I don't usually do this, but I started thinking this evening (dangerous, I know) about how few imms/staff members I could remember having seen online in, say, the last month or so.
So, I went to wizlist and started counting.
After going through that entire list, I was able to come up with eight whom I'd seen on for more than a few minutes at a time or more than for just one specific reason (say, a birthday hog or to post a note or something). Adding in those of whom I've only seen evidence (e.g. a note or a forum mailing), I got up to twelve. There are 27 names on that list.
Staff is an even lower percentage--I've only seen one of those names online in the last month, and even then I'm almost positive it was just a script being run a couple times before logging out. Even if limited to just the Quest staffers--who are the only ones most of us would see, presumably--that ratio is 1/4, which definitely explains why people have been wondering what happened to questing. Hard for one person and the track lead to do much, I'd think.
I fully acknowledge that I am not online 24/7, and that not all imms/staffers make themselves visible to mortals when they're online; however, I do feel like this is deepening the rift players perceive between their desire for the game to be a dynamic and exciting experience and the imms'/staff's willingness to accept input and implement change. Immortals shouldn't be slaves to their roles on AVATAR any more than players should have 100% control over what is implemented and what isn't--but if they're not around or visible enough to convince the player base they care, something needs to change. Whether that is more feasibly their own time investment or who is filling the position is certainly a matter of some debate in each individual case, but the simple fact is that not changing anything is no longer a valid way of dealing with the problem. Not solving this problem leads us to the inevitable (and in-progress, in many circles) discussion of how much longer AVATAR survives. As someone who's spent a solid 12 years here, I know I'd hate to see it go--but that's certainly where we're headed without a course correction.
To help rebuild eroded player trust in the authority hierarchy, either the staff needs to be observed doing something consistently (even if that's just being online with a title like "Coding" or "building things to kill you," or being active on the mailer or the website, or whatever) or they need to be replaced or supplemented with people who can fulfill those functions.
Thanks for taking the time to show your concern and raise the issue.
Constructive feedback is appreciated.
I can't definitively comment on why other Imms and Staff haven't been around but I've not been around as much recently as I'd have liked mainly because I've been busier than normal at work and I've either been too ill,tired or stressed to log on and/or I've been busy with other real life commitments i.e. I've been away and not had reliable internet access.
As a primarily socially orientated Imm, I try to make a point of not logging in as my Imm if I am stressed and not in a patient mood as I know I won't be as understanding and tolerant, especially as I know that if I am online I will get multiple questions and queries.
Sometimes I am online but not immediately visible simply because I know that if I am visible, I won't actually get accomplished what I logged on to do, simply because I will be asked about other things. However, as a Social Imm, I try to keep this to a minimum and only do it when necessary.
Things are improving for me workwise and I'm now able to log in more regularly.
This issue is something that we will certainly discuss amongst ourselves to see how this can be improved in the short and longer terms.
Riv pretty much nails it on the head for me as well. I'm basically living as a single dad right now (wife works nights) raising two kids, a full time police detective and a part time Operations NCO in the National Guard. I have a lot on my plate.
That said, I do actually get a fair amount of time on AVATAR. As I am doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes on Requests and other projects, I am usually invis to players. I don't want to be rude and ignore players if I step away from my keyboard for a moment (see the part about two kids above) or am in another window.
Lastly, and I know this might come as a surprise, but I actually still enjoy actively playing and running. I split my time between my Imm duties and running a few of my more active alts.
I will make this commitment. I will be visible more often and will work on a way to be able to respond more quickly. The greatest part of AVATAR for me is interacting with the players. Your post and email has reminded me of what I've missed a lot of lately.
Thank you for Rafel to being willing to go out on a limb and opening the conversation. Thanks also to Riviat and Shezmu to being open and honest about where they are in their personal imm experiences. To me, I think there are a couple concerns that I have regarding where we are when it comes to immortals on the mud today. While I do agree with Rafel that it would be helpful to be able for the general public to have a better idea of what of some of the imms do, and that perhaps it would be helpful for immortals to that currently can't make a commitment to the mud to take hiatus or step down, I also have a concern on how active some of the immortals that code the mud in terms of being a player. I realize that it is a lot to ask for someone to both code and play the game, but I find that more and more, we have implementations that may be creative and interesting, are dramatically altering the gameplay and not being revisited for balancing. I understand that the game has moved towards becoming easier and faster-paced on the whole, but it seems like sometimes incredibly powerful skills are being put in, and the impact on the game is game-changing, but largely ignored.
