Builder Tips and Tricks (part I)
by Xani October 18, 2002
The art of building enjoyable and imaginative areas, where players will actually take the time to read the room descriptions and not plow through without a thought to their 'surroundings', is not as hard as it may seem. One important factor is consistency, you cannot be the only builder on your mud that will use the ideas presented here (and there are many others, brainstorming works wonders in groups). Once your player base gets into the habit of being able to zip through an area without taking the time to actually read much more that the exits it will be hard to get them to change. So working with ideas such as these should be a mud wide project.
The first trick is the use of color, and yes this is a highly debated subject. I have played on single color muds, and I have played on muds where color was highly used. My personal preference is color used in moderation, to highlight something the player should take note of, or to help get new players in the habit of looking for 'extra descs' [extra descriptions - used to describe things within a room that may or may not be mentioned in the room's description]. Each person has their own preference when it comes to the use of color and I am not saying my way is the right way, but in my experience as a builder I have found that color can be an effective tool for accomplishing certain tasks such as drawing a player's attention to something.
The Second trick is the use of extra descs to hide clues for where a player should go or what a player should do next. If you haven't been using such and suddenly start your player base may have some trouble adjusting at first, but once they realize that they have to slow down and actually look/read where they are going it will become much more challenging and enjoyable for them. Along the same lines, every mob and object should have a description, place clues in them as well, perhaps to an in area quest that they must complete.
That leads me to my next tip, most if not all areas should have some sort of quest within it, even if it is something as simple (and cheesy) as getting back a dragons' lucky coin so it will stop attacking a neighboring town, in return the dragon may even give you a key to a secret chest that holds great treasure (treasure and or reward up to you). Things like this will add life to your areas, and yes the players can still go in and just kill, maim and plunder, but in the long run most will run it as you intended.
Another tip/trick is the use of progs in conjunction with the quest idea (or not) [progs is a term used for a pseudo or mini program that can be attached to some object, room or npc]. Progs can bring feeling and life to an area, instead of just reading the desc there are actual 'events' happening around the player, and depending on the prog the player can stay an observer or 'join in' and actually play the area. Something as simple as a room prog (timed/hour) where a washerwoman accidently dumping water on the player from a second story window as they walk along a street can add life to an area.
Description length is one of the places I am very picky about when it comes to rooms. Every room should have its own description, not cut and pasted copies of the last 20 rooms. The only exception would be mazes as the sameness adds to the maze itself. Other than mazes though doing such will quickly get your players back to the zipping through areas and not reading a thing. Also, descriptions of less than four lines barely have the room to describe anything where on the opposite end of the scale descriptions with longer than ten lines (and ten is pushing it) have the danger of the player no longer reading halfway through the zone and just ignoring the remaining rooms and any other large room desc that you come up with.
My last trick is one that I use and it takes a dedicated builder, and one that has access to the area (approval from headbuilder is usually required) after it is installed. Once a month go back through your area and change a few things. I'm not talking about the difficulty of the area, perhaps just change the quest or switch some exits about or some descriptions and see how fast or if at all the changes are noticed. This practice will also help you gauge if what you are doing is making them slow down and actually read.
All in all these are just suggestions, and to be used or not at your own discretion. Try a few or all, I would like to hear from you if you do decide to use them as to your results. If you would like to talk/inquire about other ideas or more in-depth on the ones I touched on briefly I can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Builder Tips and Tricks (part I) - copyright © 2002 by Xani - All rights reserved.