Identifying Major Issues



  • @Arkandel said in Identifying Major Issues:

    How do you actually have a proper brainstorming conversation which stays on topic and which yields some interesting ideas that can maturate into actual systems?

    We saw how this went when I tried it, so... yeah.

    Some of the problems there, though, are things I did observe in that thread (and many others about game-building):

    • The Wish List Dogpile: The personal thing <player> wants everywhere is how this all must be, the end. It doesn't matter if it doesn't fit the theme, system, or intended community environment, it doesn't matter if it's the absolute antithesis of the game someone is trying to create, it won't get dropped and becomes an enormous derail. People creating games are, yes, offering you a chance to roleplay out certain fantasy scenarios within the scope of the game world they're making. That latter part is relevant, because no place is an appropriate home for every idea or every fantasy scenario or wish list item and people need to get better about respecting that on the whole. There are different ways to attempt to enforce this -- world-building-wise (Arx is a good example of this) or policy-wise (many WoD games with restricted subject lists are a good example of this), and many places use a combination of both to a greater or lesser degree -- and instead of arguing about it, there's a point at which it's a case of suck it up and deal. I don't agree with the levels of contortions Arx is going through to avoid prostitute characters on grid in terms of justification in part because I think it's entirely within their rights to simply say: sure, it exists in the world <in this form that is very different from the modern real world>, but we don't want it on screen, and we don't want prostitute PCs. And I think people should leave it the hell alone at that point.

    • The Jaded Chicken Little: Seen it all, nothing works, everything's doomed. Acts like they know what you're doing more than you do and flails on that front instead of addressing anything that resembles reality. Yeah, these people can frankly just fuck themselves; there's nothing useful you're going to learn from them other than 'avoid that person, they have less than zero objectivity, and cannot perceive basic solid facts'. All you can learn is that they don't learn, aren't interested in learning anything, and these people are fine to write off as a loss in terms of productive contribution.

    • The Racers: Why isn't it done yet? @Ganymede nails it: good things take time to properly develop. It is not going to happen yesterday, or in a week, and rushing through results in a product that doesn't have much of a chance of surviving in the long term. If you don't care about that, game on. If you do, you still have the frustration of investing time with no rewards over a long timeline, and that in itself can become incredibly discouraging and frustrating.

    Ideas are a dime a dozen. That's the easy part. Turning them into games is fucking hard work and there's almost nothing out there - other than on a purely technical level (that does exist, courtesy of many hard-working folk) - that can help make cool new games a reality.

    This is less true than you might think. Pipe dreams are a dime a dozen. Cohesive ideas are not. Not even every cohesive idea is going to work, but ideas that aren't are already playing catch-up and planting the seeds for inevitable problems down the line. Maybe some people have means and ideas for handling those, but most don't, because the 'make it cohesive' step is entirely ignored and as a result, the problems that come from internally inconsistent themes/settings/systems are not something they're necessarily preparing for or aware are coming; this leaves them ill-prepared on a variety of fronts when it comes to handling the matter in a productive or efficient way.

    Everything needs to work together: themes, settings, policy, code. This isn't just work, it's an extraordinary amount of planning and intentional design before a single word of IC/OOC support data or line of code is written.

    People have long made a habit of approaching games as either the grudgewank described various places around the forum, or as the equivalent of the old Judy Garland/Andy Rooney musicals: "Hey guys, let's put on a show in the barn to save Uncle Tommy's farm! The whole town will come!" There's a reason that approach is charming in feel-good Hallmark Channel fiction, but it's grossly divorced from reality, as any actual theater geek can tell you. Even high school theater on a shoestring budget has more planning and development than that.


  • Coder

    @Arkandel said in Identifying Major Issues:

    I think it'd need to start with coders. Most of the time that's the main roadblock; there are damn few available, but unless you have some guys to at least mentor new ones games die on the conceptional stage. Either a potential game-runner is already networked or they are not, and in the latter case things are very tricky.

    It's only a roadblock though if you let it be. If your vision exceeds your ability, there are three potential solutions: Expect a coder to drop from the sky and help you, change your ability, or change your vision.

