Home > Game Development, Jointhesaga.com, OtherSpace > The circle of ennui

The circle of ennui

Something Chiro wrote in the “Too many doors” post has stuck with me during the last week or so:

“You’re obviously not here for the same reasons we are.”

It’s accurate. When I think about why I started OtherSpace, the reasons are as follows:

* I enjoyed the fast-paced back and forth interaction of collaborative storytelling in a MUSH environment.
* I knew and liked many of the players/staffers and wanted to entertain them and to be entertained by them in return.
* I relished the challenge of building an audience for an original theme RPG.
* I wanted to do this for a living.

Well, look at where we are now:

* The interactions usually aren’t fast-paced anymore.
* Many of the folks that I liked entertaining are gone. Many of the new faces are awesome, but some, let’s face it, we just rub each other the wrong way and that doesn’t make you want to participate in my events anymore than I want to interact with you.
* We reached our popularity peak a long time ago.
* I do this for a living.

This leaves me less motivated, which may lead to more player frustration and boredom – a vicious circle that keeps feeding on itself.

I’m not sure where things go from here.

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  1. Falk
    July 9, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Wes, I’d say you’re faced with three choices:

    Choice #1) Try to find a way to revive your own interest and excitement in the game. If the game excites you, your enthusiasm will infect the other players.

    Choice #2) Take a step back and hand the running of the game over to someone else who you trust who will be able to inject the enthusiasm you no longer feel.

    Choice #3) Decide that OS is, at 12 years old, old enough, and begin to plan for the end.

    Now, I’m too far removed from the game to be able to tell you which of these is the right choice. But I can make a few observations.

    Choice 1 is probably only viable if you can find a way to fix what ails the game, which seems at least in part to be the very slow pace of action on the game. I’m not sure how you can do that, but perhaps you or the rest of the admin team can figure it out. It seems to me, though, that you’ve made a lot of changes already over the years in part to revive your own interest, and another drastic shake-up of the theme would probably just alienate your players. So I’m not sure how you pull this off.

    Choice 2 is an interesting option, but I don’t know if you have someone you’d turn the place over to, or how you’d feel about doing that. While it might be the most fair option to the existing player base, it might not be the most fair option to you yourself; after all, this is, at its core, your creative endeavor, it has been for 12 years. Otherspace sprang from inside your brain. You have a right to maintain final control over it. If you could work out something where you had an admin you could turn day-to-day operations over to, someone you thought could bring the enthusiasm you no longer feel to the game, who you could trust to be true to your vision, while maintaining for yourself final creative control over the life of the game, it might be something to think about. Maybe this could even give you the chance to create a character and live life as a player on the game, in some level of anonymity, and be carried along by the story for a while, instead of driving it. But again, I’ve been away too long to know if this is practical. You’d have to already have someone in place who could step in and take over running the game, and you’d need full confidence that this person would not soon become overwhelmed and quit on you six months down the road, leaving you with no choice but to turn to options 1 or 3 above.

    As for choice 3, well, look, your existing playerbase would be very upset if this is the decision you make, to be sure. But Otherspace will not last forever. Do you see OS turning 15? 17? 20? If you do, fine, but sooner or later, you will shut it down. Nothing lasts forever, and there are very few Mushes out there operating now that were operating when OS was born (if indeed there are any!) The day will come, whether it’s now or 10 years from now, when you pull the plug. I can’t imagine you doing this without crafting a storyline that is suitable to the game’s history as a final ending point. But you have to decide whether the time is now or not, and no one else can make that call for you. If you can’t (or won’t) hand the game off to someone else and you can’t rekindle the old fire, then move on. There will be people who will be upset about it, sure, and probably more than a few of your current players will gripe loudly and long about what they will see as a selfish decision. But most of them don’t know how much money, time and energy you’ve committed to the game over the years (some of them probably have no idea you’ve actually spent money on the game!) Whatever they think, the decision to end the game, now or a decade from now, should in the end be yours.

