[MUD-Dev] code base inquiry

J C Lawrence claw at kanga.nu
Thu Feb 17 20:58:55 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000


On Thu, 17 Feb 2000 12:53:07 -0500 
Kristen L Koster <koster at eden.com> wrote:

> Matt, you...

Ahem.

> ... WAY too many broad generalizations for me to be able to follow
> this thread any longer.

Buttons are being pushed, people are reacting.  Let's take a timeout
for a second and just have a dispassionate look at this before we
spend yet more time demonstrating the other people's points for
them:  

Commercial MUDs versus "free" MUDs (at least until the days of
paid-for-by-advertising MUDs)

Unarguably both are physically capable of being equally "excellent"
for whatever your definition of "excellent" is.  Further, I doubt
any of us would argue that there are "free" MUDs out there that are
of at least equal "quality" to the commercial offerings, taken as a
whole and not in specific aspects (we all have flaws) for whatever
your quality metrics are.  However, (and I consider this a fairly
safe broad and sweeping generality) each has a different concept of
their target market, and their commitment to serving that market.

For commercial games target market is often a question of player
base size (and thus revenue maximisation).  Other related and common
metrics are market share and demographic penetration (which can be
far more important than player base size when dealing with
advertising **).  The key point however is that they have a clearly
defined purpose and a known, well defined, and measurable set of
metrics to judge their success in that pursuit and to keep them on
the "right path" should they waffle from the base company purpose at
some point and start smelling the daisies instead.  Largely, they
have a clearly defined goal, a purpose, a set of policies that serve
and support that purpose, and are engaged in the business of
achieving that goal.

For hobbyest games the definition of "target market" tends to be
soft.  Often it is, "people who like the things I do" without any
clear definition of "what I want" or any awareness of how that
varies over time (or why), and even less sense of long term
dedication to that theme.  Further, in the hobbyest game, it is very
easy, and one is actively encouraged to do this, to get egos,
personalities, and other irrelevancies (to the useful purposes of
running a game) involved.  That fact doesn't make it any easier.

Unfortunately often you up with a set of people with some of
half-understood ideas of what they are trying to do, all assuming
that they all agree with the other people in the team (because after
all its "cool") without ever checking if they do actually agree at
anything more than the "really cool MUD" level, who are striving to
achieve some goal that they've never formulated and likely wouldn't
know if they actually hit it.

You have to _name_, _want_, and _get_ your product.

Achieving any purpose is a lot tougher if you don't have a clear
statement and understanding of what that purpose is.  Commercial
establishments have a slight advantage here in that financial
survival tends to help maintain focus, but that's not to say that
hobbyest efforts can't have an equally if not better defined
purpose, focus, etc etc etc.  They just have different and often
more personal distractions.

How does all this plug into things like customer service, help
files, tech support, and such?  On the one side purpose achievement
defines what level of assistance you need to provide to your terget
market and how important it is.  Its a fairly simple equation all
told and on the commercial side there are money and resources on
hand (to some level) for making sure it is done.  On the hobbyest
side however, its easy to overlook these "boring" things, and far
too easy (and attractive) to just dump them and tacitly reclassify
the target market as "people who can understand this stuff without
my help and none o' them luser idiots either".

Just how many OpenSource applications out there have decent
user-level documentation that a non-IT person has a chance of
understanding?  

Here endeth the philosophy lesson for today.

** I know of a highly profitable jazz (***) radio station, now sadly
closed, that had incredible key affluent demographic penetration.
Their total listening audience was not large, but it dominated
certain demographics.  On that basis they were able to charge, and
easily get, fees for advertising that were fifteen or more times
that of local pop stations that had audiences of, literally, a
hundred times their size (but was mostly listed to by less affluent
teeangers/young couples, etc).

*** Was bought by a conglomerate to extend their chain, changed to a 
pop station as "we don't understand jazz but we know pop", proceeded 
to lose money hand over fist and shut down.

--
J C Lawrence                                 Home: claw at kanga.nu
----------(*)                              Other: coder at kanga.nu
--=| A man is as sane as he is dangerous to his environment |=--


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