Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Notoriety


There were several things that Laria thought she required before she was properly a Sassy Adventuress. Splitting it down, they could be categorized as either (a) sassiness or (b) adventures. She'd been doing quite well with the former - lots of sassy outfits, plans for more sassy quarters, a definitely sass-appropriate boyfriend (the fact that thinking about him made her slightly gooey on the inside, rather that initiating a more casual, devil-may-care, feeling was an incidental detail). She had, however, been rather lacking in the latter.

In fact, it had been a while since she had much in the way of adventures at all, unless "found some more rocks, shot them, refined them, sold them" counted as an adventure, and while definitely rewarding, she didn't recall seeing any holovid dramas, let alone Interstellar Intrigue books, that featured vast amounts of mining.

She needed adventures, and she needed fame, and not of the sort that a regrettable record of Ishkur losses was likely to attract. She needed to be visible.

This definitely required some kind of list, she thought. But what to put on it? She could shoot pirates, possibly. Ideally the sort that weren't paying very much attention and wouldn't shoot back.

And didn't have many friends.

Somehow, "Scourge of pirates that are unpopular with other pirates" didn't really seem like a particularly desirable title.

She needed to do something else. Something spectacular.

Something spectacular and good. The possibility of doing something spectacular and embarrassing was a lurkingly large problem. But what?

Monday, 18 April 2011

OOC: RP Guide #3: How do I RP?

Part 3 of the increasingly less-occasional RP Guide. Thanks for the comments on the last one!

I have a character, with a background. Now what do I do?
"Life in the movie business is like the... is like the beginning of a new love affair: it's full of surprises, and you're constantly getting f*cked." - Fox, Speed-The-Plow
 The simple answer is to start Roleplaying. You may find it best to join a corp that is an "RP corp" - which usually means that all in game channels such as corp and alliance are "In character", often with a secondary "out of character" channel where you can discuss your dog. Another thing to do is to find a channel in which Roleplay takes place, and go there - there are quite a lot, representing bars, clubs, restaurants and other such locations.

Roleplay in EVE essentially breaks down into three types.
  1. Channel Roleplay
  2. Forum Roleplay
  3. Blog Roleplay
In reverse order, with very sketchy details for two of them.

Blog Roleplay
This is a blog. My IC posts represent Blog roleplay. You'll note that it's largely a solo affair, though people do occasionally interact on blogs. It's perhaps best regarded as a complement to other sorts of RP, a way to extend your own character's narrative and something to do at work when you can't RP any of the other ways. 

Using someone else's character in your Blog without their permission is a big no no (though it's obviously OK to mention them, either directly or indirectly. Most people like reading other characters' thoughts about theirs. It's kind of like being in the popular crowd.)

Forum Roleplay
Roleplaying on Forums, natch. Either just making posts that are In Character (this could be regarded as "light" RP) which would be posts that you would make if you weren't an RPer, just omitting all references to your dog (unless you have an IC Slaver dog thing, in which case, knock yourself out), through to expressing opinions that your character has but that you may not share, or using language in an IC way.

Some forum RP is interactive storytelling, with the forum being set in a particular location, and the characters involved taking turns to make posts. This can be fun, but it can also get a bit silly, as it often feels like (or in some cases, there are rules that mandate) there is a minimum acceptable post length. This results in the following style of post:
Laria's brow creases in thought, as she remembers all the previous situations that this issue had presented itself in. She turns and looks out of the window, out onto the blackness of space lit only with the pinpricks of distant stars - at this time of day this side of the station was turned away from both sun and planet, leaving it in shadow and looking out over an empty vista. Still, a decision had to be made, a decision that had ramifications beyond the immediate. With an angry shake of her head, she made it. "No, just a regular portion of fries," she says.
It can also take forever to do anything.

Channel Roleplay


I'm going to write more about this. There are two sorts of RP channels in EVE. There's the sort that is just a communications channel used by the characters. Most people in RP corps use their corp and fleet channels like this. And then there's the sort that represents a particular place.

EVE is not well endowed with facilities for the RPer. There's channels and the character bio, and really that's about it. And both of those have limitations.

Let's talk about RP in a place-bound channel. We'll invent one, called "The Better 'Ole". It's a bar, and not a particularly good one. If it's an open channel, anyone can RP there, though it's worth checking what the setting is to see if it's appropriate for us, and to get a feel for what it's like.

