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  • State of the Game Address, 2018

    Hello all,

    So whenever things are quiet or I've been away from the game for a bit I like to give a sort of general State of the Game address. As it happens I've just as of Sunday returned from a bit of a break so to speak, and would like to take a moment to discuss openly where things are in the game.

    So for starters, here I am, back in game. That's not to say I was ever entirely gone, I continued to log on my VPs weekly to keep the game running and address any crucial assists pointed out to me by Staff, but other than that I've been mostly absent, not really working on coding, plotting or playing my own characters or logging in on a daily basis as I normally used to. Part of my summer break was due to real life matters cropping up that had to be addressed which took my attention away from the game briefly, and once those were sorted, the more significant issue cropped up when trying to get back into the swing of things – burnout.

    I've mentioned before that the push for Freemium and all the plots and systems that accompanied it was an intense burn period for Staff. I myself was working on CM 8 to 10 hours a day 7 days a week from early summer until the release of Freemium in October, and then through the duration of Freemium's first few months until the Xmas holidays. Other Staff members similarly made significant contributions during that time, and a look at our public Staff roster now vs this time last year will generally testify that a lot of members who were with us at the start of that burn are no longer here, similarly needing breaks of their own. I know it's tiring to have a plot take a break because Staff have burnt out or run out of pre-prepared plot content to give you - it's an unfortunate symptom of "We want to give you the big game changing plots we wanted as players, and it takes a lot of steam to do so".

    This all being said, after what I thought was a very successful Royal Court last weekend, I'm feeling my creative juices grinding again and I'm eager to get back to things, so here's a look at what's on the immediate agenda.



    Hiring: Staff, VPs, Villains

    First off, we will be looking to hire on more volunteer Staff for Castle Marrach again, in all roles. We presently have no StoryCoders other than myself, no dedicated StoryGuides, one StoryBuilder and two StoryPlotters – I'm looking to increase the numbers of all of these roles going forward. We're additionally looking to cast some VPs and perhaps once again some Villain Characters, if we get applications from players that seem to suit the specific personalities we want cast in the game right now. So if you have an interest in doing any of these things, make sure you email myself at kurzon.marrach@outlook.com and also CC our LSP Odjit at odjit@marrach.skotos.net with your application.

    Please bear in mind that the work that goes into casting and prepping a VP is considerable, and also that playing a VP can become a tiresome obligation after the 'newness' of it all wears of. If you're not very serious about being able to commit to bringing a VP out to play a couple hours a week even when you'd rather be on your own characters, don't sign up for one.



    Major Plotlines

    With things moving forward again, so too will roll out the main Staff run plotlines. Some hints of these were seen at Royal Court and with the return of the Champion, and we'll be seeing more as we grow closer to moving full speed.

    The main plotline is the Alchemist and the Shadow, the first few chapters of which was told around end-of-year last year and the beginning of this year, and will be resuming as our first priority moving forward. The rate at which this content pushed out is going to be 'as fast as we're able to prepare it', the truth of the matter is we had a lot of time to prepare in advance last time around, and we burnt through the majority of what we'd prepared during the course of those three months, and that was only a little under half of the content we'd storyboarded out for that entire plotline. The positive news is that a lot of energy on my part at least went into creating the systems needed to support these plotlines; the new MCombat, the harvesting code, the new script to handle ailments and sicknesses – now that these underlying systems are all in place, they never have to be rebuilt again, which means creating plot content moving forward that uses any of these systems is much quicker and easier from here on than it was the first time around.

    What doesn't get quicker or easier unfortunately is the construction of new game areas. We have this process down to an art by now which shaves off as much unnecessary work time as possible, but it's still an arduous process limited by some unavoidable realities of how the game engine works. This, amplified by the fact that unlike most MUDs, Castle Marrach features map fragments for all of its rooms, which requires someone with the time, skillset and software necessary to make all of those before our Builders can begin creating text environments based off their depiction. This was the main dilemma at the time I took my break, and remains a bit of a struggle even now. Generally, the majority of the game's map fragment images I make myself using Photoshop and an assortment of brushes I've collected over the years. However, my personal computer bit the dust not long ago, and the toaster oven of a laptop I'm using for Castle Marrach in the interim doesn't really have the juice to run the programs I use, nor does it have the assortment of brushes, textures, templates and other assets I normally rely on when creating imagery for the game. This will be addressed shortly, one way or another, as it has to in order to move forward with the big plot items from here. Lesser events and scenes that have been pushed for ICly will not be affected by this limitation, and thus are likely to take place sooner than later – this includes things such as investigating the mountainside for elementals, searching the Black Knight's quarters for clues or following up on the Sandman and related subplot.