    Games die on the vine when people refuse to do the latter two. There are several game frameworks out there that come with most of the basic globals and stuff. You just have to be willing to play with what comes in the box or learn enough to modify them. There are plenty of MUCode tutorials out there.

    New frameworks like Evennia and Ares are trying to make it easier to learn to code for MU*s and (in Ares' case) setup/configure it more easily, but the learning curve will always be there. It doesn't really seem fair (or practical) to expect a limited cadre of MUCoders to support and mentor everyone who wants to run a game.



  • @Rook said in Identifying Major Issues:

    I want to say here that I think that a lot of games are friend-boxes, not run like a business like many of the playerbase would prefer.

    Here is where I have to disagree with you. As a current staffer on two moderate-sized games, I've seen players that I would have considered problems before, but the problem comes in two parts:

    Part one, Section A -- The people who end up complaining about these people are in and of themselves guilty of some major crap. Take for example our legendary 'Creeper Player'. In many of these that I have investigated, the person doing the complaining to staff has been going along with what our supposed creeper is throwing out there, laughing and making the doe-eyes and egging it on themselves. I will not punish a player for taking actions that he thought were acceptable by another player, period. If he has no reason to believe that his actions are unwelcome, and he's taking his cues from another person/people (often people, plural), and nobody has given him the slightest indication that this is unwelcome? I'm not your momma. Talk to the guy. Let them know that you aren't comfortable with it. Don't lead them on further. But I absolutely will not punish someone for doing something that they had no indication was out of bounds.

    Part one, Section B -- If there are other players out there having a problem they're largely unwilling to speak up. Unwilling to file complaints, unwilling to submit logs, etc. And I'm not going to punish a player based on a rumor mill and hearsay, either. I don't care what you claim he did, show me what he did. Your story is only one side of it, and there are other ways that it can be interpreted. Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable that staff won't take actions unless we have something logged, or similar, that we can use to say 'this right here is a definite violation of the rules', but someone 'making you feel weird' can either be a creeper player or you having a bad day and misreading something. I've seen it before. I won't be a part of crucifying a potentially innocent player because someone's gang of folks says they're a creeper, but won't show me any logs or anything for it.

    TL;DR -- It goes both ways. If you want staff to do shit, then be willing to give staff what they need to do it. We don't operate on hearsay and rumors. If we did, then it sure would be a friendbox. MU's are run more professionally than you might think, and often, the distinction between 'mild' and 'extreme' isn't as brightline as you'd like to think. One person's 'extreme' is another person's 'relatively innocuous', as MSB has shown us countless times. Which brings me to:

    Part 2 -- One person's 'serious problem' is another person's 'not even remotely a problem'. That's just the reality of the situation. There are some games with cultures, etc, that just aren't suited for everyone. I think that most games fall under this category. If I'm running a game? It's going to be gritty and dark and not at all rainbows and sunshine, and will deal with mature/adult themes and scenarios that other people here have been very vocal about not wanting to deal with. And that's fine. As someone up above said, games are intended for a target audience. If you're having serious issues with a game? Perhaps you are not a part of their target audience. Wherein lies the problem? You or the game?

    These things just aren't as simple, and don't fall as neatly into the little boxes, as we'd like to believe on places like MSB. And games will almost always have players. Maybe not a three-page-long WHO screen, but seriously, who actually wants that? That takes significant overhead and work that most of us don't have time for. There is nothing wrong with a smaller game set for a specific target audience, but for all we come on here and talk about how that's a good thing, ,we sure do like to come up with the most cookie cutter ideas of what 'problematic stuff' is. It's counterproductive. There will always be divisions within the hobby. All we can do, realistically, is find out what works for the game we want to run, and run it that way.


  • Coder

    @faraday said in Identifying Major Issues:

    While there are absolutely players willing to run their own stuff (and I love them), they are the minority. There are also a lot of players who are gunshy about participating in PrPs.

    Because we have made this not fun. That was my point. The PrP system was created to put some mechanical controls on things that players were doing anyway but complained that the rewards people could invent for themselves were unfair to others who ran similar plots but didn't get the same goodies.

    PrPs came from D&D and Shadowrun games, where systems monetizing the risk/reward cycle were much more researched; I had a lot of push-back when explaining why PrPs wouldn't work for WoD because they obviously worked so well elsewhere.

