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General overview of area building

The rules of area building for TFC

  1. Anyone with a character in their stable that is level 20 or higher may request permission to author an area. This is NOT a short cut to going immortal. Immortality just is not a requirement to authoring an area.
  2. Anyone writing an area will submit themselves to the following rules on the conduct of ALL their characters on the MUD:
    1. At no time will the nature of the items in your area be revealed to mortals. Make them find out what they do themselves.
    2. At no time will you collect items in your area and distribute them to mortals. Make them find where they are themselves.
    3. At no time will you give information on mob levels, traps, tricks, or any other feature of the area to mortals. Make them discover it for themselves.
    4. At no time will any other confidential information regarding your area, or any area or feature of TFC, be given out to mortals.
    5. For the first two months of your area's existence on the LIVE server of TFC you will not lead adventurers in your area.
    6. Violation of these rules (a subset of the wizrules) will be grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including deletion of characters.
  3. Areas written must be exclusive to TFC and not be run on any other MUD. If any area you write is found running on another MUD, all your areas will be removed from TFC. It may take us some time to replace them, and it will be painful for us to do so, but we WILL do it. Should we be forced to exercise this rule, the author in question will also be disallowed from writing any future areas for TFC.
  4. The theme of the area must fit the TFC World View. See the separate listing for what that is.
  5. The submission procedures will be followed EXACTLY.
  6. The Area Coordinator withholds the right to place, balance, or otherwise edit the area to make it fit in TFC. Authors will make all changes that are ordered, but may discuss any change requested in a ONE time appeal. If the appeal fails, the change must be made. Once an area is submitted, it belongs to The Final Challenge. The Area Coordinator, or future Area Coordinators, are free to make any changes they desire, and you do not retain possession of creative control.
  7. No area may have more than 100 rooms, 100 objects, and 100 mobs. These will be numbered from XX00 to XX99 inclusive, where XX is the assigned area vnum. Areas should be between 90-95 rooms, which gives the Area Coordinator a few rooms to use for later additions to the area, such as rooms connecting future areas to the area. You may be asked to write the connect rooms yourself. For large projects, a set of related areas may be done, but no single area can exceed these limits.
  8. Help in writing is available online in the HELPS or in hardcopy form from the Area Coordinator. If your question is answered in the TFC Area Writer's Guide, you will be directed to it...if not, the issue will be examined and handled when asked. The Guide is your first line of help...use it well. First time authors will receive special assistance...all others shall handle things themselves.
Guidelines for submitting areas for TFC inclusion
*The Ultimate Rule* - Areas will be written within the TFC spirit from the outset - no huge hoards of cash, no 100-150 damage super weapons, and so on... Writing such things just wastes everyone's time.

Submission guidelines
All initial proposals and work are sent to the Co-Area Coordinators, Tokuagwa and Tamar. They should be mailed to mbeck@fastq.com and should cc Tynian at tynian@finalchallenge.net. The submission guidelines are as follows:

a1. Mortals considering writing an area must contact the Area Coordinator and have a level range assigned to them. Mortals must write the area to that level range - they do not have a choice on it.
a2. Mortals considering writing an area must be in good standing on the MUD. If they are not, they must wait.
a3. Mortals are limited to working on ONE area at a time.
a4. Mortals may submit areas under only ONE character name. At the time of writing an area, disclosure of ALL characters in your stable must be made. New characters made in the future must be reported as well. Refusal to do so, or incomplete disclosure, can lead to rejection of any and all areas. (There is no character flag involved so do not let that worry bother you.)

b1. Authors must submit a proposal of the area PRIOR to starting writing it. This proposal MUST include:

    The name of the area
    What level range you are targeting
    What location you are thinking of
    What theme you are thinking of
    Any special objects you want to include
    Any special tricks/traps/sneakiness involved

In short, the proposal should be about a page long and give me a broad overview of what I should expect. If it is omitted, the area will not be considered. Do not work on your proposed area until/unless it is accepted.

Proposals should be mailed to mbeck@fastq.com, and should cc Tynian at tynian@finalchallenge.net as mentioned above.

NO NEW CODE will be allowed. In other words, you are limited to the special functions in the approved lists. If there is an exceptional idea, this rule might be overlooked, but consider the fact that in all the first time author situations, only ONE ever received the approval for new code.

NO ILLOGICAL LINKS will be allowed without EXPRESSED prior approval. An illogical link is defined as a link that combines 2 directions (north+west
up+south), one that links an area in a loop (4 norths take you back to the same spot), or one that folds back on itself in some other way. A lot of time was spent laying the map out logically. Portals and things like mazes are fine, but they MUST be approved or the bug hunters will rip the area to shreds.

