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Zardoz

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Everything posted by Zardoz

  1. Well, I've given it a try over at the MOUL forums: The Fall of a Sparrow (excerpt). This is one part of what will be 8-10K word "article", telling the story of the DRC and the Scars episode. I'm blatantly violating RAWA's Rules of Order, but I'm not holding out any hope for Cyan ever filling in the blanks, so I let my own imagination run wild. (I've actually met James Reddell, crawled in caves near Austin, visited the Irvine Ranch, and interviewed an Irvine Company Vice President, so it's not all imaginary - hehe.) The Cate section was the easiest in some ways, as it is the least D'ni centric. There will be Victor Laxman and Dr. Watson sections - those will test my magical realism theories. I suspect it will overtax the attention span of the average MOUL forum member, however - oops, that was snarky.
  2. I would not use "story" to describe either of those, but then I'm on the side of narrowing the meaning of that term, not widening it. Nevertheless, here are some thoughts. I would characterize the contrast in a slightly different way: Persistent v. ephemeral. The static elements of "story" are usually manifested by in-game, "hard-wired" objects: a journal or a physical object. (I would also include any hard-wired appearances by the Yeesha hologram, etc.) These persist over time and do not change. They can be "discovered" by anyone entering the game for the first time. Mystery can surround their meaning and importance, but everyone has the opportunity to participate in debates and discussions because potentially everyone can experience these elements. That, of course, is their strength in terms of contributing to a rich, in-game experience, but they are "passive" in that they cannot be changed or affected by players. The dynamic elements of "story" are, as you note, the events that transpire in real time, and are not repeatable. They can come from improvisation or from a broadly outlined or tightly scripted plan. They are experienced by those who are present during the appropriate time period and in the appropriate place, and others may "experience" them second-hand if they are logged or otherwise recounted. But they are ephemeral in that the second-hand experience will always be historic, and so the set of players able to experience them directly will always be small. That is their weakness in terms of contributing to a rich, in-game experience, but the opportunity to be among those who actually get to experience them is their strength. Here's my take on both (in case you can't already tell). Persistent elements offer the best chance to build a shared culture and an active community for a game like Uru. Because they create a common reality, they offer every player the same opportunity to discover "story" and ponder deeper meanings. They allow people more flexibility to create shared, in-game experiences, because these elements "wait" for the player to come to them. They allow the developer the opportunity to create and control short- or long-term mysteries. They also provide new players the opportunity to make many or all of the same discoveries as old-timers. In contrast, ephemeral elements are personally gratifying but do little to build a shared experience or information set. They differentiate explorers by the amount of time spent on-line, or by time zones (if they are run out of a single time zone, as the Cyan-based experiences were), and so potentially create "classes" within the community. The Uru community also seems to have a poor tradition of telling stories (as I would use the term), and so there is no record of important, ephemeral events that could be accessed by new players, other than chat logs. And by offering the opportunity to "affect" the story, it encourages excessive behavior (take any appearance by any DRC member in any public place as an example). Now, that doesn't mean that dynamic story elements have no place in Uru. The above is my personal opinion; others would make a strong case in reverse. But I have never seen an argument for dynamic elements that adequately addressed their inherent limitation: Only a select few can experience them, and the entertainment value of such experiences drops significantly if they are second-hand (and may be vastly over-rated when they are first-hand and are mob scenes such as Yeesha's final appearance in Kveer). As such, while they certainly can and should play a role in an on-line game like Uru, I believe that the persistent elements must be even stronger, as they provide a better avenue for building a solid community.
  3. For the past couple of months, I've been struggling with a "story" I'm writing about Uru. A long, long time ago, in a previous life (or so it seems), I wrote articles that fell into a category one could call Narrative Non-fiction: Articles that tell a true story, constructed by the author from facts gleaned from research, interviews, and direct experiences, not as a simple, linear narrative but crafted in a way that reveals a deeper truth (or something high-falutin' like that). That's the style I'm trying to bring to this story, but I'm finding the 'reality" of Uru awfully hard to swallow. I am taking on the role of a journalist, interviewing different members of the DRC (not really - this is an imaginary story), and the fantastic nature of Uru and the D'ni keeps getting in the way. Not because I can't make myself believe in it, but because once I've put myself in that role, I am inexorably drawn to the belief that the discovery of D'ni is the most revolutionary event in the history of the world. And so that becomes the story: The Incredible, Unbelievable, Earth-Shattering Existence of D'ni. That dissonance gets in the way of writing a story about Michael Engberg and Cate Alexander and Victor Laxman; instead, I'm wondering when the governments of the worlds will start bugging my phone. So how does one make D'ni ordinary? The only way I can see to get there is through Magical Realism. For me, Magical Realism makes the fantastic ordinary. It is a style that introduces an element that breaks the rules but is routinely accepted by the inhabitants of the world. We don't ask how that element got there, nor are we allowed to question its reality (unless the characters do). Instead, the unreal element is real, and characters simply interact with it, are affected by it, and affect it. It has always been there, and it always will. Uru as Magical Realism is problematic, of course, in that D'ni has not always been there. We have a Discovery Story, which creates an almost impossible problem of hiding things from the government, etc. But I'm just extending my "magic" to include a government that doesn't care. I don't see any other way around it, at least by the rules I've set for myself (journalist telling a "story" about Uru). Any thoughts?
