So with any RPG be it multiplayer or not there is a definite progression and one that makes sense to an extent. It deals with making money and finding objects. As a new character in any game you are poor and lost. In an offline RPG you have to spend time wandering around finding things. It used to be you usually got 3 to 5 lives then it was game over. But let's face it what gamer did not save at multiple points in case of such an occurance?
Now for difference with a MUD and that is how such saves as as a consequence such character development is handled.
First there are the MUDs that basically have infinite lives. The Mud I play mainly, Valhalla, is of this sort. You die you sit at Odin, you lose experience and you repopulate in a central spot. Then off you go to find your corpse (Player corpses hang about for about 3 days real time if things are in them). You regain your stuff off your corpse and mutter a lot about lost exp and go on with the game. Now this mud does have a final death due to age. BUT one can remake the character using the same name after deleting the dead one or if you catch it early enough rebirth the
character along a new path. Each have advantages and disadvantages and let a player build a character.
Then there are permadeath Muds. You die, you recreate. Some are even set so that you cannot recreate using the same character name for a period of time at least. These are most realistic and tend to be more RP oriented or use the MUSH engine. Some are types of RPGs that reset every so often to allow all players an even playing field. These are probably the most frustrating for a new mudder.
Then there are the hybrids. SWRs tend to be of this nature. They seem to have originally been developed as permadeath but somewhere along the versions copies were permitted (clones, memory saves, magical copies). So your character is frozen in time as it were at he point that you last chose to save, like a stand alone rpg. Usually there is an in game cost associated with this from incredibly high to very reasonable depending on the game.
Most online games have a group of people who are designated to help new players. Many of these are just long time players of a game, some are IMM level, some are that dubious halfway between IMM and player. The good guides sort of mentor the newbie and keep close to them telling them where not to go what not to touch and let them wander on their own. This actually works for all three types of games. HOWEVER, money is where the problem starts.
You see it takes money to make money on all of these games. Now back in the day when muds ruled you would get 40 people on and lots of help offered and received. Lots of things in the donation rooms, things that help a newbie start out. EXPENSIVE things, hard to get items from hard to kill mobs. These days muds have fewer players. Yet the case still holds that the big players have the cash and the power and the new ones are learning.
So, my suggestion is this - make newbie shops and vendors. Characters can buy from them until level whatever you mud decides is avatar (50,60,100). On games where one needs components for spells or skills, sell those things cheaply. limit sale to a character per rl timing (say 5 or 10 of an item every 2 hours). The price could either rise according to the character's level or once the character hits the designated level they can no longer use that vendor or the prices change to come in line with the rest of the MUD economy. Which should be EXPENSIVE.
The way most muds are now, the players that need the it the least have access to the most inexpensive required items because they have played there the longest and know everything. Yet it is the newer players that need encouragement to stay and build. So, make it gradually more difficult so that your long time players with big characters are not sitting on all the money and the little ones get discouraged and leave.
Second suggestion: allow a donation bonus to the big boys. If a character donates newbie gear or items to a donation area that has a level limit set on it they get bonus points of some sort. Som many points and they get a special item. THat would also stimulate game economy. Make the big boys spend their cash and help the little ones become big ones. It is hard enough getting exp and training stats since training costs money. The big characters usually have trained everything. let them 'endow' a newbie. This might give the old timers a fresh look at the game through a newbie's eyes and ease the workload of guides. It would also encourage older players to make friends with newer ones or even with older ones they might not have interact with much. Set up a locale where oldbies can adopt a newbie. Randomly assign the two players. At first, sort of keep them apart, letting the old player know of his newbie's progress then say around level 10 have them meet. Now only some of this can be done via code, but it might lend to some interesting new player and character relations. Imagine a trandoshan newbie on an SWR Mud finding out his mentor is a Wookie. That would set up an interesting roleplay situation.
If any of you have other ideas go for it. Post them in the comments.