Design tips

Submitted by javelin on Sat, 2007-11-03 13:11

When NOT to Start a MUSH (Talek)
When you start a MUSH, you should have four things:

* An idea of what type of MUSH you want, be it social or RP, themed or anything-goes, whith lots of coded systems or just the bare minimum. If you don't know what you want the MUSH to be, then nobody else will either, and it will end up as something nobody likes.
* Far too much free time; running a MUSH can easily eat 20 hours (or more) a week.
* A group of people to help build and run the MUSH. These will form your initial admin team; they'll have plenty of influence over your MUSH, so make sure you know and trust them.
* A site to run the MUSH. A great site isn't necessary immediately, but a bad site can kill your MUSH before it really gets started.

If you don't have these four things, it might be a good idea to wait before starting your MUSH.

Tips for new Gods (Westley)
Get good admin, see how others act on other MUSH's before asking them to join (I had two rather Bad Wizards because I didn't do that.) Get people who want to make the mush better, and who love the genre, make sure of that before they become admin. I recruit new admin, by watching, and listening to the current admin, and if a player shows they are doing a lot of work, I start to talk to them, then pass it through the other admin. Then make them an admin, but the bit is temporary for 2 weeks, then it's permanent. I also have a head Wizard, on both MUSH's (one of whom will become its God). They help take some of the pressures off.

Think out what you are going to do, it's a lot of responsiblity. Make decisions, and stand by them, but if a Player/Admin has a comment, or objection, listen to them with an open mind, after all, they are your biggest asset. Try not to get caught up in bureaucracy, and fights between players. It looks bad.

Have a good mood going into this, after all, if you don't, it will only get worse.

Listen to people who have done this before, and don't try to run 2 mush's at once :)

And remember, if you don't work to make this fun for the players and admin, and be fair, they will go and play in their own sandboxes.

Oh, and it's nice to have a listserver too :)

Theme (Gohs)
Most MUSHs have some sort of theme; in general, this is enforced fairly stringently. Players who come on must learn the theme and adhere to it. If the players are truly trying to learn and are genuinely willing to correct mistakes they may (and probably will) make, there is generally little problem here, but there will inevitably be those who either refuse to follow the theme or who will argue with the admin. It is a good idea to place somewhere in the news or policy that the word of the admin on matters of theme is final - this can dodge the problem of a player holding a book up in an admin's face and snidely insisting that the MUSH is all wrong. While this may be true, a MUSH almost has to operate on the basis of a specifically determined interpretation of the theme, even though this may mean that early errors are propogated and even maintained.

Of those MUSHs that are themed, virtually all are based off of a series of books or a movie or set of movies. In all cases you should secure permission for doing this - while it hasn't happened yet that I know of, it is entirely possible to be sued for copywrite infringement if you put up a MUSH based on an author's work without their publisher's permission; it's simply not worth the risk, and, moreover, is rude and inconsiderate to the author as well.

MUSHs whose theme are based off of a series of books or movie have the single great advantage over originally themed MUSHs that players can come onto the MUSH and have a good idea of the theme. Even if they haven't read the books or seen the movie or what have you, if they pick up interest on the MUSH, they can, and often will, borrow or beg or buy the works in question. In addition, a MUSH based off of an established work will often be able to attract an initial group of players who are interested in the series or movie and so are thus willing to give your MUSH a chance. Finally, MUSHs based off of an established work do not have to worry about working out the gritty details or worry about creating an integrated whole, something that can be difficult and is always time consuming to do.

Nonetheless, originally themed MUSHs do have their place. They require substantially more work to set up and require a combination of skill, luck and effort to make them work - and it is almost guaranteed that no matter how good a job you do, you will almost never be able to achieve the sheer numerical popularity of MUSHs with themes based on established works. Creating an originally themed MUSH has its payoffs, however. First and most importantly, creating an originally themed MUSH enables you to tailor-fit a theme to the constraints and capabilities of MUSH code. For example, if you have a fantasy themed MUSH, you can look at the various @powers and the various options that MUSH code allows and can create a magic system based on this - and a magic system like this will be a hundred times easier to implement than virtually any established work's. Secondly, while you will get people complaining about realism, so long as you maintain internal consistency you never have to worry about players attempting to prove your MUSH dreadfully, hopelessly wrong by waving a book in your face. Thirdly, it allows you to have a theme that you can all but guarantee is unique - and if you do it well, you will have something that no other MUSH will have; there will be no need to worry about a half-dozen other MUSHs based on, say, the Pern series or the White Wolf games. It can be enormously rewarding and challenging, but it requires an even greater investment of time and thought, and even more so than is the case for putting up a normal MUSH, it is not something that can be undertaken if you wish to have a serious chance at creating a successful and popular MUSH.

