This is a guild written on the eqemulator forums by Wiz, the former administrator/developer of Winter's Roar.
So you want to manage a server?
For quite a while now, I've been observing servers come and go, and noticed a rather common trend of mistakes - in hiring. A lot of servers that had promise (Draclian, several old "Classic" servers, even GuildWars
), have toppled and fallen because of mistakes in hiring staff. Corrupt GMs, egomanical hosts, server-hoppers, they all bring their particular brand of disenfranchment.
First, I'll start off with a short introduction of myself, and why you might be served to pay attention to what I have to write. I'm a developer, though it's more a title of recognition for early work on the project. I share my source work with the devteam, but I do not strictly work on the emulator as of present - I'm simply way too busy. I run Winter's Roar (see sig for link) which is at 2 1/2 years, the longest running, most successful (in terms of sustained population) and the first custom-legit server in the history of EQemu, and previous to running WR, I have been involved in and administrated multiple UO servers, as well as being active in the POL development. Before you write an angry reply about how your server is better, I'm not claiming that Winter's Roar has the ultimate combination or the best content or anything else. But it has survived the rocky road littered with the wrecks of servers on all sides. Personal ego stroking concluded, I'll go into the good stuff, aka the actual guide.
Okay. So you have an idea for a server. You have the framework, you know what it will be. As you probably have noticed, servers tend to get split into three very basic classes here. Legit (EQ-live style earn your own stuff), Semi-Legit (Cheat, but no godmode), Non-Legit (Instant GMification of everyone). First, let me just say that if your server is Non-Legit, stop reading now. A non-legit server doesn't rely on good staff to run, since it practically runs itself. Who needs help getting unstuck when you have #zone? If your server falls into one of the other two categories, see below:
Depending on your degree of priviledges available to the player, you are going to need some basic "Help the dragon ate my sword" staff. Basic GMs, put in other words. You probably won't need a lot of them if all gear is summonable and levels are #levelable, since a lot of petitions cover dissapeared gear, failed quests, etc. So what will you need?
A semi-legit server has a very fast pace of mowing through content, and this is where your server will be put to the trial. You need people that churn out PVP system code, interesting NPCs, little oddities, essentially anything to keep people interested. The easier content is to beat/complete, the more of it you will need. A player who has seen everything and done everything will quit. Every single time.
Unfortunately, content designers are also the hardest, most treasured and most elusive type of staffer to get hold of. There are a lot of hacks who will boast their skill at this particular trade, then end up C&Ping a couple NPCs and spending the rest of the time /kill'ing players or boasting about your server on these forums. While the latter may seem desireable, keeping a high profile makes you a target. Failing to deliver on the boasts of your hired "developer" will bite [i]you[/i] in the ass, not him. A splendid example of this is Draclian Signus and Jarin (Apologies for throwing you so many mentions, DS people, but I really believe you had something going and bad staff decisions shot it down). Anyways, we will be discussing who to, and who not to hire, in part II. So moving on.
Well, you have taken on the biggest challenge of EQemu. EQemu was not originally adapted for legit servers, in truth, and it still retains a lot of non-legit/semi-legit stigma. Unless you have one hell of a coder on your team that can churn out bug fixes, you are going to need a cadre of GMs to manage staff. As EMU populations tend to be small, having 1 GM online at all times is definitely enough, but in that is the GM burnout problem factored (See Part III). Besides GMs, which you'll need to a much larger amount than a Semi-Legit server, you'll need content designers as well. Even if you're just making Tom's Classic Pre-Kunark servers, trust me, you need them. At one point or another, people will want new stuff, and unless you provide, they will go somewhere else.
Blame the Free Market.
Additionally, uniquely to a legit server, you will need one or two [i]Managers[/i]. I realize this word has a bad stigma to it for office workers and Dilbert readers, but these people are absolutely essential to prevent yourself from going mad as a hatter, his wife, his brother-in-law, and his whole extended rural family. Managers act as your filters. They keep an eye on your staff, and function as a direct layer between stupid questions and yourself. They are the ones who take care of "High-up" issues and decide if these are worth relaying to you (a "High-up" issue is something an ordinary GM or bug report can't deal with, for example your one-person-per IP rule is blocking a family from all playing and they ask special permission or similar). You can also (as I have done) empower your Manager with making these decisions, hiring and firing staff, and similar tasks, all depending on how much you trust the person. No matter what, though, your Manager(s) must be people you can rely on entirely. They must be people you would give your paypal password to. (OK, slight exhaggeration) But seriously, if you can't trust your Manager, you might as well call it a quits already.
As a footnote, coders are included in the Content Designers group. I essentially bundle everyone that works on the server in that group, so mentally replace it with "Developers" if it makes you feel better.
Alrighty. We're outlined what you need. Let's say you are making a legit server, and you're aiming modest at first. You figure you will need:
2 Content Designers
This is a moderate staff that you can keep in check and will do you well enough until your server starts hitting 30+ players in evenings (it took WR well over 8 months for this to happen, but EQemu was much smaller then). Let's go over the positions one by one.
