Sign up Calendar Latest Topics
 
 
 


Reply
  Author   Comment  
davidtrinh

Registered:
Posts: 33
Reply with quote  #1 

The following expressed is an observation and opinion based on my experiences from the last six years of participating in this wonderful community. The ultimate goal is to keep playing this game with people on a regular basis because I enjoy so many elements of it.

In my one post, I noted a cultural shift in the community. I was asked to elaborate on it. So here we are...

I'm seeing a cultural shift from the original intention of this game. People come together to play the game, we pew pew aliens who wish to violently hurt us, then each other (Bridge vs Bridge), and then space wildlife. Then what? People grow bored and move on. Yes, that's life, I accept that. However, I have a sense there's a group of us who see's more than that one narrative repeating itself, although it is what is currently happening. I acknowledge there is also group of players who just wishes to engage in constant combat only, and that is okay as long as everyone is on board at the start of the game.

I'm defining what I believe the game's intentions are, what I am seeing to date, using a bit of behaviour science, then noting two probable working solutions to shift the culture/Force to the game's core intentions. One solution is a game master and the other an engine that attempts to balance several factors. This is all part of figuring out how to keep having fun with all of you.

THE CORE INTENTIONS
Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator is a multiplayer co-operative spaceship simulation game created by Thomas Robertson. The game is designed to be played between three and six players over a local area network. The game's objectives are: social, having fun, team work, co-op, in person on a bridge.

Thom has said many times to me when I am blue skying ideas with him. "Are you getting together and having fun?". That's why I wrote it.

Having fun is subjective and defined by each person who plays and engages. Defining what is team work, co-operation and collectively agreeing to that when playing. Most of the time, people just want to play a game and not think about all this.

MY OBSERVATIONS
Currently, in our lives. There are numerous competing hobbies and entertainment options, we can play other games and do other things in the similar vain. Since our personal and leisure time is limited, our expectations for the development of the game should be fast moving, corporately driven. Rather than recognizing this is an independently developed game, which follows a different growth curve. So it is not changing fast enough for the general and avid gamers out there. That is the nature of this beast and I accept it.

Behaviour science is noting the sense of autonomy, self governance, idealized version of masculinity over good first and third person shooter game. A psychological craving that needs to be scratched, similar to hunger, sleeping and going to the bathroom.

However, on the flip side to all that, "relatedness" – feeling like you are connected with other people, that you have a material impact on each other is something we all want too. Finding your tribe is the saying these days.

THE RUB
A state of purgatory of wanting and needing both these diametrical opposite ideas with no real balance is cultural shift I am observing. We want both of these, a sense of belonging, but without sacrificing our options to make autonomous decisions. Can we overlap them like in a Venn Diagram? Increase the area to some sort of reasonable balance?

While, we operate with limited resources in both time and money in our lives. Players who discover this game and the community around it are drawn based on relatedness, the love for science fiction, space and a romanticized version of a world, where resource abundance, sustainable environmental practices and peace has been achieved. You can correct me if I am wrong, but this Star Trek utopia we all come to love is always on our minds.

Then, there's the flip side, where we train as military units, mobilizing and engaging in warfare; where we run around and shoot each other because someone is angry, opposing us and don't align to our group values. (Insert pounding of chest emoji here)

PROBABLE WORKING SOLUTIONS
I find I am flipping back and forth between these two ideas when I'm playing the game. At times, it drives me mad because I am unable to figure out a reasonable and resource abundant solution. The target changes each time we mix differently players into the game. It makes it really difficult to nail down when playing, "Are you having fun?" objective.

An experienced Game Master, who has spent much of their time understanding the game, getting to know the players and can move engaging game forward is rare in community groups. This is the ideal solution to achieving both the feeling of playing together, and to shoot and destroy enemies, whilst having fun. Perhaps this is where A.I. will really benefit us in the near future.

Addressing and identifying the issue of what we as individuals need and want is the first thing. So, when I am hosting a game and I ask, what kind of game do you want to play. I normally get silence, or what ever you want... If you want me to facilitate this gaming session, I am going to attempt to get a sense of what your definition of fun and team work is implicitly. I understand if this is your first time, you won't really know off the top.

