Online Text Games: Performing in a Role Playing MUD
By Seth R. Cooke
Despite the non-visual nature of text games, it is entirely plausible to roleplay a wandering minstrel or a performer of sorts. There are a few things that must be done to ensure that the performance is effective, and there is a very real and noticeable difference between a well-rehearsed skit and an unfinished, unpracticed one. The intent of this guide is to instruct the reader in three important parts of planned performing: audience appeal, descriptiveness, and timing.
Like writing a paper, perhaps the most important aspect of a performance is to consider the audience. If you are performing for the High Priests of the God of Justice, it would quite possibly be poor form to deliver a performance warning of the dangers of following the rules too strictly. Consider what your audience would find appealing and identify any touchy subjects to avoid. There is little worse than offending a group of people while performing. Mocking their enemies, singing of their side's exploits, or offering a non-aligned story is perhaps the safest way to proceed. It is, of course, possible to gently tease those you are performing for, but care must be taken. Remember, an offended audience will quite probably not pay!
Descriptiveness is the second most important part of any skit. No matter how witty your message or clever your puns, if the audience has no idea what you are doing (or worse yet, cant bring themselves to care!), it is all for nothing. Because of this, all emotes should have two goals. The first is to convey your message. The audience should be able to tell what you are doing, how you are doing it, and other things of note. This is done so that they can properly visualize your performance.
However, the second goal is to keep it relatively brief. Once an emote exceeds five or six lines, your audience tends to tune out. Length is a matter of style, but aiming between 4 and 6 lines ensures that your actions are both long enough to convey actions and still short enough to keep the attention of those watching.
Timing is likewise important. When delivering a performance of any substance, the preferred method is to have it bound to a single alias, which will set off the performance one emote at a time, with a delay between each emote. The delay is important because if the audience waits too long for the next emote, they will begin to lose interest. Conversely, if the emotes bombard them rapid-fire, they will feel overwhelmed and struggle to keep up, possibly missing important parts of the show.
Because of this, it is recommended that you allot five to seven seconds per line, rounding up to the nearest five. For instance, an emote of four lines means that the delay should be anywhere from twenty to twenty-eight seconds, rounding up to thirty if you have seven. The length of time should be based on the complexity of the line. If you have a series of short, simple words describing a basic action, five seconds is fine.
However, the more complex or important the line is (larger words, vital bits of the show), the longer the delay should be set for. This allows ample time for the audience to read and process what has been done, without boring them with long delays. When in doubt, practice it with a friend. Someone reading for the first time will read slower than you, someone who is familiar with the work, and they will be able to advise you on when to speed up or slow down the speed of your emotes.
Keeping these few basic principles in mind will allow you to write technically correct and effective performances. By understanding your audience, you will be able to effectively aim your performances. Being descriptive will ensure that your point does not miss the mark and that your audience understands what you are attempting to do. And finally, by using efficient timing, your performances will keep the attention of the audience while ensuring that your message is not missed.
If performing in text appeals to you, give it a shot in some of the most sophisticated and flexible role playing MUDs available.
Seth R. Cooke is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from http://www.IronRealms.com.
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