"I am very excited to start a mud. I don't know how to code for
muds, but I have a super great idea for one. All I need is for
folks to come do what I tell them."

This, in many different phrasings, is one of the most common
requests for help on mud forums. It very often generates
hostility and ends in sadness. I'm of the opinion that there
should be some standard FAQ-style answer to it, in order to
minimize the pain that this sort of request generates. This
open letter is an attempt at that standard response.

Open Letter to the Newcomer Who Wants to Start A MUD

Dear Newcomer,

Welcome! I am very glad you're excited about muds and I
hope you stay and become a frequent participant and
contributor to this forum. I also extend to you my most
sincere wish that you succeed in your game. The community
benefits from more good games.

Please forgive any hostile posts you receive as a result
of your request for assistance. You may not be aware of
some important things about the community of folks who
create and run muds (mud developers), and this letter is
meant to guide you through some things you ought to know.

* We are volunteers. With very, very few exceptions, mud
devs don't get paid for it. They do what they do for their
own pleasure, and help others out of love for the hobby.
Remember that! If we seem testy sometimes, it's often
because we think we are trying to defend something we love.

* We have been hurt. There are literally thousands of muds
that started, got nowhere, and closed in short order. I'd
be willing to bet there have been tens of thousands. Many
of us have donated our time, our creativity, our sweat to
such muds. Some of us have had it happen more than once. We
may still be sore about it. When we see another forum post
advertising a mud that we think will do the same, sometimes
we have a hard time giving the benefit of doubt, and we say
rude things. Please forgive us.

* We don't want others to be hurt. When we see a post for
a mud that looks like another of these "wasted my time" muds,
we sometimes ask very pointed questions to determine the
viability of that project. It's not about being jealous of
your idea. It's not about hatred of things that are new. We
really want to know how serious you are, and how likely you
are to waste people's time. Believe it or not, we can usually
tell. The fastest way to prove your mud will go nowhere is
to respond to such posts in a hostile and immature manner.
Avoid that. Just accept that we're trying to help other mud
devs know more about you and your project.

* Lazy people drive us crazy. I am not calling you lazy. But
your post may have made you look that way. Some newcomers
say things like "I really just can't code, I've tried." This
sounds like you just can't be bothered, and are trying to
get people to do your job. Coding is very hard for some folks,
and it's ok that you're not good at it. But insisting on not
coding, and not getting better at it, is a very strong mark
against you. It may not *be* laziness, but no matter how you
excuse it, it comes off that way. Don't sound lazy. And
don't be lazy. Plan on improving your coding skills, and
explain that this is your plan.

* We don't need you as a boss. If your idea is good enough,
I can just make my own mud with it, and not bother involving you.
You need to explain what role you will play, and why you are
the right person to play that role. Remember that this is
very much a job interview...but you're not interviewing
candidates. You are the candidate. You are showing us why
you're the right person to run the mud, and what skills and
experience you bring to that job.

* Your awesome idea is one of 10,000. It is important for
you to understand that. Just having an awesome idea doesn't
even come close to convincing anyone that the idea needs
a mud, and that you need to be the boss of it, and that
people should want to come and work on it for you, for free.
The idea is important, but it is not the most important part.

You might feel a bit bewildered at this point. Just what do
mud devs want to see that might make them want to join your
project? It's not an easy question to answer, but here
are some things worth demonstrating:

- Maturity. Show us you're a grownup that can handle criticism
well and doesn't think he is owed free labor.

- Planning. The surest way to know I should disregard a project
is that you haven't bothered to research anything. If you don't
know a mud host from a web host, you're probably wasting my time.
If you have no idea which codebases to investigate for suitability,
you haven't done your homework. If you're serious, you'll
be able to show your planning.

- Commitment. If you really are serious about this project,
you have work to show us already. Perhaps you've started
testing on a codebase. Perhaps you have a design document laid out.
Something to show you're not just begging on the street for
someone to make you a mud. Explain the work you've done thus far.

- Motivation. I want to see the fire in your belly. If I
spend my time and share my skills on a project, I want to know
it's run by someone determined to make things work.

- Experience. Tell us about the projects you've managed. If they
failed, why did they fail? Your experience need not be perfect,
but you should show how you've learned from it.

The sad fact is that most muds that start will fail. You have
to show prospective mud devs why your mud will not, and why they
will not be wasting their time on it.

You might at this point be coming to the realization that
you may in fact not really be ready to start a successful
project. That is not shameful, it is not a sign of personal
fault. We all have to start somewhere. If you're feeling like
maybe your project won't meet the standards laid out in this
this document, don't just give up. Find a project that can
use a newcomer, and learn the ropes.

That's usually how it works, you see. Newcomers don't usually
start as captain, they usually begin as beginners. There's
no shame in it, and I'm pretty sure that starting the
normal way is a very good way to prepare to eventually run
a successful project of your own.

Your pal,


PS See also: http://www.gammon.com.au/forum/bbshowpost.php?bbsubject_id=2293