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Thread: The NeS through 99 Lenses

  1. #81
    Lens #63: The Lens of Beauty

    We love to experience things of great beauty. Use this lens to make your game a joy forever by asking yourself these questions:
    • What elements make up my game? How can each one be more beautiful?
    • Some things are not beautiful by themselves, but are beautiful in combination. How can the elements of my game be composed in a way that is poetic and beautiful?
    • What does beauty mean within the context of my game?
    While elements of the NeS that could be evaluated by its beauty could include any number of things previously mentioned, such as its experience, the holographic design of the elemental tetrad, the themes that unify it, whatever generally provides pleasure, its flow, its functional space, its emergent qualities, the actions taken, its elegence, its character, what it inspires us to imagine, and how it provides control (in the context of interfaces), I'm uncertain which of these best benefit from this particular analysis. To default with a rather simplistic take, the elements that make up the NeS are primarily those of describing characters, their words and actions (which often drive conflict) and the context of any given scene. These can be made more beautiful with the staples of good writing: concrete descriptions, strong verbs, and metaphors and other such poetic language that help show the story in a (literally) attractive light.

    Beauty in combination... sounds like something that should hit the mark with the NeS. As I've hammered home again and again, collaboration among writers will help make the story more beautiful, all working to solve the narrative problems together. Themes help unify, of course, as does proper functional space. Otherwise, I think the NeS seems to do a fairly decent job of seemingly combining elements together in a beautiful way as it is.

    But what does beauty mean in the context of the NeS? Perhaps it involves elegance, or truth to its character. Perhaps, if beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, beauty is the experience of the NeS, or its flow, or the imagination it inspires. Perhaps beauty is more concretely found in its elements of aesthetics, mechanics, narrative and technology. Perhaps beauty is the freedom allowed in the actions and control. Perhaps beauty is the love the writers pour forth into their effort and the brotherhood among each other. Perhaps beauty is nothing more than the pleasures it elicits. I think involves all these things, but personally, what I find uniquely beautiful about the NeS is the time I've spent with it, and how that time with it has gifted my life as I've given in my own.

    Do you find the NeS beautiful? Do you feel judging by its beauty is even right? Comment, question, criticize, and analyze with this lens yourself!

    P.S. CoolMatty, you're absolutely right. That's one of the reasons why Valve rocks.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-14-2010 at 11:27 PM.

  2. #82
    Lens #64: The Lens of Projection

    One key indicator that someone is enjoying an experience is that they have projected their imaginations into it. When they do this, their enjoyment of the experience increases significantly in a sort of vicious cycle. To examine whether your game is well-suited to induce projection from your players, ask yourself these questions:
    • What is there in my game that players can relate to? What else can I add?
    • What is there in my game that will capture a player’s imagination? What else can I add?
    • Are there places in the game that players have always wanted to visit?
    • Does the player get to be a character they could imagine themselves to be?
    • Are there other characters in the game that the players would be interested to meet (or to spy on)?
    • Do the players get to do things that they would like to do in real life, but can’t?
    • Is there an activity in the game that once a player starts doing, it is hard to stop?
    For readers and writers, I would hope that they can relate to the characters (for the writers, at least their own). This could include characters like Gebohq and Cris B. as well as the "writer" characters too. The only thing that can really be "added" is just to be mindful as a writer that you would like to have the readers (and fellow writers) be able to project themselves in the characters they write. As for what captures their imaginations, I'd like to think it's things like story conventions made literal laws of physics, plot-holes, crazy characters and locations. Speaking of, I'm sure it's no mistake that The Arena became a prominent setting -- there was something about it that made it easy for people to imagine sitting in the bleachers. Places like the Hall of Heroes and the Haunted House of Heroes are places I think readers would like to visit, though settings has usually been neglected in the story-telling of the NeS.

    For those who don't write (and don't have their own characters), I'd like to think that the "main protagonist" Gebohq is someone they could imagine being, and characters like Thand, Otter, Rachel, Losien, TLTE, Al, Krig, and the like are characters they would like to visit (perhaps from a safe distance). Any of these characters, at the very least, get to live in a world that's generally far more exciting (even if it's played to be mundane) and dictated not by laws of reality but of comic and dramatic conventions. The characters are not (as) unique as most main characters in a story, though, which may leave the reader feeling the characters only do things they "could do" (even if that's not really the case).

    As for an activity that is engaging, for the readers, they are solely dependent on their ability to project with the characters, so their engagement is highly dependent on if they feel the characters can't stop doing something (they MUST go on a quest, not just FEEL LIKE going on a quest, for example). For writers, I would hope it's writing! I think that is the case when other writers write regularly and collaboratively with their material.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and analyze with this lens yourself!

  3. #83
    Lens #65: The Lens of the Story Machine

    A good game is a machine that generates stories when people play it. To make sure your story machine is as productive as possible, ask yourself these questions:
    • When players have different choices about how the achieve goals, new and different stories can arise. How can I add more of these choices?
    • Different conflicts lead to different stories. How can I allow more types of conflict to arise from my game?
    • When players can personalize the characters and setting, they will care more about story outcomes, and similar stories can start to feel very different. How can I let players personalize the story?
    • Good stories have good interest curves. Do my rules lead to stories with good interest curves?
    • A story is only good if you can tell it. Who can your players tell the story to that will actually care?
    In attempting to apply narratives to games, especially video games, two general models are used. One is called "string of peals" which is essentially a traditional narrative that pulls the player into a linear ride with "pearls" (spaces) of freedom. In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, for instance, the story requires you to collect various gems and medallions in a specific order before defeating the evil Ganondorf. The other narrative model used is called the story machine, where the game essentially provides a narrative space with potential conflicts and the like that the player can more or less create themselves. The Sims is a typical example of a game that is driven by such a story machine, as it has no traditional "plot" but does have many moments of potential conflicts (building a home, building a relationship with family and loved ones, etc.) in a narrative space. Some games can offer varying degrees of both these models too, such as Fallout 3.

    At least one major engine that drives the NeS is certainly the story machine. It offers any number of potential choices, conflicts, and personal characters and settings for the writers, and unlike writing a traditional story of one's own, the NeS certainly gives the illusion of a self-automated story machine, not only because of what the other writers write, but because at this point, there is definitely a rich mythology both in concrete story posts of past and in the narrative space of the NeS that can be rather intuitive (if initially hard to accept). I would actually be hesitant to push for MORE choices, conflicts and personalization, as it would likely become too overwhelming (I would argue a lot of "sandbox" games can have this problem) as well as deter from the spirit of collaboration. Still, these questions should not be forgotten too, as it is the freedom in choices, conflicts and personalization that often draw people into the NeS in the first place. And, as observed with Lens #61, the interest curves in the NeS could prove to at least be better focused in its rising action, but otherwise, most of the story-arcs in NeS have a fairly good interest curve (with at least an interesting initial conflict and climax of some sort).

    Now, as for having readers and writers being able to tell these stories to anyone who cares, this is the kick in the butt as far as issues seen in the NeS with this lens. If the rest of you are like me, I find it very difficult to tell any one story-arc to someone not involved in the NeS in large part because I'm fairly certain they won't care. All other potential factors aside (not being a very good oral storyteller, my audience wouldn't be interest in anything resembling my stories regardless of how good they are, etc.), I'm just not sure if the story-arcs in the NeS necessarily tell engaging stories to those not involved. Perhaps it really is just my inability to give a good "backcover summary" of just about any story (NeS or not), or perhaps better interest curves could easily fix the issue if it is in fact a problem. In any case, though, I think the writers need to do their best to not only be good "players" (or even a good audience) but good "designers" as well, not unlike traditional writers and game designers, to best avoid this issue.

    Care to kick the story machine into gear? The get to writing story posts! Otherwise, please comment, question, criticize, and analyze with this lens yourself!

  4. #84
    Lens #66: The Lens of the Obstacle

    A goal with no obstacles is not worth pursuing. Use this lens to make sure your obstacles are ones that your players will want to overcome. Ask yourself these questions:
    • What is the relationship between the main character and the goal? Why does the character care about it?
    • What are the obstacles between the character and the goal?
    • Is there an antagonist who is behind the obstacles? What is the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist?
    • Do the obstacles gradually increase in difficulty?
    • Some say “The bigger the obstacle, the better the story.” Are your obstacles big enough? Can they be bigger?
    • Great stories often involve the protagonist transforming in order to overcome the obstacle. How does your protagonist transform?
    Ah, the obstacle, a cornerstone of conflict. I will be using this lens in relation to the characters in the NeS, though, not in relation to the readers or writers (though they hopefully empathize as players would to their character-avatar). Therefore, goals will be re-examined here as well as needed. I will be using the primary storyline in the current story-arc, In Search of Opportunity, as my example source for this analysis.

    The main character in the current story-arc, as with most all the story-arcs in the NeS, is arguably Gebohq, though The Last True Evil is at least a close second. For Gebohq, his own goals are as follows:
    • To be the best hero/person he can be (overall)
    • To find and loot a legendary treasury, specifically a crown which is said to protect its wearer from mental manipulation and possibly folly

    Gebohq cares about that particular treasure because he has proven to be seemingly susceptible to manipulation, and if he is to be the best hero and person he can be, he feels he needs this to do so. This goal was placed forth mostly by his accompanying party, as he would otherwise feel uneasy about looting the treasury. There are other, supplementary goals he has as well, such as loving Rachel (without destroying existence), attempting to help his friend Al Ciao overcome his addiction to powerplaying, and likely deep in his unconscious mind, dealing with his destiny to destroy his friend and sister Losien's lover, The Last True Evil.

    The obstacles between Gebohq and his goals are as follows:
    • The driving antagonist, Master Thand, who owns the treasury.
    • Rachel, as she is a Protector of the Plotfractal, charged with keeping conflict high in the NeS, as well as bears anger towards Gebohq for spurning her love despite mutual feelings.
    • The others in his party, who would likely loot the treasury in ways that would have him betray his heroic principles (such as TLTE or the NeScholars) or unintentionally make the goal more difficult (through idiocy of Krig the Viking, for example) or even intentionally (such as Antestarr wishing to supplant Gebohq with Losien).
    • His missing potential (literally), which has lead, among other things, for a need to medicate his depression.
    • The general nature and laws of the world of NeS, which necessitate that Gebohq's goal attract any number of seemingly random obstacles.
    • His own strengths (moral principles, wisdom, love) and weaknesses (cowardice, idiocy, relative lack of power).

    The relationship between the primary antagonist (Thand) and Gebohq is actually somewhat unique, in that there isn't the hostility that is present in most of the others in his party. This is in part because of several reasons: he tends to love his enemies regardless of the relationship between him and them, he has had no clear and personal understanding of Thand acting hostile (since Gebohq was suffering from the worst of his depression at the one time Thand has acted hostile), and he knows that Thand was instrumental in allowing Gebohq to discover his love for Rachel. Still, in this story-arc, he also now believes (correctly to some dangerous degree) that Thand can manipulate him, possibly against his goals as a hero, and stands in his way for the one treasure -- the crown -- that could rectify that issue.

    So far, the obstacles have not gradually increased in difficulty, but instead have followed the typical pattern that have cropped up in the interest curves of past story-arcs: the initial conflict starts out strong -- perhaps too strong -- and the conflicts up to that point have fluctuated in varying lower degrees. This is primarily due to the difficulty of writing for Thand, who can make practically any claim as irrefutable with his ancient wisdom and perform virtually any action (even artificially controlling the conventions that govern the NeS itself) with his infinite knowledge. My initial idea, where Thand confronts Gebohq and the others to draw out Rachel and use her as a check against them, didn't pan out as I'd hoped and only served to set the initial obstacle too high. The goal intended for the writers (to make Thand an active antagonist) however, meant for me that consideration for obstacle order had to be placed aside so as to not discourage writers from formulating potential conflicts at all.

    The obstacles in this story-arc, particularly Thand, are certainly big enough. While Thand himself certainly needs to be no bigger (he's a mountain of an obstacle as he is), the other obstacles could certainly be played up to act in "bigger" roles, and could help to keep Thand as an active antagonist that could be more easily written for.

    As for the protagonist transforming, I don't know, and that's the beauty of the NeS. The possibilities are all there: Gebohq may claim the crown and be better protected or more dependent on its use, he may claim the crown which grants him clearer wisdom, he may decide that claiming the crown is against his heroic principles and strengthen them in the process of rejecting the crown, and attempting any number of the side-goals may transform him as well. As the title of the story-arc implies, the opportunities of all kinds are present.

    Don't let me be an obstacle in your way! Post those comments, questions, criticisms, and observations with this lens yourself!
    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-18-2010 at 01:28 AM.

  5. #85
    Lens #67: The Lens of Simplicity and Transcendence

    To make sure you have the right mix of simplicity and transcendence, ask yourself these questions:
    • How is my world simpler than the real world? Can it be simpler in other ways?
    • What kind of transcendent power do I give to the player? How can I give even more without removing challenge from the game?
    • Is my combination of simplicity and transcendence contrived, or does it provide my players with a special kind of wish fulfillment?
    Simplicity, in relation to the complexity of the real world, should not be confused with elegance and looks for almost the opposite things from Lens #42, while transcendence, in relation to what power most of us have in the real world, should not be confused with resonance.

    The world of NeS is simpler than the real world because it is a story world -- a world governed by story conventions, tropes, and other elements (in part possibly propagated by the assumption that the readers are idiots) that are generally more intuitive to people than the real world. The simplicity could potentially be made more simple by curbing its absurdity and dislike of plot, but this runs the risk of also curbing its character, so simplicity is likely to be best encouraged through emphasis on the world of NeS ruled by its meta-fictional laws.

    One other aspect that also leads into part of how the reader is given transcendent power is that, (theoretically) in stories, one of those powerful story conventions includes the law of conservation of detail -- that is, everything in the world of NeS has some sort of significance, which does not necessarily feel like the case in the real world. The reader also transcends through its characters when said characters often take on comic book/cartoon-esque qualities as well as generally benefiting from the story conventions that drive the NeS world. I would again be hesitant to think that the NeS would benefit from more potential for transcendence, since that would potentially inhibit the mundane quality that juxtapositions the transcendentally epic quality of the NeS experience.

    In any case, I don't think the balance of simplicity and transcendence is contrived, since they are the natural results of the meta-fictional story world of the NeS. It certainly provides wish fulfillment in that the heroes we identify with often do not seem to suffer the same consequences that one would in real life, as well as rest assured that good seems to always win, though these fantasies (and the fantasy/escapist element as a whole) are challenged, and continue to be challenged, in the current NeS thread. At the very least, though, it will always give the wish fulfillment for the writers of having control over a world (though even this is somewhat challenged with characters like Young) and, for the readers, of living in a world (theoretically) reigned by the number one narrative rule -- to always remain engaging and not dull (though I hope to somewhat challenge even this with my idea mentioned in the last paragraph of Lens #11).

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and analyze with this lens yourself.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-19-2010 at 12:09 AM.

  6. #86
    Lens #68: The Lens of the Hero’s Journey

    Many heroic stories have similar structure. Use this lens to make sure you haven’t missed out on any elements that might improve your story. Ask yourself these questions:
    • Does my story have elements that qualify it as a heroic story?
    • If so, how does it match up with the structure of the Hero’s Journey?
    • Would my story be improved by including more archetypal elements?
    • Does my story match this form so closely that it feels hackneyed?
    The Hero's Journey, for those who don't know, is a typical plot structure found in a number of stories. The structure is as follows (as The Art of Game Design lists them, though the link provides better details):
    1. Begins with establishing the hero's home/world as ordinary.
    2. The hero is presented with the call to adventure.
    3. The hero initially refuses and/or jumps at the call.
    4. The hero meets with the mentor.
    5. The hero crosses the threshold into the world of adventure.
    6. The hero faces tests, meets allies and confronts enemies in adjusting to the adventure world.
    7. The hero encounters setbacks and needs to try something new.
    8. The hero faces a peak life or death crisis.
    9. The hero is rewarded for success.
    10. The hero returns to their ordinary world with problems still to resolve.
    11. The hero faces a greater crisis that involves everything previously learned.
    12. The hero's journey is truly complete and has made better the ordinary world.