    Beyond this, there are some other items on the agenda, minor plots or storylines that need wrapping up which I would like to see concluded, though the majority of the present open-ended storylines somehow tie into the aforementioned major plot.



    Intrigue Stories

    Staff is also pushing forward an intrigue agenda with the goal of creating more intrigue based roleplay in the game, particularly in the Inner Bailey. To facilitate this, Staff is placing a focus where possible on casting intrigue focused VPs that are somehow involved in important political circles. Each VP will be responsible for trying to push, on a monthly basis, some kind of intrigue plot, political maneuver or scheme to give the Court a more prevalent and obvious political conflict ever occurring in the background. Some of these we began pushing at this past Royal Court, I think most present had at least some notion of the conflict taking place there and I hope to see similar conflicts continuing regularly going forward. Intrigue I've found is a very difficult story to tell in this settling; by its very nature it must be clandestine and yet in order for our audience to benefit from it, it must not be so secretive that no one ever hears tell of what happened.

    You should be afraid to make enemies in the Inner Bailey, and you should be equally afraid to make friends who might have enemies that you don't want looking in your direction also. This latter bit is something we're going to be pushing particularly to address the prevalent attitude of 'make friends with everyone and therefore profit' that's presently ongoing on the Court. Someone who is everyone's friend is also the friend of my enemy, and that's going to start coming back to bite people more. If your promotion didn't go through at Court last weekend, ask yourself what houses and social circles you've aligned with, who their enemies are, and who's presently in power in the Court particularly with political powerhouses like Bertram absent.



    Player Run Plots

    I'd also like to see players push their own plots and stories with minimal to no staff involvement. This is worth a thread topic of its own, so I won't go too far into it here, but the reliance on Staff pushed plots in Castle Marrach today is drastically more significant than it was when I first started playing, and I'd like to see us start moving back in a direction where players can push their own stories instead of waiting to be a participant in a Plotter run event.

    I feel at this point some kind of deeper discussion or workshop is necessary here, where we can identify what the problem is that's discouraging player run plots and take a look at how to resolve it.

    StoryHost Kurzon
    Castle Marrach Staff

    kurzon.marrach@outlook.com

    The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.

  • #2
    The Knight's Challenge

    The revised Knight's Challenge as was used four years ago (wow, time flies) was designed in such a way that, after running it the first time, a lot of the content need not be redesigned for consecutive challenges. Having reviewed the material earlier today, I'm quite confident that, minus a few tweaks and adjustments that might be made based on player feedback from last time, it won't take a whole lot of preparation to run the next one. That's not to say that there won't by any preparation time – some of the content will in fact have to be redone as a few trials were based on the IC circumstances of the time (eg; a test in which candidates handled current Court of Honour cases at that time which are no longer relevant) but it shouldn't take an excessively long time to prep what needs to be prepped to run the next one.

    By necessity the Challenge is not going to be any easier than it was last time – the very purpose of redesigning the Knight's Challenge four years ago was the prevailing sentiment within the community that Knighthood was too easily obtained and held to little standards. However, now that players have a general understanding of what to expect in the Challenge and given the efforts ICly by Knight characters to prepare participants for it this time around (which was markedly absent last time) we may stand to see a higher ratio of entrants pass this Challenge – time will tell!

    Hopefully we can then commence a schedule of bi-annual challenges, alternating between Squire's Challenges and Knight's Challenges every fall as was always the intent, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.



    Royal Court Frequency

    There is some light discussion about trying to pop in one more Royal Court before the end of this year. Ideally we would like to hold them every 3 to 4 months. With the schedule as it stands, with potentially both a major plot and a Knight's Challenge to squeeze in before year's end, it may be hard to also squeeze in another Court before the new year (it would strike as a bit odd for Court petitions to be filing in while the Triangle is invading and people are competing in the Knight's Challenge) but we'll have to see how things shape up scheduling wise as we get closer to being ready to move forward with our big ticket items. If it doesn't look like we'll be able to wrap up the major plots or KC before year's end, we may do a Court to end the year, otherwise we'll do one to start the new year in February (giving people January to submit petitions and commentary and so on).

    In any case, resuming a general schedule of once every 3 to 4 months as was the case when I first became StoryHost is our intention at this time. I think that anything faster than that bleeds us dry of actual content to put out during each Court, and anything much slower imposes an unreasonable waiting period for people working towards HG or Courtier promotions.



    And that pretty much wraps up what the game is looking at presently and what Staff's focus is going to be for what remains of this year. Any questions or comments, fire away.

    StoryHost Kurzon
    Castle Marrach Staff

    kurzon.marrach@outlook.com

    The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.

    Comment


    • #3
      WB!!! I'm glad you and others are back, however, I understand needing a break and I don't think anyone would condemn you all for that. Staffers do so much volunteer work on these games so we players enjoy ourselves. So we appreciate everything you give us.

