Area Design

This page of the DizzyMUD Area Builder's Guide will tell you why it's important to design an area before coding it, and it will show you a tried-and-true successful method for doing so. Links are provided to some forms you can print out and use to help you.
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To create an area file, pick up a pencil, an eraser and lots of paper. Don't shut down your computer completely, you may want to look into the MUD for reference, guidance and inspiration. But don't even THINK about designing an area online or using a program.

Why you should design your area on paper

Coding is just the mechanical aspect of creating an area. By far the most crucially important and divinely creative part of making an area is its design. You have a mental image of a story, of places, beings and things, and your job is to make a sensible area out of it. You need to keep track of many different things at the same time, and you need to keep everything consistent. I will shortly describe a handful of documents you will have to fill with information before you can start to code. You can't sensibly keep all this information in your head, and I think that shuffling through a few honest-to-goodness pieces of paper is the only way you will be able to keep track of things.

Show me an area full of disturbing incongruities that the author did not intend and I'll show you an area that was coded without being designed. Show me an area that took an implementor days to debug and that draws complaints from players even after debugging and I'll show you an area where the design phase was rushed or skimped. Or not done on paper.

There is a REWARD! Other than enabling you to make better areas, doing the design phase right results in a much quicker, more fun and creative coding phase -- even the parts that are normally dreaded.

  1. Idea
    Have a good idea. This includes not just a theme or the name of a place, it should also include a storyline. An adventure for the player to experience, a mystery to explore. If mutant poodles are terrorizing the streets of a devastated metropolis, there should be a story to tell of how this came to be.
  2. Reality Check
    Talk about it with someone who knows more about the MUD than you do. Does your MUD really need and want this area? What level mobs and what kinds of EQ should it have to fill gaps or dull spots in your current MUD? In writing an area, always remember that your primary motive must be to provide novelty, opportunity and challenge to other MUD players without detracting significantly from the appeal of the other areas. In other words, make your area fun but don't try to write the MUD's most popular area.
  3. Scale and Numbers
    Get an idea of how big you want to make your area. Area coding is much more work than you may realize. Many people plan far too big and end up doing a slipshod job. Before they're finished, they are hating their area, and others will too. If the area you are planning is your first or almost-first, consider 20 rooms a reasonable size. Think bigger when you feel really comfortable with what you are doing.

    Get a rough idea of upper limits for the following numbers:

    1. how many rooms your area will have;
    2. how many different mobs your area will have;
    3. how many different objects your area will have.
    Find the largest of the three numbers for (a)-(c) and that is how many vnums you will have to get from whoever is the Keeper of Vnums. You only need that many because you can give the same vnum to a room, a mobile and an object - the three end up in different lists and their vnums do not conflict. Of course, no two rooms can have the same vnum, and two different mobs cannot share a vnum, nor can two different objects.

    If there is plenty of number space in your MUD, you will get a range of numbers starting at a multiple of 100. An example would be: You request 50 vnums and are assigned numbers 8400 to 8449. If you are really in a hurry to start your work and you haven't been assigned a number range yet, you can still proceed but be warned that you'll be facing more work later on when you need to renumber everything.

  4. The Map
    With a pencil in your hand and paper on a flat surface, think about the rooms and how your players will move around in them. Draw a map of the layout of the rooms. Make each room a dot, and draw lines connecting it to the other rooms. An inch is a reasonable distance between two rooms. Give each room a short name and write it next to the room. If you want to have one way exits, put arrowheads on the lines going one way.

    When you think your map looks like it ought to, number the rooms. Start with your first vnum and give each room the next higher vnum until all rooms are numbered. If you did not have a vnum range, then number your rooms QQ00 through QQ49 (or whatever your highest number is). You can later use global replaces in your editor to change QQ to some multiple of 100. If the range you're given does not start at a multiple of 100, you're out of luck.

  5. The Paperwork Begins in Earnest
    Print yourself out one copy of the Mob List.
    Print yourself out one copy of the Object List.
    Print yourself out many copies of the Room Work Sheet.

    You will need one Room Work Sheet (or a reasonably imitation) for each room on your map. Armed with much paper, you are ready for the next step.

  6. Give your rooms a life
    Each Room Work Sheet gets the vnum and the room name from your map. Don't bother writing long room descriptions into the work sheet; those are more fun to compose directly at the keyboard. Instead, you need to start thinking about the mobs you want the adventurer to find there, the equipment that they wear and/or carry, and objects that may lie around in the room.

    Think up the different kinds of mobs you would like to have running around your area. You want more than one type so your area shows some variety, but not every single mob in your area needs to be unique. Not every room needs a mob, and I consider 3 or more mobs in a room a crowd. If they assist one another, 3 difficult mobs may kill an adventurer of their own level. If they are aggressive, a visitor may never make it to the next room. On the other hand, you don't want him to feel lonely in your area. Strike a happy balance. Also, consider which mobs will be stationary and which will wander around freely in your area.

    When you start to populate your rooms, you will work with your mob list. Any new kind of mob needs to go on the list, get a short name, a vnum, a level and maybe some descriptive comments so that you, his creator, have a feeling for what kind of critter it is.

  7. Equipment for that homey touch
    Your rooms are bare and your mobs naked and empty-handed. Think up suitable furnishings for the rooms, some of which might be of use to the marauding adventurer, and appropriate apparel and perhaps weapons for your mobs. Don't go wild. If there are more than about 3 items lying in a room, that room seems cluttered. And not every mob wears more than maybe 3 items of armor and sometimes a weapon.

    As you may have guessed, you need to keep track of objects in your object list. Besides object vnums, the object list will keep track of short object names, object levels, stats, spells and other properties of your objects.

  8. Congratulations!
    OK OK, the last two items were LOTS of work. But if all of the preceding is done thoroughly and carefully, you're ready to CODE!

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  This page was last updated May 15, 2001