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Author Topic: Forum re-construction under way  (Read 14193 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: January 25, 2006, 03:53:42 PM »

Hi there,

Clinton and I were doing some talking. Here's what we came up with.

Basically, poor old Indie Design has been pulling triple duty for far too long now. It's cluttered and despite moments of brilliance, usually low-utility. I gave some thought to the different needs it serves, and broke them out as follows.

1. New poster, game idea, half the time presenting it out of a perceived need to fit in, and the other half working from a "it's so cool" perspective. However, for someone new to the forum, this is the obvious entry point and social method of approach. They're dead wrong, but there's no way for them to know that, and all the signs and stickies and introductory text in the world won't change that. And if we bar this sort of posting, that's the wrong kind of bar - it's a slammed door, to too many people.

Solution: they need interaction and a repetition of the mantra, "what in your play-experience led you to propose this idea." Person 1 has never played cyberpunk anything and wants to; person 2 has never played anything else and keeps repeating its tropes because that's all he knows. They both present a cyberpunk idea for a game, devoid of any real structure, but since they have different play-histories, they have different needs.

2. People with real games in solid development who are tinkering with them, either stalled at a particular stage (addicted to it, more like) or plugging along on a nice design trajectory. Flatly, what they need is actual playtesting, whether by themselves or by others, and a place to deal with what everyone finds out.

Solution: well, this one's obvious - classic focused Forge-ish interaction and discourse. It would be good to work out a better scheme and set of issues to help game designers with this crucial step, and keep the discussion about it from getting swamped by other stuff.

3. People presenting and involved in design projects, such as the original 24-Hour game, the Iron Game Chef, the Ronnies, and others. Someone posts a set of rules and steps up and carries out the submissions and feedback, Perhaps linked to other websites, perhaps not.

Solution: also obvious, what we've been doing semi-regularly anyway, just in its own forum. I should clarify that I'm saying anyone can suggest an endeavor, the activities wouldn't be run by any one person.

H'm, we said. Why not three forums instead of one? Respectively, (1) "New here? Got an idea?" (2) "Playtesting Hotbed" and (3) "Endeavor," for tentative names (the only one I'm really sold on is the last). The first two are really Actual Play in disguise, if you think about it. Also, Actual Play would remain itself, although obviously a certain number of posts that currently go there would now go into one of the others.

That puts the main forums at these three, Actual Play, and Publishing. Site Discussion has been obsolete for a long time, as it's pretty clear that Clinton and I don't want site discussions. Fuck site discussions, with rare exceptions like this thread. Maybe a whole new interface ought to be created for any such function, make it part of the pulldown menu or something like that.

How about the others? I gotta say, I've received many messages with good links for the theory-archive forums, but have not been good about updating them. I hope to fix that. But they'll remain, never fear. A couple of people have come up with some very useful ideas about creating indexes for them.

I know that in the past we talked about an "Ask Ron" forum (probably with a much better name) for Big Model talk, but as it happens, the recent Actual Play threads which explicitly ask Creative Agenda or Big Model questions have been very effective. I answer questions about the ideas much better in that context anyway. At the moment, I'm not seeing much need for a whole forum "about me."

Well, that's about it. Clinton and I are (for once) interested in discussing all this. Part of it, admittedly, is just so all the dog-howls of horror can arise and be put behind us, M.J. can tell us that he doesn't like change (we knew that, but he has to say it), and doom & gloom can be predicted. Who knows, though, someone might well propose something great that we didn't think of.

Best,
Ron
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2006, 04:02:10 PM »

What's going to stop "New Here?  Got An Idea?" from being some sorry little forum where new folks post and the old salts ignore?

I thoroughly endorse a Playtesting forum; I suggest the emphasis be reports on playtesting and the edits being done in response.

Do projects started in Endeavor move over to New Here once the contest's over but the designer's still pursuing development?  Or do they brew there until they're in Playtesting?  (Not a question that has a short, sweet answer, I know.)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2006, 04:24:05 PM »

Hi Joshua!

Quote
What's going to stop "New Here?  Got An Idea?" from being some sorry little forum where new folks post and the old salts ignore?

My boot up your ass.

Actually, more practically if less enjoyably, I'm thinking of better and more immediately understandable stickies for all the forums, and this one would be the toughest. If I can do it right, and if even a few prepared folks back me up at the outset, we can set a good precedent.

And remember, some of the new folks turn out to be pure gold, just one post later after their "kewl quarterstaff rulez" initial post. I think a better, clearer forum will reveal these folks much more often, and that heightened payoff will act as incentive for at least some of us to persist as welcomers.

Quote
I thoroughly endorse a Playtesting forum; I suggest the emphasis be reports on playtesting and the edits being done in response.

Um, yes. That is what I had in mind, can't really imagine any other way to do it.

Quote
Do projects started in Endeavor move over to New Here once the contest's over but the designer's still pursuing development?  Or do they brew there until they're in Playtesting?  (Not a question that has a short, sweet answer, I know.)

Individual cases will vary, but my current thinking is that New Here really is for "new here's," and one doesn't really go back to it unless a de novo notion hits you and you just wanna share it.

