The Builder Proposal
- 1 LONG TERM DEPARTMENTAL GOALS
- 2 I. BECOMING A BUILDER
- 3 A. What Do Builders Do?
- 4 B. Suggesting an Idea
- 5 C. Writing a Proposal
- 6 A. The Area Itself
- 7 B. Hometowns vs. Other Areas
- 8 C. The Rooms:
- 9 D. The Mobiles or NPCs
- 10 E. The Objects
- 11 F. The Quests
- 12 G. Formatting and What a Proposal Should Include
LONG TERM DEPARTMENTAL GOALS
To make Legend capable of supporting 150 players, taking full advantage of the code and showcasing it to best effect, and that all areas be cohesive, well-designed, and balanced.
In other words:
- Make sure all areas use all code features as applicable
- Work with coders to ensure comprehensive and accurate docs
- Maintain all areas and fix all problems found
- Enrich the world with increased depth
- Add increased detail in all acts and conversations, quest hints where appropriate, and greater interactivity
- Make hometowns that welcome and draw in new players
- Supervise the overall balance of the mud
- Build upon previous efforts using inheritance & attachable acts
- Include history help files for all areas
- Revise an old area for every new area installed
- Pay greater attention to under represented areas of the mud
I. BECOMING A BUILDER
A. What Do Builders Do?
Builders on LegendMUD are responsible for the maintenance of the current areas on the mud and the addition of new areas. All builders are expected to generate at least one new area, some others will be doing both maintenance and building at the same time. Builders are also responsible for much of the work going into fight messages, skill messages, and other things that get transmitted to the player characters.
What kind of programming skills are involved in building an area? We've put up a sample area file, that while not complete by any means, it should serve to give you a rough idea of what you would be creating from a blank file. Many of the areas on LegendMUD are well over 200k text files.
LegendMUD's maintainers also agree to the following principles concerning copyright of areas:
1) Copyright ownership remains with the author(s) of an area. 2) The author(s) grants the maintainers of LegendMUD (hereafter referred to as simply LegendMUD) a permanent, non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use and modify as needed the version installed into the public running version of LegendMUD as well as all subsequent versions submitted for installation. 3) Under no circumstances will the author(s) retain the right to dictate the continued use of or the way an installed area is used by LegendMUD.
However, any and all modifications to an installed area, whether by the original author(s) or another member of LegendMUD's immortal staff, are to be done in a manner that preserves the original intent and feel of the area. Modifications -- other than immediately required changes to stop the game from crashing or to limit exploitation of unbalancing elements -- done by a LegendMUD staff member other than the original author(s) will done with a reasonable attempt made to contact the author(s) concerning the necessity for such modifications when current contact information is known, unless ongoing maintenance of the area has been turned over to LegendMUD by the author(s).
The author(s) will be credited for their work on areas via the areas command. The author(s) may request that their credit to be altered to "original implementation by ...." in the area's areainfo section if they feel that their intent and vision for the area has not been maintained to their satisfaction.
All areas installed should be compliant with the spirit of LegendMUD's Immortal Code of Conduct. If they are not, modifications to make them so, follow the same provisions.
4) Conversely, LegendMUD claims no right to exclusivity. The author(s) is free to use his or her work at his or her discretion outside of LegendMUD, unless used in conjunction with an unauthorized copy/derivative of the LegendMUD software engine.
5) LegendMUD will never distribute areas unless specific permission to do so is granted by the author(s), and will refer any requests for same to the author(s), when current contact information is known. If current contact information is not known for the author(s) and permission not previously granted, such areas will not be distributed.
Like the immort code of conduct, if you do not agree with these principles, you will not be accepted as a member of the immortal staff.
B. Suggesting an Idea
Before you expend a lot of effort on developing a proposal for an area, be sure to check with the head builder or imps to see if the idea will fly. It may contain something else someone is working on already; it may be something that has been suggested before and turned down. It may not be feasible because of an overconcentration of similar areas in a small space; there may not be any place to connect to the area. It is also a good idea to get a feeling for what the mud needs as far as areas and area design.
C. Writing a Proposal
If your idea gets an 'ok' from the head builder (or imp if there is no current head builder), go ahead and start researching and writing the proposal. After this section of the file is a detailed explanation of what goes in a proposal and what things to consider. You should keep this file handy even after beginning work on your area, as it has many important design considerations.
1. Proposal Pre-Evaluation
Proposals may be turned into the head builder (or imp if there is no current head builder) before an official submission for reviewal. The head builder will _only_ check to make sure that all elements are present in the proposal. The head builder will not comment on area design, the actual text of the proposal itself, just seeing that all the cards are in order. The head builder will not proofread the document before hand, but may make formatting suggestions.
