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Story Cohesion

posted by pilgrim

pilgrim
Posts: 238
Story Cohesion 1 of 10
April 24, 2024, 10:53 p.m.

As Song of Avaria is a story-game first and foremost as we love to say, naturally the idea of story cohesion is going to be one we really care about. During this alpha, the system of stories and how we write our characters' stories -- the tools we have available for story progress, story documentation, and story resolution -- all of that is stuff we'd like to refine and improve. 

Recently I've been wondering if maybe there could be some bumps and hitches with these systems. For instance, does it feel difficult to establish, with cohesion, the sorts of things your character might be trying to accomplish behind the scenes? Does the VNPC population feel unrealistic? Is it difficult to reconcile the presence of NPCs with the inability to have them react believably on-demand? Is it difficult to have a character make plans and enact them in an environment that might feel more static?

What kinds of solutions could there be to these types of issues? What have past games done and how could we improve on that? Really hoping to have players weigh in and give some suggestions or feedback on the sort of things they'd like to see in a story-focused game!

April 24, 2024, 10:53 p.m.
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Halima
Posts: 19
Re: Story Cohesion 2 of 10
April 25, 2024, 11:41 a.m.

For NPCs, I personally enjoy having them be around even when they aren’t being piloted. It makes it feel kind of like your character is passing them on the street, and makes them feel a bit more grounded when they do interact with characters. Sometimes it might help to have an indicator that they’re being controlled by staff. One game I played had an addition to NPC descriptions that mentioned if they were piloted and by who. If immersion is an issue, maybe a command that checks whether an NPC is piloted?

For VNPCs, I haven’t really had any problems with immersion. If my character does something weird that warrants a response, I usually use the emit command to make a passerby give me the stink eye. If it’s something really big, I would probably do that and also add something about it to the story development.

I think a big part of playing a game like this is telegraphing your character’s intent when it comes to big story things. Not in a ‘this is going to happen’ kind of way, but almost like sussing out their motives? It helps me to do a lot of planning through thinks, and a lot of the time I actually end up doing something differently when I realize my character would have reasons to do so. Spontaneous things can and do happen, of course! One of my favorite things about playing this kind of game is when my character’s plans get thrown in a new direction by another character’s actions or a plot event.

As far as telegraphing intent to staff, I try to write my character’s motives, goals, and the gist of what they thought about in story developments. Using a note is good too, since it shows on character’s stories. Queries and petitions are useful when it comes to more direct things like talking to an NPC or if an item that doesn’t exist (but would plausibly) is needed for a story.

April 25, 2024, 11:41 a.m.
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Firouzeh
Posts: 52
Re: Story Cohesion 3 of 10
April 25, 2024, 5:32 p.m.

There have been a few times where it has been difficult to reconcile NPC’s not being able to react to certain things, but overall I prefer having them around to the world feeling empty! Some suggestions that I think would be nice:

  • Continue to fill in the reputations of NPCs and make it possible to inquire about the reputations of vNPCs. More rumors about them would also be fun… all the gossip, please! 
  • I know having canned responses can be kind of lame and break immersion, so I wouldn’t want to see it done too liberally, but there are certain NPC interactions that I think could benefit from at least some auto dialogue. For example, when being blocked by a guard, it would be nice to get a 'why'… something simple like, “This is private property. I cannot allow you past,” or “It is too dangerous. Return the way you came.”
  • I also agree with Halima that having an indication of someone puppeting would be super helpful! 

Story cohesion is something I struggle on and off with, but I’m not totally sure if it is for lack of using systems properly on my part. Notes and comments are maybe(?) what should be being used to supplement story arch development, but I normally edit through the website and not having the functionality readily available there makes it feel a little disconnected. Clarification on the best way to document goals in a ‘bite-sized’ way would be super helpful! Pulls once a month still feel really daunting, but I hope this will subside with the regular schedule. <3

April 25, 2024, 5:32 p.m.
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Zahir
Posts: 18
Re: Story Cohesion 4 of 10
April 27, 2024, 6:27 a.m.

I have been struggling with what could be roughly categorized as “storytelling” for some time now, and I think that the primary hurdle for me is that I find the systems rather opaque.

