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Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Friday, July 24, 2015

BOOT CAMP LESSON 4: Moderation


Greetings Everyone!

Welcome to the fourth installment of BOOTCAMP! Lesson 4 will be about Moderation! Also known as: Pertinent Baggage! This lesson is something I had to focus on while working with Missing Worlds Media.

When writing for an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game), it is important to know the difference between “a good character” and “a good NPC” (Non Player Character). One can be great subject matter for their own novel or comic book, but the other is more suitable to be a guest star in someone else’s story. That is the perspective we need to keep in mind when writing content for an MMO: the spotlight will be on the player, not the NPC’s.


Giving background characters links to the setting is important (see lesson 2), but when is enough, enough? How much information should we include when creating NPCs without it being considered as “going overboard”? This type of information is what we may call significant, pertinent and superfluous.


Let’s create a fictional character for a MMO setting and name him SuperFighterGuy, to use as an example:
  • Does the player need to know that he is an expert martial artists and that he has the brains to be a world class detective? Yes, because this explains the purpose/capabilities of the NPC to the player and is therefore significant information that may be necessary to progress in the game.
  • Does the player need to know that his powers are based on superspeed? Yes, because this explains the purpose/capabilities of the NPC to the player and is therefore significant information that may be necessary to progress in the game.
  • Does the player need to know that his parents died during a mugging when he was a child? Not really, because this information is not needed for the player to proceed in the game. However, it does explain why the NPC speaks/acts the way he does, and would affect the NPC’s interaction with the player. Therefore could be considered pertinent information that could be included or hinted at during gameplay.
  • Does the player need to know he has a gambling problem? Not really, because this information is not needed for the player to proceed in the game. However, it does explain why the NPC speaks/acts the way he does, and would affect the NPC’s interaction with the player. Therefore could be considered pertinent information that could be included or hinted at during gameplay.
  • Does the player need to know that he once defeated a great white shark while stranded in the Pacific Ocean? No, this information is not needed for the player to proceed in the game and even tho it may be interesting, it is not considered relevant to the storyline, it is therefore considered superfluous information.
  • Does the player need to know that SuperFighterGuy likes to have bacon and a cheese bagel every morning for breakfast? No, this information is not needed for the player to proceed in the game, nor is it considered relevant to the storyline, it is therefore considered superfluous information… unless you plan on killing SuperFighterGuy with bad cholesterol.


So the point of this exercise is to be able to tell the difference between what information  is important to the player and what is unnecessary. Not to focus on the quantity on information you submit, but on the quality of the information.


So, here are the guidelines to today’s exercise!

***Rules***
  1. Below are 5 generic characters to choose from. Select ONE of the 5 characters to work with.
  2. Once you selected a character, write 4 different statements for each of the following categories: Significant, Pertinent and Superfluous.
  3. In the Significant category, write 4 statements about the NPC which would be essential for the player to know during gameplay.
  4. In the Pertinent category, write 4 statements about the NPC which are not necessary for the player to know during gameplay, but would help define the NPC to the player.
  5. In the Superfluous category, write 4 statements about the NPC which are useless to the player to know during gameplay and irrelevant to storytelling.

***Characters:***
  1. Sherlock Holmes
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Frankenstein's Monster
  4. Captain Hook
  5. Cleopatra
   
    For those wondering how this applies to writing in other mediums, keep in mind that controlling the flow of information given to the reader is one of the most important aspects of being a writer. For more about this, please see my previous posts about Word Economy and Show and Tell.

Now go! Create! And most importantly, have fun!


Until next time,


Cheers!

Patrick Osborne