    Before the introduction of the PrP to WoD games, people would run whatever, whenever. Even I, one of the worst STs you could have the misfortune of running something, could feel comfortable saying, "Hey, let's go out into the swamp and kill some ROUSes!" Now? Forget it. I'm not sticking my hand in the blender of bureaucracy.

    My last few games have all but begged players to run PrPs and empowered them to do a lot, but the number of people actually doing so is tiny.

    Quelling the willingness of people to do things on their own didn't happen overnight, either. You can't expect people to trust you personally when the experience has been quite different elsewhere.

    As much I abhor a certain member of the Arx staffing team, they lead by doing, not by telling people to do, and that's the other problem with PrPs; it was designed so that staff didn't have to be involved in the storytelling portion of the game.

    So PrPs:

    1. Tacitly turned RP into a monetized activity
    2. Turned the reward system of doing things into a bureaucracy
    3. Removed staff from a key position of running of their own game

    No, I don't believe that "The Players" are at fault. It seems like blaming Millennials for being poor; reversing cause and effect. I don't buy it.


  • Coder

    @Thenomain As usual, we come from different worlds with different experiences. There's no 'bureaucracy' involved. It's literally: go, have fun, don't break the game for others. You want to go into the swamp and shoot some Cylons or (in the case of Sweetwater, some outlaws), go for it. There are no IC rewards or loot to worry about balancing because that's just not how the game's set up.

    And there are staff-run plots too, so it's not like it's trying to foist off running the game. The reward - both for a staff-run plot and for a PrP is the same: the enjoyment of the story.

    And still, only a minority of players are willing to do anything other than the military equivalent of BarRP between staff-run events.

    Now if that's what they want to do, that's totally fine. Lots of players are happy with that and that's not a problem. It's the ones who complain about there being "nothing to do" while neither following up on plot breadcrumbs nor doing their own stuff that irk me.

    ETA:

    Quelling the willingness of people to do things on their own didn't happen overnight, either. You can't expect people to trust you personally when the experience has been quite different elsewhere.

    Frankly I don't care if they trust me or not. But if you're not going to trust me enough to do your own events when I've bent over backwards to make it easy, then don't complain when you're bored.



  • @Thenomain said in Identifying Major Issues:

    While there are absolutely players willing to run their own stuff (and I love them), they are the minority. There are also a lot of players who are gunshy about participating in PrPs.

    Because we have made this not fun.

    How could a process of taking a whimsical, extemporaneous idea of doing something fun and then grinding it down with weeks-long process of negotiating with staff over what's allowed, what the reward will be, which people will or will not be permitted to participate, passing muster over tests of "inclusiveness", etc. not be fun, @Thenomain?! You're talking crazy talk!

    Just add in-character written reports and you have the epitome of fun!

    Quelling the willingness of people to do things on their own didn't happen overnight, either. You can't expect people to trust you personally when the experience has been quite different elsewhere.

    "But I'm different from the literally dozens of other people that have smashed you in the face with a shovel! I won't smash you in the face! Why won't you hold still when I pick up a shovel?"

    So PrPs:

    1. Tacitly turned RP into a monetized activity

    The irony being that there's plenty of evidence that monetization demotivates people.

    1. Turned the reward system of doing things into a bureaucracy

    I still cannot fathom the people who bureaucratized RP. I simply cannot grok the personality types involved. Do these people work in HR or something?

    1. Removed staff from a key position of running of their own game

    Abdication of authority is motivating! No, really!


  • Coder

    @faraday said in Identifying Major Issues:

    And still, only a minority of players are willing to do anything other than the military equivalent of BarRP between staff-run events.

    Part of my response was: It's not you, it's other staffers.

    Because it's probably not you, it's probably other staffers. It's probably not you, it's probably everything. If we're going to blame Players (a broad and vague category usually used by staffers to remove blame from themselves; I know you're not this kind of person, Faraday, but you're part of the hobby) then let us look critically and completely into the systems that this broad category interacts with, and how they interact with it.


  • Coder

    @Thenomain said in Identifying Major Issues:

    let us look critically and completely into the systems that this broad category interacts with, and how they interact with it.

