I'll start right off by saying that I really do appreciate the staff trying to come up with something really cool. I know from my own RP experience that mega-events can be a lot of fun, both playing and running them. However, there have been a couple... shall we say, issues I've noticed in this year's Nightmare Night event. I'm not as frustrated as I was two days ago, when I posted a somewhat uncalled-for long and ranty comment on QuickLime's blog, so hopefully I can be somewhat fairer in evaluating what it was that didn't quite go right, at least in my opinion.
The first thing, I will admit, is personal and subjective, but the fact is, I don't come to this site for Role Plays in that style. I have other sites where I go for RP's that are more adventurous or combative; Canterlot for me is a place for more relaxing, character-driven slice of life stuff. Mind, over the top sometimes, as befits its cartoon origins, but still in that mindset.
That's important, you see, because the first thing you have to decide when writing a story is what kind of story you're going to write, sad, exciting, funny, etc. Everything else is designed around that. It's no different in Role Playing, or collective storytelling. All my characters were designed for the normal, WOE-style stuff; I hadn't had much opportunity to really think through what their capabilities in an invasion situation were, which made it difficult for me, and I think for quite a few others in the same boat, to strike a balance between being unreasonably effective and being a load.
Of course, that brings me to the second point. Not everyone came into this event with the same expectations on what kind of story they wanted to write, and even in the framework of adventure stories, there are still different ways of setting things up. To get personal again, all the combat or adventure RP's I've been in had a basic assumption that all characters had been brought together to make a more-or-less equal contribution to a goal. Whether or not they got it was, in fact, dependent on their actions. Both they and their enemies went "all out," knowing the other would.
Now, when we suddenly switched from Slice-of-life to Adventure, my entire mindset switched, too, even though I hadn't designed my characters for it, and neither had most of my fellows, for that matter. That wasn't true in all cases, however, leading to point number 3.
There was a huge imbalance in the capabilities of each character versus the changelings. My older schoolcolt, for example, would probably not fare as well as a trained REA officer. But, I would feel that I was letting down the team if I didn't contribute, and I also would feel frustrated that others weren't either, even if it made in-character sense that they wouldn't. Again, this was because I was used to the idea that not making an effort would actually mean losing (even though that probably doesn't hold true here).
As far as the actual fighting went, I still can't help but feel that it got to be a real mess at times. You generally had at least 10 players on the Pony side, and one staff member on the changeling side, with only one exception (The Invasion of Ponyville! thread). Now, this generally meant trouble in terms of god-moding, since a pony player's round might consist of between 15-20 posts, and even if a player didn't write in an automatic success, another might base their post off the assumption that they had. Naturally, the changeling player would think this unfair, since the players could overwhelm them in one round, so they had to write massive posts explaining why all of that didn't work. Of course, the pony players (this one at any rate) would think this unfair, because they put in multiple posts to accomplish nothing.
This is generally why, in freeform combat RP's, a player cap and posting order really help smooth things along. Generally, a ratio of 5:1 of good guys to bad guys is about the maximum imbalance I would allow on the site I administer, just to keep arguments from arising.
Again, though, this all assumes my own framework of combat/adventure RP's, and not every player when in with them. Some played the thing for laughs, others were content to explore the psychological breakdowns of pastel equines under stress until rescued by an inevitable Deus ex Machina. And you know what? All of those responses are perfectly valid. I realize that, and I respect that.
But like I said before, the type of story you want to write is the first decision to make, and when you're sharing a thread with those who have a different type their writing, things can get frustrating.
A lot of this, I think, could have been avoided if the staff had opened some OOC threads a few days before the actual invasion. Sure, it might have ruined the surprise, but it would have given them a chance to lay out what sort of story they wanted to tell, and give us all a chance to discuss with each other what sort of things we ourselves wanted to do with the event. I can speak for my own experience that the difference between "You cheap cheater!" and "Well Played, sir!" is one OOC thread or exchange of PM's.
I think by now we're kind of over an awkward hump, and starting to figure out just what sort of stories these threads are actually supposed to be, and I'm able to have my fun with them again. I just think that with a little more forethought... well, what the heck, I'll say it:
"THE FUN COULD HAVE BEEN DOUBLED!"