[MUD-Dev] Addressing newbies (was: attracting players)

adam at treyarch.com adam at treyarch.com
Tue May 9 11:21:34 CEST 2000

On Wed, 26 Apr 2000, Ola Fosheim [iso-8859-1] Gr=F8stad wrote:
> Mud Imp wrote:
> > I seem to be the worlds worst at being able to attract players. I've do=
> > everything that looks obvious. put ads on the message bases, listed the
> > mud on the lists...asked what players I have to recruit...And I still h=
> > few players..yet I know there are muds out there that seem to have so m=
> > players they almost have to turn them away... What am I missing here th=
> > others have found? Anyone?
> Here is a checklist for desirable aspects:
> 1. Main functionality is intuitive. The user is not getting frustrated.
>    This includes the ability to move and talk.

Which is mainly not so much a matter of being "intuative" as it is of
being standard.  The old n-e-s-w movement method, for example, is common
across not only a large portion of muds, but also old text adventure games.

Of course, moving around is often much more than just actually being able
to do so.  I don't think I've ever noticed a newbie that was unable to
actually move around; but actually *getting* somewhere is something else
altogether.  My starting area is very simple, with basically only one
way you can go.  You start with a detailed map of the area, and a tourguide
that lists *exact* directions to the mercenary's guild.  Room exits are
shown both in the room description, and in your prompt.

Yet a large percentage (we'll say 10%) of the newbies that log on seem to
"get lost" in the first three rooms, which are laid out like this:


O's are rooms and S is the room you start in.  The extra room hanging off
the side is a tavern which players must "open canvas" to get inside.  The
exit out to the rest of the world is by going north.

I kept hammering at this problem by adding more newbie help (first a map,
then the guide) but it didn't seem to help in the slighest.  I came to
the conclusion that there was little I could do about it without actually
dumbing down the mud itself.

> 2. The user met a person that wanted her friendship. This is one of the
>    most powerful factors.

Requires other players.  For that matter, just typing "who" and seeing
a bunch of people is very effective in reigning someone in.

The main thing that I tried to do to compensate for the small playerbase wh=
I got started was to add actions to NPCs, where they greet you or otherwise
behave like something other than an unmoving monolith.  For example, the
tavern wench in the tarven mentioned above says, "New in town, sailor?"
to male newbies and "Fresh meat, eh?" to females.  By the same token, guild
recruiters try to talk you into joining their guild, and so forth.

The main problem that *this* has caused is that people try to reply to the
NPCs.  I either gotta slap in some quick Eliza AI into the NPCs response,
or maybe just make some noncommital reply like, "Hmmmm, that's interesting.=

> 3. The user got the impression that there "is more around the next
>    corner". In a game environment this may include the awareness of
>    certain dangerous or mythical areas that peeks curiosity and
>    excitement. This is related to "depth".

This is the thing that first drew *me* into muds.  I had friends that
played muds heavily, and I always heard their tales of adventure; plus when
I logged on, I saw and heard people talking about all the interesting
places (areas) that they had visited.

Again, when you start, you don't have the playerbase to spread these storie=
so you need to suggest it.  It's tricky to do it in the game world itself.
Probably the easiest way is to put in a "help areas" section, or a listing
of areas on the website along with descriptions of their contents.  Arctic
has a utilitarian, but very detailed, zone list:


In essence, you're telling them flat out what lies around the next corner.

> 4. The user got started on a task he would like to see completed.

Yep.  Although I'm a fan of levelless systems, there's just nothing like
the instant goal creation of seeing "You have gained 90 experience, and nee=
10 more to advance to the next level."

Spacing the goals properly is important.  I know I've left more than one
hack-n-slash mud in frustration when I needed 1000 experience to reach
level 2, and it takes me fifteen minutes to kill a squirel worth 4 exp.

On the other hand, if I kill a squirrel and gain 6 levels, I'm almost as
likely to leave.

> 5. The user did not experience a trauma. Example: "dying" and not
>    knowing how to get back to "life".

I think it's a matter of getting far enough into the game to not experience
a trauma.  The very first time I played a mud I played for about eight
solid hours (and would have played longer except that my roommate dragged
me off for dinner).  I died probably three times within that session, but
the first time was after I had been playing for a while and was already

> 6. The user felt he had accomplished something a few minutes after
>    logging on for the first time {Mike Sellers}. A general problem with
>    software is the need to learn quite a lot of mechanics and
>    functionality to feel productive.

Yes.  To this end I've made a very early player goal to be joining a guild,
rather than being prompted for what guild you'd like to start in.  Once
you find and join your chosen guild, you will receieve the equipment and
training associated with that guild.

Hmmm, I was just struck with an idea, as a crossover from the Institutional=
Twinking thread.  Perhaps I should give a "guild referal" bonus - if an
existing player convinces another player (which, of course, is usually a
newbie) to join their guild, they get some money or some advancement within
the guild.  I like that.  Of course, there's always the potential for
creating fake characters and getting them to sign up.  I suppose that the
bonus should only kick in if the referred character manages to reach a
certain standing within the guild.  Now this suddenly is reminding me of
the Asheron's Call pyramid scheme method...

This seems to work pretty well, except for the player frustration when they
can't easily locate the guild they want to join.  This is actually a "featu=
since the hard-to-play guilds are also hard to find, thus ensuring that onl=
experienced players will join them.

> 7. Browsability. The world communicates its variety/"breadth" in a
>    comprehensible fashion. It is desirable that the user get the
>    opportunity to "taste" what she finds most interesting.

Yep, and of course this is suggestive of the "cheating" method - having
a website which allows a potential player to browse the world without
having to learn how to play, first.

> putting newbies in an area with many potentially friendly users, such as
> a "public hang out".

Now there's a question: how does one create a public hang out?

In stock dikuland, the center of Midgaard is a meeting place because:

- the inn is there, players enter and leave the game
- the fountain is there, players need water frequently
- the recall room/return to life room is there
- travel often necessities passing through the town square

I don't have any of these things.  You don't need to go to inns to quit
the game (and you reenter where you left); there's no food or drink (as
I've yet to come up with a way to implement it that is not an annoyance);
there is no "recall" spell; death is permenant; and I have the town (and
most of the mud) set up so that there are no travel bottlenecks, mostly
to make it hard to set PK traps.

During alpha testing, the most common hangout was the gambling den, because
people liked to gamble while they chatted, and because it happened to be
located right behind the mercenary guild (about 60% of the playerbase was
mecenaries, because it was the easiest guild to play) and it was on the way
to one of the more popular mid-level zones.

What other mechanisms could be used to create gathering points, especially
with a low playerbase?

> * Make the threshold for the newbie even lower than you deem necessary,
> no matter how easy you think your system is to use.

Yes.  My original thought was that anyone who was too dim to figure out the
basic commands was not someone I wanted around.

After I opened, I changed my mind.  I realized that they provide excellent
cannon fodder.


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