To give a couple examples, I personally have fairly large paladin and bladedancer characters, both of which I find have a lot of skills that are not quite fleshed out, and in the end completely overshadowed by a couple of their game-breaking skills. While bladedancers have a fair number of dances, my absolute go to skill on Agile is veil of blades, because of the humongous impact that veil has on the difficulty of a run. Meanwhile, inspiring has limited usefulness (a result of generally fast kills in gameplay now and also the importance of having mobs pushed for psis), which I am okay with, but bladedance and dervish dance are nearly obsolete skills except maybe for UD and the stack of unholy wasps after coming down from Chloroforms in Aculeata. Unending dance is virtually untouched because veil is going to be more effective and useful 99% of the time. We have defined a number of factors into the cost of bladetrance, but they all seem to have fairly minimal effect on the outcome. While I do play Agile because he is a powerful character, I wonder what it might look like if I had more options to select from in my skill set, because they could in fact be used effectively, even if it meant like my most powerful skill was weakened. Maybe this is unfair to ask, as most classes do have a goto skill, but if we are implementing all these other skills, wouldn't it be best to make them useful?
Similarly with my paladin, I admire the large selection and diversity of the skills that were put into the class, but to be honest I alternate between 2 global oaths (war and evolution), 2 private oaths (openness and discipline), 2 weapon skills (redemption and precision and occaaaaasionally ethereal), and 3 prayers (malice aura, precision, and soothe). Unfortunately, despite the depth of the class, the restrictions on oathing, worship, and changing weapon abilities make it virtually impossible effectively utilize a lot of the given skills without crippling what you do entire run. As a result, we mostly have Tul-Sith paladins using discipline and evolution, despite the array of melee skills available to the class. As a random aside, I wonder what it might look like to make melee damage relevant to Lord outside of stabbing and FFing bzks? d=
Sorry if this is terribly longwinded, but my point is that if our coders aren't experiencing the gameplay as the players do, or at least having consistent dialog with them about how the implementations have affected the game, I foresee further game-changing abilities coming in, without areas and classes being rebalanced to cleanly integrate the change into the game. In many ways, I think that Area building/revamping, Class coding, and receiving/asking for feedback from the players after changes go live need to all go hand in hand, or else we will end up with a terribly unbalanced game.
All of that said, I do appreciate the hard work and time that our immortals put into the game, and I know it probably feels like regardless of what is done, the players will never be happy or satisfied. However, I think players and immortals working together to polish the implementations could really go a long way, even if it means that additional components and fixes might take longer. At times it really seems like there are monstrous gaps between the way the immortals are thinking and the players are that never come close to being reconciled.
Like Shezmu, I also deal with Requests and other Imm administration activities (some of which are helping other Imms as well as players), in addition to being visible to answer questions, deal with issues.
I have been intending to spend time running trivias etc but keep finding I get sidetracked dealing with issues so I haven't managed to accomplish this for a while.
Also sometimes I just want to hang out on mortal alts and relax.
I think you'd be surprised at how many of the coders do actually run and experience gameplay, not only for the balance reasons you outlined but to relax and unwind. They just do it on non-public alts.
With regard to paladins, one of the prime motivations behind the design was to give players a lot of choice on how they can customise their characters with different oaths and worship choices. Yes, some oath combinations will be more optimum than others but they aren't all meant to be ultra-powerful.No disrespect intended to those who prefer a power gaming style but it is a playing style choice to go with certain oaths.
We wanted to give the less power-gamer orientated players a chance to create interesting characters too.
Yes there are sometimes gaps in thinking between Immortals and players, but it may not necessarily be all players.