      I have one question though! You mentioned us doing our own plots and stories that do not need staff help, this is something I'd be interested in but I'm not fully sure what you mean. Could you give some examples?

      ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
      Royal Librarian
      Apprentice Jeweler
      Courtier of the Winter Court
      Handmaiden to Her Majesty
      Assistant Dean of the Royal Collegium

      Comment


      • #4
        If Court is held every 3 or 4 months do you think there would be enough characters left in the Outer Bailey? Unless we're getting a regular flow of people to replenish the commoner ranks and unless promotions somehow get more difficult I can see the Inner Bailey being overpopulated and the Outer being like a ghost town. I hope that doesn't end up being the case because I think each side offers different RP that is important to maintain.
        Acolyte of the Faith
        Courtier
        Embinders Hobbyist
        Junior Equerry to her Ladyship Sinvy
        Lead Apprentice Stylist - Inner Bailey
        Mistress of Entertainments
        Royal Artist
        Ranger Recruit

        Comment


        • #5
          To address Josie's point, I think that with a greater presence of courts, that falling from grace should also happen. How many times have people done things that should, realistically have cost them their rank or status, or incurred the wrath of the court and then got off Scott free? Speaking as someone who had a character fall from grace, redemption stories are frustrating when you are one of a dozen people who have had it happen to them over the course of hundreds of other characters who have "happy" climbs to being what they desired, but it is a compelling reason to pay attention to politics, which not enough people do.
          "Heav'n has no rage like love to hatred turn'd / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn'd."


          Let us go! Though we know it’s a hopeless endeavor.
          The ties that bind, they are barbed and spined, and hold us close forever.

          Comment


          • #6
            The rate of promotions would/should stay the same regardless of Court frequency. If you get one Court every three months, and raise one HG and Courtier per Court, it's proportionate to getting 4 HGs and Cs in a yearly Court.

            BUT

            frequent Courts can help advance or pace castle-wide plots via announcements from VPs, and provide the social norms and expectations of the Crown with more presence.

            Edit: About Merry's point, yes. People should be smacked down if they misbehave or misrepresent their station. But I would find it extremely odd if the Chain of Being becomes a game of Snakes & Ladders, with people rising and falling left and right, just because Vivienne is out more often.

            That said, I wouldn't mind if the acknowledgement of HG can be lost more easily. It's a meaningful slap on the wrist that doesn't completely cripple characters.
            Last edited by Brohm; 09-20-2018, 07:31 AM. Reason: Because!

            Comment


            • #7
              Just a reminder, even though we'll have Court it does not mean everyone will be promoted. We also have Court where people could be demoted, which we saw at one of the previous Courts. I think with more vps and consequences to favor and disfavor will help keep this from being too crazy.

              ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
              Royal Librarian
              Apprentice Jeweler
              Courtier of the Winter Court
              Handmaiden to Her Majesty
              Assistant Dean of the Royal Collegium

              Comment


              • #8
                This is obviously anonymous account that will probably make this one post and be deleted by me. I am making this post to allow me to freely express myself without push back either IC or OOC as I have little faith in the current senior staff of this game that this post will not affect my play of this game. Even doing this, I am not confident that I shall remain anonymous. Already I can hear the investigative gnomes working away to find out who.

                One thing this doesn’t address is the seemingly toxic behaviour at the top of the game and has filtered down into a player base that seems to have dis-enthused, disheartened and similarly lost faith with the game’s current management and running. I can sympathise in part with the staff burnout, had it myself, but wish this was communicated to us as the player base earlier so that we didn’t all have to wait on tender hooks. At least we could have entertained ourselves for a bit while you got better.

                I’m not sure I would agree that Court was successful. Yes, there was a little tiff at the end to makes us players wonder and dive our characters in if we want to. But generally it was 1 VP talking to another VP, then another VP after that. We have moved away from our player base taking on some responsibilities within the game and ending up just being spectators to a staff run, led and played plot. Otherwise the updates were there were no real updates and felt like an obligatory court to get petitions to happen. Treasury update could have been done later with the announcement at court.

                Something else that was concerning was to see the level of staff numbers that have seemingly dropped in such a short space of time. Surely this cannot solely be down to freemium as not all would have been involved with the additional workload of it. Instead I hope that before people are thrown into the fire, an independent investigation is opened up to examine why there are such poor retention rates within our staffing structure. Additionally the same with the VP Program and the Villain Characters program. Otherwise it seems we will be remaking this post in a year or two’s time.

                I must admit this intrigue story area is interesting and does give me some hope, but I am not sure if it will be fairly delivered within the game. This goes back to what I posted earlier and what I shall post later. Just wanted to put across a point in reply to what sounds like a promising idea, but I have little faith on actually playing out fair by the game's current management.

