How to Change MUing


  • Coder

    @Tempest said, in another thread:

    The vast majority of MU'ers appear to be incredibly lazy and entitled when it comes to making little effort to get involved in things and expecting everybody else to feed them story. And it has to be a specific kind of story usually, or they'll complain about how it doesn't fit their character.

    Character 'power level' is a problem tied to MUers being spoiled brats. You literally do not ever need 100+ xp in 2e nWoD, yet I constantly see players talking about how they need like 150 xp to 'finish their character' or some absurd shit. Yes, at 100+ xp, any character in any splat is basically god.

    Players need to be more willing to consider running their own stories and be more involved in the ones that are already available.
    Plot breeds RP and staff aren't the only people who can do things. And they shouldn't have to shove story down player's throats.

    ----- Herein lies the intent of this thread. Begin Attention. ------------------------------------------------------------
    It seems like the structure of MU*s has hit a wall. Sporadic RP coupled with heavy +jobs doing all the lifting doesn't seem to be a formula worth pursuing on any future games aspiring to come to life, in my mind. If it's failing everywhere, then the approach needs to change.

    Maybe, with the maturation of the playerbase, as noted elsewhere (though I am not sure I agree that we have aged 'nicely' in all cases), there is an opportunity to restructure and approach MU RP differently.

    My ideas are these:

    1. Narrow the roleplay of all players on the game, giving all characters reason to interact with all others. WoD, as an example, does not seem to lend itself to this, in fact it does the exact opposite: segregate races and characters apart in order to keep thematic secrets. Make a game where the meta-plot can either be ongoing, episode-based, or

    2. Get rid of the dependencies on +jobs. Enforce interaction. Let's get back to Q&A on channels. Don't +job an activity, RP it. If something that you want to do seems non-RP fodder, then maybe consider something different. This would require people to wean themselves from dependency on the staff of the game to Do Things. Staff should structure the game to be player-run, player-resolved. Everything from coded systems for CharGen to any combat needs to any crafting, economy, etc. I am not saying that the game needs to be code-heavy, just code-supported.

    3. Revamp XP gain to be non-singular, non-vote dependent. My idea here was to base a global XP gain pool based on the amount of RP happening on the game. Granted, it would take some hooks into POSE and likewise, but can be done. The more RP, the more XP gets split amongst active characters. On top of that, story goals being met, game being explored and added to, all of these activities add to the XP pool. If you don't RP, you are not active. Channels, paging and OOC conversation do not count. RP in private rooms does not count. While it might further your personal character, it does not further the game, so it is no different than a table-top ST in ruling that your pretty character sheet and folder of pictures gives back nothing to the game at large, so it is not worthy for an XP bonus.

    Maybe these are stupid ideas, but it seems like we as a community need to change the course of the ship.
    ------ End Attention ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The entire MU community feels very 'passive' lately.

    Entirely agree. I understand work, life, whatever impinging on playtime. But, it seems very prolific that laziness ABOUNDS on games, nowadays. I get more interaction and enjoyment out of coding AIs for Screeps than trying to find RP on games over the last few months.


  • Admin

    @Rook said in How to Change MUing:

    My ideas are these:

    1. Narrow the roleplay of all players on the game, giving all characters reason to interact with all others. WoD, as an example, does not seem to lend itself to this, in fact it does the exact opposite: segregate races and characters apart in order to keep thematic secrets. Make a game where the meta-plot can either be ongoing, episode-based, or

    Tribalism is a strong urge, and not one created by in-game social structures - even though those can make the existing trends worse. Players in this hobby do create their own us-versus-them narratives even where none are intended, manufacturing a gap between them and the perceived competition if need be; this happens all the time.

    The answer for me isn't in mechanics, it's in cultivated culture. But I'll revisit this in a second.

