Home > Jointhesaga.com, OtherSpace > Thinking about retention on the MUSH

Thinking about retention on the MUSH

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of new people join OtherSpace. They create characters, move through the application process, get approval for the grid, and some stick around for a very long time.

Most don’t, though. That’s the hard truth.

Here’s a glimpse of our activity on OtherSpace during the past year:

* 289 characters active in the past 365 days.
* 129 characters active in the past 30 days.
* 70 characters active in the past 7 days.
* 41 characters active in the past 24 hours.

Now, that’s not bad for a text-based original-theme space opera MUSH: We’re falling into a niche that’s far more exclusive than most MMORPGs. However, it’s still pretty dismal. Not “lock the doors, turn out the lights, and fasten the shutters” dismal. Just “what aren’t we doing well enough and how can we improve” dismal.

Some retention failure can be explained by the ease of our character creation system. Years back, you couldn’t get on the grid without answering 20 questions and submitting a biography that was no shorter than 500 words. So, people who made a character *committed* to the process, *invested* effort on the front end, and felt more connected to the character. Now, you can walk through a handful of rooms in the chargen area and step onto the grid within just a couple of minutes. Writing a biography gets you the RP Points that you’ll want to spend on your character’s +sheet, and these days we only require 250 words. We made it simpler to make the games more appealing, with a lower barrier of entry. But that lowered barrier comes with a price: If you don’t have to do much to get the character, you’re not terribly motivated to *keep* the character. But at least they gave the game a chance, right?

Where else might we be falling short? How can we do more to connect with players, build their commitment to the game, and foster a sense of belonging that keeps them coming back?

I’m currently pondering the idea of a veteran rewards system, which would have various thresholds. If you’ve been active on OtherSpace for X amount of time, you’re eligible to get Y goodies. We might also do something with specific recruiting rewards. Catering to a player’s love of free stuff, maybe we can win an exchange of dedication and participation.

  1. Dizzy
    December 7, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    The thing with ‘not so good’ is that there’s lot of space for better. I think a lot could be done in the way of helping to get people involved, perhaps providing story hooks to new players to encourage them to meet other player characters. This could be as simple as having new characters arrive needing a service from an appropriately skilled player character (an engineer to repair something) or in the possession of goods they’d agreed to deliver to a specific business on Comorro station. There could be some form of credit or RPP available for completing these tasks, making it of value to both the new player and another else involved, and players could submit a list of reasons someone new to Comorro station might want to seek them out, a handful of which could be distributed by staff to new players when approving their biography.

  2. December 8, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Not bad, but I’m reminded of the theory that you’ve really just got a couple of minutes to *grab* someone – especially someone *new* – and hook them into the game. If no one is online or in-character, this may just become a source of frustration. And while it might be an immediate opportunity, it doesn’t secure the player’s commitment for the longer haul. For some, this might actually come across as “too strong” a sell.

    I want to strike a balance somehow between making a place that’s attractive and welcoming to newbies, while also providing a relatively easygoing environment for the veterans. If a new player showing up turns into *work* for the veterans – “Oh noes, now we have to go arpeez!” – I’m not sure how committed they’ll be to helping out in that regard.

  3. Loki
    December 9, 2009 at 1:30 am

    There are a couple of things that I’ve observed at this point.

    1.) Incomplete systems, systems that still need some tweaking and unused or barely used systems.

    I’ve heard a few players say the systems are lackluster on OS or there’s no incentive to use them. I admit that first part is harping on myself because a lot of the systems that need fixed or need some tweaking are things I’ve been working on and haven’t had the time to for some time now. That will be changing in the very near future though as I’ll have that time after Friday.

    One of the things I’ve observed though is players that have ships but don’t use them (And I do mean ships that are in the system at this point.) Perhaps the opportunity to use them hasn’t been presented yet? I think there could be more encouragement for actually using the space system beyond searching for those resources that are going to make your character rich. I remember back when I was new, there were a few different crews running around out there and a good majority of us were constantly on the move it seemed. I can remember being with the Watchers and never seeming to be in the same place more than a week or two at most. But there were plots that encouraged this kind of movement. (I realize I’m talking about myself again here too.)

