OOC Knowledge Levels Question



  • I have a question, wearing my game-design hat, because I'm curious just for future reference if I ever lose my mind and make a game from scratch: would people in general have more fun if a game has no OOC secrecy at all?

    I know Ares is very popular, where the server really encourages you to log and thus share every scene (and really, some games make it policy), so there's no OOC secrets. If someone stumbles across a hidden temple in their storyline, everyone would know OOCly (but obviously not ICly), if someone makes a secret bargain with an NPC for a lost artifact, or sells their soul to evil for power, etc., it would be public OOC knowledge. General IC communication (like text messages on Ares, or messengers on Arx) logged and on the website, etc. If someone is part of an evil cult, you'd OOCly know because the meetings of the evil cult and messages sent between the cultists would be logged and on the website for all to read.

    I admit as a player I like mystery, I like not always knowing everything OOCly and sometimes being surprised even OOCly by plot reveals; if someone shows me the magical aardvark slumbering beneath the tournament grounds, I love the moments where I'm surprised by something OOCly as well as ICly, like in a tabletop game. I feel like if I've already read seventeen logs about the Caretakers of the Aardvark making sure the Aardvark is comfortable and has a warm blanket and fluffed pillows, getting the reveal of where the Aardvark is (or even that there is an Aardvark) loses something.

    But I know some folks disagree, and want all the lore and every scene and message available to read and enjoy, even when they cannot know those things ICly at all. And those games can be really fun too!


  • Pitcrew

    @Sparks Myself, I have memory issues and I sometimes have a hard time knowing what I learned IC and what I learned OOC. I'd rather find things out ICly, so there's no confusion and I can react organically to things.


  • Pitcrew

    For me, it depends entirely upon the game; I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer here, or at least there isn't for me. I don't think I've ever played a game with zero OOC secrecy, because even the many games I've played where all the logs get posted, there's still a level of secrecy that was held by staff running metaplot things. I do think that people get much more sensitive to secrecy between players than secrecy about, like, the answers to mysterious plot stuff that staff is running. (Or in PRPs, too, tbh.)

    Atmosphere and setting just makes a big difference. Whether or not there's a competitive or collaborative atmosphere makes a difference. Whether or not there are even ways to get ahead at all makes a big difference. I've played on games where there just isn't stuff designed in the setting to get secret advantages or whatnot, no real route for selling your soul for power or whatever. OOC secrecy didn't matter there.

    In settings where this is much more of a real possibility, I do think OOC secrecy can protect against metagaming to a certain extent. Like -- if everyone can see that PC A sold their soul for evil, how long do you think it would take before other PCs start being randomly wary of them for no particular reason? Not long, IMO.



  • @Roz
    Yeah I kind of push back on the idea that a heavy public logging culture means everything is necessarily posted, it just changes the way you have to think about how to handle and disseminate IC information, both on a player and staff level. I've also never played a game with zero OOC secrecy. But how you handle it varies drastically on the kind of environment you want to promote and (probably especially) whether you're supporting PvP.


  • Pitcrew

    I actually like something a little bit in between, but I would rather err on the side of knowing everything than being too secretive. I like seeing how active people are, and reading some of the great RP going on. But you're right that it can lose some of the OOC mystery and intrigue.

    Even on Ares, I think it's totally fine to keep scenes unshared until after the IC reveal (as long as they don't time out, of course). I would actually prefer that in some cases (evil cultist status, a big reveal that some characters have been in on for a while first, that sort of thing).



  • I really like the idea of being able to read all of the events, but I also LOVE the feeling of the reveal. So my question is "has anyone tried an automated delay in posting...i.e. everything that gets posted totally publicly is 3 weeks-ish out of date?" Enough time for the rumor mill to expose most of it by default anyway.



  • @Sparks

    The only time I've really had problems with OOC secrecy is in its enforcement. "You can't know that" was a common statement for people on WoD games who didn't want to lose control of their character's story to the detriment of others'. Staff would be the arbiter of what any character could and couldn't know. At its worst players would be given censures, or "strikes", if they played out things that staff didn't think they should know. It was horrible.

    Nowadays, I see people being given the latitude to share as much about their own personal characters as they want. There are things I don't want to know—it's very hard for anyone to not to act differently if you know certain things. Go ahead and keep that stuff a secret.

    --

    But there is a lot of gray, a lot of half-secrets, a lot of things that people may or may not know depending on their connection to people who do know. Some of this is through pre-game character history. Some of this is through NPC connections (and worse if it's time-sensitive information). Sometimes a player makes a reasonable call, or a selfish call, as to deciding they are grounding the information learned OOC into their character, and it's sometimes very, very hard to tell the difference between the two motivations.



  • @Sparks Choose your poison. You're either keeping the great RP behind a wall where no one can see OR you're risking spoilers and metagaming.

    Personally, I think the answer may be to create a spoiler tag for log entries and then double down on keeping an eye out for metagaming.

    For example: Log32222 shows that CHARBIT found a secret temple hidden underneath a path of hills that no one would really bother to go to unless they had a treasure map, which CHARBIT did. They entered the hidden temple by pushing on one particular rock on a hillside.