    1. Get rid of the dependencies on +jobs. Enforce interaction. Let's get back to Q&A on channels. Don't +job an activity, RP it. If something that you want to do seems non-RP fodder, then maybe consider something different. This would require people to wean themselves from dependency on the staff of the game to Do Things. Staff should structure the game to be player-run, player-resolved. Everything from coded systems for CharGen to any combat needs to any crafting, economy, etc. I am not saying that the game needs to be code-heavy, just code-supported.

    An issue we're seeing in the hobby is that very often not being dependent on staff is usually a consequence of staff not being dependable; I've seen spheres in nWoD (HM comes to mind) function better when there was no one doing even basic administration, but then you are still depended on having proactive players willing to shoulder the burden of providing interesting dynamics and welcome others to play with their toys - however note the tribalism factor from above.

    1. Revamp XP gain to be non-singular, non-vote dependent. My idea here was to base a global XP gain pool based on the amount of RP happening on the game. Granted, it would take some hooks into POSE and likewise, but can be done. The more RP, the more XP gets split amongst active characters. On top of that, story goals being met, game being explored and added to, all of these activities add to the XP pool. If you don't RP, you are not active. Channels, paging and OOC conversation do not count. RP in private rooms does not count. While it might further your personal character, it does not further the game, so it is no different than a table-top ST in ruling that your pretty character sheet and folder of pictures gives back nothing to the game at large, so it is not worthy for an XP bonus.

    I've coded something like this in the past (for a MUD) which worked pretty well... but the first question is always what you want XP to do for your game (rather than its players); what are the specific behaviors you are trying to incentivize, what are the effects you're after?

    For instance Arx tapped into a very positive vein when they turned new players into XP generators, because suddenly you could count on players' greed to encourage socialization and inclusion. I think that might be an answer - it might be a cynical approach but perhaps assuming players will take care of themselves and their friends first, then fashioning the mechanic by which they achieve that to also benefit players in the process then you might have something going.

    For instance - and from the top of my head - if a faction generates more XP/goodies for the hicher tiered characters in it when lower tiers are more active, participate in PrPs and advance their characters, then you are giving them incentive to figure out ways to make that happen. I have yet to be in games where someone wasn't trying to creatively exploit the system and improve their own lot, so why not mine those imperatives and make them work in your favor?

    Maybe these are stupid ideas, but it seems like we as a community need to change the course of the ship.

    I don't think they are stupid.



  • @Rook said in How to Change MUing:

    The entire MU community feels very 'passive' lately.

    Human beings are passive. I do think it's gotten worse over the years, as the way we entertain ourselves has become more tailored to that passivity (so fighting past it seems less normal). I agree that it's deeply frustrating and causes a lot of the issues we see on MUs, I just don't want to talk about it as a 'MU problem.' At the end of the day, every player has to take a certain amount of ownership for their own fun. It's what I try to do, at least. And sometimes owning my own fun is saying 'This game just isn't for me, I should play somewhere else', but I still feel like that's taking ownership and not expecting entertainment delivered to me.

    I definitely agree with some of the ideas posted and they're things I look for in games. I vastly prefer single-faction, PvE environments, and part of that is the way it promotes interactivity and ease of finding RP partners. I'll also echo @Arkandel in saying I think Arx's randomscene code does a really good job of giving people a reason to get out and RP with newbies/people they maybe haven't interacted with.


  • Politics

    @Rook said in How to Change MUing:

    1. Narrow the roleplay of all players on the game, giving all characters reason to interact with all others.

    On WoD games, the races are segregated because they have different aims. The Reach was a bit different, but every race still has their own power structures and politics. I agree that things should be narrowed, but I believe it should be narrowed to single-race games. That will help keep the setting tight and the tropes relevant.

    The "whole-world" feel created in the Old World of Darkness simply does not exist in the "flexible-world" feel created by the New World of Darkness.

