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Being an administrator

by Jack Thornton

In many players' careers, there comes a time when it feels right to try to give something back to the community that they have enjoyed for so long. Depending upon the player’s skills and desires, this giving back takes many forms. Some players become leaders or builders on the mud -- maintaining the rules of the game or adding areas to it. Others want to become more involved with the behind-the-scenes work. These players become coders and administrators.

While the idea of running a mud is very exciting, many players underestimate how different it is from being a player. As a player, your responsibilities are generally limited to following the rules, interacting with other players, and trying to improve your character to take on more difficult challenges.

Pointy haired, but cuddly As an administrator, your responsibilities are often abstracted from the game itself. You maintain the machine the mud is running on – or pay somebody else to do it for you. You continuously work with the coders (if you are not also the head coder) to track down the bugs that the players continually report. You check the work of the builders to ensure that the areas fit in with the mud theme. Finally, you get to listen to players complain and try to find a way to satisfy them -- especially if somebody else DID break a rule or exploit a bug.

So, if it takes all that work, why do people start so many muds and continue them for so long? For many, it is because it is like a child to them. They create it, watch it grow, and let it take on a life of its own. It is something they are proud of and they really want to share it with other people. For others, it is because their mud is an online communities where people know each other, and the administrator has a respected role in that community. These are only a couple of the reasons why people operate muds - your own might be completely different.

If you are contemplating starting a mud, carefully consider what effort you are willing to expend and what you expect to get for that effort. If you are expecting a brand new world with a theme nobody else has tried, more classes and races than you can shake a stick at, no stock areas, over 100,000 unique rooms, and realistic enough AI programs for your mobs that players are unable to tell if they are interacting with another player or not – you should be willing to accept the mud as a new full-time job.

If you instead just want a familiar place that you can play with, meet a few friends in and which does not need to e substantially changed from they way you get it, the time commitment will certainly be a lot less.

In other words, make certain that you are defining clearly you want the mud to be. Be realistic. Evaluate your own skills and those of any friends that are willing to work with you. If you come up immediately with a need for somebody else to fulfill important roles like head coder or head builder, please accept that you are not ready to run a mud just yet.

Additionally, if you are looking at establishing a profit making mud, be forewarned that most muds do not make the owner/administrator any money. Usually, a mud costs you money, since the machine the mud is on needs to be maintained and improved as the mud grows and there are the monthly connection fees to keep the mud online around the clock - or to have it hosted somewhere that will do that for you. Usual fees for this hosting service range from (USD) $10 - $30 a month depending on the services provided by the host. This is not an absolute range since larger muds tend to pay more to be hosted (but a new mud usually doesn’t need that level of service), and some people find places that will host their mud for free (but this is not the usual case).

Once you have determined why you want to run a mud, that you have the necessary skills and willingness to put in the time required to make the mud successful, and that you are willing to spend the money necessary, then you are ready to start working on creating your mud. If you have been honest in this process, I wish you the best of luck with high hopes for an enjoyable, long-term experience.

Jack Thornton runs a web site with information on how to deal with being an administrator for a mud style game.