Well. Add this to the list of well-intentioned ideas that just didn’t work.
First failure: Holding it on a set day of the week, specifically a Friday. Although this was convenient for me, we rarely saw newbies showing up. So, turnout dwindled. Lack of player interest led to lack of staffer interest. Away it goes.
Second failure: Relies on staff management and promotion for success.
Here’s the thing. Newbie nights run by staffers, or open houses run by staffers, don’t bring in new players or guarantee their retention in a text-based MUSH. In the end, it’s all up to you – every newbie-hating veteran, every enthusiastic event-runner, every reclusive misanthrope. You hold the future of the game’s population in your hands. Always have.
Every night ought to be Newbie Night. It’s up to you as players to recruit, to find the new places to share the word about OtherSpace, and to encourage those new folks to stick around.
It’s up to us as staffers to help make sure you’ve got the tools and the environment that they can enjoy. That much IS on us. But the rest – no pressure – falls to you.
If I can help with ideas, let me know. We can hash them out here.
It’s been more than a year since people started showing up aboard the sentient starship known as Comorro Station. In all that time, though, no one has ever really learned much about the past of this creature that has been around for tens of millions of years.
When Anshera asked for a Ghost Story event card activity, I found my chance to do a couple of things.
First, I could use a creative method to provide exposition about Comorro that players otherwise would never get, because that history is something the Yaralu would never share on her own.
Second, I could mess with the perception that a “Brody event” always involves maiming, killing, or near-death experiences.
No dice rolls. Not one bolt of blaster fire. And very little dialogue. The only dialogue, spoken by Comorro herself, is a demand for Anshera to shut up when she starts singing an ancient but familiar tune.
Anshera, a character transferred over from Necromundus after it closed (and therefore able to communicate with the dead), was able to detect and interact with glowing, singing orbs that only she could see in the docking hub – the long-barren womb of Comorro Station. She asked Razorback to give her a lift so that she could reach out and touch one of the orbs. When she did, her eyes began to glow and the song emanated from her so that all could hear.
The song evoked emotions and images within the minds of all who listened, telling the story of Comorro’s doomed offspring, who were captured by the Kamir and Thul, then used as weapons against their enemies – including a war to enslave the Lotorians and destroy their native world. Comorro then took it upon herself to hunt her eight children. She caught and consumed seven of them. The eighth, later to become known as The Harrower, eluded capture and joined with the Hivers in their eventual war against the Kamir. The Harrower still lives today – it was the massive ship that players first encountered on the original OtherSpace back in 1998.
It wasn’t an action-packed event, but I do think it was a success at provoking some emotions that give players a deeper sense of the hardship and sorrow experienced by Comorro.
Our second Newbie Night originally started as an event card activity for Jazzak who wanted to do a Smuggling Run. However, he fell ill due to hypersexual plants wanting to fill his head with love powder. So, we went with Double Secret Plan B: Run the event anyway, with just one newbie, Akamatsu, involved.
I started the event in the tavern, just like the first Newbie Night, but this time it was with the arrival of Ribas Salek, the Llivori captain of the freighter Opodi’s Nostril. He was looking for people to work a job to Hekayti space. His makeshift crew consisted of:
* Altor: A transforming mechanoid with guns, serving as protection.
* Griss: Grimlahdi comm officer.
* Hal’gus: Cargo watcher/security.
* Akamatsu: Cargo watcher/security.
* Anshera: Cargo handler.
Everyone would get a cut of the 45,000 Hekayti credits as soon as the clients paid on delivery.
Before the event got rolling, I knew a couple of things going in:
1) The smuggling run would just be an excuse to throw everyone into the middle of an epic moment in the Shattered Mirror story arc.
2) I’d really want to make it as interesting as possible for the newbie, Akamatsu.
I’d had a little back and forth with Mikage on the forums about the point of Newbie Nights. Judging by what he’d heard about the first one, he was assuming that it was just kind of a passive introduction to the game universe via holovid. The truth is a lot more complicated than that. I’m sneakily making sure newbies aren’t just getting information about the game world, but are also getting right into the middle of the action of the current story arc as much as possible. On the first night, I started small: The holovid with the attempted destruction of the Kamir relic on Kamsho, which gets snatched by ex-Zar Hideg Fekretu aboard the freighter Ainde. This time, I was sending our newbie right into the thick of things.
