Staff hierarchies
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Pheralan



Joined: 19 May 2005
Posts: 13
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tyche wrote:
I'm curious about how the structure and operation of the programming department works, especially in a dirty room software development environment.


As much as it breaks the rules, I still got a laugh out of that post.

Anyway..

As far as a hierarchy goes, I feel that a game works best if the owner holds the reins. That way, there's no question as to who holds the power. Someone stated they feel the coder has the real power...I disagree. Even if the coder gets out of hand, its the owner that controls the shell, and can talk with the server administrator to get things back into control if he/she needs to.

IMO, if the owner has the reins, then the project/game/whatever goes in the direction that they want to have it go, and since they're paying the bills...as for the rest of the staff, giving them spiffy names tends to make people feel important. Calling your builders "Worldmakers" or your public relations people "Overseers" tends to make the staff feel like they've actually got a position worthwhile, whether they really do or not.(*) So, a hierarchy of some sort, with someone being the head cheese and it going down the list from there, is essential to a well run game.

Now, if you're speaking about commercial Muds like the one that Falconer is working on now, then it's an entirely different story. Whereas with a free game, it's the owner footing the bills. If he wants to be unprofessional, sure his game won't last probably, but it's just that: his game. In a business, you're looking to turn a profit, so if you're unprofessional, then you're basically shooting yourself in the foot. Having a head <insert name here> to manage the daily affairs of that particular department is probably a great idea.

So, to give the short version, I feel that for hobby muds, a hierarchy with one head cheese, and everyone else filling a niche below the head cheese, is the way to go, and the way I've seen, in my experience, to be most successful.

-Pheralan...and remember, the head monkey at the top of the tree looks down and sees nothing but smiling faces looking up at him. The poor monkey at the bottom of the tree looks up and sees nothing but assholes...

(*) This is a sample opinion, based on my own thoughts and findings amongst Mud admin. By no means am I stating that it's the /only/ feasible way to run a Mud. Obviously, others in this thread are running things just fine other ways. But, like everyone else, I have an opinion, and there it is. Smile
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Sandi



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 94
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Xione wrote:
Would you differ on staff hierarchies with different types of muds? ie. RPI or H&S ?


Yes, I think I would. Molly's posts about her RP experiment on TMC show the reason: Players involved in RP need to know who to talk to. So, in all the RP oriented games I've run (and just worked on) there has been a vertical split between the RP staff and the management/maintenance staff. This saves the coders and writers from being plagued with questions about things they really need to ignore to get their jobs done, and keeps the players from feeling they are dealing with someone who's clueless or their concerns are being ignored. Which, of course, tends to be the actual fact when you contact a coder about a plot. :)

On the other hand, it causes some distress in terms of 'who's most important'. On Xxxxxxxx, the RP staff was quite full of themselves and tended to treat the coders as janitors. They couldn't keep the drama in the game, and staff meetings had the flavor of the more notorious Hollywood movie sets. And coders, by nature, are egoless creatures who respond really well to ID10Ts talking down to them....

I think if I were to add RP staff to my current game, I'd make them empowered Morts, not Imms. This would keep them closer to the Players, giving the roleplayers the feeling the GMs were working with them, and leave it to the Admin to be the gods laying down the rules from on high. But, like Molly's, my game is H&Q (Hack and Quest) with RPE (roleplay encouraged), not RPI (roleplay enforced).

In short, I think mixing drama queens with mad scientists is bound to give you a pretty rocky horror show. ;)
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Molly O'Hara



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Sweden

PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pheralan wrote: Sat May 21, 2005 8:31
As far as a hierarchy goes, I feel that a game works best if the owner holds the reins. That way, there's no question as to who holds the power. Someone stated they feel the coder has the real power...I disagree. Even if the coder gets out of hand, its the owner that controls the shell, and can talk with the server administrator to get things back into control if he/she needs to.

