Monday, March 10, 2008

The Paradox Experiment, Issue Six - Taking the Lead

I realized pretty quickly on the newspaper littered streets of King's Row that if I wanted to get solid RP while gaining levels, it would have to come in the form of a team. No more running around the streets solo and hoping to chance across someone willing to interact. I was curious if I took the lead with RP reasons for forming a team would other players follow along? After grabbing a radio mission to rescue a Dr. Sophia Jones from Hellions, I scouted through the comlink and asked a few individuals if they were free to help rescue a doctor.

The time was fairly early in the morning for me and definitely not peak time. However, within a few minutes Ibn Asad fired back he could give me a hand. This was followed quickly by another response by the firey fey named Quickfyre. As we gathered in front of the mission door, I offered up the usual Ren reluctance and inexperience. "Do we just, uh, charge in there now or what?"

Followed by Ibn's response of, "Pretty much."

Of course, we took the Hellions down handily and moved on to bringing in a Council villain by the name of Archon Lucretia. Again, handled easily. As we went from mission to mission, I gathered a few more players to the team and we eventually took on a bank mission. Motionblur, Mad Dasher, and SonicGirl joined in and Ren bounced upward in security levels quickly.

For the most part, however, the focus for everyone was on the fight. There was little interaction between missions and little in any sort of character building RP. Both Ibn and Quickfyre responded in-character to certain things and I was pleased to find none of the players were of the RP-hater variety. Overall, it was a fantastic group! However, as I played along and kept notes, the focus continued to be goal driven; next door mission, next level, XP, get a bank mission, get a raptorpack. There is nothing wrong with this, of course. I've spent quality time doing just this with other characters. But, I was conducting an experiment for strong RP.

Now, some would say this is the nature of the beast. There are no rewards whatsoever for RP built into the game design. The rewards that ARE there come from doing EXACTLY what this crack team was doing. Bust bad guys, get points, get levels. How could a game offer rewards for good RP? I've seen voting systems where players get nominations for good RP. Players may only get a set number of votes per a time period, for instance, two votes a week. Once a player gets so many nominations, they are rewarded something for their effort. What other systems are out there?

Perhaps this is just the way MMO's are going and I should get over it? Perhaps this is such a small niche in the overall customer base there is no reason to design solid game content for it? However, I would like to see something put forward. Just because it's the nature of the beast does not mean the beast cannot be retrained. Am I just being unrealistic to say such a thing is possible?

Regardless, Ren jumped upwards in levels quickly from the team effort. He discovered that if you do enough good work the City rewards you with a shiny new raptorpack! And no, I did not RP him putting it on and flying into a building wall by accident. I just ran on to the next mission and jumped in the door.

But... I thought about it.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Podcast! Episode 1 - Into the Fray

I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous about this! This project has taken up a good chunk of my personal time the past two weeks. And I'm loving it!

Say hello to one of the new features of Frontier's Horizon! This is the first episode of a regularly occurring podcast with a character of my own creation, DJ Rust. I've got some ideas for this but for now, I'm just going to have some fun and play some music.

Episode 1 - Into the Fray

Music played this episode:
Liquid Loop - Monster
Marc Pattison - City of Zion
My Secret Life - Dancing on the Edge of the Earth
Universal Hall Pass - Dragonfly

In this episode, DJ Rust takes on the Atlas Park sewers... and thats about it. If I did everything right, you should also be able to subscribe to this podcast feed now by clicking on the little "subscribe in a reader" there to the left.

Let me know what you think and what you might want to hear for future episodes.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Paradox Experiment, Issue Five

Once again we take a look at the slowest developing character in all of City of Heroes, Ren Paradox! With so many projects flying around, I'm afraid Ren has not been getting the time he probably deserves. I've had opportunities to play him. I just have not had the chance to write about those opportunities! I love playing Ren. Every time I log in with him it's a challenge and requires an entirely different mindset of not only openness but of creativity. And, the best part, I never know what is going to happen.

When we last left Ren, he was on the tram station at King's Row. From there I had him run around several blocks of King's Row looking for trouble. It was not hard to find and within a few minutes he was busting up a purse snatching and what looked to be a car theft. But, as usual with Ren, I wasn't looking for bad guys. I was looking for RP.

Eventually, I had him run by the truck. You know which truck I mean, right? THE truck. The interdimensional truck that leads to the Pocket D. For those of you scratching your heads, there is an interdimensional superhero bar in the game. The entrances to said bar are disguised and the one in King's Row happens to be the back of a truck.

