How the ”Plot wheel” broke, and the “Winner mentality” took over

  • I promised myself I would just fade away, that I would just become another disgruntled member of the peanut gallery. Uninstall the game and move on. But having been contacted by a lot of players, former DMs and the like, and being one of the few remaining members of the “Old Guard”, I feel obligated to speak out when I see something wrong. Because I am of the belief, that someone has to cry foul, even if I hold little hope of changing anything.

    NWN is a game, and games can be divided into two aspects; Finite and infinite. A finite game is a game that has fixed rules and boundaries, that is played for the purpose of winning and thereby ending the game. An infinite game has no fixed rules or boundaries. In an infinite game you play with the boundaries and the purpose is to continue the game, and thus it cannot be won.

    When I started playing, 14 years ago, the mindset of CoA was that it could not be won. The purpose of playing the game was to progress the story, and have fun doing so. Conflict, PVP, RP, was all “aspects that kept the plot wheel turning”. We had long concepts, short concepts, but the purpose was to tell a story. The focus of an IG tournament was not to win it, but to use them to tell a story. You could therefore lose a contest, you could “win” a conflict, but you could not lose.

    The CoA today is different. Players no longer “create” concepts, they build them. The purpose of a character is not to progress a story, it is to win. And not only win, but ensure someone else loses, because it adds to the “flavor” of winning. The DM team have stated, that “whether you have 12 or 14 charisma” does not matter. Combined with the “Get good at mechanics, it is part of the game”, it means that the NWN engine has become less of a tool to tell stories, and more something finite we can perfect. Some of the most active DMs seem to push this mindset. Those who cause conflict are rewarded, far more than those who focus on the story. And those who win are rewarded, while those who lose are to “suck it up”. Those who have mastered the mechanics, are the new “CoA celebrities”; Everyone seeks them out for advice on how to build their next character, because it has become evident to the rest of the community, that this approach is the only way to earn DM attention, get dm loot or EXP, it has become the only way to accomplish anything.

    As an example, The Thayan Arena has become the place you go to get loot. Player numbers peak when they are run, people spent days beforehand talking of the “loot they are fighting for”, and the gap between story tellers and “CoA winners” just keeps widening. Add to it, that the gap is widened even further by those who play the way these DMs like, and in their favorite time zones, and you have slowly but successfully turned CoA from a story telling server, and into a sad version of an arena server.

    To the DMs and to the community as a whole, please take a step back, and see what is happening to this place. This discussion cannot be won by saying “V6 will be different”. Take a serious look at how this server is changing, and stop this gap from expanding even further.
    To ensure I am being “constructive”, I have a few suggestions:

    1. Stop catering to a very small minority of the player base.
    2. Reward those who set an example of good storytelling FAR more than you do now.
    3. Ensure that those who “lose” are not merely discarded, but rewarded in other ways.
    4. Stop idolizing those who set to beat the mechanics of NWN, and start focusing on those who spread fun.
    5. Stop saying things will get better in V6, because from where I am standing, these problems exist BEYOND scripts or new areas.

  • I share a lot of these same concerns. I'm a relatively new player, but I have noticed that the characters who seem to get a lot of DM attention are usually the ones with power builds.

    However, I've also noticed that there's been a recent shift in focus. Right now, arguably the most well-known active character is Elodie, and I don't know anything about her build. But every other character seems to know who she is and have some kind of opinion on her. There's also been the recent developments with Tilverton, which the DMs act on fairly quickly, and few of those developments have anything to do with mechanics.

    Those are recent changes, of course, but they're changes I'm happy with, even if things haven't been exactly smooth. But I don't expect experiments like the election to go smoothly on the first go. This is the direction I hope the server continues in.

    I don't say this to disagree with you, Olouth. I actually agree with most of what you're saying and I'm glad someone said it.

  • I don't disagree with anything you've said here, but I'm not sure if it's a problem that can and should be fixed, or simply a change in the focus of the server.

    That said, you're leaving out player initiatives like Tilverton, and DM-laid stuff like the Chancellor thing, and more besides. There's a clear effort being made to provide what you - we - want, and I think it should be recognized.

  • I have to side with Olouth on this, and say that a lot of what I originally loved about CoA is now loved rather than love. I feel that a lot of the conflict that's done is much more a contest of skill for the sake of it rather than actually furthering a story or a plot, and that makes it so less appetizing than having it simple as a tool or a final climax to a story. I feel like this "You have to win" mentality turns a lot of concepts sour because suddenly conflict becomes this purely mechanical thing, something where if you do lose; you're dead, maimed or told to suck it up despite the tactics used without reparation because "oh you can always respawn" as if that doesn't take away from the obvious emotional drop from being whacked.

