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sndwurks

Keeping the Story Team

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I think maybe we should look at the larger picture. FFG currently sits on an IP with thousands of previous artwork that could be reused and 2 decades worth of story.

 

That's not unlike another game they are producing, like Star Wars.

 

Maybe they'll design a new game, with callbacks to old mechanics but maybe without, and they'll use those decade worth of material to produce a game.

 

We already know the story of Star Wars or Lord of The Ring. We already know the story of the Second Day Of Thunder.

 

Maybe this will be the first arc of their new game, and there won't be interaction and story prizes. Just a good story, already told once, but hey, they are producing a game, not a story.

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I think maybe we should look at the larger picture. FFG currently sits on an IP with thousands of previous artwork that could be reused and 2 decades worth of story.

 

That's not unlike another game they are producing, like Star Wars.

 

Maybe they'll design a new game, with callbacks to old mechanics but maybe without, and they'll use those decade worth of material to produce a game.

 

We already know the story of Star Wars or Lord of The Ring. We already know the story of the Second Day Of Thunder.

 

Maybe this will be the first arc of their new game, and there won't be interaction and story prizes. Just a good story, already told once, but hey, they are producing a game, not a story.

And if they do that, I won't follow them to the LCG. And I will not be alone. I only have so much time and so much money to invest in gaming as a hobby, after all. Why should I invest in a version of L5R where my choices, my victories, my story does not matter?

 

I'll buy the RPG, sure. But the LCG? Without the story, without the promise that "You can change the world", all L5R is is just a story about a bunch of magical samurai in the land of Rokugan. Why should I care if I don't matter?

 

And if you want to read WHY the interactive story is central to L5R's survival over these last 20 years, and will be central to its survival for the next 20, just go here: http://www.l5r.com/2015/03/18/brand-lead-article-competitive-advantage/

 

Dave Laderoute gives an amazing argument why the interactive story is L5R's competitive advantage as a game. It is what L5R brings to the table that no one else does. It has a rich, immersive world predicated on the single, simple promise: this is your world to change.

 

And that is why the Story Team is necessary.

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I think maybe we should look at the larger picture. FFG currently sits on an IP with thousands of previous artwork that could be reused and 2 decades worth of story.

 

That's not unlike another game they are producing, like Star Wars.

 

Maybe they'll design a new game, with callbacks to old mechanics but maybe without, and they'll use those decade worth of material to produce a game.

 

We already know the story of Star Wars or Lord of The Ring. We already know the story of the Second Day Of Thunder.

 

Maybe this will be the first arc of their new game, and there won't be interaction and story prizes. Just a good story, already told once, but hey, they are producing a game, not a story.

And if they do that, I won't follow them to the LCG. And I will not be alone. I only have so much time and so much money to invest in gaming as a hobby, after all. Why should I invest in a version of L5R where my choices, my victories, my story does not matter?

 

I'll buy the RPG, sure. But the LCG? Without the story, without the promise that "You can change the world", all L5R is is just a story about a bunch of magical samurai in the land of Rokugan. Why should I care if I don't matter?

 

 

Why does anyone play Netrunner? or Game of Thrones? Or Conquest? Or Star Wars? Or Call of Cthulhu?

 

Because the games are fun.

 

Yes, some people will not continue if the interactive story stuff doesn't continue. Will that be a serious blow to FFG's business? That remains to be proven.

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As one of those dissenting opinions, I will say this- I like a lot of Shawn's writing. On top of that, the times I haven't liked it were those where (and this was rare) even he admitted he had some issues writing said stories. Furthermore, as a writer myself, I tend to be quite critical with writing. My standards are pretty high and I'm willing to be vocal/blunt with my criticisms. I don't expect everyone to meet said standards. I offer my thoughts, be they positive or negative, in hopes that they'll give people something to consider.

My issue with Shawn is, primarily, the way he, on occasion, acted toward players. While it was by no means a constant thing, there were times when he either lashed out at criticism, constructive or otherwise, or took a hardline stance that criticism shouldn't be offered toward work that people put a lot of effort into (a stance that I find ridiculous). This was particularly apparent when dealing with criticism levied toward anyone involved in running their official Winter Court forum games.

