Level Design in MMORPGs

Game designer

 In most MMORPGs, building new areas involves becoming a staff member of the company that owns the game. Iron Realms sheds the exclusivity of game design, offering equal opportunity to all players! For this article, I sat down with Daphne, an online level designer with several years’ worth of experience. My first question was, what inspired her to apply in the first place?

 

“I’m really anal about spelling and grammar,” Daphne laughed before adding, “but really, I love to write and wanted to fine-tune my abilities. I’ve met other builders in the game who joined for similar reasons. The first application I submitted was without any proofreading on my part, and they turned me down flat. What a HUGE blow to my ego! My third attempt was much more successful. Iron Realms isn’t kidding about applicants submitting error-free room descriptions.”

 

 Daphne explained that, once selected, text gamers accepted into the building program sign a strict non-disclosure agreement prohibiting them from discussing projects with anyone, even other builders or the Divine! I couldn’t imagine working alone in seclusion, or putting hours into a project without getting any kind of recognition in return.

 

 “Because my character in the game holds membership in many organizations, I actually welcome the seclusion and anonymity building provides. It’s a nice break. I don’t mind collaborating with other builders in the game, but I can work faster alone. And I know all the details about my area, whether it’s a serene landscape or a dank cavern. For instance, a rainbow llama farm east of a highway is likely visible from a hill to the west,” she stopped and chuckled. “That probably sounds crazy outside an RPG environment. Even though a lot of players claim that they don’t even read room descriptions in the text game, I smile when hearing favorable comments about something I wrote. But typos are a different story altogether!”

Create a Character

 Just how forgiving are Divine about a builder’s spelling or grammar mistakes?  “New builders start as apprentices, and the Divine are both patient and forgiving. I quickly learned the best way to avoid having my work corrected multiple times, was to adopt better writing habits in the first place. It’s made me a better writer in other areas of life outside the game. I feel bad for the Celani who had to pick apart my early work, though. It was pretty terrible compared to current building guidelines.”

 

 Although given permission to talk about being a text game builder, Daphne refrained from sharing certain details. “I’ve done everything from writing basic item descriptions to using an Orb of Creation to build my own, unique area. I’ve worked on sections for places that considered my text game character an enemy, to the village where she’s a citizen. The challenge and variety are awesome, especially since it’s completely in text. I am working on something new,” she admitted with a wink. “But all I’ll say is that it offers equal opportunity for roleplay, hunting, and questing.”

 

 As with guides, mortal builders receive payment for their work in the form of credits, the amount proportional to how complex the project is. “I’d have applied for mortal building even if there was no payment involved,” Daphne reflected. “It’s been an incredible opportunity, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The first time I saw changes I’d made go live in the text game, I felt a little swell of pride. Even though nobody knew it was my work, just knowing that I was able to give something back to a game I love is my biggest addiction...being able to make a genuine, positive impact on the text game itself...that’s the best reward.”

 

 “Like most things, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. If you’re only applying as a way to get credits or hope for recognition, then don’t be surprised if you wind up disappointed or fizzle out of the program. Builders who last are the ones who enjoy building just for the sake of building, regardless of whether they receive payment or acknowledgment for their work or not.”

 

 Many thanks to Daphne and all the mortal builders, mortal and Divine, past and present, who lend their own unique touches to the complex environment of Iron Realms array of addicting games!

 

Penelope Swain is a text game enthusiast who enjoys the most addicting games from Iron Reams!

Comments

While for familar areas I tend to not look at the long room descriptions, when I explore an area for a first time, a well written description goes a long way to making it memorable.

^

This

^ That

^

Yup, especially since it also gives hints if there's something unique in the room!

There should always be something unique in a room, I feel. Whether that be something interactable or not is another matter entirely, but I absolutely LOVE having characters use emotes to interact with things that aren't normally interactable when I make manse rooms.

 

Much like Daphne above, I'd probably apply for Mortal Builder even if there was no reward at all aside from seeing your work in-game. It just seems like a really, really cool job to have, and a good creative outlet!