                I think regarding the player run plots, as someone tried a few myself, they quickly need either higher placed staff characters or utilize VPs as a means of pulling items IG. With a VP program that has got a creative stranglehold on it with very few players taking on much, the few remaining players of a VP are not feeling confident to go make something happen without repercussion, these plots end up either dying or not delivering and so have to become something else. There is also an issue of player retention that needs to be looked at.

                While this State of the Game makes some promising statements, the optimist in me for fairness, transparency, equality and the overall future health of the game has taken one hit too many recently. Until the chronic, toxic behaviour at the top can be resolved, hopefully through some sort of independent means, then I am almost certain this post will be made again in a year’s time with the game in a much worse state.

                Comment


                • #9
                  At the risk of sounding salty, I have some thoughts about player run plots, as a beast, not individuals spwcifiacvly, but very present tropes:

                  We need player run plots, but I would like to see less of the drama that is born in the bedroom and resolved there. If you are going to have your character murdered with ooc prompting, because you want some drama, it is your responsibility to actually enact change, drama, shake up, not eight hours of people being sad/angry and then Hopping right back into bed where you were. If you want drama and change, that requires actually changing, and if you instigate plots like that, you cannot expect change or drama if YOU are not actively participating in different dynamics. Challenge yourself, dont just say "I need attention/pity" this week. Try some damn character growth. Its a slower process, but it makes for better roleplay. Quit being so damn basic. I have been playing a long time, since 2002 on various accounts, and the ammount of murder/suicide that people think will be fun that actually is fun for others is close to nil, unless there is marked differences from the before and after, or a mystery that surrounds it. A good story has build up, and has follow through, not just a flash bang effect. The problem with so many player run plots is that there is no emotional build up, and no consequences. I am not blaming any one person for this, and have even been part of it in some aspects. As a player we are supposed to say yes, and i try to say yes, and facilitate others play as much as possible, even to the absolute detriment/destruction of my own characters goals. I am not saying go that far. In fact, probably don't unless you can handle it, because it sucks, and unless youre lucky, there are no kids gloves for that kind of thing, it's joy killing. That being said however, it is better story than "I'm bored ooc, let me have my character killed for the lulz, but nothing at all will be different when they wake up, there will be nothing to hide or unravel."

                  I have run table top games for the better part of two decades now, I would love to try and get plots going for people, but that takes a lot of trust between players, and actual goals in mind. My door is always open though. I want to help everyone facilitate a more meaningful narrative.


                  edit: When I get home from work and am not going on a phone, I am going to write a very long post dissecting to tool used in writing novels that I actually use for writing my campaigns, called beats, and discuss what they mean for short term plots and long term ones. This post was mostly me ranting, but i do eant to extrapolate in a more meaningful and helpful way soon, not just tear everything apart.
                  "Heav'n has no rage like love to hatred turn'd / Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn'd."


                  Let us go! Though we know it’s a hopeless endeavor.
                  The ties that bind, they are barbed and spined, and hold us close forever.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Regarding players running their own plots ...

                    It was brought up the other day how some characters have been around, on and off, for over a decade. For a moment, I want to step back to day one of the game and look around.

                    Some people interested in swords and fighting came across three Duelists. They had been awake for perhaps a decade and founded a guild dedicated to honor. Several stories revolved around these three. Some originated with staff but only a few of them required the staff to do more than play the characters. How many current characters have more depth than Mark and Ed? You have more stories and relationships built up over the years simply because you actually lived them.

                    We all have stories and from them come plots. All of us that have been here for longer than a year should be able to find ways to push forward our plots without staff support. In the case where some support is needed, try those stories which include support that is easily repeated.

                    All that said, I can see how we as a community probably need to be better at helping each other figure out how to run our plots. Some have experience and for those that do not, I always recommend to start by keeping it simple.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Josie_Brennan View Post
                      If Court is held every 3 or 4 months do you think there would be enough characters left in the Outer Bailey? Unless we're getting a regular flow of people to replenish the commoner ranks and unless promotions somehow get more difficult I can see the Inner Bailey being overpopulated and the Outer being like a ghost town. I hope that doesn't end up being the case because I think each side offers different RP that is important to maintain.
                      As alluded to by others, an increase of the frequency of Court would likely result in a decrease of how many people are promoted at each court. I say this hopefully, as ultimately who passes and who does not is 90% up to the players of Courtiers, Knights and Nobles who send in petitions, with Staff only deciding the fate of 'fence sitters' who could go either way. But in the past when we held court 3 to 4 times a year, this wasn't a problem, and players generally did not support the promotion of a courtier if the character had only made honoured guest 3 or 4 months earlier.

