Flammable Penguins

Claire Blackshaw's Forest of Fun

Massive Narratives pt 4

Encleverment Experiment Game Design Narrative
Massive Narratives pt 4

Hi Again. I'm working like crazy on Encleverment at the moment so sorry for the late post. Just one attached note before the LARP post. I love MMO but I wouldn't be caught dead making one, why you ask?

MMO's are risky, very risky. They require not only superior engineering and game design but enough money to gather a following. Some are an exception to the rule but in short I wouldn't trust anyone except proven industry veterans to do it. Maybe one day (^_^)

So let's get back to talk about LARPs an area I do have experience in. Again if anyone knows some good resources please shout out.

Didn't I just kill you?

LARPs like MMO are often defined by the word persistent. Now this can mean different things and be implemented to different degrees but it means some basic things. In regards to LARPS the basic terms are.

  • The world is remembered, and doesn't reset.
  • A world is forward moving (no rewind or save game).
  • Choices impact the world permanently.

Playing in a persistent world is great in that it empowers the player, increases immersion and raises the stakes. It comes at a large cost. Death!

Okay there are smaller problems but the big one is player death. Some games offer resurrection, clones or the like. The truth is however player's get frustrated when they can't kill and they get very cocky when they know they can't die.

The first thing you need to is control the danger. Make it risky, expensive or dangerous to kill another player. A basic equation is

cost = (player benefit) + (player penalty)*X
Player benefit being anything positive the player gains from an action. Player penalty is the negative impact on all other player, which we strongly weight with a value of X.

The greater X is the less likely negative actions are to occur. They should not be out of reach but having X too low leads to anarchy. Think of X as the stability of society co-efficient. The higher it is the more stable society is. Remember cost is not gold, but cost modified by risk.

Common ways to modify risk. Visibility, Accountability and Resistance. I quite like visibility, in a LARP you control the amount of rooms. Ensure good lines of sight and multi access points to each location. Any "closet-space" becomes a kill-zone. Not only used for killing but many other PvP activities.

The main reason visibility works is accountablity. A natural rule of society is actions which harm others are publicly discouraged. Note this is a gross simplification of a complex issue. For instance they may not necessarily be privately discouraged, and certain conditions like war, grouping ect.. can overthrow this basic rule. In short most societies will react negatively to PvP actions unless the context justifies it.

The more public or vicious the action taken the bigger the response. In Vampire the sanctum is neutral meeting ground with strongly enforced rules. The cyber-punk LARP I ran normally occur at places with security, meaning a player could be arrested or killed by an automatic turret or security officer. The one game I ran in a venue with no security was a massive tap-dance to keep order as it was a less respectable location.

Viva la Resistance! Pardon my terrible French. The most direct prevention and satisfying for a defending player is the option to defend one self. So a basic combat or retaliation system helps greatly. Also remember often players want to just flee. Remember the cost equation works both ways. So fleeing has almost no benefit and no negative impact to another player so it should be cheap.

Investing in a Persistent Reality

Other than destructive actions like murder players also invest into a persistent world. We discussed Kingship and Hierarchies in the earlier post, this is one form of investment. There are many forms, but I'm going to sub-divide into Reputation, Assets and Power.

Reputation is a huge one and is often abstract in games supported by only the players and ignored by the mechanics. This is a great loss. Giving the player the ability to invest in their reputation and use it greatly improves their social investment. It can be spent like currency either by spending it on favours or risking it on a venture (a bet if you will).

Assets are common place in games. The trick is to make them personal. The player wants to buy a car, make it THEIR car, give it character. A safe-house? What if it double as a night club? Guns or swords well just personalize them. Try avoid summarizing their wealth in abstract numbers. It removes the player from the world. Are they fifthly rich, well put some basic economics in play, tie up funds in long term investments or shares.

Power is power. Players can loose their reputation or assets but they always have themselves. Sure they could get crippled or damaged but in general the player's own power is the most reliable thing they have. Try avoiding diminishing it. Not much to write on this area as most games nail this one pretty well. One thing I've seen happen is try to avoid giving players powers they will never get to use.

Well hopefully you can now allow player death, without slaughter and get players to invest into the world.

Please feel free to comment or tweet at me (Twitter: EvilKimau)