    1. Get rid of the dependencies on +jobs. Enforce interaction.

    This presumes that everything is done in +jobs. This also presumes that you have the time to interact. Those in power positions simply cannot meet with everyone, and the proclivity of gamers to multi-task with MU*ing makes a lot of scenes unbearably long. Most games do not permit proxy-RPing as well.

    Encourage interaction by permitting proxy-RPing. Rely on existing tools like @mail or other bits of code to communicate in writing ICly for quick things that don't require interaction; in the corporate world, think of when you would write an e-mail or phone someone. Interaction is interaction. Keep +job interactions to players communicating with staff; that's what +jobs were for.

    1. Revamp XP gain to be non-singular, non-vote dependent. My idea here was to base a global XP gain pool based on the amount of RP happening on the game.

    Brother, I said this yeeeeears ago. With you.


  • Pitcrew

    @Ganymede said in How to Change MUing:

    @Rook said in How to Change MUing:

    1. Narrow the roleplay of all players on the game, giving all characters reason to interact with all others.

    On WoD games, the races are segregated because they have different aims. The Reach was a bit different, but every race still has their own power structures and politics. I agree that things should be narrowed, but I believe it should be narrowed to single-race games. That will help keep the setting tight and the tropes relevant.

    Meh, I'd allow 2 spheres (+mortals) if the focus was on how the spheres are interacting with each other. Any bigger than that and I'm dubious. I'd point out that this is basically where F&L is right now. Sure, it has spheres besides changeling and vampire, but they're not really active.


  • Coder

    @Rook said in How to Change MUing:

    My ideas are these:

    What you've described in your three points is essentially BSGU in a nutshell. Narrow focus, there's almost no plot-related jobs, and XP is constant and ploddingly slow. It's not some rare unicorn; it's been done. It's also not a magic bullet. It has pros and cons the same as any other sort of theme. It all comes down to what sort of game you want to make.



  • I think a small handful of spheres is okay, as long as staff does some work to give them reasons to interact.

    The problem IMO is when you start allowing everything, just to allow it, and the setting is just 'oh yeah there's 500 types of supernatural creatures all doing their own random shit in this town'.


  • Coder

    @faraday
    Which explains the popularity and success.
    Kudos.


  • Coder

    @Rook Thanks but don't overestimate its success. There have been a number of people who got bored and quit because they're looking for something the game doesn't offer. And despite being a success by my standards, we can't hold a candle to somewhere like Arx in terms of logins (which many people use as a barometer of success). Narrow focus has both pros and cons.


  • Coder

    @faraday
    But our goal here is to discuss the framework of the RUNNING of the mush, not the Theme, Setting and the draperies of the mush itself.

    The approach that you are using is of interest to the conversation, whereas the fact that it is BSG might not be.

    Specifically, let's explore:

    There have been a number of people who got bored and quit because they're looking for something the game doesn't offer.


  • Coder

    @Rook For me, any new game has to answer the simple question: What do the PCs do. I don't mean who they are (vampires, knights, etc.) - that's the setting. I mean what do they do on a day to day basis. That's the game. Many games don't answer that question, and in absence of an answer people fall back to bar and relationship RP.

    BSG has a very laser-focused answer to that question: You fight Cylons. We offer frequent (1-2 per week) action scenes, mostly combat-oriented, interspersed by "slice of life in wartime" inter-personal RP. If you're looking for literally anything else you're not going to find it there. Want to play a civilian in a post-apoc setting? Nope. Political RP? Nope. Gaining power by climbing a ladder? Nope. PVP? Nope. Investigating Cylon tech? Nope. Racking up the XP to become super-awesome? Nope.

    Obviously I don't have the capability to do an "exit poll" on everyone who wanders off and doesn't come back. But my impression from chatting with various folks is that they were just looking for something different. Nothing at all wrong with that, and I don't consider it to be a failing of the game on the whole.


  • Politics

    @faraday said in How to Change MUing:

    Racking up the XP to become super-awesome? Nope.

    Speak for yourself.

