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Lyanna

Developer's Diary

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This series of posts will be set Invisible for now. It contains a record of my actions and philosophy towards the development of EL's stories and quest, and is meant to be read by my successor, whenever he or she is appointed. After all, the continuing nature of this project means that I may not always be there in the future to help with development. Therefore, in order to promote continuity and ease my successor into the role, I'm preparing this well in advance. Should I leave, would one of the Forum mods or developers ensure that this can be seen by the right person?

 

-----------------------------------------

 

A Support for Stories

 

To My Successor,

 

Welcome to one of the most difficult and complex jobs within the framework of EL's development. I do admit, a large part of the difficulty has come about because of my particular philosophy towards development within Storylines and Quests, which I will outline below. I think the rewards outweigh the cost, though, which is why I have chosen to do things this way. The previous person in charge of stories (the creator of the game), Entropy, opted for the opposite approach instead. Which method you prefer is up to you... but I'm guessing that by the time you take over, the framework set by me would be solidly in place already - so it may be difficult to change.

 

Let me first outline the general scope of your position and role. You are the person in charge of the overall picture of Storylines and Quests. As such, you will be working on both sides of the border, primarily focusing on integrating them both together into a cohesive world. On one side, you will be dealing with writers submitting stories to be published in various forms within or without the game - which you will have to decide - and on the other side, you will have to prepare and review the quests being submitted by other people. I'll say this straight away - be prepared to give up any ambitious plans you have for writing. You simply WILL NOT have enough time to both manage and write at the same time... not if you want to do a good job at either. I had to make that difficult choice too, and I chose to give up writing. That's not to say that you will never write again - but rather your writing will be confined to "filler" pieces and whatever is necessary or needed at the time, rather than original masterpieces of script.

 

My philosophy towards the development of storylines and quests runs alongside that system. I have deliberately sought to get more and more people involved in the development of the game, rather than trying to do it all myself. The role I see myself doing is that of providing framework and tools for the players to create their own content. And then, after that, merging their content into a cohesive whole. This method, I feel, is the most productive over time - since you can have a lot of people working concurrently. Also, it makes players feel happy that they are somehow able to contribute to the game. It makes them feel valued. And because of that, they'll stick around. The longer they stick around, the more experience they get, so the higher the quality of their work becomes. You're essentially in the process of raising and training veteran story- and quest-writers.

 

The DOWNSIDE to this is that anything run by committee can get very scattered. That's why you need a strong framework to hold it all together, and a person who will be ultimately responsible for making sure all stories stick to that framework. That person happens to be you, and the framework is your Vision (or rather, the vision you inherit). For that reason, you'll need to be on your toes all the time, and always monitor the situation in Storylines & Quests. Don't be afraid to overrule someone when it's really needed - good writers will be able to handle your critiques, and most writers will quite happily change their stories to fit the larger picture. Authority, tempered by a willingness to listen and appreciation for writers' input, is the image I want to project - and I hope that you will project too. In all cases, never forget that respect for your leadership comes from example. Never have a separate standard for yourself (or your quest/stories). And if you want the writers to take a radically new approach to anything, make sure you do it yourself at least once, to let them know that you're in it with them.

 

 

Now, as to the details. When it comes to crafting a story for a MMORPG, the maxim to follow is "an infinite source of conflict that can be applied to any number of players". Because the world of an MMORPG is by necessity continuous, and since EL is highly combative, there always needs to be conflict in the world somewhere... and it has to come from an infinite source. Also, because a true multiplayer experience is that which allows players to SHARE a common world, the story must be able to be realistically applied to any given number of players. For that reason, I chose to work on the Curse of Mortos theme... where infinity is provided by the lack of an exit from this world. Therefore, the enemies can never leave this realm, and because of the influx of long-dead souls from the Underworld, this story can be applied to any number of players.

 

But remember, this is still only a framework. It provides a base (albeit a very wide one...) for roleplaying - that is all. The rest is up to the players to decide. And that is as it should be. Remember, your job is not to TELL the entire story of the game... but rather to give the players tools to tell their OWN stories - within the context. Your role is a supportive one. This should be reflected in any work you do in quests, or in creating story arcs for the game. Give players choices and tools - lots of them. A player would rather read his own created meta-story any day than your scripted one. Let him do so.