    Quests have become something to grind to the point where people hit up the best ones, buff, barely say a word beyond ICly telling people to do X to survive because questing has become a chore. Its something to do to continue playing the rest of the game rather than being an experience to go through. People are so preoccupied with grinding up for Important PvP/Metaplot/DM Event X that the rest of the server in the downtime has just become grabbing up as much loot, potions and exp making the deaths even worse because its that much of a push in the opposite direction.

  • @vagabond3103 said in How the ”Plot wheel” broke, and the “Winner mentality” took over:

    People are so preoccupied with grinding up for Important PvP/Metaplot/DM Event X that the rest of the server in the downtime has just become grabbing up as much loot, potions and exp making the deaths even worse because its that much of a push in the opposite direction.

    This actually sums up my feelings towards the change quite well.

  • I said this in Discord, and I think it sums up my feelings.

    So in addition to the previous: Regardless of anything else, I want to see CoA move past the "conflict *= * story" mindset.

  • Personally, I don't like what we call "conflict", and I highly prefer adventure.

    I don't like to war against other players, I prefer to war against NPCs, because you know there isn't a player 'actively working against you', and I don't like to 'actively work' against another player, I don't want to ruin their fun, it's not my place. Permadeath is fine, but it is so much more fun to me when it is by the hands of NPCs rather than players. Because I know it's not a "I click quicker than you" contest.

    I prefer long-term stories, and I dislike when things are hasted.

    I'm alright with playing a 'day to day' RP, and when the world is always shaking I feel like it ruins immersion. It needs to shake once in a while, but too often, too many characters dying, it makes it so if you take a week vacation and you come back, 3-4 important characters might be gone, and whatever RP you had with them is meaningless.

    The thayan arena, I've participated in it once 8 months ago, and never since then, because I obviously do not encourage that kind of stuff, I don't even go watch it. It's all about the loot, mechanics, sometimes pvp. To me, that type of event should be on an action server, not on a RP server. There could be ONE per year, this would be enough.

    Anyway, just some very -personal- views on all that. Take some, trash some. 🙂

    I've had a really good time right now though because I play a character who specifically don't go into 'conflict' with other player-characters.

  • @mind-over-body said in How the ”Plot wheel” broke, and the “Winner mentality” took over:

    Personally, I don't like what we call "conflict", and I highly prefer adventure.

    I don't like to war against other players, I prefer to war against NPCs.

  • I don't like throwing mud when I'm not IG, but I do agree with a lot of sentiment in this post.

    There was a period in the middle of 2017 where I felt everything is awesome. It felt like no matter what you did, where you went, there was so much going on. Everyone was doing their own thing without necessarily stepping on other peoples' toes and you could jump from one plot to another and be involved in something completely different to what was happening elsewhere. I'd always favoured Intrigue over Adventure but after 2017, I was astounded at just how involving and positive adventure can be.

    I mean I'm a sucker for nostalgia having been here so long so I was more surprised myself to walk away from that thinking "this is one of the best times I've had on CoA"

    That feeling kind of stayed that way until the Old Town Temple Assault, and after that steadily crawled towards the idea of "where there's a winner, there is a loser".

    I mean, and I know this is a very specific thing but I felt I had to get it off my chest (I've not spoken with Olouth at all)
    Elestra has been around for a long while, ups and downs, involvement with one and all, a character decidedly built with RP rather than mechanical domination in mind.
    Yet after months when she retires, there was not one valediction post to say "thanks Olouth/don't be a stranger/see you next time". By all accounts I saw on the forums she was stuck right in the thick of it so how is it possible that no one cares she's now gone?

    All I am trying to get at is that this isn't even a case of courtesy, but to me symptomatic of the idea that Someone Lost, and losing is not something to celebrate. Sometimes all the loser has by way of reward is an OOC nod. I don't want to make this about that, but I feel like this, too, is part of a negative pattern.
    People like concrete ideas on how to fix things, but right now I'm just happy to see that there are others who feel a similar way about things and it isn't just me.

  • Lord of the rings where frodo and sauron kiss in the spire is no good story for me.

  • @tempest-the-axe said in How the ”Plot wheel” broke, and the “Winner mentality” took over:

    Lord of the rings where frodo and sauron kiss in the spire is no good story for me.

    I dont think anyone finds that to be a good story.

  • I agree, I have concerns about the Thayan arenas myself, but we should cater to a range of play styles and the players who enjoy mechanics and PvM should have fun. The only problem is if they disrupt things with PvP mechanics. I have not seen this.

    Who is catering to a small minority? Frankly, give me an example because I don't see that at all.

    Reward those who set a good example? You mean like Lord Bhaliir? We do that.

    You mean reward those who lose how?

    We don't idologize those who are set to beat the mechanics, show me where we do that?

