Joined: 23 Jan 2006
GuyP, you brought up an interesting topic that I would like to pursue. "Who Is Benjamin Stove?" represents, to you and many others, a very focused game, as opposed to a broad all encompassing game, which is what most people seem to visualize when reading my original post.
Since the "Broad and all encompasing" game is already addressed by the tone of my first post, I would like to explore the "Tightly focused" game with the same system:
Multi-Layered Level of Play:
The game should be designed in such a way that it can be played by various levels of expertise.
• Lurkers/Browsers that prefer to play by observation follow the story line and plot as it develops and participate in the occasional discussion, interaction or speculation.
• Novice Players that want to contribute but have little experience in puzzles, internet detective work and ARG interactions. These players enjoy contributing to discussions, interacting with characters, finding new clues, speculating and working on less complex puzzles.
• Experienced players that can work on more complex puzzles, conduct extensive internet research and detective work, take action on speculation and theory as well as interact “in game” with characters.
• Expert players, often referred to as “Hard Core” or “Power Gamers” that work individually or in teams, create documentation, advise other players, solve extremely complex puzzles and codes, interact with characters on a regular and ongoing basis and chain together long trails of clues and information.
WIBS has all of the above skill levels playing comfortably together
Targeted Towards Both Genders:
A successful game should be aimed at both Male and Female audiences.
WIBS has both covered, as I'll point out further down, in the "Genre" section.
Multiple Sub-Stories across Genres:
Ideally, a game should tell layer storylines across different Genres and Themes, interlacing them with the main Plot. Horror, suspense, drama, mystery, romance, comedy, action and adventure can all be included in the same work, highlighting the primary Plot and Story Lines.
WIBS excels in this area. We have moments of comedy from tuckers posts, his personality, wording, phrasing and comfort offers us many an amused grin or chuckle. We have science fiction elements all over the place. Mystery and intrigue abound. We have mysterious strangers and men in black following Tucker and contacting his mother. We have a heartfelt and somewhat akward relationship between Tucker and his mother. Tucker builds action through his pacing, suspense through timing and description of his anticipation for the next box of letters, the revealing of information and his description of his feelings, thoughts, doubts, hopes and fears as he takes us on a shared journey. Sometimes all of these just in the experience of retelling a conversation.
WIBS covered this somewhat by the details in their domain registration, but it really only established boundary for more experience and informed ARGers. I personally feel that it falls short in establishing boundaries for players new to the Genre. That does'nt seem to be hurting it much though.
Trust the Player before asking for their Trust:
Before asking us to help him, Tucker shared his background, exposed aspects of his personality and confided his hopes and fears to whomever may be reading his blog. This apparent honesty and vulnerability disarms the player and sets them at ease. The player trusts that Tucker will treat them fairly, honestly, as equals and that he will continue to confide in them.
So far, so good for WIBS. It has delivered every promise it has made. Updates and interaction come on a regular basis. Player effort and discoveries are rewarded with the furthering of the plot and story. This concept s much harder to quantify, but I think we can safely say that WIBS has not acted irresponsibly.
WIBS quality is excellent. The writing, the web design, the props; all top notch.
Plenty of interaction with multiple characters, as well as the various library drops.
Player Agency: (the topic of much debate in this thread)
The various codes and puzzles of Benjamin Stove give players Agency. Tucker is "no good at puzzles" by his own admission. He needs the players in order to move forward. The players have Agency in various other errands and tasks as well, like the library pick-ups, translations and research that Tucker has "no idea" on, or "doesn'y know anyone" with that skillset.
The players appear to impact the world. They may not (and probably won't) change the story as planned by the design team, but the players actions and decisions are required for the telling of the story, or at least they *seem* to be to the players. The players beleive that they have agency. It is like asking a child if they want A or B for dinner. The child doesn't have so much control that they can demand and enforce C, but they feel as though they have some level of control over A and B. It is also similar to a "Magicians Force" in illusions: (Magician wants to force card A) Magician- "Pick a card, A or B..". If the player picks card A, all is well and the card is Forced. If the player picks B the Magician says "Okay, thats the one we'll get rid of." The player feels as though they have a choice.
Until a PM chat happens, if it does, we will not know if WIBS is using dynamic pacing, but the players all seem engaged and happy with the pace so far.
Multiple Rabbit Holes:
All three of the WIBS sites lead into the same mystery. Anita's site creates curiosity about her uncle, and upon searching for his name, one would be led to Tucker's sit. Debunkette's site links directly to Tucker's, and Tucker's site funnels all three into the Game World.
Available to New Players at any stage in the game:
Threads summarizing the "Story so far", lists of the Clues and Puzzles to date and community moderators all help new players quickly adjust and get up to speed.
Multiple types of play:
WIBS has this covered as well. Internet search experts, geneologists, puzzle solvers, mystery speculation(ists?), players that prefer character interaction, real world clue hunting; there are many different ways to play or participate in the game.
We have a tightly focused "Genre Specific" game that doesn't have a lot of high cost elements (not saying that it seems low budget, just that the game so far could be duplicated with the right skillset and very little actual money, aside from the banner ads and locational stove photos. Though the Stove photos could still be done in one localized are if there is enough variety of terrain nearby.)
Low Budget? Big Budget? Indie? Pro-Am? Pro?
Our only indication is in the who is registration. Aside from that, my feeling is that WIBS could have any budget and be created by an Indie or Pro team.
*(edited for format)
Pretty talky there aintcha, Talky?
Joined: 06 Jun 2003
Location: State of Denial
Magestaff: I agree, it is the "appearance of player impact" that is important. Nothing wrong with letting them actually impact the story in areas though, it has worked very well in the past.
Again, I say as long as the PMs have made plans to allow for player impact and keep tight enough control that the game doesn't get out of their control, it is possible to give the players some choice. But if the PMs allow the players to take the game in a new direction, one the PMs have not made plans for, then the PMs are reacting with new story line and not following a set story arc. In my opinion that is asking for trouble.
In Orbital Colony, we had several places where, if we had the ability for a larger game than we ran, the Players would have had several areas they could have major impact on the visible game. Unfortunately we didn't have the manpower to allow those areas to blossom to their full potential, so we made the decision to keep them part of the background.
We know the players would have loved for us to allow them to go and explore those areas, unfortunately we were unable to let them go play in them. We wanted to have a larger game, but we also had to be realistic about what we could actually do - and had to stick to our story arc even though the players would have wanted something more. While that may have left the players wanting more, that control allowed us to really focus on the quality of the areas we did allow the players to play in. It's a trade off, quality vs. quantity, and sometimes, less is more.