“It only took us 26 minutes to break it!” I said, laughing. Everyone else was laughing, too. Well, everyone except Alex.
You see, Alex had been tinkering and planning for weeks on a new idea for a tabletop game and this was its big debut to our Friday Night Gaming Group. We didn’t even get past the character descriptions before we had taken something in game and made it farce.
But can you blame us? The character description included his fighting style, the Path of the Lone Serpent. Further, the description: “This martial art initially teaches beginners the “Offensive Slither Strike” and builds up to the “Standing Attack.” And to make matters worse, that same character’s talisman (or source of magical power) was The Hand of Glory, based upon an idea stolen from old witchcraft. But, of course, while thinking about the Lone Serpent Standing Attack, you might see where we went with it.
In talking further with Alex, I realize he didn’t see it coming. He was in design mode when he made the characters. He thought serpents were powerful and quick-striking animals and they made sense as a model for a fighting style. He didn’t expect us to take the martial art in any other way than just that. We expected a Friday night of fun, relaxation and laughter. That’s what we made it, seeing humor in places it was not intended.
Expectation is a funny thing. It’s a lens through which we view the world around us, highlighting the parts that fit our expectations, downplaying those that do not. This is ultimately at the root of the trouble between those who make games and those who play games. Expectations of developers to make the best game possible, expectations of publishers to make a profit on a game, and expectations of players to play the greatest game ever don’t always match up. When expectations aren’t met, people get angry and enemies are created.
This issue, “In the Hands of the Enemy,” a line taken from Raph Koster’s rules for creating an online world, is about just that instance when expectations aren’t met, when bitterness ensues. Raph suggests that the client is in the hands of the enemy, and that developers should not trust the players. Cory Ondrejka of Linden Lab, the developers of Second Life has a slightly different take on this idea, as we discovered when Pat Miller spoke with him. Also in this issue, Bruce Nielson discusses different companies’ policies regarding modders. And Joe Blancato speaks with Brian Green, lead developer of Meridian 59, who not only designs the game, but plays it. Find all these articles and more in this week’s The Escapist.