    I'm bloody well DMing full time on v5 right now to help.

    Honestly, rather than helping, I just find this entirely upsetting because its vague and negative and full of angst without any USEFUL concrete example or positive ideas.

    I'm honestly even disappointed because you literally had a concept rewarded for your play, you were given one of the most powerful (probably powerful) PC positions in the game, and you tossed it away and quit three days later! I understand that most certainly was because of frustration, but from my point of view--our TEAM is bending over backwards to make concrete and solid improvements the last three months since I returned to DMing. I could list them in full, and its like none of that is recognized, its AWFUL, and you have given me no positive ideas to actually include while ignoring you literally benefited from us doing things you claim we're not doing.

    Its confusing as hell, why not help out here? Be positive, be straightforward, and let the DM team help without dumping on us.

  • Olouth, the server has changed. People are better at mechanics and thus are able to make the most of pvp and getting attention.

    RP is nice but nowadays, its secondary, and I'm ok with that. I'd rather adventure than sit around telling my life story in the spire.

  • @Mr-Moloch I don't think it was an attack against you or the DM team as much as a spark of "Hey, I'm not okay with this, here's what I think on it, let's talk as a community". Please, for the love of this thread not getting locked, don't treat it was one.

    @Khamal There can be both, easily. RP isn't sitting in the Spire, RP is taking your time on quests to talk about it- React to whats happening, the environment, and hold conversations in the downtime between encounters. RP is Gumba grabbing six people to roll dice, get IC (OOC) drunk and have a laugh for a few hours telling stories and beating each other to Near Death. RP is going out to the haunted halls, and actually RPing when you do it! Adventure is RP... Or at least, it can be.

  • I empathise with the sentiment, I also saw a character "lose" and then get rewarded with one of the most powerful positions in the game.

    The game is different, more direct conflict. The stakes are higher. However, This is the third time I've seen a powerful character "retire" because -they- weren't winning. It spoiled the plot and conflict of a dozen others.

    I think Thayan arena is silly and it creates a gear gap. Clearly.

    I hope this doesn't come off as aggressive.
    I'm getting dressed for work. I'll read what others are saying and perhaps add more.

  • Moloch, do not see this as an attack against you. I have not given any SPECIFIC examples, because quite honestly, it is far bigger than one or two instances, and singling people out on the forum is counter productive, not to mention rude. It is not a rant or "grown in my own back yard" because I did not like the outcome of the election. Come on, I am not a 12 year old who lost their favorite toy.

    It is the culmination of countless players, current ones, people from the peanut gallery, and players who have quit because of it, all who have expressed the same difficulties with the shift in the server mentality, as I have tried to describe.

    I am around from time to time on Discord if you want to speak specifics. But singling people out will turn this from a discussion to a rant.

  • Thayan arena gear gap, do people wear plenty of those? If the answer is yes.

    Solution 1

    Allow characters to have maximum 1 thayan arena loot item at a time.

  • I have never once found RP to be secondary... Rather, it’s a requirement, and one we emphasize fully.

    The CoA calling card is to cater to as many different styles of play as possible, which we have been trying to do by awarding players for their efforts in various things. (Tilverton, political driven elections such as Chancellor, or just downright cool adventuring.)

    I think the best ways to see change you want to influence are to lead by example. Which means creating meaningful conflict and PvP (re: not mechanical) scenes that make you come away feeling WOW that was awesome. It is possible, and it starts and ends with the OOC courtesy you’re willing to extend.

    Also, for those that actually make an effort to create unique stories from scripted quests to exploration, they will be rewarded and well. It’s a tried and true method that has remained the same since I’ve been around on the server.

  • It's not about mechanical strength, imo. It's about the mentality around gathering mechanical strength and for what reasons. I have no issue with people being good, but when the entirety of the server is built around gearing up for an event or for a fight and using attrition as a difficulty measure, it gets grinding to play.

    @Khamal - But that's the thing, people aren't making the most out of PvP, they're just DOING it. Making the most of it would be making PvP these awesome, huge events that shake the server, rather than using tactics to win because "it's the only way to." I know a lot of people defend the Invis Gank as being a "legitimate method" when it completely shuts down a bunch of different facets of roleplay and agency in general.

  • I got to echo Moloch's sentiments in this as i just do not see the examples of what the complaints seem to be directed at and without specific examples just doesn't drive home as far as i am concerned. It comes off as passive aggressive -because- of lack of specific examples of wrong doings.

    I just don't see these problems about mechanics being supreme. Personal experience is that i can't get a DM to give my char a second glance if i'm not doing anything interesting no matter their mechanical strength..... just how it should be.

    But as for Thayan arena, i just think it should not be a thing but won't diss those who like it. I think it creates too big a gear gap.

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