I think, in an active community, criticism should be encouraged. People shouldn't be lashed out at for their attempts to make the game, events, stories, or whatever else better. Sure, people may have differing opinions. That doesn't change the fact that most of us want the same thing- okay things becoming good, good things becoming great, and further improvement from there. There's always room for growth and while some people's standards can be too high, those people can be shrugged off quietly/politely rather than lashed out at. There are lots of good ideas/good people to be found amongst the L5R Community. Being dismissive of their attempts to better the game, events, etc. doesn't help anyone.

And to be clear, I'd expect the same sort of criticism (preferably the constructive type) leveled toward my work or anyone else's. The times that I've written fiction, adventures, etc. or worked on forum games I've sought out said criticism. I've sat down, online or even in person, with vocal critics to find out what they'd want to see in what, to them, would be a better story/game/module. I encouraged other forum GMs, writers, etc. to do the same even if they weren't as open to criticism as I am. It's tough to get better at things if you don't listen to those people who are telling you where you could improve.

So, as far as Shawn goes, if he were purely involved in the writing process and not dismissing anyone on the forums, I'd be all for that. When it comes to dealing with the community though, where AEG screwed up was there was tons of disrespect shown toward members of the playerbase. People working at/with FFG should not repeat that error.

Furthermore, one other thing I wish to emphasize is this is by no means an attempt to single out Shawn. He has done a TON of good for L5R over the years. That good should NOT be forgotten. There've been other people at AEG who've responded to criticism/comments in ways far worse than he ever has. I'm not naming their names purely because we're not discussing bringing those individuals in to work on the product again. If we were, I'd bring them up specifically too. I love this game/this community and want to see players, staff members, storytellers, etc. getting the best possible experience out of L5R.

 

You're kind to say you enjoy my work, and I appreciate it.

 

I think on the whole I have a pretty good track record of positive interaction, and criticism is certainly something I can handle. There have been, on rare occasions, incidents such as you mention, wherein I have responded with too much vigor when defending other members of my team. Most frequently writers, but occasionally others such as in the Winter Court instance you mention. It's one of my many failings. If you wouldn't mind, I would appreciate you PMing me your friend's email address so I can offer him an apology.

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I think maybe we should look at the larger picture. FFG currently sits on an IP with thousands of previous artwork that could be reused and 2 decades worth of story.

 

That's not unlike another game they are producing, like Star Wars.

 

Maybe they'll design a new game, with callbacks to old mechanics but maybe without, and they'll use those decade worth of material to produce a game.

 

We already know the story of Star Wars or Lord of The Ring. We already know the story of the Second Day Of Thunder.

 

Maybe this will be the first arc of their new game, and there won't be interaction and story prizes. Just a good story, already told once, but hey, they are producing a game, not a story.

And if they do that, I won't follow them to the LCG. And I will not be alone. I only have so much time and so much money to invest in gaming as a hobby, after all. Why should I invest in a version of L5R where my choices, my victories, my story does not matter?

 

I'll buy the RPG, sure. But the LCG? Without the story, without the promise that "You can change the world", all L5R is is just a story about a bunch of magical samurai in the land of Rokugan. Why should I care if I don't matter?

 

 

Why does anyone play Netrunner? or Game of Thrones? Or Conquest? Or Star Wars? Or Call of Cthulhu?

 

Because the games are fun.

 

Yes, some people will not continue if the interactive story stuff doesn't continue. Will that be a serious blow to FFG's business? That remains to be proven.

 

 

Yeah, a good game comes with a gameplay where playing the game is fun in itself. It's also economically better to focus on making a good game, because good game is an investment that keeps on giving - if people enjoy the process of playing the game, they will repeat it and repeat and repeat "just" for sake of playing the game. So one good game will give you 1000000 of game sessions worth of fun, and will sustain itself on its own.

Focusing on good stories means that you have to keep up pouring them, and once story is read, it becomes "consumed" - while people revisit their favorites, a single story will rarely produce as much of "fun hours" as a good gameplay. 