I remember quarrelling with KaVir in the past over who wields the real power in a Mud, because I used to be pretty touchy about the fact that even very competent and productive builders are often treated like second class Imms in comparison with Coders - even lazy and/or incompetent ones. ‘Builders’ Rights’ is still an important issue to me, however I must concede that he does have the point about the ‘Coders have the true power’ part.

Take my own mud as an example for instance. We are 4 equal Owners, all with the same formal rank, three of whom have been part of the developing more or less from the start. One of the four is our former Head Coder, who is no longer active at all. (But the Mud still runs off his server free of charge, because even if he doesn’t have any time to devote to the Mud anymore, it’s still ‘his baby’). One is the ‘formal’ Game Owner, who never was very active as a coder, but who is the one that started the Mud, and who still connects on a daily basis and plays a mortal regularly. (I’ve heard him state that as long as he has an Internet account, 4D will be kept running too, regardless of the costs). One is me, a Builder who knows next to nothing about code, but who has built around 60% of the existing zones and is the only one with full control of the World. And the forth is the present Coder, who started out as a player, worked his way up as a Builder and Scriptor, finally was allowed to code and ended up as the new Head Coder.

All 4 of us have unlimited shell access, although in my case I don’t really know what to do with it. I only use it for four things; to start the mud if it’s down, to get new zones in and out of the Port, to check the Crashlog for what might be keeping the Mud from rebooting, (which quite often is a format error in the zone files I just FTPed in myself), and to fix those format errors before restarting it. (I know those errors shouldn’t really occur, but slip-ups do happen when you work directly in file and cut and paste a lot of text into it. All it takes is just one bad vnum, or a little ~, either missing or in the wrong place, and the Mud won’t boot up. Luckily we have a very good error reporting system, which shows up the vnum of the faulty room/mob/object, so usually it’s an easy fix).

Now suppose the 4 imps would have a fall-out and decide to split up. It doesn’t seem very likely, since we’ve all been getting along splendidly for over 8 years, but these things do happen - at least you read about them on various Discussion Boards.

A likely consequence would be that we each kept a copy of the Mud, look, stock and barrel, since we all keep backups on our home computers. And perhaps some of us would decide to run our copy publicly too, possibly under a new name. But only the present Coder would probably be able to do this with any hope of success. The two ex-coders don’t have the time for it, whereas I have the time and money, but would have to find myself a new Coder if I wanted it to not just stagnate at its present level. And trustworthy, active and competent Coders still are a bit harder to find than Builders with the same qualities. I should know, because we only have one really active Coder, but around 5 productive, competent, reliable and talented senior Builders and a large number of promising apprentices - (which might be a lot more than most Muds, but still is rather significant compared to the single coder).

So who has the real power in our Mud? It sure isn't me, although I do most of the Admin work too.
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Pheralan



Joined: 19 May 2005
Posts: 13
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Molly O'Hara wrote:
So who has the real power in our Mud? It sure isn't me, although I do most of the Admin work too.


It sounds like, from your posts Molly, that you and the staff at 4D have an excellent arrangement worked out. I applaud you for this, but in several cases that I've seen, such a "hierarchy", if you can call it that, just doesn't work. I've also seen it work fine, on several different Muds, including the one that I started Mudding on.

As for who has the real power, it comes, in my opinion, down to the guy who pays the bills. He quits paying, you have to find a new server. In the case of 4D, it doesn't sound like that's an issue, so you're 1up on that particular problem. But for most MU*s I've had the pleasure, or pain, or playing/staffing, there is one guy footing the bill. He can always find another coder (*) if the one he has gets out of hand, or builders. There's always people around, even if they're not quality. Eventually, however, you'll find someone worthwhile. But, without the guy who pays the bill? One quickly finds it hard to keep running a Mu* in such a case.

Most coders that I've spoken to in the past, if they aren't working on THEIR own project, don't have the devotion/money/whatever to be putting into administrating a Mud. They didn't bother, or couldn't be bothered, whichever was the case. So, even if they have a copy of the code, they'd probably scoff at it, work for someone else, and see if they could incorporate some of what they worked on in previous projects into the new one.

