Scheduling Sundays

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

We've been going through October's feedback to collect your thoughts on late-Saturday / no-Sunday. While there was some variance in opinion, we noticed several trends on feedback. I want to touch on what those were, and then how we want to incorporate them (skip to the bottom if you want the bottom-line up front).

Late-night threats.

Most players enjoyed the late-night threats. The October schedule had NPCs scheduled until 4am, with overlapping shifts until 2am. This meant we could do roaming threats until 2am instead of 12am, and still have other NPCs on other modules / encounters. Overall response to this was really good, so we're going to keep the late-Saturday NPC time. In the future I'm looking forward to having two hours of overlap for 'after shock' events following a climactic fight. 

Post Office hours.

Most players said the Post Office was not open late enough. The Post Office did close at 3:30am on Saturday (technically Sunday), but it saw little activity at that time. This is also later than we have ever kept the Post Office open. I think this is a little bit about production time (more below), but also making those hours visible. Typically we publish Post Office hours at the window. We didn't this event (it just got missed) so we're going to do that again. I'll post the complete hours below but anticipate the Post Office to be open until 2am at night, and again on Sunday. 

Lost Production.

A number of economy players missed the opportunity to do more crafting or production, which is safe to do on Sunday but less viable Saturday at 2am for reasons that are probably obvious. 

Sunday Closure. 

Those who don't craft still lamented the loss of Sunday because its an opportunity to get closure on any number of things - business arrangements, character conflicts, character death, etc. The response we got here was surprising. We anticipated that some players would miss Sunday roleplay, but there's a lot more going on Sunday than we anticipated. Which is great!

Morning Modules. 

Almost nobody missed morning raiders, modules, or npcs in general. think this is one of the reasons Sunday can feel like a drag by the end of the event, is that players have burned up a fair amount of energy chasing plot and chop. 

Less Game.

Players lamented the loss of game time, especially in light of last year's ticket increase. This is perfectly understandable. Everyone wants to get more time and entertainment for their dollar and we want to give that to you too. We also want the game

More Sleep.

Nobody actually slept in. The sun came up and one person woke up and soon everybody was awake. So that did not work at all. 

Cleanup was easier.

Most people who commented on cleanup itself said that it went faster and easier. We agreed. Players had more energy. We had more energy. It seemed that most of us finished up at about lunchtime which is perfect for afters. Those two hours made a lot of difference. 

Conclusions

We're going to keep Sunday in play until 10am. We will have scheduled NPCs until Saturday 4am (technically Sunday). We will not have Sunday morning modules, wake-ups, etc. In fact, we will have no NPCs for that time at all. This is strictly going to be a time for roleplay, closure, crafting, and beginning to decompress. That means the Post Office will be open from 8am to 10am. Those who want to get an early start on heading out can join me in Logistics for an early camp clean-up. 

We think 10am is going to be the best of both worlds. Its enough time to be meaningful, but its not so long that everybody is waiting out-of-character for the bell to ring. It seems to compliment trends we see in the Post Office activity on Sunday. Its also earlier which seems to coincide with players having an easier cleanup which ultimately means a better experience.

This is an optimization problem and its one of the challenges in trying things out with a schedule. Every solution has a 'cost' somewhere else. So really its about trying to find the solution that maximizes the experience with the least 'cost.' 

We're hoping this gives everyone what they are looking for and improves the overall experience. After all, this schedule is almost verbatim based on suggestions several of you made. (That's correct that several of you made the same recommendation). Its also well supported by the trends we saw in feedback. If it works out, then great. If not, then we can tweak it or change it. The only way to really know is to give it a shot and find out together.

 

On Larp Criticism

When people post critical feedback to an event within hours or days of an events conclusion, I want to scream. 

I am watching people do it with Downfall, even after a very polite request to send feedback in a few days. Including a link to this article about why. People are just ignoring it and posting their feedback in the same damn thread.

It sucks. And selfishly I’m looking down the road to October 23 and know what’s waiting for me.

October is my favorite event. Its also the hardest.

Expectations are HUGE. The pressure is incredible. So I spend probably two months writing, rewriting, revising, planning, editing. Then I take two months of work, throw it in the garbage, and start over. I bother Sara at completely inconvenient times with random ideas. I ping Anastasia with “What ifs.” Then I write, revise, plan. Trash it. Start over. 

I immerse myself in movies for inspiration. I practice walking, talking, and being the role. I get playlists together to put myself in a certain kind of head space. 

Probably a week before the event I basically stop sleeping, because I have all these ideas, worries, pressures in my head that just won’t stop. So I have to physically and mentally exhaust myself before I can close my eyes for a couple hours sleep. Its pretty restless. By dawn I’m too awake to sleep, but not really rested. 

The event itself is a thirty nine hour marathon, set to the pace of a hundred yard dash. Its schizophrenic in the extreme. From one moment to the next I might have to be the organized and efficient game director, keeping dozens of npcs to a strict schedule; an organizer who handles conflicts and personal melt downs with fairness and compassion; or a fictional psychopath who is trying to grind down characters until they are wholly unrecognizable. 

