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


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.
dejabrew: (I cast "frustrate GM")

[personal profile] dejabrew 2017-04-24 02:37 am (UTC)(link)

Ri and Lynny here. We weren't really close observers of the mock trial, but we are veterans of running murdergames and we wanted to kind of give you our opinion on some of the things that we noticed, especially in your FAQ.

Firstly, we know that having a trial not go according to plan can be incredibly frustrating, so the first thing we suggest is to take a step back and think about what you can change versus what you can't for the future. While it may seem now like you had to have done something wrong to get this outcome, there's not much you can do to make people be active.

However, one major thing that we noticed:

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.

This is the kind of change that is borne of frustration, and we understand that, but it wasn't fair to the players to immediately implement this change as law after posting it in what is, for some, the middle of the night, without even directing the players to the change in the post. A better plan would have been to make a note of it as something to change for the round proper, and then include that announcement in the wrap-up.

Ultimately what we see is the players who were active being effectively punished for the inactivity of others. Whether or not this was the intent, this exact kind of scenario (and the reverse) is why the games that we run (Dangan Roleplay and now Airlocked) have a two-pronged win-lose system for trials. While we definitely try to steer the trial toward the tag-in and comment count minimum, once the culprit has been revealed and the vote has been called that IC completion what becomes more important.

Conversely, while we understand that the goal of 15 Strangers is to be a shorter murdergame experience (and we're not saying that this is what happened here at all), having a blanket rule that failing to call a vote = automatic bad end doesn't take into account the possibility that it's the fault of the case planners for making an unsolvable case. While you always hope that a case is as solvable as it seems, sometimes it happens that the pieces don't fall quite as you want, and in this case bad ending the game would be unfair to the players.

Overall, modding a murdergame is a balancing act, and sometimes it gets frustrating when the social contract between players and mod feels violated and it feels like all the plates you're spinning are going to fall. However, when this happens, what you need to do is take a step back, scream into the void a little, and then come back and see what you can do to fix the problem (this is much easier when you have a co-mod - we would not have been able to do this for so long without being blessed with each other and with our various co-mods over the years who have put up with our shit).

If you want to hear our opinion on how this case could have gone better, you can get hold of us on plurk. We hope that the launch of the real round goes more smoothly for you.