Basically, a game with fun design is a gift that keeps on giving.

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If they move the story forward? I'd probably pay attention to it, but I doubt I would be anywhere near as involved in the LCG as I presently am in the CCG. What's the reward? Where is the incentive?

 

If they move it to a Timeline Neutral approach in the LCG or reboot the story to the Clan War, then I am not interested. Sorry, I played through the Clan War back when it mattered, and I don't want to go back there, and honestly? The storyline just is not that compelling when you know the outcome.

 

The popularity of L5R's story has always hinged on the promise that we do not know the outcome. There is a danger, an excitement there in participating in a storyline where nothing is truly guaranteed. The storyline of L5R has been built by the Story Team along the blueprints made in equal parts from the player community and the Brand Team, and in truth? It might never have been as interactive as some people would have liked, but that's okay. The best parts of L5R are not what happened in the story, but what the PLAYERS did to make things happen in the story.

 

Eliminate all interactivity in the storyline, and you eliminate all sense of ownership in that storyline. As for why people play the other LCGs out there? I don't know. I don't play them. Call of Cthulhu and NetRunner I have played in the past because I like the bits of the world they are set in, discovering them as I went.

 

L5R has always been predicated upon an interactive storyline. It is a story that we are all telling together as a community. Remove that, and you are removing one of the cornerstones of how it has survived this long when, honestly, no other CCG other than Magic and Pokemon really has.

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I still don't see a reason not to have immersive game play and a rich story to go along with it. 

 

*shrug* I honestly don't care if there's a "rich story."

 

When story starts driving design, then I have an issue. That's all. If I can ignore it, and it doesn't saddle the card pool with something that wouldn't exist except for the demands of story, interactive or otherwise? Go crazy.

 

That said, any company has finite resources, and I want to see writers paid for their work. That's why I support novels more than I do ongoing web fiction from a team of volunteers. I'm unlikely to read either one, though.

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The best parts of L5R are not what happened in the story, but what the PLAYERS did to make things happen in the story.

 

 

Some would say those were the worst parts. Maybe they're both right. *shrug*

 

 

Eliminate all interactivity in the storyline, and you eliminate all sense of ownership in that storyline.

 

Net positive, as far as I'm concerned. Players own their cards.

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Story, interactive or not, drives later additions to the pool. Even a game like early magic did that. Otherwise, you just release a baae aet with no fuether additions.

 

Eh. FFG style story is one thing. "We're doing Hoth, everyone will get some fun Hoth stuff." The "story" of the cycle is the Imperial invasion of Hoth, but it doesn't impact the card pool or design that much. It's thematic, but not story driven as such. I believe the only exception to this is LotR because of its explicit quest model.

 

AEG story could often be, "We're doing Hoth, let's make sure to have a Dark Side event that board wipes the rebels, because they were driven from their base. Oh, and the Wampa should totally automatically capture Luke when it enters play." And etc.

 

Obviously a bit exaggerated, but many, many AEG cards over the years have punished or boosted specific factions and characters in an almost incidental fashion purely because it reflected the story. Sometimes this was player driven, sometimes not. I dislike that model intensely.

 

I sincerely hope FFG sheds that practice.

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Story, interactive or not, drives later additions to the pool. Even a game like early magic did that. Otherwise, you just release a baae aet with no fuether additions.

 

Eh. FFG style story is one thing. "We're doing Hoth, everyone will get some fun Hoth stuff." The "story" of the cycle is the Imperial invasion of Hoth, but it doesn't impact the card pool or design that much. It's thematic, but not story driven as such. I believe the only exception to this is LotR because of its explicit quest model.

 

AEG story could often be, "We're doing Hoth, let's make sure to have a Dark Side event that board wipes the rebels, because they were driven from their base. Oh, and the Wampa should totally automatically capture Luke when it enters play." And etc.

 

Obviously a bit exaggerated, but many, many AEG cards over the years have punished or boosted specific factions and characters in an almost incidental fashion purely because it reflected the story. Sometimes this was player driven, sometimes not. I dislike that model intensely.

