Throughout the MUD community, there are innumerable quests and features that take the games from a collection of rooms to a world with a purpose. From the simplest quests, like traveling through the world to a specific NPC, to more complex activities, such as a trading chain, all started with the desire to make it happen. Although the creative process of each quest builder may differ, the root of successful quests must grow from inspiration. The motivation and means to take that inspiration and work it into something real is what separates the “idea guys” from the builders. The success of the quest builder depends on his or her ability to use the tools available to transform an idea into a working quest.
Conception of a quest
There are as many different ways to brainstorm quest ideas as there are quest builders. Some may take inspiration from their real life, their favorite video game, or even a book or movie recently perused. Once the seed of an idea has begun to sprout, the successful builder will start to design the basic idea of the quest to determine what tools are needed to build and implement the quest. Motivation and the desire to see the project through to the end is often what differentiates the successful quest builder at this stage — everyone has an idea, but it is the special few that are willing to put in the effort to bring an idea to life.
Ideas alone are not enough to create a successful and inspired quest. The availability of tools for the quest builder to use to bring his or her ideas to life is also crucial to the success of the quest. A builder may begin the initial design of a quest with the intent to use a certain feature or function of the MUD. However, if that tool is not available, the development of it will often fall to the coder. A successful quest builder may take this opportunity to either propose a feature or function to the coder or game owner, or return to the initial planning stage to rework the design of the MUD.
The quest builder must also have knowledge of the tools available in the game. If the builder plans his or her quest around a specific feature or function that is not already present in the game’s code, a certain flexibility of mind may be required to continue on the path to a successful quest. The builder must determine what is needed, how the function will be used, and what impact the function will have on the ability to program quests. A good function will be reusable in other quests and areas. Once the builder has the concept prepared, the function can be proposed to those in charge, potentially extending the flexibility of the MUD.
There are also times when a builder will be forced to reevaluate an idea to use only the means currently available without the addition of a new function to the game code. This can even mean abandoning certain elements of the design idea, depending on the complexity of the quest as designed. If a concept would involve extensive coding, it may be better to try another method. Although it can cause a loss of motivation, it can also inspire a builder to brainstorm different ideas that may be an improvement over the initial design. Building is not an activity that can be done flawlessly overnight. Setbacks can happen, and a good builder will be prepared to deal with them.
Building the quest
Once the builder understands the available tools, and has verified that the initial design is possible within the restrictions of the MUD, it is time to start writing. The successful quest builder will begin with the design notes created during the idea portion of the building process and begin to flesh out the text that will be used in the quest, as well as any additional programs or scripts that may be needed. The implementation process can vary between games, as some MUDs feature quest builders, programs, scripts, a combination of all of these, or a completely different process. Regardless of the implementation process of the quest, it is always best to start writing the storyline, programs, and scripts for it offline, so that it can be edited and reworked before adding the quest to the live game.
At this stage, the successful quest builder will have a good concept of what is needed to implement his or her quest, including the wording to use to bring the idea to life for players. Even if the entire script or program is not written offline, having the concept in mind helps as the builder begins the next stage of the process – implementation. Due to the vast differences in games across the MUD community, it’s impossible to describe exactly how to implement a successful quest, but no matter the method, it is always important for the builder not to disappear after the quest has been added to the game.
Regardless of how often a quest has been checked or reviewed, it is still possible for builders to find bugs or typos as a quest is introduced to a game. Any errors need to be fixed as quickly as possible after they are found, in order to keep players and other designers happy. When a new quest is added to a game, the successful quest builder will be online frequently, just in case there is an issue. It can also be helpful to share offline files with another quest builder on the game, just in case a problem arises when the original builder is offline. Maintaining quest files offline can also be helpful at this stage for quick referencing without interrupting another editing process.
Feedback on the quest
After the quest has been conceived, planned, designed, written, implemented, and checked for bugs or typos, the successful builder still has additional work. Obtaining the feedback of players who have completed the quest helps the builder to reflect on the design, determine if any tweaks are needed, and even gain inspiration for another quest. When designing a quest, it is not unusual for the builder to become hyper-focused on the idea or inspiration that drove its creation, and observations from players who have completed the quest can help the builder verify that the quest has been brought to life as initially conceived.
Quest builders will often find that the original idea of a quest has changed dramatically from the first spark of inspiration to final completion of the quest. Often the changes that have occurred during the building process are an improvement on the original concept or design, whether due to the builder replanning the quest because of code limitations, or tweaking after player reviews. Completing a quest design can be very rewarding for a builder, although there are also times when players simply do not like the quest as designed. The successful quest builder will either redesign the quest or scrap it to begin anew with a fresh idea.
The truly successful quest builder takes a simple idea and turns it into an immersive part of a game, something which cannot be achieved by many people. Through careful planning, dedication to building, knowledge of the tools available, ingenuity, and thoroughness, a builder can successfully transition an idea through the stages of the building process to end with a completed quest enjoyable by players. Without any one of these steps, the quest can still be completed, but it is the builder who completes each part that will be truly successful.
I'd tell you good luck in your future quest-writing endeavors, but I think the people I'm trying to reach with this article know it takes something more than luck to be a successful builder. So, instead, I'll just wish you much inspiration, a good coder to back you up, and happy players when you've finished your quest.