strangerpeople: (Default)
The Fifteen Strangers Mods ([personal profile] strangerpeople) wrote in [community profile] notasstrange2017-04-23 05:46 pm

MOCK TRIAL POST-MORTEM

Hello, everyone.

Welcome to the first game that has ever bad-ended. In a mock trial, no less.


--


I'm sure that there are people both in the mock trial and outside of the mock trial watching this game, who are probably all wondering the same thing.

What in the world happened? Why did the Mock Trial Bad End?

I will do my best to explain from my perspective, and hopefully, moving forward, figure out a way to prevent this from happening again when the main round happens.

What happened was this. Fifteen people reserved in the mock round. As part of the informal caveats that are generally noted when doing mock reserves, one of the things I listed was that if you didn't intend to play in the mock round, or didn't have the time to do so, don't reserve. From my perspective, its a standard request to players in mock and regular rounds of murdergames - other people might want to reserve, test out, and if you aren't going to be able to play, be courteous and don't reserve.

The week went pretty decently! People were playing, I was getting a feel of the NPC, and began to look into issues and questions that could be amended to the FAQ for the main round. After all, the Mock Trial isn't just a means of players testing out characters in a scenario that plays out exactly like a real round, but its also a way for me, the mod, to work out the kinks in the game, so that come the main round, things weren't confusing or unclarified. On the players' end, its also the means of playing the game as the game would ostensibly play out if it were the main game. From my perspective, that includes trying to mind information that's in the FAQ and rules, since those things are paramount in the main rounds.

And then Friday came along.

When the Investigation was put up, my expectation from previous experience as a player in both mock and main rounds was that, while there was no hard time limit, most if not all players, having committed to the Mock Week, would investigate in a timely manner. Especially as investigations and trials, even in mock weeks, tend to be very, very fast, with a variety of characters working together to comb through the rooms and evidence to find clues. In my original version of the FAQ, I had made a 12-hour limit from the time of the posting of the Investigation post to reflect this for the main game, especially since 15 Strangers is meant to also be a shorter game than most murdergames.

However, as time went by, I began to notice that a significant amount of players weren't posting to the Investigation at all. They...weren't there. No indication they were going to be absent, no indication that anything was remiss with them as evening began to come in. Which, again, in my own experience as a player in murdergames, is unusual. It was made pretty explicit in the FAQs that Investigations and Trials would be put up during a specific time frame, and in fact is a default time frame for all of the murdergames I have personally participated in. (And for me, it helps that 12-2 PM EST is generally when I have my lunch at work. Go figure.)

As time went by, several of those players did show up and did participate in the Investigation. To try and alert the players who had not responded to the Investigation that the Investigation was happening, I'd originally put it in the mod plurk, but as time went on, I also replurked it with my personal account, and plurked that the Investigation was happening for the people on my timeline, as most of the players were on my personal timeline. Most people hadn't friended the mod plurk, so that made sense to me to get the word out to them that way.

Despite this, there were still several people missing, still a significant amount - close to a third of the players who had reserved. This was causing the Investigation to start to stagnate, and the Investigation itself didn't wrap up until close to 3 am. Had this been a main round, with the 12 hour limit, as the FAQs were originally, time would have been up. At around 1 am, I decided that I'd make the first rule change, since I thought people weren't taking the time limit stuff seriously for the Investigation and I wanted to emphasize that, in a main round, there were consequences for doing that. That change is still on the FAQs, that evidence not found before a hard Investigation deadline is lost forever.

I also added the hard deadline for what would happen if a vote isn't called by a specific time, that being the game automatically Bad Ends. So, after that, on Saturday, I put up the Trial, hoping that most of the players would do the Trial.

Several people were still missing, with no response to the Trial and no indication that anything had happened to them to warrant that they would miss the Trial. I replurked the mod plurk, and then plurked it in my own personal plurk again. Still close to a third of the players just not being there at all. The Trial stagnated. Things didn't happen or happened way, way late.

By the time midnight came around again, I was starting to get very angry. OoCly, several people were doing a lot of the work, while several people weren't even there. The vote was finally called, and once a culprit confession happened I put the vote up around 2:30 am-ish. My feeling had been, if this had been any other murdergame that I'd been in, the vote would have been called much, much sooner because most if not all of the players had participated in between the 12 hours it took to start the trial and get to this point. Especially because many games - including, hopefully, 15 Strangers' main round - has a minimal participation requirement. And, if we're treating this similar to a regular round, I, not just as a mod, but as a player, would expect everyone to be timely too. Or if they weren't going to be, give me fair warning as to why they weren't.