 

I sincerely hope FFG sheds that practice.

 

 

 

So it's OK for the flavor, setting, personalities, etc on the cards to be influenced by the story events -- but a different thing entirely for the rules of a release/set of cards to somehow try to strear the course of play along the events of the story. 

 

You know, I've come across some board games influenced in the latter way by the plot of the popular media titles they were based on, and it's... usually not great, as you say, to have the Wampa card always capture the Luke card automatically. 

 

 

Typo.

Edited by MaxKilljoy

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Dare I say it but I would have liked to see it all die with a gunpowder age, railroads, trade agreements with foreign powers, disconnection from the kami and fortunes due to the emperor being replaced by government reform, followed by topknots being clipped and samurai resistors being mowed down by cannon fire.

 

You will all hate me now, but when Hida Kisada comes back to fight Iuchiban again you'll choose the musket balls.

 

Hate you? I probably could kiss you right now!

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So it's OK for the flavor, setting, personalities, etc on the cards to be influenced by the story events -- but a different thing entirely for the rules of a release/set of cards to somehow try to strear the course of play along the events of the story. 

 

 

More or less. I mean, I don't want the game to just be a math problem. :)

 

Basically, what it boils down to is that games do "story" -- meaning narrative -- differently than fiction or film. They have different toolsets, and are concerned with different priorities.

 

AEG's practice of inflecting fiction with game and game with fiction has tied the two together and created a strong brand, but to the detriment of both game and fiction, IMO.

 

I think FFG can and should continue the brand without that crutch. Most of their other games hit the sweet spot for me (to varying degree) in terms of the relationship between theme and mechanics. So I'm happy to see them taking over L5R.

Edited by BD Flory

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You know, I've come across some board games influenced in the latter way by the plot of the popular media titles they were based on, and it's... usually not great, as you say, to have the Wampa card always capture the Luke card automatically. 

 

 

Now you've got me curious, btw. :)

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A general trend of this conversation surrounds the issue of how much agency should players be given over L5R's storyline.  As we saw moving toward Onyx, AEG was wanting to give the players far more control over their Clan's (or Clans') direction.  I have mixed feelings about this move and hope that FFG dials back much of the player control.  While player agency and ownership are important elements of any interactive medium, for an evolving storyline like the one L5R used to have, I believe that ceding too much control of the story to player choice and event outcomes creates far more problems than it solves.  I enjoy interactivity and event outcomes that matter, but I also realize that the storyline has often suffered from inconsistency and cohesion from trying to manage players' interaction with the game.

 

With a shift in ownership, as well as an old or new Story Team, I want to see the level of player agency capped at a certain degree.  Perhaps FFG can introduce a limited set of player-driven events and stories while leaving the Story Team to fashion the rest.  Additionally, if FFG wanted a more sizable level of player interaction, they could focus it on broad Clan directions rather than individual scenes within the story.  While such a shift might not sit well with returners, I do feel that limiting how much players can alter the story will lead to a much more focused and consistent experience for all.

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It should be a lot like the choose your adventure books, with votes tallied from smaller victors to choose a path divergence (perhaps with a bit of flavoring defined by certain metas, like taint).

In all those books (and early l5r) the various endings already exist, the players as a whole just decide the particulars.

Eg: Second Day of thunder had a victory already detailed out for each faction should they win. Presumably one vetted by everyone in charge of story and Brand. They would all know the fallout tesult and had planned accordingly for the next "story". It was modified obviously, but it worked.

Edited by Sashmiel

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I'll throw my lot in to keeping the story team more or less intact. Though like many others, I'm 100% okay with casting off the player interaction bit (with the exception of vanity characters, as FFG does or did this for AGoT lcg, so that'd be a nice thing to keep). Having a narrative that helps drive or at least sets the game is really important for L5R. But letting every guy try and make ridiculous changes, or have ludicrous changes that were a result of a bounty? That stuff breaks my immersion in the setting and the game, and really feels like it loses its integrity every time something like that happens (which is often imo). 