Heh

Part of why I've always LOVED IRE games and other MUDs over say...WoW...was that it was very much like an interactive story, going beyond the potential of set graphical games. Mortal builders just adds to the layer of interaction to the game. Actual architects and the like in game...just makes it far more impressive than a stable world you can look at but never touch or affect

I love finding things to interact with in rooms.

Totally agreed! Visiting a new area for the first time really sets the tone of your visits their later.

Also makes it better if you're among the first to visit it

I loved being one of the first and getting to speak with one of the Divine controlled denizens before they offically opened it. It was an amazing experience. I also find that the room description really helps with some puzzles and secret locks

sure does

that for sure

Yes

I really enjoy exploring in Achaea, and finally making it to Prin and reading the descriptions, and how they got more and more eerie as you headed deeper into the island was one of the more memorable experiences I've had yet.

theres a reason IRE has the most addicting games - they put quality workmanship into each and every area they build. bravo to the developers of the best text games.

TRULY the most addictive

I'm the same way. I enjoy reading the descriptions the first time through an area, but after that I don't normally focus on them too much. If the description is good, it generally cements the place in my mind but i've been to a few new areas that I thought were horrible and haven't returned since

I agree

Aye, some areas are too huge to read all the descriptions, so I need several visits to see all of it.

Tis

^

I agree, in new areas especially they tend to have really interesting room descriptions.

I really enjoyed this.  Thanks!

^

Seconded!

I both Envy and do nont Envy the Celani at the same time.

Giving up your character/playing rights sucks

I don't think you have to do that?

It sounds like builders don't have to, but "higher-up" (Celani, etc?) you will have to eventually.

Yeah, I couldn't imagine going for Celani. I enjoy the game too much, even when I'm just keeping up with the news.

especially when you have alts, the very prospect of giving up all your characters just seems bad

Yep, no more "being a player" when you get to that level.

not for mortal builder, that is why it is mortal

Major kudos to the building teams in all the IRE text games. If theres one thing I love about Achaea, its that if you can think of an area, it probably exists, and so the bar just keeps getting higher and higher. For example, when I first came back to Achaea after a 2 year hiatus, I thought to myself "It'd be pretty cool if there was an insanus asylum to bash". Lo and behold, Creville Asylum had been built in my text game absence. Dedication to quality and player experience is truly what makes IRE put out some of the most addicting games, ever.

I prefar bashing Dun than Creville.

... has always been one of my favorite areas, too. It's rather large, and the whole thing works, both flavourwise and from a pure "I want to bash monster heads in" perspective.

The wimmens will miss you tonight!

Being a mortal builder does sound extremely fun; you get to expand the game you play! I bet it's really a unique experience, and it binds you closer to the game. You're not just playing it; you're working to make it bigger and better!

 

Hm..I should consider applying for that in my free time. But I don't think I have enough creative juices for that!

Good room descriptions always make the game more fun. :) 

I like good room descriptions.

aye

they transport us ....we owe a lot of what we experience toward the visions given to us!

I am currently writing my application for Celaniship, though I would much prefer Mortal Builder. I love to create, and my favourate part of playing is crafting items and creating new rooms in my estates. I love wide and varied rp so as a Celani at least I will be able to roleplay many different situations and even start new roleplay events. Not that I think I will get it first time, but the way I see it, its all good practice for when I finally have the ability to put in an application that is noticed.

Good luck with the application, Nivek. :)

Most players don't bother with room descriptions but I think that they are a vital part of a MUD and those that do bother reading a room description appreciate interesting designs.

 

Room descriptions add a lot to the game, and just feel weird when they're not there. (Like a sub room w/o a descript yet, etc.)

Bleh, how will we RP with you if you are a Celani ? :(

Very interesting peek behind the scenes

I always appreciate a well-written and designed area..and hope there are good denizens and hunting to go along with it. I've seen some really well-written areas in other games that were almost completely abandoned.

I always get sad when there is a beutifully written area that Boone seems to go to

I'd love to be a builder. MKO doesn't seem to have many (any?) of them though. Perhaps as the game matures, mortal building will become more practical.

people read the descriptions.

people read the article.

I tend not to read room descriptions, but I like the fact that they're there. I can walk through the world and interact with it at a surface level if I want, but whenever I feel like stopping to smell the roses, I can.