    I'm just really bad at this aspect of the game.


  • Coder

    @faraday said in How to Change MUing:

    @Rook For me, any new game has to answer the simple question: What do the PCs do.

    This was asked by Indie RPG designers in 2005. Originally posited by Jered Sorenson (an Indie RPG darling), these are:

    1. What is your game about?
    2. How does your game do this?
    3. How does your game encourage / reward this?

    This doesn't help us very much, and The Forge(†) expanded on this to "The Power 19". Well, 19 questions are a lot, so I'm going to only link to them here, but the first three are important to this thread:

    1. What is your game about?
    2. What do the characters do?
    3. What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?

    As a forum, we've touched on these before. Hell, if WORA was still searchable you'll find people like me and @Misadventure posting this list. We've been championing these questions for a very, very long time. 2005, people. Two. Thousand. Five.

    (I'm sure you have too, @faraday, but you are a quiet mouse next to Mis and I.)

    --

    (†) "The Forge" was a forum kind of like Soapbox, but for indie RPG development and discussion, and to be honest kind of more snobby than we've ever been. The Post-Forge era of indie RPG design is what we're living in now, where we escape from Ron Edwards' rules-heavy ideologies, but we have learned a lot from it.


  • Coder

    @Thenomain I don't think I've seen that list in particular, but it's just always been one of those things that strikes me as common sense. I mean most tabletop RPGs are structured that way. Sometimes the game itself is (e.g. "ok so you're Shadowrunners and here's what you do...") and sometimes it's up to the GM to come up with a way to give six characters a reason to be together on an adventure.


  • Coder

    @faraday

    Except some of those games don't always make good Mu*s. Look at how many people wanted to build, say, Pern games vs. the number of people who wanted to build ShadowRun games. Is it because Pern is that popular? Or is it because the character focus for a Pern game is far more open than a ShadowRun game?

    Or let's compare SR to WoD. Both are games about supernatural beings surviving out of the limelight, both were huge RPGs in their heyday, so what made WoD wildly popular for Mu*s? I think we can go into a lot of detail and analysis, but I believe one of those reasons is that in WoD, you can pick your own 'what do the characters do'.

    I only played one D&D Mu*, but it didn't last long because if the characters weren't out doing an adventure, they weren't doing anything. From what little Lolth told me about Tenebrae, players found ways to play D&D characters that did more than adventure, breaking the mold that this RPG system is about.

    So in answering "what do the characters do" and "what do the players do", always always remember your audience.

    --

    edit: I know that some of you are going to take my examples as gospel. Don't. They're just examples to illustrate a point. Talk about the point, not the examples, please. I'm so very close to making this my .sig, as the dent in my head and the nearest wall wish I knew how to be clearer.



  • You can go further as well, asking not just what in a general sense do you do (we do shadow runs) but is it about tactical actions, or maybe more focused on loyalty and the spirit to keep fighting The Corp(tm), or maybe its more focussed on the players suggesting what happens next and its more about people getting to contribute to what the whole world is like and describing it all like a movie, or a novel.

    Players will do what they do, but you can nudge them in a direction if you make sure you know what sort of focal action/feel you want to see.

    For instance, repercussions are one of my favorite things to imagine. So I want to encourage actions that produce them positive or negative. So maybe I have something like Heat (Blades in the Dark) as a barometer of how deep in the doo-doo the players are. Maybe I encourage revenge and betrayals (outside the player group) by allowing forgiveness and blood money to smooth over things, while I give big rewards to playing out an "its personal" arc.

    Players just seeing those mechanisms may feel more inclined to engage the themes or elements I wanna see.


  • Coder

    @Thenomain Having never played on Pern or WoD it's hard for me to really answer that question. But I can speculate.

