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Monthly Archives: February 2009

While walking home, I thought a little more about it and realized what I should say here.

You see, creating an open non-rigid story that other people can interact with and influence is not as easy as just writing a novel or fanfic. You have to create a set of mysteries that the players can unravel, but you also have to make sure the solutions are not so obvious as to make it boring, but not too difficult so as to make it impossible. Also, it has to make sense within the appropriate universe! Note that Rajlich’s tier3 was intended to be a true challenge for the best and brightest of the MxO community and it took me months to come up with an encoding method arbitrary enough to try to really stump the bright members of our community. Ultimately though, I’d say it was a little too difficult and even FA wouldn’t have cracked it without extensive nudging from Strayshot. It’s a tough balancing act, especially in a situation like that where you want to help but not give the answer altogether. I recall giving lots of subtle hints just in the particular words Strayshot said, in the hopes that someone would hear it the right way and make a leap of intuition. Needless to say, there has not been something quite that arbitrarily difficult since then. Although I”m sure some of you may argue.
The method of locating 991’s data nodes, for example, was something I had thought would be easily accessible to most players: parameterized linear equations. Something I remembered learning in middle school. Ultimately though, it turned out that most players were completely turned off by the perceived complexity of the puzzle. I learned from my mistakes in the current chapter: a picture puzzle (ages 10+) as the heart of the story for everyone and then successively more complicated puzzles within puzzles from there that would be optional and offer a deeper understanding of what was happening.

With this current storyline in particular, I tried hard to satisfy every need that the community was voicing. Probably nobody realizes this, but sometime around October or November (not long after the Joker’s deletion), I messaged 60 or 70 MxO players and asked them what they would like to see in the game’s story. Copying and pasting that simple question into all those windows yielded me mountains of feedback (feedback that I normally was not allowed to get from behind the heavy curtain of anonymity). I wish I had taken a screenshot of my desktop with all those chat windows open and flashing. I read through all their responses and from that alone, the entire story of the crew came together in my mind. From my own point of view, it satisfied all the things the community asked for and provided something engaging for each type of player.

The problem with coming up with the perfect idea is that it tends to be a lot of work. If you look at the current volume of content that has been disseminated since players first became aware of the crew… well, it speaks volumes. I began work on the map in November, experimenting in photoshop. I think I’ll add some photos of early design attempts at the bottom of this entry. In total, the map took about 2-3 months of relatively constant attention to complete. From looking at file dates, it looks like I finished the actual map imagery by December 22 of 2007. The full version with text is dated January 18. I have a distinct memory of my roommate and I staying up all night watching Braveheart while I pumped out page after page of journal entries on my girlfriend’s laptop. Looks like about 5,300 words of journals or so.
Heh, I just realized that there is still a folder on my desktop called “Rajlich Research”. 300 MB, 901 files, 37 folders. Directly beneath it is another folder called “The Crew”. 3.07 GB, 6239 files, 313 folders, Created October 14, 2007.

Anyways, the point that I’m trying to make while sidetracking myself is that my original intention was to introduce this crew and their goals, provide maybe 5 months of interaction and fragment collection, then cue chapter 2 of their story during my summer break. Well, by the time summer rolled around, I found out that I needed to create a lot more stuff than I could in a reasonable amount of time to still go live with Chapter 2. And by the time that was done, the crew had been gone for too long and needed reintroduction to the community, but then it wasn’t a good time for me to continue because my schedule was too busy for all the necessary interaction. And the longer I waited, the trickier it became to keep everything in perspective. So to some of you, it seems like this story is way too prolonged and messy. But you have to understand that everything this far was supposed to have happened in 5 months. It’s just one of the dangers of working as a one-man team.

So all in all, this is a lengthy apology. I’m trying to make it clear to others that things almost never go as planned and that I keep trying to make amends and finish what I started. It was never my intention to keep you hanging like this. I just hope that when I finally have time for this, I can still deliver the story that was meant to be presented to you, as it was meant to be presented.

P.S. If it seems that I am being very vocal this week, it is because I have a classical mechanics midterm, a math metods midterm, 3 physics sets, and I have only had 4 hours of sleep a night for the past 3 nights.

Everything began with the commandos. Rarebit had just introduced The General to the community and offered LESIG the chance to play the roles of commandos in The General’s ragtag army. This was only several months after the conception of the group and until that time, it had really not served much of a purpose whatsoever. Everyone was posting their ideas of what sorts of events would be cool to do and what sorts of things Rare should develop. As anyone who has looked at the Development Roundtable subforum will know, it was a messy mixture of ridiculous ideas mixed with unfeasible ideas, with a smattering of things that were already being worked on anyways (such as HCFrog’s org abilities and control towers). By letting us play the roles of commandos, Rare finally gave us something to do and drastically cut down on all the pointless development suggestions. A small group of 5 members formed a small unit of commandos on Syntax.