    CHARBIT2 suddenly just la-Dee-dahs out to said random hillside and decides to practice hitting a baseball bat against every rock on that particular hillside because it would be totally on accident that they'd hit the right one and oops their way into a hiddle temple they knew about OOCly.

    It's a risk, but enforcing good/fair RP would protect against it.


  • Pitcrew

    I've got thoughts:

    I want surprises, sure, but I also get stressed on games where OOC communication is discouraged. This is because I know when I'm getting screwed, but I don't know if it's me the player getting screwed or me the character. I will totally go along with my character getting screwed if I know that it's happening, and the player controlling the character doing it is really a cool guy. I think having all players on the same page OOCly is essential to healthy PvP conflict.

    Now, I don't need to know all the details about what another player is doing, but I need to know the broad strokes enough to feel comfortable with how things are going down. That means I do need information.

    On a game that's not PvP, I struggle to find justification for keeping secrets. Spirit Lake is about the lowest drama game I've ever played on, and sure, some of that is the players, but it's also because everything is just out there. There's also not a problem on that game with people using OOC knowledge ICly. My characters secret is being kept an IC secret an even though anyone could find it out and start acting weird and suspicious about Will, they haven't.

    I think when you create a culture of OOC secrecy, you also end up creating a culture of gossip, back-stabbing, and negativity.

    When you create a culture of OOC openness, you're empowering your players to make informed decisions and write great, cooperative stories.

    To sum up: I think holding some things back for a plot twist or a fun surprise keeps something interesting, however since openness creates a healthier game culture, the default should be to start with the assumption that everything is shared and then mark things as secret as need be.


  • Pitcrew

    I can go both ways, to be honest. I find trying to figure stuff out ICly to be legitimately thrilling, and I even enjoy realizing that I had the wrong end of the stick this whole time. Some of my fondest memories of Arx really are the times that I thought things were like X, then got a clue and changed my whole perception of what was going on.

    On the other hand, there's a different sort of thrill to having everything on the table, so that you can coordinate and target 'fun I'm interested in' to a greater degree. It's actually pretty cool to be able to reach out to someone who seems interesting or fun and go, "Hey, I noticed that you were looking to do X - I'm pretty sure we can arrange something to have you dragged in by Y." Or being able to discuss things that aren't ICly something you're likely to ever find out, but that still have some relevance and can develop some resonance in how you're playing your character with other characters. (As an example - a character has an Issue with my character due to events in that character's past. That PC is unlikely to ever open up about those issues to my PC, but we the players can find fun ways to play off of that and have it come up, because we both know it's there.)

    I do think that OOC mysteries work best in games where there is some amount of PC competition and stakes, while mysteries being IC only works best, I think, in environments where there is minimal PC competition.


  • Pitcrew

    As a player... I like mystery. I like finding things out. So I don't read logs, and I don't dig deeper into lore than I have to for the sake of getting approval and remaining thematic. There have been times this is awesome, as I realize something the same time my PC does and can play it accordingly. And there have been times when I fall out of plot completely because the assumption is that I'm reading all this shit when I'm really not.

    As a staffer... I like being able to point people to logs, wiki pages, and other players/characters as places to get involved with plots. I trust players to be reasonable about what they know or don't know IC vs OOC. Yes, there have been occasional meta-gamers that abuse the availability of info, but that's a lot more rare than the people that use the info to involve themselves and others.

    So I guess that puts me in @Pyrephox's camp: I go both ways. :D



  • I view MUSHes as a collaborative story, so keeping elements of the story private runs counter to that general goal. I am transparent by default.

    That said, my preference is not everyone's so I can understand those who may wish to not share, or delay sharing logs, hide their backgrounds, etc.

    I would challenge the assertion that Ares encourages you to log and share every scene. The server doesn't care if you log (except insofar as you miss out on certain features - like participating via the web scene page or editing poses - if you don't); the server certainly doesn't care if you share. I think the fact that so may people do log and share scenes is more a commentary on the prevailing feeling amongst the players than anything the server is requiring.



  • I enjoy mysteries, but it can be kind of an obstacle when I realize everyone apparently has known about this thing I thought was neat for ages, and now it really feels kind of late to get involved. Not only are things passing me by, I won't even know it until after the fact.

    And, honestly, you can play on a game where everyone shares everything and just... not spoil yourself? It's not foolproof, but then, on games with mysteries what happens is that someone ends up spoiling me on things OOCly anyway.



  • @faraday
    Yeah def feels like it needs to be emphasized you can just stop a scene in Ares and not share it. Even gives you the option to download it for your record-keeping later it you've used the scenes system to play it out. I've always figured the heavy logging/sharing thing on Ares games was cultural as much as anything else and you could, I theory, hack your setup to tilt less toward transparency in ways I don't understand since I'm not a coder.

    Back in Ye Olden Days the GoT game I was on, Steel and Stone, used Wikidot and most RP was posted, but there was enough PvP that a lot of the moves and counter moves weren't and it worked well enough. Sometimes more revealing scenes would get posted later, after the fall-out from their schemes had come to pass.



