Identifying Major Issues



  • @ThatGuyThere In my dream world -- maybe pipe dream world -- there would be a very very short list of things players would ever even have to ask about. They could just go run most things without even having to check in at all. Clearly defining what kinds of things somebody can do without anything more than finding other players interested enough to RP that thing and have fun with it is necessary, but I'm very firmly behind that being possible, and covering a fairly broad range of subjects with precious few exceptions.

    Those exceptions -- though people will define them specifically for any given game based on its themes, obviously -- tend to fall into a fairly predictable pattern: stay in theme/setting (no space monkeys attacking in a universe without space monkey attacks), don't do something that would destroy another player's toys (builds, NPCs) without permission or their presence or participation, don't go for something that involves a massive change to the game's setting (a large scale invasion from an enemy nation, destroying an entire game-run faction thus removing a planned-for niche for players to be able to enjoy, nuking half the grid... ), and don't do stuff to gain improper benefits for yourself/your own PCs (running a plot for yourself to seize power from an NPC where you're also running the NPC... ).

    I mean, really, that's about it, and it generally boils down to 'don't cheat, and don't completely break the toys everybody is supposed to be able to enjoy and share'. It's playground rules, in the end.



  • @surreality said in Identifying Major Issues:

    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'.

    I'd love to see those tools. I literally never have.

    Something as simple as a "PrP object" I can drop in a room because Bad Shit™ happened here would do wonders for making PrPs that aren't basically glorified bar banter.

    As things are now, at least in most games that I've been on, you could be on a spaceship, have had a firefight in the engine room that led to the room being flooded with deadly radiation only to have some other people come in five minutes later and do RP centred on the concealed engineering distillery because literally nothing that happens in a PrP leaves that PrP. Ever. Only (increasingly vanishingly rare) staff-run plots have the ability to do anything that actually changes the setting in even minor ways.



  • @WTFE What you are describing is fairly trivial to add, and I've seen it on games before. It was certainly in the stuff I was working on.



  • @surreality I know it's trivial to add. Hell, I've done 90% of the work for it and I hate MUSHcode. The problem is the final 10% needs someone on staff to make it "official" (and to make its use automatic) and I've never seen a game where anybody was willing to do it. I've seen staff who'll actually go in and modify locale descs FOR you, but to give you the tool to just drop a modification in place? Dead air.



  • @WTFE You just had someone tell you they were planning to add precisely this to the default room code to be used freely and are still bitching and whining.

    Dude, I love you, but you are your own worst enemy right now, and are bitching for the sake of 'still not good enough' bitching. In the process, you're alienating the shit out of the creators who are generally interested in ideas like this in the first place by shitting all over their faces while they are telling you that they were or are interested in providing exactly what you were asking for.

    You can even go over to the code forum and see how far back I asked about this re: temprooms; same code was going on to the stock room parent to allow for public-added addendums as needed, on the fly.

    If you'd rather flail around frothing, s'all good, but it's counterproductive and I have zero qualms calling that shit out when I know somebody's generally better than that.


  • Creator

    I wanted to pipe in on the PrP stuff.

    I absolutely fucking love running plot and doing storylines and such, but I have literally never done a PrP on a WoD game. I've also never done it on a few other games for similar reasons.

    The simple fact of the matter is, like, it always feels like there's a million hoops to jump through, a million rules to pay attention to, then I have to adjust this, adjust that, pay attention to this minor random ass thing, and etc. It's just, like, fuck it by that point, in my opinion. Literally the only reason that I've never run a PrP in a WoD game, despite actually finding the themes interesting enough for plot, is that it's just too much freaking trouble.

    There are games outside of WoD with similar hoops, and I'm also like fuck it. While I throw WoD under the bus for being backward on an OOC level a lot, this is definitely not a WoD unique thing.

    But, as I usually preach, don't say "this doesn't work" without adding an alternative, so I am going to explain what I do like.

    My absolute favorite place to run plot on was Multiverse Crisis MUSH (back when I played it). Now, I know people who are familiar with the older eras of it are probably like "Get that shit outta here!", but the game actually allowed for very cohesive and long-term plot, and contrary to popular belief, you can't just go do whatever the hell you want and it just doesn't matter.

    The system for doing a plot on MCM was this (I'm roughly paraphrasing with my own language, so bare with me if anyone from MCM happen to see this):

    1. You had low tier one-shot plot scenes which didn't really require any staff input. So like, you do a raid or whatever, and its consequences don't really reach beyond that scene, no permanent alterations and such (beyond general character development, obviously).

    2. Low tier stuff with permanent alterations, like you get a new sword or a power or something. This would require a simple filling out of the plot template to explain your intent and plans. It was pretty quick and painless.

