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.


  1. Isn't it par for the course to have a form of channel muting where the chatter sees themselves chatting away normally, but no-one else sees them? That seems to be a fairly easy thing to do to people who just log on to complain.

    I can understand their frustration though. Playing a MUD is a bit like being blind, you type stuff with a little guidance but it's all not very well documented or clear on how it should be used. And why should it be? There's only so much energy and attention span to go around, and you can only polish so much in each direction.

  2. I LOVE the idea at the end on the law guild. Thing that would be great to implement.

  3. Well, hell, everything you've said here just makes me want to play in any world you create that much more. lol No empty flattery, just truth.

    I really like this mud (DR), and I've only been playing it I have about 70/30 explorer/pk inclinations, so the areas have been super fun to traipse around in. Shaunsdown is solid work, and has a ton of interesting awesome in it. Arcaenum Keep, where the challenge to open closed doors is irresistable, and sometimes maddening, is great. I hope that when you do manage to pull players into your universe, these are the things we'll find there.

    Other things like character interaction and rp style; that can only be made better by the players themselves. I have a lot of faith in the players I've met and chatted with IC, though. They like to put their 2 cents into a solid storyline. Have faith in the good ones. ;)

    In any case, whatever you do, I think it's great that you're still doing it.


  4. I think people get more venomous and moody because they don't feel heard. It seems to them that their ideas or complaints fall on deaf ears, and to a certain extent they do. That's both their fault and yours, because there is really no conversation between staff and mortals unless the Imm is incog on OOC and then you don't even know who you're really talking to.

    A mort may post an idea which is to them simple and good for the mud, but this will go on the idea board and may not be responded to, unacknowledged and finally fall off. The imps may have a very good reason for not liking the idea, or thinking it's impractical, but there is absolutely no dialogue between you and us. The result is a feeling of ignorance on our side, and eventually a feeling of anger on yours when we feel unheard.

    Far be it from the imps to respond to every idea - that's ridiculous. But there could be some kind of monthly forum, q&a or something where there is just honest talk between the two groups. Or even a voting system on the month's best ideas - Ones that people would like a response to.

    What do you think?

    To be honest, it would be nice to get a response to this one. :)

  5. It's always strange for me to hear comments like this because from my perspective, I try hard to communicate with players about their ideas, and to implement ones we feel are good (or at least add them to the list of things to think about adding). I make a point of being vis if I am talking on channels (as does Parviane), and we will often post our ideas to the board to get player responses on them before we decide which direction to go in on a particular feature.

    Now all of that said, you're right that we can't respond to every idea, and we tend to ignore ideas that have come up in the past, assuming that other players will explain why they won't work (as is usually the case).

    I have also been spending a lot of time wizi lately simply because I have a lot of projects on the go, and it's a choice between staying wizi and getting them done, or going vis and having time just slip away as I chat with players. I like doing both, but sometimes I just want to put my head down and get some work done.

    I think the very best thing you can do to get your ideas heard, and to get feedback on them, is to talk to Lee or me directly on the game. If I'm vis, send me an otell and ask if I have a few minutes to chat; if I'm not, then send a note to admin asking for some time. Also, don't be afraid to bring something up more than once -- I have a notoriously bad memory, and I get roughly 20 notes a day, so things can slip away from me if I don't have time to deal with them immediately.

    Hope this helps somewhat :)

  6. I like to complain on OOC all the time. I also like to flood OOC with nonsensical things... Where the hell was I that day?! Damn it! :(