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I try to make it sound as matter-of-fact as I can in its text form. I do like to talk, to everyone, about everything. However, this is about muds, not my motor mouth. To tie these two things together, I offer up this very muddy anecdote. Last summer, I received a copy of code and some instructions to continue its development and eventually put it on the net. I worked on it, and eventually got it up on a free server thanks to some friendly connections. All in all, it was a stable set of code. Unfortunately, the stability was tested with only one builder building and one implementor, me, walking around looking at room descriptions.
Not quite a mouth, but what a motor...
Naturally, I had already advertised for us on the MC, so players started coming in. When they came in, I started talking, and the mud started crashing. With my natural tendency to be talkative in control I immediately transported to everyone that logged in, followed them around and told them what was to be going in, what had gone in and what was in but wasn't working. I discussed my gaming theories with people, talked about area distribution and other such muddy things. Low and behold almost everyone stuck around. It's like they couldn't leave, despite the constant crashes, inept quests (mainly due to the crashes), lack of areas (going all original in the beginning is tough!), and the almost total lack of skills/spells right in the beginning, (that was fixed quickly). For more than a month we had a steady playerbase, until I began to fall ill, and with me the mud.
The point of my account is to open up the forum to discuss the importance of talking to your players. This goes for administrators at every level. Builders shouldn't build, coders shouldn't code and imps should certainly not implement unless they talk to their players. To me, it just makes sense. Originally, I wasn't even going to write this article, I thought it was one of those "duh" things, but apparently, it isn't.
Everyone seems to wonder what the key to establishing a playerbase is. How do you keep those, "quit after typing the who command" players who don't want to play a mud that has less than 10 people logged in on a 24-hour basis? Talking is the key.
Now this isn't to say that I suggest the head imp stay logged in and yapping for days on end. There is no way any of us could accomplish that; I'm assuming most of us work for a living. I'm also not suggesting you develop an intricate bot to simulate your attendance, although I'm still working on that social AI program so I can leave such matters up to the computer while I code more. As long as you dedicate any online time to also talking, this will work. It is possible; I've done it. Every time I logged in to code or build, since I coded online, I also logged into the mud. When someone entered, thanks to Zmud, I went on to see who it was, say hello, and possibly start yapping, depending on how stagnant s(he) was.
That's all it takes, and it would seem to me that this is the solution to many problems mud imps experience in the infancies of their games. I didn't have enough areas, and I still kept those "too high to level" characters logged in because I sat down and talked with them. There were no skill lists, at one point, so I talked to people about what they would get once I got those skill lists functional. They still leveled, despite the lack of a "goal" or advancement of skills.
It's almost like what a politician does. You tell everyone what hasn't been done and what you intend to do about it. Of course, unlike most politicians, you should actually try to accomplish those goals.
April 2000 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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