I want to first post a disclaimer about references to IG events.  I feel like it’s useful for clarity to talk in specifics, to describe what happened when theory met reality, at least in my experience.  I’m hoping that confining my references to things that happened on the boat is relatively safe, as we were all there (more or less) and those events are pretty much concluded (again more or less.)  Apologies if I’m wrong, give me a heads up if its TMI and I will try again.

Some things that have not been clear for me :

WHAT CAN YOU ASK FOR?

There are two constraints: what is permissible, and what exists in the world, and the distinction between the two is diffuse.  These boundaries are invisible to players and so inequities arise simply out of differing player expectations of what might be in bounds.

Example: “Magic” in chargen.  I had what turned out to be a very conservative interpretation of what “no characters start with magic” meant.  While ultimately I would probably have done the same thing it would have been easier to own that choice if I’d known that I was making it.  As it happened, I was often disappointed by feeling very mundane amidst some very magical seeming PCs, which had certainly not been my original concept.

HOW DO YOU ASK?

The “official answer” would seem to be “comment/story arc” but given that a lot has happened both before and after the single story collection I suspect that the “real answer” is “petition/oocmail.”  The problem here, again, is that the boundaries are unclear, leading to inequitable outcomes emerging from variance in player expectations.  The limitations of the story arc system only exacerbate this issue.

Hopefully the slower pace of life on land will make monthly story collection more reasonable, because given the frenetic pace of events on the ship waiting around for story collection was not workable.

Unfortunately, this leaves us in ambiguous territory moving forward in regards to how players can and should request “story advancement.”

I really appreciate the addition of query because it helps to make concrete a certain kind of request, and I think query used in conjunction with story arcs can cover a lot of ground, but I’m not sure if it’s sufficient or complete, and I’m curious to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter.

The obvious shortcomings of story arc, for me, are infrequency and the ambiguity of cost.  A month can seem like a long time if a plot idea occurs to you in the first week after story collection.  Also, because there is no fixed cost it is not totally clear what you are paying for.  Placement in the queue certainly, but is that really it?  What are you paying for exactly?  And how much should you pay?

The character limit of query on the other hand can make it hard to outline your availability let alone your intent.

What I like about queries and story arcs is that they are formalized and have an associated presence cost. (Though I do think that maybe story arc costs should be standardized, and how to engage with the system could be more clear, which is a dialogue I’d love to continue in this thread.)

The fact that people turn to petition/oocmail for “story stuff” suggests to me that there is a missing “middle ground.”  Maybe something feels bigger than a query but smaller than a story arc.  Or maybe there is a sense of urgency, and you don’t feel like it can wait until story collection time.

It would help me at least if there were predictable and consistent channels for different kinds of requests.  Answering questions, getting things loaded, etc. feel like reasonable uses of petition and should be free but “story stuff” I feel should be paid for, as already exists with story arcs and queries (and perhaps a “middle ground” function or at least the ability to nudge the staff to check out your story arc between collection times, again with an associated cost.)

I will petition staff with an idea of mine that falls, for me, into this ambiguous middle ground so we can examine the issue with regard to specifics.  While I recognize that there are IC elements which need to be handled privately (hence the petition) I’m hoping to evaluate the general process here in public because I struggle with not understanding how things are done “behind the scenes” and I may not be the only one.

The first issue is somewhat hypothetical as we’ve still got a couple days before story collection to work it out, but I think it’s worth considering: would this idea remain “fresh” if I missed the deadline?  I.e. would it still be likely to be relevant in a month?  If not, is this a gap in the story arc system?

The second issue is “real.”  I haven’t started a story arc about this because I don’t know if it’s remotely possible, and it feels profoundly unsatisfying to have a story arc with a prologue (Z wants to do X) and a single development (he learns that is not a thing.)  What is the process of negotiating an idea with the staff?

ARE PEOPLE ASKING?

Another element where opacity is confusing and frustrating is seeing people get “stuff” but not knowing how.

Example: dreams.

People have gotten dreams, sometimes ones that seem prophetic.  Are they writing them themselves using the dream tool?  Petitioning up and asking?  Just receiving them unsolicited?