    3. Mid-tier stuff that affects, say, a small town.

    4. High-tier stuff that affects an entire world.

    5. Global stuff that affects multiple worlds (it is a multi-theme game, after all).

    I most likely got some of that wrong, but this is the overall intent. The jist is that permanency, scope, and intent were the three defining factors of running stuff. I rarely actually used the plot application, because a lot of the time what I wanted to do was beneath the scope of that, though still ran for multiple scenes, because staff were flexible and generally understood if a plot truly had far reaching consequences beyond the characters involved or not.

    When I did do applications, I didn't have to worry about a bunch of minor details and keeping track of a million things like some kind of insane bureaucracy. MCM's policies have changed a lot now, so I don't really know what the current stuff is like, but I know that when I played, it wasn't like this huge daunting wall separating me from wanting to do plot (unless I stupidly made it complicated and created a wall for myself).

    I think that in MUing, and often even outside of MUing, there's an emphasis on writers and coders, but very little emphasis on designers. This is an experience I've had across many spectrums of the hobby, even outside of WoD and such. The only area of the hobby that I personally played in that actually started to put an emphasis on quality of life code and presentation were the Megaman MUSH/Super Robot Taisen/Multiverse Crisis MUSH circles back in like 2009 (for MCM it was more like 2012, but I digress) when they realized everything kind of sucked. Some other places are starting to do that and experiment too, because it's the logical step to take.

    Writers generally focus on, well, plot and all that, writing stuff. Coders generally focus on efficiency and just making things work, but for a coder, what "works" can be far removed from what non-coders think works. In our hobby, there is very little emphasis on ease of use, the end user experience overall, and there is especially no real emphasis on how presentation and common sense policy can impact that.

    People worry a lot about "how can I put this fire out/keep this fire from happening" and "how do I make this work". But there needs to be thought put into "how many steps can I eliminate from my code/policy to get to the bare minimum that still achieves the function I desire?", and "how can I enhance the end user experience with presentation and abstraction?"

    I know I went beyond the scope of PrPs, but these are issues I have encountered all over the hobby. I have often had ideas shot down simply because people couldn't understand how super minor changes could impact the experience of the game. There is a prevailing belief of "if it's functional, it's fine", rather than "there's always room for improvement".

    Imagine if no one questioned the functionality of the first toilet.

    Your MUs are this:

    chamber pot

    When they could be this:

    futuristic Japanese toilet


  • Creator

    Also if there's a way to resize images, you guys really need to add forum documentation somewhere.



  • @HelloProject said in Identifying Major Issues:

    Writers generally focus on, well, plot and all that, writing stuff. Coders generally focus on efficiency and just making things work, but for a coder, what "works" can be far removed from what non-coders think works. In our hobby, there is very little emphasis on ease of use, the end user experience overall, and there is especially no real emphasis on how presentation and common sense policy can impact that.

    This kinda fits in with something I keep trying to find a good way to explain, as it pertains to the various systems in place on any game. There's the RPG system, but there's also the setting (which contains cause and effect chains and systems), there's code, there's staff policy, and there's game policy, and each thing is a system in it's own right. Ideally, they all come together to form one cohesive game, but each of those unique systems needs to support, reinforce, and simplify (rather than contradict or complicate) the others.

    Part of that 'let's put on a show' approach results in something of a potluck effect; each group has their thing they're doing and they're doing it in their way. It's possible to get good results with intensive communication and willingness to collaborate•, but more typically you end up with systems that don't all work as seamlessly in combination as they ultimately could.

    @tragedyjones is good on the design front, for instance. He doesn't do a lot of the leg work, but he does get a team together and gets them working together, with some clearly defined goals. He's one of the few I've seen really pull this off. I get the impression that the folks running Fallen World and Fate's Harvest are likely in the same boat(ish) though I haven't played there to know directly.

    Arx is a good example of 'build from scratch to fit a cohesive idea', though again, I haven't played there to know how well that consistency of purpose works in practice. I get the impression @Ganymede's project is the same way.

    Intentional design is something that I do think we need to collectively be paying more attention to.


  • Creator

    @surreality I've played Arx, I actually consider it a pretty fun game, but I never got very deep into it or tried to run a plot. I got super busy (this was when my GED stuff was happening) and sick (months of being killed by undiagnosed allergies, double pink eye and double ear infections all at once), and fell out of it.

    Something I'm doing with the game I'm gonna make is creating a design document. I'm actually looking at video games and RPG systems. Having been a writer on a tabletop book really changed my perspective on a lot of things, so I think that if I'm going to seriously make a game that fits my ideals, I need to create a very serious design document. I think such a document, a bible of intent and specification, is exactly the sort of thing that keeps staff on the same page.