                      My feeling is that a generally comfortable rate sits somewhere around 6 months per intrinsic jump if you're active and regularly politicking, after which you hit the Courtier wall and only special circumstances and efforts allow for farther advancement.


                      Originally posted by Brohm View Post
                      About Merry's point, yes. People should be smacked down if they misbehave or misrepresent their station. But I would find it extremely odd if the Chain of Being becomes a game of Snakes & Ladders, with people rising and falling left and right, just because Vivienne is out more often.

                      That said, I wouldn't mind if the acknowledgement of HG can be lost more easily. It's a meaningful slap on the wrist that doesn't completely cripple characters.
                      Incidentally, the snakes and ladders metaphor isn't very far from how Court was advertised as being intended to function when I first came to CM, that said it's never really worked that way.

                      Having been in the vicinity to witness a number of intrinsic demotions over the years, I can count on one hand the number of times this has occurred without resentment and OOC drama... but only if I make a fist.

                      Generally speaking I try to avoid it as much as possible. That's not to say it can't happen, but ultimately it tends to make one player a lot more unhappy than it serves to make the rest happy. If someone commits a high crime, it's a blanket wipe of intrinsic honours, hands down. Other than that, it takes an exceptional amount of Court unity to convince the Crown to strip someone of intrinsic status. It can happen, but the show of support for that decision needs to be reasonably close to unanimous.

                      StoryHost Kurzon
                      Castle Marrach Staff

                      kurzon.marrach@outlook.com

                      The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                        This is obviously anonymous account that will probably make this one post and be deleted by me. I am making this post to allow me to freely express myself without push back either IC or OOC as I have little faith in the current senior staff of this game that this post will not affect my play of this game. Even doing this, I am not confident that I shall remain anonymous. Already I can hear the investigative gnomes working away to find out who.
                        Well, here we go.

                        Sure, I have a reasonably educated guess at who you are, based solely on the fact that I'm aware a player has been making remarks similar to your post in the backchannel lately, particularly in regards to a staff-excluded player meeting that's being planned. However, that knowledge shouldn't alarm you, for what it's worth I'm not going to take the steps to confirm your identity - if you wish your anonymity I'm fine with that. And no, there are no 'investigative gnomes' working towards uncovering your identity either, though if they were it would only be as a means of reaching out to you to assist you in addressing your problems, not as a method to seeking punitive action.

                        I'm actually confused as to why you would believe anything to the contrary - if I disagree with someone I will make it plain as day as to the reasons for such and I think that's how constructive discussion needs to happen, but the suggestion that bringing concerns to Staff is something we would punish you for is entirely without basis or historical precedent. I wouldn't mind being shown a little benefit of the doubt on that particular topic before you make what I find to be a very derogatory and unfounded accusation.

                        I will also take a moment to point out that posting from a fresh account with a low post count and no avatar picture significantly increases the odds that our spam filter will flag your posts for my approval before allowing them to go up, which was the reason for your post submitted yesterday not appearing until this morning. I will also mention that should you opt to go ahead with deleting your anonymous account as mentioned, doing so will also result in any posts you made on that account being deleted I think.

                        This all said, let's take a look at addressing the issues you've posted about and what we can do to fix them, and we'll just go chronologically.


                        Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                        One thing this doesnt address is the seemingly toxic behaviour at the top of the game and has filtered down into a player base that seems to have dis-enthused, disheartened and similarly lost faith with the games current management and running.
                        To be fair, it 'doesn't address it' because I wasn't aware of its perceived existence. Sitting here now having read over your post a couple times, I'm still not sure what you refer to when you use the term 'staff toxicity' numerous times, and the post doesn't seem to clearly identify what that references in this context.

                        In the very least, I'm not personally aware of any conflicts between any current Staff members and players that would warrant the particular language you've chosen for this post in... quite a long time (incidentally, not since the only other person I've ever heard wield the term 'staff toxicity' departed this community). This leads me to believe that whatever the issue you're having is, you haven't taken the necessary first step of bringing it to me to look into it - or you have done so and it's since escalated well out of proportion without my knowledge to the point I no longer recognize what's being referenced. In any case, whether you decide to do so here or through other means, I will need you to communicate to me exactly what you're referring to by 'Staff toxicity' if you want to work together to resolve it (and if it's something that involves another Skotos customer who needs to be named in the process, which it appears like it may, then Skotos' privacy policy will compel me to address it with you in a private setting as is the right of everyone in this community).


                        Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                        I'm not sure I would agree that Court was successful. Yes, there was a little tiff at the end to makes us players wonder and dive our characters in if we want to. But generally it was 1 VP talking to another VP, then another VP after that.
                        Generally speaking, you just described every Royal Court since the conception of this game.