I'm the same. Unlike what some people posted earlier, I don't read the descriptions of a new area right away; I wait until later when I want to get to know an area better or have a more vivid image.

I do! Especially the first time visiting someplace.

I do at times, especially when trying to find a place for a quest, for a hidden exit etc. 

Mortal builders really help keep the staff free and clear to focus on other things. They also do a stand-up job in the actual room/area building and keep things interesting. And my gods, Moghdu-Azdun and the tunnels and areas in between is SO HUGE and full of many things to bash. Keep up the good work.

i agree with you 

I wonder what is generally the turnout rate for a new area from beginning to end. How does the project get approve and what kind of criteria does it go through?

Are very important

 

When do we get some at MKO?

 

is very cute. Nice lego man. Will post legitimate comment when I've had more sleep. :)

If anything I just want to design some situations for players. ^_^

I always wanted to do room descriptions but my english isn't good enough for using fancy words :(

very important people

Unfourtunatly I'm not a very good writer so thank you to all the great writers out there that add to my favourite games!

Same here. I lack the creativity and my english isn't good enough for it.

are the best!

I agree!

cool, i didn't even know that mortals could be chosen to be builders!

It sounds like being a builder is hard and time consuming!

And generally a thankless job.

Thanks builders!

I really wanted to be a builder, but I always seem to miss the applications.

I would LOVE to be a builder. SO far time and opportunity have not lined up well.

 

it sounds like an interesting job, but the amount of time that has to go into it seems daunting

Good read.

agree

I don't know how other mortal builders feel about it, but personally I get the warm fuzzies whenever I see on deathsight someone dying to mobs I've created.

No

Last I checked you did not have to give up your mortal character to become a mortal builder (hence the term "mortal"). It's whenever you decide to go for Celani, is when you will have to give up your mortal(s).  Great article though, definitely learned something new!

I like how some areas have a special feel to them, you can get even without reading the full description of each room

I just want to say thank you to all the mortal builders, you help make these games as awesome as they are.

Reopen classleads plx, cmon

 

Mudkips

You lyke them.

 

 

I used to build way back when, before people had to sign agreements. She's really not kidding about the guidelines and numerous revisions...

I've enjoyed being a builder in the past, here's hoping that MKO opens up applications for them soon.

This sounds like a thoroughly enjoyable task for the kind of person I am. One of my favorite things to do in Lusty right now is design craftables. I'd love to be able to do the whole 'Mortal Building' thing but right now I know I'm prolly not good enough. There are some rooms I look at and just have to gape at how well done they are. I'd love to be able to impact the game at a deeper level than I currently do, with books that no one will read and culture contests only two people will join in to.

Hey! A lot of people participated in the last one! I'm sure the same number, if not more, will participate in this next coming one!

This articles just made me feel guilty about flying from room to room without really looking. I'll try and observe more often. Oh well, back to grinding!

make the world go whee :o

An important article about important people!

This is very interesting. Hmm, could I ever be one?

IRE has always been working hard to ensure the quality of the virtual world they produce is always above a standard in all the places.

And

High quality, and built on the backs of volunteers! Insanity.

Good read.

I love pieces about behind the scene, always enjoyable.

Takes time and motivation to do this. I give props to all those who do it.

I have to say I really like the mortal builder program they have in IRE.  It lets people contribute to the game's development while still keeping their character and play the game.  It's a good half-way point for those who aren't quite willing to make the sacrifice required to become Celani or greater.

I first thought I saw a puppet who had gotten a laptop dropped on its head. A dictionary is more likely for these builders.

I don't have time anymore :x

I can see why they never give up their identities. If they were ongoing mortal builders, they'd have people pestering for details about what the next area might be like.

I could never do this. Kudos to those who can

Aye, if the job of mortal builder could be writing some code for NPCs or item or quests, I would definitely try. Writing descriptions for rooms is quite harder

Thank you to all the builders out there who give us players a framework by which to play.

Um, I know nobody can say if poorly-written old places like Ashtan are getting a facelift, but they deserve it.

wow, I forgot I wrote this. Still true, yo!

hmm

build away, my friends.

LOL, love the picture!

Deathsight mob fuzzies. Heh. Who created Belladona anyway?

nice

Considered doing it, but never had the time. Next time there's a call for them, I might try it, though.