    Obviously I don't expect everyone to do this, because this is supposed to be a hobby of fun and such, not work, but I think people could even get away with making just a short five page Google doc or something, with their game fully fleshed out, even what they want the grid to be, before they even lay down a line of code.



  • @HelloProject Honestly, I think a guideline doc like that, while it takes a lot of work to develop, is a huge help later down the line.

    I know I wanted to do a lot of 'contribute content' things; each of those would need its own basic design guidelines and a walkthrough to help people see the easiest/best way to make sure it worked, was within reasonable power ranges, etc. etc. depending on what it was, along with any relevant best practices.

    The closest we seem to see to something like this as a common thing in terms of most games is the build guidelines, if there are any. I'd say the majority of games have them, at least in my experience. Usually there's a walkthrough, the basic essentials, and a rough style guide.

    Just having that sort of resource available for all kinds of content someone could contribute (NPCs, creatures, magic items, new powers, whatever) would go a long way to enabling people to add things to the game that fit in nicely without breaking all the things.


  • Pitcrew

    @HelloProject

    As a until recent MCM player, MCM actually ran into a serious problem with its PRPs and the plot application process. Essentially, a game of Chinese whispers meant that no one knew what they needed to submit or what scenes they could run without a plot application -- so, no one really ran anything.

    But yeah, a few years ago, MCM seemed to have it down to a good process.

    There had also been a few issues with staff approving plots and then, when the events transpired, claimed they hadn't approved it and basically demanded events to be retconned. Showing the approval emails didn't change things.

    Which probably also affected things being run there, too.


  • Creator

    @Gilette Damn, I never ran into that when I played. Bit of a shame that happened.



  • @surreality said in Identifying Major Issues:

    @HelloProject Honestly, I think a guideline doc like that, while it takes a lot of work to develop, is a huge help later down the line.

    I know I wanted to do a lot of 'contribute content' things; each of those would need its own basic design guidelines and a walkthrough to help people see the easiest/best way to make sure it worked, was within reasonable power ranges, etc. etc. depending on what it was, along with any relevant best practices.

    The closest we seem to see to something like this as a common thing in terms of most games is the build guidelines, if there are any. I'd say the majority of games have them, at least in my experience. Usually there's a walkthrough, the basic essentials, and a rough style guide.

    Just having that sort of resource available for all kinds of content someone could contribute (NPCs, creatures, magic items, new powers, whatever) would go a long way to enabling people to add things to the game that fit in nicely without breaking all the things.

    I think this is a good idea... sort of. Yes, I see the benefits, but I also see this pitfall: MU's, unlike most things with a GDD, are living, breathing, constantly evolving things. They aren't static, and are never 'finished'. This sort of document doesn't really work for them. The game itself, the systems, the rules, even the people that run it, none of these things exist in stasis. How do you create a complete and workable GDD for something that is literally designed to be changed, tweaked, tinkered, and toyed with?


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday, fwiw, you've been awesome in letting players run scenes in the in-between. And making them count. It's not just a filler, it's something that makes a difference, and you were even awesome enough to run a rescue scene when I accidentally shot down a pilot (ooops!) when I was too tired to go on. A million internet points and kudos to you.


  • Creator

    @Derp I'd assume MUDs, MMOs, trading card games, and all sorts of other areas of game design likely have addressed this hundreds of times over.

    But overall, regardless of the ability for a game to evolve, if the game isn't even consistent enough to make a design document out of, I'd say good luck with that.

    Also, design documents aren't set in stone forever either, even for a game that isn't an MMO or professionally designed MUD or whatever. Design documents evolve with time just like a game does, because you realize that there are better ways to do things, more interesting ways to handle certain things in your theme, and systems overall evolve and a design document needs to be updated to reflect that.

    Hell, in tabletop, design documents tend to have version numbers.


  • Coder

    @WTFE said:
    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!

    So I read this and think to myself, when I was building and advertising Umbral Shards as a game entirely designed to be modified, changed and built out by the players... no one was willing to either believe it or touch it with a ten foot pole... where is the draw?

    Granted, I suspect that most everyone that checked the project out was a MSB reader, so the sort of group-think that has lead WTFE to that conclusion above might be statistically prevalent amongst those that showed up. Thus, there was a lot of uncomfortable feelings when reading the intent and mission statement of the game. See, US was supposed to be entirely PRP-driven, with the locks taken off and the players trusted to not only do dangerous things, but game-changing things. That was the entire dream!