As for Builders, in many cases they have the money/time/whatever to get things rolling, but few of them generally have a copy of said code. Again, in the case of 4D, it doesn't sound like that's an issue, but on a lot of Mu*s, Builders just don't get access to the shell. Except, perhaps, the Head Builder...and even then, does the Head Builder really need shell access? Send said area to Head Admin/Head Coder, have then install it. Takes very little time on Smaug, or Godwars, to install a new area(**) so it's not like you're inconveniencing them terribly.

But, yeah. That's about it. All in all, I feel the guy who pays the bills is the one who should be holding the high cards. But, hey, that's just me.

-Pheralan

*- albeit, said new coder may suck. But hey, you'll find someone eventually...or you'll learn to do it yourself.

**- I've only had the pleasure of working on Smaug and Godwars, so I cannot speak up for the other codebases. They might be signifigantly harder to introduce new areas, but I can't see that, feasibly. Feel free to correct me on this (as if I had to give permission, we all know how much you guys like to tell people they're wrong Smile)
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Kjartan



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 110

PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a bit surprised to hear about these coder scarcity problems. I admittedly only know the situation at one mud, but we are loaded with coders, we have relatively fewer builders. Our builders seem to have a tendency to start coding. (We do have a lot of slow builders who may grind out one area every 2 or 3 years, when prodded, just not very many prolific builders). Maybe because we are a H&S diku derivative, we are more prone to attract coders and less prone to attract builders? We only promote people to staff from among the player base who have reached a certain relatively high level, so we tend to get staff who like to play that sort of mud.
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cron0s



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 34
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Molly O'Hara wrote:

I remember quarrelling with KaVir in the past over who wields the real power in a Mud, because I used to be pretty touchy about the fact that even very competent and productive builders are often treated like second class Imms in comparison with Coders - even lazy and/or incompetent ones. ‘Builders’ Rights’ is still an important issue to me, however I must concede that he does have the point about the ‘Coders have the true power’ part.


There is no good reason why the coder should have all the power. It takes a lot more than programming skill to run a successful game. It's no coincidence that a lot of the most talented coders do not run their own muds. You can certainly take a stock codebase and make it into a decent game with well built areas. There is a lot a skilled builder can do with mobprogs/scripts etc. to make their game interesting and unique.
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Molly O'Hara



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 99
Location: Sweden

PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

cron0s wrote: Sat May 21, 2005 9:08
There is no good reason why the coder should have all the power. It takes a lot more than programming skill to run a successful game.

I think the best Muds are created when Coders and Builders work closely together. That doesn't really have anything to do with 'power' though.

Power to create and power to destroy are two different things too...

And my honest belief is that people work best together when 'power' and 'hierarchies' are no big issues.
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Delerak



Joined: 17 May 2005
Posts: 49
Location: Tampa

PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Who has the power? The one who pays for the host.

-D
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Vilmer



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 5
Location: Kentucky

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 5:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Delerak wrote:
Who has the power? The one who pays for the host.


What if he's not an option? Smile
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Delerak wrote:
Who has the power? The one who pays for the host.


Yet I've heard of several occasions where muds have been shut down by the person running the host. I think it's fairly clear that even the one paying only has as much power as the owner of the host allows them.
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Traithe



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 50

PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2005 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
Delerak wrote:
Who has the power? The one who pays for the host.


Yet I've heard of several occasions where muds have been shut down by the person running the host. I think it's fairly clear that even the one paying only has as much power as the owner of the host allows them.


Well, not in the long run, really.

Any MU* owner worth their salt should be making automated nightly backups of their game and data to remote locations - so at worst, if your host goes AWOL like that you'll be set back 24-48 hours and the time and effort required to set up on a new machine.

Of course, most MU* owners aren't worth even that much these days. :p
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Traithe



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 50

PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2005 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Molly O'Hara wrote:
And my honest belief is that people work best together when 'power' and 'hierarchies' are no big issues.


