Author Topic: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?  (Read 1099 times)

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Jeshin Offline

[Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« on: April 16, 2017, 11:40:42 PM »

Many Faces Offline

Re: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2017, 12:43:04 PM »
The introduction does not lead into the bulk of the article.  I think the video game examples are a bit of a distraction; that's solely a matter of consumer enjoyment.  A large part of the reason for managing expectations is so what the player thinks is normal/abnormal to do in the game is accurate (which you mention much later), and when their expectations are wrong it doesn't just impact the game for them but for people who interact with them (which you failed to mention).  It actually damages the game for other players when a misinformed player enters the fray.

Jeshin Offline

Re: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2017, 01:11:20 PM »
Yeah while I was re-reading it before publishing it to the blog I was like: Man this is not one of my best intros. Then I made a note to go back through the earlier part of the repository of articles to double check they're not disjointed since they were written over a long timeframe with me coming basck to them at different stages.

As to the missed point that players with wrong expectations of play are harmful to existing players. I hadn't really considered it before. I'd always considered the issue of misrepresentation being an issue to the player that is under the wrong expectation. Now that you raise the point I can see that someone playing off-theme can be problematic for existing players as it forces them to contend with a character played outside the norm by someone unaware they they are being abnormal. Definitely an angle to expand on during this topic.

The part of the article that I most wanted to drive home though was realistic depiction of gameplay. Nothing is more disheartening than promising a hated/outcast/disliked character concept to players only to have them enter the game and find a grand shrug and 'meh' to their undesirableness. Especially when their concept only works with some minor hostility to fuel their roleplay. I've seen it happen quite often and yet games will continually claim that they are meant to be undesirable and that it is the playerbase letting down these concepts instead of the staff/game. This is partially true but more can always be done to incentivize undesirable concepts being treated poorly it's just a matter of finding the right approach and codifying or implementing it.

Many Faces Offline

Re: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2017, 05:29:03 PM »
The part of the article that I most wanted to drive home though was realistic depiction of gameplay. Nothing is more disheartening than promising a hated/outcast/disliked character concept to players only to have them enter the game and find a grand shrug and 'meh' to their undesirableness.
Oh, well you nailed that for sure.  It was a mostly good article.

Jeshin Offline

Re: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2017, 09:58:00 PM »
Since I have a break at the moment...

There is a difference between being honest and managing expectations versus reviewing your game, realizing you're not fulfilling some aspect of your website/promotional material. For example I'm going to use Arx MUSH here. @Tehom  recently stated in http://optionalrealities.com/forums/index.php?topic=269.0 that there was an influx of unexpected archetypes in his game. Perhaps those players thought that shady concepts would be supported based on the website. Perhaps they simply assumed.

Is Arx MUSH mismanaging expectations? Is there something misleading in their promotional material or website? I doubt they specifically advertised support for an archetype they weren't expecting high player population in. That being said they can easily make a note that shady concepts are being supported at the moment through XYZ methods and that coded systems are on the horizon after their crisis system or social systems are completed. In this way they can take advantage of the player interest in an unexpected archetype, be accurate in their website/promotional material, and provide guidance on what players can expect with support from the game or staff with those roles. So that would be an example of adjusting to player desires or expectations that were not intentionally promoted by the staff or game.


Another example would be Carrier RPI. The game was promoted as a suspense / horror / mystery. The staff certainly tried to keep suspense and horror at the forefront by there were some design elements lacking to sustain it and invariably peoples roleplay will trend towards the norm because you can't be freaking out 24/7 without considerable effort. This means when a newbie fresh to the world and the shock of being on an island with no memories of how they got there might be disappointed by the "well adjusted" characters they find. This is an easy fix as you adjust your website/promotional material to indicate it's a survival game (which would be accurate for day to day play) with instances of extreme horror and suspense as well as an ongoing mystery. Perhaps provide a little example of the day to day gameplay a player can expect and your newbie will hopefully not be dismayed at finding a rugged but functional society in their suspense/horror game where they might have mistakenly thought it would be 24/7. In this instance the staff may have wanted consistent horror but due to player habits and lacking supporting automated horror elements they just couldn't maintain it. There is no shame in that as long as they adjust the expectations of existing and new players.

Many Faces Offline

Re: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2017, 12:20:18 AM »
That's an aspect of what I was talking about regarding expectations causing players to impact other players' immersion.

Take any MU* where magic is supposedly taboo.  Literally any one of them.  Nobody has a real problem with mages.  Why not?  Because the docs don't match the game play.  In the docs, hanging out with someone who turns out to be a made is dangerous.  In the game, a mage is a super weapon or a life extension or a Swiss army knife you can bang.

I think a large part of the managing expectation problem comes from over-estimating the quality of role playing you can expect from people.  If you incentivize doing the exact opposite of what's in your docs, you're definitely not going to have people acting like they're supposed to.  This is doubly true if what's in your docs is something about how they're supposed to automatically be the enemy of a type of person.  Because unless your game has a lot of players you're fighting against their desire for social activity.

Before I stray into another topic let me pull this back in to a topical bit of advice.