Seems to me as well that Endeavor submissions would get their threads of feedback, however many are appropriate to that project's details, in there, but then later, if the designer basically moves on, then Playtesting and Publishing are the logical next forums. E.g., the recent Space Rat thread would now be in the Playtesting forum, not the Endeavor forum, if that's how it were set up now.

Oh yeah, and I think I mentioned it, but just for clarity, Playtesting refers to anyone playing the game in development, not just the designer.

Good questions! And you didn't tell us we were obviously unholy fucks for changing things 'round more. Or maybe you just figured that repeating the obvious wasn't constructive.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2006, 04:28:17 PM »

Oh yeah! And I forgot to mention, the "New Here" forum intro or some aspect of its interface would certainly be integrated with useful introductory help, like Troy's Socratic Design blog and similar places.

I'm also thinking that pointers to my and others' essays might do better in the intro to Actual Play. Maybe, maybe not.

Best,
Ron
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dindenver
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« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2006, 04:55:27 PM »

Hi!
  Sounds good. I know as a noob/semi-noob, I was a little daunted as to how to get started here. I think you may be creating a confusion between Actual Play and Playtesting. But that might just be me looking for trouble where none exists.
  If there is anything I can do to assist, let me know.
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Dave M
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2006, 05:03:26 PM »

Playtesting = Actual Play specifically intended to produce feedback and informs the design of that game in specific
Actual Play = Actual Play on games no longer in development, intended to produce feedback and inform the design of other games in forum-goer's heads

Yeah?
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Judd
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« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2006, 05:11:33 PM »

There is a part of me that thinks Playtesting should be folded over into Actual Play, but perhaps that forum has heavy enough a burden already.

I dunno.
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jburneko
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« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2006, 05:27:53 PM »

I'm inclined to agree with Joshua that a seperate "New Here/Idea" forum might "ghettoize" newbies.  I also find the purpose of the "Endeaveors" a little odd since it seems to service a kind of phenomenon that is not necessarily specific to the The Forge (if fully in line with The Forge's goals).  Collapsing those two into a single: "Think Tank" forum seems more sound.  So, participation here follows a natural progression:

"Think Tank" --> This is where the pen and paper part of design (newbie design, 24 hour, Ronnies, whatever) gets discussed which eventually moves to:

"Playtesting" --> As you say, 'Actual Play' for works in progress which leads to:

"Publishing" --> Get that design out the door and to the masses which finally ends up in:

"Actual Play" --> On going discussion of our play experiences.

That's a natural progression that doesn't over specialize.  The one fear is the temptation to stay in "Think Tank" forever *hangs own head in shame* but it might aid the progession because the phenomenon can be pointed out, "Hey, you've got 29 posts in 'Think Tank' where's that 'Playtesting' post?"

Jesse
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Eric Provost
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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2006, 05:37:20 PM »

Wow.  I really like the idea of the progression idea there,  Jesse.  I dig it a lot.

Also;  I wave my flag against the noobie Forum.  Nothing new to say about it.  Nothing that Joshua and Jesse haven't already said.

-Eric
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2006, 06:36:15 PM »

Well, if the three of you made even one post a day helping the new folks in Indie Design as it currently stands, like Troy Costisick and Bill Masek do, then maybe there wouldn't be any issue about that, now would there? Buncha blog-boy smartypants.

In our current situation, we have three choices:

- Drown in posts by new folks in a state of confusion
- Provide a place for them that does not isolate them, but transforms them
- Put up and enforce standards for posting that basically shuts them up

I see the potential pitfalls in the second one, but I see even more clearly the destructive qualities of the first and third.

The current tendency for people to get stuck in the "designing not playing" stage (Eric and Joshua, you are not in this trap) is pretty bad. I'm hesitant to allow people to wallow in the Think Tank, which carries all the horrors for me that RPG Theory came to have over the last few years.

Don't let the tone and content of this post throw you. You guys are making sense and providing much food for thought. I'll make cranky noises along the way, that's all.

Best,
Ron
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daMoose_Neo
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2006, 09:12:07 PM »

I really like the idea of an introductory section, be it for posters or for games. Myself, I've stopped posting to the Indie Design with my latest project because of the sheer weight of new posts flowing freely in, my project posts drop off the pages never to be seen again. I chime in more on Publishing because this is an aspect I'm becoming more familiar with, but for the time being my focused design posts and playable documents are being lost amid educating a dozen new folks with "kewl" games who want to share, right fully.
So I like it, an intro forum to iron out the newbies which progresses into a more focused "This is my current design, this is the bug I have, this is what I want to know from you"
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
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« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2006, 01:13:16 AM »

- Drown in posts by new folks in a state of confusion
- Provide a place for them that does not isolate them, but transforms them
- Put up and enforce standards for posting that basically shuts them up
...
I'm hesitant to allow people to wallow in the Think Tank, which carries all the horrors for me that RPG Theory came to have over the last few years.

Prediction: in a few years, you'll be as tired of having to constantly moderate the newbie/entry-level section as you've been with the RPG theory forum. But that's a problem for then, not now.