We are lucky enough to have a mixture of all the Bartle MUD character types i.e. Achiever, Explorer, Killer and Socialiser and what is appealing to one type, may not be as appealing to another.
Also we don't just listen to those people who are most vocal on channels and mailers as not everyone is comfortable at sharing their opinions on public channels or notes so we try to listen to them as well.
As anyone who has participated in some of the long discussions on Hero and Lord channels about game issues will be aware, there will often be vehement supporters of different styles so if we implement changes which please one style, then we inevitably will sometimes alienate those who wanted us to do the opposite.
Contrary to what some people may be believe, we as Immortals, don't deliberately set out to upset people.
We do try and please as many people as possible but understand that it is not always possible to please 100% of the playerbase all the time.
Regardless, it is gratifying to see the love that both Immortals and players have for the game which is evident by the time spent working on improvements such as coding, building or mobprogs or making suggestions on how gameplay can be enhanced whilst retaining the flavour and balance of the game.
I can only speak for myself, so I'll try to explain what is confusing to me personally.
Aside for the counts that Rafel counted, showing more than a half of the IMM staff is MIA (weather true or not is hard for us to judge without really seeing them online or being privy to what they do at all), there is also the issue of the tracks.
Quest track has been rather deadish lately, as explained by both Kariya and Ferrix in the latest mailer, and I believe the hardest hit to the "questing" was felt when schema stopped doing his weekly PotWs. Hats off to Thieron and the occasional impromptu quest organized by imms, but there has not been a serious and organized effort to quests since Tannah's storyline almost a year ago. This in turn leads to (which I already argued) QP starvation, which further inflames the insanely high QPcat prices, which leads to utter stagnation of questing interest etc. We simply need more activity going on in this department to keep the players occupied with something interesting and to indeed have something "going on" at most times.
Please note that while I do understand that "things require manpower", I'd like to underline the point stated in previous posts - if manpower is lacking, and has been lacking for months or years, why are no applications to tracks opened? More on this later.
Design track is the most arcane one for me - I don't have a clue as to what they really do. When I, as most players do, see changes to gameplay, core features implemented etc, it almost always simply looks like "Oh hey, Pulse/Malaclypse/someone had a bit off free time and coded something cool to make us happy". I really don't understand what the design team does, or if they are alive at all. "Design Track: Responsible for organizing, cataloging and steering the course of Avatar." honestly - this means nothing to me, and I would love if some sort of interaction existed with those people. Pulse answers to idea lists once per year, and that looks like "design" thing, so - is anyone alive there?
Web track - I'm honestly sorry to say, that aside for maintenance done on the site the webpages are rather dead. Polls are not updated in months, quest catalog posted is positively antique, and what the pages require, in my opinion, are features that would draw the players to them and in turn to these forums: live statistics of morph attempts/successes, graphs with player activity in areas, entire nchat/chat/hero/lord chatlogs made public and updated every minute, areas ran analysis, updated distributions of races, classes, worships - the tables already exist in game ans should just be piped to the webpage. I'm certain a small thousand of things could be put up here, and it's the real-time updating "things" that are the most interesting. Otherwise the webpage is just a placeholder.
Building track - We don't get updates as to what the build tracks or the builder IMMs are up to. Izanagi does have a list of working areas in his playerinfo which is fantastic, Ctibor is always building something to eat us, and I do often see Zahri organizing this or that, maintaining pages and keeping stuff appearing and in working order. However, the track members? Last we saw of them was again for the Tannah's quests, and in the last year and a half more areas have been built by the players in area contests then by the build force (talking of the eragora + lord area contests). Now, I'm aware they don't always build areas but do retro and other work - but if they are active, they sure are quiet about it. There is no reason to be shy, announce it proudly, and often!
I think the point of this entire letter is underlining of two issues:
1. IMMs and trackies do not communicate with players often on the issues they are dealing with, which leads to the popular belief that 60% of imms and 75% of trackies are actually MIA, which directly leads to point 2:
2. To keep the game alive it requires constant volunteer work, and most people have RL obligations keeping them away from the game for months on end. In such a case it is my belief applications may be in order and maybe other people can and would be willing to step in to help.
