I know administration is an important part of this type of a game/community that we are forming, and that you want to feel confident that a good game won’t be tainted by bad administration.
I share your concerns. It’s something that’s important to me as well, after all the work I have put into this project. That is why I want to bring the topic to the table, and hear you all out. You’re all the ones who will have to bear the consequences of the decision, so I’d like to know what you all think about it.
Out Of Character Coordination
A specific problem that needs to be faced is what to do about out-of-character coordination. The rule to address this problem kills any possibility for friends to play together, for the community to collaborate, and for the mods/admins to truly police it (you can’t stop people from speaking outside the game!). I can understand this rule seems appealing as well, because it seems like the logical path to ensuring fairness.
But I don’t believe it actually is. I think it would kill lot of potential to have a rule like this. So what to do? People can’t be allowed to run wild, working together to sweep through towns, without any dispute backed by mods being brought against it. Of course not.
However, I think I may have a possible solution. This is going to sound a little strange, and absolutely different than what most of you may be used to, but I think we should not only allow cooperation. We should encourage it…
With moderation. Literally. Cooperation and collaboration will be moderated before it will be allowed. I would like to encourage OOC cooperation within a special category of topics that only frequent forum goers can participate in. This will be where “scenes” are created by players working together (or separately, if they’d rather write on their own).
These would be loose guidelines in how the writer invisions the story will go based on different possibilities. That way, when they write the scene in the game itself, they are able to adapt their writing based on other people’s reactions without falling short on what to do next. This concept is applied in MUDs all the time, but it’s usually in a real time environment, and the scenes are special. They are usually significant events that changes someone’s life forever, and will require special admin support for features like adding special monsters or items. This would be a smaller version of Story Arcs, which are written by administration, and effect a much larger area in the world as significant periods in history. Of course, this also means no one can write a story that their own characters specifically gain/lose anything from. Their character must be a background one, and instead the player will serve as a writer in a larger scope that should affect multiple characters around them. These would initially be private during the creation/moderation phase, only for the groups which want to participate in its conception/refinement (and moderators of course), so that surprise events may unfold.
How can I guarantee that players will use these moderated forums?
I can’t! But I don’t have to, because the rule-breakers will make themselves so obvious that it takes little deciphering on my part or the mods. How? Well, because I will still have a rule which states:
Any characters who participate in any variation of a group activity without any communication, dialog, emoted roleplay, or a reasonably logical sequence of events in their history which has not been approved and moderated as a Player Story will be heavily judged as having conducted out-of-character behavior for the sole purpose of malicious acitivity at the disadvantage of other players and will be punished accordingly.
With this rule, anyone who would like to play with their friends absolutely can. Staff will work with that group to provide a fair (as in enjoyable for everyone, and not inherently advantaged one way or another initially) for everyone involved. The goal is to create a memorable, impactful, powerful experience with your fellow players in this world you will be influencing.
So what about the bad apples?
Well, they out themselves. Anyone who talks on Skype to their friend about meeting their characters up to exchange items without a single word or emote to one another making this exchange logical is in clear violation of the rule above, and their accounts will be suspended while they are judged.
But what if they just roleplay for the sake of getting around this rule, all to achieve that OOC agenda?
Then they ended up following my rule anyway, and the fairness is re-instilled. Two characters whose players OOCly know their inventories and want an item for free will be forced to have their characters at least mention this, and anyone around them will hear it. It will be very obvious if they are acting out of character, or if their characters go inside for that conversation, admins can look at the logs themselves.
But how will the evidence be reviewed, etc?
That brings me to my next point.
Maybe we should have transparent disciplinary cases where the public can witness or perhaps even contribute to the discussion of the players which are accussed of having tainted the game with cheating? It would keep administration honest, it would allow the players to feel involved in how their community is policed, and the accused will have a chance to defend themselves. Moderators will be there to keep conversations civil, and admins will be there deliver the final say after the discussion has reached a conclusion and to present evidence (such as character logs, where necessary). I don’t believe small, clear cut cases would need this, but banning players maybe?
Sorry that’s a long one, but it’s important. Let me know how you guys feel about all this. If anyone has any additional thoughts on rules, administration, game mastering, etc, please mention.