Tribute to Loki
How To Make A MUSH In Three Days - Dedicated to Loki, Who Did
"I want to make a MUSH. How hard can it be?"
No, this isn't one of those articles where I point at you and laugh for asking that question. I'm not going to frighten you with statistics, horror stories, and Real-Life Experience™ that proves to five significant figures that making a MUSH is impossible, time-consuming, addictive, bad for your skin, or that attempting to create a MUSH without proper protection will make you go blind, give you a social disease, or make you pregnant.
The truth is that those are the exact words my friend Loki said to me on the phone the day we made Crossroads MUSH.
(As an aside - there are three things you should never say no matter what the provocation. Those three things are How hard can it be?, At least it can't get any worse, and You wouldn't dare. All three are like beacons for a karmic butt-kicking. But I digress.)
You have to understand something about Loki and me. At this point, I had been roleplaying online for nearly ten years, and I know Loki had a few years on me. I'd played on seven or eight different games, been staff on three, and Loki was one of the best GMs I'd ever met. We loved roleplaying, and we loved roleplaying with each other... mostly because we agreed on the major, basic points of style like how realistic scenes should be, what was and wasn't acceptable in a fantasy setting, and what makes a plot enjoyable for everyone involved. We worked well together, we went on vacations together... eventually we probably would have bought a house together and been those two weird little old ladies on the end of the street with all the dogs and cats. But I digress. Again.
We'd both been playing on one particular place for... years and years. For most of those years, this place was home. But recently it had started to feel like your mom and dad's basement after you've gotten your college degree, and you want to stay out all hours of the night and bring strange boys (and/or girls) home to play *ahem* video games, but your dad says, "As long as you live under my roof you're going to follow my rules..." And we kinda wanted to follow our own rules for a while. It was time to move out of the basement. We knew it was, really, and we'd both been staying on other MUSHes for a few weeks here and there, sleeping on their couches and eating all of their snack foods, but no place really felt like home and a lot of places were starting to irritate us by the way they insisted we clean up after ourselves and hinted that it wouldn't hurt us to do a load of laundry once in a while.
So vaguely dissatisfied and wanting a place where we could have it all our own way, Loki calls me up and asks me 'the question'. Remember that I had staffed on a few places but never for a long period of time, and Loki was a great GM but had never staffed anywhere. Also, in all this time - neither one of us had ever learned to code. I knew how to build, and the basics of making things like puppets and what have you, but Loki could break an exit just by walking her character through it.
Despite knowing all of this, my response to her was immediate: "It can't be that hard, I know some real idiots who have done it..."
(Just as an aside - never say that if you're planning on doing something like this. Karma is a real witch and She Is Listening. But I digress.)
A few minutes later, with Loki on the phone and a coder friend of ours, Tober, on IM, I had what we needed - the name of somebody who could help. "You want to talk to nails," was what Tober had told us. "He hosts games."
As it turns out, it is phenomenally, incredibly, astonishingly easy to make a MUSH. Especially if you know nails. I can't speak for what happens if you don't know nails, but within twenty minutes we had a MUSH. We had an address, one room, a God character, and... absolutely no idea what to do next. Sure, it's easy to make a room - nails did all of the work on that. But what we really wanted was a successful MUSH. That is a little more difficult.
Stastically speaking, Crossroads shouldn't have lasted. Most MUSHes don't - I know some places that have been around for five years and still only have staff alts playing on them. I've personally logged into one in particular because I like the theme, but there is never anybody around. EVER. The odds were against us from the beginning - especially since we were doing the whole thing backwards.
We'd settled on the name Crossroads - I don't even remember why. I think we both just liked it. Actually Crossroads has special meaning for me - back in the day, when I was first discovering the Internet, I was on a talker called Crossroads. No RP - just all me, all the time. It was somebody from that Crossroads who introduced me to MUDs, and from there I found MUSHes, so it just seems appropriate somehow.