Grouping participants into these two diverging categories will help develop some resemblance of "fun", so a fine balance has to be achieved, by converging the players into a sense of team work, and with enough providence to make their own decisions, to shoot or not to shoot.

LIMITED RESOURCES & TIME
What are other mechanisms available when an experienced Game Master (or A.I.) is not always accessible and available?

I attended Armada IV: The one with the Whales this year. I go with the intention to have fun, see everyone, be inspired and creative. I achieve all this and many more! I am grateful for the organizing team for hosting this. I came away inspired by a) the random game setting module, b) the scripting and DMX workshops, c) the green screen live feed mission, d) the murder mystery and full fleet battle, and e) the willingness everyone had to share and play together.

MY ATTEMPT AT A TEMPORARY SOLUTION

Since accessible, available and engaging game masters are not in abundance online these days, nor A.I. is mainstream for us to access via an API on a distributed server farm. I was inspired and started project "NginEcho" soon after I returned home. A tool to help Artemis communities gain a sense of having fun, working as a team and to shoot things. I'm not sure where that fine balance point is just yet. I don't condone the killing of space wildlife by the way, it gives me the space whale blues. This tool will randomly provide a scripted game where anything can happen. I just finish the initial base code at the moment. But as the weeks go on, I'll continue adding new events and reach out to USN/Eastern Front during our regular games on Discord (~9 PM America/Eastern Time). I'm also baking this into our Canadian fleet missions, one report has already been published by Commander Katy Fulfer.

So here we are in a full circle, "Are we having fun?".

Everyone I interact and play with have been instrumental to date. I don't believe I would have these thoughts if I didn't engaged with you. Thank you and I look forward to having fun in future games. I hope to continue working on NginEcho for the rest of the year to see if I can find this balance in the Force I am sensing.

ryleyra

Registered:
Posts: 2,846
Reply with quote  #2 
Good points. I believe that what I am seeing lately, or hope I am seeing, is an evolution of Artemis away from the "Pew Pew" of constant combat, and towards more complex missions driven by resources and investigation. Thom has mentioned, and Mike has discussed introducing a resource gathering system into the game, and my own Simple Sandbox was developed to meet a need for non-combat objectives in the game. There was some backlash against Upgrades when they first came out, and I suspect there may be backlash against further non-combat developments, but I see the potential for further expansion of the objectives of the gameplay.

I'll note, though, that I used to discuss these ideas a long time ago in my days playing Earth and Beyond, a game I have mentioned here before. One thing that was made clear by that game is that it is easy to develop objectives based on conflict and destruction, but more difficult to develop systems for crafting, resource gathering, exploration and in-game trade. It's easy to simulate "go there and kill that" and generate a reward for doing that, but it's more difficult to model more complex interactions. The complexity also means there are usually more ways to exploit the system in ways the developer did not intend or plan for.

This is certainly not an issue that is limited to Artemis. Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Star Trek Online and other games in the franchise attempt to promise a simulation of the excitement and experience of the unknown that Star Trek does, but ultimately comes down to simulating a warship fighting against other warships. It's a successful system and well understood, and of course even the movies and TV shows centered around starship conflicts because the essence of plot is conflict. The important point is how to add on to the base mechanic of ships fighting other ships to build suspense in the greater environment of economic interaction and scientific research.

Even in my Simple Sandbox I come up against that. The non-combat missions need an obstacle to be overcome to be a challenge. Usually that obstacle is a threatening encounter with an enemy ship or monster. Only rarely can you create that sense of danger without having any actual combat. (Like, in a storyline where a plague has broken out and your own crew is weakening and dying)
Xavier Wise

Registered:
Posts: 1,029
Reply with quote  #3 
That was a really fascinating read! Its interesting to get a view of the wider community . I must admit, beyond my initial months getting into Artemis, my view is limited to the games played (and continuing to be played) as part of the TSN RP Community. Before that, my experience had been joining crews and having some great fun running solo games (you could have multiple ships, but the co-op mode I think was not an option, and BvB mode definitely hadn't been added). It was during that start though that I felt the need for there to be more continuity and impact between games, where missions mattered and there was story that could be influenced by actions that were taken in game. This was one of the reasons that pushed me to begin the TSN RP Community.