 

-Lyn-

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Building a Team

 

Our first major Storylines Contest is about to come to a close. So far, it seems to have been pretty successful - we have had close to 30 different entries, of varying quality. But more importantly, this has raised the profile of the Storylines Forum in the eyes of the player population. I've had people - strangers - telling me that my department is one of the most active and productive... that was very pleasant to hear. :unsure: Once this Storylines Contest comes to an end, we will be beginning the next stage of the project - putting these stories into in-game books. But that will be a very big task, which I am primarily leaving to the Storylines Staff to do, instead of myself.

 

As of right now, I have been pursuing my policy of recruiting and getting people involved. So far, Storylines boasts one sub-editor (Quinticus), a tool-developer (ttlanhil), and a steady proofreader (Brom). Most of my old regular writers seem to be returning as well - particularly Tumaros, Saii and Kayliana, whose work are the basis for the Historical Timeline. Derin has also been a spring of helpful ideas and nice artwork. He has good artwork skills, and has volunteered to do the background graphics for the in-game books and scrolls. Lachesis and crusadingKNIGHT have been working hand-in-hand with us to get the programming and XML formats done for us to use. However, the placing of books in-game will be a massive project, I fear.

 

On the Quests side, I have one regular Quest-writer (Lord Vermor), who is also taking a more active role in preparing resources for quest writers. He has compiled a complete list of NPCs, at my request. crannog and Jezebelle report that they are working on a series of six quests. There have also been scattered submissions from shasso, Wildcard, ember and ttlanhil via PM. I plan on eventually giving more people access to the Quests and Storylines Forum, so that they can turn it into a lively place as well... and so that we can start team-building. Right now, it seems as though everyone is busy on their own separate quests, and don't really care about each other's. Pulling this team together and integrating them is going to be hard work, I'm afraid.

 

I have started to formalise a quest-writing and submission format and procedure, to make things easier on everyone. This includes compiling a list of tools, flags, triggers and examples to use during quests. The greatest difficulty faced by the quests right now, however, is the fact that there are too few programmers. The backlog of work in front of Grum and mihaim is truly mountainous. I will need to examine ways in which the process of implementing quests can be speeded up. Perhaps additional, specialised quest-programmers can be trained. Or a Quest-Builder tool, that automatically converts as much into code as possible, can be made. However, all this will take time. For the moment, I'll try to ask permission to train more volunteers in Small programming, and for them to be given access to the Quests Forum, so that they can take some of the burden off Grum and mihaim.

 

In addition to the Storylines and Quests going on, I have also encouraged people to start developing tools and building teams for the eventual goal of a Live Story team. Right now, I have asked LabRat to work on integrating a movie-camera feature into his client, for later usage to 'film' cutscenes and major plot-points. Gunslingers and JaneMuffin, in a parallel development, have volunteered to lead the beginnings of a Live Story team, aimed at producing more Role-Playing and general events to keep the world lively. I don't know how well it will work out, since they seem to be facing difficulties from the lack of support and enthusiasm of the rest of the EL players. The first big project that they have taken on is the organisation of an EL Human Chess game. chatterbug68 seems to be willing to help them in making the modified client. Perhaps he would be willing to join the team. I wish I could provide more support for them, but I simply cannot afford to spread myself too thin.

 

In another parallel development, the_antiroot has begun to program bots for facilitating player wars. I helped him to write the background stories and settings for the four guilds of JADE, LYNX, HAWK and FURY. Perhaps, given more time, this can be merged with the Live Story team and a full-time writer assigned to documenting their wars (a war correspondent, perhaps?). However, as of now, there is not enough staff to go around. It is times like this that I really miss Adyna and her EL Times team. A suitable, dynamic editor that could restart the newspaper would be very welcome - and take a load off my mind. However, I can't do anything about it right now. They must volunteer themselves.

 

The goal of a complete, integrated Live Story team working together on all aspects of multimedia (events, backstories, quests, storylines, newspapers, movies, etc.) seems very far away. Yet, I believe one day it can be done. That is the ultimate end I am aiming for, and I hope that you, my successor, will be able to embrace that vision too, and carry it on after I'm gone. Therefore, I am training and encouraging people now, in all areas outlined above, to develop their skills so that there will be a support network of people underneath you that can handle any task you throw at them.

