Promoting Your Mud
Letters to the editor
- Johan J Ingles
Confessions of a Hack 'n Slasher
- D.A. "Flux" Nissenfeld
Clans in a Role playing World
- Sanvean and Krrx
Instant Combat: Just Add Fudge
- Caliban Tiresias Darklock
Objects and Trust
- Kevin Littlejohn (Darius)
History of Online Games Part II
- Jessica Mulligan
The Debate Rages on
- Troy Fisher
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Promoting Your Mud
by Johan J Ingles
Even my pet hamster has now heard about the Internet. With figures of 250
million users+ being bandied about, our playground has catapulted into popular
culture. It is the flavor of the month, the buzzword of the decade. We are in
the 'netty' naughties. Here in Britain, you ca not listen to the radio without
some jingly ad about a great new earth-shattering web site that you can not possibly
live without. Even my batty old auntie Mabel now "surfs" in her spare
time. So how do we stop ourself from being drowned out, and how can alter this
pessimistic perception of muds as a quaint but declining obsession practiced
by geeks, introverts and the socially inadequate?
A hamster surfing the web.
Well, I have got news for you, and it is not all bad. Muds are not declining,
nor should we be bloodfesting between ourselves over a supposedly shrinking
pool of players. Proof? None whatsoever, but to me the sums just do not add up.
Ten years ago, for example, we had what, 50-100 muds or so? Most of them had
100-300 patrons at peak times, and many people played several - I did. Now we
Sure, many people play several and a lot of muds do have a small player base,
but even these seem to manage 10-20 at peak times, with the top 5-10% making
100-300+. Do the sums, they speak for themselves. I would suggest the scenario is
different: muds are thriving and have never been as popular an activity as they
Of course, there is a but. Namely this: yes the total player base is increasing,
but not nearly as fast as graphical
commercial games... and we are not exactly helping ourselves. We do a poor
job of promoting ourselves, and the commercial net newbies are trampling all
over us. Frankly, our collective 'rep' is not good. Is it not time we made more
effort to get our due? After all, look at it from an objective perspective.
Here you have hundreds of online worlds, many of which are beautiful, intricate
communities held together by imagination, with buckets of sweat spent on them.
Moreover, they are absolutely free for anyone to enter, maintained on a volunteer
basis by people that do not even know each other from all over the world, do not
require you to have the latest high-spec computer and do not suffer nearly as
badly from the latency (lag) problems associated with many graphical worlds.
Put it in these terms and you see that there is a beauty about muds - it is what
the Internet is all about.
How not to do it
There are plenty of ways of increasing our collective presence, and we could
do a lot worse than to start by putting our own house in order. I put a mini-review
up a few months back at the Mud Connector. It was some great PR the mud that
I work at had gained, coverage in some of the biggest gaming sites around whilst
their gaming audience was waiting for the delayed Wheel of Time first-person
shooter to come out. Immediately the next morning, two flames went up by people
from another mud with the same theme as ours, and my mud was subjected to a
Denial of Service attack. Criminal behavior, all in the name of PR. Unbelievable,
considering that the attack was not only complete anathema to the participatory
spirit of mudding, but also prevented the newcomers to mudding that wanted to
log onto a mud for the first time because they would seen the coverage
at Gamespot logging on. To whoever was responsible: pathetic - I spit in
So how is it done?
I will come at it from two perspectives. How to stimulate a mud using out-of-game
mechanisms, and what we should all be doing to collectively increase our visibility
in the online community. One caveat: you have to have a good product - there is
simply no way round that. In other words, getting together with a bunch of your
mates, loading base stock code and then putting up a few spurious ads on Usenet
just is not going to cut it. In fact, it lets us all down. If you do attract
a few patrons they will more than likely move on, even if you do give them immortal
positions or enhanced weapons. That said, if you have got something worth playing
with some serious time and effort spent into making it unique then there really
is not any mystery to getting your mud known, promoting your mud and getting
a decent player base.