So, we had a name and we had a room, but we didn't have a theme. From what I understand, most people who create a MUSH from scratch have a theme in mind already when they decide to start - they've read a book or a TV show whose world they love and want to be a part of, or they've come up with this awesome idea and think - this would make a GREAT game. Not us.
"We need to come up with a theme. How hard can it be?"
You'll notice a recurring theme here - just not the kind we needed. But we were intoxicated by our success! Not twenty minutes earlier we'd decided to make a game and now we were sitting in the first room of that game - we could do anything! Including generate a theme by committee! We invited a bunch of our friends and fellow roleplayers over to sit in our brand-spanking new room and told them, "We want to make a MUSH. So, uh, what kind of MUSH do you want to play on? We need a theme."
Out of this discussion grew the theme of Crossroads - an Empire consisting of five islands with magical currents running between them that are controlled by the Emperor, and a Gateway chock-full of demons that is the charge of the Emperor's line. Medieval fantasy, magic and Knights and Princesses and intrigue. Heavy on the intrigue. Extra doses of politics. Less war, more backstabbing. Pirates. And a bit with a dog. And then everybody went to bed, except me.
It must have been about two o'clock in the morning, by now, but I was buzzed. I knew we had a medieval fantasy game now, and that meant we needed a castle - so I started building. By the time Avalon showed up the next afternoon, the entire castle was built and described, complete with exit messages. I think it was at this point that she realized we were really dedicated to doing this - we weren't going to be all talk and no action. She started building the village, and by the time Loki logged in that night, it was almost complete - it was at least thoroughly sketched out and about half built. We made Avalon our first admin for having so much faith in us.
So now it's day two and we have a castle and a village, and four staff members now - Amoret, Loki, Avalon and Tober. But we need news files and a write up of the theme... We divided those files up amongst us and our players and the next day, started adding them. Tober coded a +news system and taught us how to upload them - I think I wrote about half of mine on the fly, putting them directly into the +news without so much as an editing process. We were excited, yes, but there was an underlying urgency to everything we were doing - MUSHes have a certain inertia. They're pushed along by enthusiasm, but that only lasts so long. You can have the greatest concept in the world but if you make your players wait too long to become involved in it, your game will crash and burn. We'd had the meeting and everybody at it was excited and enthused and ready to play - so we had to give them something to play and we had to do it fast.
As it turned out, everyone wanted to help build the Empire. Our players love our MUSH because it's not just ours - it's theirs. They built it with us. They invented Isles and created history and dreamed right along beside us. Three days from the first time Loki asked me "How hard can it be?" Crossroads opened for roleplay. That was November 5, 2005. Today it is September 25, 2006 - Crossroads is preparing to celebrate its one-year anniversary, we average between 40 and 60 logins a night (nearly 30 during the days), we've gone from a staff of two (me and Loki) to a staff of nine (and we need every single one of them) and by all reasonable standards and measures, we've been incredibly successful.
The only problem is, Loki's not going to see the MUSH turn one. On August 31, 2006, Loki passed away very unexpectedly. We'd just had an amazing scene the night before - a demon attack - and we'd set a new connection record. Everybody - her family, her friends - says that Crossroads MUSH made her happier than they'd ever seen her for the short time she got to enjoy it. This game meant so much to her. It really is her baby - if she hadn't called me that day and asked me how hard it was to make a MUSH, Crossroads wouldn't exist.
So for Loki - my friend, my mentor, the best damn GM to grace the Internet ... Crossroads is going to thrive. We built it in three days and I still don't know what the hell I'm doing most of the time. I've made some mistakes, and the game isn't perfect by a long shot - but it's growing, and it's evolving, and it's becoming the place she wanted it to be. We're going to stay true to the principles she and I discussed in the beginning (which I'll discuss in later articles on the off chance they might help someone else who is in our situation) and in ten years, when we're celebrating our first decade, we'll all pop a top on a Corona and remember Loki, who gave us a home.