Scope and Geography (Gohs)
If you are creating a MUSH which has as a primary or at least secondary purpose that is roleplaying, it is a good idea to be watchful for design factors which will either assist your MUSH or harm it. One of the key factors to keep in mind is the player:room ratio. The more rooms you have in relation to the number of active players on at any particular time, the harder it will generally be for a given player to accidenly meet up with another player. Thus, it is almost always a good idea to keep the number of rooms down as much as is reasonably possible, as this enhances the opportunities for spontaneous roleplaying, something that can be a serious concern in attracting new players who do not know who to contact or do not themselves have an established group of people with whom they can regularly roleplay.

Another aspect of this is geography. If you wish to maintain a sense of realism, it can be problematic to have the MUSH spread out over a very large geographical area. A person logging in may not know everybody or even anybody who is on-line at that particular time. If they are in one part of the MUSH world, they either have the option of waiting for someone in their area to come on, or else bending realism and crossing uncounted miles or lightyears to go to where "the action" is. To some degree this can be modulated by deliberately twisting time. Dune did something like this with its shuttles. In reality, the shuttles would have taken far longer to venture between planets, but for the sake of the game, this time was shortened to an amount that the players would find acceptable.

Because of this, it is often a good idea to restrict the geographical confines of the MUSH to an area that could realistically be crossed by an in character person in a day. This would obviously vary depending on the technology, and there are ways around this, but establishing this can also have the additional side benefit of reining in unlimited growth, which can lead to database bloat and the problems associated with that. Similarly, if you have established factions it is a good idea to keep the absolute number of factions down to a reasonable number; presumably you wish for there to be several active players in each faction, and if there are a hundred factions, this is unlikely in the extreme.

MUSH design (Mephisto)
There's a few factors that should be kept well in mind. I'm not going to elaborate too much on them. I feel that anyone reading this will want to walk away with the essence of ideas instead of expositions.

* Set goals for your MUSH that are achievable and practical; don't forget them. Setting goals (what you want the MUSH to be) that are clear, published (to all the admin, and even the players), and reasonable is one of the best ways to define in your mind and for everyone else the feel of your MUSH. Whenever I visit a MUSH, I always ask the wizards what the goals for the MUSH are; by setting your goals, you define what it means for your MUSH to be "successful." Some believe that raw login count determines the success/failure of a MUSH. Not so. I've seen MUSHes that have a low player count, but those players are among the most excellent, and the ensuing activity among the most satisfying and fun. There are many valid paths to success; define the one that's most meaningful to you and your admincorps.
* Realize that there are different kinds of players, and pick your target audience with care. Some people think there are two kinds of MUSHers: potential players and non-potential players. Nope! There are several ways to distinguish between people who MU*. The first distinction I tend to make hinges on maturity. :) The next depends on taste: are they social people (you know a few - they hang out on RP MUSHes only to visit with their friends)?, are they people who enjoy RP and TPing, are they coding/programming types? There's generally room for all, but you might want to tailor your MUSH to be as freeform or "exclusive" as you like. Realize that for every decision you make you're limiting your target audience, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Depending on the nature of your theme, you may well want to target mature, sophisticated players!
* Pick a theme that's not just a passing interest. An enduring, powerful series of books (or creation), and don't be afraid to be bold in your implementation. There's something to be said in faithfully recreating a world, but a world that lacks vision won't inspire the players. When considering a theme, think about what PRECISE and PARTICULAR elements attract you to the story, the setting, the characters. There are certain deep and powerful themes that run through literature, art, drama - any creative effort; and, as a creative effort, MUSH is no exception. Strive to understand why you think your theme is so appealing.
* Implement your ideas powerfully. Having grasped the essence of a world, be creative, bold, and clever in how you implement your ideas. A MUSH that's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and comic should be -consistently- so. These elements should pervade everything, from the news, to the descs of rooms, to the presentation of the code onscreen, to the behavior of the admincorps. There are a LOT of MUSHes out there competing for players. Don't be afraid to distinguish your MUSH in every way you can.
* Build a MUSH culture. Ritual and familiarity are the foundations of a culture; strive to create a culture among your admincorps and your MUSH in general that reflects the goals, purpose, theme, and mood of the MUSH. Create things that happen only on your MUSH, and that people will miss if they don't play. This is a very elusive thing, but every great MUSH I've seen (there've only been a few) has had its own culture in abundance. Cultivate yours.