2. Area Proposal Rejection
Sometimes area proposals are rejected. Feedback about the reason for the proposal's rejection will be given by the head builder when that proposal is returned. There are many factors that go into the consideration of an area file including quality of writing, feasibility and interest level of the ideas, and need for that particular area. Sometimes a rejection is due to more subjective reasons including how well you deal with other people, how you behaved as a player, and whether or not the immortals feel you will fit into the team. Also, since acceptance means passing a 2/3 majority weighted vote, a "rejection" may simply mean that you didn't get enough imms enthusiastic about your idea. The Head Builder can give you suggestions for improvement, if you are interested in applying again.
3. Area Proposal Acceptance
The process by which a proposal is evaluated is described in the document entitled, "The Immort Proposal Review Process." You should already have read about this process, but if not, please do so now.
Some of the questions submitted to you during the "Reading & Commenting" phase may have to do with your willingness to change parts of your area proposal that are unworkable. If these changes are of a modest scope, and/or the imms can suggest to you how to fix the problem, this gives you a chance to improve your proposal in mid-process. You should not feel pressured to agree to any suggested changes you dislike or which go against your vision for the area, however. While the questions and suggestions imms have for you may help you improve your proposal, they also just help us find out more about you and your area in general... questions should not be treated like a laundry list of "if you do these things we will immort you".
If your proposal is accepted, you are informed by the head builder, and will undergo a few stages of "immortalization", which includes the change to level 52, orientation about your new commands and responsibilities as an imm, and specific orientation about the building tools and documentation. You begin work on your area as soon as you have enough information to do so.
There are a series of stages that an area goes through on its road to completion. These stages are PRE-ALPHA, ALPHA, BETA, REVIEW, and FINAL. The goal for area building is to show consistent progress at a level that qualifies you for being an active building imm. Obviously we'd like good areas as fast as we can get them, but we are pragmatists (and we know how long some of our own areas have taken). Any problems you have as far as needing new code to make a new area function should be brought to the attention of the head builder who will get these things installed for you. The stages are as follows:
- Pre-alpha - An area in this stage has a basic frame, a few rooms, maybe a few items and mobs.
- Alpha - An area in this stage is about 50% complete, with some working quests and most rooms done.
- Beta - The area is almost complete, with most everything functioning.
- Review - The area has gone in a state of review by which it will be debugged and tested by a team of immortals, spell checked, etc, and basically getting ready to be put in.
- Install - An area is ready to be put on the main mud, but may be waiting for a key code component, or just a friendly immortal who can reboot the mud.
Areas may occassionally bounce back and forth between these stages, especially the latter ones (beta/review/install). When an area is installed, you are advanced to full builder status. What follows is a description of all parts that should be included in an area proposal.
II. THE AREA PROPOSAL
A. The Area Itself
You probably already know EXACTLY what kind of area you want. Before you run out and begin deep research the second you hit level 45, look around. What distinguishes your area from the ones already installed? What will it offer new for players to do? Talk to an imp or the head builder and see if there is any interest in such an area, or if it fits in with the rest of the mud. The geographical location and time period will tell you much about the type of area that it will become. Are the people close to nature or are they environmentally incorrect? Is there a strong tradition of magic in the time period you want? How civilized were the people then? What level of technology did they use? Was the culture warlike? After you've decided on when and where you want to make an area, the next choice is 'Who is this area for?' If the bulk of your area is a town you may want to consider offering it up as a hometown.
B. Hometowns vs. Other Areas
Is it going to be a hometown*? How close would it be to the hometowns already in the game? What makes it special? If you, the head builder or the imp decides a hometown isn't what the mud needs right now your job is actually much easier and more flexible. You can decide to have an area that people quake in their boots when they hear the mere mention of its name. But it should be obviously so, and well marked at the entrance at such. That way you're covered. if people decide to ingore your warnings, you don't have to even consider reimbursing them for their own folly. Or your could make an area that is heavy on quests and puzzles. You could chose for the NPCs there to be either totally pacifists or just not have the quest completable for long extended periods of time if a vital mob is killed. Don't plan an area that is all quests or all hack n slash, however, as that simply means you are choosing to leave players out; you want your area to have enough depth to appeal to all sorts of players. (*Currently, we are not adding any new hometowns to the game. You may choose to design your proposal so your area is hometown-eligible, however.)
You'll probably want a mix of the two. But in either case you should decide on the overall moral quality of the inhabitants. Are they all good, law abiding citizens? A den of cut-throats and thieves bent on only their own evil ways? Or are they all boring run of the mill every day folk who are neither inherently good nor inherently evil? or maybe they just have a few tendencies in one direction or the other. You'll most likely end up with a mix of alignments, with saints, demons and joe average, just like real life.
