Getting out of our own way
A couple of weeks ago, as 2013 wound down, a player dragged me out to the woodshed for a beating over everything I’ve done to screw up the MUSH in the past few years.
Space system? Why?
Game lore? So terribly convoluted!
Bringing my alts online to pad the who list? Horribly deceitful and pointless.
Running RP threads in the forums as an alternative to in-game RP? Not their cup of tea.
How do any of these measures – these apparently half-assed Band-Aids that I’ve been slapping on OtherSpace – do anything to foster RP?
I’ll address these issues one by one in a bit. And later I’ll cop to things I’ve done in recent years that actually were detrimental MUSH.
But first I’ll say this: None of the items griped about above are detrimental to RP in the game. Period.
Later, I’ll talk more about what is, in my opinion, hurting RP.
I’ve accepted the fact that long-chain crafting is a poor fit for the MUSH.
But the system’s existence didn’t hurt the MUSH. No one who wants to RP on the MUSH is absolutely forced to craft anything.
Sure, they need to get access to armor and weapons for refereed combat, but those could be acquired from other people who DO enjoy crafting.
For some players, the system actually generated ideas and opportunities for RP.
But it’s entirely possible to create a character that never has to use the crafting system. We can argue about the details of how the system works, how many steps are involved in making an item and how the math should play out, but the bottom line is that we could do nothing to change this system and it would continue to not hurt the MUSH.
It may need fixing, but it’s entirely an auxiliary system – a shiny thing off to the side that gives crafters a way to put their fingerprints on something in the game, but nothing that brings RP to a halt if no one uses it.
CSpace works for us. It’s fairly simple to use. It offers cinematic RP opportunities and chances for exploration for those who want it.
But, like crafting, it’s possible to play a character that never uses it, thanks to automated shuttles that can carry people to various sites on the grid.
People may argue that it gives people places to hide rather than interact with other people. I can’t say that they’re wrong on that point.
However, that’s not a flaw with the space system. That’s a people problem.
Anytime you’ve got more than one person in the game and more than one room on the grid, people have somewhere to go to avoid other people.
Don’t blame CSpace for that.
Things have changed a lot with the game lore since 1998.
The Wiki’s a mess.
But that doesn’t hinder anyone’s RP. It’s possible to come up with 250 words of biography for a character rifting in from ANYWHERE and ANYTIME. Frankly, for all my ego might cringe at it, no one ever has to touch the existing game lore to play a character on this MUSH.
They can, as another staffer succinctly put it, completely ignore the lore.
What matters more is the mythos that the players make in their day-to-day dealings with each other.
Padding the who list
I thought it was nice to have a crowd of my alts online. It’s not like I pulled some amazing fake-out by putting them all in-character on the grid so that it looked like RP was happening at all hours.
I argued that it helped generate more Saga Points for players hanging around online – our confetti toy gave out bonuses based on the number of people on the who list. The more, the merrier.
But it was, admittedly, a silly argument.
We disabled the confetti bonuses. And I quit bringing my alts online.
The who list is now “What you see is what you get,” for better or worse.
Forum RP threads
For the past four months, my real-world job – the one that pays my bills (including the costs of running OtherSpace) – has become unexpectedly complicated.
In 2012, I was an education reporter, and my schedule wasn’t too bad. Sometimes I had to cover night meetings, but more often than not I was home before rush hour and usually had some free weekends.
In early 2013, I became news editor, writing editorials and working the night shift and weekends.
In fall 2013, the company laid off some newsroom personnel. They managed to avoid laying me off by turning my position into a hybrid of news editor and crime reporter. As a result, about half my day is spent chasing down stories about crime and the other half is spent putting the paper to bed. And I still work some weekends.
Some folks may also know that I became a dad in May 2013. As a result, I have a lot of demands on my limited time.
That’s a long way to go to explain, basically, that it proved much easier for me to move forward with the War of the Weavers story arc through a forum thread than by trying to run scenes in-game.
The harsh truth right now is that if I’m going to be involved, I am hard-pressed to commit myself to anything that lasts longer than an hour and a half, maybe two. That’s an awfully narrow window for people to fit from a bunch of different time zones.
The forum thread has proven a great alternative. It is time zone-agnostic. Players can post at their leisure. It doesn’t require logging in to the game.
I can understand if some people can’t get into it. Personally, I’d rather riff in real-time. However, when I have people from a scene in Australia, Europe, the Pacific West and on the East Coast, trying to find a time when we ALL align is just folly.
I might be able to work something out for one-on-one RP sessions in-game. But large group activities are, until further notice, difficult if not impossible for me to manage in real-time.
But that doesn’t have to hinder anyone else. My story arc takes place with a specific group of characters in a totally different universe. It doesn’t matter to anyone but them.
Bad things I’ve done
Over the past sixteen years, I’ve done a few things that have hurt the MUSH.
None of them are touched on above.
In 2001, to spite a paranoid idiot and prove a point that player actions always have consequences, I allowed the destruction of La Terre and the deaths of dozens of player characters.
Some years later, I decided to shut down the original OtherSpace, with the intent of moving on to OtherSpace: Millennium, and then changed my mind.
In the past few years, after a particularly vitriolic period of backstage drama among players in an ugly game of “he said-she said-we said-they said,” I announced that we’d log every keystroke players made going forward so we’d have a record if people came to me with complaints. That’s a practice we discontinued last year.
These are valid examples of actions that I’ve taken that have genuinely hurt the MUSH, by upsetting players and driving them away.
I own that.
What’s hurting us now
It’s not crafting. It’s not CSpace. It’s not convoluted game lore. It’s not me and my army of alts. It’s not forum RP action.
And it’s not what I did a decade ago or last year.
What hurts us, here and now, is the lack of player initiative. Few players seem willing to be on the grid, day-in and day-out, to help build their own mythos and make their mark on the universe.
I’ve been slammed for being like Lucy in the Peanuts comics by yanking the football away from unwitting players at the last moment, somehow stealing their thunder in my story arcs, but that’s just wrong.
I’m not the problem here. Stop trying to make me the problem. I don’t have time to BE the problem.
If you want to be a hero, get on the grid and be a hero.
If you want to be a villain, get on the grid and be a villain.
I’m not stopping anybody. You are the only barrier that stands between you and making a real difference on the MUSH.
Quit hiding OOC and go IC. Quit inventing excuses for why your character wouldn’t go to X or Y and start figuring out why they might.
I haven’t taken away any tools that you can use to generate activity. The +calendar still works. You can post +news articles. The in-game BB and the web-based forums, as well as our Facebook page, are at your disposal to promote opportunities. I’ve even given all characters the ability to build their own grids – their own universes, if they want – to run their own activities and just about avoid me altogether, if they want.
Over the years, I’ve learned important lessons about getting out of my own way.
Some of you need to do the same.