With this said, my respect goes to those IMMs we do see often - working their behinds off to make us happy, dealing with requests and keeping the place civil and enjoyable for all of us to benefit from. I just wish there was more of you.
WinterRose wrote: "Building track - We don't get updates as to what the build tracks or the builder IMMs are up to."
Ferrix just posted a belated bimonthly immortal update on Monday which included builders (set of EHA areas, an Eragora area [there's actually about 3, technically], Lord areas, and low mort areas). It did not list each builder by name because I wasn't sure how much information they wanted to give at that point.
There are some builder staff members who have not been as active of late. One of them hasn't been active much since I took over, but I have been lenient due to their RL circumstances. I have considered taking them off until they can get back into the swing of things, but haven't yet. Another just started a new job with crazy amounts of overtime. Another is in the process of moving.
Some staff and Immortals are working on a set of areas which go in at the same time, so it takes longer to get it done. In fact, one set should be in within the next few weeks (the target date being this weekend, if mob programs cooperate. This was slightly delayed due to my own RL activities.)
By way of explaining less activity - similar to others life has been hectic, pretty much for the last year. What makes this more apparent than in previous years I guess, is the fact that others did not or could not step up to fill in the gap - for whatever reason.
The overall issue is acknowledged and we need to establish ways forward. Some notes on specific points raised in the posts.
Re Rafel: Thanks for the balanced post.
1) re players control over what gets implemented: just my view - if I was paid, sure, choose. As I am not, what I decide working on needs also to appeal to me. I do not typically choose things that are unrelated to previous player complaints or discussions.
To explain my current working mode - Since my time is pretty limited, quite a bit of the work I do is 'enabling' code, that allows building more interesting areas etc. I know that I need to get back to more 'front end' stuff though.
2) re 'replace and supplement' - sounds great, not sure what it means in reality - see re recruitment below.
Re Jakkbam: Many thanks for the feedback. It is actually the first balanced feedback I have received in this form. This is a partial lie - I have received feedback that some of the dances need more power, but not that some would be overpowered.
So, on a more general note - I am happy to receive feedback, and should probably be more active in gathering it, but hey. Will see how to improve on that.
1) re track visibility: only quest staff is ever visible to players. Builders sometimes are visible for a time if one of their areas go in. Other track characters cannot interact with players.
2) Re What does design track do: It needs to be understood that a track does not consist of only the trackies - it is imms involved in the task plus trackies. Design tends to be heavily code related in reality. The tracky is mostly responsible for taking care of our database of bug tasks and ideas. Not a glorious task.
3) on more recruitement: this is not as simple a solution for two main reasons (my view):
i. Where it comes to code, there is a certain level of trust by Snikt required, which you do not get so easy. This creates a bottleneck for development if the existing coders step down or lack time. I have been pondering some sort of solution to this for a while, but need to check technicalities.
ii. In a nutshell: more staff means less players, or at least less playing time for them. So a balance needs to be found.
The past year or so have been rough on the quest team.
As you pointed out the trackies and their time have been up and down.
This is one of the main reasons why I myself have become...less than excited about Avatar.
Because deep down inside your evil dark fire is a nice guy.
And when people tell me they are about to return and run a quest, I trust them.
Several times we have tried to rally, and it might have worked for a few weeks.
But I am working on changes, basically we're creating an automated system, less (or not) reliant on people running things.
Also, I have too many bad experiences these days with people enthusiastically telling me they wish to run quests.
Despite all of our collective efforts, many burn out withing 6-12 months.
And I am just not eager to go through this again. It isn't beneficial to anyone.
Plus what Pulse said
I agree with Winterrose's observation that the website has been stale for some time. I have limited resources and my recent focus has been on MUD coding instead of the website in the little time I have available to work on Avatar stuff. The suggestions for improving the site are very welcome and I will look at how to implement at least some of those. We already have a live feed of morphs and remorts but this could definitely be expanded.
The issue is currently one of manpower - we have had no web trackies with PHP coding experience for some time now. If anybody wants to step up and help with this, please mail me privately (xiphoid at outland.org).