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Reviewing Muds

by Selina Kelley

Reviewing muds is not fun. Ok, I'm lying, it is fun, but it depends on the Mud. I've had my share of crappy and not-so-crappy Muds, and have had myself placed between the proverbial (and uncomfortable) rock and a hard place. It's difficult to write a review about a Mud when the only reaction you have is Ewww!
A nice bokken

Always handy when reviewing a mud.

I'm normally a blunt person, but the ramifications of a bad review are always first and foremost in my mind. Not only do I have to take into account whether the bad part of the Mud is because of my personal taste, or because it's just bad, but I also have to think about what happens when I give an "official" negative review. If I'm mistaken in an assessment, not only is it difficult to retract, but as well as damaging the Mud it also damages my reputation as a reviewer.

I must admit I've received some pretty nasty emails and, surprisingly, it's not normally from the Administrators of the Mud I've reviewed. Rather, I've had the pleasure of reading some pretty vicious attacks from a Mud's players, and even its disgruntled ex-players. The latest experience that comes to mind is when I submitted a review for XMud (name of Mud withheld), and received a lovely hotmail email from a disgruntled ex-player, cussing at me because I gave the Mud a favorable review (fancy that!).

So, I find my ethos tends more toward carry a big stick. Heat in the kitchen is an understatement in some cases, so you have to learn to roll with the flow (or flame, for that matter). If nothing else, be extremely thick-skinned and don't lie. Some people cannot understand constructive criticism, and any negative aspect of their Mud you point out will be seen as a direct attack, but regardless of their reaction, you should never fudge the truth to soften the blow.

Calling it as you see it has its drawbacks, but it has a good side too. I've received grateful emails from wizards and/or administrator letting me know that what I had discussed in my review meant something to them. One such mud changed most of the negative aspects I mentioned in my review almost immediately, mailing me an update in less than a week. It's always good to know that what you've written about a mud has not been taken in the wrong light, and even further, the staff were willing to do something about the negative parts as quickly as possible.

Like I said, I'm normally a blunt person, but I'm also aware that the average administrator of a mud has probably spent the greater part of the last couple years working on what I just logged into. To summarily dismiss the mud as "bad" because it does not meet my taste would be unfair, but sometimes it can be very difficult to give an unbiased view. As an example, lets take the infamous Xmud again. I read most mud boards and newsgroups, and in the past the mud in question had been a hot topic of (generally negative) debate. Whilst I tried to walk into the review process with an unbiased look, the thoughts of 20-30 other people was always in the back of my mind. The final review? Positive, but it was a difficult decision to make. I could see hints of what people had been talking about on the boards and groups, but without the proof of directly experiencing it, I could not in clear conscience condemn the mud for that alone. As far as my other criteria went, they met it, and that's what I based the review on.

I've received both good and bad feedback for the reviews I've written, and even some hefty flames. I've also received requests to return to the mud and check up on it, and I accept such requests with pleasure. To be a good reviewer you have to learn the difficult task of evaluating a mud solely on the experiences you gain while on there.

You can't rely on another person's opinion, and that's not what I'm asking you to do when you read my reviews. Instead, a review is meant as a hopefully unbiased guideline on how a particular mud runs, plays and walks(!). Regardless of how I may or may not be burned by it, I consider it an accomplishment when I complete a review as honestly as possible. As corny as it sounds, if I let myself be swayed because of nasty, or even super-nice brown-nosing emails, then I would not be doing the mud community justice.

So, flame away disgruntled administrator, players, ex-players, uncles, aunts and dogs next door. My sugarcoated magic shell will just bounce your flames away.

Selina Kelley is one of the tirelessly working members of The Mud Connectors review team.