NO WWP ITEMS WITH AFFECTS are allowed in new areas.

b2. If the proposal is accepted, you will then be assigned a Vnum range to work with, and a base filename. This will be the final filename (e.g. midgaard.are). You will not use this base filename directly, instead, each version you create and send to the Area Coordinator will use the base filename with a letter appended. The first draft would be midgaardA.are, the second would be midgaardB.are, etc. This allows the Area Coordinator to keep an archive of your progress. You are likely to get to around G.

c. You must submit ALL objects in the area for prior review. All changes requested by the Area Coordinator will be governed by rule 6 above.

d. ALL authors will spell check their areas prior to each submission. A makeshift way to do this is to load a copy of the .are file into a program that spellchecks such as Word, allow it to find errors, and then make the changes in the real file in the Muditor. It is generally a bad idea to let the program do the spellchecking automatically, as small changes in the .are file will cause the area not to load (And thus crash the test mud).

e. ALL authors will include a comment block in the Resets, or in a separate email at the time of submission. This comment block will list the following information:

  1. Where the area connects to the outside world - room numbers AND door directions. Mortals can get the vnum of the connection room from a God+.
  2. A short statement on the theme of the area. This will be used as what your "intent" was should problems arise later on in the area's lifecycle.
  3. Any special details you wish to pass on to the Area Coordinator so he doesn't take them out during some wild edit spree.

f. Any authors wanting new code will confer with the Area Coordinator as to what they want, and if it is approved, will work with the Area Coordinator to write it. (Read that as you will write your own 90% of the time.) Remember that for mortals and first time authors, new code is at best a long shot, and continues to be so until someone has written several areas or has reached God+ status.

g. When the area is approved, it will enter testing. Any bugs that are found in initial testing will be the author's responsibility to find and fix unless they bribe the Area Coordinator to do it (Elf maidens, pitiful looks, etc). The author is obliged, in this test phase, to give any and all immortals who care a tour of the area and its high points. During this initial tour and while testing is underway, the bug hunters will scour the area for blown exits, typos, and other problems which the author will fix unless, as stated before, he/she successfully bribes the Area Coordinator.

h. Once the area is out of testing, the Area Coordinator is free to make adjustments as necessary to fix problems that crop up, or upgrade it to new TFC standards. The area belongs to TFC, and you do not retain possession.

i. Installed areas will have your name in the author spot of the area list, and on the boot installing it there is a 90% chance an associated quest will be run for players to find it. Rule 2 governs your actions in this quest and in people later asking directions to it - if you reveal its location, the area will be instantly gone and deleted from TFC.

The TFC world view: what kind of areas are allowed on TFC?
What is the "world view" of The Final Challenge? Basically, it is the world view of DnD - gnomes, giants, giant-kin, ogres, aarakocrans, and so on. Each race has racial "hometowns" and they are arrayed around the map. Each race further has its own "natural" enemies - gnomes hate goblins and kobolds, and so on. For more information on the races, visit the TFC web page.

On the northern continent using Midgaard as a reference, far to the north are the cold mountains, east and west (as well as immediately north and south) are forests, far to the south are the deserts and the seas. There is some variation here and there, but that is the general geography in the defined zones.

South of the northern continent are the vast waters of the Maelmordian Seas. This is a very dangerous area with several sea monsters roaming about that could easily take down even a level 50 player. Scattered around the seas are islands, amoung them Mithas, Molotov Island, The Isle, Cannibal Island, Tier Sh'Halen, Skelos, and the Pirate Island. Most of the known island spots are claimed by authors, but the seas will be expanding along the northern and southern continent coastlines from time to time, and when that happens, new spaces for islands do emerge. There is also the possibility of writing undersea areas like the Sahuagin City.

On the far side of the seas from the northern continent lies the dark unknown...the southern continent. Starting from a coastline and moving inward to the mostly uncharted interiors, the south is a much wilder and less civilized place than the northern continent. The western side of the southern continent is the high ranges of the Oort mountains, and on the east are the forests and plains. Several rivers and lakes are to be found, and a scattering of towns and villages exist. There is only one large city, that of Safehaven on the coast where the Tiber meets the Maelmordian Seas. The landmass of the southern continent as currently laid out with connect zones is roughly six times the size of the northern continent, but it has half the areas within it, and therefore is open to quite a bit of development. We will not pile areas on top of areas, though, on the south, and areas that are proposed are reviewed not only for theme, but for the impact on the areas that would be adjacent to them.