  4. If DPWR is to be considered a true archival organization, then there would be a reason to create a private place, but that doesn't mean it would be a good thing to do. Research institutions such as the Library of Congress, the U.S. Archives, and the British Library have areas open to the public but also areas open only to scholars with something on the order of a research permit. The permits aren't hard to obtain, but they give you access to such areas (including the stacks for the libraries, so it wouldn't be the same as here) because you were there to conduct research, not just look at the really cool rooms and card catalogs. One could argue for the same structure here. A storyteller could obtain a research permit, giving them access to the Reading Room Forum, which would really be a place for storytellers to discuss details or whatever. Having put it that way, however, I really don't think that's the right way to gather the storytellers together. My tastes lean more toward coffee and pastry shops, where back corner tables are stained with the blood of the poor chaps who have suffered the latest reading group savage attacks. A library or archive is a place to study and gather material for a story, not have it survive or die as it passes through the crucible of critique.
  5. I am merely a Grand Poohbear of Very Little Brain, but here's my take. 99.3% of the time, I am fanatical about conducting Uru affairs in the open. But this is an exception for which I will argue strenuously. Cyan has basically given its blessing and outright support for explorer-generated stories, and so at last there is a chance that the fan base (or at least the majority, so it seems) will move beyond its prejudice against them and quit demanding to know whether a character is "official" or not. Story works best, however, if people don't know what's coming. Imagine, Ruby, if you had read a synopsis of your trip with Vali: "The story will take an unsuspecting reporter to a silo, where large explosions will unexpectedly occur." Ooops. All of this points to a way of discussing plot details or anything that requires review out of the public eye. Perhaps the best way to do that would be to have a non-public forum, but eventually move whatever "official" record there is from that forum to a public forum after the fact (that wouldn't work for long-running stories, but we'll figure something out). Explorers should be able to review any decision made by any of these fan-based bodies, but in this case, keeping the record "sealed" for at least an initial period would serve a good purpose, I believe. Not sure I believe any of that, as the coffee is just starting to kick in . . .
  6. Alas, I fear the whole issue of "story" is even more complicated by considering not just what "canon" is but what it will be. RAWA has said many times (or at least once, back at Mysterium 2003) that the D'ni story/universe is like a giant checkerboard, only a few squares of which have been revealed. Let's assume that Cyan has a massive D'ni History book hidden away somewhere, dating back to the beginning and going through the distant future. "Conflict with canon" could be interpreted as anything that conflicts with that history book, even though only a dozen or so pages have been read by we poor explorers. This is a problem faced by an explorer "D'ni survivor" storyline, for example. An explorer-generated D'ni survivor would have knowledge of D'ni, of course. His or her presence in the cavern would generate billions of questions about D'ni. Would this storyline automatically conflict with canon? No, not if the D'ni survivor's responses were limited to revealed canon. But what about a question about D'ni clothing? Or D'ni food? Or outdoor D'ni rock concerts? Either the survivor would have to feign incredibly selective amnesia, or else the survivor's answers would be taken as canon, yet possibly conflict with Cyan's notions of D'ni food and clothing and rock concerts. Now, I agree with Blade's notion that everything that is done in-character in-cavern is canon, but there is canon and then there is canon. Creating story in a shared reality means that the creation of canon is incredibly flexible, and other players have to be light on their feet to accommodate the infilling of reality by other players' choices. This makes it hard to execute long story arcs without some sort of central direction or at least some screening. It also means that all players have to accept others as their equals in creating story, otherwise you could get "Story Wars," as players create canonical conflicts. In MORE, we won't all be equals, however. There will be the explorers, and then there will be Cyan - not an active player in the beginning, but still the keeper of that massive history book. I doubt (and actually don't want) Cyan will give us that book, although maybe they'll let us peak at a page or two. And so there will always be the problem of judging canonical conflicts not just in terms of the past but in terms of the future - where might Cyan go with their story telling, and how can any explorer group be sure that explorer-generated story won't conflict with or even foreclose some of those future paths?
  7. Ah, the opening volley in the Guild Wars! The air of entitlement is palpable, and so too the presumption of power! Sounds like we all might need an Unelected Dictator!!! MWHAHAHAA!!!
  8. Another random thought: Anonymity. I believe the GoA process should allow for anonymity of story authors for any public information released (not in the application itself). Maintaining immersion is often enhanced if we do not know who is behind the curtain, and so allowing storytellers to remain anonymous (if they so desired) could enhance the power of fan-based stories. This would require something like a pseudo-NDA for anyone reviewing a story-related FCAL application.
  9. After rooting around the edges of all this Guild stuff, I think I've found my home. Where do I sign up? And do I get to be a Grand Poobah if I actually do some work? More seriously, here is what I think will be the greatest challenge: Assuming that some sort of approval process is necessary, defining the criteria for this type of approval will be the hardest, I think. My own opinion is always to keep criteria to a minimum, make them objective, and have as few aspirational terms (e.g., "high quality") as possible. This means an approval process will check for "defects" in the storyline without resorting to critical elements. I might hate the Sydney Austin character, for example, but there should be no basis, IMNHO, for denying Sydney approval if the approval process actually covers something like that. As for all the Guild stuff, it's your Guild, so structure it as you see fit. Personally, I equate hierarchy with responsibility, which usually means those with more time and willingness to devote that time to the Guild should be placed in the positions of responsibility. Those positions should also be ones of accountability, however, so some system other than mere seniority needs to be established, but that doesn't mean fanatic fealty to democracy. As a former Unelected Dictator, I think I can say with some authority that democracy is often over-rated. Some additional thoughts: More than the other groups, I think it is extremely important to get clarification from Cyan on this Guild's "approval" process, focusing on exactly what would be covered. Unlike the normal FCAL process, it doesn't really take Cyan approval to think about or write about a Cyan-influenced or Cyan-related character or story, as long as you don't put the results in a public place (although I don't think we ever had a license for the Myst-themed writing contests at MystCommunity). So the "approval" would seem most likely to apply to the actually introduction of a storyline/character into MORE. That conclusion, however, is precisely what needs clarification and/or confirmation.
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