Does anyone have any web pages they can point me to that describe the best way to construct a room description? Along the lines of this article that Discworld provides. The problem with that article however, is that it is more like a checklist to run past descriptions to edit them to remove the worst practices, rather than a guide on how to construct a description.
I'm not sure this is possible to provide given that a room description is highly dependent on the feel and genre of MUD you're aiming for. The basic general principles are:
1) Describe the room's most important features first, and preferably only. 2) Describe the room using sensory information. 3) Keep the description as short as possible, since nobody reads long descriptions anyway. 4) Give each room a unique flair or twist to make it easily identifiable, recognizable, and interesting.
Think of a room description like a photograph. A good photograph of a scene would focus on the most interesting items in the scene, not on the dull background details. Photographs cannot convey emotion on their own, though they can convey the raw information that is likely to invoke an emotional response; they may even be taken for the expression purpose of invoking an emotional response, while still being physical incapable of carrying emotion. A good photograph does not try to cram a ton of objects into view, but instead gives each scene or object a clear and uncluttered presentation. A good photograph is always interesting; if its subject matter is innately dull, the photographer attempts to capture the subject at an interesting angle or with interesting lighting.
A number of muds have building guidelines on their webpages, but IMO most of them stink.
I notice you don't talk about "writing" descriptions, but about how to "construct" them. Are you trying to break down the process for the purposes of automatically generating descriptions? If so, I discussed my approach to this issue in post #11 of the following thread: http://www.mudbytes.net/index.php?a=topi...
If on the other hand you're just talking about writing descriptions by hand, I think it's more art than science. Different people have different (and frequently bizarre) views about what you "should" or "shouldn't" do, but really it's entirely up to you.
I agree with elanthis, with more emphasis on keeping it short and to the point. You can use 'extra' descriptions if you feel there are other things to be said. Think of the main desc as a thumbnail to an album.
I tend to make city descriptions longer than country path descriptions to give the feeling of bustle and crowding. The descs in the High King' castle are longer than those of a farmer's hovel.
Also, there are times when you want to repeat descriptions. A long hallway in a hotel, for instance. Or a desert. These are places where every detail is the same, and that's the feeling you want to convey. If the hallway has paintings, put these in extra descriptions.
On the subject of the second person, I use it. I feel it's more immersive. It does take more skill to us it properly, but that's sort of the point. ;)
Give some thought to your policy for roomnames, keeping in mind the code may try to use them in sentences. A mob might tell a player, "Go to 'place name', and look for 'object'. You probably want to include articles in room names, just as you do with objects, and you may NOT want to use the common 'title' capitalisation. It's hard to strip the caps from adjectives, etc. while leaving them on proper nouns. Thus, "The door to Culley's Tomb" rather than "The Door to Culley's Tomb".
I couldn't have described it better myself, elanthis.
When you write your description, you may find yourself wondering about part of it. Those are the parts you might also want to include so-called extra or detail descriptions for. These are things you can look at which aren't full objects, so they're often used to provide hints about hidden items or exits. They do quite nicely for flavor text too. While there are players who run around in brief mode looking for things to kill, there are a few of us who read all the text and actually enjoy trying to see how many detail descriptions are there. :)
I've often felt that having a mechanical process to describe the general "world" or "overland" would serve you better than cutting and pasting hundreds of "grassland" descriptions. But anywhere that is interesting, and that's everywhere players want to go, should be hand-crafted and hand-described.
Heh. You feel that you've abused the second person if it takes on a commanding tone, rather than the natural flow that you might prefer to read for yourself.
Not sure if you've stumbled across this or not, but this site has tons of useful information on building. There doesn't seem to be a lot of codebase-specific stuff so this might be close to what you're looking for.