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Interacting with important NPCs

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Interacting with important NPCs

Postby Nimrod » Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:02 pm

We're discussing how to standardize communications with npcs and I would like your input, please.

My main goal is to allow staff to be able to support you with your requests and questions in a more timely, and stable manner. The big issue that we must overcome is timing. Quite often a player is asking for an animation when the staff member who is needed is off line, then when we get online, you're off. It's a vicious circle and can be quite frustrating for us, as I'm sure it is for you.

Making board posts asking the npc about something just doesn't work if the issue is private.

We would not do away with animations, don't think that. But often times there are things that can be taken care of more quickly if we devise a method to allow players to pose their questions/requests, written or spoken, via some type of in-game or out-of-game system. Once the request is posted a member of staff will be able to respond to it even if you're not online.

There are also times when we need to research the answer to something and cannot answer off the cuff, so this method would give us time to do that.

Another bit that I'm considering is making a 'standard reply time' for all queries. i.e. if you submit a request/question to an npc you'll get an answer exactly 30 in-game days later. (That's one real life week). So even if we answer the question two days after you submit it, you would not get the answer until the full 30 days were up. This gives us a full week to come up with the proper in-game response and you would know exactly when you're going to get an answer.

The main thing to consider here is that this is for IN-CHARACTER questions/requests only. All ooc issues will still go through our support system as normal.

I'd like to hear your opinions/thoughts on this type of system. Specifically if you would prefer to keep this system in-game or if using some sort of web-based system, (such as our support system) would work.

If you have any ideas on how something like this could work, please feel free to toss out your ideas. I'm not committing to anything at this time, we're discussing it.
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Re: Interacting with important NPCs

Postby mongwen » Sat Dec 20, 2014 9:16 am

I think you've already got the basic system in place if you choose to use it. Over on HL when I want to talk to an NPC I'll petition up with a scenario and wait for a staff response via email that I can go with IG.
(petition all RP.)
as the preamble, directs it to the staffer in charge of my area so other staffers who have characters with conflicting interests or who don't animate NPCs around there know to keep clear. Then the scenario, whatever it might be.
Petition all rp. Mycharacter just brought her X in and left it for repairs. Or mycharacter came by with Y to pay for Z but NPC was otherwise occupied. Or mycharacter walked around in a blizzard feeding the poor souls having to do patrol in this foul weather because she's a big sweetie. Or mycharacter wants to know how much it'd cost to build a ...
Or mycharacter came by troubled and spoke to the priest in the temple of blue cheese in search of guidance on ...
Whatever the scenario requires.

I find the separate support and petition system as a whole cumbersome, but it seems to work well for you on staff side.
So since you have both it and the petition system that doesn't really seem to be used, my idea is to add two more options in the support type box. Human sphere animations/rp and Orc sphere animations/RP. Game is not disturbed that way.
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Re: Interacting with important NPCs

Postby Bones » Sat Dec 20, 2014 9:29 am

My suggestion? While the Journal system is at times used properly, I'm pretty sure it could double as a use for this.

Player submits request. Player gets reply. That way not only are they destined to get an answer, but there is written, hard evidence so there are no 'Oh I forgot' or 'I didn't realize that's what that said.'.
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Re: Interacting with important NPCs

Postby Hawkwind » Sat Dec 20, 2014 10:06 am

Can staff write in players journals? If so it would make use of an under used asset. It is essentially a private IG board for a character.
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Re: Interacting with important NPCs

Postby ironhelix » Sat Dec 20, 2014 10:20 am

I'm actually in favor of an OOC communication system for IC information requests, depending on the capabilities of the OOC system in question.

An OOC system makes several things easier, if it's designed to do them:

  • Consistent Replies: If the OOC system is capable of ordering replies by NPC and tagging each reply with a tag appropriate to the IC question, this can allow staff members to go back through historical responses to questions and make sure the character is being internally consistent.
  • Organization: Email, while a great communication tool, is not as easy to organize and takes more effort to upkeep it, or more effort to set it up. Assuming that emails for IC responses are all going to the same inbox, that can be a lot of work to set up rules, etc, etc.
  • Longevity: Data hosted by your systems and served to consumers always has a greater integrity value than data hosted elsewhere. Players may inadvertently delete responses, or simply transcribe them incorrectly.
  • Efficiency: It's far more efficient for the organization to be on the server side, where you can organize the data according to how you want to present it to players, rather than each player organize (or not) according to their capabilities. As someone who programs, I'd expect your ability to organize and present data is greater than most other people's.
  • Higher Organizational Structures: Doing it this way can allow you, depending on the system, to respond to multiple people at once, or even use groups, or perhaps ranks within groups. Doing this can help keep the leadership of clans all on the same page without having to concern yourself on the OOC factors such as a timezones and playtimes. Also removes the abstraction layer between one player asking a question and several players needing the answer, and all that information being 'filtered' through the original requesting player. Sometimes you want that layer because it's IC to have it, however sometimes it's really a pain in the butt.

There are some disadvantages, however, depending on how it's done:

  • Account-based: If you can see replies from NPCs based on your account, it'd be possible for players to receive two different answers to the same question on different characters. Normally that's not a big deal, but I have staffed before, and that can be a really big deal for some people. You still have this drawback with other methods, such as email.
  • Character-based: Avoiding that pitfall comes with a character-based solution, tying each response to a character. Once that character dies, a player is no longer able to see the reply. You may have some resource issues if people go through a lot of characters quickly, and make a lot of inquiries, as your database will have to grow with each NPC and each character requesting information.
  • Higher Admin Requirements on Staff: Organizing the information correctly (using the correct tags, etc) improve things staffside, but it'd also place the burden of the work on the staff to organize it properly as well.
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Re: Interacting with important NPCs

Postby EltanimRas » Sat Dec 20, 2014 10:24 am

As an off-peak player, I like the idea of having an asynchronous option for this stuff. Where it's feasible, though, I'd prefer there be some IC explanation for the indirect nature of the communication. That is, I'd generally prefer not to RP having had a virtual meeting.

A messenger- or secretary-type NPC that my message is being passed through, a drop box that I'm slipping a written note into. Something that explains why I'm not having a back-and-forth discussion with the boss NPC, or why I don't know what his gear looks like, or why I didn't get a chance to stab him.

A standard reply time for routine requests sounds good to me, although I'd suggest leaving some flexibility in case topics arise for which an earlier response makes more sense, assuming it's possible. (My PC shouldn't necessarily be able to, say, slip a threatening note under Gararic's door and carry on as if she'd done nothing of the sort for a full IC month.)

The OOC mechanism by which all this happens doesn't matter too much to me, so long as it leaves a readily accessible record for everyone concerned (and not for unconcerned parties).
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Re: Interacting with important NPCs

Postby Nimrod » Sat Dec 20, 2014 1:42 pm

Ironhelix has basically touched on every single concern that I have. On the back end I am extremely concerned about consistency from staff member to staff member. You'll be happy to know that I have implemented a system to help us stay consistent when it comes to animations and I'm becoming a regular arse about documentation.

As far as resources, that's not a problem. Doing something with the modern day 'tagging' will be difficult and likely not something that's going to be done right away, if at all. I want to make our system work with as little fuss as possible.

Indeed, we can write to players journals. That has crossed my mind, as has a hybrid journal (which is basically just your own personal in-game board, or vboard that we use as staff - think pnotes).

I do like Eltanimras' point about stopping by to leave a message with a secretary or guard. Writing a message won't work for everyone, as some don't have literacy skills, so being able to handle both the written word and voice (roleplay).
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