I’m in the midst of birthing an idea. It’s so unusual to experience one so rich in it’s details that I felt compelled to blog about it, like a proud father. Anyone familiar with the torturous writing and atrocity that I inflict upon the writ language should just leave now, but an inner glee champions a funny truth – there’s but one reader here, and that’s me. So why apologize?
The idea I feel myself stitching together is born of a crash course in media tonight. About how we now use technology to augment our memories, to create a kind of eternal long-term storage. About how players demand never ending (and free) content. How the free to play model is destroying close communities, or evolving them to something new. The sheer brilliance of seth godin, Ted, and the inescapable diversions over at IGN. Everything from post-labor economies to kittens in minecraft. Soak in the universe and let the brain figure it all out.
A strange musing at one point in the day today to build up a content oriented title where the content was fused by a timer. That is, the world shifted in time and was elastic to respond to players. And then, I began to realize something: we use our digital devices to store ourselves for later retrieval. Photos, movies, content. Experiences that define our prismatic identities. That’s the kind of experiment I need to invoke: one where the player engages in an activity that creates an artifact that can be consumed in a later time to create a specific reaction.
I’m pondering a few prior projects, some that were very close to this idea that I long since abandoned. I need to return to these ideas, mix them up more, but also drastically simplify and shorten the complete time to market. Is there anything that fits within these broad parameters that can be tackled by one person, in their free time — of which is in drastically short supply? A positive affirmation is often not enough for the drooling savagery of the truth.
Yet, I still wrestle internally with the fiery demon; although I think water can be tossed upon it. That we leverage the digital real to store our experiences and the shock claim is that we no longer remember; it is a certain truth that any experience we undergo for a second time is one that takes a priority position in our conscious. At least for a short time. A world filled with a narrative of fictional accounts is likely no different than one without, in the long view of time.
There’s surely a way to strike deep within the frontiers of the surreal mind of our prismatic identity via the fine waters of a strange interaction, to sail along the great sea of the infinite and at a moment’s touch. I’ll continue to search this frontier and this truth, with the meek tools available to me, until either I turn weary of the activity or something easier calls for my attention. It would be nice to solve this, to find a way to reach into the mass of the pools of thought, and cast forth the possibilities of all that can and all that is. So, just maybe.
I had a strange impulse to setup a python based MU* after drinking the Venti house while scanning through pages and pages of future epub content at the megabook. So, I clicked a few buttons and had an EC2 linux server running then after a bit of digging around for a codebase that worked with current versions of the framework dependencies, stumbled upon Evennia. And, in about an hour had everything going, user accounts, ports and all. World in a click. What a new era we live in. Ten years ago I would have had to actually build some boxes. Yet, here I was, in a new virtual plane of existence.
Experiment E is complete.
It too has failed to address the fundamental situation that I attempted to articulate here in the post on the humble tabletop laboratory. So, now I could open my notebook up and attempt to try again, to find yet another path that won’t end up in the epic fail category. Not that Evennia isn’t solid — it just isn’t what I’m specifically looking for. As a MU* solution, it has something few, if any modern MU* frameworks has and that’s active updates.
It did satisfy the strange impulse and I plan on leaving the MU* up. That way if I get the itch again, I’ve got somewhere to go.
Even though I thought for sure blogs like Thunder Gorge (where you’re at, right this minute… Way to represent!) did not exist and that they were all largely dead, karma has proven me wrong. Here’s one.
What’s a GM to do when players have these real life commitments and the GM misses the raid call for the MMO at the same time? Ponder the ponderings, for his own benefit. Thankfully, this blog has a readership of one, and after some deliberation about that situation I came to realize this is a net boon. I’m not quite, as they say, unleashed, but I do find that I’m able to force myself to try and articulate ideas in the public sphere outside the jargon of my shorthand. What the fuck? Well, means I think about things a bit differently when I write them out in wordpress.