    I’ve also seen a couple of players say that all new characters /have/ to start out on Comorro. Do they /have/ to though? It might give more reason to go exploring other places if new players can start out on any of the planets that have been coded in so far.

    This leads to another thing I’ve observed, admittedly less so lately, but…

    2.) Nobody’s on grid…

    I’ve seen people in the ooc area chatting and even some on channels where somebody will say something to the effect of, “Oh! I feel like RP today.” *Checks the rpwho* “There’s nobody on grid. Guess I’ll go .” or “There’s no RP going on and I’m so unmotivated…” And then immediately go idle and not come back for an undeterminate amount of time. If you want RP and nobody is on grid, poking on the channels is an option, but what I find works is going IC myself. Even if I’m sitting there doing some web browsing or something while I wait…(SimpleMu flashes at me when there’s activity on the screen so I can usually keep track of that)…usually somebody eventually shows up. Don’t be afraid to be the first one on the grid if there’s nothing immediately going on. Some of the best RP I’ve seen came from spontaneous scenes like this. And sometimes I even come and drop plot hooks on people that’re just sitting on grid waiting.

    Another thing that would be helpful is more player run plots. I’ve seen a few of them out there recently, and well done ones too. Some just fun and some more serious. But this is really important for several reasons, not the least of them being because it’s one way that players can influence the way things go in game. The other reason being because it means there’s more going on on grid if players and staff are running events.

    One thing that came up recently was that a Plot Gizmo can be added to the game which would give players the ability to see what plots are going on, hooks they can use to get into said plots or at the very least who is running them to chat with the person and find out how best to get involved and when they started as well as possible end dates. This way all players can see what is going on with OS at a glance.

    Just some thoughts. Anyway, my point is, getting off my butt and fixing systems and the more people there are out RPing and the more that’s going on in game, the more people are likely to stick around simply because there’s stuff going on.

    • Michela
      December 9, 2009 at 2:47 am

      picking up on what loki said, I’ve noticed people not using the systems we have to notify folks that RP is going on. On the one I get this, spontaneous RP is an awesome occurence. Events that you have to be informed of in an IC way . Cool as well. However, we need to strike a balance in order to give folks ways to get and stay involved. People don’t +calendar stuff that is about to happen anymore. Nor do they use +news as an ic record of what has or is occurring. Not every plot occurs in some alcove of the Forgotten Corner with nary a news camera in sight. most of the rp that I’ve had in the last months awesome though it was would have come and gone without any notice from a casual observer. We need to make the wonderful Rp that does occur more apparent

      • December 9, 2009 at 3:33 am

        A few people make good use of the IC news – Mikage and Zeig come to mind. I agree that more people would help in this regard.

  4. December 9, 2009 at 2:28 am

    Do we really need a coded gizmo in the game to tell people these things? We have a community site with a recruiting forum. However, it’s worth noting that I think the community site is getting a bit overwhelming with the amount of information it’s throwing out at people at any given time.

    • Sergeytov
      December 11, 2009 at 1:41 pm

      While talking about news:

      Near as I can tell, there’s a few basic types of news on the mush. I’m coming up with this list on the fly, so I probably missed one or two things.

      1) Fluff – Human interest stories, random stuff that doesn’t really impact anything. If anything it serves two purposes: It fills up the +headlines and one might occassionally get a nugget of lore out of it.

      2) Event recap – Something on the grid happened in a public place, something interesting was on the holoviewer, or generally ‘of interest.’ These are effectively recaps of stuff that people can know easily enough or react to. Good for those who aren’t able to make events but still ought to know what happened (the Comorro being attacked a couple months ago comes to mind here). Also a decent way to commend various PCs and whatnot. This one seems to be under-utilized by a variety of parties. Events that likely should be communicated to the playerbase easily are sometimes missed. A missed opportunity.