    The key question is what do the characters do, but you have to answer that in the context of all the characters. Shadowrun answers that question for a runner team, which works great in a tabletop setting but doesn't translate so well when you now have 30 players. The same thing is true for a western setting. Westerns are great stories, but they're great stories that typically involve one or two people. They don't translate well to a larger setting. BSG, on the other hand, can answer that question for an entire Viper squadron in one fell swoop.

    I'm going to guess that the clan aspect of WoD and the ... what are they, tribes? ... thing in Pern allow you to extend adventures to larger groups of players.


  • Coder

    @faraday

    Yes, but this is something you have to be aware of. How we and people like us, you and I, are changing MUing is by trying to help people be aware of the context so that they can answer issues before they arise. You're aware of this. I'm aware of this. But in having this discussion with you specifically, where it appears that I'm preaching to the choir, we are showing our logic, visibly, to the audience.

    You really didn't think that I was disagreeing with you, did you? Psshh.



  • @Rook said in How to Change MUing:

    WoD, as an example, does not seem to lend itself to this, in fact it does the exact opposite: segregate races and characters apart in order to keep thematic secrets.

    The issue with WoD is not that it does not lend itself to narrowing of roleplay. It is the age-old issue of 'game designed for one ST put into many hands'.

    With a single ST, they can look at players and say 'this is how X works, this is how Y works, but never Z'. On a multi-sphere MU, this is possible, but everyone has to be on the same page. THE PROBLEM, then, occurs when staff just wants every game to be their own sandbox, while also working in tandem. Which is to say, they are lazy and don't want to write up any more than the bare-minimum for getting the game up and running.

    From what I've glanced over with Changeling 2e, it has solved a small part of this problem. Rather than have all the courts of 1e re-written, they just give rules for how to make your own courts. So you can custom tailor the social structure of your own game, instead of having ALL THESE BOOKS that may or may not contradict each other (not as badly as oWoD, mind you, but still contradicting).

    The fix to this is to just... literally write your own theme for how the various groups and sub-groups work together. GIVE THEM A REASON TO WORK TOGETHER. Give them history of cooperation, have specific threats that only one group can handle... You know. Active ST stuff.



  • @Thenomain said in How to Change MUing:

    So in answering "what do the characters do" and "what do the players do", always always remember your audience.

    I always tried to approach it like this:

    • What goals do the characters have? What goals do the players have, and do they differ?
    • How do I facilitate and challenge the characters in game design, and provide opportunities for players to engage with this? (In concept and practice.)
    • What do the players do with their characters when left to their own devices, and how can this be effectively steered toward best enabling players to create their own fun for themselves and others that is focused on the characters' goals and providing means for players to facilitate and challenge fellow players fairly to create an enjoyable game experience?

    My run-ons have run-ons, but the compound questions are fairly compound for a reason. (As in, these things are linked enough that it should be possible to arrive at a cohesive answer that should answer the question fully, rather than as disparate parts.)

    An RPG system is only one of the systems on any given M*. There's a policy system and a staff workload management and rules enforcement system and a series of systems that exist within the game world, and they all really do have to work together, or eventually, things start to break down, sometimes very fast.



  • @faraday said in How to Change MUing:

    @Rook Thanks but don't overestimate its success. There have been a number of people who got bored and quit because they're looking for something the game doesn't offer. And despite being a success by my standards, we can't hold a candle to somewhere like Arx in terms of logins (which many people use as a barometer of success). Narrow focus has both pros and cons.

    Dude screw anyone that doesn't hold your game up as a success and just looks at numbers, pure numbers as a metric is really dumb. I would be ecstatic with 30 active players because then I could do completely hands on scenes all the time for each person active, as is I'm pretty much just an administrator that does some big sweeping stories now and then and throws out hooks as I can. Similarly it's legit impossible for me to devote the time I want to all the things I want, it just can't happen, and that's a gigantic advantage of a game with a more narrow focus. So I'm really flattered whenever anyone points to Arx as a success but they really really need to remember the advantages of a smaller game and what make their success so compelling.


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