I think in the TSN RP Community we continue to seek a careful balance between the constant need for combat to keep crews interested and engaged, and creating a wider and engaging story to follow. It is a very difficult balance to find too, as there are always differing views as to what constitute fun... just ask some of our officers about "escort duty" mission and you'll get some very differing reactions! However, the group keeps going and achieving it aims because of some very dedicated people who help support and run the TSN, along with the continual support of our wider member base; members showing up and joining in, offering fresh ideas and adding to the fun and laughter we experience each and every Saturday. One of the key things has been that has kept us going has been that co-operation, teamwork and friendship. 

As well as this though, the tools we use and roles we take have enabled us to fulfill our aims and move away from the simple "kill the red dots as efficiently as possible" mode of play. We have an excellent team of experienced GMs who are able to carry out missions for us to play. They are also part of a brilliant team of people who help generate and refine the mission ideas, all of which link to form a wider story or "season". And we have creative minds that work together to form some really amazing stories, like travelling into mirror universes, encountering alien beings from another dimension, and assisting an ancient species searching the stars for a new home... and the continuing tales of Matsiyan's coffee pot.... We also have a very well developed sandbox and mod which enable us to add much more variety to the game and bring the stories and missions to life. On top of this, there is all the additional canon, forum RP play and general socialising that goes on.

With all of this though, we've ensured that our group is all grounded in the base game, using much of the lore and within that original Utopian "star-trek" feel. It doesn't appeal to everyone... some don't like how clean cut we always are and would prefer to explore the darker side of things... but holding true to these core principles is one of the key things I think has kept our group evolving and kept people engaged.

Of course, it is not something that developed overnight. I has taken years of continued dedication, with new members joining eventually rising to key positions in the group over the years and building on the work done by many who have now moved on. Even things like the sandbox we use is in its fourth year of development and the TSN mod in its third I think.

I suppose, what I am trying to say is that, the continued dedication from a few people in the wider community to shift the game beyond the solo and co-op modes and into the endless possibilities of custom mission scripts and sandboxes is something that will taken a long time and constant effort, but ultimately will mean this game continues to be a huge source of fun and enjoyment for many others in years to come. The game is shaped by a few (Thom, Mike S, yourselves and others) but is enjoyed by everyone that plays now, everyone that has played in the past, and will be enjoyed by those that have yet to play because of this.

I hope all that makes sense.

__________________
Fleet Captain Xavier Wise - TSN Sabre
Link to TSN RP Community website
Mike Substelny

Avatar / Picture

Administrator
Registered:
Posts: 2,049
Reply with quote  #4 
This is a great concept for a discussion and I hope it draws a lot of participation.

In order to encourage responses I shall keep my posts short.

The greatest strength of the Artemis game mechanics is also the most difficult to overcome outside combat: It is difficult to keep six players engaged and involved. The wonder of Artemis is that the players must interact with each other at with such intensity, but the players only interact with the game software through their individual consoles.

Specifically: Unless the crew is in combat, the Weapons Officer and Engineer don't need to show up at all. They are being excluded from the game. Even if I script in extra things for the Weapons Officer to do, the poor Engineer just languishes in loneliness.

The problem is that the Engineer has nothing to do unless the ship itself is being pushed to its limits. You don't push your ship to its limits in escort missions, science missions, exploration missions, rescue missions, etc. unless those missions also involve some sort of fighting.

Consider the role of Scotty on ST:TOS. There are only a handful of episodes in which he complains that "I'm giving you all she's got!" In most of their adventures Scotty is either operating the transporter, beaming down as part of a landing party, or taking command of the bridge. He only fiddles with engineering controls when the Enterprise herself is doing something stressful.

I have learned this lesson watching crews play my pathetic attempts at peaceful missions - - - any time I let the players go more than five minutes without a battle I am excluding the Engineer, and probably the Weapons Officer, too.