I suspect, at least sometimes, it’s that last one, a feeling which has caused me no end of grief.  Tying in with the previous issue, it becomes unclear not only how to ask, but whether to ask at all.  This not knowing becomes poisonous as it becomes unclear whether you are patiently awaiting your turn or being overlooked.  Are the people getting stuff doing something you’re not? What is it?

I’m reluctant to talk about my feelings here, but I think it’s important to be frank about my experience because if I don’t say anything I can’t expect anyone to know.

I’m jealous, and I think it’s important here to point out the distinction between jealousy and envy.  I don’t want for anyone to receive any less, but when I see other people get stuff I feel a pang of anxiety, because time and attention are finite resources and I worry there won’t be enough to go around.

IS THIS A PLOT HOOK? WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?

This is not to say that I’ve never gotten cool stuff.  I have!  And it’s definitely cool… I think.  Honestly, I remain a little baffled and don’t know what to do.

Example: the knots

If my experience with the knots was a teaser of things to come then cool, although I am left with the anxiety of not knowing whether that’s the case.

If I was supposed to do something then not cool, because I still don’t know what that might have been.

If that was pretty much it, that was the thing, didn’t I think that was cool?  Well… yeah maybe in a vacuum, but in context I felt shut out as aggressively as I tried to elbow my way in, which is fine if it wasn’t supposed to be my moment in the spotlight, but pretty sucky if it was.

 WHAT DO I SAY?

There is a conflict, for me, that I don’t know how to resolve, between wanting to preserve the surprises and mystery of the world and understanding that the staff aren’t mind readers and the need for transparency goes both ways.  I’m sympathetic to the challenges of Alpha, and also pretty burned out, both patient and anxious at the same time.  I am simultaneously convinced that my big break is just around the corner, I just need to wait a little longer and my ship will finally come in, payoff will arrive, and all my previous frustrations and disappointments will seem nothing more than bumps on the road… and that believing this is dangerous and counterproductive, that I am waiting indefinitely and for nothing because I didn’t know what, or how, or even that I needed to ask.

 

April 27, 2024, 6:27 a.m.
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Mistsparrow
Posts: 87
Re: Story Cohesion 5 of 10
April 27, 2024, 4:51 p.m.

I confess I do have sympathy for some of the difficulties and challenges that have been expressed here. Some players are the very forward type who are happy to send regular requests for attention and support to game admin, and feel entirely confident that this is correct and normal. Other players feel a lot more hesitation in contacting staff about anything, and tend to worry whether they're doing things the right way, and in general are a lot more reticent about "demanding" things. I am very much in this latter camp so I understand how some people can struggle with this and end up feeling left out.

These are just some thoughts I've had about story and character development related issues.


Using Personal Stories

One of the most important things a player can do to help their character get more and better quality engagement is to make entries in a character's story. But I definitely understand having some uncertainty about how to use this and other systems "correctly," as this is something I've struggled with in other games. In Arx, for example, I was never really sure how to use its Goals system in a way that felt really natural for my character -- this probably felt normal and easy to other players, but I could never figure out what goals my characters "should" have under this system or what I "should" or honestly even realistically could request from staff. I wanted to use the system to get some tangible reward for roleplaying my character, but got completely and probably rather ridiculously stymied by it, and ultimately ended up creating goals that were rather boring both for me and probably for staff as well. Definitely I did not get any interesting staff attention or character development from my hapless fumblings.

I like our Avarian story system better because it's more open-ended than just having Goals, but that open-endedness is likely a challenge in and of itself. What makes for a good story arc? What is the proper nature and scale of a story arc? When should I create a new development for my arc? What if two of my arcs overlap? What if there's something I want to record but it doesn't quite fit into any of my existing arcs? These are things I tend to get hung up on too, and then just sit there feeling sort of frozen.

What IS a good story arc? I struggle with this too. What if it's so specific that I end up with almost nothing to put in it? What if it's so broad that it ends up being a vast amorphous catch-all with no real focus? Is that really a story? What do I do???! I think, ultimately, what really matters is: just writing about your character. If an entry you want to make doesn't quite fit in an existing story arc, don't worry about it too hard (admittedly I find this easier said than done sometimes). But just write something! WRITE trumps RIGHT!

