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 Post subject: Fan-based storylines
PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:47 pm 
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So, there is this over-arching storyline that is going on (if slowly at the moment) in the game. But there is only so much that hundreds to thousands of players can do to interact with that storyline. So it seems there is a lot of room for fan-based story content.

However, a number of the attempts at storyline have been ill-received. A few have even touched off flame wars.

So, I have a few questions I'd like to open up for discussion:
* What place do fan-based storylines have in Uru?

* What makes a 'good' fan-based storyline?

* If someone wants to create a fan-based storyline, what should they do? How should they do it? What should they avoid?

* Is there a place for fan-based storylines that live outside of the continuity of Uru canon? If so, how should they be handled?

* What about other fan-created story elements (character backgrounds, etc)? What is their place? How can they be successfully and respectfully integrated into the world?

* How much can a player actually do in terms of story content given that players have little ability to directly affect the environment? (That one is a little pointed, but hey...)

* At what point, if any, does a fan-created story elemenbt go 'too far'?

So, thoughts?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:59 pm 
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Let's not fool ourselves: letting explorers implement their own storylines is a wholly new medium; an entirely new means of driving a fictional universe forward. This is way beyond other fictional universes where third parties were/are able to write novels or short stories and might, might one day be incorporated into canon. Virtually anything that occurs in Uru (aside from, for instance, software bugs) is canon automatically, by design.

Per the videos and interviews, this is all deliberate; it is Cyan's own wish that explorers have an increasing influence not only on what happens in the cavern, but on what direction its future is headed.

But because it is such a new and unique opportunity (the closest perhaps is Second Life), it will take a lot of tries until we have remotely "useful" results. That is, it's no wonder the previous fan-based storylines were at best mediocre: fans just don't have the expertise, and also have yet to organize in groups big enough that they could plan things out well. That'll have to change.

The reason Cyan can do storylines so well is not just that they have much more experience; they're also quite strictly organized: into a company (duh). Fans have to follow this model; not commercially (they don't even have that option), but in tight groups with frequent meetings and long-term planning. Instead of half a dozen people planning mere days or weeks ahead, a "proper", well-done storyline needs months or years of planning, and a dozen or more people participating in it.

There is no "going too far" element to this, actually, because Cyan has expressed rather clearly that they want this.

There is, however, the problem that Cyan currently doesn't give us many tools. We have to work with the content that's already there. No additional Ages or anything for the time being, but they have hinted (if not downright promised) that, somewhere down the road, this too will come.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 6:02 pm 
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What I would say would be going too far is an attempted plot that breaks the setting (like aliens invading Ae'gura or something), or that attempts to derail/override Cyan's original plot. Other than that...

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 6:05 pm 
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Sosiqui wrote:
(like aliens invading Ae'gura or something)


I prefer pink invisible fluffy unicorns.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 6:08 pm 
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I wouldn't say that we can take things too far with fan created storyline. As long as it doesnt turn abusive!

I remember in UU there was much more fan-based storyline than there is now (probably because we didn't have the new features to keep us entertained) but I think back then things were a lot more planned out. People had more time on their hands in game because they were'nt dealing with the "official" storyline and the fan one at the same time.

I think that needs to be regulated again (like you said chucker) so that we can produce some quality entertainment and things that will be appealing to others as well rather than something that was slapped together in five minutes flat and people making it up s they go along. It could take months perhpase for a good storyline to develop but i'm sure in the end it'll be worth it and the community can reap the rewards. ;)

TG

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 6:30 pm 
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chucker wrote:
Fans have to follow this model; not commercially (they don't even have that option), but in tight groups with frequent meetings and long-term planning. Instead of half a dozen people planning mere days or weeks ahead, a "proper", well-done storyline needs months or years of planning, and a dozen or more people participating in it.


But what are the elements of a well-done storyline? What makes it well-done? What sort of things should such a group plan for? What should they avoid?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 6:36 pm 
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BladeLakem wrote:
But what are the elements of a well-done storyline?


Don't ask me, I'm not an author. ;)

Quote:
What sort of things should such a group plan for?


