[MUD-Dev] Convincing Players to Read Documentation

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Sun Oct 1 22:13:25 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

On Saturday, September 30, 2000 7:11 PM Jon Morrow posted:
> The question is, "How do we convince players to read the documentation?"
> Honestly, I don't know.  I make references to my help system several times
> throughout our guided tutorials in hopes of players following through
> But I don't feel this is sufficient.  Does anyone have other ideas?

One day I was on RetroMUD from work, passively watching the game while
invisible.  A character, I think his name was Neptune, logged in.  During
this time, there weren't many players on to answer his questions.  He asked
one question on a channel, tried a few help commands, didn't get what he
wanted, and left.

This frustrated me immensely.  How many other players had we lost in
precisely this fashion during "slow times"?  We needed someone or something
that would be able to get to players who didn't instinctively know to type
"help (topic)."  That's when I noticed that damned paperclip, Clippit,
waving at me from MS Word (I was writing technical writer at that time).

The solution: Newbie Guides.

These guides are walking advertisements for the character's
guild/race/planet.  All they do is chatter away about help files.  Players
can summon them and dismiss them at will, but their essential value is in
getting over that awkward hump where the player logs in and realizes he or
she has absolutely NO idea what to do next.  The guides can be irritating to
more experienced players, but they disappear eventually and can be dismissed
immediately.  All the guides do is "speak" the help files (just like Clippit
does).  Players can ask them questions, and if it's in the help file, the
guide will speak to it.

Then, we made a "mentor" channel -- amusingly enough, that was the title of
the software I was a technical writer for.  This channel is specifically for
new players.  When new players log in, they are immediately forced to
introduce themselves on that channel and their guild channel.  This ensures
that, at the minimum, their presence is noted by other players.

Ultimately, players make the best means of communicating help files than
anything we could possibly code. We reward newbie-helpers by having newbies
vote for them and have those helpers put "newbie helper" in their title.

Finally, we revised our helps so that there is a pyramid structure to it.
We broke it down far more than skills/spells, including sections like
Basics, Pantheon, Death, etc.  Each section has its own "index" page and
lists all the applicable helps.  So help combat will list every combat
command, information about ranged combat, etc.

And it's all accessible from our Web page too.

None of these are new ideas -- much of our help file suggestions were
inspired by an article on Game Commandoes (which no longer exists, far as I
know).  If you can find that article, I highly recommend it.

Michael "Talien" Tresca
RetroMUD Administrator
telnet://retromud.org 3000

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