    Fair enough, but my only point is that my broad experience with players across a dozen games and almost two decades is that the people willing to run their own plots are few and far between. Now maybe that's because they're all puppies who have been kicked one too many times, like @WTFE says. Or maybe it's because there's a sense of entitlement that expects staff to be their personal tabletop GM. Or maybe neither/both. I don't know the cause, only the effect.



  • @faraday said in Identifying Major Issues:

    @Thenomain As usual, we come from different worlds with different experiences. There's no 'bureaucracy' involved. It's literally: go, have fun, don't break the game for others.

    There's the core of my own problem with the whole PrP thing: PrPs are fine as long as you don't do anything of significance.

    A scene I had a few months back involved botching up the foiling of a burglary. The characters caught burglars in the act of robbing a restaurant and, well, one failed roll after another (FS3, you see--sorry, I couldn't resist!) led to the restaurant catching fire. I mean we doused it, sure, but there was significant fire and smoke damage.

    But of course since this was a PrP there was NO WAY to show this result to the world at large. Players are enjoined to run plots, but only if the plots don't in any way, shape or form touch the grid in the slightest. So your PrPs are fine so long as they have zero noticeable impact on the setting! Whee! What fun!

    I even @mailed the staff about it and got thanked for telling them about a change to the grid; and then nothing. The restaurant remains untouched now, months later, and has not at any point had even its desc changed to reflect damage (hastily-repaired or otherwise). There were never any consequences from doing significant damage to property IC. Nothing. The plot could just as easily been run over Skype or IRC or email for all the impact it had on the game.

    And that's a minor example. Picture the collective staff shit-losing if a lucky series of die rolls had resulted in a major baddie cacking!

    And still, only a minority of players are willing to do anything other than the military equivalent of BarRP between staff-run events.

    What do you do to make this attractive? "We don't get in the way" is NOT MAKING THINGS ATTRACTIVE. The fact that "the staff won't interfere with your fun" is a selling point is one of the most depressing things about MUSHing these days. That should be the fucking baseline!

    What support do you give for PrPs? Do you even allow PrPs that may necessitate changes to the game? Even if I could just have a "PrP object" that I could drop in a room with details of changes to the setting as a result of PrPs that would be better than the static bullshit we have now.

    l
    The Laughing Buddha is an upscale Chinese eatery that blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda…
    *PRP MODIFICATION*
    As the result of a confrontation gone awry, the wooden statue of the Buddha has deep, charred score marks. The back wall is scorched and covered in soot. The floors show signs of blood traces hastily cleaned off.

    Something as simple as that would probably motivate me to actually do PrPs more often because it wouldn't feel like the PrPs run in a complete bubble universe that collapses instantly at the end.


  • Coder

    @faraday said in Identifying Major Issues:

    @Thenomain said in Identifying Major Issues:

    let us look critically and completely into the systems that this broad category interacts with, and how they interact with it.

    Fair enough, but my only point is that my broad experience with players across a dozen games and almost two decades is that the people willing to run their own plots are few and far between.

    While I used to see it happen a lot, a lot a lot. Alot.

    Now, finding the people who run things for kicks is like finding a unicorn, but the games where I've seen everyone go crazy are games where authors are writing people into their stories, and when those authors are staff then it's RP Orgy Time.

    We didn't used to have a name for RP. Well, we did; it was called RP. If people on your game don't get out to RP, I don't know what to say. The last mud-like game I was on, it was D&D 4e, and the grid was tiny and nobody knew what they were supposed to be doing.

    It could very well have nothing to do with staff beating creativity out of their players, that's just what I'm used to seeing.



  • @Thenomain said in Identifying Major Issues:

    @faraday said in Identifying Major Issues:

    And still, only a minority of players are willing to do anything other than the military equivalent of BarRP between staff-run events.

    Part of my response was: It's not you, it's other staffers.

    And this is the part that kills. In refusing to acknowledge history and its damaging impact staffers set themselves up for a fall. […insert shovel thing from above…] Later: "Dammit! I tell you, I bend over backwards for the players and they reward me by not trusting me! Fuck those guys!"

