[MUD-Dev] Importance of User Documentation

Jon Morrow Jon at Morrow.net
Sat Sep 30 12:06:27 CEST 2000

When I look over the past 10 years of MUD history, I find many changes in
regard to gameplay, style, and multimedia.  Focus on these gaming elements
has generated some rich and enjoyable games (GS3, Avalon, EverQuest), also
demonstrating understanding of how to inspire the "addiction" that keeps our
world populated.  However, in all of these giants of game design genius, I
find a static variable sitting beside all of the evolved models, like an
old, beaten Model-T amongst the Vipers and Lexus' of our day.  How does the
evolution of user documentation compare to the speed at which multimedia and
gameplay concepts have advanced?  In my humble opinion, it hasn't advanced,
but has degraded to our severe detriment.

Now, some would argue that players and administrators are the "next
generation" of user documentation, as they are interactive and often provide
immediate answers.  But then again, haven't we just spent a significant
amount of time arguing about volunteer models?  And what solution has been
chosen?  The goal of user documentation is to make oneself obsolete in
answering questions, for text works 24/7 and doesn't require any sort of
payment or benefits.  If we are forced to start paying our administration,
will it not be cheaper to temporarily hire a team of technical writers and
do our best to remove the need for a player relations department?

And in user documentation, I am speaking of tutorials, conceptual overviews,
references, and manuals.  In the MUD industry, much of the documentation I
find is either poorly written or incomplete.  Does anyone believe that
command references are adequate for a novice to learn from?   And why do
many of us continue to train administrators through trial and error?  These
are methods from the past where everyone on the Internet had technical
knowledge and could follow a good reference manual.  Now we have ISP's like
AOL bringing the masses onto our games.  With the way the Internet has
changed to accommodate the novice, I believe new documentation practices are
in order.  Here are the questions I feel we need to answer:

1) Has anyone encountered a MUD with a good documentation model?  What makes
it good?  How can it be improved?

2) What are the effects of good documentation?  Decreased cost on
administrative support?  Or is it effective at all?  Why?



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