I think a good way to go about making story entries is partly just writing a short narrative about what has happened to your character recently, and partly tying those happenings (or thoughts, or whatever) into your character's broader goals and interests. These entries don't have to be earth-shaking, they don't have to contain Important Developments, or be about anything remotely dramatic. They can certainly imply some goal you might be interested in, or they might just record your character's reactions to things that happened in-game, or clarify your character's feelings about events, ideas, and people. You can also more obviously state some of your character's goals as part of your narrative.

Here's a silly example:

Story Arc: Learning to Live in Farthest Barbaria

The Mistsparrow has somehow found itself stranded in a horrifically cold and brutish land with only a weird shadowy vagrant for company. Aside from the far-too-occasional fog and mist, this place is nothing like the Mistsparrow's native otherrealm, and without the presence of vast libraries teeming with esoteric texts it finds itself hard pressed to come up with some kind of focus for its quirky interests. Nevertheless the Mistsparrow is a resourceful and curious being, and it resolves to investigate its environment to the fullest in order to hit upon some new purpose in life.

Story Development #4:

The Mistsparrow has been having a very dull week overall, trying to root up new types of grubs from the foreign barbaric soil but only encountering boringly familiar ones. Nobody else expresses any interest in its ambitions, and the Mistsparrow has begun to feel quite irritated with everyone -- particularly that caddish shadowy vagrant, who keeps making immature noises and laughing nasally whenever the Mistsparrow is trying to explain the tragedy of its existence in this wretched mortal land. One day, while in a particularly sharp fit of pique, the Mistsparrow happens to overhear some stories from a band of shabby shipwreckees about how mistmonsters can drive people to the brink of insanity, and it begins to wonder... as a being partly of mist, might it not be able to do the same somehow? Then it could get back at the rude immature vagrant. The Mistsparrow begins meditating deeply upon the most chthonic depths of its psyche, hoping to gain some insight into the relationship between mistiness and madness.

---

This doesn't really have a huge amount happening -- the Mistsparrow searches for something it can't find, gets ICly annoyed by another PC, overhears some random conversation, and decides to think about that overheard information further. But this tells something about the Mistsparrow's interests, its associates, what it gets up to day to day, and how it feels about its surroundings and the people in it, while also setting some implied goals: Not only does the Mistsparrow wish it could find cool new grubs, but now it has an expressly stated interest in understanding the phenomenon of mistmadness and using it in malign ways upon its hapless associates.

This gives us as staff a fair amount of useful material to work with, and some different possible options for addressing the Mistsparrow's story. We could send it a dream or vision, some kind of revelation that gives it a kernel of insight. We could have an NPC show up who might be able to tell the Mistsparrow more about mistmadness. If Mistsparrow invested a lot of presence in their story arc maybe we could even run a small RPT for them. Alternatively, we could just let Mistsparrow stew fruitlessly in its chthonic meditation efforts for now and instead -- it finds a rare and amazing grub never before seen!

The story arc is rather broad -- maybe too broad, because Mistsparrow's poor player is bad at story arcs -- but if they receive a development from staff related either to mistmagic or grublore they could always then create a new, separate story arc specifically devoted to investigating either of those things. Regardless of this, Mistsparrow's player has documented their character's life, given staff some idea of what's going on with the character, and ultimately gotten a response to something that the player found relevant enough to write about.


Big Picture Plot Interactions

There are also times when staff-run things happen to a PC not because it's expressly part of their own personal story, but because something about their character just happens to tie into part of the Big Picture plot in some way that's useful and interesting for helping to advance that plot. This tie-in might be something about the character's personality or background as recorded on their sheet, or, just as likely, it might come from something they've thought about in-game, something they've roleplayed about with others, or some element they've written about in their story arc. So essentially, the more we know about your character, the more chance there is of them becoming incidentally involved in parts of Big Picture plot.

This does mean that some PCs may get more involvement than others in certain plotlines, but we also try to tweak some aspects of these plotlines to include less involved PCs, and overall we hope to have enough different Big Picture plotlines and story components such that PC involvement ends up being relatively evenly distributed over time. That said, if you see something happening in Big Picture plot that you think ties in really well with some part of your character's interests, abilities, or goals, and you want to make us aware of that, then I think an OOCmail or a petition would be a good way to let us know about that.


