Posted by: turuk | August 1, 2009

Tone, Posting, and General Community Musings

Given the recent “misunderstanding” that a new user had about tone when posting, it started me thinking about online perceptions.  Obviously, tone of voice, face movements, hand gestures and a thousand other subtle cues help to convey meaning when we talk to another person.  Obviously, in a digital format, all of this is lost, and we become increasingly reliant on trying to interpret meaning behind the words that people use and how they use them.  This is entertaining for two reasons.

One is that people take what you say at face value, and are often immune to sarcasm or jokes.  This makes it hard to have some discussions because they take everything you say as it appears, and so subtle meanings are often lost on them.

The polar opposite are those people who constantly read between the lines, those users who seem to suffer from a bit of paranoia.  They find hints of people potentially insulting them or degrading them in every post, and so when someone offers a contradictory stance or opinion, they immediately get defensive or lash out in retaliation.  This is frustrating because they often say things that ruin whatever point they were initially trying to make, as people are blinded by the fact that they have now been rude, insulting or obnoxious.

What entertains me most about all of this is how seriously people take such posts at times.  They tell other people to back off or lighten up, and miss the irony in their statement as they were usually the sole person that was tensing up until they pissed off other people.  You have to take posts with a grain of salt.  In a community such as Wesnoth that is very grounded, everything is viewed in a practical manner.  We shy away from the attitude of spending pages discussing an idea because it’s “cool” and would rather quickly establish the feasibility of said idea.  If it is possible and simple, often times a developer or artist might take it on, but often it is not.  If the user is interested in working on it themselves, often they will receive offers of help from a developer or artist, or advice on how they can best go about making their idea a reality.

I understand that new users are not used to the type of forum that Wesnoth runs.  Being founded with development purposes held in mind first, the forum is not quite as open as other forums are to pretty much letting users do as they please as long as they don’t flame.  This is not to say that we have not provided outlets for the users.  It’s a long-known fact among the developers that certain forums are pretty much trash bins, providing outlets for the users while actually collecting little of worth. (No, I’m not going to name them for you, where’s the fun in that?)  Suffice to say it lets the users feel as if there are places for them to express themselves without getting in the way of actual work that the developers would like to see done.

One of the major issues that users complained of (using other words at times) was that they felt there was a mentality of us vs them, of the community being users versus developers.  This was partially due to a previously hostile moderating style, and partially due to the fact that there was no buffer between the two.  A developer who has just spent the past couple hours working on a bit of code for the game or an artist who has spent the same time touching up a portrait or tweaking that last sprite does not want to log into the forum for a break to see another user telling them what they should be doing, what they are doing wrong, and how they should listen to the user.  Alternatively, this turns those same people off from helping users as they really have no desire to venture into a number of threads.  Who wants to help someone solve an issue in Technical Support when the person acts as if they paid for the game and thus their problem should be addressed immediately?

I have worked hard to rectify the above situation by providing a bit of a buffer.  For one, I noticed from the beginning the lack of a clear and distinct moderating style, so that users were never sure how something would be dealt with, what constituted behavior that would be moderated, etc.  I have done my best to not only moderate, but provide my reasons for doing so over the past months.    While unnecessary and some have advised that it may make me too buddy-buddy with the users, I want them to understand where I am coming from in moderation.  Above all, the users should know the standards for behavior and postings, so that the community can be self-policing.  I have seen this happen a great deal in the past month or two, with numerous instances of one user warning another that they need to tone back their behavior, that they should not do this or that according to the Posting Guidelines, etc.  That was one of my initial goals I set for myself (yes, I’m that organized, I keep a goal list and timeline), but I honestly had not expected it so soon.  

The community reacted well to consistency and the sense that I would do my best to help them to the utmost of their ability.  I frequently would hunt down old threads or posts to find answers they needed, point new users in the right direction, or find the right developers on IRC to point to their issues so that they could be rectified as quickly as possible.  When I was first made a moderator, I was warned that not establishing strict boundaries with the users might lead to them not listening to me, and it happened, users felt that since I posted like them that they could stretch the rules with me.  I nipped that one in the bud, but without going to the other extreme and willfully demonstrating that I had this great power I could use at any time.  I generally post in a thread until it starts to get too opinionated, and then I will bow out so that I can retain a non-biased view if I need to moderate.  Sometimes escalation happens too fast, but I still approach each issue with as little bias as I possibly can.  I am human after all.

Despite the warning, I did work to become buddy-buddy with the users, but with a clear understanding of the set roles.  It’s similar to how I function in my unit.  As an officer, the men treat me with respect at all times, but I maintain an open door policy and try to get to know them the best that I can, even the ones I may not be fond of in the slightest.  So I applied the same principles and make myself available to the users to answer questions, handle issues, or deal with complaints.  I have received more PMs in the past months than I ever expected to get, but I have helped a number of people, as well as shown them that I am not a moderating figure who thinks he is above mere users.  I’m as much as part of the user base as they are, but I have greater responsibilities and duties that will invariably set me apart.  The key is showing them that you are making the effort to be as much a part of them as you can be without compromising what you have to do (speaking as much to principles of leadership as forum moderation here I suppose).  I know I’m rambling, but hey, 5am stream of consciousness right?