In any case, I went to bed after putting up the vote. The only thing I knew was, I wasn't going to wait until 3 am on Monday morning to see if the people who hadn't been around through the Investigation and Trial would come in and vote at the last moment. Whenever I woke up, I'd figure out what to do.

I woke up at around noon, which would have given about 10 hours for people to vote. At the time when I looked at the votes, just about half the player base had voted. At that time the vote had been 5 for the actual culprit, 3 for different culprits. No one else had voted.

In my mind, had this been a normal round, it would have been ICly in some manner revealed what happens if someone refuses to vote. This kind of information isn't usually added to the FAQ from what I've known and seen in my own murdergame experience. In this particular case, even if it had been ICly known at that point, only 8 people had cast a vote. (One casted after the Execution had gone up.) ICly, the vote was 10-5 (well, 7-2-1-5, but still completely in favor of the culprit) and even if I had counted the vote that came after the Execution, the cuplrit would still have won, 10-6.

Judging by how participation had been before, in the Trial and the Investigation, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to drag the situation out much further. Not when it had already stagnated twice already. I wasn't letting the vote stagnate, either. So the Mock Trial bad-ended.


--


I think the most important thing to me to say after writing this is that I'm sorry. This should not have happened. The buck stops at me no matter what.

I wonder if the mock investigation and trial would have gone much better if I applied the trial rules of the main round, stated in the FAQ, to the mock trial before the week had even started. It's been brought up to me since this has happened, and so its one thing I've decided I'm going to enforce from here on out in future mock trials as well as the main rounds, so that its made clear to people who want to participate.

If I need to explicitly state in the FAQ what happens in a given round when a vote is abstained from, intentionally or not, I will do that. If I need to explicitly state that people need to inform me if they're unable to participate in a trial or investigation for whatever reason, I will do that. If there's something else I'm missing, please, tell me and I will figure it out. That's why this post exists. I want your feedback and this game also needs feedback. Not just player feedback, but feedback from anyone who was watching this mock week. Anyone who is thinking of joining the game for the main round. Anyone who was just watching the game from afar. It doesn't matter.

In the end, this should not have happened. And I want to make sure this kind of Bad End doesn't happen again. I want this game and its stories to be fun and enjoyable. I want people to want to come to this game and tell others this is a great game and they should be a part of it. Not just be the Game That Had A Bad End In Its Trial Run.

You guys don't deserve that. All of you guys - mock trial players, future players, people thinking of playing - don't deserve that. And if there's something I can do to make sure that that doesn't happen, I will do it.

And with that, I yield the floor to all of you. I'll be commenting to feedback you guys give on this post. So I'll definitely be here, and see you guys around.

And, with luck, we'll also see each other around on May 15th.
keybroad: (Laugh)

[personal profile] keybroad 2017-04-23 10:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Hello there, Ms. Ni. I heard you were looking for feedback even from people who were just watching the game so I hope that my comment is not unwelcome. My name's Lenga and I was a moderator of this game Parasomnia ([community profile] parasomnic). Apparently you've heard of it and I'm super touched! I have been watching this game as well and I will definitely say the setting and several details were very interesting.

I have a couple questions that I want to ask beforehand so I can make sure that I completely understand the situation.

The motive for the week will go up on Tuesday, and the body discovery log will be up on Friday, between 12pm-2pm EST. In-game, this means the start of the Inquisition, as it is ICly called, which is divided into the investigation and trial phases. During the investigation, clues will be distributed by the moderators depending on progress. Players will have until midnight EST to wrap up the investigation. If there are still clues left uncovered at that time, they will be lost forever.

The trial will be posted on Saturday between 12 pm-2pm EST, and players will have until midnight EST to figure out the culprit. If a culprit is not found and the vote not called this is considered a default, and the game will immediately bad end - there are no saves.

There will also be a minimal participation requirement for trials - i.e. a certain percentage of players must participate in the trial for a successful overall outcome even if the culprit is uncovered. If this requirement is not met players will be locked out of a good ending, even if they make it to endgame.


