Basic Player Wants and Needs
A Mud is only as good as the players tell others it is. So how do you make your mud stand out amongst the hundreds of others? How do you attract those seasoned players, the ones thats been in the mudding community for years? What about those beloved Newbies? These are just a few of the questions that admins and wizards alike ask theirselves daily. It's not a simple answer, and I'm not here to give simple solutions,there are none. This is to help you look at the right questions and maybe find the answers that fit your mud. First, look at the basic wants of players. this can be broken into three groups, newbies, seasoned, and general.
Newbies are generally players that are unfamiliar with mud mechanics, or those that have a slight knowledge, but not yet comfortable within the player community. Do you remeber the first time you logged into a mud? What was the first thing that ran through your mind? Ask yourself these questions. Usually the first question is "What do I do now?". So what do they do first? Does your mud have a newbie school? Maybe a Guide standing by to answer their questions? Do they have a library that they can research basic commands and background of the mud? Or, most importantly, do you have adequate help files. That is one of the key things that most muds lack, simple, but often overlooked. O.K., so you have great help files on anything that someone could possibly come up with right? Wrong, but an easy fix, if the default message of no help available etc.. returns, then have it log the question, and have a wizard assigned to peruse the logs and write or link help files that pertain to those questions. Once they learn what to do, next is where do they do it? Is there an easily accesable newbie area, and is that area layed out simple enough not to discourage them, yet challenging enough to keep them motivated through those first critical levels. Remeber, each player is different, so its a good idea to have a couple different areas, maybe a quest or two to help them get started.
The next group is classified as seasoned players. These are the ones that have been around for awhile, can log into a mud and jump right into the action. And action is exactly what their looking for. These are the ones that are looking for something new, they're tired of the same old xp grind, same areas, kill monster X kind of thing. They don't want to go through an "academy", they want to explore new areas, kill new monsters, conquer new quests, and most of all, they want POWER. So how do you make your mud different, how do you catch thier attention? Bottom line, you want that (shhh, not supposed to say it) addiction. So, throw out your old stock rooms and be imaginative. Does your mud have a solid theme, a good story that the player can become part of, or just a bunch of rooms threw together by independant builders, and uninterested admin? If the latter, then find new staff, or be prepared to be just another mud, sure you'll get a few players, and thats ok if it's what you want, but then, if thats the case you would'nt be reading this would you? O.K. you got your staf working together building a solid theme, unique NPC's, and good quests. Next comes equipment. Kill all swords and indestructible armor, Magic that can kill with a single touch of a button. All available to the general public. Boring. Sure have those mighty God slayers and Primal Velium Dragon hide tunics, but its always good to have checks in them. Make the player reach a certain level, or skill before they can hold that mighty sword, or wear that magic cloak. Make them work for it. Heres a little test, make a good sword, say max damage of 15, make it easy to get, but give it a name like 'a rusty training sword', and a basic description. Then make a sword max damage of 5, but with a double hit, a name like 'Mortals Wrath' and a well thought out description, and heres the fun part. Make 'Mortals Wrath' a sword that takes a good player an hour to fight, or work their way to. Now see which one is the most sought after. The moral, its not the strength of the sword, or protection of the armor. Its the status of being the one to carry that cool sounding sword, with a killer description, everyone knows the harder to get , and better the description, the better the equipment. Right? Right. And again power, is the key, if it takes power to get it, players will work for it, and love you for it.
So lets recap, you have that newbie area and great help files, then you have a well thought out mud that holds the theme, imaginative areas, challenging quests, and a balanced reward versus danger (even with the same sword or armor with a differnt name and unique description). Now what? Well you need something to bring all of these elements together. You do this in the form of guilds, clans, or whatever you want to call them. You can even have mutiple tiers of guilds, clans and houses, each with their own ranks and titles (again power). But the main purpose of these is to promote team work, or rivalry. Do you want to have a NPC run guild, or player controlled, and being guild leader means being a tactician, working alliances with the other guilds, making friends and rivals, helping out the 'new recruits' or planning a raid with the seasoned vets. You decide, both work, and both have advantages and disadvantages. Also you need a place where the players can go to relax, and make friends, talk about the game or real life and get to know one another if they wish. It's also nice to have little side games to play. A lot of players, are'nt "players" at all, they're just looking for a place to hang out and make friends. These social people are great assests to any mud, they help break up the monotony of go here, kill this. Also the more friends, or more excepted a player feels, then the more likely he or she will stick around and tell others about your game. All of these elements combined will help make your game among the best.
Written by Don C. Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chimerico of The Dragons Den