They need to be prepared to be faced with explorers questioning their legitimacy. I.e., they need to have a solid, believable and expansive story without obvious plot holes.

Quote:
What should they avoid?


Corniness. Virtually everything I've seen so far in terms of fan-made storylines is nothing short of tacky. A story needs to be entertaining. People need to be able to enjoy it because it's good, not laugh about it because it's really silly.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 6:48 pm 
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I think it's wise to distinguish two type of "fan-based story-telling" in Uru. There is active interaction with canon characters (the DRC, etc.). When Cyan says that fans will be able to affect the storyline, my belief is that they are talking about this sort of interaction. And so Brian Fioca's ability to interact with Douglas Sharper led that story in an unscripted way (although I doubt in a completely different direction). Fans complement and nudge and enhance (or detract!) from the storyline, but they do not invent it themselves. Fans may convince Cyan to take a different route, but ultimate destinations are still fairly set in stone.

In contrast are the parallel storylines that fans have tried to invent. These are much more constrained in possibilities because they are not allowed to wade into canon, in the sense that they cannot (or at least this is my impression) tell part of the past D'ni or current DRC history, which is reserved for Cyan. And so fan-based stories will always be suspect, in that they must deal with events that are outside the very history we come to Uru to experience. And so we get aliens and mysterious government agents and the like (and if I encounter one more spiritual wonko a la Phil Henderson, I'm inventing a time machine and going back to my first encounter with Phil, and leaving him in the cave). This doesn't mean fans can't create interesting stories, but they have a much steeper hill to climb to earn people's respect and attention.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 8:26 pm 
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As chucker said, the main problem of fan-made stories (as opposed to explorers playing along on Cyan's story) is corniness. If someone goes around screaming he's the new Yeesha, or that he's a D'ni but his language skills don't go further than "shorah", it's not hard to see why people do not believe him. The unfortunate side effect of this is that the good storylines will have to confront themselves with people who got 'burned' by bad stories and will not have a part in them, or try actively to put them to a stop.

The other problem is that storyteller fans can only rely on words, because the game engine does nothing, or very little, to help them. They can't bring or use items in game (we don't even have items, for the most part), are limited by pre-scripted actions, can only alter they appearance so much (it'd be a bit hard to play, say, a dwarf or someone with a cast on his right arm... or just a left-handed person), and so on. Some who refused Yeesha had to invent curious explanations as to why they keep on using their Relto book, because we can't just get rid of it. Heck, we even had to invent explanations on how we go home at the end of each day (unless we are supposed to actually live in the Cavern all the time).

One might say that story is more important than items, but try and think: would you like Star Trek (or other series of your liking) the same way if it was just a bunch of people in jeans and t-shirts, sitting on chairs in a flat, filming themselves with a cell phone camera and pretending to be in a spaceship? Of course not: the sets, the music, the ligthing, the acting, the special effects, all contribute to the atmosphere. If it had no sets, no music and no FX it would really have to be a gripping story to catch you, while all those things together might make you watch the show even if the story is a bit naff at times.

Cyan controls the content. Their storyline is often tied to content, its activation or removal (like in the case of Sharper and the pub, or the Great Tree jackets). They can afford a slow storyline, or one that some people find not so appealing, because of the associated possible rewards and consequences - for the single explorer or for everyone.
Users don't have content, therefore they can only rely on the strength of their story and their acting; their stories don't have rewards or consequences that go beyond the actors involved, and so people have less drive to take part in them. And, considering how nitpicky we are when it comes to storylines and how we weigh every word that is said in a conversation, one would have to be Dustin Hoffman backed up by a storyline by Dostoevsky to make everyone happy (and then).

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 8:54 pm 
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Realism without intruding on Canon.

Take, for example, that guy who showed up a while back preaching the Words of the Watcher. Even though he obviously wasn't 'just another explorer', he didn't seem wildly out of place, either.