The pondering of the moment goes to my prior thought on the next experiment. The idea here is that there is an automated way to recreate a small aspect of the tabletop experience, to automate the player in some capacity that I could still get a “fix” in over the weekend. As someone who likes to torture logic like a bendy straw in a hurricane, I found myself asking what it was that really happened in the tabletop. When the likes of nerdkind gather around the handcrafted, wooden table to throw down the dice, what’s really going on there?
After a few hours of thinking about this, I arrived at the decision that the GM sits at the table to command reactions. Not in all games and I don’t really care about other GMs. It just isn’t relevant to the topic. To me, when players gather at the table, the moment is about reactions. Every second of the game is held up in it. This is why electronic dice rollers are a serious impediment. How many times have I seen an excited player push the chair back, the entire play group lean forward, as dice are shaken with a tiger-like ferocity before tossed onto the table. “Holy shit, we did it!”
The GM’s core job is to create those moments. To build them requires a bit of masterwork, it’s an artform all it’s own. Where traditional storytelling fails is that, aside from some dude standing there and gesturing all about like he lost his way from the bar, in a properly run tabletop the player is an invested part of the story–in fact, the player IS the story. Since our prismatic identity is formed through memories and memories are stitched stories of perceived events, the humble tabletop is a powerful psychological force.
It’s probably why competing social structures hate it so much–one could argue that it’s overly effective.
Returning to the topic of automating players the nearest I could come up with in terms of a sketch is something that somewhat looks like the sims. That’s a game of reactions too. Do I see myself setting up a Cleverbot and a sims-like experience at the table and attempting a session? No. Although I did think about it.
It’s the scale of that reaction. I’m thinking that immersion is just that, too. What’s immersion? Aside from a total mindfreak with your little campaign world, it’s about pushing yourself into a class of reactions. This is why video game players often excel at real life activities after doing them in a video game for months on end. It’s immersive. it’s a training sim. It’s a reaction!
I’m torturing grammar, words and probably the only reader out there for this blog-oh wait, that’s me!
Anyhow, the intersection of story and the reaction of a person is interesting. The chain-reaction is something I’m thinking is key to the success of a well-run tabletop game. It’s like fostering a spirited communication in the corporate boardroom. Sure, poking the hornet’s nest is dangerous, but by God sometimes good things happen. The world can take a break from doom and gloom long enough to cast a ray of light, right?
So there a GM is, engaged in a communication with his players. The players are reacting verbally, but physically too and building off one another. Some reactions may piss off some players and at other times there is a group hug. The GM takes down notes, builds up ever more elaborate trickery, scenes, and the like and pushes the players in just the right way for the players to experience the story first-hand, in real time. What story? Theirs. Why is that key? Because games are about learning. Experiencing the story of the player’s character creates an endless opportunity to learn about this character that they imagined – likes, dislikes and capabilities.
Therefore, an automation attempt would be fruitless unless someone figures out a way to make software care about the story that’s being told. Software wouldn’t care-it wouldn’t switch itself to CAPITAL LETTERS BECAUSE THAT GNOLL IS ABOUT TO EAT OFF THE ARM. You could code it to have an emotional state and you could randomize reactions, but to create code that can build upon itself to grow with the story? Not happening anytime soon.
This doesn’t mean some aspect of a tabletop couldn’t make it over to software, hell there’s this whole industry built up around aspects. It’s just the important part, the true part of what makes tabletop work, isn’t possible to port with current technology. Tomorrow? Maybe.
Well, quite unexpected but a number of different reasons pushed our game night out a day and possibly out to next weekend. This isn’t an unusual problem. So this is my resolution for Experiment K-I’m going to build something that solves the problem, or try to, of when players call the night off. To the notebooks I go, in search of a sketch that might just work.
About ready to give Experiment J a test run and see where the pitfalls are to run this in an actual tabletop setting.
Experiment I just wrapped up at the same time my coffee finished brewing and the children falling asleep. This is starting to feel like more robust and, what kills me, is that I’m only using nano to do this. Now to start dreaming up what Experiment J might look like, especially since I’ve got a game here yet this weekend to run.
As I indicates, I’m thinking of Encounter, Treasure and a Reference section. Time to pull some books off the shelf 🙂