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Application Using NPC Characters (Feature Request)

RealmShadows Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:47 pm

Application Using NPC Characters (Feature Request)

I was looking over the recent changes to Nova in v2 and thought of an idea relating to the following change:

Making an NPC an Active Character – Only displayed for non-playing characters, this button will move an NPC to be an active character. Admins will be able to associate the character with a user or change the user the character is associated with in addition to setting the character to be the primary character. In the event a character is being associated with an inactive user, the option will be given to activate that user.

What I would like to propose is the ability to allow potential joinees to apply for a position using an NPC that one currently fills. This would allow people to use premade characters if for example they have difficulties coming up with ideas for a character. For those wondering, game masters could focus the basis of assigning rank on the quality of the writing in the applicant's sample post.

Added to this though, would be the ability to lock an NPC from being applied for in the case that the person who created the character wishes it not to be modified.
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AgentPhoenix Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:39 pm

Re: Application Using NPC Characters (Feature Request)

First, and I think most importantly, is that I think a feature like this diminishes creativity. There are a lot of fleets that require any characters to be the original, creative work of the author; this feature would allow games to toe that line, perhaps even cross it in some cases. There would no longer be as much emphasis on creativity since anyone (even a bad writer) could just grab an NPC and write a sample post. Personally, the sample post is just part of what goes in to my decision about whether I allow a player to join my sim. I look at the entire application and how they put everything together, how it flows, if it makes sense, and all those kinds of things to figure out if that's a player I want on my sim. Allowing people to skip that step puts more of a premium on quanity than quality. Yes, that may be a personal preference when it comes to my own game, but I think it's a legitimate reason to be cautious about a feature like this.

Second, and almost as important as the first reason, is that I think this promotes laziness. People no longer need to do the work to build the biography, they simply go to the site, find a character, and apply as that character. People don't need to think about the character, what they want to accomplish, how they want to play the character, and all the sundry things that go in to a character application. Now, they click a button and copy/paste a sample post. Done. I think game masters would start to see a decline in the quality of applications. Again, quantity over quality.

Adding to the laziness argument, I think a feature like this could actually hurt Nova's reputation. As it stands, one of the biggest arguments against Nova actually has nothing to do with Nova, but instead, the laziness of game masters. Whenever people tell me (or I read somewhere) why they don't like Nova, one of the first things that undoubtedly comes up is how all Nova sims look the same. That's certainly not Anodyne's fault, but the laziness of game masters leaving the default skin in place has come back to bite Anodyne in the ass. Is it fair? Absolutely not, but it is reality. I think this feature would contribute to that. Why don't you like Nova? All the sites look the same and there are tons of bad writers on Nova sims. Fair? Not at all, but I think that could be a reality Nova would have to fight with something like this.

Third, and keeping with the theme, I think this could create some "creative property" issues along the way. Player A creates an NPC when he's on your game, then leaves. The NPC he created stays out there and is eventually picked up by someone else. Player A rolls back around and sees that this NPC they created is now being played by someone and gets upset because the work they put in to that character is their own "creative property" and not the person who's actually playing the character. I'm not saying lawsuits would ensue or anything, but it's certainly a sticky situation. Does the game master have to go back to Player B and say "hey, need you to create a new character because Player A doesn't like the fact that you're playing their NPC." And that's not saying anything about a situation where Player A is still an active member of the sim and suddenly doesn't like the way Player B is playing the NPC they created.

Fourth, and leaving behind the "human" component, is the simple fact that this entrenches the PC/NPC/PNPC classification that I'm so desperately trying to re-think. Are there always going to be said classifications? No doubt. However, I'm doing everything in my power to make sure things aren't stagnating, that we're moving them forward when it makes sense. I know it's a pretty dicey topic and people either love or hate it, but I feel like this is a step backwards and potentially encourages that kind of system to stay around. It's a complicated problem and one that I haven't been able to fully articulate yet, but the nebulous concepts that are stuck in my head have alarm bells going off when I think about a feature like this.

Fifth, and finally getting around to the technical side of things, is the sheer volume of complication this adds at a code level. It's not simply a matter of putting a flag in the database. Instead, there are all kinds of user interaction issues that have to be sorted through. NPCs (and only NPCs) would need to have unique fields to be able to let a player hold a character from being used outside of their pervue. What about game masters? Should they have some say and in the process create an approval type of system for this? How do you handle it in the event that an NPC becomes a playing character than back to an NPC? Since they were played at one point, does that mean that they should now automatically not be able to be used by an outside player? How do you explain this type of concept to players? How do you prevent its abuse? Should there be something in place to turn the feature off altogether for a sim? The questions keep stacking up and up and the layers of complication that ensue in code from answering those questions could create a nightmare of a system to maintain.