  • @Three-Eyed-Crow said in OOC Knowledge Levels Question:

    @faraday
    Yeah def feels like it needs to be emphasized you can just stop a scene in Ares and not share it. Even gives you the option to download it for your record-keeping later it you've used the scenes system to play it out.

    For sure. And also - Ares defaults to transparency and many games just go with it, but it does have configuration options that let you make sheets private, demographics private, etc. The one thing it doesn't do currently is let you make groups private (e.g. factions) which I can see as something a more secretive game might want, but it just hasn't been something somebody's asked for yet.



  • My main concern with OOC knowledge levels/OOC masq/that sort of thing is mostly in how it might affect conflicts between players. I've found that on games with a more relaxed OOC knowledge attitude, if Player A and Faction X are working against Player B and Faction Y, the potential issues tend to be easier to sort out because most, if not all, of the cards are already on the table. "Tend to be," not "are guaranteed to be." Whereas my experience on games with more OOC secrecy, these conflicts almost always end up having to be mediated by staff, because Player A and Faction X have worked in secrecy to strike Player B and Faction Y, and when it happens Player B and Faction Y will say that it isn't fair. "Boo hoo for B & Y," I can already see the posts here saying, but it's less about that and more about the level of work staff will have to devote to smoothing over and working out issues like this, especially if it turns into proper OOC rumormongering, as it has on some places I've played... instead of striking at Player B/Faction Y with an IC attack, Player A/Faction X do it OOCly by spreading gossip or otherwise making it OOCly harder for B/Y to play.

    That line of thought is where my mind goes instantly, over and above the fun/not-fun of discovering IC secrets and game lore and things like that.


  • Pitcrew

    FWIW, I was a little bummed on Arx when I didn't get a super sekret theology 6 file that was ALL MINE MINE MINE MINE, and I was actually pretty significantly bummed when all the theology/occult gated info became public.

    Not, like, temper tantrum angry, but definitely an audible sigh and an "aw, man" whine.

    But I'm a dirty knowledge grubber, so take this with several shares in a salt mining company.



  • @faraday said in OOC Knowledge Levels Question:

    I would challenge the assertion that Ares encourages you to log and share every scene. The server doesn't care if you log (except insofar as you miss out on certain features - like participating via the web scene page or editing poses - if you don't); the server certainly doesn't care if you share.

    I may be misremembering, then; I just thought if you were in a room RPing and didn't have a log going the game would periodically break in with a reminder to the room to start a log. Which did feel like encouragement to log scenes. And since I think a log gets deleted if not shared after a certain point, I read that sort of like "share it or lose it", or encouragement to share the scenes.



  • @Lisse24 said in OOC Knowledge Levels Question:

    I think when you create a culture of OOC secrecy, you also end up creating a culture of gossip, back-stabbing, and negativity.

    The difference between @Sparks' treasured experience of discovery via OOC secrecy at a table and logged into a MU* is that at a table, there is (at least presumably) a pre-existing bond of friendship and trust between players and between the players and the GM.

    The GM controls both the flow of information and the appropriate level of reward for discovery vs the risk/effort involved in making the discovery, and it's usually safe to assume that a GM is directly invested in the enjoyment of every single player at their table, as are the other players.

    Meanwhile in a MU*, not only are most players anonymous but prize anonymity and by default keep others at at least a very cautious initial distance if not outright distrust anyone they have no experience with, to say nothing about the PTSD-like baggage a lot of players carry about past abusive staff, let alone players who deliberately abuse their anonymity to harass or manipulate other players for their own in-game benefit. (Or creepy RL gross bullshit like sexual harassment, etc.)

    As has also been said repeatedly and vigorously here by game staff, online GMs are not only NOT directly invested in each individual player's enjoyment, they outright cannot afford to be.

    In that atmosphere, there is no guarantee of any real reward for the risk/effort of discovery and actually a very real risk of a stranger's active OOC resentment instead, given how ridiculously territorial players can be about "their thing" that only compounds astronomically if there is some perceived risk in OOC revelation/benefit to keeping the number of players "in the know" low or deliberately spreading misinformation.

    It gets outright toxic and actively encourages and benefits toxic players, IMHO, and I will personally never play on another game with an OOC masq.


  • Pitcrew

    @Sparks said in OOC Knowledge Levels Question:

    I may be misremembering, then; I just thought if you were in a room RPing and didn't have a log going the game would periodically break in with a reminder to the room to start a log. Which did feel like encouragement to log scenes. And since I think a log gets deleted if not shared after a certain point, I read that sort of like "share it or lose it", or encouragement to share the scenes.

    Ares only reminds you once - the first time you pose/OOC in a room with no log running. And the log deletion is an option; game admin can choose to store unshared logs forever, or delete them after some number of days. You get a little reminder to download them if they're going to time-out, so it's less "share it or lose it" and more "share it or save it offline." Ares also awards your luck points based on closing your scene, not sharing it.

    So this is more a culture thing than a system thing: We, as a community, seem to be all about the log-sharing. Ares just makes it a lot simpler than it used to be.


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