Yep... I agree with this completely.

At SoI all staff members are basically on the same footing, authority-wise, once they complete their probation period of three months.

(If HaiWolfe hasn't mentioned this already, anyway - she should know, as she was one of the finest head admins we've ever had! <g>)

There's a single person in charge (formerly me, currently Cas) who makes all final judgment calls when that sort of thing is needed, but it's been my experience that such issues crop up only very rarely.

The key thing in having really hazily-defined hierarchies like that is to have a single point of authority for breakdown situations, and to ensure that point of authority really leads by example - is actively involved, contributes steadily, and enjoys their work enough to motivate the rest of the staff and the playerbase alike.

Obviously, if you've got an incompetent, corrupt or otherwise useless figurehead, a system like this will really crash and burn in short order.
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Crystal



Joined: 03 Jul 2005
Posts: 5
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2005 11:22 am    Post subject: Staff Groups Reply with quote

The way things are divided up on my MUD, which is actually an idea I was given from our sister MUD, Cities of M'Dhoria, is we've divided up staff commands into groups.

You have your IMM group, which will hold basic Immortal commands like slay, purge, etc.

You have a CODER group for all the basic commands useful for coders.

SNOOP is an entirely own group itself so it can be taken away or given as necessary.

You have your BUILDER commands for basic building.

And of course you have your ADMIN_BUILDER group for the more advanced builder commands that should not be available to your everyday builder.

And the list goes on through different sects (IMP, ADMIN_ALL, etc).

Now on CoM, they still have levels, which really only affect wizi I imagine, levels have no affect on the groups at all. On Advent we don't have levels, but we still have a basic In-Character hierarchy of Immortal, God, Implementor, etc. But again they have nothing to do with what commands a person has anymore.

I mostly had this put in because I was having people who were abusing their commands, and by having things divided up with the Immortal Hierarchy, I couldn't take them away.
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Falco



Joined: 24 Jul 2005
Posts: 15
Location: The Drawing Room

PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2005 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hierarchy or no hierarchy, communication is a must. Additionally, if those administrators, even in a fairly equal footing, feel that their work is unappreciated or find that a lack of communication or attention on someone else's part costs them time/effort, it's hard to keep those affected satisfied. I speak from experience on the last part.

Harry Truman used to have a sign on his desk that read "The buck stops here." Basically, someone has to assume responsibility at some point for failure of communication and cooperation. Over the years, I've seen numerous examples of leaders failing to make the tough decisions, prefering to pass the buck to someone else. I could cite dozens of examples (I'm not refering to MUDs here) of a lack of leadership and communication leaving any effort toward a goal with little or no chance of success.

So some form of hierarchy is required, though communication and cooperation are also a necessity if unnecessary conflict is to be avoided.

Later,

Falco
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Wish



Joined: 28 Aug 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Michigan, USA

PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2005 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On TempusMUD, we divide our heirarchy up into different departments. Each department functions and develops on its own keeping the head of the MUD informed on all major changes and additions.

The head of each department sets the general direction, leading a team to accomplish their goals, along with working with the other department heads.

For example, there is a head coder, quest admin, head admin, head architect, architects, and others. Tempus is a time travel MUD with different planes, so each architect works with a team to develop their own plane/era of time, giving it a unique feel. The head architect works with the architects to ensure that the entire worldbase is diverse, yet dovetails.

We run a smaller MUD, communicating quite often, sharing ideas and responsibilities, and ensuring that everything connects. Each department runs on its own without requiring oversite from the head of the MUD.

A timely example would be our current situation, where the head of the MUD has to be absent for an extended period of time due to hurricane Katrina (he lives in southern Mississippi). Each department is able to function without the head of the MUD around, just keeping him informed.

While some MUDs have their leader direct progress and set most agendas, the head of Tempus leads more from behind, asking each department head what they need, and asking for opinions on upcoming code additions.

This works well for us because we have different planes of existence, and not a unified world/timeframe.

* wish *
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