      3) Canonical clarification – Think of these as the relaying of ‘static’ information in a way that just about any character can be justified in knowing about the topic. Also announces ‘official changes in the status quo.’ The ‘Zar coming to power’ series of articles is a good example of this category.

      4) Plot hooks – Just what it sounds like. These exist to communicate info about upcoming events/possibilities in an IC manner.

      The first example is mostly harmless and inconsequential, giving definition to the theme. The second relays recaps and ‘what was missed but what your character would know’ to everyone. The third clears up ambiguities that have become relevent and explain why ‘things are different now.’ The fourth exists to advertise opportunities.

      If the past is any indication, the real issue with being ‘hands on with news’ comes in the third category. Especially the ‘changing the status quo’ part. This mostly goes back to when it seemed like the status quo changed in a major way three to four times a year. More precisely, one could argue it leads to a form of learned helplessness. ‘The world is chaos and things change so fast that even if I do something, it won’t matter, because it’ll be screwed back up in a new way in two months anyway.’ That and, unlike the fourth type, the third type doesn’t directly offer opportunities for action.

  5. Loki
    December 9, 2009 at 7:00 am

    I don’t know that we /need/ it, and given that as Michela said people don’t always use the +calendar and +bboards (Tools we already have in game) then they might not use anything else that’s available. I just thought that if there was some way to make getting info out there a little more handy then it was worth a try.

    • December 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm

      I come back, time and again, to blaming myself: I used to be a dervish when it came to posting fake news on the game. However, me taking on that responsibility all the time isn’t the answer, either. Players complain when I seem to be too hands-on with the plots and the news, but they lose interest if I take too much of a hands-off approach.

      I may have to find some kind of happy medium.

      • Umishi
        December 9, 2009 at 9:33 pm

        I am personally new and just have no confidence in my own abilitys. Personally i have two in my head ideas that i think would be neat..but people may shake me and i am not good at fleshing these things out on my own. WHITCH does nothing for me wanting to get into game dev when i get my bachlors but i digress.

        I kind of like vet rewards if it balances out with itself, (not to powerful not to meh).

        On game communication, Possibly a IG emailing system outside of @mail thats just totally ic. maybe with SYNAPSE. Maybe with news ‘feeds’ that players can use. Though i realize theres boards and calendar for that.

        Thats all i got..will leave you alone now.

      • Sergeytov
        December 12, 2009 at 8:10 pm

        I’m also curious, admittedly, if enabling (at least some) players to post +news without what seems to be a 36+ hour waiting period might help. I know it’s been done in the past, and I’ve not heard any major issues that came up from it.

  6. Umishi
    December 9, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    by two in my head i ment events… ><

    • December 9, 2009 at 10:00 pm

      Umi, when you say “events,” what do you mean? Because we’ve had a pretty good string of events – both staff- and player-run.

      • Umishi
        December 9, 2009 at 10:03 pm

        Oh that was just me rambling on the fact i have two vauge player event ideas..Just not good at events myself >.> <.< Sorry.

  7. Loki
    December 10, 2009 at 5:43 am

    I’d be willing to help you with that if you want to run something, Umi. Just to be there as a kind of guide for you.

    On the topic of SYNAPSE and in game communications, my overarching project is to get a system to you that works with the PDAs, commlinks and SYNAPSE to give you folks a better IC communications system that is outside of @mail. But there are a few other things I have to get done before that can happen.

    As far as far as hand off or hands on with events and news and stuff…it’s a real balancing act. But I see it this way, OS has survived more than 10 years at this point and it’s not a ghost town of a mush, so you’ve done something right because there are a lot of games out there that can’t boast that.

  8. Sergeytov
    December 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    First of all, for those who don’t know who I am, Mikage here.

    I suppose the first thing I can do is give anecdotes that I’ve received from newbies. I’ll add the disclaimer that I don’t necessarily endorse these claims.

    1) The web site is a mess. Some new players find it hard to find out where they’re supposed to go, information for races/planets feels incomplete, and answers are strewn all over the place.