Ok. As noted above, this is where you put someone you KNOW you can trust. Your real life friend, your internet pal since two years, someone you [b]know and can rely on[/b]. I can't stress again how important this person is to the server's (and your own!) health. If you absolutely have noone to fill this gap, and have to openly recruit someone, watch this person closely, talk to them, get a good feel for the person, and don't assign them a lot of power in the start. Make sure any damage they can do isn't irreversable.
This is where you want creative, bright, and hard-working people. You want people that you can tell "Do this by tomorrow" and know you'll get it. You want people that think for themselves to brainstorm with. You want people who will tell you if your ideas are ass. This will essentially be the team who either help you with or do the building of the server with. These are the people who will build up the experience your players live through. Filling these positions with hacks will result in your server crashing. Every. Single. Time. A good method of hiring your developers is to watch for people who come with good ideas, good contributions, or clearly are knowledgeable in useful areas. Experience with EQemu and world building helps, but don't ever let it be the number one factor. You can teach people to do their job, but you can't teach people not to be lazy assholes. When hiring a developer, [b]always[/b] put them to the test [b]before[/b] granting them as much as a spoonful of power. C++ knowledgeable coder? Great, tell him to design that multi-purpose command you want. World Builder? Great, tell her to design a zone or write a quest. Database Worker? Great, tell them to change all your zones to a certain weather pattern. Make sure these people know their stuff. This is elementary stuff, but you'd be surprised how many people simply hire on optimism and good faith, only to wake up and find the roses are growing from a compost heap.
Why,yes, I'm a cynic. That's why I'm successful.
This is the least important part of staff. GMs are replaceable. This doesn't mean you can hire Jack whoever to be a GM, but understand that a GM quitting or being an asshole is usually repairable, whereas your lead zone designer dropping out can result in the oh-so-mentioned-by-me scorched wreck in the ditch. You don't need to put your brain power in the GM staff. What you need is people who are:
I bolded D because lots of people do not consider this quality, but trust me, it reflects on your server. A person who has a GM answer their petition with "sup w/u need nething" will feel that the server is not to be taken seriously, nor its staff. Players who lose their respect for your server will often end up being bad apples. I'm not talking about proper punctuation and caps in every sentence. I'm simply talking about taking the time to spell out words.
Hello this is GM Sim, what's the problem?
hello this is gm sim, whats your problem?
Will work wonders towards people taking you and your staff seriously. Being taken seriously comes with a large amount of perks, especially if you're going down the legit road. People who respect your work is more likely to report bugs, treat staff and other players curteously, and work to achieve things on the server. If they feel it's just a shrug, who cares, it's emu, they will neither be productive nor long-staying players.
The hiring practice I use for my GMs, and I feel works out very neatly, is to watch the playerbase for the people that go far, are helpful, show respect to staff and others, and soak up information about the game and the server. These people nearly always make the best GMs. Only in very rare occasions do I hire someone who hasn't been a longstanding player. This also brings us to GM burnout in part III.
Alright, so now you have your list of applications/people to approach. You have the guidelines above, it's time to start sorting. Let's make a list of the most common types carrying around big warning flags that go I WILL FUCK UP YOUR SERVER
Before saying anything more, let me just rephrase this very common warning:
DO NOT RECRUIT FROM THESE FORUMS.
Merit Man is one of the types that has become more rare with the passing of time. You would see them in every other thread on EQemu just a year back. They were the people proudly displaying:
GM-Admin - WakaWaka
- Fates Beverage
GM - DanceParty NonLegit
etc etc ad infinum. They don't really care about their server. They don't care about your ideas. They don't care about you. They care about the living, breathing entity that is their sig, that they carefully groom and display in public like a suburban rose garden. Occasionally they will take a pause between boasting their vast welath of knowledge of all things GMing (after all, just look at how many servers they are a part of [i]at once[/i]) and do some real work, but don't kid yourself. To Merit Man, you're just another badge on the chest, and once the next fool of a Server Owner picks them up, you'll never seen them again.
You will, however, feature in their sig.
Typical Application: I currently do valuable work for the SmartCard SemiLegit
Dreams, and have considerable experience from helping found the Puppy Lone Wolf server.
Mr. Wee is a fairly rare type of applicant. They can be easily recognized by a seemingly boundless supply of energy, ideas, and ambition. While this would normally be excellent qualities for a developer, Mr. Wee has a major drawback that he shares to some extent with Merit Man: The attention span of your average garden variety toolshed. He will come up with a brilliant idea for PVP and start to implement it only to write six lines of code and suddenly be struck with this awesome new zone where you have to fight three dragons to unlock the door to did someone say door? A door to the lower planes! To open it you will need to do a quest, a completely new quest engine that will support beams, craftable support beams beams of LASER shot by you need shots against rabies-
Yeah. Avoid Mr. Wee. Make sure your developers can stay commited to a task until it's completed, even if it gets boring.