C. The Rooms:
One of the most distinguishing features of a mud and even an individual area is the FEEL of the place. Does the place drip with atmosphere as you walk through it? This can be accomplished through a variety of ways. The easiest and most over-looked is probably the room descriptions.
Another consideration is the SCALE of the place. Are players going to have to walk thru room after room of similiar places like Along the Great Wall of China for too long? There are other ways than repeating rooms to convey great distances. Long room descriptions can make for crowded, busy rooms, or a sense of time taken to travel the distance of the room. When combined with a higher move cost the illusion of a larger distance is compacted into fewer rooms.
This leads right into variety. You want a variety of rooms so that people don't get too bored that first time they read your room descriptions. Also, a flat gridded map is more predictable and calls for less use of skills than a varied, "three-dimensional" map which is harder to map on paper but provides many more nooks and crannies and interesting places to hide, explore and escape.
Mazes are often rendered ridiculous. We're not immune to that either. But plain garden variety hedge mazes also get boring and predictable. Perhaps you could add elements of surprise by incorporating false leads, traps, hidden exits, and unsuspected twists and turns. Repetition of room titles, descriptions and exits does not a good maze necessarily make.
D. The Mobiles or NPCs
The non-player characters (NPCs), or mobs as they are commonly called aren't just fodder. They are what drive quests, what hand out hints, what should provide interaction without having to have an immortal switch into them or force them to do things. With the complex acts system here, the possibilities are nearly endless. But if every NPC had the same number of hit points, same pat responses, and approach, players would quickly become bored.
When designing your area you should make a list of all possible NPCs, probably a few more than you think is feasible just to have something to choose from, or even work on later. Areas on the whole should be open to anyone, but recommended level ranges are not unheard of. You should try to spread out levels represented as well as alignments unless your area is undeniable skewed in one direction or the other. Also don't just load 20 of the same mobs and figure it's good enough. Variety is the spice of any adventurer's life - Mobiles with different fight tactics, or ones that are more or less susceptible to different tactics are more attractive to everyone, and won't cater to just one specific character type.
For your "unique" NPCs determine before hand what type of person they are going to be. How will they interact with players? Other NPCs? With their surroundings? What are their special quirks that make them unique? Almost anything you can think of can be done with the MOB ACTS system.
E. The Objects
Before you create any objects or assign them any values read over the guidelines carefully and look around at many of the items already in the game. Consistency will help create diversity in the mud. By having an aesthetic choice between two sets of equipment that are otherwise identical, players will be better able to play their role. It gets pretty monotonous when everyone is wearing the same 'Approved Set of Equipment' instead of being individuals. Also, remember that duplicating popular pieces of equipment as quest rewards allows you to reduce the rent on that item, making your area an instant fashion success. New equipment should vary as well as balance with what's already there. Say the average plain sword in the game does an average of 1d10 damage and weighs 10 kg. You shouldn't necessarily think to yourself, 'Bah, that's silly. My sword is going to be MUCH better than that.' Guidelines are such for a reason, helping provide stability and a degree of predicatability to the game that otherwise escalates in a twisted game of one-up-manship. Powerful does mean popular, but doesn't mean it should be widely available. It should be powerful because it's special, not everyone has one, and goes beyond the ordinary in some fashion. But the average should be kept within the established guidelines, not continually exceed them.
When deciding how widely available a given item should be you need to consider if it can or even should be sold in shops or to them. If it's a quest item that you expect people to get for themselves, it probably shouldn't be auctionable. Also, you can limit long term usefulness by making items timed. If you really think the item will be the equivalent of dynamite in players' hands, you can opt to make it immune to the preservation spell.
F. The Quests
Each area must have at least one quest of some sort, though it doesn't have to be a major one like the Arabian or Seoni ones. You may also choose to have several other smaller, easier ones. Many players who began on mushes prefer questing to hacking and slashing all the time. Give everyone something to do! Almost anything you come up with can be worked out in MOB ACTS or ROOM ACTS. If not, we'll either make an addition to the code so you can, or help you come up with a way to work around the problem and get the same effect.
Find uses for those nasty skills you regretted learning as a mortal! Make the steps unique! Let the mobs choose from a variety of options that will set the quest in motion, complete a step, or signal completion. Have it only accept one at a time. Make it so people must work their way through the quest themselves and not have it done for them so that they have earned the rewards, not just jumped through the hoops that someone else held up for them. Give the quest random or different endings. Quests with random elements, especially if the reward is very good, will be preferred over a quest that a person can be lead through, or easily use cheat pages for.
Try to make sure the reward matches the difficulty of the quest. If you want your reward to be the most powerful piece of equipment in the game, it best be DAMN hard to get and not be able to be gotten for just anyone. And once they get one? Should they REALLY be able to get another to sell to all their friends and newcomers?