To a point mentioned previously, you often find yourself dealing with people you don’t particularly care for in life, and, on a forum that tends to be the trolls.  Good-willed or not, these users are generally regarded as obnoxious users who have nothing better to do with their time but post needlessly or fan arguments.  While I may be called upon to moderate them in some fashion more than others, I try to keep the same open door policy as well.  I even managed to reform a couple by showing them that working with the community benefitted them more than going against it, though such successes are dubious at best.  Still, I have talked with a number of them to the point that we have an understanding, and they troll less as they know that I will generally leave their inaneness alone if they behave.  Compromise does work occasionally.

In a lovely circuitous path, this ties somewhat into the beginning point of this whole post with the idea of getting to know the person behind the poster.  Even though I have never met any of these people, frequent communication through PMs, IRC, Facebook, or whatever means allows me to get an inkling of their character, who they are, and what makes them tick.  This is beneficial, as some of the cues that are lost in a digital interaction can be grasped if you understand the person behind the text, and what their motivation is for saying what they said.  This makes it a great deal easier to have a discussion with someone if you know how to respond accordingly, and this can be seen in long-term members of the community when they go back and forth with each other.  Issues crop up when new users try to take their own interpretation to what is being said without keeping an open mind that they are entering a new community.  They have not had the time to learn the personalities of some of the members, and so they tend to read too much into what is being said without understanding why it is being said.

Sometimes that initial clash that a new user might have over an issue of tone does not come for even a month or two after they have joined, but it’s mostly due to the fact that they want to be a part of the community without really understanding the community.  People give away a great deal about themselves every time that they post something, and you have to be willing to read what a person writes with an open mind, though that can be hard to do at times.

As I write this, I see by checking the forums that a user who made a ranting post about how he thinks people should act has decided that I am a snob for not taking him seriously and agreeing that people should be bloodthirsty and rude when playing other people.  This will be fun.

Posted by: turuk | July 31, 2009

Ooze Mini-Campaign

I have put off playing this for a long time just because the title itself does not make it sound that appealing, or the concept of playing as an ooze.  I will concede that playing through this campaign changed my mind entirely. 

You start off as an ooze underground, and you have to use your limited units to consume the enemy to expand your army.  I viewed this concept with trepidation at first as I thought it would be boring, but it turned out to require a bit more strategy than I realized as the units created only have a ranged attack.  This makes the larger oozes much more crucial to defense.

The next scenario explains how the ooze manages to become solid to continue into the third scenario, where you enter the fort.  This is a little bit of a twist, as it has a very RPG taste since the player must meet the various people in the village in order to make allies or enemies of them.  This affects the next scenario as they will prove crucial to holding the fort (as will the player going through the training and the arena… hint).

All in all, it’s a fairly entertaining little campaign, and the last scenario is a fun change to be on the defensive for the change, manning the walls of a fort and adapting to the surprises.

Posted by: turuk | July 30, 2009

Untold Tale: Darkened Skies

Found this campaign as one of the most recent additions to the campaign server, so I thought I would give it a try.  Judging by the amount of scenario files set up, the author has it planned out to be a long campaign with 36(?) scenarios.  Only two are working so far, and both are more fluff than actual combat scenarios, though you do control some units.

There’s not too much to say on it so far, but the maps are decently made and the dialogue is fairly good with only a few errors, so this one may bear watching to see if it comes to fruition.  I tried to contact the author to fix a few typos and perhaps find out more details about the campaign as there is no forum thread, but no response so far.

Posted by: turuk | July 22, 2009

Warda

I randomly picked another campaign from the add-on server and thought I would give this one a go.  Created by a father and his kids, it’s a simple campaign that still keeps a bit of a plot twist to keep you interested.  There are only three scenarios so far, and I would advise playing on the hardest difficulty as it is balanced towards the easier end of the spectrum.  The maps are fairly well done, if a tad big on the first two, but they make for interesting gameplay as you can use a multitude of strategies to win.

While still a work in progress, I would suggest anyone who wants a bit of quick fun to give this campaign a go.

Posted by: turuk | July 20, 2009

Prudence

This is a fun little campaign by joshroby that is only six scenarios long but has a decent plot and quite a bit of humor.  He manages to tell a believable story while poking fun at the stereotypical fantasy plot lines.  The maps are thin elongated rectangles that I was bit worried about at first, but they play nicely without funneling you into battles unnecessarily.  There is a nice bit of WML where the player can pick what unit his leader should be after putting him through one battle (he is young noble before this), and it’s a nice touch for those who want such a choice.