I really like the progression idea, and it would indeed be optimal if things move that way, but there's one element that seriously needs solving: the further one progresses, the more intimate knowledge of the games discussed - both rules- and play-experiencewise - is required. It's extremely hard to consistently contribute to the "upper level" discussions if one doesn't own a copy of (or hasn't repeatedly read drafts of, if it's a work in progress) the game being discussed. Unless regulated somehow, instead of the /clear design focus/ I see as the primary intent behind all the recent and upcoming changes, you'll get a cult-like structure where one has to buy certain games in order to be considered a contributing member. When everything is tied to the actual games, not only direct applicability to but also dependency on the games increases. How do you plan on solving this problem?

The only solution I can come up with is to have a mandatory policy on all games here, when they pass a certain point in development (defined by you) to post a short summary of the game's /general/ traits on either the design house's forum (so TAO would have a Sticky "What is Polaris about and how does it work" thread, for example) or on a separate archive section ("Games developed in association with the Forge"). Think Sorcerer's "About the Game" combined with a bit of extra info on how it deals with thematic stuff. If possible, with some uniform rules on presentation so that people could look at the descriptions and see the major stilistic or system differences (say, "this game favors tragic narrative" vs. "this game is about only one story told repeatedly from different perspectives"). In addition to facilitating discussion, it would probably serve as a good point for curious people looking for a new game to see which Actual Play threads would most likely be of interest to them.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2006, 02:48:26 AM »

Heya,

Quote
I'm inclined to agree with Joshua that a seperate "New Here/Idea" forum might "ghettoize" newbies.

-Uh, it's up to us to make sure that doesn't happen.  Your concern is actually encouraging to me.  It means that you have a desire to see these new guys succeed and don't want to see them neglected.  Awesome!  I'd suggest that you take it upon yourself then to post feedback in those forums and help these guys out.  It's actually quite rewarding and it helps you think about your own games at the same time.

Quote
you didn't tell us we were obviously unholy fucks for changing things 'round more.


-Ron, you and Clinton are...eh forget it. You know what you are.  Anyway, I totally dig this idea.  The Indie-Design forum is SO swamped with new posts it's hard to keep something your helping out with on the front page long enough to give it some serious thought.  I always feel rushed to respond so the poster doesn't get discouraged because his thread vanished :(  So yes, whoohoo!  Just one question though.  Is the "New Here Design" meant for people who are actually new to the Forge or designs that are just in their "I want a game that does this 'cool thin', how do I make that work?" that are proposed by anybody?

-One thing I'd like to throw out as an idea is to create a "Closed" forum that contains threads with all the links from great posts in Theory, GNS, Publishing, Design and Actual Play.  It would be a kind of "New Here?" thing too.  When people show up for the first time with all their great ideas, they could do some reading in that Forum and get some of their questions answered right there.  It's also a great place to put all the etiquette stickies and "How to Post in all these Forums" stickies so they don't clutter up the forums actually in use. 

-Well, it's an embryo of an idea anyway.  I just think it'd be need to get rid of a lot of the stickies and have a forum for reading that wasn't quite as esotericly named as RPG Theory or GNS Discussion.  There is SO much good information in all the old posts, but I can well believe some new guy would be reluctant to dive into a forum named Theory when he's just now proposing his first fantasy heartbreaker.

Peace,

-Troy
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2006, 09:23:36 AM »

My only concern, with "new here" in the forum title, is sending a message that the gateway for new users is bringing your design ideas to the table. Despite the ubiquity of the "system doesn't matter" mantra, I think gamers in general skew way over to design as the solution for their play frustrations and unrealized desires, rather than to reflection, new creative architectures, and social dynamics. Despite placement of Actual Play at the top of the forum list, Indie Game Design remains the preferred entry of choice for most new users. So is the "new here" forum an admission of defeat, an acknowledgement that we can't direct new users to reflection, different creative architectures, and attention to social dynamics through forum arrangement? Because it seems a little insulting to capture the subset of new arriving Forgites who would otherwise have an Actual Play realization by a "new here" forum that invites design ideas, only to then toss them back at Actual Play. I dunno, I guess my general preference on this would be for honesty over well-intentioned dishonesty. How about a forum for:

    New user? What Actual Play experience brings you to The Forge?

Paul
« Last Edit: January 26, 2006, 09:25:07 AM by Paul Czege » Logged

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Nathan P.
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« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2006, 09:36:14 AM »

I have a couple of logistical questions. What happens to all the threads currently in Design? Will you and Clinton slot the active ones into the new forums? Will you archive the forum and tell everyone to start new threads? Finally, do you anticipate that there will be a rise in moderation work with closing threads that are more appropriate for one design forum than another, or moving those threads? I just wouldn't want you to sour on the idea a couple months down the road because doing that kind of thing becomes a big time waster.

I think Paul brings up a good point. Here's an idea: keep Actual Play at the top and rename it to New Here & Actual Play, and have the next one be New Here & Initial Game Design. I guess those are a little clunky, but they get across that there are two ports of entry, one through play and one through design, and that both new and old hands are invited to post in both (thats the point of the "&").
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Nathan P.
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