That or 'story' results never amount to anything significant. Oh you won Kotei X? And your clan got Such n' such prize? How'd that impact the story again? Oh, a footnote in a story on the website...fantastic. That may sound like me being overly harsh, but its more like it dumped a ridiculous workload on said story team and at some point they just have to hammer these things out for fear of outrage from the game's 'fans.' Really if the storyline impact comes back, I want it to be scaled back DRASTICALLY. 

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I think the Clan Paths were a good, solid idea (allowing for a Clan's wider playerbase to weigh in, instead of Random Wingnut Wnner #37), but I'm pretty sure too many options were offered...

 

Going off of the Path I submitted for the Phoenix, for example, things were made a little too specific- with the Onyx storyline, workable path options could have just been, "everybody, log in- do you vote to oppose or support the Spider power-grab?" (Everybody votes "oppose,"of course, since that's how the playerbase thinks... but that should have been okay. "You all oppose the Spider, but they're going to win. Cool, that's the story we're going to tell."

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I like small things like Who will be the target of the Egg of P'an Ku? and large general arcs like Shadowlands either lost or won the Second Day of Thunder. The first is cool but no big deal(False Nimuro was super cool) and the second was the kind of community choice I like. Struggle if you want to help shape the path but you don't get to make up a direction for the story. That seems like the writers will end up trying to potentially fit square pegs into circular holes.

I would really like to see descendants of famous characters. I think the story after Clan War was kind of meh and most of the interesting parts involved the older characters like Mitsu, Kisada and Kokujin or bringing in Yajinden and Iuchiban. Daigotsu was super cool though. Most of the newer main characters seemed kind of generic or simply echoed previous fan favorites.
 

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I think the Clan Paths were a good, solid idea (allowing for a Clan's wider playerbase to weigh in, instead of Random Wingnut Wnner #37), but I'm pretty sure too many options were offered...

 

Going off of the Path I submitted for the Phoenix, for example, things were made a little too specific- with the Onyx storyline, workable path options could have just been, "everybody, log in- do you vote to oppose or support the Spider power-grab?" (Everybody votes "oppose,"of course, since that's how the playerbase thinks... but that should have been okay. "You all oppose the Spider, but they're going to win. Cool, that's the story we're going to tell."

 

No, they were a terrible idea.

 

The story needs to be written by people who know how to end it and are planning to make events with satisfying payoff, not by people trying to guess what the outcome will be and how to make one side get the most favorable result from it.

 

And player polling is good to find out what people WANT, but I think it's just the wrong way to go about actually deciding story points. Player involvement is good because it creates memorable moments, and part of that is that things are unexpected. Poll results aren't unexpected since the answer is "what most people want". How many memorable moments in the L5R story were decided by a poll?

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I think the Clan Paths were a good, solid idea (allowing for a Clan's wider playerbase to weigh in, instead of Random Wingnut Wnner #37), but I'm pretty sure too many options were offered...

 

Going off of the Path I submitted for the Phoenix, for example, things were made a little too specific- with the Onyx storyline, workable path options could have just been, "everybody, log in- do you vote to oppose or support the Spider power-grab?" (Everybody votes "oppose,"of course, since that's how the playerbase thinks... but that should have been okay. "You all oppose the Spider, but they're going to win. Cool, that's the story we're going to tell."

 

Yeah, in hindsight, Onyx was a complete mess in terms of implementation.  I think it would have been much better to give the Clan two broad directions and leave it at that, with no player-constructed options.  The process would have been simpler and allow more leeway for the Story Team to do what was necessary to keep the story strong.

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I think the bigger problem with the interactive story is that for the players who actually have an impact, that specific effect is awesome, in part because it reflects some achievement in competitive play.

 

For everyone else, it frequently seems to lead to mediocre, forgettable results, because they aren't invested in the choice properly, and indeed *cannot be,* because the lead up can't be written with the final outcome in mind, when the final outcome is unknown. (And no, you can't write an opening that's equally effective no matter which of 8 choices become the conclusion.)

 

If there's going to be story, let it be written by professionals. They can surprise you just as much as random player #1,071, and actually have that surprise fit into a bigger picture. Servicing player choice makes that far more difficult.

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