                        Royal Court (petitions and promotions aside) exists for the metagame purpose of pushing the game's main overarching intrigue based plotlines, using the Royal family and their announcements as a medium for doing so. Given that none of our Royals are Player Characters, it should thus be expected that the majority of the stage time will belong to VPs.

                        That's not to say that Player Characters are prohibited from speaking - you have the power to type words into your CM browser and hit enter at any moment of your choosing and should you choose to do so, the VP characters present at Court will react as appropriate. Sometimes Player Characters have announcements of their own to make, it's happened in the past, and whether you all choose to do so is entirely up to you. But yes, generally Court runs off a pre-written script shared by VPs, largely for the sake of saving time typing during what can often be a long session, and if no PC decides to interject or speak up at any point, the Crown resumes with its announcements until conclusion and then we depart. I will however cede that this past Royal Court was scripted to end a little abruptly, which didn't offer much opportunity at the conclusion for Player Characters to interject and include their own announcements if they wished, that was an oversight I hadn't considered when writing that Court's script.

                        In any case, the primary measurement by which I determine a Court's success is a combination of the number of promotions and announcements, how interesting I thought those announcements were (and I have to admit, Knight's Challenges, political conflicts and major plots rank pretty good for me) and moreover, how much intrigue that particular Court contained as well as how much intrigue content it gives Player Characters to discuss after Court. And that's really where the golden apple has always been for Royal Court - Royal Court is a tool that gives you things to discuss or do after Court actually ends. Based on the post-Court discussions I've seen so far, I feel it was a fairly successful Court by that measurement, so we may just have to agree to disagree on the point of whether Court was successful or not.


                        Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                        Otherwise the updates were there were no real updates and felt like an obligatory court to get petitions to happen.
                        - A Knight's Challenge.
                        - A cure for the comatose Prince.
                        - Warning of a potential invasion by evil magi.
                        - A reveal regarding the origin of the dragon pages.
                        - A promotion tied to a reveal on some background information on a significant season-related VP.
                        - An evident political conflict between the game's current two major political factions
                        - 11 intrinsic promotions.
                        - An ennoblement.

                        "No real updates at court."

                        You don't like to make my job easy.

                        Alright, well now I'm here listening to you. What do you qualify to be a 'real update' worthy of Royal Court?
                        StoryHost Kurzon
                        Castle Marrach Staff

                        kurzon.marrach@outlook.com

                        The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                          We have moved away from our player base taking on some responsibilities within the game and ending up just being spectators to a staff run, led and played plot.

                          ...

                          Treasury update could have been done later with the announcement at court.
                          Incidentally, said Treasury update was an example of "a member of the player base taking on some responsibilities within the game". In fact it was the only non-scripted Court announcement made by a non-staff PC throughout Court. And in her defense, since Court exists as a giant 'recognize people for their work' ceremony, the Treasurer acknowledging the work of Treasury people seems perfectly valid to me and is something that other VP ministers do also.

                          Now, setting that aside, what I'm really interested in is how you come to the conclusion that you're "forced to be a spectator in staff run, led and played activities" while VPs hold all the positions of note.

                          For starters, I don't understand what perceived barrier is forcing you to be a spectator. My life's goal right now is to get you guys to be more proactive in plots and when I see you doing that, do everything in my power to make sure you get recognized for it. A handful of the activities that occurred during the Alchemist and the Shadow plot were non-scripted events that were never written into the original plot, but that players wanted to do and Staff rushed to handle the necessary coding and building to facilitate on very short notice. Some things do get missed admittedly, especially during that particular rush period, and some other things have yet to be carried out (but will be, as outlined in my original post) but the vast majority of player pushed ideas put forth were approved and supported by Staff.

                          Just yesterday I wrote a lengthy post revolving around players carrying out your own proactive plots specifically because I do want players to carry out their own plots, as well as get proactively involved in Plotter plots without waiting to be spoonfed a conclusion - but I don't know what obstacle is preventing them and you from doing so. This is a big, real concern to me, because I cannot figure out what's stopping (many) people from stepping up during Plots, finding ways to add to the story, or searching for their own conclusions to the problems we present you without waiting on a VP provided answer. Certainly from my perspective I never had any problem butting into plots before I was a Plotter, so I'm trying to understand where the disconnect here is for some of you.

                          Second point on this; there isn't by my measurement any higher a ratio of VPs in 'positions of responsibility' than there has been at any other point in the game. The only two ennoblements to occur since I've become StoryHost were both ennoblements of non-staff players. That's not by coincidence by the way, and they're also only the 2nd and 3rd non-staff PC ennoblements to occur in the history of this game. While I don't feel that there is a difference between paying customers who happen to volunteer for the game and paying customers who don't, I know some of you feel there should be, which is why particular Staff played PC promotions that are presently overdue ICly have been delayed.