The secret is to simply never stop moving. So I don’t stop moving. I burn more calories than I consume by an order of magnitude. I live on what would be too little sleep for one night, never mind two. I punish my body until it gives up.

By Sunday morning I can feel days shaved off my lifespan. By Sunday night I am nothing but a raw nerve. We eat afters with a small group because we’re off-site when everybody else has already finished eating Chinese food. I’m often quiet. 

Monday I have nothing left in me. I tell close friends to leave me alone. I am distant from my wife. I cry for no reason, and try to distance myself from the frame of references and characters I have created which think the very worst things about people. Sometimes I get angry.

So after all of that.. if you have not enjoyed yourself, if you have something critical to say.. I just want to not hear it right away. I could say that I don’t care, but that would be a lie. 

I do care. I care a lot. I read every Facebook status after an event just hoping that you had fun. Its not healthy and that’s on me. 

If you didn’t - that’s okay. If you have a criticism, that’s okay too. I want to hear it. But I just need a little time and a little care. Because the thing is, I just saw you. I looked you in the face over that weekend, and I marshaled every bit of myself to put on a good show. I gave you everything I had, and for at least a few days after, while I unscramble my brains and right myself, I need to know that everything was enough. 

Rethinking Community Management

Its no secret that lately we have been rethinking how we do community management, specifically within the constraints of social media. What are the boundaries of our community? When is it appropriate to engage criticism and when does it simply stifle individuals? Where do our community standards end? How do we handle disruptive players who receive a corrective action? etc.

We tend to operate with very hard rules and constraints. This is bred out of respect for the leadership positions we occupy, to provide assurance that decisions are not arbitrary, and to keep us sane.

While these constraints have served us really well over the years, it has become clear that they need to be updated. Therefore, we are going to modify some of those constraints

 

Standard: Community Border

We enforce community standards at events, and internet spaces that we moderate. (ie. Facebook groups with "DR" in the name). Conversations on your personal page, in a private group, or in your home simply do not matter to us. 

Problem: Some players stand on the border of where we enforce community standards and engage in all manner of behavior that would otherwise see them suspended or banned. The community is still damaged and abused but we cannot effect change. 

Solution: The Fifty Percent Rule
If a player is simply camping the line of community standards they are gaming the system and we will simply enforce the community standards anyway. Those standards exist to protect players and help us. They are not a safe haven for trolls. Does this mean we suddenly care that you think so-and-so is such-and-such in your home? No. But if you are causing wide-scale damage and harm to the community from the safety of your keyboard, then your day is up. If fifty-percent of your impact on the community is negative (not neutral, but negative), if you are playing the community equivalent of "Not touching you, can't get mad," you are not welcome. 

 

Standard: Corrective Action Privacy

We do not discuss corrective actions in public. We disclose information to Marshals because it is necessary to know if problematic behavior is repeating itself. However, because it is our mission to reform and educate, not to punish, we do not publicly discuss this. We do not want players to feel shamed, ridiculed, or branded because of a mistake. After all, we all make mistakes.

Problem: Some players exploited our respect for privacy, misrepresenting the truth about why they received a correction action, giving us an undeserved black eye. For those players, this policy became a vehicle for abusing us directly, and the marshals indirectly. 

Solution: Disclosure
Any marshal, storyteller, or director can discuss the details of a correction action if someone else is misrepresenting the truth. We will never be the first to discuss this information, because we want to respect players privacy. However, we will confront misinformation and set the record straight. 

 

Criticism

When we see criticism on the internet we confront it to discover the source of dissatisfaction and work to correct it. Marshals and storytellers often do the same, not because we ask them to, but because they want players to have a better experience. Often this doesn't happen on our pages our groups, but on personal feeds. 

Problem: For community-oriented players, this feels like an intrusion where they cannot criticize, vent, or just be themselves without feeling like we are going to swoop in and give them the side-eye at game. (We won't. We simply have too much to do and honestly while we want you to have a good time, being critical doesn't make you a bad person. Our best friends criticize us at times.)

Solution: Disengagement
We will not engage in criticism outside of our space. If you want to vent or criticize, go for it. We do not mind. If you would like to express your dissatisfaction with us, to seek recourse to some wrong, to discuss quite literally anything then we are happy to do so. Our email is well advertised and we have been known to take a phone call or even meet face-to-face when the situation warranted it. 

The caveat to this is simple. We are also a part of this community, and while we are not players, we still deserve the same respect and courtesy we want everyone else to have. There is a difference between criticism and abuse. We welcome the former, but will no longer tolerate the latter. If someone wants to internet-punch us in our internet-faces, then we kindly refer them to the Fifty Percent Solution above.

 

What this means for you

Probably nothing. The overwhelming majority of players color well within the lines, because the overwhelming majority of players are good people who want a great community and positively contribute to it. They promote the lightening-survival fund, host tubing trips, introduce new players to new social groups, share plot, have costuming parties, etc. 

Mostly what you, the average player, will see is a better community experience.