On that Syntax rooftop, Niobe introduced the commandos and told the players that as part of Zion’s agreement with The General, Zion operatives would train the commandos, who were not adept at functioning in the Matrix simulation. Specifically, they were being trained to combat exile targets and help Zion in their conflict with the Merovingian, I believe.  Players took this assignment very seriously, and I recall the sergeant leveling very quickly. I also recall Mindsweep, a Merv player at the time, constantly harassing Steele with a barrage of French. Or maybe it was Starschwar. Or both. I wish I had written down these memories a long time ago. At the time this happened, Rarebit was only just beginning to reboot the storyline. If you recall, in the shift from Monolith to SOE, there was a period of maybe 4 months where there was no new storyline content whatsoever. Naturally, everone was upset. So when the commandos arrived, people really pounced on it.

At the time, we were fairly out of the loop in terms of what was actually going on in the story. For the first couple weeks, I thought I was playing a redpill character who was part of some sort of strike force. That explains why SgtSteele had a bluepill name in his details. As well as the “Just don’t stand in the way of his promotion.” or whatever it said. I’ll have to ask Othinn some day. It was awhile before I found out we were all programs and adjusted my character accordingly. There was no standard for our RP at the time, so we each adopted a different view of how the commandos should act. I was always more than a little disappointed by how much personality and lol-isms the others put into their characters. I always felt the commandos should have been cold and emotionless soldier programs, programmed only for functionality. Gaining personality over time through interaction with the players would have played a great role in the experience. But like I said, we were new and the group hadn’t really weeded itself out yet.

Steele's team helps him take down a level 40 Lupine

Steele's team helps him take down a level 40 Lupine

After awhile, other members tried to organize commando squads on Vector and Recursion, however they didn’t seem to be as well received as the original Syntax commandos and many of those members lost interest and/or turned to better things when the LO positions were introduced.

As a commando, I had a blast. I remember saying “You are not authorized to access that information.” a lot whenever someone would ask anything about the story that I had no idea about. For me, Steele was always a cold and calculating program who only knew his mission objectives, targets, and parameters and everything else was irrelevant. SgtSteele was my first time ever RPing in an MMO and it definitely had it’s impact on me, inspiring all the characters that came after him. Before Steele, my only MxO experience was pwning noobs with my faction on Vector. Or was it Enumerator? Not too long after the SOE transition, my whole faction made the move to Lineage. I stayed behind for awhile, but eventually canceled my sub. Actually, this is a pretty amusing origin story.

I had played MxO through beta and into Live, but once the live events were gone, I lost interest and left the game. Sometime in December of ’05, I guess, someone sent me a message over xfire to tell me about the datamining exploit, which was a big deal at the time. In fact, I think it was someone by the name of “cognoscentee” if anyone remembers him.  Eager to make some easy $info myself, I logged in and took a stab at it. But I wasn’t having much success, so I turned to the forums to find answers to my questions. That’s when I found that magical PM in my inbox that revolutionized my MxO experience. If it weren’t for the datamining exploit, I probably never would have come back to MxO and would probably be a very successful physicist now. Unfortunately, I instead became immersed in a world of storytelling from which I could never escape.
…And I never pwned a noob again.

…Until Entropi showed up.

MxO Forum Search: “SgtSteele” => http://forums.station.sony.com/mxo/search/search.m?clean=1&query=sgtsteele&keywordType=&searchTerms=all&author=&userType=&exactMatch=true&forumId=&sortBy=relevance&sortDir=DESC&categoryId=&postTime=

Niobe’s introduction of the commandos => http://forums.station.sony.com/mxo/posts/list.m?start=0&topic_id=35000000063&#35000000080

Some cool dialogue I found with SgtSteele => http://forums.station.sony.com/mxo/posts/list.m?start=0&topic_id=23500001086&#23500001086

Well, I for one was surprised to learn that Rare is leaving. Although in retrospect, I feel it should have come as no surprise. He’d been giving off a weird vibe over the past year that sort of unsettled me and I eventually gave up trying to keep him in the loop about my storyline plans and instead started designing the story so as to not require any (or at least minimal) work from him. I had always felt guilty asking him for things, as I understood he was incredibly overworked, but it became more of an issue once he–for lack of a better way to describe how it felt to me–lost his enthusiasm. I’m reminded of when a Morpheus puppet shouted “Free your minds!” and began detonating code bombs in Chelsea, followed by server-wide FFA-PvP. Or when the Oracle puppet meatwadded everyone on the server. While I hoped to do more like that in the future, I ultimately felt compelled to opt for something that I could complete solo, although in the end, I wasn’t able to finish enough of it by my self-imposed deadlines in order to keep it from stagnating. I’m sorry.

Much like everyone else, I will be waiting to see what happens next. If I can still carry out the rest of the story in June and there is still an audience for it, then I will continue to devote myself to the project. If I deem that I can’t commit the work to the story that my audience deserves, then I’ll follow Rare’s example and provide a write-up of the story. Maybe some people would even be willing to collaborate and help create a storybook that would tell the stories of the Watchmaker, 991, and the crew from start to finish. Either way things go, I think I’d like to do that in the end. It would make a nice memento to commemorate one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life.

Anyways, depending on how things boil down over the next month or two, I may post asking for feedback on how others would like my particular branch of storyline to continue. I’m particularly proud of the intended plot and resolution of this storyline so I guarantee that you will hear the ending eventually, one way or the other.

P.S. My apologies if my last entry was too verbose for reasonable translations into Italian.

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