I've never enjoyed being on the "GM" side of the curtain as much as being blissfully ignorant. I find it much more fun the explore the world that he/she/they create for me and run with it. Hat's off to you folks that feel differently, I couldn't do it without you.

Wait. I want to see the rainbow llamas!!!

yes

building is nice!

 

I was thinking about it, and the rooms I've done I did the way I wanted to do them, and I did it for the immersive experience of creating a little piece of my imagination in a more "real" sense. I knew less than 3% of people would really read any of them.

Nice.

The long descrips make exploring fun

This is a very interesting reading for a newbie like me!

Who plays muds to read, anyway? Not me. ;)

Really now, who would want to play a game with no pictures?

I love reading room descriptions. When I don't feel like hunting I take a walk around places and try to get inspiration for my manse and other projects I have in the back of my mind. I am especially fond of places that change based on time of day or have other additional levels of immersion. I know this is probably a newbie question, but do they have certain limits on how short or long a description can be?

I agree

Great game.

That's awesome, it encouraged me just to start writing again. Nothing to do with room descriptions but it stirred up a passion inside me.

When I'm trying to solve a quest.

I wonder if it makes good credits to be a mortal builder...

Very curious about the outline and guidelines with writing. I would like to see those next, maybe? 

This is somewhat on a tangent, but I really like how strict IRE is to spelling and in fixing up mistakes. I may gripe when designs get returned, but I really like that rooms, items and emotes get picked up quickly. It's a credit to Ishap and IRE staff in general.

Well, the builders make our crap work.

Are so underappreciated. There need to be more quests that make you read the room descriptions.

When I first started playing IRE games, the room descriptions were where all the magick was.

Thank you for making the places and things so memorable

The room descriptions are awesome. If you typically just run everywhere it's worth taking time occasionally to stop and have a look.

Agreed. Even quickly running through a room lets you see the room name, and in Lusternia, there are several that are just pretty damn funny.

ha

Cute lego USB key.

the lego is awesome lol

 

Ditto. The lego rocks. I want one for myself!

I was at Books-a-Million over the weekend and saw one of these Lego USB guy thingys, and immediately thought of this article. ;)

I don't always read the room descriptions but when I do I really appreciate the time that the writers have put in to make them unique.

 

Good read thanks!

I'm looking forward to it.

I like the new Newbie area

I like the headless usb toy LOL.

Next article should be for all the coders who keep things runnigng and make things better. I'd like to say, Garryn for Imperian is awesome, does awesome work and is always awesomely helpfu.

One of the things that have always drawn me back to the IRE games as opposed to the graphic RPG's out there is their attention to making sure it is well-written, and player driven. The people who play the game are the same as the ones that make it what it is. Mortal builders are just one example of how they allow their players to fully express their creativity through this outlet.

 

When I first started playing I read everything! Its the beauty of the written word that makes Achaea alive for me.  Two places that transport me to the "other world" are Lord Scarlatti's temple and the Isle of Erymanthus. I appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making Achaea a world I can "see".

Indeed, Scarlati's temple is beyond beautiful.

Your contributions are well appreciated. Thank you

Some areas do feel like they got the same amount of effort as King put into his lamp monster idea.

As others already mentioned there would probably be way more people being willing to help out with work if they didn't have to give up their chars. Sadly it's not an IRE problem but an issue of people being unable to handle both without the need to leak info.

ou

 

Some day I would like to be a builder, always been a personal goal of mine.

To do that, to contribute that, alot of envy is held towards the builders heh.

Ilove everybody that is involved and contributes to me being able to play. <3

Apparently... hasen't worked yet though...

Favourite article to date, maybe it's just inspiring enough to nudge me into applying to be a builder.

.

Achaea is beautiful. Rather, it has beautiful room descriptions, although we will ignore reading them after passing the same room for the umpteenth time onwards.

Builders mortal or immortal are wht keep the games intresting in my opention. otherwise you would eventualy see all there is to see and do all there is to do.  cudoes to all builders!

Indeed, Achaea's world is beautifully described within, butchering it by calling the game 'addicting'  is taking it down to:

greetz!  stops achaea addicting me, keeps itz addictive tho, pleez,thx,lolz!