Typical Application: (One long, long paragraph of utterly random and often mystifying ideas that will further the server)
"Can I be a GM?" Joe
I think this one is fairly self-explainatory. Anyone that throws these dreaded words at you is to be shunned like an anthrax carrier. [i]Even[/i] if he is allegedly "good w/quest".
Typical Application: Guess.
Corrupt Chris is the most insidious of all the GM applicants. He might appear to know his stuff, he may be literate, well-spoken, and have impressive experience. But below the surface lurks a GM that will disefranchise players, twink out his characters, and generally be a weight dragging you down. So, how to avoid Corrupt Chris? A good way is the above-mentioned "hiring the player base" tactic. Not even the most devious Chris of them all will be able to keep his asshole impulses in check forever. They will be training people, arguing with staff, exploiting, and generally showing to be the person to avoid. If you don't want to hire from staff... well, I just hope you follow the advice in Part III, and have a good Manager or a short leash on your staffers.
For those of you going shifty-eyed by now, I am going to summarize the skills needed by each position (I won't include the no-brainers like creative designers):
Bit of Asshole (just enough so that he won't be too soft on miscreants or people that want to PM you to ask for stuff)
Dedicated (Good attention span)
Opinionated (These are the people you want to voice dissent if they think your ideas are bad.)
Also, as a footnote to this chapter, I would like to repeat [b]Attitude over Experience[/b]. It's a lot easier to train someone than try to change their attitude. Trust me on this.
Managing the Team
OK. You have your dream team. You have your manager, you have your developers, you have your GMs. Your team's all assembled. Now, you want them to do stuff. I'm not going to lay out a development strategy for you, since that's entirely up to your own leadership, but I'll say this one thing: Don't be afraid to give out responsibility to people who show to deserve it. Developers like being given a somewhat free hand in the direction of the server. Tell them you want loot for this mob, give them some guidelines, and comment on their final product. You're their boss, not their teacher.
GMs with player characters. This has been up for debate more than once. I allow it on Winter's Roar, because I feel I can trust my staff not to step over the line, and because quite simply, GMing and designing isn't always that fun. You don't always want to answer petitions or run events or spy on players. Giving GMs direct involvement in the server and allowing them to play on it will lengthen the time you get to keep your GMs, but it will also raise the risk for corruption. On the flip side, you know who they play, and you can easily keep an eye to make sure they don't all of a sudden climb 50 levels in one night. I firmly believe letting them play and relax is much, much more productive. But that once again boils down to your choice, dear reader. Just make sure to think it over.
Which brings us to corruption. How do you deal with it? Despite all your precautions, GM Sylverwyne summoned Velious Armor for himself and all his friends and /kill'ed that dragon for his guild last weekend. There is only one answer to corruption. Corruption is a breach of trust quite akin to being cheated on by your spouse. So what do you do?
Fire the GM. Ban their player characters. Ban their twinked up friends. Track and delete any gear or favors they gave up. Change the passwords on everything they have access to. Slam down hard and fast and create an example out of them. Players will realize you do not tolerate bullshit and you do not play the excuse game.
At the same time, something you will always deal with on a legit server are rumors of GM corruption. GW and similar servers are too deeply rooted in people, and they simply can't believe a non-professional entity like EMU server staff will handle things in a professional manner. Brush off loose rumors but investigate serious reports. Do it quietly, and only confront the GM if you really have indicators pointing that way. If you act too tough on what turns out to be words, staff will feel bitter and unappreciated. Choosing where to and where not to intervene in dealings between your staff and your players is tough, but it's something no guide can fully prepare you for. You'll have to make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons. Never be afraid to admit mistakes (but don't go to the other extreme either). You're not in politics here.
On the other end of the spectrum, and tied with corruption, are useless GMs. The ones who simply don't do the work you have hired them to, the ones that constantly go MIA or are assholes or for whatever else reason are being counterproductive to your server. There is only one good way to deal with these people. Fire them. Firing people sucks, especially if you've come to befriend them, but letting emotions take over and having a bunch of dead weight on staff will quite simply, fuck you over. Never be afraid to fire someone if it helps your server.
This has been lengthy and wordy, and I'm going to conclude it with a small but significant bit of information.
If you do not pay for hosting or host the server yourself, you are going to be at complete mercy of the person who hosts you. They can take over your server entirely, and there is exactly diddly and squat you can do about it. If you need to be careful choosing your staff, then you need to be extra-double-dooey-super-special-careful in choosing your host.
And with that, I hope this guide was of some small measure of aid. To the people who perhaps expected to find the best way to set up an application form or motivate a GM team - apologies, but the former is not something I have any experience with (as I prefer the direct approach hiring) and the latter is something I believe you can find out for yourself.