Areas should be designed to fit in this world - both geographically and with respect to theme/genre. If they do not fit they won't go in...and making a fit is an integral part of the proposal process. Currently, the central corridor from the Whitefrost forest south through Midgaard to the oceans is closed to area development. Any areas designed must be placed elsewhere. Exceptions will only be made in cases where the author can show extreme need or usefulness. There will be opportunity to write areas to replace existing non-TFC specific areas. Should you be interested in doing this contact the Area Coordinator for the specific conditions and requirements involved.

Things that don't fit: Futuristic Areas, Modern 20th Century Areas, Areas that are illogically laid out, Areas that unbalance the game or are mis-rated, Areas that duplicate to a large extent other areas, and by ALL means NO SMURFS! You get the idea. Again, these things are determined as an integral part of the proposal process.

Area building tools
The offical editor for TFC is Sirak's Muditor, which can be found at http://www.nashite.org/muditor.html. This was written by TFC's own Sirak, and supports almost all of TFC's unique features. Over ninety percent of your development can be done within the editor, but you should still be able to read through the resulting .are file to make changes if needed. When submitting a draft or final version, only submit the .are file. The .srk file is simply a backup copy.

If you are editing the area file in anything other than the Muditor, be sure to save it as pure ASCII text. Notepad works well for this on Windows platforms, although older versions of Notepad will not be able to handle the entire file if you are a verbose author.

Area building hints
Area writing is much like writing a short story or a novel in that you must create characters, objects, and an environment by words alone. A story of sorts arises from these items each and every time the area is played. What you are writing, then, is the stage on which these stories are played out and the characters who come alive in the story. The good thing is that even if one doesn't have great writing talent, they can still make a fine area. What it all comes down to is planning and thinking things through BEFORE starting the area. To aid you, here are some helpful hints to follow when writing an area, but most especially for when writing your first one.

1. Make a map. Not in your head, but on paper. It doesn't have to be to scale, but a diagram showing what room is where and how things connect will save you a world of pain in first writing the links and in debugging them later. The map of an area is the NUMBER ONE best aid you can create. Each room on the map should contain its vnum for best results.

2. Make a list of the objects and mobs with their vnums along side them. When writing the resets for the area, such a list will be invaluable. Or print out those sections of the area file before starting the resets.

3. Resets will take at least 1/4 of the writing time of your area - they look deceptively easy but they are the primary thing people screw up. A way to speed them up is to xerox your map and write in each room what mobs and objects go in it. If you are unclear as to how to reset something, ASK first - it is better to ask and get help before hand than to try and undo/fix resets later.

4. The rooms of your area will take the bulk of the writing time. At least 50% if not more of your time will be spent working directly on them. And a lot of this will not be in the description writing, but in the exits and doors making sure they are correctly set. Plan accordingly.

5. DON'T RUSH IT. It takes many hours to write an area, check it, get it approved, get it tested, and finally get it into play. Don't be discouraged if you catch on slow or it seems to be taking a long time. I have spent as few as 2 hours on an area and as many as 50, and have one in development that will probably take me 100 hours of coding and writing to complete (it is quite complicated). The idea is to start off with a simple area for your first one and grow from there...starting with a wicked and wild area as your first one will most probably raise your blood pressure, heighten your frustration, and totally discourage you. My best advice is to take is slow.

6. Learn to use a ASCII editor. You will need it and it will pay off in time saved. Learning one that has a built in spell checker (like pico) will kill two birds with one stone.

Definition of terms
NPC, mob, mobile, creature, monster:
These are used somewhat interchangeably to identify a character in the game which is being run by the MUD and not by a player. In this work, mob is the normal term used.

combined value:
This is the summing of discrete flag values into a single number. For instance, if you want the flag values of 1, 8, and 256, you enter them as a combined value. This is done in two different ways, whichever the author chooses. The first is to just add them together. 1+8+256 which is 265. You would then enter 265 in the field. The second method is called "or'ing the values". You would enter each number in the field and separate them with the "|" character. In this case, 1|8|256 would be entered in the field. Sirak's Muditor always sums the values. If for some reason you are manually editing the values, please use the or format for clarity and ease of future manual editing.

specfun, special function:
This is a piece of C program code which a mob, door, or room is "attached" to, giving it additional properties to spice up the game. When we speak of NEW CODE, we are talking about these functions and are discussing the request for a new specfun to be written specifically for your area.

vnum:
This has 2 meanings. First, it is the number assigned to your area. But, when talking about a specific area component (a mob, room, or object), it is the specific number assigned to that room. Both are referring to the unique identifier assigned to something so that both the MUD and the gods can keep track of things.

Back to the area writer's guide page.

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