G. Formatting and What a Proposal Should Include
The following sections should be present in all proposals, but need not be in any particular order as long as the chosen order is logical.
- 1. Period Overview - This section should include a history of the area, what makes it interesting, what makes it unique. This need not be an essay on the area that would make a college professor drool, but it should give an overall sense of an understanding of the area and how that area can be interesting in a gaming sense.
- 2. An Overview Map - A large-scale map noting major areas should be given, with an approximate number of rooms assigned to each area. Keep in mind that most if not all areas get 100 rooms, 99 which are usable as one is reserved for a map room. Links to areas currently in LegendMUD should also be noted here.
A good example of an ASCII map are the hometown maps in the game already. Stop and take a look at one if you're unsure of how to make yours.
- 3. Links to LegendMUD - A detail of which rooms might attach to which rooms, or general area connections should be noted here, as well as in the overview map.
- 4. Sample Room Descriptions - A proposal should contain at least five of these, possibly more if you feel so inclined. Rooms should be formatted as they would be read on LegendMUD, which means 79 characters wide, with room titles and single spaces after periods. Rooms should rarely indicate in their descriptions that the character is travelling one direction or another, as they may be entering the room from different directions. Also, rooms should give a feeling for how people would see it at that time, rooms should rarely be walk through history lessons. Also you may want to consider other atmospheric details of rooms including smells, sounds, feelings, etc. Also it would be good to note anything special that might happen in the room, if anything at all.
- 5. Sample Mob Descriptions - A good number of the mobs should be given, but at least 5 mobs should be more than an outline noting the following:
Short Description: What the mob looks like when doing an action.
Long Description: What the mob looks like when you see him/her in a room.
Extended Description: What a mob looks like when you look at them.
Level of the Mobile:
History of the Mobile:
Function of the Mobile:
Any Special Acts or Skills:
What, If Anything, Does This Mob Teach:
Another list of mobs, the frequency of occurances (how many there will be at any given time), their level and whatnot may also be given. But again, at least 5 mobs shou ld be detailed as above.
- 6. Sample Item Descriptions - A good number of items should be given, but at least 5 items should be more than an outline, noting the following:
Short Description: What it looks like in actions and while worn.
Long Description: What it looks like while laying on the ground.
Extended Description: What it looks like when you examine it.
Effects: What effects, if any, does this item have.
You may wish to include very mundane items in this, ones that have no stat bonuses, in order to convey a sense of what the generic objects in the area might feel like. Mundane items can be attractive to players that frequently make use of mundane coupons. You may wish to refrain from giving specific numbers in the effects section, but a general feel for what the item might do, as you do not yet know the guidelines under which items are designed. Name any housing accessories you may wish to include in your area as well.
- 7. A List of Unique Features of the Area - Why is your area unique? What sets is apart from the other areas in the game? Examples could be the unique features of Viking Scandinavia being an isolated farmstead settlement instead of raiders, or all the ethnically named mobs. It could also be the use of the acts system that sets it apart, such as the baseball game in Pittsburgh, or the Assassins in Crusades.
- 8. Quests - At least one major quest should be given, in a detailed form, noting step by step how one might go through the quest. You can give more than one quest here, but make sure they fit into the overall design of the area.
Some things you might want to think about:
–Having multiple ways of finishing quests can be interesting to players, and should be considered strongly for any major quest.
–How will players know this quest is here, or where to start?
–Places where multiple characters may be needed to finish part of a quest or the whole quest. These quests are great in that they enhance the cooperation aspect of the mud.
–Use of skills that have very little implementation.
–Quest rewards that give a sense of accomplishment.
Multiple ways to finish one quest. If it seems logical that a character should be able to solve a quest in a particular way and you want to avoid having this way be available, it better be justified.
- 9. Anything Else That You Want Considered - Since areas take so long and require so much learning, here are some items on our general to_do list. Which, if any, looks like something you would pick as a short-term project, either for when you're stuck on your own area or while waiting for your area to pass the review process? Why did you pick the one you did?
[ ] mobs that use talk/say/ask/whisper/etc in act_arrives/randoms should check for NONHUMAN and break out of the act where appropriate so you don't see a human mob flirting with a cat
[ ] for all scavengers, add acts so there is a reasonable delay before they eat the items they picked up. You can attach limbo procs to do this, and modify them so the delay is whatever you prefer.
[ ] if the number of secondary housing rooms or their restrictions (NO_ADDITIONS, ABOVE_GROUND, etc) limits the total number of secondary rooms you can fit in to expand, set that as the MAX_SIZE on the primary room, for accurate reporting to build query
[ ] there ought to be a way to ask shopkeepers what hours they are open
[ ] add is_follow flags on all exp rooms so only leaders get it
Best of luck with your proposals!