All in all, this is definitely worth checking out.

Posted by: turuk | July 20, 2009

Insane Hermit

Okay, the name alone should have been a warning, but I know EvilEarl has been working seriously on this so I gave it a go.

It’s basically what the title suggests, a hermit who is believed to be insane defends his bit of ground against intruders (scenarios cycle through factions).  The maps are too big though, so getting to grips with the enemy can take a great deal of time, and the sheer number of recruits on either side just makes it a grind.  Your units are powerful, and the hermit himself is a massive tank, so there is little chance that you will lose.  I just threw the hermit in against hard spots and let him decimate the enemies.  The novelty lasted for a bit, and then disappeared.

To those thinking of trying it, I would wait for him to tune it a bit more (if he does).  It’s currently a bit too drawn-out and easy, and the premise is slightly suspect, though the plot drops hints of an ulterior reason.

Posted by: turuk | July 20, 2009

An Ordinary Adventure

I do not know where to start with this one.  Far be it from me to completely criticize a campaign when I have not played past the first scenario, but I could not keep playing this one.  I know little of whether or not it has any quality gameplay, and it well might, but the dialogue is aimed to be humorous at the expense of being interesting or pertinent.  It’s rather lengthy too, so even if I had found it humorous, it would have kept going on.  The fact that I didn’t only made it worse.

To those of you thinking to try it, let me know how it is in later scenarios, I am going to try something else for now.

Posted by: turuk | July 8, 2009

Will I Ever Use This Thing?

Yet again, I have not posted in ages, surprise surprise.  I actually thought I’d have more time to get back to this when I graduated and suddenly had nothing to do until January (besides finding a temp job), but I came home to visit family and friends and find myself still going full steam.  I fear that it’s the only way I know how to live anymore, so perhaps I can engineer some time off for myself this summer… from myself.

On a side note, I will hopefully get my computer fixed within a week and start playing campaigns/giving the rundown on them in my free time.  Limited to where I can use my computer, it’s not in a place that is conducive to sitting down and playing for long periods of time.  Just right for popping in to check the forums at least without getting bogged down.

I’ve actually dabbled in a few of the new user campaigns posted in the forum, and one of the ones I enjoyed was Kingdom’s End by yokozuki.  He has a good writing style compared to most users, and though it is only two scenarios, it was fun.  It can be a quick little play if you are interested.  There are a few other, but not worth mentioning yet as I have not played them extensively.

I have also been playing campaigns less due to hanging around on the MP server, playing some Colosseum (Noy, it’s fun, I swear) and I tried Dark Forecast with jb.  Created by jb, DF is a good deal of fun, IF you play with someone who will work with you as a team.  I do not think we would have beaten it or come close otherwise.

The little project I have been part of on making Wesnoth a bit more legit in the business world is going well, and pending any major hurdles, will hopefully make a huge stride forward here soon.  I would say more, but a certain Canadian would have my head I am sure.

If anyone still reads this, feel free to comment or suggest something I should play next, even if it’s a shameless hook for your own content.  I’m open to anything.

 

 

New rule also.  Post at least twice a week, if not more.  Sticking to it this time. Honest.

Posted by: turuk | May 18, 2009

Siege of Soradoc

First scenario is not too bad.  The limitations in recruits based on the story, with the player only having level zeros (Nobleman, Squire and Peasant), makes for interesting gameplay.  Each has a use against the bandits the player must take out, but they cannot be thrown out against any of them at will.  It requires much more thinking than I initially anticipated, and I am not sure if this was deliberate on the part of the author or an unanticipated side effect.  Needless to say, this differing use of Loyalists is nice.  The story is a believable one and sets the stage for what could be a decent campaign, but the dialogue is only average.  Sentences are basic and short, and the main character’s speech sounds too much like a teenager.  Yes, that is his age, but he was also deemed responsible enough to be put in charge of recruits in his father’s absence at the Academy, so I would imagine he’s not as akin to a whiney 13-year-old as he sounds.

Second scenario, storyline takes an odd turn, given the retreat into “miles of dungeons” but is interesting none the less.  Currently has an issue with the paths used to get to the central keep for fighting, as well as the difficulty that comes with that issue, but is currently being revised by the author.

Not a bad campaign, but it could certainly do with some dialogue tweaking and some more playtesting of the scenarios.  I would only suggest playing it at this point if you were looking to try something new, and fairly short.

Posted by: turuk | May 12, 2009

Another Month Almost?

I have, yet again, been remiss in my attempts to keep up with this thing.  It may be a hint from a higher authority, but I also know that my real life commitments are taking away the time I originally slated to play campaigns and provide some overview here (the blog’s original purpose).  If anyone deigns to read this and has input on what I should play next, do tell, or else I think I will just pick a UMC at random.

I do believe, given his recent artwork with a peasant riding a moose, that I will give Siege of Soradoc a try.  Beyond that, input would be appreciated.

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