    And ending OS as a Mush doesn’t mean you have to stop telling stories online and sharing them with the people who are now your players on OS. Perhaps you’ll find an alternative life for OS, or some elements of that universe, that players and fans can still enjoy and that YOU will enjoy doing. Or maybe you’ll be inspired, after some time away, to do it all over again with something entirely fresh and new. Or maybe, now that you’ve made this an actual paying career on Fallen Earth, down the road somewhere an opportunity will present itself to you to bring a version of OS to life that will reach a much wider audience. Who knows?

    I hope that OS will go on for a while yet, and I suspect it will. I also think that, however busy you may be now, you’ll feel a loss after the game is over for good. At the end of the day, though, remember that OS is a game for everyone, including you. And games are supposed to be fun.

  2. Jeff Ryan
    July 12, 2010 at 1:49 am

    There was a time when even the mention of option 3 would have scared the hell out of me. But… I’ve moved on. Still, one of the reasons OS is less attractive to me now, with the reboot and my old core playerbase having left as well doesn’t hold for other people. They moved on /with/ the game and I’m sure they’d be upset by the loss of one of the few longrunning games and a MUSH where RP does still happen and happen in an interesting way.

  3. Falk
    July 14, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Jeff, the thing is, that kind of reasoning is ultimately very unfair to Wes.

    Let me start off by saying I do NOT think OS should close — I’m not trying to convince Wes to close it — I’m just saying that given the feelings he described above, it’s clearly an option that he’s going to have to consider sooner or later.

    At the end of the day, Wes will take into account his players and what they’ve put into the game, because he always does (whether they see it that way or not.) But running OS has, for him, been a commitment of time and energy unlike anything anyone else has put on the line for the game. Eventually he will have to decide whether it’s worth it for him to continue to do that 12+ years later. And that’ll have to be a personal decision for him. And if he can’t see walking away from the game but leaving it in someone else’s hands (and I don’t know if anyone else could or would do what he has done, nearly as well as he has done it, for as long), and he can’t find a way to overcome the boredom and frustration that has set in after 12 years, then in the end he has to make the decision that’s right for him, personally. Wes is not an employee of the players on Otherspace. They are his guests in a world he created and invited them into. Yes, they have something invested in it now, and I know Wes realizes that, which is doubtlessly one of the reasons the place has been around for as long as it has, despite some of the ups and downs Wes has had in his personal life during (and in some cases because of) the game and its history. To say, “You can’t close OS, it’s still such a special place for the players who are there, one of the few places where RP is valued, the players would be too upset,” is essentially to say to Wes, “Sure, it may not be fun for you anymore. Sure, it’s a hobby that may feel more and more like a chore for you, like a job that doesn’t pay you anything and for which you receive little or no thanks and tons and tons of griping. But you have to keep doing it until there’s noone there who’d be sad or upset or angry if you stopped!”

    Personally, whether Wes closes the game now or 10 years from now, my personal feeling is that if there are no passionate players who are still logging in when he makes that decision, no one who would be sad or upset or angry at the choice to close the doors, no one left who is a part of the game and would mourn its passing, then he left it open too long. I don’t think Wes would ever, one day, shut down OS with no warning, leaving his players with no place to go. If the game ends, it should end with a story, and a good one. But while he certainly has to factor in how important the place is to the players who are there now, he also has to actually WANT to be there for himself. There’s always been a tendency on OS to act as though Wes owes the players more than he’s already given. IMO, he doesn’t.

  4. Bahamut
    July 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    There was a saying that used to be popular on the Interwebs that I’m not sure is as used as much as it once was, but is still pretty relevant to what Falk stated above this comment:

    “QFT”

  5. Jeff Ryan
    July 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Let me say I don’t and never have thought of Wes as an employee and if he ever did close the game down it’s more than his right to do so. (I’ve never had the luxury of being close to him like some have over the years, more, a distant, but respected and slightly scary Managing Director).

    And he is used in my RL conversations sometimes as an example of someone who went out there, took some damned big risks and made his dreams come true. Hell, his life from when I met him back in 2002 until now would make a nice little movie. Something about the American Dream about it. So yes, slightly scared of him, but have huge amounts of respect.

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