 

-Lyn-

Edited by Lyanna

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Know Your Skills

 

In this position, it is vitally important that you understand the skills that both you and the other people involved in Storylines/Quests bring to the team. You see, I run Storylines/Quests like a department in a major company. As such, this is more of a managerial role than anything else. Thus, it is not necessary for the Head to have ALL the skills below - just as long as there is a team member who does have those skills and is utilising them to the fullest. I just happen to bring all five skills to the position. But you do not have to, if there is someone who can do the job just as well. In fact, that's what I'm trying to do now: start training specialists in these skills, so that the burden on me is lessened.

 

The Five Skills, in order of rarity, are:

 

Writing Skills: This is the most common one. A lot of people can write, and quite a fair number of them can write well. Of course, to be a decent head, you should have some writing ability. Writers respect people who can write as well or better than they can. Lead by example - at first, anyway. Later on, there will be very little time to write. But since writing talent is so plentiful (compared to the others), this is the least problem you have to worry about. Of course, different people will have different strengths and weaknesses in their writing style/techniques (poetry, narrative, epic, characterization, dialogues), but that's not something to worry about at the moment.

 

People Management Skills: The skill of managing people and organising them into a team to do something together. All Guildmasters have this, to some extent. Some have it more than others. Among the Storylines/Quest people, Quinticus, Lord_Vermor (and to a lesser extent, Derin) have this skill. They can motivate people, and get them together, organise activities and pull them off successfully. The first Storylines Contest is almost wholly due to Quinticus's efforts. Lord_Vermor specialises more in events management, however. If you want to run a team successfully, this skill is important. Of course, the storylines can be done without a team (ie. Entropy's style)... it's just harder and longer. I operate on a larger scale - trying to spot talents and recruiting them for Storylines purposes.

 

Critical Editing Skills: This is much harder to come by. It is easy to write. It is easy to read. To critique, to proofread, to detect flaws in style and structure, and to be able to point them out in a tactful manner is a more difficult task. Of course, anyone with a fairly good command of the English language can proofread, but I'm looking for someone with enough experience and/or analytical ability to see how to improve a writer's style and technique. In any case, currently Brom and Aislinn are doing proofreading. I'm not sure if freeone3000 is still interested. A good critic is hard to find.

 

Systems Building Skills: Even harder to find. The ability to grasp, build and manipulate complex systems of information is very important when you're dealing with lots of facts and figures. To be able to see how a tiny detail in one story here will affect a major event in another story there, to remember and correlate historical figures and events into a comprehensive timeline, to develop procedures and methods for future writers to submit their work... all this is systems building. Of the people in Storylines/Quests, there are no real talents in this skill at the moment, although Derin and Quinticus show some promise. ttlanhil and Lord_Vermor have it, to a much lesser extent. Lachesis and Ravenod, although not involved in Storylines per se, would probably be good examples of this type of skilled people. I've been trying to find someone willing to be an Archivist for a long time, but there has been no result.

 

Creative Innovation Skills: The hardest to define, and the hardest to come by. It is not just mere creativity in imagination (as in "writer's inspiration"), but rather, the ability to innovate. To see the future, and project it back into the present. To be aware of the trends, and how to shape them into the ideal utopia. For an example, I know what I'm aiming for very clearly: an integrated, multimedia approach to storylines and quests (involving movie cutscenes, server-triggered events, background history, a live events team, websites and newspaper announcements). And I know what I'm aiming for in the theme (the basic question to ask is: "Does Life really equal Good and Death really equal Bad?". A subtext of this is to reflect back the player's morality in the choices that they make in the quests, via morally-explosive situations, like euthanasia, monster genocide, etc.). To be original... not in setting (medieval fantasy is a common genre), nor in structure (there's only so much you can do with regards to quest presentation and format after all... Roja's been pushing for that, anyway), but in style (different methods, controversial theme). As you can tell, I'm the only one that has this at the moment. But I'm hoping that you will have it too. It can be trained, I think. The inspiration can be passed down from one to another. But it will require dedication, and a lot of reading. A LOT of reading. And thinking, too.

 

 

Remember, it is not necessary for you to have all five - as long as someone in the team has them, and you're listening to what they say with regards to that skill, then I think you'll do fine. If you don't have those skills yet, try to find and recruit them as soon as possible. It is important if you want a growing, motivated and productive development team.

 

-Lyn-

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Quinticus, if you can read this, please respond. I'm planning to retire soon again, since RL duties will be piling up, and I'd like to leave you in charge of Storylines.