                          That's not to mention that a Player Character right now sits on the 3rd link holding a seat that, since the game's conception, has only ever been held by Royalty. To be honest, in reference to the spread of PC/VP power in the community, I think we're doing at least as well right now as I've ever seen in my roughly 14 years in Castle Marrach. But! If you have some records/statistics/numbers to the contrary I would love to review them and see what more can be done.

                          Naturally there are and always will be VPs in seats of power. In particular, Royals and Ministers, due to the sheer power they have to utterly alter the design of the Court (or politically destroy most any given PC they want at any time of their choosing) they are normally going to be held by VPs, played specifically by StoryPlotters as a means to guiding the game's bureaucracy and setting. But generally speaking anything below Royal and Minister positions are up for grabs by any Player Character who can demonstrate him-or-her-self ready for it and who has additionally put in the work (and politicking) necessary to earn it. Believe me when I say there is nothing I want less than more IC responsibilities and more VPs to deal with them on. I'm about up to my ears in IC work and responsibilities and VPs that I don't want to have to be spending time on right now. But the reality is that my job as StoryHost, and the game Staff's job in general, is to ensure the game and it's IC bureaucracy continues to run. That very often means logging on VPs we'd rather not be playing to do jobs we'd prefer to be doing on our PCs and getting IC credit and recognition for.

                          A perfectly good and recent example of this is Petris, in fact he's one of the best examples in awhile. Petris, at Court, was made Royal Provost, and he was cast pretty much specifically for the reason of receiving Royal Provost (and also to address the fact that Boreas' power circle has sunk to unacceptable levels from a narrative perspective). Under normal circumstances, casting a VP to take the job of a PC - eh, no can do, not touching that, not even touching the guy who's touching that. But these weren't normal circumstances.

                          For starters, if you haven't guessed yet (and I'm sure most of you have since I know how you gossip) the player of the character having that title taken away from her was entirely consenting to it OOCly and in fact suggested it as an intrigue maneuver by Boreas, so there wasn't the OOC conflict of not wanting to take a player's position away and give it to a VP - which would normally present a significant barrier to a decision of that nature. Beyond that, the sheer sh!tstorm that particular Player Character caused for Boreas in some not-too-distant political maneuverings really necessitated an IC response in order to make it feel like there was any level of consequences and intrigue in the Inner Bailey, and the only reason that position was not reallocated a long time ago is because we had absolutely no one else to give it to and we *needed* someone to perform the duties of that position in order to be able to hold hearings and trials.

                          In this case in particular, if there was a PC qualified for and interested in becoming Royal Provost, we absolutely would've given it to them and saved ourselves interviewing a player and casting a VP. In fact, if there were a PC who was even 'close to' qualified and 'somewhat' showed interest in the job, we would've offered it to them. That wasn't the scenario we had to work with. Rather, at the time of Court, the only guy showing to Boreas' bells was an 11th link commoner with no Law background, and that's not really someone we hand a 5th link knight-exclusive Chancery position to out of the blue (unless we dislike him, in which case we *DO* do that and then watch the backchannel rip him apart for Staff favouritism as you and I both know happens any time someone gets a significant, unexpected promotion). However! Should he or another PC gun for it and play their cards well enough to justify it ICly, we will happily give it to them.

                          And that above description is generally how it always works when looking into filling any significant IC position in the game:

                          1. We look at what positions need filling that are necessary to administer the IC bureaucracy that keeps this game running.
                          2. We look for PC candidates to fill those positions.
                          3. We shave off from that list, PCs who are played by Staff members, lest someone stress that a staff played PC was treated the same as a normal PC.
                          4. Failing to find the above, we re-assess how badly we really need those positions filled and whether or not we should cast a VP for it.
                          5. I bang my head on the desk and sob a little.
                          6. We cast a VP to do it until such time that a Player Character can be promoted into the role.
                          7. A suitable Player Character replacement is eventually found and/or groomed for the role and the VP is retired or reassigned to another role.
                          StoryHost Kurzon
                          Castle Marrach Staff

                          kurzon.marrach@outlook.com

                          The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                            Something else that was concerning was to see the level of staff numbers that have seemingly dropped in such a short space of time. Surely this cannot solely be down to freemium as not all would have been involved with the additional workload of it.
                            Everyone on Staff in fact was 'involved in the additional workload of Freemium'. It was a great show of unity and ambition for the game and I'm grateful to all of Staff who pitched in during a time I feel was really important for the community. That said, sure, there were plenty of reasons other than simple burnout for various people leaving Staff.