  1. The above quoted text was that way from the beginning and not recently edited. True or false?
  2. True or false? There are exactly two possible trial outcomes, one of the following: [A] a simple majority of the votes (in this case 8 out of 15) are cast for the culprit, and only the culprit is executed; [B] some lower number of votes (in this case 7 out of 15) are cast for the culprit, and everyone except the culprit is executed.
  3. If the other votes are already unanimous, the correctness of a vote has no effect on the individual character's outcome. True or false?
  4. There exists a "trial participation requirement". True or false?
  5. The aforementioned "trial participation requirement", should it exist, does not affect who lives or dies at the end of the trial. True or false?
keybroad: (Smile)

[personal profile] keybroad 2017-04-24 10:43 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for these replies that are even clearer than my original questions which I attempted to make very exacting. So, here I go.

To state the biggest point that I don't see directly addressed, announcements about the game state were being made on Plurk (whether the game or the mod's personal) where not every single player was added on the timeline. I have looked at the OOC comm, the mod journal (though players wouldn't necessarily be tracking this), and the IC comm with both new entries and new top-levels. The existence of a new deadline is not directly indicated on Dreamwidth as far as I can see. If you intend to make binding announcements over Plurk in the future, there should be a rule where all the accepted players provide a Plurk account that must friend the mod account.

Secondly, even your modified rules do not reflect the voting period that was actually imposed. Your rules estimate a 12:01PM~11:59PM EST period of availability commitment (or perhaps twelve hours after the latest suggested trial time posting would get you 2:00PM~2:00AM), and then your 2:27AM~11:59AM EST voting period falls entirely outside of said commitment period.

(Note: The following statement depends on this plurk that I am seeing in an edited form and may be misunderstanding.) In fact, you had even directly indicated at 1:09AM EST that voting would go up "tomorrow" with no indication of the exact time it would appear. The original plurk could easily be interpreted as an injunction to go to bed with no further availability commitments that would emerge before, for example, noon. Then over an hour later the voting went up after all. This modification occurred on Plurk over editing instead of a response. An "unread plurk" notification would not necessarily show up on a players timeline.

So even though the notice was public for nine whole hours, players were not obligated to follow that publication medium. This nine hour period was also slightly outside the range of even the modified FAQ. In short, theoretically a rule-following player could not be certain to know.

I don't want to entirely remove the flack from the players here. I can understand your reservations about having a long voting extension when so many players hadn't even been in the trial the entire time. Even in the most uncharitable interpretation of your voting period notification methods, some of the players made the choice to not participate in the necessary investigation and/or the trial. Your FAQ was extremely clear about the inverse relationship of these behaviors to a minimum participation requirement (even if irrelevant to the mock trial that wouldn't have a long term good ending). Char is correct in her statements that the mock reserve post was sufficiently clear.

It's my opinion that the biggest reason for the bad end was the combination of the preexisting voting system and the idlers. Either one by itself wasn't necessarily a problem. The culprit is not obligated to vote for themselves, and several canonmates are allowed (losing memories but not necessarily of one another), so as in this case eight active players might still cast votes and yet not all for the true culprit. Ri and Lynny are accurate in their statement that "Ultimately what we see is the players who were active being effectively punished for the inactivity of others." However, I see this as part and parcel of the two-outcome trial system. For example, there is the need to await an organic culprit confession (Machine Talk Battle) and then a "call" for votes instead of simply a screened post where everyone can submit their votes at any time during the trial. Even though people not participating earlier was a problem, there is also the possibility that they had left by the time the vote was "called" (which, as I've said before, was somewhat outside the availability commitment period). Your current voting system itself will always allow that abstainers/culprits/accomplices can outweigh the existence of a confession, a correct conclusion, and a couple of correct votes. So, I think that's sort of just how the chips fall.

I disprefer this two-outcome system, which is why I've never played in a game using it. I have instead played in games that avoid these problems with a different system from the ground up. For example a 6-5-4 vote would still get the culprit with 6 votes executed. Or, a vote with 6 for the culprit, 1 from the culprit for an enemy, and 8 abstainers will get the eight abstainers and the culprit executed. That's not even getting into a simple mistrial system where just one scapegoat is executed, or a more complicated comprehensive activity check that prosecutes individuals. There are a lot of options, I won't say more because I want to focus on all the facets of your own original vision here.

That's about everything I have to say. You can PP me at [plurk.com profile] Lengachan if you want to talk more in depth. I've omitted a lot of thoughts about my own similar experiences because I want to keep the focus on you. Finally let me know if I can paypal you some cash for an Italian ice or something because holy fuck my heart is going out there to you so hard. I know this must just be one of the most terrible feelings in the world, spending so much effort trying to fix something, and then failing, and then having to read thousands of words about your actions that focus primarily on the parts where you failed. I want to emphasize that I think you tried very hard, and you deserve to feel less sad later.