    It's a structure that can be easily seen in Star Wars: A New Hope, The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings, and can be useful to examine in comparison to the story at hand.

    There are certainly elements of the NeS that qualify it as a heroic story: its main protagonist, Gebohq, is a professional freelance hero, and his heroic principles (altruism in particular) are often tested. However, no story-arc (or even the story as a whole) match up much with the Hero's Journey structure. There is often a call to adventure, and there are certainly trials, but there isn't usually a sense of an "ordinary world" that the characters initially live in or return to, or any sort of mentor figure (though Thand has somewhat played this role at times) -- the story-arcs that have followed it more are the TACC story-arc which parodied Lord of the Rings, 'AGE 2 - The Subplot - of NeShattered, and Story Arcade.

    Having this structure may help future story-arcs remain accessible to new and more casual readers, as its structure allows for both more focus on "learning the new world of adventure" (with a mentor even) as well as less dependency on previous story-arcs (not making the reader feel they're required to read it all), and in the distant future, it may work as a general basis for a whole thread. Otherwise, though, I would be hesitant to try and place such archetypal elements in the NeS unless it emerged naturally from the story-writing process. The NeS structure (surprisingly) isn't so close to this story structure as to feel hackneyed by it, though this is actually one of my concerns for the novel in progress.

    Answer the call to adventure yourself by commenting, questioning, criticizing, and analyzing with this lens yourself!

  7. #87
    Lens #69: The Lens of the Weirdest Thing

    Having weird things in your story can help give meaning to unusual game mechanics – it can capture the interest of the player, and it can make your world seem special. Too many things that are too weird, though, will render your story puzzling and inaccessible. To make sure your story is the good kind of weird, ask yourself these questions:
    • What’s the weirdest thing in my story?
    • How can I make sure that the weirdest thing doesn’t confuse or alienate the player?
    • If there are multiple weird things, should I maybe get rid of, or coalesce, some of them?
    • If there is nothing weird in my story, is the story still interesting?
    First, I must rant a while before I take a stab at these questions.

    There's a school of thought that accessibility and appeal is king in entertainment. This is understandable, not just from a money-grubbing and shallow viewpoint, but for anyone wishing to communicate their ideas. No matter how well-crafted your story might be, no matter how informative or innovative or inspiring or the like your idea might be, your idea won't reach your audience if you don't help them want to grasp and engage with it. Just as your want your game play mechanics (and technology and aesthetics) to be accessible and appealing, so too is it good to make your story accessible and appealing. People who know me are well aware that I prefer simplicity, readability, and attempts to reach as wide an audience as I feel possible.

    However, people who know me are also well aware that I can be a very weird person. This isn't something I aim to be; I'm just a weird person and I some rather strange things as much as I like my painfully boring and vanilla things. I do not empathize well with people who are attached to the familiar, as you might guess from my passion with the improvised and weird-filled NeS. I make an effort at times to be "normal" but I also firmly believe that character (such as, but not limited to, what was mentioned in this lens) should not be compromised. I am therefore uneasy whenever there someone speaks about not being "too weird" in some social/communicative context, because while I don't believe one should aim to be weird for the sake of being weird on an anti-social level, I do believe one should be truthful, wholly truthful and nothing but truthful when it comes to being who you are. There are, of course, many complications that arise from this (justifiable and not so justifiable), but the solution from those problems is not to deny who you are, possible flaws or misunderstandings included.

    Now, to move onto examining the NeS with this lens.

    To pick what the weirdest thing in the NeS would be difficult, to say the least, as it is packed with weird and absurd things, and I am likely the wrong person to ask for listing what is weird about the NeS, much less the weirdest of them all. If I was forced to guess, though, I would say the concept of a plot-hole as a "good" thing rather than as a "bad" thing. In a world like the NeS, where plot is a thing that controls lives and lives itself for the end of things (it's just a story without a structure that resolves), plot-holes allows for characters freedom to do the unexpected and impossible. On a more practical level with reality, plot-holes are essential in a collaborative writing effort on a large scale such as ours, and to try and deny them would destroy the experience.

    Attempting not to alienate and confuse readers and writers with something like the plot-hole as a good thing is something I've struggled with again and again. To parallel with what I've said in my rant, I don't want this weird element of the NeS to alienate and confuse, but it undeniably does. I can tell writers that it is critical to accept this weirdness, and they often can, and (in theory) I can attempt to help readers find the concept accessible and appealing through analogies and metaphors of freedom and slavery, as well as through giving them a mix of objective distance and personal engagement through meta-ficiton and meta-narrative respectively. However, in the end, I think if the NeS wishes to remain true to its character (as I think it should), its community needs to accept that it will always have a weirdness to it that some people just won't be able to accept.

    Is it possible to get rid of, or coalesce, some of the weirdness that is present in the NeS? Are there things that are weird that wouldn't rob the NeS of its character if removed or economized? I honestly don't know, and I wish I could be objective enough to analyze the NeS on this matter. I am not, though, and it would require at least the effort of the other writers, if not a impartial outsider, to sit down together with me, make a list of its weird things, and ask each other if they could be worked upon. I remain optimistic enough to believe that there are plenty of other methods to help improve its accessibility and appeal without resorting to making the NeS 'more normal'.

    In any case, the NeS is by far NOT short on weird things -- it can make the mundane things exciting and the traditional epic things as arguably mundane through its sheer weirdness.

    Weirded out yet? Comment, question, criticize, and analyze with this lens yourself about just how weird the NeS is!
    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-21-2010 at 01:49 AM.

  8. #88
    You should watch this video:

    It's Harvey Smith discussing the making of Deus Ex and Deus Ex 2 with Warren Spector in some kind of game design class. He talks about accessibility (one of the problems with Deus Ex 2 is that it was too dumbed down).

  9. #89
    Lens #70: The Lens of Story

    Ask yourself these questions:
    • Does my game really need a story? Why?
    • Why will players be interested in this story?
    • How does the story support the other parts of the tetrad (aesthetics, technology, gameplay)? Can it do a better job?
    • How do the other parts of the tetrad support the story? Can they do a better job?
    • How can my story be better?
    Hmm... the NeS, the Never-ending Story, without a story? Well, let's go ahead and proceed with this lens on a hypothetical blank slate.

    Does the experience of the NeS require a story? Why?
    Yes, the NeS requires a story, because it is the critical means of drawing readers and writers through a unifying experience that lasts for even a few posts, nevermind a few years. However, the NeS does not require a plot in the same way it requires a story. "What distinction am I making between story and plot?" you might be asking. In this context, story is purely a narrative essence without structure and logic; story involves characters that aren't necessarily consistent, events that don't necessarily proceed from reasonable causes, and styles, points-of-views, conflicts, backdrops and themes that don't always mesh, yet still remain (theoretically) engaging. Plot, on the other hand, is the same reigned under control, potentially even at the cost of squashing the story to death so that it is no longer engaging. Without at least story, though, the act of improvised collaboration, nor the act of witnessing the efforts of said improvised collaborations, would prove to be engaging.

    Why will players be interested in this story?
    Readers will be interested in this story because it's often funny in its absurdity, and the story also provides a modern fantasy world not too often seen to my knowledge (a world heavily influenced by meta-fictional magic as well as the juxtapositions of epic and mundane, classical and popular culture, etc.). The story has a rich character to it, and they can simply enjoy the story in its present scene without being taxed with recalling details of plot.

    Writers will be interested in this story because it allows them to write in an improvised, collaborative effort that works with its narrative. Plot, which can intimidate even skilled writers, is the enemy, so they can feel confident to write an engaging story without fear of plot punishing imperfections.

    How does the story support the aesthetics, technology, and mechanics of the NeS and visa-versa? Can it do a better job?
    The story supports all three of those as means of explaining their purposes: why there is mostly only text, why it's on a message board and why it has the format it does (loosely through the mentions of world of writers in the story). In turn, those elements help strengthen the meta-fictional style that characterizes the NeS so well. The story is by far the dominant element of the tetrad, though, and the other three would have to be more seriously considered in balance if the NeS experience were to ever prominently develop in other mediums (such as the webcomic for example).

    How can my story be better?
    Well, for one, I'm hoping these lenses will help, as will having a wiki-type resource to draw from for future writing and the like. But speaking from a purely narrative standpoint, I've always felt the paramount action that could be taken to improve the story is to put it on a diet and exercise program. Weed down as many characters and conflicts as we can, then focus more on the fewer characters and conflicts left to make them stronger. Attempts in the past have not been terribly successful though, as with most attempts to lose fat, though I believe it is the biggest step that can be taken to a better story for both readers and writers. Beyond that, I must of course push my usual emphasis that writers need to be able to improvise and collaborate as best as they can, which means communication with each other!

    Besides that, however, some of the other tips from The Art of Game Design not already covered aren't bad either, such as narrative consistency (because while we shouldn't fear plot, we shouldn't also ignore it, for antagonists drive a story!), use cliches judiciously, and having a "map" of the world to help bring it to life.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens yourself.

    EDIT: Also, I watched the video linked, Tracer (I think it was just 2 parts, right?) Good stuff! I rather liked reading the postmortems in the Game Developer magazine I used to have a subscription to as well. It only goes to remind me that, ultimately, I'm afforded great luxuries of freedom and the like when it comes to working with the NeS, and I hope to be able to craft games and animated stories on par with those made by companies like Nintendo and Pixar (I just saw the previews for upcoming Nintendo products and watched Toy Story 3 recently too... ).
    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-21-2010 at 11:35 PM.

  10. #90
    Lens #71: The Lens of Freedom

    A feeling of freedom is one of the things that separate games from other forms of entertainment. To make sure your players feel as free as possible, ask yourself these questions:
    • When do my players have freedom of action? Do they feel free at these times?
    • When are they constrained? Do they feel constrained at these times?
    • Are there any places I can let them feel more free than they do now?
    • Are there any places where they are overwhelmed by too much freedom?
    Hey, looks like the NeS has this in common too, moreso than even games, probably too much in some cases...

    For the readers, actually, they don't have much freedom of action; the readers only have the freedoms that the characters appear to have. Fortunately, this is pretty desired from most readers, and should they want to get more involved, they have the freedom to become writers (or at least talk with them easier than with most books and the like). For the writers, they really have the freedom to do just about anything, though ideally, they should be constrained with attempts to be engaging and collaborative (with improvisation as well as traditional storytelling techniques such as consistency). The writers might not feel as free as they actually are because attempts to be engaging and collaborative can be challenging in itself, and they might be placing too much emphasis on traditional storytelling techniques of plot above being engaging and collaborative.

    There isn't really much that can be done to provide more freedom (other than to emphasis that plot should not be as constraining as with most stories), though there's actually a fair amount of feeling of freedom as it is. There is likely a lot of times when writers might feel overwhelmed by too much freedom (especially if they treat plot as it should be treated), but fortunately, this too can be curbed with elements of indirect freedom, which will be covered in a future lens coming soon!

    As always, please feel free to comment, question, criticize, and analyze with this thread yourself.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-23-2010 at 12:58 PM.

  11. #91
    Lens #72: The Lens of Indirect Control

    Every designer has a vision of what they would like the players to do to have an ideal play experience. To help ensure the players do these things of their own free will, ask yourself these questions:
    • Ideally, what would I like the players to do?
    • Can I set constraints to get players to do it?
    • Can I set goals to get players to do it?
    • Can I design my interface to get players to do it?
    • Can I use visual design to get players to do it?
    • Can I use in-game characters to get players to do it?
    • Can I use music or sound to get players to do it?
    • Is there some other method I can use to coerce players toward ideal behavior without impinging on their feeling of freedom?

    Erm... right. Moving on...

    Ideally, what would I like the readers and writers to do?
    I'd like the readers to read (duh), give feedback, build and maintain the wiki-type site I hope will be available in the not-too-distant future, hook in other readers, and do whatever may help hold a solid, peaceful reader community.

    For the writers, I'd like them to post as frequently and regularly as possible (a post a day, though more than that may cause things to feel crowded), to write as collaboratively with the other writers as possible (as well as work together in general, such as getting involved in this thread), to improvise comfortably when needed, to give feedback and build a writing community similar (and tied together with) the reader one.

    Can I set constraints to get readers and writers to do it?
    Beyond throwing around "COLLABORATE AND IMPROVISE" a lot in perhaps something resembling rules and discouraging those who don't, not really. Setting examples is probably the best I can think of to encourage the readers and writers to do so.

    Can I set goals to get readers and writers to do it?
    Well, I think what I want the readers and writers to do are the goals of the NeS, so...yes? I feel like I should be able to figure out goals more specific for this lens, but I'm drawing a blank.

    Can I design my interface to get readers and writers to do it?
    Ideally, an interface system could be designed to help, but practically, there isn't much that can be done with the interface.

    Can I use visual design to get readers and writers to do it?
    No, but I might be able to focus the NeS so that the readers and writers themselves visualize in a similar framework to an improvisational theater experience. Much of it is already present in the story, so it wouldn't take much more to focus it.

    Can I use in-game characters to get readers and writers to do it?
    In theory, I'm sure there could, but in practice, it'd take a lot of trial and error to figure out what sort of characters could be adopted well. For instance, Tsolo was a character crafted in part to help weed out excess characters in the NeS, but thusfar, has only had a minimal effect.

    Can I use music or sound to get readers and writers to do it?
    Not really, no, though I've always been interested in getting our more musically-inclined writers to try their hands at an instrumental theme song or the like. So far, my attempts to frighten them to do better by subjecting them to my own horrible attempts have yet to produce anything.

    Is there some other method I can use to coerce readers and writers toward ideal behavior without impinging on their feeling of freedom?
    Unfortunately, there isn't anything else I can think of at this time to do so.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens yourself.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-24-2010 at 10:29 PM.

  12. #92
    Lens #73: The Lens of Collusion

    Characters should fulfill their roles in the game world, but when possible, also serve as the many minions of the game designer, working toward the designer’s ultimate aim, which is to ensure an engaging experience for the player. To make sure your characters are living up to this responsibility [enacting a sort of collusion], ask yourself these questions:
    • What do I want the player to experience?
    • How can the characters help fulfill the experience without compromising their goals in the game world?
    Hopefully, the readers and writers are having the experiences that I would like them to as described in the first lens: a story-world filled simultaneously with the epic and mundane that feels like it has a will of its own. I'm still not sure if this is actually the experience I'm looking for (or that is present) in a nutshell, but I think it works well enough for our purposes here. This lens could be applied to the previous lens of indirect control as well, though, in which case, we're also keeping an eye for what goals, actions and the like (mostly collaborative involvement) could benefit from this lens as well.

    I think the characters in the NeS, for the most part, have already been doing this, as I've actually touched upon in some small degree in part of my thesis: the mix of meta-fiction and meta-narrative allowing for characters and writers, to address issues of collaboration or such within the story as well as out, mixing mundane and epic characters together, and so on. Still, it is a good reminder to have that our characters can serve both in-story purposes and out-of-story purposes.

    As usual, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens!

