The Blank Canvas (Is the Size of a Cocktail Napkin)

23 03 2009

Hit a problem last night.

I got a good idea for a lowbie-friendly, new-villain themed arc. Bashed it out in two hours. Not a rush job, mind, I did my usual nitpicky attention to detail thing, right down to the map selections and adding several non-req’d goals just to add some flavor and atmosphere. And as usual, I started out with one vague story idea, and as the writing went along, it went somewhere else entirely and ended up a stronger story as a result.

(Half of writing is inspiration. The other half is tossing out the original concept in favor of something that naturally evolves from the early work. For instance, did you know Mallory was originally going to merge the multiverse into a universe? That’s why in chapter 1 he was interested in completing his various collections of junk. It was a theme of unification. Then I realized that didn’t really matter and loved the idea of the universe sliding from software-as-platform to software-as-service instead. But I digress.)

Problem was that I only get 3 slots to post stories in City of Heroes. So, figuring What the Hell, It’s Only the Test Server, I depublished my KopyKatt arc and published this instead. It wasn’t getting much attention, anyway.

Then I found out the devs, one hour later, were looking for good stories that weren’t getting much attention. Insert sigh here.

This is gonna be a problem when we go live. I will be yearning for Hall of Fame status and tons and tons of votes not because I want to be popular, but just so I can write more stories. Sure, I could just play them locally off my drive for my friends, but I want a wider audience than that (especially with clues and mission text only visible to mission leaders).

A story only becomes a story when it’s read by others. Not for praise or recognition, but because that’s just the nature of the animal, stories manifest in the mind of a reader. Without readers, it’s nothing. Art in general works like that; the object itself is just an object, it’s what happens in the observation phase that makes it art.

I guess we’ll see how things go when we go live. But if I’m doomed to only have three slots and nothing ever migrating outward, or if I have to publish under my sister’s name just to get my stuff out there, I’ll be a sad panda. Don’t give me a feast and then tell me only to eat three bites. You underestimate my appetite.

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16 responses

23 03 2009
sptrashcan

I suspect that the distribution of interest in MA is not as even as the devs have seemed to plan for. While giving everyone the same access to publishing is the simplest way to be fair, I suspect that the average MA publish slot usage will be less than 1 per user, while a small few such as you will be chafing under the 3 arc limit (to the overall detriment of the feature, IMO).
It’d be nice if you could sell/rent/grant arc slots to others, with accreditation attached. I don’t expect to publish many arcs myself, and I’d be happy to give you one of my slots to you, but it’d be rather unfair for me to get credit for your work. I wonder how long it will take before the comment fields of arcs regularly include “published on X’s behalf.”

23 03 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

If I end up using Jen’s slots, it’d be exactly like that; published on @Twoflower’s behalf. I predict this kind of thing happening a lot, because you nailed it on the noggin about distribution. If I had to armchair it, I’d say 80% of players are never going to write a single mission, 10% may do a few, and the last 10% will be chomping at the bit to write as many as possible and straining under the system.
I think the best avenue to go would be either unlockable slots veteran or accolade style without popularity requirements (which only lead to vote whoring, extortion, and other schemes), or purchasable microtransaction slots. I would gladly pay cash for this.

23 03 2009
delfina

A friend of mine in real life is going to help me get set up in COH soon(ish) (pre-maternity leave). And I know I won’t be using any of my slots, so you can have all of them.

23 03 2009
sptrashcan

Put me in the “a few” category.
Arguably, the moderate users of the system are in an even worse position than the power users. If the long-tail 80/20 ratio comes into play (20% of the arcs get 80% of the play, and the ratio holds for every contiguous subset), then a few popular authors will be able to clear publish slots rapidly, while the bulk of the missions will never receive enough attention to clear.
To be fair to the devs, it’s a tough problem, and I’ve yet to see it anything close to solved. Personally, I’d like to see them drop the objective average rating system in favor of Amazon’s correlative system (where, if you like arc A, you may also like arcs B, C, and D, because other people who liked A liked B, C, and D). I have no idea how to go from this metric to a promote/don’t promote decision though.

