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by Delphine Lynx January 6, 2003

And so the holiday season has come and gone. After what turned out to be an inadvertent month off, I hope to be writing more often once again, beginning with this piece on implemeting festivals. Unlike the others I've so far written, this one is perhaps more applicable to the RP oriented MUDs out there.

"I'm the type who'd be happy not going anywhere as long as I was sure I knew exactly what was happening at the places I wasn't going to. I'm the type who'd like to sit home and watch every party that I'm invited to on a monitor in my bedroom."

    - Andy Warhol, America, 1985

The idea of a special event is hardly a unique one - especially as it is used in this context, to include any sort of gathering or festival. They are so mundane, in fact, that the idea hardly raises an eye brow in reality. We all, even if not attending one, are familiar with the idea of a carnival, company Christmas party, or street fair. It is difficult to determine, therefore, why the idea is so alien to those who frequently play MUDs.

Before discussing the arrangement of a special event, let me first lay out why you would want to implement one. Essentially, the perks of a festival can be summed up as follows:

  • Increased inter-player trade: By introducing rare and unique items at periodic festivals, a market will spring up among the player community for the exchange of these items. Though the market worth of Bob's Broadsword might be rather small, if there is a unique item with some special, hitherto unknown property, players will want it. Therefore festivals are good for the economy.
  • Player retention: Though only part of the necessary set of steps which need to be taken (see my article on The Bored Elite), including festivals can help in this regard. Simply put, if high level players have an arena to show off their riches (such as the parties and gatherings we are discussing), then these riches will have a purpose. Given said purpose, they will be at least slightly less likely to leave your MUD immediuately.
  • Holiday Spirit: Not necessary particular to Christmas (or any real world holiday), bringing something akin to a 'holiday spirit' to your MUD is typically a beneficial thing. As people's tone and demeanor tend to change when in such a mood, quests can be expected to run differently - always useful if you're having trouble introducing a new plot twist which the players simply refuse to take hold of in normal instances.
  • Straight forward enjoyment: Utility aside, special events tend to be fun. Players participating in them, at least in my experience, become very social - especially if the NPC merchants are roleplayed - and interact with one another and with the NPCs. As the purpose of a MUD is theoretically enjoyment, there is no reason not to employ such events on occasion.

But naturally all of this begs the question of how precisely to go about implementing said events. Personally, I took my cue from Simutronics, whos implementations, though infrequent, were typically very well done as far as this agenda goes. In those games, the events took one of several forms:

  • A wandering merchant, who appeared for a certain amount of time, sold or altered items, and then left. With this sort of merchant, the NPC was almost always roleplayed by a GM, and nigh invariably aimed at the "rich and famous" of the playerbase - high price restrings, unique weapons, etc.
  • A party. Here it was relatively simple, in that a location had decorations and a buffet added, and an accouncement was sent out to the MUD that a party was to take place. The advantage of doing this, for the characters who cared, was that it offered an opportunity to 'dress up', to exhibit fancy items and their social class in a way they ordinarily couldn't do. Ideally, something additional could be added - for instance, a performance, raffle, or political speech - but such isn't necessary.
  • Perhaps most impressive of all were the actual festivals; great big areas added and filled with merchants. Most of these merchants were generic shopkeepers, though sometimes a festival would be visited by one of the wandering merchants mentioned above. The idea here is to create an area where players can go to shop or hang out, spoending large amounts of money on unique items. Naturally, some of these items were extremely useful. Others, on the other hand, were less so, but valued for their uniqueness and worth as a status symbol.

As mentioned repeatedly above, worth as a status symbol is something which may be exploited in creating these events. People want unique or rare items to impress others, and, just as much, want an arena to show it off. There's no point in driving a Porsche for most of us, but to be seen in a Porsche, that's why people buy them. Likewise, yes, some players may need the items you're selling at these events - but they will also be scooped up by everyone else, itching to show off at the next party that they had the money at the time for whatever it was.

Likewise, such things can provide an arena for other sorts of clothing. Why not hold a formal party, allowing only characters dressed appropriately to enter? All of these things add to the realism and roleplay potential of the evening (....Unless it's realistic to do everything in plate mail, as characters seem to typically do), as well as provide an avenue of spending outside of combat gear. For players, the avenues opened up by regularly held parties and markets are very rewarding. To the administrator, they provide a valuable way of taking extra cash out of the economy, and an opportunity to be creative once a week/month in putting together something interesting.

An even greater overall reward, though, may be that they provide something to talk about. To refer back to the Simutronics MUDs, more often than not the players spent more time discussing festivals than participating - they presented an avenue of gossip typically lacking. Though naturally there is ample gossip about both reality and certain players, that's the sort of gossip the administration would typically prefer to quell. By replacing it with events for people to discuss in character, the game world begins to feel ever so much more rich and engaging, as the characters develop a life of their own.

Though these events are possibly not needed on a hardcore MUSH, where the players involved are already avid roleplayers, they can do wonders to spruce up a combination style MUD, bringing to it the levity and dynamic social environment so highly spoken of by the players of roleplaying games.

Festivals - copyright © 2002 by Delphine Lynx - All rights reserved.

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