Negotiating Ideas with Staff

One thing that anyone is welcome to do at any time is send staff an OOCmail. Working out whether something is feasible, lore- and story-wise, is definitely an acceptable thing to use OOCmail for. All we ask is that a player have more than just a vague idea of what they're interested in. In other words, "I want magic, how do I get it?" isn't a helpful OOCmail. Mistsparrow can do better than this. Something more useful would be: "I'm interested in developing mistmindmagic because I think the Mistsparrow could have an innate connection to the mist. Could they maybe start to tap into latent powers through meditation? Or maybe there is a mad mistmonk that Mistsparrow could learn more from? Or would it be reasonable to wander into the mist and forge some kind of connection with a mistmonster?"

These are ideas that we can give a yes or no answer to, and use to help clarify what is possible in relation to what you want. We won't tell you exactly what we're going to do (that wouldn't be much fun), but we can help put you on a track that can lead to a good story and eventually get you to your goal.


Clarity of Channels and Inputs

I do think we need a lot more clarity on what is the best way for players to ask about or for certain things from staff. What is an OOCmail good for, versus a petition or a query? Which channels are best for getting direction? Which are best for requesting help? Which are best for emergencies? Which are best for getting staff interaction, and what kind?

I also agree that there need to be clear guidelines about what the expenditure of varying amounts of Presence gets you when you invest it in a story arc. As long as you mark your story with any amount of Presence at all, we're going to do something with it. But what and how much? I feel like there should be certain levels for minor outcomes (e.g., dreams, small plot notes) versus moderate outcomes (e.g., NPC interactions expressly to advance your personal story) versus major outcomes (e.g., a staff-run RPT, or maybe some kind of long-term NPC relationship like an apprenticeship).

I think this would help a lot in clarifying what is acceptable for players to ask for, and reassuring them that what they're requesting is reasonable.


Story and Interaction Limitations

I feel like the ship phase of alpha boosted expectations a little too high for what we as staff could do for players, while also disproportionately rewarding that first type of player who had the time and the temperament to engage really heavily with staff during that very active period. I think we let the people on the extreme active-striving end of the play scale drive the pace of the story a little too much, and that this led to the acceleration and intensification of various plot threads in a way that wasn't originally intended. This had the effect of leaving out players who had less time to play, or a more relaxed play style, or greater reticence in putting in requests to staff. And that's on us as staff for not regulating the pace and the nature of the plots better. Again, I personally have had a lot of experience of being left behind in storytelling environments like this, so I'm sorry if that ended up happening here in SoA too.

Another thing that we are limited in right now is not just having more time ourselves to help people with their stories, but -- at least as importantly -- having other PCs around with the skill sets, connections, or knowledge to help one another. So right now a huge amount of story development falls to us because there aren't the human-PC resources in the game for players to be able to develop their characters with one another instead of mostly with us. Eventually this will be less of an issue, when it's beta phase and the game is fully open and more thoroughly developed, but this is a limitation that we can't do a lot about at this point.


Magic Skill

Lastly, on magical skill itself. As far as the discrepancy among PCs in terms of magical skill and abilities, I blame myself for some of that. Starting out I really did not intend PC magic to enter the game in any truly meaningful way in alpha phase.

Magic is something that I still haven't fully worked out to my own satisfaction, even if all the fundamentals for the lore are in place. I had considered magic to basically be a beta system that could largely be set aside for this phase in favor of working on other more essential lore and systems, so there isn't necessarily support for all but some very small abilities, and even these were only brought into the game after some pretty significant roleplay investment. There's another difficulty in the fact that some characters have more opportunity to learn magic in alpha than others do -- especially, those whose magic comes more from spiritual connections or internal reserves.

Characters looking to develop magical ability in a more systematic way, such as would-be mathemagi, don't really have a chance to do that in this setting, at least not this early on. All I can say is that while the mathemagical path will generally be a longer one, it has the capacity to be extremely powerful given enough time and story investment.

---

I'm sure this doesn't resolve everyone's questions and concerns, but I hope it helps a little and promotes some more discussion on how to make story cohesion in general work better for everybody.

