Topic: Becoming Comfortably Uncomfortable (aka Embrace the Suck)
This discussion brings together a couple of topics. Specifically the "new player experience", "being successful at Sindome" and to a lesser extent "Ideas".
My premise is that one way to "win at Sindome" is to embrace and ACCEPT the "reality" that at best, at the very best, as a player people will get comfortable with being uncomfortable. They must accept that discomfort in the form of stress and less than optimal situations that they have little to no control over are par for the course.
Characters will be in one of three states. Either recovering from an adverse situation or experience, in the middle of an adverse experience or situation, or about to be subjected to an adverse situation or experience. And they will either be the initiator of that, or the recipient of that.
Those situations are likely to be beyond a single character to resolve. Nobody in their right mind is going to pick on someone stronger than them. Immigrants are playing in the exact same environment as players who have been around for a decade, or even two. There is no such thing as an even or fair playing field. Characters will always be disadvantaged in some way. Or not optimally suited (in stats, skills, gear, relationships, etc.) for any given situation.
The uneven playing field, and the lack of being in an optimal state to face a challenge is not a problem with the game, or the rules, or the code, or the theme. It is not something that needs to be "fixed". It is the game. And players either get comfortable with that, or they fail.
Specifically to the new player experience, this needs to be communicated better and perhaps contrasted with the "typical" gaming experience that players are likely used to. Specifically; there is not a "starting area" where characters are safe. There is not a progression system in which characters are gradually introduced to challenges that they "should be" able to overcome. There is not an "end game" for characters to reach.
Lastly, the game is not about any one specific character. Compared with an MMO where a character is guided through a mostly gentle progression where they are gradually introduced to more skills and abilities at a comfortable pace, Sindome throws them into the deep end of the pool. There is not a grouping or match making system to ensure that a "party" with complimentary skills is put together to face the challenges. While there are some part time lifeguards and maybe another sympathetic swimmer or two, there are also sharks in the water and people standing around the edge who want to make sure that the new character never pulls themselves up out of the pool.
In effect, there are two primary "games" to Sindome. The first game is to survive. In that regard, Sindome is like a survival horror game. They are plenty of ways to fail, and a couple of ways to succeed. Players need to create a character that is capable of surviving. Only after players have become competent at surviving can they start playing the second game, which is thriving (plotting, scheming, etc.)
I realize that there are day one immigrants who can come in, RP their asses off, make a bunch of friends and plot from there. But those situations are so rare as to be practically not even worth mentioning because we run the risk of creating unreasonable expectations for the average new player.
To stay on track and try to sum up, as a community we will serve ourselves and new players better if we find ways to effectively communicate this. And by this I mean, that players will be uncomfortable, being uncomfortable is part and parcel of the experience, and there will be little to nothing a character and/or their player can do to get rid of the aspects of the game that are causing the discomfort.
We also need to communicate that we are sympathetic and understanding. Humans have evolved to either move towards pleasure or away from pain. In Sindome, there is plenty of pain... so much so that it might seem inescapable. And pleasure is hard to find. And often times if you find it, it comes with strings attached. Playing on Sindome is going to conflict with innate biology on a lot of levels.
As part of communicating sympathy and understanding, we can provide examples of long term players who still struggle with getting comfortable. The recent discussion on revamping Perception is a perfect example. Plenty of long term players made the case that "perception gets in the way of my RP" and "perception makes the game uncomfortable and confusing for new players." Yes. And? That's not a bug, that's a feature. But human nature wants to see it as a bug. Human nature wants to "fix it", both for selfish reasons (individual RP) and for community reasons (making the game world more accessible and comfortable for new players).
Wrapping it up, I find my thoughts coming back to the comparison and contrast with the majority of "games" out there. Most games confer upon their characters at some point what are more or less super human abilities. The ability to fight world threatening and destroying monsters. The ability to master dozens of weapons and overcome untold scores of NPCs. The ability to jump right into the action and go head to head against other players on a mostly even playing field. The implicit promise that if a player grinds long enough, and sticks it out long enough, that eventually their character will "power up" to the point where the game becomes if not an outright cakewalk, at least fairly easy.
I think our question is, as a community, do we want Sindome to devolve to cater to the lowest common denominator of gamers and people in general? Or do we want to cultivate and maintain the kind of experience that really challenges people to grow?
And I mean that seriously. Accepting Suck is not easy. Accepting that the world is not about us as individuals, that we are not owed anything, that we are less capable (or experienced, or practiced, or whatever) than those around us is not a "fun fantasy" to escape to is difficult. Not everyone is wired that way. I believe that the large majority of people want to be in charge, they want to be control, they want to feel some sense of ownership over their destiny, they want to be rewarded for time spent on an activity. It is difficult for most people to give those up, and down right impossible for others.
But, that's the game. And the better that we do communicating that to new (and old) players, the better we will be as a community.
Embrace the Suck. Aspire to be Comfortable with the Uncomfortable. Maybe even replace Fear that something with go wrong, with Curiosity about what comes next. Because whether you want it to or not, something is definitely coming next. =)