__________________
"The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight."
- Winston Churchill
janx

Registered:
Posts: 459
Reply with quote  #5 
I see two facets of this conversation (and a good one it is):
a) the kinds of fun different people enjoy
b) supplying fun for each player in a different role

I learned about A from my many years GMing RPGs and being on gaming forums.  Talk of some players like combat, some character building, role playing, problem solving. system mastery.  Artemis aligns with that, and you can add modding and bridge building to the mix.  You'll seldom have a bridgefull of like-minded players, so supplying a mix that satisfies most of those things is usually best.

Bucket B is trickier, as Mike talks about.  Artemis was designed with a focus on combat, partly because Thom probably realized what Mike is saying.  Scotty is bored when it's a talky episode.  Heck, consider poor McCoy.  Unless there's a disease outbreak, he's desperate for something to do.  Shows up on the bridge at random times, tags along on away missions for no good reason.  For a TV show, this is fine, different characters get more/less camera time per episode.

In a game, each player wants their time to be fun.

If we're going to get non-combat activity and keep it fun for everyone, I suspect, the solution is to find meaningful things for those players (engineering, weapons).  Being short-handed, having fewer players than stations to run (engineering+transporter+something else).  Being too specialized and focussed (combat only roles) is part of the problem.


ryleyra

Registered:
Posts: 2,846
Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Substelny

The greatest strength of the Artemis game mechanics is also the most difficult to overcome outside combat: It is difficult to keep six players engaged and involved. The wonder of Artemis is that the players must interact with each other at with such intensity, but the players only interact with the game software through their individual consoles.


I'll agree with this, and note that Star Trek: Bridge Crew only attempts to implement four bridge crew members. (Also, the Captain is the one crew member who interacts with the game not through a console, but through the other players. I think that's neat)

I'll admit Engineering is a hard console to involve in non-combat situations. In Star Trek you can give Engineering control of the Transporters, but Artemis has no Transporters. In my SimpleSandbox in the one Exploration mission I implemented the research damaged the ship's systems, keeping the Engineer busy repairing them, but that was just one mission. (And the systems could have been just as easily repaired by the Autonomous setting)

There were often episodes in Star Trek where a Negative Space Wedgie crippled the ship and Engineering would have something to do. But not all exploration missions would be like that, and trade/economy missions would very rarely be like that.

Maybe Thom could take a cue from ST: BC and make Engineering more like Operations, where the crew on the ships's systems display isn't just DamCon teams, but Cargo teams moving resources around. When you pick up resources, the Engineer has to figure out where to store it, and retrieve it when it is needed for an Upgrade or production. Of course, if the Engineer is in charge of production, taking resources and turning them into other resources, then that's another task for Engineering.

Just a thought. I know the Quartermaster has been suggested as a new console or as an add-on for Comms, but maybe Engineering should take over the task. Or Comms and Engineering could share it, like Weapons and Science sharing shield frequencies. (Comms manages the requests, and Engineering tracks movement through the ship)

Mike Substelny

Avatar / Picture

Administrator
Registered:
Posts: 2,049
Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by janx
Heck, consider poor McCoy.  Unless there's a disease outbreak, he's desperate for something to do.  Shows up on the bridge at random times, tags along on away missions for no good reason.


This may seem like it's getting off topic, but it's really not.

McCoy was written differently from all subsequent Trek Medical Officers. McCoy was part of a "Heroic Trinity" along with Kirk and Spock. He didn't need to be doing medical stuff to be involved with the story because he represented the "Heart" of the trinity, arguing with the "Head" (Spock) about what course of action the "Hand" (Kirk) should take. It was McCoy's job to always suggest the opposite of whatever Spock was suggesting; he didn't need to be a doctor to fill this role.

A writer can create a Heroic Trinity, or other opposing relationships, that keep all characters involved. If a game designer could force players to become a Heroic Trinity, or some other relationship, then their verbal interactions would keep everyone involved. Unfortunately a game designer can only force players to interact via the game's mechanics. Their dramatic verbal interactions are controlled by the players themselves.

