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Nightmare Night 2013: A bit of a rant


Blueblood

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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!"

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I actually find it funny that the moment the changelings arrived people's first instinct was "COMBAT AHH YEAH"

And not some other more pony method of solving the problem.

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I actually find it funny that the moment the changelings arrived people's first instinct was "COMBAT AHH YEAH"

And not some other more pony method of solving the problem.

You startle us with a different context, we revert to an earlier type. My point is, a little prep work might have prevented that; just a head's up and reminder that "This is still pony."

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The main issue is that you, and some others, are looking at as a competitive story- one in which we are trying to defeat you, or you are trying to defeat us. That there are winners and losers. There is not- there is only the story, and the reason Nightmare Night is used is simply because it isn't supposed to be, well, fair to the ponies. It isn't supposed to be a winner/loser event. It's supposed to be your ponies in a terrible situation and how they respond.

"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). "

- Is not the right way of looking at this, from my point of view, when we discuss freeform rp. From NationStates, if a Gholgothian cult launches a terrorist attack on a high school in Ixania, Ixanian high school students are not suddenly going to become proficient because the roleplay calls for it. The fact their inability to fight is a detriment in story to any possible military or police response does not harm the story, it helps because it raises the stakes for those who can fight and seems natural. In NMN, if the ponies who couldn't fight didn't fight and allowed those who could fight *to* fight, then it would have solved all problems that cropped up from an organizational standpoint.

Individual posts from ponies who were fighting or trying to escape would have had *more* of an impact if there weren't a freakin' dozen of them that we had to counter or have the whole point of the thread(s) come undone in a few days. That would have given those who were fighting more of an impact, would have been easier for us, and we wouldn't have the sheer number of godmodding and OP complaints.

So for future reference- make sure your characters act as they would act rather than act for plot convenience, and work in service of a story rather than in service of a fictional victory. There is no winning in freeform combat roleplay except the winning that comes from a good story told by those who participated. Plus, this isn't an adventure or even combat designated roleplay...has more to do with horror. At least in my view.

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Allow me to first say that I appreciated this feedback. I'm sure everyone on the events team does. I've had correspondence from multiple non-staff players expressing they were delighted by what happened with this event, but I'm well aware that this is not going to be the case for everyone involved. We are delighted for all feedback we receive as it will help us try and make events more fun for everyone in the future.

There are, however, a few points i feel the need to make. For one, this event was--at least in part--intended to showcase our still fairly new Canterlot Chronicles RP area. With changelings front and center and potential for more darkness and action, the second half of the event was designed very much in spirit with this RP area; that was why we made it a special "joint event" in the first place. Of course, while WoE characters are allowed to play within CC, they are not going to necessarily be designed for it. We recognize this and anticipated it. We were very much hoping to catch people off guard with our surprise reveal.

What we didn't expect to happen as much as it did was users re-purposing their characters for action right on the spot. In truth, the event wasn't really intended to be a "combat RP" exactly. Sure, we anticipated some of that. It's only natural it would happen, especially with CC characters invited, but in accordance with the Halloween/Nightmare Night theme, with the exception of the Chrysalis thread, where it was basically "here's Chrysalis, try and stop her" we kind of we're going more for horror than straight up action. The intent was to surprise and overwhelm, create a sense of terror where the players would have to struggle and use their heads to get free against the odds together. It was intended to be about presenting a serious, ominous problem to overcome, we didn't really expect so many people to instantly break free and start beating up on changelings like it was no big deal.

There was indeed some frustration on our part as a result. A few select players out stepped their bounds by great measures and had to be informed of as much via PM. That said, though it didn't quite play to my personal expectations, I've still had fun with this event and find what I see quite encouraging. I've seen a lot of enthusiasm on display and if nothing else proof that the Canterlot.com events team can manage ideas bigger than just giving users a new themed sandbox to play in for a while. In the end, I don't think anyone will say that the event was perfect, but I would argue that it was well worth just going for it. Everyone involved, staff and player alike can take something from this and hopefully use it to ensure events in the future are even better than this one was.

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Plus, this isn't an adventure or even combat designated roleplay...has more to do with horror. At least in my view.

I know that now; your thread did a good job of getting that point across, and when I realized that, I had a lot of fun putting Prince Blueblood through the paces. I just wish I'd known that at the outset; I'm not usually a big fan of horror, so I miss the tropes and cues.

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I know that now; your thread did a good job of getting that point across, and when I realized that, I had a lot of fun putting Prince Blueblood through the paces. I just wish I'd known that at the outset; I'm not usually a big fan of horror, so I miss the tropes and cues.

What wasn't clear about the Magical Safe Friendship tag???????

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@Chrysalis:

Like I said, I really do like that you're trying out these new things, and naturally there's going to be a lot of growing pains as one tries to figure out how to run them; I learned that from my own modding/admin days.

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Hiya, thanks for the feedback! This sort of event was a test to see how things would go if we had some kind of invasion or villain introduced into what has been -- up to now -- a very vanilla, pretty safe and stationary roleplay environment. Dio and I had a rough idea of what might happen, but we really wanted to see how things would pan out. This event was invaluable as an information resource on how we can build a better event, not to mention how we can properly implement villains for play in Chronicles. I understand some parts were frustrating, especially considering we have dozens of players of different skill levels all playing in the same space. I hope everyone overall had fun with something new. We'll have an idea for next time when we decide to do something like this again -- probably with more warning and guidance on what is acceptable for play.

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If it helps, most event will focus on the "Slice of Life" or relaxed magical adventure side of things; I would view this event as a testbed or work in progress in how such action/adventure events or stories would do, it's a learning process, none that can always use feedback. ;)

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