rowyn: (studious)
[personal profile] rowyn
Talking about using Discord for an RPG reminded me of how the media in which I play a game shapes the game. Every medium has its own strength and weaknesses. For example:

Face-to-face: In-person games have great advantages in speed. It's much faster when you can see and hear players clearly. You can use physical props readily: miniatures, dice, and game boards are easy to use in-person. But there are disadvantages to face-to-face: there's no built-in, automatic record of game play. You have to schedule a time and you can only play with the people who show up. During play, the GM either has to prepare for a variety of different player choices, or limit player choice, or be good at improvising. I find game play less immersive in person: it's hard for a GM to play multiple NPCs at once who are presenting different perspectives or arguing with each other. It's also hard for a player to convincingly play characters who are very unlike the player.

Video or voice-based games: I have little experience with these, and what I do is mostly "this is an inferior version of face-to-face." The only advantage I know of over face-to-face is "you don't have to physically get people in the same room". If there are others, they've eluded me.

Online scheduled games: My own experience with this is mostly on MUCKs, but it's played similarly for me on other text-based chat clients. This style approximates face-to-face in that participants all show up at a scheduled time, all play and respond to each other in real time, and stop playing at the end of the session. The advantages of this style: it's easy and natural for the GM to switch between characters, and participants can easily be characters who are nothing like themselves. The GM still needs to prepare/improvise, but usually has a little more time to think between actions, because play is slower. Disadvantages: play is slower (everything has to be typed). There are "virtual tabletop" tools out there; I don't know if these come close to the ease of setup of real props now, because I haven't tried them in years.

Online unscheduled synchronous games: This is the MUCK style of "you show up when you want to roleplay and play with whoever's there". I have never found this to be a very satisfying model of roleplay, because it's hard to tell a story when you don't know who will be involved in it or for how long. Sometimes this encourages burnout -- people who are hyperinvolved and always on and always playing until they flame out after a few months. But I've known other people who made it work. The main advantage over scheduled is in the name: you don't have to schedule play.

Email or forum-based games: These play fairly similarly in my experience. Participants play by posting to the email group or forum. Play is asynchronous: you send a post to the group and you get responses hours or days later. Email is good for games that are driven by conversation or player actions that don't require die rolls. They are terrible for games with a lot of combat or anything else that requires die-rolling. It's good in that you don't have to schedule a time for it, and bad in that it can result in burnout -- people can't look away from the game for fear it will get away from them.

Discord is an interesting medium for a game because a Discord chat group has a persistent history. MUCKs and many chat clients only show you the activity while you are connected to them. Discord will let you scroll back to the start of the chat, if you want.

Discord can be set up to give notifications, or not, so it's easy to see if a chat is active or to ignore it.

For various reasons, my own preferred play is unscheduled and asynchronous. I am generally okay with responding in a time frame of "several hours" and run into issues when it's "a few minutes".

And I am thinking: how do you structure a story so that it best accommodates my style of play? For example, I know that if I want to play a combat-heavy dungeon stomp, I'm best off doing that face-to-face.

But if I want to have a game where:
* Play is unscheduled and unsynchronous
* Participants are involved at varying levels of commitment: some people respond quickly, some respond slowly

What kind of features built into the story will best enable that?

One thing that I discovered while playing with Bard Bloom was that telepathy among the PCs was extremely useful for keeping a game active. All the players could talk to each other without the GM needing to be involved in the conversation, even if the party was presently split up.

Splitting up the party had advantages in forum/email play that it doesn't have in most other forms of play: it allows the GM to interact with each player on that player's priorities, without them getting trampled over by players who respond more quickly. This requires a pretty active GM. In theory, you could get this same effect in Discord by splitting the party between different chat channels. I'm not sure how well it would work in practice.

Mostly, I am thinking about story features like "telepathy": things you can set up so there's an in-character explanation for something that is useful/needed due to out-of-character reasons. What if there's a story explanation for why characters are more or less active at different point in the story, for OOC reasons? One of my friends used to play a game where the characters all had a curse that sometimes one or more of them would turn into a gemstone, and the other characters would have to protect them. The "curse" took effect if the player was absent that week. This isn't a very compelling storytelling hook by itself, but it's the kind of thing I'm thinking about. What if the game took place on an astral plane, and characters act at different speeds depending on arbitrary factors (that amount OOCly to "how available were various participants?") How do you structure this so that players don't feel like they're disadvantaged if they're not around as much?

Anyway, I am kind of stuck on what kind of stories lend themselves best to the format, and what kind of system. So I wanted to write this out and see what other people thought. :)

Date: 2017-05-21 01:25 am (UTC)
tuftears: Lynx Wynx (Wynx)
From: [personal profile] tuftears
Reminds me of a play-by-mail strategy game. Everyone's moves are hidden and processed simultaneously at a set regular time, but players are free to engage in as much or as little discussion between each other -- sometimes only if they've actually encountered each other and thus have the other person's contact information given to them by the GM.

In other words, instead of actions being dictated by how fast people can respond, actual substantial actions would be limited by a set turn schedule, but people would be free to discuss what was going on out-of-band, because their communication speed greatly exceeds the rate at which action can take place.

For example, imagine a scenario where the players were AI cores on a massive colonization ship, each with their own unique specialty, where some disaster has struck and destroyed the Over-AI that managed things before. The players must use robots to restore functionality, but they may have separate agendas... After all, once everything is fixed, who's going to be the *new* Over-AI who determines the fate of humanity?

The robots wouldn't necessarily need to answer to only one AI, as well. Several AIs could give the same robot conflicting orders, and their strength/unique traits might determine which set wins out.

Maybe another facet of unscheduled, spontaneous gameplay would be allowing players to construct arbitrary scenarios between each other. They devise a scenario, invite others online at that time to participate, players might either offer resources to go to whomever wins, or the winner might be given the right to say which way a decision should go -- for example, if only one player can control the Quantum Communication Array, the interested parties might set up a virtual jousting scenario and use simple mini-RPG rules to run combat between their champion "avatars".

Date: 2017-05-24 04:08 pm (UTC)
3rdragon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] 3rdragon
Pondering the other questions, but I find it fascinating that you would describe face-to-face as least immersive. I find text-based games significantly less immersive than face-to-face (though agree that video-based games are less good versions of face-to-face, generally).

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