April 27, 2024, 4:51 p.m.
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Zahir
Posts: 18
Re: Story Cohesion 6 of 10
April 28, 2024, 9:01 a.m.

Thank you for the thoughtful response, and also for opening this thread so that we can have this conversation.  I’ve been chewing on this for a while, because something wasn’t working, and I wanted to bring it up, but I struggled to explain exactly what, or why.

Part of the trouble was that I didn’t really want anything.  Not in the short term anyway. I’m not only okay with, in many respects I prefer a slow game, unfolding over months, or years, but things moved fast to begin with, and day one I discovered that my expectations and reality did not perfectly align.

Exacerbating the issue is that those highly social, proactive players tend to be visible, so you see them out there doing stuff, and… I’ll be honest here, that’s who I’m friends with.

What I find difficult to describe about my experience is how much it’s about perspective.  Overall things have been extremely cool.  It’s not the experiences themselves that I’ve been unhappy with, it’s the corrosive, nagging doubt.

The trouble with the slow game is that if you’re content, or expecting to be waiting three or six months for “development” you’re potentially in for an unpleasant surprise when you finally check in and discover that the staff was operating under a different set of assumptions, you were supposed to be making small and frequent check-ins, they have no idea who you are, what you’ve been doing, and the past half a year of what you thought was diligent pursuit of your personal story turns out to have been nothing at all.

All I wanted was to know if I was on the right track, that I wasn’t missing something, that I wasn’t doing it wrong.  But when I tried, inarticulately I admit, to express this anxiety my well-meaning, but very different friends would say something along the lines of “if you want something you should ask for it,” because they’re the kind of people who ask.  Which turned out to have been counter-productive, as it only reinforced my anxiety that you need to ask.   What I really wanted was to know if it was okay to not ask.

So there is probably some room for improvement in clarifying expectations.

I do have a question about the use of comment: is there a single “active” comment, or is this a place one might store information that doesn’t fit neatly into a story arc? e.g. ooc commentary like “this is sort of where I’m hoping to go with X” or “I think it would be cool if eventually Y.”

April 28, 2024, 9:01 a.m.
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Ariziya
Posts: 25
Re: Story Cohesion 8 of 10
April 30, 2024, 12:35 p.m.

I love the story system so far. I think I use it mostly as Mistsparrow has suggested, though my developments tend to be just one or two lines in more of a chapter outline such as in Winne-the-Pooh: "In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie the Pooh and Some Bees and the Stories Begin."

I'll outline my current method in case it helps anybody. At the moment I have one main arc that is the general story of Ariziya's travels and includes all the big storm/plot stuff on the Greenest Dolphin, landing in St. Loomis and a few things that have happened since then. I have another main arc more focused on another important part of his story, and smaller arcs which detail relationships between other characters and/or other things; I had one on the Dolphin that was Ariziya's quest for a bath! That and a few others are archived, but at least one has the potential to be reinstated depending on events.

There are a few things I would like to be able to do that I can't currently. The first is being able to tag another arc where they intersect because sometimes something is both a part of the main arc and a smaller one and I'd rather not have to repeat it. I'd also like another OOC comment box below each main development because I don't want to mess up the way I do stories by adding my own thoughts/comments specifically to admins into that bit, but that's just personal preference.

Lastly on Story stuff, is there any way the collection could be once per 30 days? That might help stagger it for admins and players because obviously you often get tangled up in other people’s plots (in a good way). And maybe you don’t have an idea on the 29th of the month but you have it a week late. Then you have to wait until the next collection which is then ages. Just a thought.

Moving on to admin interaction. I don't find it difficult to ask for admin interaction now, but I definitely used to. I also know people who actively don't want (or don't always want) admin interaction. A couple of things that I've seen on other games that might is maybe having a toggle le that you can set between 'admin interaction welcome' and 'do not disturb', and also an maybe an RP profile for staff which could list general lines and veils. For anybody who doesn't know about lines and veils, this article explains the concept but the TLDR version is things you never want to experience (maybe you have a terrible fear of spiders and do not want to be in any spider plot ever), and veils are things that are ok but you want glossed over (eg. you're fine for your character to lose a limb but might not be cool with gory details).