__________________
"The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight."
- Winston Churchill
ryleyra

Registered:
Posts: 2,846
Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Substelny

 McCoy was written differently from all subsequent Trek Medical Officers. McCoy was part of a "Heroic Trinity" along with Kirk and Spock. He didn't need to be doing medical stuff to be involved with the story because he represented the "Heart" of the trinity, arguing with the "Head" (Spock) about what course of action the "Hand" (Kirk) should take.


Yeah, in the Original Series, McCoy did not take an active role in the episode, he was intended to provide commentary and emotional response to the events. In some cases, he acted as the conscience or moral guide of the ship. In others, he was the Greek Chorus. His counterpart in TNG was to some extent Deanna Troi, but TNG developed along a different set of archetypes.

This is a great role for role playing, but in a video game the guy who stands around and comments on everyone else is more of an annoyance than a help. 😃 The Doctor is well suited for an Away Team, as he's the one who keeps his teammates alive, but on a bridge where the players are safe from harm, it's the ship that takes the damage, and the Engineer that heals it.

It is possible to do something with the Sick Bay. Instead of killing off DamCon teams (which is implied by their disappearance) if they moved to Sick Bay to heal that would confirm they are just injured.

Mike Substelny

Avatar / Picture

Administrator
Registered:
Posts: 2,049
Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by janx
If we're going to get non-combat activity and keep it fun for everyone, I suspect, the solution is to find meaningful things for those players (engineering, weapons).  Being short-handed, having fewer players than stations to run (engineering+transporter+something else).  Being too specialized and focused (combat only roles) is part of the problem.


Janx has cut to the heart of the problem.

It's not perfectly consistent with Star Trek (who cares?) but I think it's possible to give the cargo handling to Weapons. That station already has a target lock mechanism which would be needed for loading and unloading cargo.

Engineering is the big problem. In Trek and other Space Operas, the engineer character is often seen using the universe's pseudo-technology to solve unique problems the characters have never seen before. Maybe evil aliens are trying to collapse your wormhole using tri-magniosite explosives, but the heroic engineer thwarts their plans by cross-circuiting the secondary power couplings with the gravimetric stabilizers.

For years I have lobbied Thom to add a "Bypass Screen" to the Engineering consoles. For example, if the ship has built up too much heat the engineer could use the "Bypass Warp Nacelle Intercoolers" option. This gives the engineer extra cooling for as long as the players are moving at warp speed, but when they drop out of warp the bypass adds extra heat to the Warp Engines. Setting and removing bypasses would take time, and when misused they would do a lot more harm than good.

Unfortunately all of my ideas for bypasses only help during combat, when the Engineer is facing a familiar problem. In my wildest imagination, I have failed to come up with a way for an Engineer to improvise a new solution to an arbitrary problem.

Perhaps someone on these forums has an imagination better than mine?

__________________
"The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight."
- Winston Churchill
Mike Substelny

Avatar / Picture

Administrator
Registered:
Posts: 2,049
Reply with quote  #10 
[CONTINUED]

In a prose story a character can know a lot of pseudo-science things. For example, I could write an Artemis story in which the Skaraan Ambassador's brain is taken over by an evil alien superbeing, sending her on a deadly rampage across the galaxy. I can have the Terran Science character scan the Skaraan ship and realize the Ambassador is giving off polaronic waves. Then the Terran Engineer character can modify the ship's Autobeams to fire anti-polaronic waves that will kill the evil superbeing without hurting the Skaraan Ambassador. The heroes win!

It would be possible to play out this scenario with a tabletop role playing game, with the Skaraan Ambassador being a non-player character and the Terran Engineer player character rolling dice to figure out the technobabble solution. But in an ungamastered game of Artemis with only the existing consoles as interface there is no way for the Terran Engineer to:
  1. know the the Autobeams should be modified or
  2. implement the modification

It would be different if we were using real science - - - for example if the non-player character was having epileptic seizures and a player character physician had to prescribe the correct anti-seizure medication. But we aren't using real science in Artemis, so there is no way for a player to actually know the pseudo-science solutions.

__________________
"The Admiralty had demanded six ships; the economists offered four; and we finally compromised on eight."
- Winston Churchill
Previous Topic | Next Topic
Print
Reply

Quick Navigation:

Easily create a Forum Website with Website Toolbox.