alter it heavily), but I have often worried about these types of issues and wondered what I would do if they arose. I have heard of many MUDs wrestling with such problems, and was curious what effective strategies people have used.
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Old 04-05-2008, 02:55 AM   #2
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

WHIPS!





Ok.. Seriously.

1) I find the most effective methods are to make sure they understand the vision, and only allow building to start on a project once the basic design is approved. The builder comes up with a basic idea for an area they would like to create, and we discuss it. As long as it's close enough to the overall vision, we make some tweaks to it and they move on to making a full proposal(map, concept for major quests/NPCs in the area, etc). Another discussion, more modifications and then off to the real building. This adds a little more work to the process, but definately helps to make sure the vision stays consistent and the bonus of well planned and quality areas.

2) As per above, this is normally caught at the earliest stage. I try to work with them, modifying it so that it does fit. If it's helpless, or (more likely) the builder just doesn't want to change it... sorry, it won't go in.

3) Ah, the big one... in Tears of Polaris we have five ranks for builders, from trainee to normal builder to manager. The higher your rank the more freedom you have, as you should have a good feeling for the overall vision by the time you get there, as well as authority to approve the work of others. That is one way to help, but doesn't work for everyone. Another approach that I'm fond of, though obviously cannot use right now, is to let them design some events, giving them another outlet for their creativity while increasing the enjoyment of all the players. If they are a really good builder, I would try to work with them as best I can to keep them... but if they feel stifled because of a repeating problem #2 then they might be a better fit in another world.
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Old 04-05-2008, 05:45 AM   #3
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

Yeah, we've had this in the past also, there's a certain inevitability about it . What I've seen most common is new builders who want to make their zone stand out by loading some fantastic item, and unfortunately the item doesn't fit in with the existing zone strategy, balance, whatever. The very last thing you want to have to deal with as senior imm is hassle from the imm side as well as the mortal side about adding new great things into the game. Worst is when you then get "but the players like it".

We've learned through trial and error that the answer is just to be clear from the outset about what can and can't be loaded or done within a builder's new zone, so that new builder expectations are not raised falsely. Unfortunately this will mean that some people can't live with this and move on. Whilst frustrating at the time, this probably isn't such a terrible thing in the long run because if they can't or won't compromise a grade 1 builder, then when and if they ever get to a more senior level it makes it impossible to manage the game if one imm does one thing and the rest something else. This leads to imm politics and all that sort of crap which nobody needs.

I guess this is one of the unfun sides of being a senior imm, managing other imms. Ultimately though it's a team effort with you in the lead, and folk really need to stick to the team "plan" and the strategy of the game as defined. Not that the strategy shouldn't have a certain amount of flexibility in it, but ultimately it's a team effort, and if people can't be team players, then perhaps there's a different team where they'll be happier.
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Old 04-05-2008, 05:59 AM   #4
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

I think you are both on to something with the ever important need to make sure things are clear up front. I imagine a lot of imms get caught in the trap of telling people what they want to hear just so they can get as many builders on staff as possible. I have always felt that was dangerous and selfish for a zillion reasons, and the circumstances we are discussing here are just some of them.

Brody: I liked your multiple steps of planning, modification, and approval. That will not only help the creative builders be more organized (which increases the chances that the project will be completed), but also heads off a lot of the potential problems.

Nass: Yes, I am all too familiar with that method builders use of generating interest in their areas. Although, I am familiar with it from a player's perspective. I even hated it as a player, because it meant the balance of the game see-sawed depending on which builders or coders were most active at the time.

Fortunately, we are super, super selective at hiring time and thus managing our staff has been a joy. But I know it only takes one mistake and one bad hire and things will be get ugly fast.
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Old 04-05-2008, 10:27 AM   #5
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

1) We only take new staff from established players who seem to have a broad skillset (notable roleplay, typically at least a couple years of experience and multiple notable characters, etc.), a heavier playing schedule, a good grasp of written English, and a sense that they follow the rules of the game during play. This establishes that the person has some understanding of what areas are out there, and that they have the raw skills necessary to produce a useful area.

2) We meet with new authors and work together towards a project idea. This initial idea gets bounced off of several senior staff, often rewritten, and then archived so reviewers can later look it over. The idea is to find something the author is excited to do, but also to make sure it meshes with the rest of the game.

3) The new staff member then writes a small piece of the full area, and submits it for review. This lets us catch chronic problems before they spend a lot of time on it, and it also shows us that the person can handle small deadlines.

4) The new staff member submits a rough draft. This gets debugged and put in for private review, first by the author, then sequentially by multiple senior staff, each of whom brings a different focus. The new staff member is usually given other things to do where possible during this phase.

5) If the initial reviews come back with a sense that the area can 'work', a request for any custom code needed by the area gets written up by the author, checked by senior staff, and assigned to coders. If the area is deemed to be terribly flawed, awkward conversations follow and we see if there's a way to fix things, or if its better that we go our separate ways.