    2) There seems to be a lot of linking to the ‘human promos’ and the explanation they’re good until year’s end. Don’t know if said linking is merely being prompted by the newbie helpers or if it’s due to a lack of info elsewhere.

    3) I hear a lot of questions from newbies on how skills work, with people saying it’s quite confusing at times.

    4) It’s all stations! – Several newbies have shown interest in hanging out on a planet. I’ve heard some are actually built, just without access.

    5) So much arcane knowledge in the heads of players alone. – CSO is a great example. It should probably get a couple mentions in basic newbie helping material.

    Stuff from me that I suspect may apply, but I haven’t outright heard.

    1) Newbie material is harder to patrol since only the author can edit it, meaning, unlike the old wiki system, players can’t simply come in and add material.

    2) System states – While the basic systems work well enough for playing, it sucks to have to tell newbies things like ‘it’s not finished yet’ or similar things. I’m going to throw a quick plug in here for the fixing of the Psionic Negation skill to be for those with a psionic negator gift, rather than for telepaths/mindspeakers.

    3) Plot support – Depending on what you want to do, running a plot can range from ‘simple’ to ‘oh god kill me now’ in terms of the required administrative support provided. Run a one shot mini-adventure without loot or ‘bodies in a public area’? No problem. Run a pirate adventure? A bit harder, but doesn’t require much support. Arguably the perceived lack of support reduces the amount of plottage going on from the player angle. A good rule is: The more red tape, the less likely it is to end up being ran.

    • December 10, 2009 at 10:11 pm

      Web site: Yeah, it’s not working out as well as I would have hoped. As ugly as my own designs have been in the past, they were still fairly easy to navigate to what you needed to find.

      Human Promos: Not sure what you’re saying here. Are people thinking that their human promo characters won’t last past Jan. 1?

      Skill Mechanics: What’s proving confusing to them? The interface? What the skills do? How they’re used?

      Planets: Sir, I’m going to call bull on this one. I understand that you and a few others have built your own planets that are waiting to be discovered, but we DO have basic planet grids for Hekayt Prime and Kamsho (among others) if people want to go RP on a planet. Regardless, they’re just performance stages, whether it’s Comorro, Svajone, a starship, or the heart of Kjernkor. I don’t think the lack of discovered player-made worlds is a major issue.

      Arcane Knowledge: Yeah, this can and should be improved.

      Newbie Material: Good thing I haven’t nuked the Wiki. Perhaps it’s time to reassess the purpose/function of the community site and determine whether we should get our own locally hosted Wiki again.

      Plot Support: How might we make this process a little more obvious/transparent/player-friendly?

      • Sergeytov
        December 10, 2009 at 10:38 pm

        Human Promos: Not sure what you’re saying here. Are people thinking that their human promo characters won’t last past Jan. 1?

        I suspect this one is a case of ‘making sure newbies know the offers exist.’ As previously observed, it’s hard to determine if they’re being linked to because they’re ‘difficult to find’ for the newbie, or if it’s a case of ‘making sure newbies know about newbie offers.’

        Skill Mechanics: What’s proving confusing to them? The interface? What the skills do? How they’re used?

        The big one is questions on how attributes and skills tie together. The answer is simple enough, but it’s a question I hear regularly.

        Planets – I don’t think it’s about the player made planets at all. My best guess for why this is an issue for newbies is ‘variety.’ Though it’d be nice for easy transport to those major planets that have grids (like Hekayt Prime and Kamsho). I know they exist, but right now it’s a case of either a) having a ship or b) getting transport and risk getting stuck.

        Newbie Material – A good idea. Though this time around someone else’ll have to transport all the material that needs transporting. After doing a good deal of it a couple times (it feels like a couple times at least), I don’t have the heart for it.

        Plot support: While there may be some issues/disagreements with the ideas presented: http://otherverse.wikia.com/wiki/Chia%27s_Player_Plot_Toolkit is at least a decent start. It at least helps those new to plotrunning know where ‘the line’ is in major ‘public’ areas. Even if the initial iteration is as simple as ‘here’s the kind of stuff to not run in the non-FQ parts of Comorro’ and ‘here’s the stuff to not run even in the FQ parts’, it’d help on the one-shot end.