  13. #93
    Lens #74: The Lens of the World

    The world of your game is a thing that exists apart. Your game is a doorway to this magic place that exists only in the imagination of your players. To ensure your world has power and integrity, ask yourself these questions:
    • How is my world better than the real world?
    • Can there be multiple gateways to my world? How do they differ? How do they support each other?
    • Is my world centered on a single story, or could many stories happen here?
    The world of the NeS is better than the real world mostly because it's [in theory] everything exciting about the world of stories in general. Everything you do has purpose and nothing is dull... if you're a major character, at least. There's a classism that exists between major and minor characters, so minor characters (who are sometimes but not necessarily forgotten) don't have the same luxuries as the major characters do, but even the minor characters live in a more exciting world, which for us at a distance, is a good thing, even if the characters themselves are going through all sorts of conflict. The world of NeS is also better because I think most people understand how the "laws" of stories work better than the ones in real life, which can seem far more complicated, purposeless, and dull. Specifically for the NeS, though, its moments of comedy, its cartoon-like style at times, and its freedom (despite being enslaved to story and plot) are what make it better.

    When the author of The Art of Game Design mentions "gateways" here, he's talking essentially about the fictional world through different mediums (when a book has a movie, TV show, toys, games, etc.) for the audience. For the NeS, apart from the story thread, we only have the webcomic, though there have also been some audio dramatizations, animations (I made one), and role-playing game loosely based off it (Story Arcade). Ideally, there would be stronger "gateways" into the NeS, but for now, the most realistic option is a regularly updated webcomic.

    Even within the main NeS thread, there are often multiple stories unfolding at the same time. However, this is actually something I've debated with myself to some degree, because while the NeS is not purely a world of one story, its nature of being a "story-world" (even if it has hub-like qualities to other stories) means that it's best defined as "one" story. So, within the NeS, is the "NeS" the whole world, and have equal focuses on other characters besides the ones we see, or is the world of NeS hinged on characters like Gebohq, as hinted with story-arcs like the Endgame and Love Conquers All? I'm still not sure myself. Instinctively, I wish to say "both" yet this seems impossible. Isn't the NeS about the seemingly impossible juxtaposition of opposites though? If I had to chose just one, though, I would say that the NeS is a world of multiple stories, and its focus on "one story" around characters like Gebohq are simply a focus.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and explore this world!

  14. #94
    Lens #75: The Lens of the Avatar

    The avatar is a player’s gateway into the world of the game. To ensure the avatar brings out as much of the player’s identity as possible, ask yourself these questions:
    • Is my avatar an ideal form likely to appeal to my players?
    • Does my avatar have iconic qualities that let a player project themselves into the character?
    There are a couple ways to approach this lens with the NeS. One is to assume that each writer has a "character" of their own, which would serve much of the traditional roles of an avatar. I don't like this approach, as it assumes each writer does have a character of their own (which they do not or even necessarily should) and analyzing from this perspective would be a moot point, since the writer has complete freedom to make whatever character they wish. The other approach is to assume from a reader's perspective, mostly through the main protagonist. Analyzing from that approach has its own problems too, since attempting to apply any problems with this lens may prove detrimental to the needs of the NeS. Still, I'll give it a shot with my "own" character, Gebohq, who can serve any of these roles.

    Gebohq is NOT an ideal form that would appeal to most readers and writers. This is in large part because he serves the role of an Everyman, and also because he's a character designed specifically not meant to be "cool" -- to make him in an ideal form would be contradictory to his character. It isn't to say that Gebohq is without ideal qualities, but these qualities are secondary to his role and characteristic of the "average" protagonist syndrome he is afflicted with in the NeS.

    In the sense of an Everyman, he may then be considered to have iconic qualities that readers and writers can project themselves into his character. He certainly has more iconic qualities than ideal ones, such as his cowardice. However, in The Art of Game Design, the author was aiming more for the concept of a "blank slate" character with no real characteristics of their own that make it easy for players to imagine as themselves. This is the theory that drives the use of silent protagonists in video games, for example. There's controversy over whether the "blank slate" approach is cheap and lacking or not, and I myself don't really mind either way. However, even Gebohq's Everyman quality is only taken so far, so it would be difficult to say that Gebohq is much of a blank slate either -- identifiable is certainly more accurate.

    There is one character that fits the bill for both ideal and iconic in the NeS, though, and that is Young, who literally started out as a Blank Character and is a character (theoretically) protected by the NeS from so many story conventions and the like used by writers that would otherwise impend on her freedom and well-being. While Young herself may no longer be a good avatar-like character, the concept of Blank Characters in general could serve well for an avatar-approach to the NeS.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens yourself!

  15. #95
    Lens #76: The Lens of Character Function

    To make sure your characters are doing everything your game needs them to do, ask yourself these questions:
    • What are the roles I need the characters to fill?
    • What characters have I already imagined?
    • Which characters map well to which roles?
    • Can any characters fill more than one role?
    • Do I need to change the characters to better fit the roles?
    • Do I need any new characters?
    Let's use the "main" story-line of the current storyarc, In Search of Opportunity as our example for this lens.

    Roles that "need" to be filled in the NeS are always pretty minimal, but for the sake of this exercise, I'll make up some basic roles that would likely help for any story-arc:
    • Protagonist - the primary character the readers should identify with and is aiming to solve a problem
    • Antagonist - the primary character who is causing or instigating the problem to be solved.
    • Foil - a character to contrast with the protagonist and/or antagonist
    • Tutor - a character who acts indirectly as a mentor or assistant to the reader, helping them understand the fictional world and other critical elements
    • The New Guy - a character for new readers to identify with when exploring the fictional world and scenarios.
    • Supporting Cast - minions, tougher henchmen, hostages, and other characters (major or minor) who help fill in where needed.

    A role can be filled by multiple characters, and a character can fulfill multiple roles. Here is the current cast of characters (in no particular order) for our specific storyline:
    • Al Ciao - (m) once (and still occasionally) the powerplaying Highemperor, he is now a more-or-less average guy with the power of melodrama and changing his hair at will.
    • Gebohq - (m) leader/"main character", wielder of NeS. Has LOST HIS POTENTIAL
    • Krig the Viking - (m) a short, not-so-smart stereotypical viking. Don't call him a gnome!
    • JMX01 - (m) a giant intelligent baboon with an equally giant Cleave-o-Matic "editing tool." He is not unlike JM in many ways.
    • Howard and Matthias - (m/m) Two of the few surviving NeScholars, knowledgeable in the ways of the NeS. The former is old and known famously as a dragonslayer, the second is young and appears to have an aptitude for magic.
    • The Last True Evil (m) - former Soviet spy, simultaneously a reformed NeS hero and ultimate NeS villain. Has LOST HIS POTENTIAL.
    • Amal - (m) found as a young boy by TLTE, he has since now become a young man. A storywielder, he looks to TLTE as close family.
    • Arkng Thand - (m) much like a stereotypical old hermit, Thand is unmatched in intelligence and wisdom and seemingly wishes to keep Gebohq and the others from raiding his trap-ridden treasury on Morchazima.
    • Rachel Pi - (f) The personification of April Fool's and a former Random Audience Member, she is now an Protector of the Plotfractal often antagonistic towards Gebohq.
    • Antestarr - (m) NeS veteran, a general badass serving the roles of leader, pirate, scholar, inventor, etc. He is currently with Nyneye and Losien just entering Morchazima in an attempt to join with Gebohq and the others.
    • Losien (f) - Gebohq's hot, self-esteem-challenged sister and love interest of The Last True Evil. She is currently with Nyneye and Antestarr just entering Morchazima in an attempt to join with Gebohq and the others.
    • Nyneye (f) - one of the last remaining NeSferatu, a vampire that feeds on (the bloodink of) story often found in main characters instead of blood. She is currently with Antestarr and Losien just entering Morchazima in an attempt to join with Gebohq and the others.

    The characters that map well to certain roles are as follows:
    • Gebohq = protagonist, (somewhat) new guy
    • Arkng Thand = antagonist, (somewhat) mentor
    • The Last True Evil = Foil (to Gebohq)
    • Al Ciao = Foil (to TLTE)
    • Howard and Matthias = Supporting cast, mentor (Howard), (somewhat) new guy (Matthias)
    • Krig the Viking = Foil (to Thand)
    • Rachel = (sometimes) antagonist (to Gebohq primarily)
    • JMX01 = supporting cast, foil (to Krig)
    • Amal = supporting cast, (sometimes) new guy
    • Antestarr = antagonist (to Gebohq primarily)
    • Nyneve = supporting cast (for Antestarr)
    • Losien = supporting cast (for Antestarr), foil (to Gebohq)

    Any of these characters could take on other roles, such as the ones that say "somewhat" above, especially that of antagonist and protagonist. Changing characters with many of them is a bit tricky, since they have some history to them, but some might benefit from not acting in the story-arc, such as JMX01. I would be hesitant, though, to make up roles and then force characters into them, since it's not as necessary as it would be in something like a game. Still, it's useful to see how much a character is serving the story and how much they're just taking up space. We certainly don't need any new characters as they would likely just clutter the story more.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens yourself!

  16. #96
    Lens #77: The Lens of Character Traits

    To ensure that the traits of a character show in what they say and do, ask yourself these questions:
    • What traits define my character?
    • How do these traits manifest themselves in the words, actions, and appearance of my character?
    So, fortunately, this lens is usually already applied in the form of character profiles of which you can see linked with a number of characters mentioned above. I've found they've usually been fairly good at providing good traits for the major characters as well as usually being applied in the character's dialogue, actions and the like. Rather than use this lens to apply to an existing character, I will simply emphasis that defining traits for a character helps them be more engaging and real, and that traits need not be consistent with each other (since even real people have inconsistent character traits).

    Are there any characters you feel are lacking well-defined traits? Any characters you feel are shining examples of well-defined and manifested characteristics? By all means, feel more than free to comment, question, criticize, and analyze characters with this lens yourself!
    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-29-2010 at 02:29 PM.

  17. #97
    Lens #78: The Lens of the Interpersonal Circumplex

    Understanding the relationships between your characters is crucial. One way to do this is to create a graph with one axis labeled hostile/friendly, and the other labeled submissive/dominant. Pick a character to analyze, and put them in the middle. Plot out where other characters lie relative to that character, and ask yourself these questions:
    • Are there any gaps in the chart? Why are they there? Would it be better if the gaps were filled?
    • Are there “extreme characters” on the graph? If not, would it be better if there were?
    • Are the character’s friends in the same quadrant, or different quadrants? What if that were different?
    The names of some of these lenses, honestly... Anyway, let's use good ol' Gebohq once again for this exercise. See the picture at the bottom for the chart I made. I mostly only chose to place some of the characters closer to Gebohq in the current story-arc on the chart, as well as some that aren't in the story-arc at the moment.

    Currently, there are a lot of gaps. Gebohq is a fairly friendly person, and rarely hostile even to his enemies. He's also not a terribly self-assertive person, which is often why he comes off as too trusting and subject to manipulation from the likes of those like Master Thand. While I don't think these gaps need to be filled symmetrically with the general friendly/submissive quadrant, I do think it's important to have at least one to three major characters that could fall in other quadrants, even the extremes, which is why I included Darkside and Evil Geb (who are some of the few that occupy his hostile/dominant side), and Losien (his friendly/dominant side).

    Evil Geb is really the only character I can think of who is any sort of consistent extreme for Gebohq (hostile and dominant). As stated before, I don't think there necessarily needs to be a symmetrical number of extreme characters to the non-extremes (as he generally wishes to think and treat others as himself), but a few extremes would help for the sake of the story.

    Most of his friends do tend to occupy the friendly/submissive quadrant, but it's not unheard of for them to be elsewhere. He tends to be more dominant with his sister, and with some like Krig, and there are moments of hostility with those like The Last True Evil (even when he's not a villain) and his love interests. While her default is fairly close to Gebohq himself, Rachel in particular can actually be just about anywhere on the board at any given time, which is why I feel she's a critical character to have around Gebohq. Again, as stated before, I don't think it's necessary for a symmetrical displacement across the chart, but a few more here and there might not hurt.

    Disagree with the chart I made? Want to make one with another character? By all means, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens yourself!
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    Last edited by Gebohq; 06-30-2010 at 01:08 PM.

  18. #98
    Lens #79: The Lens of the Character Web

    To flesh out your characters’ relationships better, make a list of all your characters, and ask yourself these questions:
    • How, specifically, does each character feel about each of the others?
    • Are there any connections unaccounted for? How can I use those?
    • Are there too many similar connections? How can they be more different?
    Once again, making a list of all the characters would be overwhelming, so I will stick with the cast of the primary story-line of the current story-arc. The characters are: Gebohq, The Last True Evil, Al Ciao, Master Thand, Rachel, Amal, Howard, Matthias, JMX01, Krig the Viking, Antestarr, Nyneve and Losien. You can see the character webs below.

    Out of these characters, the ones generally unaccounted for the most are Amal, Howard, Matthias, JMX01, and Nyneve, which is not surprising as all the other characters have a lot of history to work with in their relations. Fortunately, most of them have some pretty obvious potential conflicts they can bring to the table (Amal fueling TLTE's and Thand's, Howard and Matthias again mostly in relation to TLTE and Thand, and Nyneve in relation to Gebohq). However, JMX01 I feel mostly needs to be written out of the scene -- something I've asked of the creator of that character (JM), and to which JM may write him out within a month. Still, these are all relatively minor characters with relatively little history, and thus have a great amount of freedom in deciding to add conflicts between other characters and the like.

    As for if there are any places with too many similar connections... I'm sure there are, but I'm not able to piece them together at the moment. Again, though, the more relatively minor characters have leeway to change, as do the nature of some characters in general, such as Rachel, for the sake of the story.

    Disagree with any of the assessments I've made? Want to try your own? By all means, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens yourself!


    • The Last True Evil: He sees TLTE as pretty close friend, but feels some pretty deep-seated conflicts of interest as well (which he doesn't quite consciously realize) in regards to TLTE's villainy and TLTE's relationship with his sister, Losien.
    • Al Ciao: He sees Al as a pretty close friend as well, though how much of his friendship (and submissiveness) is true and how much has been influenced by Al's alter-ego's powerplaying ways is unknown.
    • Thand: Gebohq has personally only ever really experienced Thand's wise, altruistic side, particularly in making Rachel's existence possible. He is wary of Thand's role in the story, though, and acts with that in mind.
    • Rachel: Complicated at best. He feels Rachel is his true love (more so even than Maybechild) and yet he knows there are (likely inconsolable) differences between them as well. Depending on how Rachel is acting, he can be friendly or frustrated, submissive or confident, himself or his currently-dead potential.
    • Amal: Despite Amal appearing as a young man now, Gebohq sees him as a young boy and at least partially responsible for his care (especially when The Last True Evil asked him once to take care of Amal). Otherwise, it's unknown at this point if Gebohq would feel affinity or animosity towards someone who seems made to take his place, again, especially if Amal is taking after The Last True Evil.
    • Howard: Feels respect for someone who is apparently a wizened hero of old, guilted in part because he mistook him for just an old man.
    • Matthias: Has no apparent thoughts for him.
    • JMX01: Has no apparent thoughts for him.
    • Krig the Viking: He feels both a sense of dominant empathy and fear, as one might feel towards a powerful animal friend, but likely no real "human" connection with him.
    • Antestarr: A good friend, but similarly conflicted as with The Last True Evil, except more consciously, especially since Antestarr has killed him once not too long ago.
    • Nyneve: Has yet to meet Nyneve, but would likely be rather susceptible to her charm.
    • Losien: Gebohq loves his sister, Losien, more than anyone else he's yet to care about. He's naturally more dominant with her due to her self-loathing, and it is surprising that he is not over-protective with her.

