[MUD-Dev] Team management

Sanvean sanvean at ginka.armageddon.org
Wed Feb 26 12:48:57 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

<EdNote: Do not top post>

On Tue, 25 Feb 2003, Peter Harkins wrote:

> I'm the admin of a small mud in alpha (described in more detail in
> a mud-dev post on 2002-12-11) and I'm interested in how other
> non-commercial muds out there manage their wizards and such. I'll
> describe our situation and then how we're handling workflow, and
> I'd hope to hear what other folks are doing.

Some things we do on Armageddon:

  1) People have specific areas of the world or code that they
  "own". They are responsible for answering player questions/issues
  regarding that area, for keeping the rest of the staff updated,
  for letting the coders know about issues affecting that area,
  etc. We keep a list on the staff website that people can consult
  if they want to see who's doing what.

  2) We take the mud down on Saturdays and work on it then. I post a
  thread on our discussion board that people can use to post what
  they've done both that day and throughout the week. This gives me
  information I need when sending out a weekly mailing to the
  players, as well as tracking who's doing what (and how much).

  3) Junior staff members are assigned a mentor: a senior staff
  member who can help them acclimate, handle issues, let me know if
  there are problems, etc. Some senior staff members are better
  suited to being mentors than others, and they tend to bear most of
  the work of this.

  4) Staff members cc the main mud account when emailing players and
  each other. One person handles that mail account (me) and while
  most of the time I don't do anything with those emails other than
  file them in the appropriate folder, it does give me a sense of
  who's putting in time and who's not. It also lets me step in if I
  see a player who is draining too much time or trying to take
  advantage of an inexperienced staff member.

  5) Ideas, plot proposals, proposed code changes, etc, all get
  posted to our discussion board and discussed at length. We
  maintain archives of past posts that can be referred to see how
  problems were handled in the past. Again, looking to see who's
  posting provides a good idea of who's putting time and thought
  into the game and who's not.

  6) Similarly, various game clans have their own discussion boards,
  and we can look to those to see who's taking care of their clan by
  posting news, answering questions, etc.

  7) Our hierarchy is relatively flat - we have three levels of
  staff members. I've worked on muds with 10 levels and (imo) that's
  too much and you end up getting so worried about the granularity
  that it's a waste of time. Here's a doc I wrote a couple of years
  ago that explains our hierarchy (storyteller, highlord, overlord)
  a little better:

Highlords are, to use a corporate analogy, the middle management of
the mud. As such, they have responsibilities that differ
significantly from those of the Storytellers and Overlords. The
following is an attempt to clarify some of those responsibilities.

In relation to Storytellers, Highlords serve as:

  Facilitators. This involves, among other things, working with the
  Storytellers on the plots they devise and run. Helping brainstorm
  ideas, approving a plot, suggesting ways to fine-tune it or to fit
  it in with plots other people are running, helping write scripts,
  approving the items and NPCs necessary for it, etc. are all part
  of this.

  Mentors. Highlords generally have valuable experience to share
  with Storytellers, whether it's knowledge of building commands or
  types of components, or tips on how to animate three NPCs
  simultaneously while running a plot. Highlords come from the ranks
  of the Storytellers, and groom their own replacements, and as such
  have a responsibility to outfit those upcoming Highlords with the
  mental tools and knowledge they'll need later on. One excellent
  way to share such experience is, of course, through producing

  Mediators. Whether it's interpersonal strife, or difficulties with
  players, Highlords should work actively to keep the staff running
  smoothly as a team. This includes stepping in to arbitrate
  personal difficulties, and making sure that Storytellers get along
  well (whether they like it or not).

  Role models. Highlords should try to act in a way that provides a
  reasonably good model for behavior. This doesn't mean be a goody
  two shoes, since we all are human (or pretend to be), but civility
  and courtesy are appreciated. Similarly, pointlessly griping on
  the imm channel about various things such as player behavior is
  not encouraged, unless you plan to do something about whatever the
  gripe is. Similarly, don't ask a Storyteller to do something -you-
  would not be willing to do, i.e. don't demand that someone post
  everything they do on the board unless you yourself are providing
  an example by doing so. Lead by example.

  Recruiters. Highlords often act to recruit new builders, or to
  suggest replacements for staff that are stepping down or
  leaving. If you've found someone who you think is a good fit for
  an empty slot, you should talk to an Overlord about it.

  Builders. Don't underestimate the importance of getting
  Storytellers to work together on a plotline or project. Part of
  your job is to help come up with projects that enhance the MUD
  overall, and then to see that a team capable of executing that
  project gets assembled and actually does it. Encourage people who
  are doing excellent work, and provide feedback that helps them
  maintain that excellence and even surpass it. Make criticism
  timely and constructive - clearly define what it is you think can
  be improved, and how.

Highlords can interact with mortals in a way the Storytellers
cannot. This means answering player questions/concerns when they
wish up about them, or delegating a ST to do so. If a player is
abusing the game, then it is appropriate for you to speak to them
and administer whatever punishment is necessary, up to and including
site bans and freezing. Slaying players callously out of hand should
be left to the Overlords. A note on wishes: yes, you are expected to
answer them, even if someone else is online. Immcom a query to make
sure no one else is already doing it and then do it. Don't expect
that someone else will get it. Do expect that OLs forced to answer
wishes when there are three or four Highlords online at the same
time will get annoyed.

Overlords try to focus on the Big Picture, the overall game, while
Storytellers take care of specific details. As someone placed
between the two points of view, you should attempt to find your
balance somewhere between. For example, while a Storyteller may
oversee a specific clan, you might want to try to provide input on
an overall area into which that clan fits, such as the North, the
Luirs/Tablelands region, or the South. As always, changes should be
discussed with imms whose areas are affected, and major changes
should be cleared with an Overlord. All changes and developments
should be well documented, for the benefit of the entire staff.

One last thing I'll note: I'm very, very choosy about who comes on
staff, and one of the qualities I look for is someone who's a team
player. I could find the best coder in the world and it's not going
to help me much if s/he doesn't work with the team but hares off on
her/his own projects. Our staff gets along - there's even a yearly
gathering where we rent a beachhouse for a week and go hang out
together - and a lot of it is because they respect each other's
abilities, treat each other with courtesy, and cooperate. A number
of large projects wouldn't have worked without that degree of

It's this, I think, that has led to a mud staff that I don't think
can be beat by any other on the net. They're great, they're awesome,
they rule. As with any group, there are roughnesses at times, but
people work hard at getting along, and there's a degree of honesty
and cooperation that I've never seen anywhere else. Okay, I love my
group, nuff said.

I hope some part of that is helpful.

Overlord of Armageddon

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