    If you really are different--and I have no doubt, @faraday, that you are (there's too much good press from even curmudgeons around you)--you're going to have to understand that this gun shyness has nothing to do with you personally. It's about the environs. Hard-learned lessons are even harder to unlearn. Taking this process personally is about the worst way to proceed.

    It took the hobby years to get to this stage of players simply not trusting staff. It will take years of good staffing to undo that. Worse, it will take only a small amount of fucking up to snap people straight back to "whatever you do, don't involve the staff/don't do anything on your own/don't do anything/whatever".

    @faraday said in Identifying Major Issues:

    Or maybe it's because there's a sense of entitlement that expects staff to be their personal tabletop GM. Or maybe neither/both. I don't know the cause, only the effect.

    This "sense of entitlement" thing is bullshit invented by usually-bad staffers to explain why nobody wants to do anything around them. On one game (I want to say it was a Star Trek game, but I'm not sure any longer) I was told I had a sense of entitlement because I didn't want to run PrPs. Ever. For any reason. No matter how much I was cajoled into it. The comic factor here for me was that at the same time that I was having this conversation I was running a scene elseMU* where skeletons were attacking a small town from their local graveyard. A wild scene full of improbable antics (helped along by really funny botched rolls in the game system). So while I was being told I was feeling "entitled" to free fun I was making my own fun on another game.

    What I felt "entitled" to was to not have to jump through dozens of fucking idiot hoops, meetings, approvals, etc. to go shoot up a few Klingons or whatever. Now I was lucky enough at the time to be playing on a game that permitted wild, wooly, and above all FUN player plots. Those kinds of games are few and far between and, as a result, a lot of players have unlearned the habits of spontaneous joy that player plots can bring.

    In most cases where staff whine about players, you'll find that the players are victims. (The specific staffers involved may not have been the perps, but the players themselves? Yeah, definitely victims.) Throwing labels like "slackers" and "entitled" at them is counter-productive. It just demotivates further.



  • Historically I have found that giving players scope to run amok actually means they're less likely to do shit. Like, I have run games where the policy for PRPs was literally like 'go do the thing, don't break theme' and they still won't run PRPs because they've got this constant certainty that SOMEHOW it's not allowed or they don't know what they can do or how to do it or -- who knows? Players don't wanna do the thing. I don't know why.

    Here, make a NPC object. Or a set of NPC objects! Here, have code to temporarily alter room descs to show the results of your PRP. Here, borrow my staff NPC, here's the password to the object. Here, have some NPCs with direct hooks back to metaplot villain group #2. Please, write a public news post that tells the game what your PRP has done to impact the world so that other people can interact with your plot and react to it.

    They don't wanna do it. They don't want freedom to do things. Freedom to do things is intimidating. Players don't want to act, they want to react.

    I'm not really running games anymore right now because I'm pretty much just playing on Arx and that's it, but I've spent years doing it, and I have never figured out how to motivate players to do their own things.


  • Pitcrew

    Something might come of this topic if the assholism can be toned down a notch. A world of difference between both sides and some assholes are failing to listen or consider. A shit ton of hyperbole is going on here and marring the topic.


  • Coder

    @faraday said in Identifying Major Issues:

    Or maybe it's because there's a sense of entitlement that expects staff to be their personal tabletop GM.

    I missed this one; thanks @WTFE.

    It's up to staff to inform members how to play the game. Not because players need their precious hands held, but because every game does it entirely differently. They need someone to lead. This is why games opened by friends and allies tend to gather more invested players; everyone there is on the same page already and there's more of it to go around. Getting critical mass helps a ton.

    If staff wants the game to run a certain way, staff must help players learn how to play because only staff know how.

    That won't stop me from making an open game with few rules and let the players play, e.g., minor deities working at a giant mall however they like, but most of the games were talking about are very structured.


  • Coder

    @WTFE While I would be more than happy to have a separate discussion about the tools and policies I have to support PrPs - including the ability to run meaningful plots and change room descs - that's not really the point of this thread. This isn't "wah wah why aren't players running more PrPs." @Seraphim73 identified what he felt was a major issue about players expecting to be spoon-fed and I agreed. It's okay if you disagree and think the problem is on staff. I don't.