                            - One Staff member significantly injured their hand making it difficult to use a keyboard, and I believe was also accepted into post-secondary school which took them away from the game, but they are welcome back once RL settles down.
                            - One Staff member got a new RL job, had to sort medical issues for a family member, and had other RL things that came up that took them away, but promises me they will be returning in the coming days also.
                            - One Staff member also has a RL job that took them away from the game, and just returned presently.
                            - One Staff member left because of a significant RL issue in their family that is absolutely personal and won't be discussed here.
                            - One Staff member who was a big help got sick and had to leave the game at a time that they were already feeling burnt out, and then as far as I know got a new job, but is welcome back at any time.
                            - One Staff member never actually gave me a reason at all - and not everyone does.
                            - One Staff member was removed for reasons confidential and protected under privacy policy and NDA.

                            So, of the seven who have departed over the last year, one is back and one is coming back shortly, which puts us at five. That's slightly but not significantly higher attrition than the game has ever seen (the average is about 3 to 4 per year, ballpark, though I'm not bothered right now to do an actual tally). So yes, while there was one or two more Staff departures last year than average, it's not something I'm especially alarmed about. And given the applications I've received since putting up this post, I'm sure we'll fill the seats where needed.


                            Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                            I hope that before people are thrown into the fire, an independent investigation is opened up to examine why there are such poor retention rates within our staffing structure.
                            I'm honestly not sure what metaphorical fire we're speaking of here. Nor do I really know what you mean by an independent investigation or where those two remarks correlate. But generally if someone tells me they've left the game for X reason, I take them at their word and there's no further 'investigation' warranted. If you mean some kind of investigation by a 3rd party other than game Staff to look into why various game Staff members have left the game, then no, that's not going to happen. I'm not sure why we would need it to?

                            In any case, 'low retention of staffing structure' is a pattern that traces back to the founding of the game. I wager it has something to do with unpaid volunteers working their hinds off only to get sidelined by nasty backchannel slander and postings accusing them of being generally wretched human beings while simultaneously having their IC achievements dismissed as Staff bias and their alts shared by players convinced it's justified because they're Staff. But that's just my take on it.


                            Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                            I think regarding the player run plots, as someone tried a few myself, they quickly need either higher placed staff characters or utilize VPs as a means of pulling items IG. With a VP program that has got a creative stranglehold on it with very few players taking on much, the few remaining players of a VP are not feeling confident to go make something happen without repercussion, these plots end up either dying or not delivering and so have to become something else.
                            Take a look at the post I made re: Running your own player plots, and see if that helps at all. I think it fairly clearly outlines why Staff or VP characters are not needed to run your own plot. Better yet, if you can give me examples of player plots you tried to run but couldn't, I can see if I can try to brainstorm a way it could've been done without them (admittedly my ability to do so is entirely dependant on what specifically you wanted to do in your stories).

                            As far as the VP comments go; unless you play a VP yourself, I'm not sure you should assume on the behalf of present VPs with regards to the issues of VP retention. We have a very open channel to VPs to support them when they want to push a particular story. Rather, the sentiment typically communicated to me is that they just get bored playing the VP, decide they aren't a good fit anymore (which basically translates to the same thing) or that it becomes an obligation to play their VP when they'd rather be working on their PCs - a sentiment that I fully share every time I log on a VP to entertain others instead of playing my own characters, and part of the reason I want less responsibilities in the hands of VPs and more in PCs (see above). It's also just yet another issue that's been present since I myself was new to the game (with the number of times I built Bernier favour as he switched hands from player to player I should've just played him myself).

                            Well, that was long, but here we are. I think I addressed everything in your original post at least once. A lot of it unfortunately boils down to me not really being sure what specifically you're speaking of in your post or referencing perceived problems that I'm having trouble identifying why they're a problem. Hopefully you can shed some clarity on that for me, and hopefully some of my answers shed some clarity for you. I do appreciate the posting, I would've appreciated if it were a little more respectful but I can't address what I'm not aware of, so I'll take what I can get.

                            Thanks and happy gaming.
                            StoryHost Kurzon
                            Castle Marrach Staff

                            kurzon.marrach@outlook.com

                            The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Somebody Else View Post
                              This is obviously anonymous account that will probably make this one post and be deleted by me. I am making this post to allow me to freely express myself without push back either IC or OOC as I have little faith in the current senior staff of this game that this post will not affect my play of this game. Even doing this, I am not confident that I shall remain anonymous. Already I can hear the investigative gnomes working away to find out who.
                              Well, you're definitely not an American. And you're probably using an iPhone or iPad. Or one of those weirdos who types everything up in Word before copy-pasting it. Also p sure forum admins can see your IP address so lol @ investigative gnomes. Unless you're using a proxy or vpn or a library computer or something in which case I salute your dedication to anonymously complaining about Medieval Fantasy Dress-Up Castle MU*

                              Not that I care, I'm just amused that you care.

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