April 30, 2024, 12:35 p.m.
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Zahir
Posts: 18
Re: Story Cohesion 8 of 10
May 1, 2024, 3:12 a.m.

One tool that I think would be very useful and might help to close the gap between players who feel very comfortable in dialogue with the staff and more reticent ones is someplace to store half-baked ideas for staff review.

 I’ve been trying to evaluate what some of the barriers might be to robust, player-driven storytelling, and to think of ways that we might lower the threshold of participation, while also trying to streamline processes for staff.  I know that for me one of the hurdles is feasibility, or appropriateness.  I might have a dozen vague ideas, but they never make it into a story arc because some doubt or hesitation gets in the way.

So I’d love someplace where I could write down those ideas, relatively briefly and informally, with the understanding that these aren’t ideas I’m particularly attached to, they’re just ideas I’ve had.  As part of the story collection process the staff can read over the ideas in the bank and if they like one they can assign it one of three categories: green light, gold star, or request for follow up.

Green light is more or less what it sounds like: an indication that this idea fits with the lore, has whatever support might be needed to pursue it (eg existing crafts, locations, skills, etc) and you’re free to pursue it whenever you like.

Gold star is green light plus.  If an idea fits particularly well into another story already running or about to run, or would provide a really good means of testing a new functionality, or the staff just really likes it for whatever reason they can mark it with a gold star, meaning not only is this okay to pursue, but please do so post haste.

Request for follow up is again what it sounds like, an indication that the staff is interested in the idea, but has questions, which might be a way of inviting shyer players into a conversation they would be disinclined to initiate themselves.

Some of the advantages to the system are that it:

  1. Reduces barriers for players with rejection sensitivity.  Ideas are never turned down, and an idea that isn’t green lit now, might be later, when more support exists.  Players are essentially only ever told ‘yes.’
  2. Distributes the cognitive workload.  More ideas from more people means more stories for everyone to engage with, plus it’s a way to get to express quirky little side stories that the staff might never dream up.
  3. Serves as a diagnostic tool.  If a player has a lot of ideas but none are getting green lit, why not? What could help to make their ideas more feasible?  It might also be a place where a player can say “I’m struggling to come up with something to do” in a way that might feel more comfortable/less demanding than a petition, and is difficult to express in a story arc.
May 1, 2024, 3:12 a.m.
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Inaya
Posts: 38
Re: Story Cohesion 9 of 10
May 20, 2024, 7:26 a.m.

Sorry for the thread necromancy, but I feel like this sort of fits the theme, and didn't get brought up previously.

One thing I struggle with, in using story arcs, is that my inspiration to write absolutely does not come in regular weekly intervals. I tend to procrastinate terribly, and then sometimes I'll have a really productive day and I'll write 5 or 8 different story developments. This happens maybe once a month, if I'm lucky.

Not to be a total code-focused twink, but the fact of the matter is that this means my potential xp gains are quite a lot less than someone who is updating their story arc weekly, as they will get their 15xp each week, and I will get 15xp +n (where n = the number of additional developments I do, since those are worth 1xp each when done in the same week) per month. They end up with 60xp for the month, I end up with maybe 22 if I write a lot. That's a pretty significant difference in a game where opportunities for xp gain are already quite limited (and I absolutely agree that they should be limited, in general, but this mechanism in particular feels like a bit of a handicap to me). Now, you can tell me I'm just undisciplined and need to work harder, but... well. I feel like it might be more equitable to not have such a hard limit, maybe. Recognising the opportunity cost often makes me despair and not want to write anything at all, because, well, I've already blown my chances, whoops.

Would it be reasonable to perhaps include some kind of credit mechanism, much like our voting points, where your 15xp opportunities roll over and can accumulate (up to a moderate threshold, obviously, not infinitely)? Perhaps in the range of 2 to 5 weeks?

May 20, 2024, 7:26 a.m.
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pilgrim
Posts: 238
Re: Story Cohesion 10 of 10
May 24, 2024, 11:42 a.m.