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain said in Identifying Major Issues:

    Before the introduction of the PrP to WoD games, people would run whatever, whenever. Even I, one of the worst STs you could have the misfortune of running something, could feel comfortable saying, "Hey, let's go out into the swamp and kill some ROUSes!" Now? Forget it. I'm not sticking my hand in the blender of bureaucracy.

    It might just be on the WoD side of the community but this is very true. Back in the Dark Ages (1990s) I would run and play in stuff all the time. Sometimes even long complex plots though they were never called PrPs it was usually just hey we are hanging out lets go do something and fighting random threats, or someone would say, Hey here is the idea I have and we would play, no rewards past the enjoyment of RP.
    Then things got more formalized, you had to run things by staff, which is not bad in theory but kills the ability to do it on a whim. Even on places that have very little oversight I am hesitant to attempt to run any sort of plot because I don't want to deal with hoops even if there is a goodie in the form of XP or other reward at the end. Running becomes a chore rather than a bit of fun for the night, and no surprise I have noticed a lot less things being run comparatively.


  • Pitcrew

    I don't think saying "I'll hand you these tools and do what I can to make things easy for you, but I am not really going to take responsibility for people who don't bother to use them but still complain." As taking those player complaints /personally/.

    Quite the opposite. If you decide to play on a game where staff makes it clear how to do things, but you don't want to be cause of your horrible experience with someone else--it really /is/ on you to get over it. I'm not unsympathetic as I've been there.

    But honestly, I don't think staff unless they obviously are those types of people--and they are very rare--can possible take every player no matter how damage and coax and woo them to greater participation. It's a huge committment and pouring yourself into someone who is just as likely to spit in your face as to appreciate the effort or meet you halfway. But bad things DO happen when players or staff take things uber personally (barring direct personal contact where someone says "you suck" directly) or cannot give and take with suggestions.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said in Identifying Major Issues:

    Or maybe it's because there's a sense of entitlement that expects staff to be their personal tabletop GM.

    Imagine sitting down to play DnD with a GM, but all the GM does is give you a table to sit at. Maybe they give you a map and some dice. Maybe they give you a few miniatures.

    But they don't actually run the game.

    When you ask if they're going to do anything, they just shrug and indicate the other players and say, hey, make your own fun, you've got all the tools.

    That's what it is when staff don't run things.

    To put my teaching hat on for a moment, when you're running something, you need to explain the behaviors and then model them, and then correct the people who do it wrong. Staff don't really explain them beyond a series of help files, in my experience, and they certainly don't model it. Then, they don't correct anyone who acts like a dick or actively makes things worse.

    Is it any surprise that people are paralysed and feel like they can't run things?


  • Coder

    @Gilette I honestly have no idea what I said that implied that staff should never run plots, or that I take it personally if people don't take advantage of the opportunity to run PrPs. If a game where players are expected (and allowed!) to entertain themselves in-between staff run plots doesn't interest you, then just don't play there. Easy enough. I love playing on such places, myself, even when I'm not running them.



  • I have to second @faraday here.

    I know my goal was to run two things a week, as staff: one thing related to the season plot for the game, and one random thing. (Could be a battle, could be a cocktail party, ideal being a scene open to anyone on the game 'general interest' kind of scene.)

    That was a personal goal. That's nowhere near enough to keep people busy all week. It's a handful of hours of 'things to do'. If people don't want to make use of what's available to them in the time other than that, well, blood from a stone after a point. Only so many hours in the day, and staffing involves a lot more than running scenes.

    The alternative is 'wait on staff to run one of those two things per week, and hope it appeals to you'.

    Your choice.

    Nobody's going to hold a gun to your head to demand you make fun for others, but if you're not willing or interested in ever doing that, I think you lose some of your right to bitch about the people who do choose to spend their free fun time that way for the benefit of others not doing enough for your personal tastes. (Which is, in a nutshell, the definition of entitlement: giving nothing yourself, and expecting to be given everything for just showing up.)

    I'm grateful for good, easy to use tools that let me do my thing without what @Thenomain quite aptly described as 'sticking my hand in the blender of bureaucracy'.


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