Thanks to everyone for participating in our recent polls. We'll be asking more questions to refine our thinking, but here's the current state of our thoughts.
If you're wondering why we're doing these polls, check out our wiki entry: Why Polling?
About 80% of the players active within the last week responded to this poll question. Of those players:
- 64% chose B (interested in the background elements, want their characters more involved)
- 20% chose A (interested in the background elements, happy with their level of involvement in them)
- 8% chose C (primary interest in playing is in staff-run story)
- 6% chose D (not interested in the background elements, and can create their own play)
- Nobody chose E (not interested in these background elements, but would like other staff story)
The key message there seems to be: Keep these elements as background, but make it easier to get involved with them.
One of the staff's core goals for this game was to have the stories be player-driven. We want to help facilitate a rich and dynamic backdrop against which those stories can be told, but our goal here is inject elements that players can take and run with to create interesting stories, and whose presence will encourage meaningful conflict, rather than tell a global tale of our own.
It should hopefully be emerging that one of the core themes of the game, from a setting perspective, is the passing of one era and the beginning of the next era. With Oberon's disappearance and the Black Road's appearance, things that ran smoothly in Oberon's time are breaking down. Moreover, with Oberon gone, many things once held politically and socially static are now able to change and evolve (and indeed, there may be broader shadow ripple effects from such things). Consequently, characters are challenged to find solutions (which may involve digging into the past for old solutions, where there are staff-provided background elements to be discovered, but can also involve entirely new solutions), and decide what the future is going to look like.
In short, we want the background elements to be things that people can get involved in easily, and whose impact prevents the setting from becoming static, but they are elements that can be used to build a story, not the story itself. Specifically, while the Road (and other enemies that players have gradually been becoming aware of) are broad threats, they are ultimately more catalysts for change and a way to introduce conflict elements; they are not intended to be so prominent that they overwhelm all other play and story possibilities.
However, from the poll results, it seems clear that people want more interaction with the background elements than they're currently getting. So we also asked a follow-up question about what was impeding involvement.
About 75% of the players active within the last week responded to the follow-up. Of those players:
- 36% chose A (frequently not aware of background elements)
- 26% chose E (actively involved, but not sure how to go forward)
- 13% chose C (aware but having trouble finding related scenes)
- 13% chose F (not having trouble)
- 10% chose B (aware but don't have an IC reason for involvement)
- One person chose D (involved in scenes, but not feeling usefully contributive)
Statistically, access to background-element information is fairly good. About 55% of all active players have at least one character who possesses a packet of this sort. About 74% of all active players have at least one character who possesses a Lore of background secrets (excluding common lores such as Pattern, etc.). However, only about 10% of active characters possess both at least one such packet plus one such lore, although interestingly, about 42% of active players possess both (just split between different characters).
That shows individual access to information, but for this, we're also interested in potential paths for dispersion. So, we look at connections: in the last month, what percentage of people played with a person who has access to either packets or secret lores, for at least four hours, i.e., enough for extended interaction? The answer: About 52% of active characters, encompassing virtually every player active in the last month. When that figure is bumped to thirty hours, it becomes 26% of active characters, but 73% of active players. (This probably also reflects that people have alts that they don't play as actively, i.e., not enough to accumulate 30 hours of playtime in a single month with many characters.) When we look at packets alone, or lores alone, the figures are slightly lower at the 30-hour mark — about 23% of characters and 66% of players.
About 55% of the people who are getting in 30 hours of monthly play with at least one person who has background-element access do not have anything of this sort themselves. So it's definitely not a closed-loop system; the social access is there, but for whatever reason, the information is probably not being sufficiently shared. (We have no way of tracking how much information is shared in play, but it's a good guess that expressed bewilderment is an indication of information deficit.)
So, the point of all these numbers is: Our sense is that, while there are a lot of individual pieces of information reasonably available on the grid, they remain fragments, with individuals having limited broader insight. This approach of fragments has proven to be problematic for a number of reasons.
The key issue with fragments is probably rooted in the lack of context. Lack of sufficient context creates a host of issues with the information, such as:
- It's not recognized as significant
- It doesn't feel satisfying to acquire
- It's not remembered
- It's hard to bring up in IC conversation, and sustain a discussion around
- It might not be considered important enough to pass on, causing the information dispersion to stop
- Lack of dispersion means fewer people have enough context for their fragments, creating a loop
- It doesn't provide sufficient impetus for action
- It doesn't provide enough guidance to figure out what useful action could be
Our goal, then, is to do a couple of things in the future:
- Deliver information in ways that have more useful context
- Make it clearer, in the information, some possibilities for how it can be acted upon
- Ensure that major discoveries get spread as gossip after a period of time, for broader dispersal
- Expand the range of people who have access to background elements in play
- Break down big things into bite-sized chunks that have clear resolutions
In the short term, you can expect to see a boost in the prominence of some background elements, as we try to raise awareness of what's going on in order to get a general level-set of context, followed by some opportunities to achieve a resolution on some of those elements.