 

-Lyn-

Edited by Lyanna

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Okay, apparently Quinticus still can't see Invisible posts. :) (Somebody do something about that, please...)

 

Right, I'm making this visible now. This is primarily for the reference of my successor(s). I will be retiring again shortly, by July 20th, to focus more on RL issues. Therefore, the Storylines and Quests duties will be split up into two separate responsibilities.

 

Quinticus will be the overall person in charge of Storylines, with ttlanhil under him as the head of the Publishing sub-division (for in-game books). Your task is to continue to build the framework for the backstory of the game, and to encourage player-submitted fanfiction, for publication either on EL.com, EL.net, or in-game. Issues like explaining the religion, beliefs, history and cultures of the races also fall under your jurisdiction. Luckily, I've outlined the basic Storylines Development Plan for the next 6 months, so all you have to do is to follow that to get a running start on catching up with my work.

 

A joint-committee of Crannog, Derin, and Lord_Vermor will be in charge of Quests. Your task is first to train and build up a larger network of quest writers, and a smoother quest implementation routine. Once that's done, then quest-writing can go much quicker. Also, one (or all) of you will have to take up the responsibility of being the person to whom players will submit quests and quest ideas to. You'll need to provide constant feedback and critical analysis of the players' quests. All three of you should familiarise yourselves with the back story being developed in the Storylines Forum, so that you can tie-in the quests to that.

 

Before I leave, I'll try to do the following things:

- Critique and edit the winning entries in the Storylines Contest, so that conversion to XML can be done straightaway. (Stage #1 of SDP) [done]

 

- Rewrite the current NPC quest scripts to reflect the Main Story of EL. (This will just be a patch job though... I had initially planned on a much wider scope of quests, but it looks like I've run out of time).

 

- Finish off the Recommended Quest Submission Format and publish it in the Announcements Forum, for wannabe quest-writers to read. [almost done]

 

* If I have time, I'll also try to do some referencing of the Historical Timeline to the stories I've taken the events from. [done]

 

 

 

Up to and until someone steps up to fill my position again, you guys will all have to work very closely together, as well as with the various other people tied in with Storylines. Lachesis or crusadingKNIGHT, please give Quinticus/ttlanhil access to the CVS languages repository for publishing purposes. Forum mods, Quinticus should also get access to the Storylines and Quests Forum, for story continuity referencing, please. Good luck with everything. I'll still be around for a limited time, so any questions you guys want to ask, ask now. :):P

 

-Lyn-

Edited by Lyanna

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I would like to say first, and foremost, that I hate to see you go, Lyanna. You are a true inspiration and a pleasure work with. Durring your tenure, you have done much to make Eternal Lands a more interesting and enjoyable place to experience. It goes without saying that it is very saddening to see such a great leader go. I truely hope your real life endeavors yield much happiness.

 

As far as the offer to taking charge of Storylines, I will accept. However, filling the shoes you will leave behind is a colosal task! :) I can honestly say I have never witnessed anyone bring together so many components as eloquently as you have. I believe, though, that with the resources and advice you have left, Storylines will continue to be lively place with a great future.

 

Thank you so very much for your commitment with Storylines, and i'm happy that we have you at least for a little bit longer!

Edited by Quinticus

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Aww, I feel so touched now. :(:):P

 

I've enjoyed myself in Storylines and Quests... it's fun to create a world for people to live in. And I'm glad that you guys are taking up your responsibilities well. :) I'll pop in now and then after I'm gone to say hi and take a look at how you're doing. Don't disappoint me! (I'm sure you won't)

 

-Lyn-

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quint said it better than I would have, so I couldn't think of much to add <_<

I'll pop in now and then after I'm gone to say hi and take a look at how you're doing. Don't disappoint me! (I'm sure you won't)

177141[/snapback]

we will if you don't!

 

visit or else we'll need to recall you :)

Edited by ttlanhil

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Long Live Lyanna

to bad you leave can you get me a job in the team plz ive got lots time now

177215[/snapback]

there's always a lot of work waiting for people to do, mostly smaller tasks, your help would be most welcome 8^)

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Long Live Lyanna

to bad you leave can you get me a job in the team plz ive got lots time now

177215[/snapback]

 

You may want to work on your writing skills first, it isn't very good.

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Aragorn1 though there are some areas in which you could improve (as Lord_Vermor pointed out) your eagerness seems very genuine. We will gladly do our best to provide a place in which you can contribute as you would like.

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