    The Last True Evil
    • Gebohq: Close friend or tovarish (which I learned means "bro"), there is some deep-seated conflict of interest (perhaps consciously), namely that Gebohq may be "in the way" of his calling to True Evil and love for Losien.
    • Al Ciao: Strangely closely bonded in friendship, despite Al's alter-ego and his own pseudo-alter-ego from NeShattered. Perhaps it is Al's attempt to shed himself from his alter-ego that has drawn TLTE close.
    • Master Thand: Adversarial, especially since Thand has claimed him in particular to be the downfall of the NeS and threatens to take Amal away from him.
    • Rachel: Has a natural antagonism with her (due to her magic-like trickster abilities, her own antagonism towards him and to Gebohq), but seems otherwise indifferent.
    • Amal: Loves him like he were his own son for some unknown reason. Whether his love will bear good or bad fruit is questionable, as it is with TLTE's attempt to do good and love as a whole.
    • Howard: Respects him out of seniority (both in age and likely skill/experience). His spy intuition might make him wary of Howard, but it's an intuition that would likely take him by surprise if he found it to be right.
    • Matthias: Has developed a stirring hatred for Matthias, being the most blatantly traditional magic-user in the group.
    • JMX01: Has no apparent thoughts for him.
    • Krig the Viking: He feels both a sense of dominant empathy and fear (mostly the former), as one might feel towards a powerful animal friend, but likely no real "human" connection with him.
    • Antestarr: He may be able to connect with Antestarr's anti-heroic outlook, but might rub him the wrong way too, perhaps in the way that similar magnetic poles repel from each other.
    • Nyneve: Has yet to meet her, but might think nothing of her, or as a familiar enemy spy if he picks up on her true nature.
    • Losien: Loves her romantically, and has in large part turned him away from villainy, following even her wish for distance. As with seemingly all his attempts at love in any form, though, it seems to only stir larger issues of his true evil...

    Al Ciao
    • Gebohq: Close friend, though how much of his friendship is found in truth and how much has been formed by his alter-ego's wish to seek power in main characters is unknown. He has had a close history with Gebohq's ancestor, Erro, though, and there is likely some truth in their bond, even if it can't be explained.
    • The Last True Evil: As with Gebohq, the reasons behind his inexplicable bond with TLTE are unknown, though it is likely influenced in great part from TLTE's pseudo-alter-ego helping him separate himself from his alter-ego.
    • Master Thand: Knows Thand as more wizard than ancient scholar, having known him as Theos from the days of Atlantis back when Al's alter-ego was there. Surprisingly less insightful on Thand than many, perhaps because his alter-ego took so little notice of a man with no apparent power (especially since Thand's claim to fame as all-wise was likely less cemented than currently). Currently still apparently underestimates Thand's dangerous potential, having recently turned to Thand in secret for aid.
    • Rachel: Sees her mostly in relation to Gebohq as Geb's source of potential eternal happiness. May be even more wary of turning to his alter-ego around her, since her nature seems to be something of an Achilles' heel to him.
    • Amal: May see him mostly in relation to TLTE as TLTE's source of potential eternal happiness, and/or may see himself (or rather the best of his alter-ego) in Amal. Otherwise, no apparent thoughts for him.
    • Howard: Perhaps some frustration that Howard seems to know about Thand more than he does. Otherwise, no apparent thoughts for Howard.
    • Matthias: No apparent thoughts for him.
    • JMX01: No apparent thoughts for him.
    • Krig the Viking: He feels both a sense of dominant empathy and fear (mostly the former), as one might feel towards a powerful animal friend, but likely no real "human" connection with him.
    • Antestarr: He's likely to empathize with Antestarr's outlook on being trapped within a story-world controlled by writers, but probably wouldn't agree with his methods. He may also have some VERY unconscious realization that Antestarr was the one to kill his Potential (and trigger his ability to disconnect from his alter-ego).
    • Nyneve: Likely may remember her back from when he was King Emp in the late 1800's, and would likely be vigilant if he notices her around Gebohq in particular.
    • Losien: recognizes her mostly in relation to Gebohq as Gebohq's sister that he cares for greatly as well as in relation to TLTE as TLTE's love interest. He's unlikely to think of her first before either Gebohq or TLTE.

    Master Thand
    • Gebohq: Oddly more caring of Gebohq than of most others(as much as Thand appears to connect with anyone at least). He may see Gebohq as a rarer man of honest goodness, or as an easy pawn with a great connection to the NeS for his schemes, or perhaps both and more.
    • The Last True Evil: Sees TLTE as the keystone character to the downfall of the NeS, and doesn’t care for TLTE’s “abduction” of Amal from him. There may be more than his apparently understandable dislike, though, as he has kept others from plans to kill TLTE (this isn’t to imply that Thand actually likes him though, more likely that he feels TLTE must play some role alive).
    • Al Ciao: Knew him as Al’s alter-ego back in the days of Atlantis. Likely thinks little of Al or his hopes of redemption from his alter-ego, and would likely think little of using Al for his own purposes
    • Rachel: Likely thinks of her in relation to Gebohq, having helped her become a main character from a fusion of her persona as April Fool’s and a random audience member so that they might know their love for each other. She is likely little more than a pawn for his own purposes, whether they be in relation to Gebohq or as an unwitting bodyguard.
    • Amal: Apparently once had “greater plans” for him, having considered him something of a nephew and kept him alone in an underground room full of books for at least the child’s first ten years. It is uncertain if he’s abandoned this plans or not since TLTE has “adopted” Amal.
    • Howard: A fellow former NeScholar that Thand likely used to help him acquire knowledge about the NeS. The fact that he is still alive means that Thand feels he has some use yet…
    • Matthias: A fellow former NeScholar that Thand likely used to help him acquire knowledge about the NeS. The fact that he is still alive means that Thand feels he has some use yet…
    • JMX01: No apparent thoughts for him, other than maybe in some small relation to JM, who Thand knew back in the days of Atlantis.
    • Krig the Viking: May actually be somewhat wary of Krig since Krig has already seemingly foiled one of his plans to keep the others away from his treasury and is likely “too dumb” to be influenced.
    • Antestarr: A fellow former NeScholar that Thand likely used to help him acquire knowledge about the NeS. Since Antestarr separated himself from the other NeScholars after Thand left the group, the fact that Antestarr is alive is incidental. Still, there seems to be a significant teacher-pupil relationship between the two (since Antestarr had been one of the youngest of the NeScholars), one that Thand might care about to some small degree.
    • Nyneve: Knows of her, that she is the last of the Nesferatu, and her general goals, if not her specific ones. Likely thinks little of her.
    • Losien: Understands her connection to Gebohq and her significance with his in relation to the NeS, as well as her connection to TLTE. May see her as a pawn for them, or visa-versa, depending on how he feels the big picture develops.

    • Gebohq: Is in a love-hate relationship with him. On one hand, Gebohq is her true love and can even become meek and servile to him, certainly defensive if she feels his life is in danger from someone else. On the other hand, she hates him for having apparently rejected her love, wishing often to see him in suffering, especially if it’ll remind him of his choice to reject her. She is also a trickster by nature, so she may trick him with some form of love to hurt him and hurt him to show that she cares for him. She became a Protector of the Plotfractal so that she could do both of these things.
    • The Last True Evil: Likes to play tricks on him due to his serious nature, is adversarial towards him because of his own villainous nature, though is never really hostile on her part unless he were to hurt Gebohq.
    • Al Ciao: Has no real thoughts on Al, other than perhaps grateful for having helped her save Gebohq. She hates his powerplaying alter-ego though.
    • Master Thand: Is eternally grateful for having given her a life as a major character that could make it possible for her to love Gebohq, even if she currently has a love-hate relationship with him – something she feels is no fault of Thand’s. She also realizes as a Protector of the Plotfractal, though, that he is an apparently unchecked power, and so will step in against him with her own to keep him from too easily over-powering the others.
    • Amal: Has no apparent feelings for him.
    • Howard: Has no apparent feelings for him.
    • Matthias: Has no apparent feelings for him.
    • JMX01: Has no apparent feelings for him.
    • Krig the Viking: Has no apparent feelings for him.
    • Antestarr: Has yet to meet him, her thoughts about him are unknown.
    • Nyneve: Has yet to meet her, Rachel’s thoughts about her are unknown.
    • Losien: Has yet to meet her, Rachel’s thoughts though may lend to jealousy that Gebohq cares more for his sister than her.

    • Gebohq:Thinks he’s a cool guy, likely respects him out of proxy for TLTE’s relationship with him. He may feel a bond with a fellow story-wielder.
    • The Last True Evil: Sees him as something of a father figure, having brought him out into the world from his imprisonment. Sees only the best in TLTE.
    • Al Ciao: Likely respects him out of proxy for TLTE’s relationship with him.
    • Master Thand: Knew him as an “uncle” that he seems to have shed his care for in favor of TLTE. Having been kept imprisoned probably doesn’t help much.
    • Rachel: Has no apparent feelings for her. May imitate TLTE’s own.
    • Howard: Has no apparent feelings for him. May imitate TLTE’s own.
    • Matthias: Has no apparent feelings for him. May imitate TLTE’s own.
    • JMX01: Has no apparent feelings for him. May imitate TLTE’s own.
    • Krig the Viking: Has no apparent feelings for him. May imitate TLTE’s own.
    • Antestarr: Has no apparent feelings for him. May imitate TLTE’s own.
    • Nyneve: Has no apparent feelings for him. May imitate TLTE’s own.
    • Losien: Has no apparent feelings for him. May imitate TLTE’s own.

    • Gebohq: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studies, though sees all too well Gebohq’s younger, inexperienced and apparently naïve side. While he may feel he is not “worthy” to be among such NeS icons, he is not shy in sharing his wisdom and experience as an elder hero either, nor stop him from any ulterior motives he may have…
    • The Last True Evil: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studies, though likely sees TLTE’s experience (age, discipline, etc.) and realizes TLTE’s role as a NeS villain (though seems to keep it to himself), whom the NeScholars wanted dead. While he may feel he is not “worthy” to be among such NeS icons, he is not shy in sharing his wisdom and experience as an elder hero either, nor stop him from any ulterior motives he may have…
    • Al Ciao: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studies, though likely realizes the nature of Al’s alter-ego as well an remains objectively cautious. While he may feel he is not “worthy” to be among such NeS icons, he is not shy in sharing his wisdom and experience as an elder hero either, nor stop him from any ulterior motives he may have…
    • Master Thand: Once considered his highly-venerated senior and leader of the NeScholars, he now sees Thand as possibly the greatest adversary one could have. The fact that the two have recently encountered after Howard should be likely dead may mean something more is afoot…
    • Rachel: Likely sees her in relation to Gebohq and Thand, as well as her current role as Protector of the Plotfractal from an objective, scholarly distance.
    • Amal: Seems to have taken some interest in Amal, perhaps out of mere scholarly interest in his ability to story-wield, or perhaps something more…
    • Matthias: A fellow, perhaps subordinate NeScholar, he likely confides closest to Matthias out of the rest.
    • JMX01: Has no apparent thoughts for him.
    • Krig the Viking: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studies, but otherwise, no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Antestarr: Interestingly likely sees him as both an important icon in his NeS studies AND “the kid” of their NeScholars group. While they have yet to meet recently, they are likely to hit it off very strong once they do.
    • Nyneve: May recognize her as the last of the NeSferatu, otherwise has yet to meet her and may have no thoughts about her.
    • Losien: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studie, but has otherwise yet to meet her and such other thoughts are unknown as of now.

    • Gebohq: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studies, but likely sees him as more a royal figure to humbly give advice than how Howard sees him. Any further thoughts are complicated by his relationship to Howard.
    • The Last True Evil: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studies, but likely sees him as more a royal figure to humbly give advice than how Howard sees him, likely to avoid TLTE altogether due to the goal of the NeScholars to kill him. Any further thoughts are complicated by his relationship to Howard.
    • Al Ciao: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studies, but likely sees him as more a royal figure to humbly give advice than how Howard sees him. Any further thoughts are complicated by his relationship to Howard.
    • Master Thand: Once considered his highly-venerated senior and leader of the NeScholars, he now sees Thand as possibly the greatest adversary one could have. While Howard may feel able to stand up against Thand, Matthias is likely only able to feel the same with others protecting him. The fact that the two have recently encountered after Howard should be likely dead may mean something more is afoot…
    • Rachel: Likely sees her in relation to Gebohq and Thand, as well as her current role as Protector of the Plotfractal from an objective, scholarly distance.
    • Amal: Seems to have taken some interest in Amal, perhaps out of mere scholarly interest in his ability to story-wield, or perhaps something more…
    • Howard: A fellow, likely superior NeScholar, he likely confides closest to Howard out of the rest.
    • JMX01: Has no apparent thoughts for him.
    • Krig the Viking: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studies, but otherwise, no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Antestarr: Interestingly likely sees him as both an important icon in his NeS studies AND “the kid” of their NeScholars group, which Matthias may actually empathize with depending on how young Matthias is. While they have yet to meet recently, they are likely to hit it off very strong once they do.
    • Nyneve: May recognize her as the last of the NeSferatu, otherwise has yet to meet her and may have no thoughts about her.
    • Losien: Likely sees him as an important icon in his NeS studie, but has otherwise yet to meet her and such other thoughts are unknown as of now.

    • Gebohq: Has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • The Last True Evil: Has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Al Ciao: Has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Master Thand: May see him as a source of answers, otherwise, has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Rachel: Has no apparent thoughts about her.
    • Amal: Has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Howard: Has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Matthias: Has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Krig the Viking: May be able to empathize with Krig’s treatment as “less than human” and has had a special adventure in present-day ruins of Atlantis with him, but otherwise has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Antestarr: Has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • Nyneve: Has no apparent thoughts about her.
    • Losien: Has no apparent thoughts about her.

    Krig the Viking
    • Gebohq: Funny man who runs away a lot. Friend!
    • The Last True Evil: “Frenemy” (friend and enemy), likes talk about combat.
    • Al Ciao: Man who has demon hair. Perhaps enemy-king lives in hair?
    • Master Thand: Strange old man, confused why others want to fight him.
    • Rachel: Loki-like lady. Suspicious when not distracting.
    • Amal: Good kid.
    • Howard: Has no apparent thoughts for him.
    • Matthias: Has no apparent thoughts about him.
    • JMX01: Has no apparent thoughts about him, though may have some small connection from their adventure in the present-day ruins of Atlantis.
    • Antestarr: Funny friend? Why friend be all hidey in himself?
    • Nyneve: Has yet to meet her, might think she smells funny like dead person.
    • Losien: Pretty lady friend. Krig flex muscles for her, yeah?