Recent Story System Update

 

Things we've fixed:

  • Time rollover for XP-earning activities, to embrace players whose story-recording motivation works in bursts (thanks to pof Inaya)
  • The functionality to add an optional OOC comment to every development in a story arc
  • A short-term STORY REQUEST capacity, to ask for small reviews with quick anwers to in-character questions
  • Purposeful long-term story-submission to the queue, rather than forced monthly collections
  • More documentation in HELP STORIES to clarify expectations on how the system might be used
    • Pasting here:
      •     The recording of stories is primarily for you, as a way to keep track of your character's
            stories. For the most part, the driving force of this story is your imagination and
            your character's actions. It should be possible to pursue these stories through in-game
            interaction with other PCs and with the environment, through game mechanics.

            However, sometimes you might want a special reaction that is not possible through game
            mechanics alone. This is when you would want to ask for administrative help with your
            story.

            If you only need a quick bit of simple guidance that could come through a plot note
            or if you only want acknowledgment and recognition of the story via a dream, or any
            short input like that -- you can use a STORY REQUEST. This takes 10 Presence points
            and you can do it once every 15 days.

            If you need something more in-depth, you can use STORY SUBMIT. According to however
            much Presence you have invested in your story, it will place into a queue for staff
            to address. You can do this once every 90 days, and these sorts of story addresses
            could result in anything from a dream or a plot note to the triggering of magical
            abilities to a NPC interaction to new code and in-game building being done.

            While you are encouraged to put OOC comments onto your developments with STORY
            COMMENT, there's no promises when it comes to what could happen as a result of your
            stories! Presence investment only determines your position in the queue, and the
            magnitude of whatever occurs from your story is largely determined by whatever
            your character has done and what would make the most sense from a staff perspective.

  • More web-based support -- investing Presence, etc - but both web and in-game support for every new functionality
  • More transparency regarding the place of one's story in the queue, and the capacity to affect that in real time by investing more Presence
  • Showing whether NPCs are being "piloted" by staff (thanks pof Halima)

 

Things we have yet to do:

  • An idea-submitting system related to plots, where staff can give green stars, yellow stars, etc (credit to pof Zahir)
    • What I'm envisioning here is a sort of 'Plot' webpage that runs along the 'Timeline' page, and is maybe interwoven. This will make public any obvious parts of world plots, and potentially also include private plots made public by players, which would only be visible to those who have interacted with those plots.
      • This could pair potentially with a system that a player suggested a while back, regarding ongoing public plots and letting PCs signify their interest somehow in getting involved
      • I'd like to figure out a way to incorporate this where PC arcs are also able to be managed and tied together in a smooth way to encompass multiple arcs in one story and crosspost developments, etc... this gets a bit complicated and I don't have a clear algorithm visualized for it yet, so if anyone wants to help with that, feel free to post!
  • More VNPC activity/interactions (as requested by pof Firouzeh)
    • Reactions of VNPCs via reputation, and adding/removing from character reputations according to mechanical behavior in-game
  • More detailed NPC responses
    • A lot of this is stuff to be built-out, where we add responses and such, but some of it needs to be managed via the code where there is actual variability regarding what NPCs might say in certain situations, like when they block you from entering an area
    • Guard patrols and responses need to be tweaked here too
    • Capacities to affect storylines like being able to rob from shops (needs to be added via code) or NPC homes (needs to be built-out)
      • Better and clearer ways to interact immersively with shop displays (thanks to pof Esfandiar for pointing out the need for this in another thread)
    • Job errands need to be built out for more interactions with a character's livelihood and dynamic responses from the world regarding that
  • A lines-and-veils system, preferably touched-upon during character generation, but also editable outside of that (thanks to pof Ariziya)
    • This would be primarily staff-facing and help staff know how to interact with players -- it might be something viewed on the Account Notes page, and editable by players there as well as in-game
    • Lines-and-veils might also govern some VNPC reactions, such as those that might align with discriminatory themes, as we want to make it easier for players to either avoid or engage with such themes according to their wishes (thanks to everybody who engaged in the discussion regarding these concerns)
  • There was some other stuff that I had in my head when I began writing this, but don't remember right now... please continue this discussion if you do remember, or if you have more ideas!

 

The new system likely still has issues, so please continue critiquing as needed! And thanks for all the input so far.  :toolbox:

May 24, 2024, 11:42 a.m.
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