[A Wicked Plague] Post-Mortem

edited March 2008 in PBP Discussion
I'm pulling the plug on this game. :(

I suspect the mechanic as the culprit for the game not flourishing. However, I'm also interested in hearing opinions from the players (and any audience) on why it died and what could have been done differently.

Onto a broader topic, I've tried several games here on Snail's Pace and only had lasting success with the TSOY game. It seems most games have a 20-30 day lifespan, then the energy fades and participation stops. As I am new to pbp games, is this common? Is this more likely to happen with indie/story games?


  • edited March 2008
    All answers should be considered 'in my opinion' (excuse me if I ramble):

    I don't think the central mechanic of IaWA conflicts in any particular way with PbP. It may have been a problem in this particular case, since it's sort of different in ways that take some getting used to (I know I was constantly referencing my copy of the book in our exchange). I reckon that that goes away after you've grown used to it's particular back-and-forth, but it may have been an obstacle.

    Still, I didn't really get the vibe that that was the issue here ... that's just an impression, though.

    PbP does have this kind of thing happen fairly frequently. It's a hazard of the medium, I think - it's difficult to know for sure if you're going to be able to stick with a game in this format. Getting in is easy, but then you have to stick with it for a long while, with the activity usually very scattered. Interest can wane, when it's like that, and it's easy for things to come up in the real world that eat into your time.

    I don't think it's particularly relevant if it's an indie game, exactly. Some indie games are absolutely impossible to convert to PbP. Others do it very well. Most mainstream games are sort of in the middle ... they're usually convertible, but they usually are heavy and regimented enough to slow things down even further than PbP games naturally go.

    Not sure about story games, specifically. I haven't observed too many in action, in PbP.

    I'd also point out that the success of a PbP game doesn't seem all that connected to its system, really. It really seems to be more tied to that lucky little thing where everyone both happens to click with the game, and happens to not have anything come up to eat up their time in the real world. My two most long-lasting, successful games were a game of White Wolf's Adventure!, very mainstream, and another game in which, I think, the dice hit the 'table' once. Total opposites, and both worked out fairly well.

    Neither finished, though. In both cases, real world stuff gradually pulled away players until the games had to fold. PbP benefits from a short game with a clear, on-the-horizon ending (like IaWA, really). It's also nice if the game permits new players to switch in and out mid-game, though that can get buggy in practice (for the same reasons that bringing in new players can sometimes be disruptive in face-to-face gaming).

    I've played two games of Kazekami Kyoko Kills Kublai Khan, both with the same exact person, and the first one was a great success while the second kind of dragged out to an eventual conclusion. The PbP medium can be weird that way ... in that case, it was partly to do with real world events, and partly just because the second had a slower posting rate. Sometimes the pressure of a super-fast posting requirement can really help you stick with it (harder to tell yourself you can post 'tomorrow', repeatedly).
  • If you don't mind me butting in, rugrsi, I think that the problems you're experiencing are kind of endemic to play-by-post. I've noticed that some things tend to work better than others though. Here's some things that cause problems:

    Multiple Player turn taking: Waiting to take your turn can kill interest in the game.
    Long Posts: There's quite a "hump" to get over to actually post to a game. If posts are expected to be quite long, the "hump" is bigger.
    Negotiation: The internet, as we've seen countless times, is terrible for building consensus. If you have to wait for everyone to agree, you can wait a long time.
    Ending Anxiety: No one wants to be the person to finish everything off. Since there's no way to gauge if everyone's happy with an ending, it's tempting not to end things.

    Here's some things which seem to help:

    Two Player turn taking. Quick turnaround and a clear expectation of a reply makes things work better.
    Predetermined End Points. Playing to a determined end can encourage people to see the game out.
    Anyone can play. This is working really well at Prof. Abalone's College of Magic. If you get a critical mass of dedicated players, the game really takes off.
    Clear posting guidelines/rules: nothing kills desire to post like not being sure you're doing it right. Rules confusion kills online games. Above this, having clear expectations about what content is expected from a post help people structure their posts, rather than feeling lost.

    That's been my experience, anyhow. I've been experimenting with a lot of different formats to come to this conclusion, but I'd really like to hear your opinion.
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