    Now, granted, to do such a thing you need a structured game system to keep everyone on the same thoughts of power-level and capabilities, both as PCs and as GMs running monsters or NPCs or whatever. That's where I came up short.



  • @Rook

    man, I have never heard of that game. I am saddened that I missed the chance to try it.

    I do think there are certain personalities that will always want things given to them; not entitlement, but just hesitant, unwilling, etc for all kinds of different reasons. Some people will always need to be handheld, regardless of anything else. A good portion, I'd even say.

    Then there are people that will always make their own fun, push their own plots, etc etc. Because that's just the way they approach the hobby. (And man, how many times will they have to get accused of shit like staff favoritism or being figuratively glared at and bitched about by people not making their own stories?)

    And there will be people in between. I don't actually see this as a problem of the hobby. It comes down to human nature.


  • Pitcrew

    @WTFE Your description of Staff failure to follow up on a player-run plot is, in my experience, a large part of why people stopped running PrPs. However, even when Staffers have shown their willingness to follow up, there's little impetus from players to run them... again, in my experience.

    I was actually trying to get to the point of--even when Staff is running active things and dragging plot-hooks galore out in front of the players, very few players can be bothered to follow-up.

    All of this points towards a larger problem, however, which @WTFE brought up too. Players have been burned so many times by bad staffers, and staffers have been burned so many times by bad players, that no one trusts each other anymore. Staffers (often) put a layer of bureaucracy between players and the ability to do anything because they don't trust players to be anything but batshit crazy. Players won't put themselves out there because they're afraid of having their stories messed with.

    Here's where I disagree with @WTFE on it however--I think that the sense of entitlement is very real. I've seen it staffing games and I've seen it playing games, players who basically hang around until there's a Staff-run plot, then rush toward it, and afterwards bitch about how it wasn't all about them as they go back to idling in the OOC room. A large portion of today's playerbase isn't around to tell stories, they're there to be entertained. By other people (as @saosmash mentioned).

    Yes, there are still a good salting of proactive, motivated, engaged, and engaging players looking to tell cooperative stories with others--they're gold. They are what help staff turn a game from a string of encounters into a living story.



  • @Derp To some extent, some of that was handled right out of the gate. For visuals, you can cover a lot of this with wiki templates and forms, and organizing your headers and so on to be uniform MUX-side. The forms and so on are handy to lock down a consistent presentation, and allow for some fairly fancy and precisely organized presentation without any need to ever so much as look at the page code.

    In my case, the game could pull data from a wiki template, thanks to @Thenomain's news/+help code and @Glitch being a saint to fine-grain it to pluck one template variable; this meant things like filling out the infobox on your character page on the wiki (which wasn't the raw code, but just filled out through data entry on a form, so it was easier to not break and keep consistent) could populate +finger and other commands on the game, so some of the basic, uniform data could be stored on the pages, and both the game and the wiki essentially had templates (in the wiki's case, actual templates and lists, on the MUX, code designed to read that data) that kept it tidy and uniform in structure and presentation from item to item of any given type. (Don't get me wrong, this is a process of doom and it was taking forever, but it felt worthwhile.)

    The rest really is a matter of identifying which things you want to have open to additions, and write up something fairly straightforward to explain what is and isn't within bounds (within reason; you can't list everything in the world that is or isn't, so there will always be some judgement calls). WoD has a fairly straightforward example of this in their Mystery Cult writeup, and the build guidelines for most games handle this nicely.

    People access to the form, if it's form-based content, to fill out (which will automatically populate the data to the game and throughout the wiki) or set up the build/specific object they're looking for MUX-side/etc.



  • @Rook said in Identifying Major Issues:

    @WTFE said:

    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!

    So I read this and think to myself, when I was building and advertising Umbral Shards as a game entirely designed to be modified, changed and built out by the players... no one was willing to either believe it or touch it with a ten foot pole... where is the draw?

    I didn't try out Umbral Shards because WoD gives me hives. It has zero attraction to me as a setting and the few times I tried it out because I wanted to see if maybe there was actually something to it were sufficiently disastrous that it's not a brick wall I'll be smashing my face into any time soon ever again.

    Granted, I suspect that most everyone that checked the project out was a MSB reader, so the sort of group-think that has lead WTFE to that conclusion above might be statistically prevalent amongst those that showed up. Thus, there was a lot of uncomfortable feelings when reading the intent and mission statement of the game. See, US was supposed to be entirely PRP-driven, with the locks taken off and the players trusted to not only do dangerous things, but game-changing things. That was the entire dream!

    And then there's this: "PrP-only" reads to me as "staff doesn't give a shit". At this stage, I may as well play over IRC for all the difference a game server makes.


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to MU Soapbox was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.