        Speaking of which (because I do love my tangents): Is there a good ‘Comorro Legal Guide 101’ that newbies (and us old people who could use the reference) can look up easily?

  9. December 10, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    It’s a delicate balance, but I suppose we could reintroduce the money-draining shuttle exits from the stations to the planets and back. The trouble, of course, is if you’re broke at the other end and can’t come back to the origin point.

    • Sergeytov
      December 10, 2009 at 10:49 pm

      Wasn’t the last solution to just let the money go into the negative and call it a feature?

      • December 10, 2009 at 10:49 pm

        Was it? Yeah, I think you’re right. Might’ve been.

  10. December 10, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Regarding the website, please vote in this new poll!

  11. Sergeytov
    December 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I think a more interesting question might be, in terms of general retention:

    How many characters are created in X period of time?
    How many of those even choose a race?
    How many of those who chose a race finished with a basic desc and got onto Comorro itself?
    How many of those who got to Comorro actually submit a bio (could be reduced further into ‘and how many of those were approved’)?

    That might help at least explain where the works are getting gummed up. Don’t know if there’s any easy way to gather such data for the recent past, however.

  12. December 12, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Sergeytov :

    I’m also curious, admittedly, if enabling (at least some) players to post +news without what seems to be a 36+ hour waiting period might help. I know it’s been done in the past, and I’ve not heard any major issues that came up from it.

    I don’t have any strenuous objections to this, although it could lead to articles getting yanked for various reasons too. Might create a new series of problems aside from “delays.”

    • Sergeytov
      December 12, 2009 at 8:52 pm

      There’s certainly a valid argument to not do it. The security problem is nothing new (as in, if you’re more lax, more bad things get through). That being said, chargen lets players on the grid approval free, and is arguably a bigger potential issue. I don’t have any solid numbers, since I don’t gather this kind of data anymore, but the number of players who get characters on the grid brand new and make trouble is very low in proportion to the number who get through.

      A similar case, at least for the past year, could be applied with a similar question: Of all the articles submitted for posting, how many have been rejected or needed serious editing? (The SQLified str system probably makes searching for ‘article’ and ‘denied’ quite easy, too.) If it’s a high number, then I’ll be one of the first to say: I can live with the waiting if it means keeping a ton of horrific articles out of the system.

      • December 12, 2009 at 9:00 pm

        Not many, which is why I don’t have any strenuous objections. But the ones we have rejected weren’t rejected specifically because of editing errors. Instead, they were either *not* exactly news or they were (thinly) veiled efforts by one player to slander someone else’s character while hiding behind an NPC.

      • Sergeytov
        December 12, 2009 at 9:11 pm

        I knew a couple such cases existed.

        As for the ‘not news’, I don’t know how malicious those were, but if it’s not malicious and merely not newsworthy or highly vague sources perhaps a ‘Rumor’ source could help, possibly with a convention of putting ‘RUMOR: articlename’ for the article. Same for speeches. I know JTS has played with gossip/speech systems and boards in the past, but there’s already a system that can work quite easily for the relaying of such information.

        Those instances, of course, depend upon how sacred the +news system is and if it’s viewed as worthwhile to potentially water it down with ‘not quite’ news.

  13. December 12, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    I think I may have a compromise. I’m setting up new forums. I’ll include a section for News/Speeches/Rumors, etc. Players can post submissions for consideration. They’ll be public, but won’t be *official* until they’re cleared by the staff. We can see how that works for a while.

    Furthermore, it might be worthwhile to have +news posting opened to Red Belt recipients.

    • Sergeytov
      December 12, 2009 at 9:33 pm

      Merely opening it up to the Belt X+ club might be sufficient. I like the idea of ‘public but not official’, but my gut just says that’s a dangerous road. Especially if people start acting on the information posted before it’s cleared. Doubly so if the information ends up not being cleared.

      The lack of data makes any such observations on my part speculation.

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