Good News & Current Projects

I’m settling back in to the East coast, my body is on the mend, and I’m waiting to find out whether or not I’m about to get sick again.  So far so good!

I don’t have a new fiction post for you today, or a new review, but I can tell you all about a fun thing that I’m doing for The Wayfinder Experience (a large scale improv theater summer camp… aka LARP camp for kids). I wrote a game at the beginning of this year that loosely uses the setting of the stories Trouble Close Behind, Bloody Expanse, and Hot Mess, and which follows the events of Bloody Expanse by seeing what happens to the town of Shepherd’s Brook many years later. Read on for more details!

The game and its themes are definitely on the advanced / player vs. player side of things, but people liked it enough that they want me to run the game for Staff Week. Since Staff Week is rapidly approaching, this means that I need to figure out all of the final balancing details which I left unfinished when I first wrote the game. So now I’m trying to make sure that I have enough different characters with divergent goals to make the game appropriately messy and chaotic while still pushing towards a resolution.

Unfortunately, I don’t know yet how many people are going to be at Staff Week. This means that I don’t know how big a cast I have or how large I need to make the various groups in game. It’s a bit of a problem.

My current solution is to put together a spreadsheet that will document how many people are in the game, how many people have a specific type of motivation (like murder another person, befriend another person, etc etc, what have you, what have you), and how many people are in each player sub-group (families, fellow travelers, etc). Ideally, I’ll be able to balance things sufficiently well so as to leave the whole game precariously tilting between different groups right up until the end of game, with people torn between loyalty to their goals and loyalty to their sub-group. Also, most people should be able to complete their personal goals without ending the game for everyone, meaning that people can feel accomplished without busting up other players’ fun… too much.

My hope is that by capturing the different numbers of people with each goal type, I’ll be able to tell what proportions of different goals make the best version of this game, or how they push the game in different ways. The first step here will be to map out how player goals worked for Cradle, a staff game which I helped to write and run in 2014. I’ve already done some of that analysis, but I hope to improve upon Cradle’s dynamics for this year’s game.

The next step will be figuring out how to organize things so that I can actually read the spreadsheet usefully. If I can’t do that, after all, what’s the point of having it? I think I’ll be able to do that by breaking the different goals down into basic types, rendering those as individual columns, and then entering a 1 or 0 depending on whether or not someone has that goal. Then I can have other cells running a count of column totals over total number of players to find the proportion of players with the goal of, say, murdering someone. Or the proportion of players working to destroy the world or whatever. Maybe I’m over-optimizing here?

The problem is that I don’t feel like I have a good sense of what proportion of game is doing what at the moment. This spreadsheet idea would fix that. The next problem, one that I mentioned above, is that I don’t know how many people will be at Staff Week and therefore don’t know whether the game will need to have even more roles added in or whether it will need to be somehow balanced for a tiny player-base. Things are built for about 50 players at the moment, and I’d rather have more rather than less. But we’ll find out. Or rather, I’ll find out and then maybe I’ll remember to tell you about it.

More updates on the topic as I make more progress!

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