Don't advertise your game based on what you really hope it turns into.  Have a realistic idea of how people are going to play it and undersell it a little.  When people find something better than they were expecting they'll stick around to see more.

Tehom Offline

Re: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2017, 03:24:33 AM »
I think a point that wasn't really addressed is that some of the most violent interactions between players is when they have strong opinions on the direction a game should take, particularly if they feel that their enjoyment of the game is being diminished due to catering to another group. Ultimately, that boils down to expectations as well - they expect a game that will cater to their preferences, and get really angry if they think a different group of players are pulling it away from that. This extends far beyond RPGs as well - the amount of vitriol game developers get for different themes they might include in games or choices they might make is pretty incredible.

Anyway, my point is that no amount of transparency is going to make a certain subset of people happy, because regardless of what you communicate what they really want is for you to make the game around them, and they'll endlessly lobby for that.

Reiloth Offline

Re: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2017, 11:44:32 AM »
Quite true, however that is going to be true irregardless of the level of transparency Staff presents as a model between players and Staff. There are always going to be people offended by the most genteel treatment, simply due to a difference in perspective and perception. Most people are going to have a problem with authority, because they have a problem with authority in their day to day life. When presented with an 'authority figure', it's typically a loose association with 'all authority figures', which is a problem Staff runs into (but can ameliorate by not feeding into it and presenting themselves as a peer with a different job/responsibility).

Being very clear about what is possible for players to accomplish in the game world setting is very important, and I think often too wishy washy. Things like 'building new buildings' and 'starting new clans' and 'complex intuitive craft system' and these very modern sort of 'sandbox' concepts need to be discussed, even if they aren't a part of your game, because people expect them to be a part of every game.

By being upfront with what your game is not, you will have an easy billboard to point to and say 'look, we said we aren't going to have a complex crafting system, but we can look into it if you have ideas you want to submit'. You can also work towards adding those features down the road, but make it clear it isn't in place yet -- false advertising or just wishy washy advertising creates seeds of discontent with players, IMHO.

For instance, in ArmageddonMUD, there was a period of time where Players' PCs could build new buildings in the game. It took a while, but it was possible, especially for Nobles say in Tuluk after the 'Deluge' that wiped out half the city. Then, Staff took the stance of 'no new building', especially around the time of their Armageddon 2.0 release (which is concurrent with the time of heavy building in Tuluk). Presenting this double-sided image is confusing to the playerbase -- If one player can do it, even though you said you aren't pursuing new building projects with players, it's incongruous. Staff later changed their tack, saying building projects were 'possible' but shouldn't be the focus of your PC/Player. This made more sense, but still wasn't exactly true -- Some Staff encouraged building projects with their PCs, while others discouraged it, some made it really easy to accomplish, others impossible. It was (and still is) all over the place, with no actual Staff-facing policy in place about how to handle a building project.

This not only appears disorganized, it sends a mixed message to a player about what they should expect when interacting with Staff (in general). Sometimes, they get someone sweet as pie and willing to hear their requests. Other times, they get a cantankerous git who has no interest in helping them, and in fact wants to take the time to make them feel bad. Again, the 'expectation' when dealing with Staff should be getting in line to the DMV, except maybe your DMV clerk is passionate about what you are doing (trying to make their game better/more engaging) and that bleeds through their interaction.
"You will have useful work: the destruction of evil men. What work could be more useful? This is Beyond; you will find that your work is never done—so therefore you may never know life of peace." ~ Jack Vance

Reiloth Offline

Re: [Article] Managing Expectations: How & Why?
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2017, 11:53:18 AM »
I think a large part of the managing expectation problem comes from over-estimating the quality of role playing you can expect from people.  If you incentivize doing the exact opposite of what's in your docs, you're definitely not going to have people acting like they're supposed to.  This is doubly true if what's in your docs is something about how they're supposed to automatically be the enemy of a type of person.  Because unless your game has a lot of players you're fighting against their desire for social activity.

This is quite true, and hits the nail on the head. While people will engage in activity that excludes others, if you are excluding everyone so that you are alone, you will begin to make exceptions in order to gain some sort of social activity (even if it's being around the people you hate, but tolerate enough to talk to, etc). Documentation should reflect the actual gameplay.

Similarly -- Documentation should never be black and white, because nothing in this world is black and white. It's always going to be grey, and documentation should cover what those shades of grey look like, and what exactly the exception to the rule is, and what exactly that looks like and gets handled by the median.

Do people who love magic and harbor magic users get looked down upon in a world that abhors magic? Or do they become associated with magic? In Navajo belief, even 'knowing' who is a witch or anything about witchcraft labels you as being a witch yourself. Why would you know anything about magic as a layperson? So asking someone of their tribe 'Hey, what do you know about witches?' or 'Do you know any witches?' is tantamount to accusing that person of being a witch themselves. Including in your documentation what the exception looks like as much as the rule allows Players to navigate the documentation with more ease, and not fear sudden unexpected reprisals and shaming from Staff for not following rules that aren't even explicitly written or discussed.
"You will have useful work: the destruction of evil men. What work could be more useful? This is Beyond; you will find that your work is never done—so therefore you may never know life of peace." ~ Jack Vance