Contrast that with the short-lived "kidnapping' plot. You were left wondering who these people were, and why someone would kidnapp her. There was no empathy for their experience. Which brings up something I think is really important:

The character HAS to be a figure we can identify and connect with. You don't just plop a character into the middle of a group of people, fully involved in their story, and expect people to react. The 'readers' have to know the character, know a bit about them, even have freindships with them, before people will react to a 'plot point' happening to that character with any sort of ic response.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:03 pm 
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I just want to say that Ian Atrus's post is pure excellence.

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 Post subject: Re: Fan-based storylines
PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 10:28 pm 
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BladeLakem wrote:
So, thoughts?

* What place do fan-based storylines have in Uru?
- Any place that is not disruptive. I can do what ever I want as long as it is not disruptive and follows the TOA.


* What makes a 'good' fan-based storyline?
- Any two people having a good time with what they are doing.


* If someone wants to create a fan-based storyline, what should they do? How should they do it? What should they avoid?
- What ever they want as long as it is not disruptive and follows the TOA.
- Anyway they want to as long as it is not disruptive and follows the TOA.
- Pushing their storyline on anyone and or place that is not into their storyline.


* Is there a place for fan-based storylines that live outside of the continuity of Uru canon? If so, how should they be handled?
- Yes
- They should not be disruptive and follow the TOA in their handling of it.


* What about other fan-created story elements (character backgrounds, etc)? What is their place? How can they be successfully and respectfully integrated into the world?
- If you can imagine it, it becomes your stories elements.
- In the minds of the players.
- If two people are enjoying it it is successful. The storyline does not have to be integrated into the world. It is in the imagination of the players.


* How much can a player actually do in terms of story content given that players have little ability to directly affect the environment? (That one is a little pointed, but hey...)
- What ever their imaginations can come with.


* At what point, if any, does a fan-created story elemenbt go 'too far'?
- When they push their storyline on anyone and or place that is not into their storyline.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:39 pm 
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To claim that user-created canon must be pre-developed is to contradict the very benefit of user-created canon. The more intricately you build your plotline, the less anyone else can interact with it; eventually, you're just doing exactly what Cyan is doing right now, which is lame. They are required to do that; we are not.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:41 pm 
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Kolian wrote:
To claim that user-created canon must be pre-developed is to contradict the very benefit of user-created canon. The more intricately you build your plotline, the less anyone else can interact with it; eventually, you're just doing exactly what Cyan is doing right now, which is lame. They are required to do that; we are not.


You want any and all user-created content to be improvised? Sounds awful.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:42 pm 
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Fan fiction is a tough nut to crack.

The D'ni and DRC are known and accepted as fictional characters. They come from, act out in, and return to the world of the play -- the theater stage which is the historical and current Cavern. Their actions drive the multiple story threads which together make the drama.

The explorers are known and accepted as real people. They come from the real world, visit the world of the play, and return to the real world. Their actions are that of a participatory audience. They may react to and interact with the fictional characters indirectly in IC forums, blogs or in-game chat, or directly at the invitation of the fictional characters, as when Zardoz was involved in the Phil Henderson story thread.

When a member of the explorer-audience climbs uninvited onto that part of the stage occupied by the fictional characters, the chances are good that the rest of the audience is going to be confused, or ignore him, or even boo him off the stage. The more IC-savvy the audience, the more they will suspect he is ersatz. He appears to be one of them: he is costumed from the same closet as they; he wears the same KI and uses it in the same manner. His acting may be of greater or lesser quality, but clearly his character does not fit the story threads established by the known fictional characters. Most importantly, the known fictional characters have not pre-announced him, interacted with him in-character, or in any way confirmed him as bona fide. Thus, as JWPlatt posted in another thread, he has no basis as a fictional character. Having run himself up his own flagpole he dangles alone in the breeze, often accompanied by the sound of crickets and the creak of rolling eyeballs.

I'd suggest that the only story arenas open for fan fiction are those where the explorers play themselves. The Phil Henderson and Douglas Sharper story threads are good examples. To have any basis, such story threads must be started by the known fictional characters, not by the audience. Then, with the premise and players accepted by all as bona fide, the explorers and fictional characters can interactively develop the thread ad lib.


Last edited by tkwiggins on Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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