Your first stop should be to get a web presence for your mud. This is a big
job, so your best bet is to recruit someone to do your web presence, and nothing
else. Use the Mud Connector, Usenet or whatever to find someone, but get them
on the case. Remember, your web site is the first thing that people go and look
at when they hear about your mud. Before setting out on your web site, take some
time to plan: you have to decide what it will actually do for you. Having a
web site just for the sake of having a web site is old-hat, and putting up the
help files from your mud is not enough - traffic will soon dwindle. Is it to educate
non-mudders, to give patrons something different to do, to act as a marketing
front, to educate your patrons, to get feedback or to build a community? Each
of these require different approaches, although they can be combined. To educate
non-mudders, explain what mudding is about, in terms that non-mudders can use
(more on this later). To give patrons something different to do, have a bulletin
board where they can talk about their r/l lives, create an endless story CGI,
add a humor board or run a miss mud competition. To act as a marketing front,
slap your best PR on the front page, add a "tell a friend" CGI, add
a Java client so that your WWW visitors can try the game, and encourage your
patrons to vote for you in the web-polls that seem to be on every RPG page -
it all helps. To educate your patrons, write out the conventions and norms that
you expect your patrons to adhere to, so that you can refer them to that page.
To get feedback, add a "mail to the staff" form on your site, which
gets mailed to immortals, and slap on a web-poll CGI - they are a lot of fun,
especially as you can get instant results. Add your bulletin boards! To build
a community, focus in on some of the main characters on your mud and put in
a quarterly personality profile. Patrons love to know who is behind some of
the characters in the game. Add a monthly mudzine. Have an email list that
people can subscribe to. Allow patrons to put their profile, email addresses,
ICQ numbers and r/l addresses into a players-type database page.
HTML really is not that difficult - there is some excellent software out there
including Macromedia Dreamweaver,
or even the editor that is bundled in your browser. There are mountains of excellent
free tutorials on the WWW that will teach you how to do it, and do it well.
I use Webmonkey,
CGI resources. I have also since bought books on the subject: I would recommend
the "Web Design Wow Book", "WWW Type", "The Complete
technical note: use meta-tags, and I mean meta-tags that matter. In other words,
if your mud is called "foobar" and it is a Star Wars mud, use Star
Wars in all your meta-tags - there are far more people looking for the words
"Star Wars" than "foobar". Use the <noframes> tags
if you are a framed site: search engines index this. Make sure that you submit
it to the search engines
and resubmit them monthly as they fall off for no apparent reason. Altavista
takes a day or so to get listed, and Yahoo takes weeks. Special thing to note
with Yahoo is that it is better to submit your site in the morning European time
- Yahoo takes the first 500 or so URLs on any given day and indexes them in
the course of the next few weeks, and the rest get put on the 'to-do' list.
Then add your main URL to every directory that is related to your mud from about.com
to JoeBob's fantasy directory.
To this day, the single biggest referrer to my web site is Yahoo,
and as soon as we were listed on there out player base literally doubled overnight.
Quick rant: many muds do have a web site, but they are not geared towards helping
the punters in the door. They use the language of muds, and do not try to explain
muds to the 99.99% of the Internet that do not have the faintest idea what AFK,
diku or OOC mean. Remember, your web site needs to guide
these people by the hand, and take them through mudding from top to bottom,
even explaining such things as telnet,
and the theme,
in basic terms. The trick is to imagine that you are coming at mudding without
any knowledge of what it is about at all, and your job is to educate and explain,
and to make it sound engaging and fun at the same time.
To sum up: a good web presence does not happen overnight, but once you have done
it, it will churn away on your behalf and bring WWW tourists to your world whilst
you have got more important things to do such as playing, building, coding, eating,
or even sleeping.
Johan J Ingles-le Nobel is Nass, the Lord of the Dark on WoTmud
IV, the Wheel of Time mud
March 2000 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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