23 03 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I have no idea how to go from this metric to a promote/don’t promote decision though.
I think “promoting” is fail, though — especially if you tie promoting into the only method possible to gain a very critical reward (free slot). Maybe there shouldn’t be a Hall of Fame at all to promote into, to avoid these usual pitfalls… stick to correlation alone. Amazon doesn’t have a Hall of Fame and they work fine. Admittedly a distinctly different platform.
LittleBigPlanet has the same problem, as does any game with User Generated Content. Nobody’s solved it and all anybody’s managed to do is create a system where people can and will rig the polls to ensure they get the specific rewards they want. Jettison the entire concept of popularity and rely on a tag cloud or something, says I.

23 03 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Groovy. :) If I end up doing that, I’ll keep it in mind. Because of the way the rewards are set up, though, it’d be a weird mashup… so it’s a last resort.
When you get in-game, lemme know. I’ll set you up with a DFB chat channel invite. We’re a fun RP focused group without any one major tying theme, and a good mix of casual players and hardcore.

23 03 2009
pyromaniac_ks

Twoof, you have the most playthroughs of any non-dev choice arc that isn’t arc ID 1 on test. I would not be worried.

23 03 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

As I’ve always said, I can’t rely on some sort of innate awesome everybody thinks I have. I gotta look to the worst case scenario, that I’ll be drowned out in the deluge and never get a slot open again under the current rules and resources.
Gotta look at it objectively — if I’m out of the equation, if it’s John Smith posting, will cream actually rise to the top and John get access to the HOF exclusive ability to let you write more? Or will the way the system works result in frustrated authors unable to build a proper body of work?

23 03 2009
jengagne

I still don’t understand why they’re limiting it to 3 anyway. ;_; That’s incredibly restrictive…

23 03 2009
pyromaniac_ks

Memory issues, most likely. Same reason you don’t get more than 100kb per arc file.

23 03 2009
danel4d

I guess they have to base things on the unlikely possibility that every single user will publish as many arcs as they can ASAP; better to restrict people like this (which may even have a positive effect in some cases, as people are forced to really think about what ideas they’d choose for their three) than to have the whole thing crash if they underestimated the appeal.
Hopefully, once things have stabilised and it’s clear what sort of uptake they’re going to get they’ll add more slots.

24 03 2009
rika

You echo one of my underlying worries. Honestly, even without
pimping, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble getting at
least some of yours to bubble to the top. But unless you’re
one of those folk who has half the forum cartel in his corner,
constantly shouting BUY THIS..PLAY THIS ARC!, no matter how
awesome stuff is, one’s eventually going to lose out on
attention to whoever can get the most carniebarking done,
aye.
I really wish there was some way we could reasonably make our
arcs publishable on the web as source, and distribute freely
for individual play, without huge glaring likelihood of
plagerism. If we could do that, I wouldn’t even give a
second thought to how many slots I had for publish, and just
put out anything I write that way.

24 03 2009
evil

Have they said anything about possibly selling extra slots, or would you not be for that as a way to get more publishing slots?

24 03 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I’m all for that. I believe in the microtransaction model given I’m currently making good bank on it myself in Second Life. :) But the devs haven’t said anything about any way to get a slot other than Hall of Fame — no vet rewards, no unlocks, no purchases, etc.
Odds are they’re holding these options in reserve, but I’ve been burned too many times quietly waiting for people to Do The Obvious. (Not just in COH, I mean in general.) I make no assumptions that they have a clue and are going to implement something until they actually announce their plans to implement something. No matter how clear cut a case for it may seem to me, I’m not the one who has the say.

24 03 2009
midnightlurker

I’ll certainly be pimping your stuff to the other members of The Legendary (those who aren’t already fans). We’re a pretty big group, too.
I predict your works will just fly into the Hall… :)

25 03 2009
jengagne

100k? What is this, the Dark Ages? Are we still saving things on tape decks instead of floppies?…

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