    • Gebohq: Once a close friend (perhaps still in some sense), he now sees Gebohq as an unfortunate pawn of the writers, and has killed him once to try and dethrone his role in the NeS without success when Gebohq was alive again. He therefore continues to plot how to knock Gebohq off as the “main protagonist” of NeS.
    • The Last True Evil: Sees him as a strong, mostly-independent character, though may be concerned that TLTE too could be too involved in the web that he feels the writers have spun. Aware of TLTE’s previous times as a villain, he may treat TLTE as a potential hostile if he feels he cannot win him over – “if you are not with me, you are against me” mentality.
    • Al Ciao: May realize that he has had a hand in killing Al’s Potential and allowing him some freedom from his alter-ego. However, Al’s connection with Gebohq may have Antestarr treat him as a potential hostile, similar to TLTE.
    • Master Thand: Once thought of a highly-respected teacher he addresses personally as “Master” in submissiveness of his youth, he likely feels more betrayed than most when Thand first departed from the NeScholars, and then found the plot to send Potentials to murder him and the others. He claims that Thand mistakenly distances himself too much from his plans, whereas Antestarr would claim he himself makes sure to be more personal and involved with his affairs (a line of thought which may simply show Antestarr’s refusal to abandon as he feels Thand did with him).
    • Rachel: Has had little interaction with Rachel, but likely would treat her as hostile since, unlike TLTE and Highemp, he’d be quicker to realize that Rachel would act more hostile herself to defend Gebohq.
    • Amal: If Antestarr had not decided to choose Losien, Amal would have been his choice to use Amal to replace Gebohq as the “main character” of NeS. What Antestarr thinks of Amal beyond this is unknown, though.
    • Howard: Has yet to meet Howard recently, though almost certainly knows him well from the days they studied together as NeScholars. Howard is likely one of the many elder scholars that Antestarr learned much from, and would likely have a lot to say when they meet up.
    • Matthias: Has yet to meet Matthias recently, though almost certainly knows him well from the days they studied together as NeScholars. Matthias may be like one of the many elder scholars that Antestarr learned much from or he may be closer to an equal, and would likely have a lot to say when they meet up.
    • JMX01: Has no apparent thoughts for him.
    • Krig the Viking: He feels both a sense of dominant empathy and fear (mostly the former), as one might feel towards a powerful animal friend, but likely no real "human" connection with him. He may feel he’ll be able to use Krig for his own purposes.
    • Nyneve: There is a hint that they once had an old flame of romance between the two, but now Antestarr is mostly using her (very carefully) to help take Gebohq out of the big picture.
    • Losien: recognized her previously mostly in relation to Gebohq as Gebohq's sister that he cares for greatly as well as in relation to TLTE as TLTE's love interest. Recently sees her as a means of replacing Gebohq from his role as the main protagonist of NeS.

    • Gebohq: Sees him as her ultimate goal in feeding off his bloodink. Everyone else is just a means to reach that goal.
    • The Last True Evil: Has yet to meet him, but otherwise has no thoughts about him.
    • Al Ciao: May remember him briefly as King Emp from the late 1880’s, and may therefore be wary of him. Has yet to meet him recently though, but otherwise has no thoughts about him.
    • Master Thand: Has yet to meet him, but otherwise has no thoughts about him.
    • Rachel: Has yet to meet him, but otherwise has no thoughts about him.
    • Amal: Realizes that, after Losien, Amal is her best bet for Antestarr’s plan to help her feed on Gebohq.
    • Howard: Has yet to meet him, but otherwise has no thoughts about him.
    • Matthias: Has yet to meet him, but otherwise has no thoughts about him.
    • JMX01: Has yet to meet him, but otherwise has no thoughts about him.
    • Krig the Viking: Has yet to meet him, but otherwise has no thoughts about him.
    • Antestarr: There is a hint that they once had an old flame of romance, but now she’s mostly using Antestarr to be able to feed on Gebohq.
    • Losien: Sees her mostly as a means to an end in obtaining her goal.

    • Gebohq: Her “big brother” who does no wrong and whom she looks up to very much. She cares about him a great deal, and feels that by doing what Antestarr says, she may help Gebohq take some of his burden.
    • The Last True Evil: Is in love with him, but perhaps because of that love, is often strangely uncharacteristically dominant and somewhat hostile around him at times. She makes it difficult for him, in any case, despite her obvious love for him when he’s not around.
    • Al Ciao: Has no apparent thoughts about him or his alter-ego other than her standard “everybody is awesome except me” mentality, may not know about his alter-ego whom she is familiar and would consider in context of Geb’s friend.
    • Master Thand: Has no apparent thoughts about him other than her standard “everybody is awesome except me” mentality – may not have met him.
    • Rachel: Has no apparent thoughts about her other than her standard “everybody is awesome except me” mentality – may not have met her.
    • Amal: Has no apparent thoughts about him other than her standard “everybody is awesome except me” mentality – may not have met him.
    • Howard: Has yet to meet him, though likely has no apparent thoughts about him other than her standard “everybody is awesome except me” mentality.
    • Matthias: Has yet to meet him, though likely has no apparent thoughts about him other than her standard “everybody is awesome except me” mentality.
    • JMX01: Has yet to meet him, though likely has no apparent thoughts about him other than her standard “everybody is awesome except me” mentality.
    • Krig the Viking: Cute funny lil’ Viking man!
    • Antestarr: Considers a friend if only through proxy of Gebohq, feels Antestarr is helping her and Gebohq in some altruistic manner.
    • Nyneve: Has no apparent thoughts for her, though she may think she’s Antestarr’s friend who could use more sun and food.

  19. #99
    Lens #80: The Lens of Status

    When people interact, they take on different behaviors depending on their status levels. To make your characters more aware of each other, ask yourself these questions:
    • What are the relative status levels of the characters in my game?
    • How can they show appropriate status behaviors?
    • Conflicts of status are interesting – how are my characters vying for status?
    • Changes of status are interesting – where do they happen in my game?
    • How am I giving the player a chance to express their status?
    The "status" as defined in this lens is not that of socio-economic class or other quantifiable levels, but in how characters carries themselves and exert control in any given situation with other characters. This status is not always set in stone, nor do they necessarily have the same default status among all others. The author of The Art of Game Design lists these behaviors typical among people across cultures:
    • Typical low status behaviors include: fidgeting, avoiding eye contact, touching one's own face, and generally being tense.
    • Typical high status behaviors include: being relaxed and in control, making strong eye contact, and, weirdly, not moving your head while you speak.

    With that, I'll take a stab at the same current group of characters in the primary story-arc, who are as follows: Gebohq, The Last True Evil, Al Ciao, Master Thand, Rachel, Amal, Howard, Matthias, JMX01, Krig the Viking, Antestarr, Nyneve and Losien. As for the last question, I'll try to answer more so for each character, as the illusion is how best the reader is able to feel they can empathize expression and the writer can express however they please.

    Disagree with any of the assessments I make in this post? Regardless, please comment, question, criticize and evaluate the statuses of characters yourself!


    • Relative Status: Despite playing the role of the "main protagonist" in this story-arc of the NeS, he is of generally lower status than most of the others, only exerting a normally higher status above Losien, Amal, and possibly Krig, Matthias, JMX01 and depending on the situation, Rachel.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: He can certainly show any low status behaviors when displaying his cowardly side and high status behaviors when displaying his heroic side, and these behaviors can of course be used ironically against the usual traits of each other (being relaxed when running away, for example).
    • Conflicts of Status: Gebohq will naturally conflict in status with TLTE and Rachel, likely failing to raise his status above theirs in the process. In general, though, his conflicts will usually arise in a reactionary manner.
    • Changes of Status: There is usually little change in his status, though there have been, and certainly will be, situations where he is called to live up as more the "heroic protagonist" (higher status against someone like Thand) and may succeed, or be challenged (as with Losien) and may fail to defend his status.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Besides the heroic/cowardly moments in general and others already mentioned, I feel writers should feel encouraged to express his status (high and low) through his "uncool" characteristics (can you have a high status and still be "uncool" without being hated? I think so!)

    The Last True Evil
    • Relative Status: Having had intensive training as a Soviet spy, among other worldly experiences, gives TLTE a relatively high status among the other present characters, only defering/conflicting with Thand, Howard, and perhaps Antestarr and Rachel.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Anytime he is in physical combat, he can be shown to have high status behaviors, though suppressed low status behaviors just peeking out would likely show whenever he's in a non-physical conflict (spy-related conflicts excluded). The more seriously challenging the context of his conflict is, the more he's likely to show high-status behaviors as well and visa-versa.
    • Conflicts of Status: Thand presents himself as a target for TLTE to actively fight for status (and likely fail), and may challenge Antestarr's status as well depending on the situation.
    • Changes of Status: Not likely to change status much except perhaps around Thand, Antestarr and Rachel, though he may defer status around Howard out of respect.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Besides what has already been mentioned, TLTE's inner conflict between hero and villain can express various status characteristics when the situation calls for it, both in the traditional hero = high status/villain = low status and in the Christian hero = low status (meek)/villain = high status (pride).

    Al Ciao
    • Relative Status: Despite behaviors that would be shown, as Al Ciao, his status is likely no lower than average (though often close to average often), whereas when he is his alter-ego, Highemperor, his status is likely no higher than average (though close to average by sheer power-playing).
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: As the "normal guy" Al Ciao, lower-status behaviors are generally appropriate, especially when he wishes to call upon his alter-ego (fidgeting, tense, etc.) though this may be exempt when he is using his "power of melodrama" at times. As his alter-ego, Highemperor, higher-status behaviors are more appropriate (when played up to shamefully-self-indulgent extremes, though lack of these extremes may have their place as well).
    • Conflicts of Status: Anytime he wishes to help his friends and feels he can't, or feels the need to asset his ambitions, such that he succumbs to his alter-ego. As Al, he would likely not actively engage conflict of status with anybody, and if he did, would simply succumb to his alter-ego, who would engage conflict of status with everybody even when secure in higher status simply to assert his position.
    • Changes of Status: His change of status is heavily tied between himself and his alter-ego rather than in any particular context.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: While there are no other opportunities other than what has already been stated, it should be noted that the line between Al and his alter-ego aren't necessarily clean-cut: characteristics of his alter-ego may seep into Al and visa-versa (especially if the story calls for it), and his status should be expressed with that in mind.

    Master Thand
    • Relative Status: Easily holds the highest status among the characters present, perhaps even among all characters.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Any high status behaviors pretty much at any point. Low status behaviors are only appropriate when he is 1) faking it or 2) genuinely showing his human side. The latter is difficult to pull off well as will be explained later.
    • Conflicts of Status: Usually only engages in conflict of status in a reactionary manner, though in this story-arc, acts to challenge those with the highest statuses to knock down (such as with TLTE) and the lower statuses to build up (as with Gebohq). More will be explained later.
    • Changes of Status: The only time Thand's status has appeared to change has been in regards to the following: Tsolo (more literary device than character who can strip the past that Thand draws much of his power in knowledge from as hinted here), Evil Geb (who holds influence over the NeS similar to Geb but with a far higher status and control of power as hinted at here), Young (as born a Blank Character with some of the best of other characters in her, has poked through Thand's status once), and Krig the Viking (who unwittingly foiled Thand's plan at this end of this post) -- TLTE may have challenged this status in this post as well. He is otherwise almost always in a superior position of status.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: It can be very difficult to express status for Thand as anything other than unquestioning superiority, which is problematic for a character who should be the primary antagonist, even if the protagonists are meant to ultimately lose to him. To do his character justice, though, seems to mean never allowing him to falter, status or otherwise. Showing snippets of his past, where his status was not so cemented, may be a solution, but this even would have to be done very carefully and would only act as a partial solution. I would personally suggest using this lens, and perhaps others, specifically on Thand in the future.

    • Relative Status: Holds a generally average-to-high status among the current cast, fluctuating higher when she is more active as a trickster or Protector of the Plotfractal and lower in any other context.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Any high-status behaviors are appropriate when she is active ( particularly when antagonistic either as a trickster and/or Protector of the Plotfractal, though she may fake lower-status behaviors if need be) and no particular-to-lower status behaviors when inactive. She may also genuinely exhibit lower-status behaviors in certain situations around Gebohq dealing with her love for him.
    • Conflicts of Status: Anytime she exhibits higher-status behaviors, she's likely intending to cause conflict of status, in that she defines herself by her roles in large part.
    • Changes of Status: Whenever she switches between active and inactive in her roles, whenever she's particularly smitten with Gebohq, and whenever the situation switches between heavy and light-hearted.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Anytime conflict is dropping, and anytime it suits the story in relation to Gebohq. Serving the roles of both the Fool/trickster and a Protector of the Plotfractal allows for some great freedom to express any range of status.

    • Relative Status: Despite having great power over the elements of story, Amal has relatively low status among just about anyone, as he is still at heart a child.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Mostly only appropriate to show lower-status behaviors, especially around TLTE and those TLTE respects, though Amal may imitate TLTE with higher status behaviors towards those TLTE behaves similarly around, such as conflict with Thand.
    • Conflicts of Status: Has yet to really seek conflict of status with anyone at this point.
    • Changes of Status: Has yet to have much of a change of status either, except perhaps paradoxically around TLTE.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Besides what has already been mentioned, I can think of no others.

    • Relative Status: Relatively high status among the current cast, only showing a lower status if he feels "out of line" among the NeS iconic characters and around Thand.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Any high status behaviors when dispensing scholarly wisdom (and the occasional bad-ass moment of fighting) to most, perhaps lower-status behaviors when in a decidedly "personal" NeS situation best left to the NeS iconic cast, and certainly lower-status behavior around Thand, despite what attempts he may take at conflict.
    • Conflicts of Status: He's currently only one to challenge his status with Thand's, but it is more out of principle since he is well-aware of the apparently irrevocable gulf in status. There may come a time where his scholarly and age-experienced wisdom may be challenged by the likes of Antestarr or someone else.
    • Changes of Status: Likely no change of status, unless in the situation mentioned previously with someone like Antestarr.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Anything that could express typical old scholar-type, whether it be of high or low status.

    • Relative Status: Relatively low status, especially with Howard by his side or around Thand. He is likely to see the current NeS cast of characters as icons more worthy, seeing himself with his scholarly NeS knowledge more as a tool than an adviser.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Any low-status behaviors would likely be appropriate when he is with Howard, and again, likely especially with Thand.
    • Conflicts of Status: He could very well have a conflict of status with TLTE, though whether Matthias has any interest in challenging that status is unknown.
    • Changes of Status: If such a situation arose where a conflict with TLTE left him the "winner" or such, his status might change. Otherwise, no foreseeable changes.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Not much room to express high-status behaviors with Matthias unless perhaps it has to do with magic.

    • Relative Status: Unknown - neutral?
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Unknown - neutral?
    • Conflicts of Status: Unknown - none?
    • Changes of Status: Unknown - none?
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Unknown - none?

    Krig the Viking
    • Relative Status: Neutral to high status. He's too oblivious to be self-conscious or anything other than confident.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: If he's making strong eye contact, it's likely to weird any other character out. Otherwise, any behaviors that are more animalistic than human might be appropriate, whether high or low status.
    • Conflicts of Status: Again, too oblivious to engage in conflicts of status of his own for the most part, which may irritate some.
    • Changes of Status: He may be regarded with a higher status when in combat, but otherwise, no real change in status.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Anytime a character (or reader) should feel empathetic with him is a good opportunity for lower-status behaviors, and anytime a character (or reader) should feel fear (or the like) towards him is a good opportunity for higher-status behaviors.

    • Relative Status: Generally higher status among the current cast, though often struggling not to plummet to a very low status when with Thand.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Unknown, with the exception of Thand (and perhaps Howard and Matthias).
    • Conflicts of Status: Just about anyone Antestarr feels is ruining his plans to free the NeS from the control of the writers and his schemes in general, the challenging of statuses of which he can be rather subtle about. There are specifically conflicts with Nyneve at times and Thand.
    • Changes of Status: His status could be all over the board.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Unknown - Antestarr is a tricky son of a biscuit to pin down.

    • Relative Status: Fluctuates depending on how secure she feels her position is, usually higher with Antestarr.
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Simply put, higher-status behaviors when in a secure situation, lower-status behaviors when not (traditional villain behaviors).
    • Conflicts of Status: Unknown, though there may be some with Al Ciao if any connection is made with her 1888-era history.
    • Changes of Status: Unknown.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Unknown other than what has already been mentioned.