There are some really interesting room descs scattered throughout the Lusternia world, like a view of Ackleberry (sundered from reality), or of the world beyond the Basin of Life. Kudos to the builders who add in little details like that!

The area I always think of when I try to think of my favourite in Achaea is Makali's temple. A river of fire leading into this crumbled ruin dedicated to the Goddess of Destruction. It's so vivid.

The thing I hate when looking around new areas is if the quests are badly explained. If I greet someone 10 times and get no response from "quest", "work", "task", "help", or any other obvious local keyword, I'm moving on because you made your information too hard to find.

Thats the point of some quests, the level of difficulty

Thanks to all Mortal Builders and the rest of the teams that make game-playing so awesome!

I've always loved building stuff, but I don't know if I'd be up for building an area for a text game. I think making a good area takes a level of depth beyond that of what I typically have in mind when I'm playing with some sort of building tool.

 

I really like the higher standards for IRE. While not everything is perfect (not including typos), it is typically of much better quality than what you'd get some a mainstream game such as WoW.

IR's building standards truely (thankfuly) is quality over quantity.

They learned over the years that this is very true.

I like building things, and I have several good ideas but my writing skills are not so great. Plus i am already putting all of my allocated gaming time into my character.

I didn't know mortal builders existed. It does sound like it would be an incredibly fun job, but not one I would be very good at. I love the room descriptions, but usually only read them a a few times unless I come across a room that just blows me away, then I read it again and again, every time I go there. the words stay the same, but eavh time, the mental image changes, becomes more and more beautiful and clear.

^

^

I'd love to do this, but not sure I'd have the chops to do it!

Especially when you consider areas like Creville and the sewers of Mhaldor that are so atmospheric and painfully unique. It's obvious when the designers are passionate about an area because it becomes something like that.

Open world!

The room descriptions and thought process that go into the areas are just awesome.  Keep up the good work!

But I don't pay too much attention to them.

good article

I think the key to making a good area is to be cohesive, diverse and descriptive but not overly so. Sometimes the city room descriptions can be a tad overwhelming.

just saw the pictue, lol

The builders of Achaea do a great job. Well-written places like Creville add a whole lot of flavour to bashing and questing as well as to just exploring new places. I would love to be a builder or even just to refurbish old areas that don't necessarily adhere to the current standards.

I feel a bit guilty keeping room descriptions set to brief because of all the effort that goes into creating these amazing alternative universes. When questing though, you read every detail looking for clues, plus secret rooms entered by touching items in the long description.

But sometimes it gets in the way

I'm thankful to all the builders who put in the effort to make the IRE worlds as detailed and descriptive as they are.  The descriptions act as our "graphics", and they can definitely immerse us in worlds more imaginative than my poor laptop's ailing graphics card would.

I like reading the descriptions of rooms and such.  makes it interesting

I like reading the descriptions of rooms and such.  makes it interesting

Is pretty interesting.

Granted, thats really only if I'm with someone who's roleplaying with me, rather than mindless bashing sprees.

Doesn't have to be big in the expansive sense, but depth is where it's at. The more things to do in a place, and the more reason to be there, the better.

I used to be a buider once upon in my early years of gaming and it offered no rewards except for my own. I quite enjoyed building and creating new ideas and places for player to explore. I tend to look at room descriptions quite often due to my past as a builder for my first RPG. Many thanks to all who spend -countless- hours, days, and months creating all the places we all enjoy to hunt, quest, explore and for some just look around! Maybe one day I'll get back into biulding, until then I'll just keep on making my own unique items with jewellery, tailoring, and my mansion in Eleusis on Achaea.

it sounds fun, but daunting at the same time.. 

The flavour of so many of the areas I've been through really make the game fun for me. They make an atmosphere that gives me great mental images!

A lot of work...thanks, y'all!

do you guys really have that kind of USB? if so, how much is it and do you charge for shipping?

Soon everything can be plugged into the USB.

Well done room descriptions really bring a lot to the game.

The amount of imagination and detail in most areas, rooms, and replicas is truly impressive. I'm much more the coder type myself, which is quite a different form of creativity.