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I have been a developer for quite a few years now. On muds, I am more often than not the coder, not the player. I have always found it difficult to play on muds where I "know how it works" so to speak. The glamour and the glitz that was there when I was "just" a player has seldom returned when I play a mud.
However, recently, I have (re)grown quite fond of a mud I played for a while around 3 years ago. I achieved almost "super hero" status back then, only to lose interest and stop leveling, logging in to read the boards only. It is interesting now, then, to see the changes that have taken affect since I last played. Not just in game play, although many things changed there (including a 10% reduction of all gold, ouch!), but in the atmosphere, the general player populace, and the interaction between everyone and anyone.
The life-cycle of a flea.
Not to say that the changes are good or bad, in fact they are neither, but it is always noteworthy to return to a place you have not really "been to" for a long time and to see what has been changed.
It is definitely hard to return to the game, I had to start a new character, since I would have forgotten how to play my high level character (and have no wish for death), and I did not know a whole lot of the people that were online. I was no longer in a clan, so I lacked clan benefits, and in general it was pretty lonely.
What made it fun again, though, was that I brought a friend along and we started leveling together. Even when we were not partying, it was always comforting to know that someone else was around your level, probably experience the same difficulties as I was- I would definitely recommend "bringing a friend" to any new (or old) mud you start in.
It is hard to switch to playing again once you have been a coder, but sometimes it can be even harder to switch back to coding once lure back into the playing arena. I find myself relaxing more over killing a few NPCs than coding a new feature for the mud I am on-- and sure, in some ways that made sense, but 6 months ago it was the direct opposite.
Basically I think that most people run in "cycles" in regards to mudding. You get a long cycle of coding, then switch to a cycle of playing-- without a little of both every so often it is quite possible to get very burned out. Hopefully after this spate of playing, I will be refreshed and back into coding again- and there is always the possibility that I will gain some ideas by becoming a player again. If nothing else I will regain the understanding of what it is like to be a player.
So, for all you administrators out there, I heavily advise this: Never stop playing. Take breaks, sure, but always make sure to involve yourself in your mud (or others) as a normal "average-joe" player. It is a good learning experience, and it is a handy way to get back into "sync" with how your mud runs, or a great way to get new ideas on what to code. An administrator who does not play ultimately runs the risk of losing the grasp of the players idea of "fun".
October 2000 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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