    • Relative Status: Lower than most, though uncharacteristically high oftentimes around The Last True Evil, and characteristically high around children (of which Amal would likely be included).
    • Appropriate Status Behaviors to Show: Her character is built around exploiting lower-status behaviors at nearly any time, though higher status behaviors are likely appropriate around TLTE and Amal.
    • Conflicts of Status: Unlikely to engage in a conflict of status, though per Antestarr's encouragement, may soon do just that with Gebohq.
    • Changes of Status: She may build to a higher status if she succeeds in supplanting Gebohq.
    • Opportunities to Express Status: Besides that which has already been mentioned, none that I can think of right now.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 07-02-2010 at 03:14 AM.

  20. #100
    Lens #81: The Lens of Character Transformation

    Powerful stories are able to change their characters. To ensure your characters are transforming in interesting ways, ask yourself these questions:
    • How does each of my characters change throughout the game?
    • How am I communicating those changes to the player? Can I communicate them more clearly, or more strongly?
    • Is there enough change?
    • Are the changes surprising and interesting?
    • Are the changes believable?
    Change, in this case, need not be something major and permanent, just any sort of change to characters made through the story. This means that even flat characters can exhibit some small, temporary changes, if it makes for a fitting story. However, I believe that, with even the most rounded and transformative-prone of characters, change should be applied economically with the characters of NeS. The crazy nature of its topsy-turvy conflicts make it very easy for characters as it is to have the opportunity for change without trying. Without restraint, it's difficult to keep up with just exactly who the characters are, and I feel restraint is a key ingredient in good character. With that said, I'll take a look at the characters in the current story-arc as a whole.

    Gebohq, having fallen as a "leading main protagonist" in a lot of NeSquared, has the opportunity now to transform back into that and perhaps more, as well as his relations with others (Thand, TLTE, Rachel, etc.) for better or worse. TLTE has the opportunity to continue transforming both as more a hero and more a villain -- something that should culminate epically at the end of NeSquared. Al Ciao may transform in either forging his character stronger against his alter-ego or succumbing to it. Amal may transform himself under TLTE's influence (hinted at for the worse). Finally, Losien may transform into a "leading main protagonist" herself as she attempts to "dethrone" Gebohq at the encouragement of Antestarr. I don't think any of the other characters have any foreseeable changes (smaller ones, and even larger ones, are unfortunately the kind that tend to crop up via improvisation), but I only see this as a potential problem for the antagonists (Thand, Rachel, Antestarr).

    As for communicating any of these changes, they're usually pretty blatant (Amal: "Uncle Thand needs to be stopped, and TLTE has had the most success so far through violence -- I'll stop him by invoking the Law of Cool and rip him violently apart from the fabric of the story!"), so I'm confident that the transformations are clear and strong. If anything, we could probably stand to be more subtle. I'm mostly looking at you, Al the writer!

    Again, I'm confident that there is enough change in the NeS, and if anything, the changes we have should possibly be fewer and forged from stronger and more drawn-out conflicts. I know I don't draw conflict out enough myself a lot, in any case.

    As to whether the changes present and potentially-to-come are surprising and interesting, I'm not sure, so I'm going to have to err on the side of "if they are, they're not surprising and interesting enough" and attempt to make them moreso when it works with the story. I think if we manage to find a potential change for Thand that does justice to his character, that will certainly be both, though the search for one may be impossible. However, the changes that would be present (at least the ones I suggested) are certainly believable for the most part, however they might play out. I'm confident that most of the writers can (and have done) that much. Still, keeping this lens in mind is helpful when crafting the next post one is currently writing.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and have a change of character in your lack of involvement!

  21. #101
    Lens #82: The Lens of Inner Contradiction

    A good game cannot contain properties that defeat the game’s very purpose. To remove those contradictory qualities, ask yourself these questions:
    • What is the purpose of my game?
    • What are the purposes of each subsystem in my game?
    • Are there things at all in my game that contradict these purposes? If so, how can I change that?
    This lens, and the lens after it, are likely most intended to be used with the architecture of space in a game, and according to the author of The Art of Game Design, the purpose of architecture is to control a person's experience [within a space]. Also, according to Christopher Alexander, well-designed architecture has a "quality which has no name" -- [the experience in the designed space with this quality] feels:
    • alive, as if it holds energy
    • whole, like nothing is missing
    • comfortable, pleasing to be around them
    • free, not constrained naturally
    • exact, as if they are just how they are supposed to be
    • egoless, connected to the universe
    • eternal, as if they have always been and always will be
    • free from inner contradiction

    The last is what this lens explores, since if the purpose of something is to be fun and it is boring, for example, that tends to be pretty bad. I'm actually wary with handling this lens, since I feel it can be easy to strike out something that isn't contradiction but contrast or a meaningful paradox or character or any number of other things. Still, I'll see what I come up with in this lens.

    What is the purpose of the NeS [and its sub-systems]?

    Hell, that's a big question -- it feels like asking what is the meaning of life (and not satisfied with "42" as an answer). If my hand were forced to answer, though, I'd guess that the purpose of the NeS is twofold and compounded together for a larger, more mysterious purpose to emerge: to provide an engaging story for the reader -- any story that invokes life in a way that our natural, real lives do not make apparent -- and to provide a "game" about collaboration and improvisation for writers to tackle in a narrative context. That larger purpose is understood then as the attempt to fuse and hold a bond between these seemingly contradictory purposes together. Any sub-systems are merely these larger purposes on a smaller and more immediate scale as far as I see it.

    Are there things at all in the NeS that contradict these purposes? If so, how can I change that?
    As already stated, it would seem that the attempt to provide readers with an otherwise traditional narrative experience is contradictory with the primary purpose provided to the writers (the conflict between "story" and "game-play" rages on still among academics in the gaming field). However, I do not believe this to be the case so long as it is clear to the readers what sort of narrative to expect (an unconventional one to say the least) and clear to the writers what sort of "game" to expect (one that requires great listening among both its other "writer" players and "reader" players). There must be room for "failure" (character) as well, and there is much that can be learned from improvisational theater in this case. The inner contradictions, then, are when we forget this balance and listen only to readers or only to other writers or, unfortunately, not listening to anyone (possibly even oneself), or when we place too much on perfection or too much on not doing our best.

    There may very well be more specific contradictions that push against the purpose(s) of the NeS, but I'm afraid I'm too involved to look too much more objectively and would require an outside insight to further examine with this lens.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and analyze the inner contradictions in the NeS yourself!

  22. #102
    Lens #83: The Lens of The Nameless Quality

    Certain things feel special and wonderful because of their natural, organic design. To ensure your game has these properties, ask yourself these questions:
    • Does my design have a special feeling of life, or do parts of my design feel dead? What would make my design feel more alive?
    • Which of Alexander’s fifteen qualities does my design have? Could it have more of them somehow?
    • Where does my design feel like my self?
    As mentioned in the previous lens, there is a quality that well-designed spaces tend to evoke. One of the aspects of that quality is that it feels alive, and Christopher Alexander breaks that (and the other aspects) down into fifteen properties:
    • Levels of Scale (seen also in fractal goals, interest curves, and narrative spaces)
    • Strong Centers (seen also in protagonists, the main goal, etc.)
    • Boundaries (seen also in rules)
    • Alternating Repetition (seen also in flow)
    • Positive Space (seen also in the relation of story and plot)
    • Good Shape (seen also in the visuals invoked in the imagination)
    • Local Symmetries (instead of global symmetries, seen also in rules)
    • Deep Interlock and Ambiguity (seen also in emergence from symbiotic elements)
    • Contrast (seen also in opposing lenses such as reward and punishment, etc. and character foils)
    • Gradients (seen also in flow, challenge, probability curves, etc.)
    • Roughness (seen also in character)
    • Echoes (seen also in fractal interest curves and elements that unify)
    • The Void (to contrast the strong center, wholeness, and content)
    • Simplicity and Inner Calm (seen also in emergence)
    • Not-Separateness (seen also in unifying themes)

    With that in mind, I'll dive in with this lens.

    Does my design have a special feeling of life, or do parts of my design feel dead? What would make my design feel more alive?
    For the most part, the design of the NeS certainly feels alive. As I've said in previous lenses, part of the experience the NeS evokes is that it feels alive. The only times it feels dead is when new story posts are written too slowly. Still, perhaps looking at the properties of the nameless quality can help us find which properties it does and doesn't have and if they could have more.

    Which of Alexander’s fifteen qualities does my design have? Could it have more of them somehow?
    Let's take a look:
    1. Levels of Scale: There is some fractal scale between the story thread, the story-arcs and scenes, but more could certainly be done to make these levels clearer and more connected. The "world" of the NeS, which also has levels of scale, could also benefit from a general idea of its levels of scale.
    2. Strong Centers: The main characters (Gebohq, TLTE, Thand, etc.) are relatively strong, but Gebohq could stand to be a stronger character in the NeS these days. Their goals, at times, also aren't always as strong as they could be.
    3. Boundaries: Pretty lax as far as boundaries, but I feel setting strong examples and 'guidelines' as far as "rules" would do the trick here, as well as with giving a framework for the "world" of the NeS as well.
    4. Alternating Repetition: Can't recall anything in the NeS that has alternating repetition except perhaps for the preference that writers "take turns" with writing story posts (something I try not to encourage). Jokes and general narrative pacing could benefit from this more.
    5. Positive Space: I think the NeS has some pretty clear positive space in relation to negative space, whether it's looking at story and plot, or the concrete and the imagined, or any number of things.
    6. Good Shape: Admittedly harder to apply to a written narrative like this, so...perhaps? It's something to be mindful of in any case.
    7. Local Symmetries: With the post-by-post method of writing, creating local symmetries while keeping things organic on a global level is very easy to do. Whether the NeS has those local symmetries, I'm not certain. Again, something to be mindful of when writing.
    8. Deep Interlock and Ambiguity: Oh the ambiguity, how the NeS excels at that. As for a deep interlocking, I think the combination of literary and ludic elements can interlock quite deeply, nurturing an emergence of something harder to define.
    9. Contrast: On the whole, it's hard to say. Most characters don't act as clear foils for each other, nor am I sure if many of the opposing lens elements contrast each other well enough.
    10. Gradients: Not sure, but if I had to guess, I'd say there are few gradients than there could be as far as flow, interest curves and the like.
    11. Roughness: The NeS has this in spades. Perhaps diamonds as well in the rough. Enough so it clubs people over their heads. I hearts this joke.
    12. Echoes: There's certainly echoes when old characters pop back up, or characters are reminded of old conflicts, but since the NeS is often fixated on the present, echoes that appear tend to be few.
    13. The Void: I think there's certainly this in the NeS. I wish I could objectively point to something that leads me to believe this, but I can't. Still, as with all these properties, this is something we should stay mindful of when writing story posts.
    14. Simplicity and Inner Calm: The NeS is usually characterized as crazy and complicated, so even if the NeS has this property, it probably doesn't have enough of it.
    15. Not-Separateness: Yes, there is certainly this in the spirit of collaborative writing and in the themes present in the NeS itself.

    Hmm...that's odd. I would have thought the NeS would have more of these properties. Perhaps the properties it does exhibit are just that strong, or perhaps it does exhibit more properties than I can see, or perhaps it doesn't have as much of that nameless quality as I'd have imagined.

    Where does my design feel like my self?
    It feels like myself in its spirit of collaboration (it's interlock/ambiguity) and its roughness (character/quirks). Perhaps it feels like myself in the properties it appears not to have as well...

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and examine the nameless quality in the NeS for yourself!

    DISCLAIMER: I do realize that there is some difficulty in using this lens, as the author of The Art of Game Design himself says that he was only scratching the surface when talking about Christopher Alexander's nameless quality, suggesting that people should read the material first-hand. There is, therefore, a distinct possibility that I am misunderstanding and misapplying some of what makes up the "nameless quality" in well-designed spaces.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 07-05-2010 at 01:43 AM.

  23. #103
    Virgin Fleet Admiral

    Oooh... Holograms... >.>

    Actually, I don't really know what I can add to this lens. Although I will say that I personally LIKE the script format, not just for writing, but for ease of reading. I'm confused by Geb's remark that some people have said that they find the script format hard to read. Because of its simplicity and many double spaces, it makes it MUCH easier to read, and I should know, being on my second readthrough of the entire NeS.

    Also, while reading fiction on the computer can be problematic (again, I would know, being on my second readthrough), it makes the writing a lot simpler. And if you're a writer and just reading the most recent posts in order to make a post of your own, it's no problem at all, particularly since it's simplified by the script format.

    The first draft nature of NeS really enhances the sandbox experience that I described in Lens 1 for the writers, as one doesn't have to worry nearly as much about how "good" the writing is, or where it's "going". This makes it all about the surprise (Lens 2) and not the "planning".

    I disagree with Geb that the technology of the message board jars from the experience, but then, we're referring to different experiences. The message board interface is all about interacting with people (in a creative way, in the case of NeS and the workshop), which is essential to the sandbox experience.

    In his mechanics that detract from the experience, Geb mentions the fact that there's no penalty for not writing, and seems to lament that there is thus no way to keep writers writing. He's thinking in terms of a "stick", when he needs to be thinking of a "carrot". We have to get writers and potential writers EXCITED about the NeS. Dangle NeSi in front of potential recruits. Talk about some of your favorite parts. (A berserk midget Viking? Excellent!) Highlight that "plot" and "skill" are secondary considerations. Describe the joy of the creative sandbox experience. Keep them hooked with compliments and interaction and building on their story posts.

    LENS 9 - THEME

    What? A theme? NeS? Er... Is random zaniness a theme? Many themes crop up from time to time, but I'm not sure if NeS has an overall theme. Nor should it, I think, as it should be free to do whatever. Escapism is a major cropup, as Geb mentions, but there is also story vs. Plot. Perhaps an overall theme is that nothing can ruin the story - although I don't think that really counts as a theme.

    Besides, I don't know what Geb means by the "traditional ideas of a theme".


    OOOH, OOOH! I want to knock Geb down a peg! Please, let me, let ME! >.>

    Okay, let's answer some of these questions. NeS is one of the things in life that grabs me, but why? Well, one answer is that it's interactive, neverending, AND random. Sort of a technical answer, perhaps, but there it is. Because of those three qualities, I don't HAVE to plan anything. I can just write and know that it'll be picked up by someone else, and we can build off each other's ideas and go with the flow. But I CAN plan some things (even if I have to be prepared for them to be hijacked). Anything is possible in writing the NeS. I have a much harder time writing my own stories, because I feel that I have to plan them out ahead of time.

    But it's more than that. NeS is fun because of the whole sandbox experience (Lens 1). That really makes NeS feel special to me, the illusion of the sandbox. But I'm repeating myself now, aren't I? And I'll keep doing it, till you young whippersnappers get that through your thick skulls! [/old man rant]

    I haven't described NeS to nearly as many people as Geb has, but those I have described it to DO get excited. (What's wrong with the people Geb talks to?) I typically sum up NeS as a "comedic epic about these bumbling heroes who always manage to save the day, and half the humor comes from the fact that they KNOW they're in a story, and are always talking back to the writers, the Narrator, and the audience members". I describe that it's interactive and neverending and zany and random as well. The two guys I've tried to recruit with that spiel got pretty excited. (The first is still interested but doesn't want to write right; he has some ideas but isn't crazy about writing. The second is one I just described it to last week, so jury's still out on him.) I've described it to other people as well (NOT in attempts to recruit them), and they seem pretty impressed, if not interested enough themselves.

