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Behind the Curtain

I’ve been an administrator for three and a half years – and I can say, without question, that I’ve changed, and grown, in that time. On the occasion a player will send me an OOC message in-game, or a forum message, or a comment, or an e-mail, etc, thanking me for the work I do – that all admin do – to make Lusternia a place everyone comes to enjoy. Of course, these always tickle me, but it’s not the ‘thank you’s that make it worthwhile.

Perhaps the most drawing, intriguing and compelling thing of being an administrator, for me, is affecting the world around me – as a player, being at the centre of events was exciting. Not necessarily for the attention (though that’s always grand too) but because in a way, affecting a change on something much larger than you (or, at least, feeling as though you are) was the true rush. Shifting into an administrator’s role was, in hindsight, the natural evolution of things. At first it was the twin opportunities of being the centre of attention and paying back the enjoyment I’d reaped for so long – but eventually, those things fade. I’m sure most of Celest can tell you I’m nigh omnipresent, yet I rarely interact with those who do not seek me (well, Eventru) out. A stark change from just three years ago.

The reality is that I’ve found my greatest enjoyment to be contributing and allowing players a space to enjoy the game – as a result I’ve produced probably more areas than any other active god excluding Estarra, and have had at the least my fingers in every major event (and many minor ones) over the past three years. From the good to the bad, down to the awful and up to the most loved events, I’ve ridden through them all, often strapped into a bucket with a tinfoil hat on my head, and a sack of potatoes for a seat belt, riding on the top of a metaphorical train, with Lyreth, Estarra and gods now since gone shrieking at me about how insane I clearly, clearly am.

Events are pretty difficult things to stare down – the easiest and smoothest events are those that are scripted. Influence 50000 angels, every 10000 you get a big shiny ball of light. 5 balls, you save the world from certain oblivion. Simplicity is where most administrators – myself included – will idle when we’re nervous. As the difficult of events grow, so does the complexity and therefore both the amount of work required to prepare for it and the venues for error – often exponentially. Often times a very simple event becomes as much work as an area – or more. You can spend weeks scripting and scripting, designing and building and tweaking and testing, all for something that will happen once, and only once. Needlessly said, this can become a monumental task – and particularly daunting.

Most (every!) player wants an open-ended event – they want to be able to affect the game in a very real way. This is, of course, next to impossible – even I cannot script events that quickly (and there’s been several occasions we’ve shifted directions mid-event, and it has left me scrambling to pump out scripts at god awful speeds with little testing in hopes of keeping up with players), and so we’re left with two options. Option one is to do nothing and force an event in a given direction – this is something that can be done any number of ways. The first is to make it an obvious and straightforward event – again, simplicity is key. Then there’s the ancient, unholy doom weighing upon yon mortals, that’s always a good motivator to ensure they do not think nor linger too long on whether or not to help young Mary in her quest to vanquish the eldritch horrors of the Soulless God Muud in a single, heart-breaking act of salf-sacrifice and love. Either way, this is your standard event, particularly when they’re small in size.

One such event was the release of the Kelpie Maiden – it was simple, straight-forward and targetted for Celest. Of course New Celest will help the piratical merian lord Yadothune Nerale in his quest to find a sculpture blessed by the Voice of Rhapsody. These events are small in scale, easy to write, take a few days of scripting, a day of testing, and a few hours or a day to run. They’re pretty small events.

From there, we can jump in size a bit – these tend to be conflict events, where it’s one org set against another org. The simplest exampe that comes to mind is Terentia’s re-release, when her and Fain were found fighting in the Void. They were struggling with some soulless horror and were saved – but both were unconscious. It became a race to see who poured the most essence into resurrecting their god – the winner claimed the Eye of Dynara, which later lead into another event entirely.

Conflict events can grow in size, consuming multiple orgs. These events, be they org v org or orgs v (insert horror here), can lead to some interesting situations – and this is where event designers are often tested. Designing multiple outcomes can become next to impossible – scripting whole quests, a half dozen or so, knowing only one will ever be used… Yeah right! The easiest means of manipulating that, and a tactic we often employ, is one wherein the quests are nigh identical, but require different ingredients. While Bob may demand red flowers, Susie will demand blue – both are gotten from hunting down the maniacal, prune-wielding murderous gardeners that have invaded the Forests, intent on creating the perfect hedge maze.

Ahh, this is running long. Needlessly said – the work isn’t easy! While some rare few admin might be able to produce events in a few days, the best are often hatched over weeks, or even months – where we have the opportunity to stroke our chin and eyeball the design, look for where players might want to have a second option, and if we want to offer it. And often, for me at least, the argument for the ‘if’ is more rooted in ‘Where will the storyline go’, not ‘do I want to pick on them today’. And then the question will always stand – ‘is this too hard?’ My, what a question. ‘Is this too hard’, you ask – or far more likely, ‘THIS IS TOO HARD!!!’, you scream – you can probably blame someone like me for that. No, no – I am not a sadist. I do not sit and wonder how to ‘screw’ over New Celest (or insert organisation here) – instead, I want to challenge them.

Events that are ‘ez’ are rarely enticing – they are not the events that are remembered with great fondness, nor with great heartache. No, it is the ones that cause your heart to break for the suffering of the characters as someone slays the very spirit they worship, so that he may cleanse your forest of an vengeful and spectral evil – or to soar with victory as you defeat the last of the insidious Gnafia’s foul machines, whooping triumphantly, surrounded by a battlefield littered with smoking gears and blackened sprogs, weeping wogglewheels and the occasional rigglespocket.

In closing, three tips for would-be administrators:

One: There is not enough coffee in the world to keep you up for the length of time that players often drag events out – even when a small, 4 hour event with a curious little girl and ancient assassins drags on to 12 and 15 hours.
Two: Bathroom breaks, and by proxy bladders, are for the weak. Administrators must evolve beyond them.
Three: The most dreaded words in an event is not ‘Who is mposing Maeve’, nor ‘They think Elohora is actually Morgfyre’ – no. It’s ‘So, how’s the events post coming?’

P.S. – it still isn’t Gaudiguch.

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