Developing Nova is as much about figuring out what shouldn't go in, as what should. I'm not giving a definitive NO to this because honestly I'd like to hear other people's opinions on the idea. However, I do see far more potential problems and "gotchas" with this than added benefit to the system as a whole.
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LadyBird Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:33 am

Re: Application Using NPC Characters (Feature Request)

I have to chime in on this.

While I don't always agree with Davey Van Jones-Sparrow (Yes, I am watching Pirates of the Caribbean, so sue me. :P), but I see major problems with this idea.

As a player, I have carefully crafted all my characters, NPCs and PCs alike, over the span of 17 years. I personally don't want anyone else playing them. No one would understand Bridie's need to compete, or how my Nunez twins have become so different from one another. No one would completely understand them like I do because I created them myself.

As a Game Master, I see several problems, some of which Dave has mentioned.

First and foremost is laziness. Some people can barely be bothered to write their bios now. Some ask if they can fill it in later and have to be pestered to do so. What happens when I can just click a button and BOOM they have a character? I really do not like this idea at all. People should have to think about their characters, not borrow (some might say steal) others' characters.

Then comes a bigger issue. Players not wanting others to play their characters after they leave. This involves PIPA. Yes, I know some of the US Government is trying to kill it. Others are trying to make it happen. I know of at least five players off the top of my head that would not hesitate to have the ship shut down and my internet turned off for that. I don't want to go to prison just because someone thought that it might be a cool idea. Sorry to be melodramatic, but that's reality at the moment. Such is life in the United Socialist States of America.

It's funny, isn't it? The USA tried to help the USSR discover democracy, and now we have the USSA.
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Crypt_Heart Wed May 02, 2012 12:38 pm

Re: Application Using NPC Characters (Feature Request)

-.-; Oh boy.

Newbies aren't as creative as the rest of us and you don't have to have spare NPC's up for grabs. During my D&D sessions, we tend not to have time for waiting if someone turns up out of the blue, wants to role-play and doesn't have a character. We hand 'em a pre-gen and get started.

It doesn't matter about the character, besides, they tend to be rejigged anyway as the story progresses, what matters is the decisions they make, how they make them and where we go from there.

It is really newbie someone who hasn't role-played before and to those that are busy don't have the time to come up with a decent character on the fly and get involved, make it an optional feature if needs be. (We can tell you haven't been to a fast paced D&D session =P)

Besides Mr Phoenix. It's not what you want that counts is it? Well, not if you want your project to reach a wider and wider audience.

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AgentPhoenix Wed May 02, 2012 2:10 pm

Re: Application Using NPC Characters (Feature Request)

I've always said that I only build Nova for me. It's a happy coincidence that a wider audience finds it useful as well. I build opinionated software. I've always said that Nova isn't for everyone. Anyone is welcome to modify Nova to suit their own needs, and this is one of those areas where I leave it to MOD developers to take it upon themselves to do that kind of thing.

Honestly, half of what I do is curating features. What you leave out is just as important as what you put in.
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DeathKitten Wed May 02, 2012 10:46 pm

Re: Application Using NPC Characters (Feature Request)

I think I gotta weigh in on this one, and I gotta take AgentPhoenix's side here. And for the record, I certainly disagree with more than a few things in how he envisions Nova... but it is indeed his system and that I will never argue, even if I will sometimes squeek up if I worry about the direction he's taking a particular feature.

The issue of the reputation blow against Nova is one he really does have to take into consideration and one that I completely understand. If he builds an option into the system that enables and encourages pre-made characters to be quickly and blindly picked up, then it's going to look like Nova supports such things. It will also attract command staff and GMs that are inclined towards that sort of gaming, and while that's not his fault, some people won't see it that way. He wants to build a system that matches his wants and needs for a game, and likewise attract other people to it who have similar goals. This feature is a large divergence from the goals and ideals he's stated up to this point.

I do understand the point raised by LadyBird, as I do have a gaming convention I'm a regular attendee of, and it's normal to have pre-generated characters for the sessions run at the con. However, that's a convention, where people are going to try out new systems, or there isn't generally enough time to build characters out in some of the heavier systems, such as D&D or Heroes. An online game isn't going to go anywhere if a player needs to take a little time to build up a character. They're going to already have to spend the time writing and interacting with their fellow crew anyways, they might as well take time that would have been dedicated to that, and write their character background, then join the action a little later.

Also, I'd like to point out that SIMs that want to have premade characters available for people to pick up and run with can easily put the stats into the wiki in Nova, and let prospective players pull the information there to put into the application form. Then they can adjust and tweak things if they want as they copy and paste in, but all the time is still saved allowing people to quickly pick up if they want. If the difference between having to just click a button to pick up the NPC and turn it into a PC, and having to copy and paste some info into the form from a wiki page is enough to scare a prospective player off... are you sure they're going to put the effort into participating in your game to make their a worthwhile member of your crew/game?
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