    If I had no constraints? Then I'd be able to say to hot girls, "Hey, baby - I'm an NeS writer," and she'd be all impressed! >.> Seriously, though, there would be more writers for NeS, as Geb says, but also all the great ones of the past would come back - Ben, Britt, Krig, TLTE (I know you're out there somewhere!), Tracer, Janitor Bob, CookedHaggis, Antestarr, West Wind, Majiir, and others I know I'm missing. (If I didn't list your name, don't feel insulted, I jsut forgot. Wait, that's pretty insulting, too...)

    There would also be an annual NeS convention, where all the writers meet somewhere (and it's paid for! By a government grant! Or Bill Gates! Or something!) And have a good time for a few days hanging out, barbecuing, playing video games, playing Laser Tag, etc. - oh, and talking about NeS, too.

    The guest spots idea Geb has sounds pretty cool, but I'd be more interested in getting all the important people in my life to write for NeS - like my brother, my cousins, my best friend from HS, etc. When I get in a romantic relationship, I'd like my girlfriend, and later fiancee/wife, to be a regular NeS writer, too! It'd be an activity we can all share, one that I already find vastly enjoyable.

    My instincts for how I think NeS should be are a desire for that ideal sandbox experience (Lens 1). What's driving those? Well, it's FUN that way! I don't have a real agenda for NeS like many people have. I'm not pushing a theme or idea - although I should point out I have many ideas, both for story ideas and for my way of looking at life that are expressed through my character Al Ciao: but I'm not PUSHING them. I mostly want to have fun, building off others' ideas and having them respond to my own. A symbiosis if you will.

    When I was little, my brothers and I would play with our action figures in the playroom, and have long "episodes" of adventure with them, telling stories - often epic, often funny - with the toys, and blending our stories together. In a way I miss that, and NeS is the adult version of that.


    Like Geb, I don't really try to weave my experiences into the story. I have plenty of inspiration just by being zany. (I have never had writer's block in my life - my problem has always been TOO MANY ideas, more than I know what to do with.) However, an exception is that some of my thinking and ways of looking at the world creep in. My character represents an evolution from obsession and munchkinism and some idealism that turns to despair as Highemperor, to balance and fairness and some cynicism that turns to hope as Al Ciao.

    Still, various ideas and modes of thought creep into NeS from time to time. In one of my recent posts (2/8/2010, page 29), I had the heroes fall asleep, and Al Ciao realized that he was dreaming. This is called LUCID dreaming, and it's something I actually do. (Some people think it's impossible, some people think it's some kind of mystical thing, but it's neither. You simply realize you're dreaming, and then you're free to do whatever you want. I, for instance, like to fly!)


    Oh, gosh, Geb is way over my head here. I mean, I understand what he's saying, but I'm not sure I agree with him, at least not completely (probably due to my own ignorance). Geb mentions that a problem for writers to solve is to use what's in previous posts in one's own post, in an engagin manner. This is true, but - and maybe I'm just splitting hairs here - that's a problem inherent in the "game" of NeS, in that it's an interactive story thread. The problem is created by the game, whereas I understand this lens to say that the GAME (NeS) is a solution to a problem, not that it CREATES a problem for the writers to solve.

    So, with that understanding of it - and I may be way off base, I know - the problem that I am trying to solve in writing for NeS, is the problem of how to have fun in a creative and social way. (Did I really say social? Yes, I did. I consider NeS a social experience, in its interactivity.)

    Have I been making assumptions about NeS that have nothing to do with its true purpose? Probably. The one that comes to mind is that I think everyone should just have a good time without pushing any big themes, but in truth, many people have themes and ideas important to them that they want to explore. While I have plenty of STORY ideas, I tend to be of the school of thought that NeS should be FUN without having to MEAN anything - but then, I think ANYTHING we enjoy should be enjoyed for its own sake and not for some greater meaning inherent in it. [/philosophical rant]

    Is NeS the best solution? If thr problem is, as I state it is to me, to have fun in a creative and social way, then yes. It's certainly creative and social, but it's also ongoing and can be accessed from anywhere in the world with Internet access, anytime. As opposed to working in a community theater (which is a good and fun thing all its own), where everyone has to find the same time to work together.

    The problem IS solved, at least for me. I'm having fun in a creative and social way. Of course, it'd help if more people would write. (I think it's telling that it's only when Geb takes a break - for a worthy cause, I might add - that NeS experiences its worst slump ever.)

  24. #104
    Virgin Fleet Admiral

    Geb hits everything here.

    Poodle Geb Kicked in'86: *whimper*

    Not literally, little puppy.

    Poodle Geb Kicked in'86: *whew*

    As for the last filter, I certainly enjoy NeS more than enough. It's one of my favorite things to do, combining two of my favorite things - creativity and community.

    Geb: And the Internet.

    Well, yes, and the Internet, too.

    Geb: Not to mention the hot, naked, spelunking--

    Sarn: ACHOO!

    Bless you. Anywho, Geb says something needs to change, if we're going by these filters, but I'm not too sure these filters really apply to NeS. The main problem with NeS is recruiting new writers, keeping the writers we have, getting them to post frequently, and working together with each other.


    What could go horribly wrong with NeS? All the writers stop writing! Oh wait, that already happened. Well, at least I'M keeping it going, and Cool Matty's come back, and Geb will be back in August, and Britt SHOULD come back this summer, and we expect Ben to pop back up, and as for TLTE, we'll keep hoping...

    There's also the other problems, like writers not working with each other, or not writing frequently enough. We've covered that. Actually, I think the worst problem is that few people are as enthusiastic about NeS as Geb is. I believe I'm as enthusiastic (or nearly so) as he is, even though I don't take it as SERIOUSLY as he does. (See my above philosophical rant in Lens 12 about needing things to be meaningful to be fun.) If we had more people crazy about NeS, then it wouldn't shut down when Geb takes off. I hope to mitigate that with my own involvement once I get Internet access easily and regularly again.

  25. #105
    I hope to reply to Al's stuff in more detail, but for now, I'd just like to point out that, at least with the current story-arc, TLTE has been one of the more frequent writers so far, so I can only say that we all love TLTE and his writing so much that we always want more, I suppose. With that said, and with Al talking often about friendships in the NeS, the next lens conveniently crops up with...
    Lens #84: The Lens of Friendship

    People love to play games with friends. To make sure your game has the right qualities to let people make and keep friendships, ask yourself these questions:
    • What kind of friendships are my players looking for?
    • How do my players break the ice?
    • Do my players have enough chance to talk to each other? Do they have enough to talk about?
    • When is the moment they become friends?
    • What tools do I give the players to maintain their friendships?
    I think most of us agree that building friendships is an important factor in building and maintaining a community, and community is a fairly integral part of the NeS as a whole. So, my friends, lend me your ears as I examine with this lens.

    I'm not sure if I can speak for everyone, but the friendships I look for in the NeS, like the ones I tend to look for in any other situation, are more the long-term, closer variety. Sure, I'm good with any sort of friendships, but I think it's really beneficial to the NeS to have closer bonds, since trust is extremely helpful in collaborative writing and stronger trust form with closer friends. Again, like improvisational theater, the NeS experience requires a degree of comfort among fellow writers (and even readers) since the act of improvisation can bring out more intimate sides of ourselves. Granted, we're provided more luxuries (more time to improvise) and limitations (the internet is a public domain), but the point still stands.

    Unfortunately, I don't think the NeS provides any real solid ice-breaking moments, requiring most new people to simply dive into the community. I need to look up some ice-breakers sometime and see if and how they could be incorporated into the NeS.

    As for talking to each other, yes, they have plenty of opportunities to talk among themselves (something I try to push), whether that be in the story itself, the workshop thread, the (un)official IRC chatroom, and other outside methods (Facebook, IM, e-mail, etc.). Given the material in even a few story posts of the NeS, yes, I think they also have plenty to talk about as well.

    The moment people become friends is something I'm not sure is in my realm to answer. In general, I would imagine the times that two writers form a collaborative bond as well as the times they talk to each other outside the story. As for maintaining friendships, I'm not sure there's really anything I can offer as far as a "friends list" or the like. This may be something that could be looked into with the wiki-type site.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and believe in the power of friendship!

  26. #106
    Lens #85: The Lens of Expression

    When players get a chance to express themselves, it makes them feel alive, proud, important, and connected. [Use this in combination with Lens #63: The Lens of Beauty and Lens #80: The Lens of Status.] To use this lens, ask yourself these questions:
    • How am I letting players express themselves?
    • What ways am I forgetting [to offer players opportunities for self-expression]?
    • Are players proud of their identity? Why or why not?
    The short: readers have little to no room for expression, writers have virtually any opportunity for expression (though excessive self-indulgence is frowned upon) and the characters express themselves however best serves the story. With that said, I'll focus on the writers.

    The writers, while given all the freedoms of expression given to any fictional writer, specifically have three areas to uniquely express themselves: their message board profile (name, signature, etc.), each post they write (stating the obvious) and traditionally, at least one character "of their own." This last, while I think too easily conflicts with the goal of collaboration, is nevertheless the traditional primary means of self-expression most writers latch onto when writing, so care has to be taken here to not deny either self-expression or the spirit of collaboration.

    I feel like there should be some way for readers to express themselves, and in general, to have reason to be "just a reader" -- an active, vocal reader, instead of a writer as well. I'm not sure what that method of expression could be though, if any. Ideally, I'd like to give writers other means of self-expression so that I could more strongly discourage the "my character" mentality that sometimes crops up, but again, I'm not sure what.

    In any case, though, I think writers can be rather proud of their 'identities' since each post is clearly authored by them, thus making it easy to identify "their" posts. Having the chance to look back and say "yes, that was my story post that people liked" I think is a very powerful means of self-expression.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and express yourself!

  27. #107
    Lens #86: The Lens of Community

    To make sure your game fosters strong community, ask yourself these questions:
    • What conflict is at the heart of my community?
    • How does the architecture shape my community?
    • Does my game support three levels of experience?
    • Are there community events?
    • Why do players need each other?
    While in theory, the conflict at the heart of the NeS community could be to be the best of the writers (and could encourage each other to improve), this could turn into a heated competition that breaks against the spirit of collaboration and general relaxed atmosphere, and "writing the best interactive story thread" (if such a situation ever arose) I don't think would be much better. The conflict, therefore, is to try and wrangle the wild nature of the NeS into a story that is understandable and engaging for all levels of the community (readers and writers alike). For the reader, the conflict at the heart of their community has to be the ones presented in the story itself. Unfortunately, I can't think of a conflict at the heart of the overall community that includes both readers and writers.

    The "architecture" of the NeS actually only shapes the community on a local, present level. On the upside, there is only one story thread (and one "out of story" thread), and a currently-running story-arc usually helps bring readers and writers together. On the downside, parallel story-arcs can often divide the current writers into their own little parts, there's are large gulfs between the levels of experience among the community (which I'll get to explaining in a moment), and the "post-by-post" nature makes it very easy for people to decide to "skip" parts based on who is writing (oh hey, a part written by Gebohq, I know I won't like this!) It's something of an equivalent of a neighborhood designed as one long road with rather long driveways.

    For those of you wondering what the "three levels of experience" I'm talking about are, they are the newbie (someone new to the NeS and its community), the player (someone familiar and involved in the NeS and its community, but not a "master" or veteran), and the elder (someone who's presumably "mastered" what is offered from the NeS and its community). With that said:
    • Newbie: No, the NeS and its community does little to support new people. Don't misunderstand me -- I think the community is rather open and inclusive to whatever new people we can get, and I've tried to do what I can to offer ways to make it easier for a new person. Essentially, though, we're still at the "just jump in the pool!" level of helping out new people who might not even be confident in their abilities to stay afloat. One way may be to encourage and reward the "experienced" members to help the new people out more...
    • Player: Hell, even this level of experience isn't supported enough. Once they get involved, they tend to feel that if they stop reading for a while, they have to "catch up" and it becomes a vicious cycle that overwhelms them more than even some new players, despite my best efforts to discourage them from feeling the need to "catch up." Again, I'm hoping a wiki-like resource will help save the day here.
    • Elder: It's hard to imagine anyone in the NeS community as having "mastered" it, if such a thing could be even said to exist. Still, we certainly have "veterans" in the group (not all of which are measured in years involved), but does the NeS support them? It certainly invites for more difficult challenges (of which sometimes they wish not to embrace), and they certainly have joys of creating and "governing" privileges on a level that naturally comes to them (something I actually try not to encourage too much). They aren't, however, encouraged to outright "teach" what they know to new people, and I still struggle to figure out how best to reward such experienced members of the community to do so. In any case, the NeS mostly encourages this level the most when it should be doing its best to encourage the other two, especially the new people.

    There aren't really any "community events" in the NeS that I can think of (with the numbers we have, this may be a moot point). I'm not sure what events there could be when the need arises either.

    Writers, however, certainly need each other because the NeS depends on its collaborative effort. Readers, unfortunately, do not need each other as much (nor am I even sure such measures should be taken to make them "need" each other). In theory, writers need readers to have motivation to write (which in some cases, the lack of visible readers has made older writers move on, and in other cases, the "other writers" are enough) and readers need writers to create the story for them, but I feel some other "need" should be included as well between readers and writers. I do not know what that need would be, though, especially since I'm actually wary of the philosophy of "dependence" with each other, since it can often have the same problems as addictions.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and make something of our community!

  28. #108
    Virgin Fleet Admiral
    Lens 15 - the toy

    At the risk of sounding like Al Gore in the 2000 campaign, "I agree!" Can't really add anything here, and I'm afraid that might be the case with a lot of these lenses, but Geb said, "Post anyway, even if it's just agreement or disagreement." He's a regular ole tyrant, isn't he?

    Lens 16 - The Player

    I think something the writers like about NeS, as touched on in the earlier discussion between Geb and Tracer, is the flexibility to write for either flat or round characters, or even more than that, to treat characters as flatly or roundly as they wish. My character, for instance, has a lot of backstory, but instory can fill in for any generic flat character in general zaniness.

    Other than that, I have nothing to add.

    Lens 17 - Pleasure

    Hmm, I didn't even know about that technical breakdown of different types of pleasure Geb highlighted. Makes sense though. I particularly like the humor, discovery, and fellowship.

    Of course, my favorite type of pleasure is, alas missing from NeS - sensation! You can't see it, or hear a musical soundtrack. Granted, some things in Nes you wouldn't want to see or hear (the rape of Catherine, for example), much less feel (such as feeling Gebiyl's hand get cut off), but I'm a sensate - I love fresh air and the wind and good food and music. Oh well, I guess that's what "real life" is for. [/ramble]

    Lens 18 - Flow

    I find NeS engaging, which is the essence of flow, as I see it. Not because it has a series of challenges (I am challenge-phobic), but because it keeps my attention. It keeps my attention because I can play with it any way I want to, but there specific parameters I can play with: others' plans (social) and past references and backstories (creative). It's all about that sandbox experience I talk about in Lens 1 (anyone remember that?).

    That's all for now. Give me a cookie, Geb - I earned it!

  29. #109
    *gives Al a cookie*
    Lens #87: The Lens of Griefing

    To make sure griefing in your game is minimized, ask yourself these questions:
    • What systems in my game are easy to grief?
    • How can I make my game boring to grief?
    • Am I ignoring any loopholes?
    The author of The Art of Game Design in this lens defines "griefing" as when other players aim to cause grief upon other players. These are usually the "killers" mentioned in the Bartle Test of Lens #17, and they have little interest in the spirit of the game experience, but rather, to ruin the experience for everyone else and feed off their grief. Is it possible to have these types ruin the NeS? Certainly, but not in way one might naturally think...

