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When you initially start a mud you need to make some decisions about where you wish to go. A common problem with muds is that someone starts one without a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve. This affects the whole atmosphere of the mud, making it chaotic and less directed.
Once you have decided what sort of mud you wish to create, you need to decide which sort of mud driver you would like to use. The different sorts of mud drivers work better with different styles of muds. It is also possible that none of the drivers out there fit your needs and you need to write a new one altogether. Since the user interface effects how the player perceives the game and the sort of atmosphere the game has; it is important to choose the correct driver for the theme, not the other way around. For example, for Discworld I chose the lpMud driver because it was very flexible. However I did not like any of the mudlibs out in the lpMud world at the time and so wrote my own. By writing my own mudlib I was able to heavily customise the interface to make it appear how I wanted it to appear. The trouble with prepackaged libraries is they already have a look and feel built in. I think overall Discworld has a very consistent feel and this is because we knew that we were after a light hearted humourous mud right from the start.
Now you have a driver, it is compiled and you have your idea and it is documented. Neato, so what now? Well, how many people are working with you on the project? How many people do you think are likely to continue working with you on the project after a couple of weeks? Starting a mud is a very lonely business, you can probably guarantee that you will spend months without anyone else online or anyone helping you much at all. You need to expect this and prepare for it, however if you are coding with a group of friends it is a lot easier. It is quite hard to write in isolation for 6 months without anyone else even turning up for more than a few minutes, however the rewards in the end can be quite good. As an example, Discworld had no players on it and no other coders at all (to speak of) for about 9 months. After about 9 months some coders started to turn up and the player base gradually grew larger.
Once you start coding your mud it is a good idea to make your theme as obvious as possible. Make sure that everything reminds the players of the sort of atmosphere and theme you are trying to create. This will hopefully help attract the sort of players you are looking for. Remember also, that while the basic code itself does have an effect on players, the quality of your descriptions and help files is by far the most influential thing a player will see on your mud and these together define your muds atmosphere.
Remember to avoid over-extending yourself - do not work on so much stuff at once that you become overwhelmed and never get around to doing any of it. If you have people working with you, try to keep the channels of who is responsible for what clear. This helps stop you from being snowed under by questions and makes the people in charge of various areas happier because they feel they really do have control of them. If you have too many domains and not enough creators then you will reach a point where nothing at all happens and people don't want to code because the person in charge they want to reach never logs on any more. This happened on Discworld once, so we cut back on the number of open domains and concentrated on the ones which were already sort of there. It helped a lot, although we never got around to re-opening one of those domains.
If you are thinking of starting a mud, think carefully, plan ahead and Remember not to over extend yourself.
October 1998 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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