6) The area gets some final whacks from Implementors, who have final say on edits, then gets connected and put 'live' for the players.
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Old 04-05-2008, 06:53 PM   #6
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valg View Post
1) We only take new staff from established players who seem to have a broad skillset (notable roleplay, typically at least a couple years of experience and multiple notable characters, etc.), a heavier playing schedule, a good grasp of written English, and a sense that they follow the rules of the game during play. This establishes that the person has some understanding of what areas are out there, and that they have the raw skills necessary to produce a useful area.
Yes, that is the traditional way to get new builders. It is time tested and it certainly guarantees that the builder is very familiar with the world and its lore. Obviously, a new game does not have this luxury. This does, however, bring with it drawbacks of its own: making sure your builders do not let biases and preferences from their playing days affect their building.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valg View Post
2) We meet with new authors and work together towards a project idea. This initial idea gets bounced off of several senior staff, often rewritten, and then archived so reviewers can later look it over. The idea is to find something the author is excited to do, but also to make sure it meshes with the rest of the game.
So far, this appears to be the clear winner for the most important thing to do when working with your builders. I definitely agree with this as well. Planning things out in advance and talking about a potential idea really is the best way to avoid problems. Just sending off builders to "go make something cool" is a recipe for disaster.
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Old 04-16-2008, 04:21 PM   #7
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Threshold View Post
Yes, that is the traditional way to get new builders. It is time tested and it certainly guarantees that the builder is very familiar with the world and its lore. Obviously, a new game does not have this luxury. This does, however, bring with it drawbacks of its own: making sure your builders do not let biases and preferences from their playing days affect their building.
Definitely. I've seen this problem on a couple MUDs I've played (even sadder when it occurs on a RPI with strict IC/OOC separation).

Quote:
So far, this appears to be the clear winner for the most important thing to do when working with your builders. I definitely agree with this as well. Planning things out in advance and talking about a potential idea really is the best way to avoid problems. Just sending off builders to "go make something cool" is a recipe for disaster.
Agreed. I've had to turn down some builders who called this "hand-holding" but it's necessary to ensure consistency in quality and world design.

The problem I've encountered is builders who are impatient to see their work utilized. Some don't want to work on a new game because they don't want to have to wait until the game opens to see their work in play. Others worry that the game might close and their work be for nothing (despite my reassurances that I'm a stubborn bastard that will press on until we do open). I've lost at least one builder to each of these reasons (and a coder to the former as well).

Take care,

Jason
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Old 04-18-2008, 09:04 AM   #8
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

I have been lucky with this since my first mud was based on a comic/graphic novel and two of three builders/imms were fans of that to begin with. Both of those, however, were virgin builders but, by the time they began any work, specific zone design rules were aleady set in place by a handful of older zones.

My background is in traditional pen&paper and e-published books, so I have a slight advantage in some ways, too. My current project is based on a 150 page game that I wrote and I can simply give a prospective imm a copy of it to read (with pics! ;D).

The immortal hiring process really is basically like hiring someone for any other job. One would not simply hand over one 's shop's keys to anyone that had not been interviewed/screened/trained/etc. and sharing one's expectations and job description is also standard.
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Old 04-27-2008, 01:38 PM   #9
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

Threshold:

On TempusMUD the universe is divided up into three distinct planes, the past, future, and outer planes. An overview of basic themes and a general storyline direction of each plane is written on our imm wiki website.

When builders create proposals for new zones in a plane, the proposals describe where and how their zone fits into the plane, and the variety of connections it has with the other zones. Along with discussions with the plane's architect, this overview provides the general direction the zones in the plane should help move along, without limiting the creativity involved in defining that process.

If a builder is itching to create a "great and extremely creative" area that doesn't fit into the multifaceted Tempus theme, we sometimes use that area as a special place beyond the connected universe for special quests to mix things up.

With the variety of themes we use, I've yet to have a builder express a stifling of creativity. I think if that does happen, it would probably be the fault of us in the administration not being clever enough to inspire the builder, or help him or her find a project flexible enough for the builder's needs, and suitable enough for the mud.

Cheers,

*wish*

Last edited by Wish : 04-27-2008 at 10:00 PM. Reason: spelling error
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Old 04-27-2008, 04:54 PM   #10
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Re: Properly Utilizing Builder Creativity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wish View Post
When builders create proposals for new zones in a plane, the proposals describe where and how their zone fits into the plane, and the variety of connections it has with the other zones. Along with dicussions with the plane's architect, this overview provides the general direction the zones in the plane should help move along, without limiting the creativity involved in defining that process.
Once again, the Great Commonality in proper builder management is having proposals written in advance that get discussed and analyzed by the administration. It is interesting to see how universal this is. I think that makes it a great lesson for ANYONE running a MUD and dealing with staff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wish View Post
If a builder is itching to create a "great and extremely creative" area that doesn't fit into the multifaceted Tempus theme, we sometimes use that area as a special place beyond the connected universe for special quests to mix things up.
That is certainly an advantage you have with your theme. Being able to fit things in as little pocket dimensions or rifts in time is definitely a nice advantage that makes almost all creative endeavors possible.
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