Once everybody was hired, I just cut the scene directly to the Nostril dropping out of FTL on the outskirts of Hekayti territory to meet with a smuggler skiff. These Hekayti clients were picking up a shipment of performance-enhancing drugs for athletes on Hekayt Prime. The two ships linked airlocks, effectively crippling them while connected, as Altor patrolled in fighter form outside.
I wanted Akamatsu at the core of the story for the night, so Ribas ordered him to meet the Hekayti smugglers in the airlock. This time-lost Japanese warrior got to meet a couple of surly aliens who spoke a language he didn’t understand and who appeared to mock him as they followed him back to the Nostril’s cargo hold.
Then, while the Hekayti started working on offloading the cargo with Anshera and Hal’gus, Ribas gave Akamatsu a new job to do. See, the Nostril is the closest I’ve ever come to having a ship like the Millennium Falcon. She’s a piece of crap, always breaking. Bits are falling off the nav console! So, Ribas notices the maintenance light for the life pod is glowing. He gives Akamatsu a specific set of instructions to follow that are intended to deactivate the maintenance light.
We had a little hiccup at this point, as Akamatsu made a (forgivable and fixable) newbie mistake: He posed that he just went and did the thing, then came back to the cargo hold. I urged him to consider returning to the pod and pose through the captain’s instructions, then wait and see what happens next. Akamatsu was a great sport about it. Good thing, because this led to his next adventure. Ribas got the sequences wrong, you see. What Akamatsu actually does is trigger the launch of the life pod while he’s trapped inside it.
Well done, Ribas!
Altor zooms after the pod, just as the freighter Ainde drops out of FTL directly in his path. He dodges the Zar’s ship. Then Vard Bokren’s Koltkamir battlecruiser drops out of FTL, apparently in hot pursuit of the Ainde, weapons blazing. Both Altor and the pod carrying Akamatsu are caught in the middle of the firefight.
Then things get freaky, as the Ainde creates some sort of space-time rift and slips into it. The Koltkamir ship tries to evade the rift, without success. Vard Bokren’s flagship vanishes down the shiny rabbit hole while Altor successfully snags the escape pod.
Before the rift vanishes entirely, Griss picks up several transmissions that seem to be coming from multiple versions of the old universe planet Sivad.
I had a great time with the event. It wasn’t overly long, everybody got paid for their trouble (and earned some free Saga Points and extra RPP), and we moved the Shattered Mirror story up another notch.
A win, I think.
Here’s a situation where we didn’t have a lot of necessary behind-the-scenes communication but, in my opinion, it ultimately worked out just fine and over time may serve the bigger story arc even better than my original plan.
Loki and I had talked earlier this year about allowing Necromundus characters to make the transition to OtherSpace – just like we did with Chiaroscuro – at the conclusion of an open-a-portal plot over on Necro. When we first talked about it, I had taken from it the understanding that the event would take place well into the Shattered Mirror arc and possibly as part of the finale. I wanted to take time to figure out how we would migrate various skills, what items might be transferable, how to deal with RPP – all the housekeeping stuff, which is already behind because I also need to do the same sort of thing for some former Chiaroscuro and OS:M players.
The night before Sunday’s crossover event, I got clued in that we were bringing people over NOW.
This was frustrating, of course, because it tossed a wrench in my long-term “plan.” I know Loki felt bad about it. She had meant to discuss the event concept with me, but RL had kept that from happening. So, here I was, with no real warning to speak of, expected to come up with an event on the OtherSpace side to help introduce the Necro folks.
It wasn’t frustrating for long. Ultimately, it was energizing. Loki ran a scene using a “medium” on Comorro Station while I prepared for the newcomers to materialize deep below the surface of Hekayt Prime. The dark matter-gathering facility, which I expect to play a significant role in the Shattered Mirror arc, so far had only existed as mentioned in a couple of news articles. This situation created an opportunity to introduce the place and some of the people who work there. So, now, the facility isn’t just some vague place in a news article – it’s starting to take on shape, color, sound, smell. It’s also a good spot for the newly transferred Necro characters to get familiar with the universe before they’re tossed out to fend for themselves.
So, it was a curve ball, but a good one.
What I’m Reading
Blackout by Connie Willis
What I’m Playing
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II
You Don't Know Jack
World of Warcraft
Left 4 Dead 2
What I’m Writing
No Son of Hekayt - Book I: Artifacts
Free to download in PDF format!
Coming soon: 31 Days of OtherSpace - 1 work of fiction a day during March 2011.