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    What is a coder?

    A coder in the context of text-based gaming, particularly in Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), MUSHes, and other online roleplaying platforms, is a programmer responsible for creating and modifying the software that operates the game.

    They write, debug, and maintain the code that enables the game world to function, allowing players to interact with each other and the environment.

    In MUDs, coders often work on customizing and expanding existing codebases to add new features, fix bugs, and improve game performance.

    The role of a coder has evolved over time. Initially, coders were mostly enthusiasts who modified existing games as a hobby. However, as text-based games grew in complexity and popularity, coding became a more specialized skill, with individuals dedicating significant time and resources to developing game features.

    Coder FAQs

    What skills are required to become a coder in text-based games?

    Ideally, a coder has a solid understanding of the programming languages relevant to the game’s codebase, such as Python (Evennia), JavaScript (AresMUSH), or Java (CoffeeMUD).

    However, many people have gotten started with no prior coding experience or knowledge of codebase mechanics whatsoever.

    What’s more important is a willingness to learn, problem-solve, and work collaboratively with game testers and other staff.

    How does coding for MUDs differ from other types of programming?

    Coding for MUDs often involves working with a specific, sometimes older, codebase and may require an understanding of networking, database management, and the specific mechanics of text-based interaction.

    Unlike some other types of programming, it also requires a strong sense of narrative and game design to enhance the player’s experience.

    Can someone learn to code by working on a MUD?

    Absolutely! Many coders have learned programming through modifying and creating content for MUDs and other text-based games. These environments provide a practical and engaging way to apply coding skills, understand complex systems, and contribute to a community.

    What is the typical workflow of a coder in a MUD?

    A coder in a MUD typically starts by identifying bugs, planning new features, or receiving tasks from the game’s owner or implementor. They then write or modify code, test changes (sometimes in a development environment), and collaborate with other staff on implementation and troubleshooting.

    How do I contribute to an existing text-based game as a coder?

    To contribute to an existing text-based game, you can start by joining the game’s community and expressing your interest in coding. Many games have forums, Discord servers, or mailing lists where you can learn about their coding needs and how to contribute.

    Familiarize yourself with the game’s codebase and documentation, and start by tackling small bugs or feature requests to get acquainted with the development process.

    How can I get started coding my own text-based game?

    To get started coding your own game, begin by exploring different codebases that are written in a programming language you want to learn.

    From there, you can find tutorials, guides, and community forums dedicated to text-based game development. Starting with modifying an existing game or working through a simple project can help build your skills and understanding.

    See also: Opie’s advice for aspiring game developers.

    Myths about coders

    One common misconception is that coders in text-based games, such as MUDs, have an easier task than those working in graphical games.

    In reality, while the challenges are different, coding for text-based games can be just as complex, requiring a deep understanding of game mechanics, player interaction, and narrative flow.

    Additionally, text-based games often involve intricate systems like combat mechanics, economy, and character development that require careful programming and balancing.

    Other misconceptions include:

    • Coders do everything: While coders are crucial to the development of a text-based game, they are typically part of a team that includes builders, game masters (GMs), and other staff. On the other hand, implementors on smaller games often wear multiple hats, including coder, builder, and policy admin.
    • Coding is only for experts: While coding does involve specialized knowledge, beginners can start learning and contributing to simpler aspects of game development and gradually build their skills. Everyone starts somewhere; you don’t have to be an expert from the get-go.
    • All coding is from scratch: Many text-based games are built on existing codebases, allowing coders to modify and expand on pre-existing frameworks rather than starting from zero.

    Coder examples

    A few examples of the kinds of work coders do daily:

    • Implement a new magic system into a MUD, which includes creating spells, effects, and balancing the mechanics.
    • Fix a bug that causes a player’s inventory to disappear under certain conditions.
    • Develop an in-game event system that allows other staff members to create and manage events without needing direct code access.
    • Write a new feature that lets players build and customize their own houses within the game world.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."