As a player I knew it was there but Ren would have no idea. It just so happened that as Ren ran up the road towards Blue Steel, I saw someone bounce out of the truck. Imagining that Ren would think this a bit weird if not suspicious, I had him pause and watch for a moment. Sure enough, a few more heroes jumped out of the back of the truck. The fourth one happened to run past him and, casting out my RP lure, I had Ren say, "Oh, hey, excuse me..."

First cast, first hit.

The character ,I believe, was named Splendor. We ended up having a great RP scene with the main central focus being the odd truck across the way. She gave Ren the low-down on the bar to be found by climbing into the truck. It was called Pocket D and it existed in another dimension. I figured that, with everything, this was just all a bit too much for Ren. After a very enjoyable RP scene, she went on her way and I had Ren walk around the truck, watching it carefully. Unfortunately, no one jumped out or into the truck.

Eventually, I had him wander off in search of more Skulls to stop. But, I figured, curiosity had to get the better of him sometime and, of course, it did. The next time playing Ren, I had him take up a position near the truck, watch someone jump into the back cargo compartment, and then, after fidgeting a bit, he did so himself. And with that, Ren was off on his first adventure to Pocket D!

Ren landed, a bit disoriented, in the entrance point for Pocket D. After navigating the strangely familiar hallways, he came to the elevator entrance which would take him, according to the helpful advice of the business suit clad attendants, Pocket D. Needless to say, Ren was nervous and I emoted as much as he waited outside the very busy elevator door. "What did I get myself into?" he thought to himself. "Where the @#$@ am I?" he also thought to himself.

However, the stars must have been aligned properly for out of the elevator stepped a colorful robotic character who reacted almost instantly to my emotes. His name was Toy Blaster.

With Toy Blaster's urgings and continual reminders that it would be fine, Ren found himself stepping into the rabbit hole that is Pocket D. Otherwise known as "The D" by some folks, the bar is one of the middle points for interaction between heroes and villains within the game. No fighting is allowed within the bar, of course, and it is one of the major points for finding roleplaying. In character, Ren saw far more then he needed to that night!

Toy Blaster seemed to know a lot of people and was quick to introduce Ren to some of his friends like Wivern and High Jinks. High Jinks was currently under a curse that caused him to cycle between being normal, a pumpkin, a mime, and a clown by someone uttering the simple word "Poof." Yes, you read that right. I could spend an entry alone describing how the player made this work through a clever combination of costume slots, hot keys, and emote trickery. Ren interacted with a large robot called Combat Toy, met a handful of new folks, and even managed to flirt with a succubus.

Over the course of the next hour or more, Ren participated in fun and interactive RP. The best so far I had encountered while playing him!

Throughout the encounter, characters asked him questions as to who he was and as his origin was revealed (or the lack therein) it was interesting to note the various reactions. For me, one large questions kept rising to the forefront. Who was Ren Paradox? As mentioned before, I had purposefully created a mysterious arrival for him with no real back story. I had hoped to get player's offerings for ideas and letting that form his back plot. I was still testing the waters to see if anything would happen spontaneously. No such thing transpired, which was hardly surprising, since how was anyone to KNOW I was looking for such a thing?

Though the RP was excellent there was little forward motion to it, nothing that left me craving a bit more, and looking forward to the next time I could play Ren. Nothing permanent came of it. Nothing really changed. I am still unsure what to chalk it up to. It was, most definitely, not the players I was working with for they seemed more then adequate to being able to hold their own. Was it my own intentions not being vocalized, even out of character, of what I was shooting for?

It left me asking myself, "What is the recipe for a meaty RP session?" Can it be found happenstance or must it be planned out in advance? This was followed quickly by the next question of "Is there even a recipe or is it a mysterious composition that, like good improv, simply appears like a genie when the conditions are right?"

I'm afraid I don't have any solid answers to the questions, just personal leanings. After doing this sort of thing for far too many years, I think I have some good ideas. However, I'm curious what other people think. What do you think qualifies as good roleplay? Is it just a matter of "any good RP is good RP?" or is there something more which quantifies it? Is it about the collaboration? Something that changes the character?

More questions then answers but it solidified, without a doubt, that there is some wicked RP to be had on the Virtue server when you hit those areas where it is happening.

And in regards to Ren, I let him have his fun and then got him out of the D and back to King's Row safely. Unscathed by his encounters with killer robots and a seductive succubus, he is still just Ren. Lost in Paragon with only a small one bedroom flat courtesy of ELITE to call his home, he is still running alone and trying to figure out his past. Why is he here? Where are his memories? Where do these strange mind altering powers come from?

And, again, I ask my readers. What do YOU think? Consider it and be ready because the next post on Ren Paradox will include reader participation!