    For anyone who has had any experience with the NeS, it's known that trying to "ruin the story" is not the easiest place to cause grief. On the contrary, "ruin the story" was precisely the goal of the story-arc Love Conquers All, and that is one of the better story-arcs the NeS has had lately. No, so long as collaboration and improvisation are at the heart, no one can succeed in ruining the story. However, it IS very easy for people to "kill" the spirit of collaboration and improvisation, which is where some may get confused with how to "kill the story" since an anti-collaborative effort also tends to lead to traditional means of "ruining" the story as well. But said person could write a well-written story, yet make it incredibly difficult to collaborate by abusing trust ("I got a great plan, please give me some time!") or write "shock" or personal material that fuels animosity among the community and not serve the overall story, or any number of other things.

    Fortunately, most people don't realize this, and the idea of ruining the story seems a far more lucrative target than taking some small extra effort to string the community along and break its fragile collaborative and improvisational spirit, so not being able to ruin the story will bore them, and the extra effort would likely bore them before they could act out any malice. I'm not sure how else to deter those who would cause grief, though, other than to try and build a strong, inviting, loving community. If there are any loopholes (of which I'm sure there are), I've yet to see them, and I worry one day that the NeS and its community won't be able to remain firm against the likes of the dredges of humanity that seem to show themselves the most at times on the internet.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and analyze, but please do not cause grief for the sake of making others miserable. Thank you.
    Last edited by Gebohq; 02-06-2011 at 05:54 AM.

  30. #110
    Virgin Fleet Admiral
    Since Geb is moving today, I'll have to carry the torch and continue my comments on the lenses. Unfortunately, I don't have much to say, but Geb bribed me with a cookie...

    Lens 19 - Needs

    Nothing to add here. As I've said before, NeS fills my creative and social needs; Maslow's hierarchy just formalizes those needs in a context.

    Lens 20 - Judgment

    Not much here either. Although I will add the useless note that NeS judges a writer's interest in it, based on how avidly he/she posts for it.

    Also, often there is not enough judgment at all, out-of-story, apart from Geb's criticisms. Actually, having been on the receiving end of Geb's criticisms before, I tend to think his judgments are generally pretty fair. Also, Geb only lays into you if he respects you, so don't get defensive if he does criticise you; it means he feels you are contributing in a worthwhile manner.

    I myself have received a couple of judgments on NeS1888 which were pretty psoitive, so of course I thought they were fair! Even though they weren't all from Geb, I still cared about it.

    Lens 21 - Functional Space

    Again, nothing here. I agree with Geb.

    Lens 22 - Dynamic Space

    I feel that as a general rule, plans a writer has should be shared. Having a few unformed ideas is one thing, but massive plans for the story should be shared. Of course, I may be biased, since I'm DYING to know TLTE's epic schemes...

    Anywho, to use Al Ciao as an example for this lens, he is an object. One of his attributes is his receding tendency to powerplay, as manifested in his sometime transformations into Highemperor. Usually ambition or desire or stress can trigger this state change.

    That's all for now.

  31. #111
    Thank you, Al. My move went well (though I needed an extra day), and it's thanks to people like Al that I can be confident in the next two lenses, the first being...
    Lens #88: The Lens of Love

    • Do I love my project? If not, how can I change that?
    • Does everyone on the team love the project? If not, how can that be changed?
    Without love, any endeavor is, at least on a practical level, to be far more difficult to achieve and its lacking presence will inevitably bring down the quality of the project. The author of these lenses goes so far as to say that one should "fake it until you make it" if necessary -- that's how important having love for your work means. While I'm not sure I agree wholeheartedly with that extreme, this is one of the more important elements I do my best not to neglect.

    Do I love my project? Yes.

    Does everyone else on the team (the writers) love the project? I believe so, yes.

    Despite the brevity of my response here, this is certainly one of the most important lenses to take away from this thread, and I hope to continue pushing for the importance of love as involved with the NeS. As always, though, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens yourself.

  32. #112
    Lens #89: The Lens of the Team

    To make sure your team is operating like a well-oiled machine, ask yourself these questions:
    • Is this the right team for this project? Why?
    • Is the team communicating objectively?
    • Is the team communicating clearly?
    • Is the team comfortable with each other?
    • Is there an air of trust and respect among the team?
    • Is the team ultimately able to unify around decisions?
    Unfortunately, this is not a lens I can really apply with any sort of accuracy without other writers to chip in. The "right" team consists of the people interested enough to write as far as I'm concerned. As for whether we're communicating objectively and clearly, it's hard to say, as I feel we don't communicate enough to say one way or the other (but I'm a communication addict as well). I do think we're mostly comfortable with each other though, and for the most part, we do trust and respect each other, but that's just my guess -- perhaps others don't feel the same way and have remained quiet on the matter. With the collaborative and improvisational nature of the NeS, though, I do think most of the writers learn to unify around the decisions (in the story) that each of us make. As with the previous lens, though, this lens is critical in my book, and should be something to keep at the forefront of our thoughts.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and make yourself part of the NeS team.

  33. #113
    Lens #90: The Lens of Documentation

    To ensure you are writing the documents you need, and skipping the ones you don’t, ask yourself these questions:
    • What do we need to remember while making this game?
    • What needs to be communicated while making this game?
    In the world of game design (the kind that involve numerous people and lots of money and time to make), design documents help keep track of what's being made where and why. They often either get updated or scrapped in the middle of production, and things such as a wiki-style database ( ) are often the most useful for the documentation spoken of here.

    For the NeS, we need to remember our goals, our characters, and to a lesser extent, the stories we've already told. We need to communicate at least some semblance of what we're thinking about in the current posts and our story posts to come (even if we wish not to reveal our 'surprises' we might foolishly have planned) and how we can best follow through with our goals, show our characters, and possibly work previous story material. Beyond that, I'd be interested to hear what you all think should be in a wiki-style resource so I can try to best tailor-make its structure.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and document your thoughts here!

  34. #114
    Lens #91: The Lens of Playtesting

    Playtesting is your chance to see your game in action. To ensure your playtests are as good as they can be, ask yourself these questions:
    • Why are we doing a playtest?
    • Who should be there?
    • Where should we hold it?
    • What will we look for?
    • How will we get the information we need?
    As critical as playtesting is to game design, it's also a process for revision of the product. The NeS, by its nature, is one giant rough draft, and while playtesting would be of utmost importance if we were to edit previous story material or attempt to fine-tune the NeS for a mass market, it's not as applicable in the current state of the NeS. The most we can do is treat every moment of "play" as a playtest in itself and attempt to apply any changes for future posts.

    One usually asks why a playtest is carried out, since they are often used to analyze very specific parts of a game design depending on where in development the project is at that moment. Again, since the NeS can't benefit from this process as objectively as this lens would have us do, we must simply use other lenses when writing our posts or story-arcs. Perhaps we're "playtesting" to see how well Thand can act as an active antagonist, or perhaps we're "playtesting" to see if a certain scenario carries its encouragement of cooperative writing strong enough. This is certainly a question that must be applied on a case-by-case basis.

    Who should be at [the focus of] the playtest also applies on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps only the improvisational skill of one writer is tested for speedier posts, or perhaps a certain mix of characters are tested for their chemistry with each other as the reader sees it. Where the "playtesting" should be held is really only applicable in the context of the story, where perhaps some tests would be better in the "main story" or as a side story, though perhaps "testing" how writers can collaborate in person may work as well.

    Where as "why" is inherently to make a better experience (as opposed to how well it'll sell to a demographic or to see if a technology works as it should), the "what" are the kinds of things I've already mentioned that are case-by-case. How the information is gathered is a bit trickier, since we don't have any objective method at this moment and what information we may have could only really be thrown into the workshop for a very quick "hotfix" in the story itself.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and playtest with this lens yourself!

  35. #115
    Lens #92: The Lens of Technology

    To make sure you are using the right technologies in the right way, ask yourself these questions:
    • What technologies will help deliver the experience I want to create?
    • Am I using these technologies in ways that are foundational or decorational?
    • If I’m not using them foundationally, should I be using them at all?
    • Is the technology as cool as I think it is?
    • Is there a “disruptive technology” I should consider instead?
    As mentioned in previous lenses, we already have a fairly simple, effective technology in use, and the ideal technologies are currently far too expensive for the NeS appealing as a marginal medium.

    The current technologies in use help deliver the experiences of cooperation (since message boards and the like help facilitate communication), and the ideal one would mostly only aid in the aesthetics department (though it could help focus the experience as a whole too). The current technologies are certainly used foundationally, while the ideal could risk from being merely decorational (though that doesn't mean it should necessarily not be used). "Cool" is certainly a factor I would be wary of in any case, should this lens need a more serious application, and a "disruptive technology" (a new one that has yet to be adopted as "good enough") isn't likely to ever be necessary for the NeS. If anything, it can get away with old (yet still solid) technologies (print media!), though if the NeS were to ever rise as a "mass" media, an ideal "disruptive" technology could certainly be considered.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and analyze with this lens yourself!

  36. #116
    Lens #93: The Lens of the Crystal Ball

    If you would like to know the future of a particular game technology, ask yourself these questions, and make your answers as concrete as possible:
    • What will ____ be like two years from now? Four years? Ten years? Why?
    While this question is geared towards technologies that may be helpful, this could just as easily be applied towards cultural trends, social/political climates, fashions, whatever. However, even with that in mind, I don't think the NeS generally benefits any significant amount from riding on the "cutting edge" -- it's a very present-focused experience, and the act of reading and writing are immediate enough so that it's not necessary to worry about falling out of favor in the middle of production. This is still a useful lens to consider in the back of our minds, but it's not something I feel will be an advantage to use this lens strongly or a disadvantage to not use it.

    For the sake of this lens, however, let's simply apply this to the NeS as a whole (though this is again not really the point of this lens.

    Two years: No matter how things turn out, I think things will be more or less how things are now -- slow, but still plodding along like a turtle.

    Four years: Here is where I fear things may become problematic. Many of us are in our 20s, and if nothing else, we're likely to only become busier and more involved with loved ones and work. If nothing is done to get some serious new (likely young) people involved, the NeS will likely start seeing itself on its "last legs" as it were. This is not even considering waning interest without attempts at broader outreaches (wiki-style resource, webcomic, and a published novel based in the NeS experience are things I hope to push more soon).

    Ten years: Without growing our community and strengthening the foundation of our "craft" I feel the NeS will likely fade away by this point. However, I've been something of a fatalist with the NeS since page 1, so I hope to be continued proven wrong and have the NeS remain strong for another 10 years go come.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and anticipate the future as it concerns the NeS yourself!

  37. #117
    Lens #94: The Lens of the Client

    If you are making a game for someone else, you should probably know what they want. Ask yourself these questions:
    • What does the client say he wants?
    • What does the client think he wants?
    • What does the client really want, deep down in his heart?
    The NeS, at this time, does not have or require a client. Perhaps one day, when it needs a sponsor or publisher or marketer or the like, this lens can be applied more traditionally. For now, we must consider the readers and the [other] writers as our client, and ultimately, they as the players (in the NeS or any other project) should be seen as the primary client anyway.

    So, for instance, a reader might say they want character development. What they think they want might be more specifically a character more "serious" with lots of inner conflict that they overcome, and what they might really want, deep down in their heart, is a darker character who doesn't actually develop too much from how they are introduced.

    This lens can't always promise results. Sometimes what they really want is in conflict with the experience, goals, or long-term success of the project (or can't be resolved with conflicting desires from another client). Sometimes you're unable to figure out what they really want, or you do, but you can't show your client that their misperceiving their own real desires. This lens, like all the others, do help to open our awareness of those distinctions though.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and analyze with this lens yourself!

  38. #118
    Lens #95: The Lens of the Pitch

    To ensure your pitch is as good as it can be, ask yourself these questions:
    • Why are you pitching this game to this client?
    • What will you consider “a successful pitch?”
    • What’s in it for the people you are pitching to?
    • What do the people you are pitching to need to know about your game?
    Ugh, the pitch. If only I liked this necessary evil...or was any good at it. Once again, let's consider potential new readers and writers as the client we're pitching to in this case.

    We're pitching to possible new readers about the NeS because we wish to gain their active readership, and we hopefully feel they might have interest in it (whether it's the style of comedy or its metaphysical meta-fiction or simply the stories told). We're pitching to possible new writers for much the same reason, except we want their active writing as well as readership, though we might also hope to strengthen bonds of friendship as well.

    A successful pitch is having someone who is genuinely interested in reading and writing (and ideally, someone who actually becomes a reader and writer).

    For the reader, I would like to think an entertaining story is in it for them (though I'm quite aware that the story isn't as approachable as it could be) and writers who would likely start writing things requested (moreso than in other scenarios at least!) For the writer, they have the opportunity to flex writing muscles not often used -- collaboration and improvisation -- as well as join a community that I'd like to believe is fun and easy to start.

    For both readers and writers, they need to know that the NeS is something of an absurdist comedy, a sort of modern fantasy with meta-fictional elements, and that plot is the enemy, and that unfortunately, there is some time investment needed (though not as much as they might think). For the writers, they need to know the importance of the ability to collaborate and improvise.

    Hmm... well, the questions in of themselves here actually didn't turn out as bad as I thought. It's mostly trying to "sell the experience" that gets me -- how best to summarize what the story is about in a hooking way, how to best present its appealing factors while minimizing its unappealing factors in an honest manner. It doesn't help that I tend to sell the flaws foremost, believing that if they know the worst of it and accept that, the rest shows up well in its truest, best form.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize, and pitch your own ideas!

  39. #119
    Lens #96: The Lens of Profit

    Profits keep the game industry alive. Ask these questions to help your game become profitable:
    • Where does the money go into my game’s business model? Why?
    • How much will it cost to produce, market, and distribute this game? Why?
    • How many units will this game sell? Why do I think that?
    • How many units need to sell before my game breaks even?
    Fortunately, this is not a lens that currently (or may ever) apply with the NeS. Unfortunately, should it ever (say, to publish a novel based on the NeS), I'd be at a great loss. I have a very poor business sense, nor is it a sense I whole-heartedly wish to have. Even for something as relatively simple as a novel (instead of a video game), I have little idea where the money would go in its production, how much that production, marketing and distribution would be, how well it'd sell and how well it needs to sell. It's something I need a better understanding of, especially if we ever have dreams of "selling out" -- we may wish to sell ourselves out and get actual money for this, but at least I don't wish to sell out the NeS itself. Understanding the NeS with this lens would help me better defend the character of the NeS from those who would put profit above it.

    Please let me profit from your comments, questions, criticisms and analyzes of your own.

  40. #120
    Lens #97: The Lens of Transformation

    Games create experiences, and experiences change people. To make sure only the best changes happen to your players, ask yourself these questions:
    • How can my game change players for the better? For the worse?
    This lens applies with the intent of something beyond the confines of the game, whether it's emotional maintenance, connecting with others, education, addiction, violence, and the like.

    As with any escapist works, the NeS does change people for the better by offering emotional maintenance, such as problem solving something "not serious", and as with any confrontational works (yes, the NeS can have these too), the NeS changes people for the better by offering new insights, such as collaborative improvised writing. The NeS transforms the writers through improved collaboration and improvisation, all while connecting with each other at the same time. And, as with any story, we transform with the characters as they experience their struggles, whether they be absurdly comedic moments or how they deal with love, hate, and loss.

    I'm rather certain I can say that the NeS has (thusfar at least) not changed anyone for the worse, except for arguably me, as I have let my love for the NeS come between friendships and the like in the past. I feel I am the exception to the standard here, though, and my exception is certainly something that is not inherent to the NeS itself.

    As always, please comment, question, criticize and express your own transformations with the NeS!

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