Sunday, September 25, 2011

For the Love of the Game (And Its Players)

Dear players,

The other day I was watching a conversation happening on the Dark Risings ooc channel regarding the players' right to complain, and the reasons (as understood by a few players) that mud developers do what they do. It got me to thinking, and I decided this might be the most appropriate atmosphere to express my own thoughts on the matter, should anyone be interested in hearing from the horse's mouth, what the horse might think (as opposed to listening to an ass speculate about it. Zing!).

I remember someone once saying that the only reason to be a mud developer is for pure joy of doing it. And there is some truth in that: I think most people tend to take up as hobbies activities which they enjoy. There's a reason I'm not a golfer. (It has something to do with bowling balls.)

But, there is a huge difference between being a happy little developer crafting your mud with your buddies and goofing around as you do it, and spending six years running an live, active mud with hundreds of players, each of whom has his own ideas about where the game should go.

It's a strange catch-22, in a way. Working on a mud that is closed to the public is highly enjoyable for me because I can do whatever I want on it without having to worry about making changes that the players might not like. But I get lonesome there, and I tend to lose steam when I'm not receiving any player feedback.

Working on a live, active mud coming up on its 13-year-anniversary (and that is 13 years of constant uptime, complete with playerbase for its entire run), the challenges and the rewards are completely different. Much of the joy I experience while building my own private mud is absent, because I can't just do whatever I think would make the game cool -- I can't rip out races I don't like, or change skills so radically that it would require a pwipe. Dark Risings is not in beta, I have way too much respect for the game and its players to pull something like that. I love seeing players come back after two or three or seven years away from the game, and be able to pick up right where they left off (though with cool new features to discover).

So that pure unadulterated joy of developing a game for the sake of developing a game is not there. This is not to say that I don't love being an implementor for an active game. I do -- and I love it not because of it's gratifying to see what I have built, as with my own private game, but because it's gratifying to see people enjoy what I have built. I get off on that, man. Seeing people explore areas I've retooled, hearing someone comment on some little scare or bonus or trick or easter egg I put in: that's where that joy comes in, and when I am full of joy, I feel very creative and want to write and build and make and create more things for the mud.

I am not implying that I wish all players would try to kiss ass. That behaviour is actually quite off-putting for me, because I don't like having to try to guess which features you enjoy, and which ones you are typing super fantastic things about with your knuckles. (Because in real life your fists are clenched. In rage.)

What I like best is honest feedback, tactfully given. I want the mud to be the best that it can be. I take pride in how refined it has become over the years, and the more players who are willing to help out with things like constructive criticism, insightful comments, and the generation of ideas, the better.

That's why it can be really disheartening for me to get nothing but complaints from a player. I'm not talking about people who are good enough to point out minor little typos or major oversights, especially the exploitable kind. I certainly respect the need to hear that kind of thing, and if possible I will usually fix it on the spot. I appreciate tact because, like most creative people, I am sensitive about my work. I know that negative comments are often made for the betterment of the game; it's my preference to have them said kindly rather than with malice.

No, it's the players whose favourite thing to do is log in and complain about how much everything sucks that bug me: classes they can't figure out how to use suck, areas they pushed through while having room descriptions off suck, the helpfiles suck, the staff sucks, I suck. I will never understand why these people keep coming back to DR when there are thousand other muds out there, but they do, if only to sit in the same safe room for hours at a time telling everyone how much the game sucks -- even if they haven't actually played it for years.

I'm not saying that these bozos make me throw my computer across the room in a fit of blind fury or anything like that. (Maybe that one time.) I recognize that some of them have issues from before I was even playing the game, let alone running it, that some of them are not particularly well-suited to the kind of game we are crafting here, and that some of them are just trolling. It is the internet, after all.

I guess ultimately what I want to say is this.

Genuine positive comments make us happy and give us the creative energy to put in new features. Constructive criticism helps those new features be the best they can be. Thoughtless complaints sap that energy away and make us want to take a break from the mud for a while. You have the right to complain, just like we have the right to nochannel you if we get tired of hearing your complaints.

Ideally there should be restraint and respect on both sides, and we can all work together to make DR into something more than any one person can do alone (preferably while holding hands and singing some Dylan, also while riding ponies with sparkly butterflies or rainbows on their flanks -- but I guess not everyone has to share those preferences).



Wouldn't it be cool if a law guild had the ability to gather evidence of crimes? Things like: follow a blood trail to find the room a KO took place in; figure out the race and class of victim and criminal; figure out the method of murder (scalp, feast, etc). I think it would.