Most people set a MOTD describing the general ambience and environment, so let's invent one.

The Better 'Ole, a bar that has a carefully cultivated atmosphere of seediness, on the back side of an otherwise abandoned station in Hagilur. From the distressed state of the furniture to the surly look on the face of the barman, it's a place for the tough-skinned and tough-livered.
Hey! That sounds like the kind of place that I'd like to RP in! So, how do I get started? Rather than simply type "Hi" into space, I'm going to describe what my character does. With the use of /me, mostly. This is called a "pose".

/me walks into the bar, a look like thunder on her face, her hands gripping the front of her stylishly-tailored leather jacket. She strides up to the counter. "Pator Number One," she orders. "And get a second ready, because I'm going to need it."

We pose in the present tense. A bit weird, but the convention. If there's anyone else in channel and up for RP, they'll probably pose in response, and you can get going.

Here are some tips:
  1. Enter scenes with something to do, or something that you were just doing, or something on your mind. Remember about short-term drivers. Coming into scenes flat leads to the following sorts of RP.
    Me: "Hi"
    Them: "Hi. How're you doing?"
    Me: "Fine. You?"
    Them: "Fine too."
    Me: "Can I have a beer?"
    Them: "Yes. Here is your beer."
    Me: "Do you want a beer too?"

    Neither character has brought anything to the scene, and as a result, it's... well. A little dull. Difficult to get life into it. Something interesting might happen, but it's not a great start. Be aware of what your character is preoccupied with, thinking of, worrying about. Remember previous conversations they've had with the characters involved. Be doing stuff, because even small stuff makes scenes more interesting, and energy at the start of scenes translates into liveliness throughout. Hobbies, projects, shopping trips, all are good for this if you don't have a more strategic short term driver.
  2. One technique that works quite well is to split your poses into three sections. React -> Act -> Prompt. What this means is that the early part of your pose should be responding to what other characters have done (React), doing something new (Act) and then giving other characters something to respond to (Prompt). Let's look at an example.
    Steve The Disposable NPC looks up. "Do you come here often?" he asks.
    Laria Raven smiles wanly. "Oh, I come here quite a lot," she says. She looks over her shoulder at the door, then back to Steve. "Do you attempt to pick up girls here often?" 
    I've colour-coded the sections, though often you combine them. This is a good way to think about poses, because it avoids a) the other players thinking you're ignoring them b) giving them nothing to respond to and c) the scene becoming very static, because there's always progress.
  3. Be careful about shutting down RP. (This is different from having to leave, this is killing a scene). It's difficult, if you've decided that your character is going to be mean to someone and isn't interested in them, but it's really best to try and interact, as a default. And that means giving them something to respond to, something to do. Be a generous roleplayer - RP widely, and with energy and character agendas, and you'll reap the benefits;

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Manifold

Laria looked at the list, on her datapad, and steadily deleted entries until only one remained. Yes, everything hadn't gone exactly to plan, but on the whole she was more than pleased about how things had turned out.

Much more than pleased. Colours seemed more vibrant, the air smelt less of inadequate recycling due to inferior Minmatar environmental technology. She swivelled on her bunk and pulled out a set of dog tags, wrapped the chain around her hand so the tags themselves hung in her palm, and turned back to her datapad. The trouble was, she decided, that she had been focusing all of her efforts in the one direction, and now that she had achieved her goal there, she needed to find some other thing to do. More than one other thing, or the same problem would happen again.

The trouble was, she thought, stroking one of the tags idly with a thumb, that she didn't really /want/ to do anything else. She was full of energy, of ideas for things for them to do together. It was difficult. She had, in fact, constructed three new lists - things to do in public, things to do in private and "other". Admittedly, there weren't any entries in the "other" category yet, but it made Laria feel more comfortable having it as an option.

She looked around her quarters. That was something that could go on a list. She needed to update, expand and improve. Put her own stamp somewhere, a place that she could actually call home.

An idea floated across her mind, and she pushed it away. Too complicated, too soon, too much. Appealing, though.


Thursday, 14 April 2011

OOC: RP Guide #2. Character Creation

Part two in a less-occasional-than-anticipated series.

Hey! I've created my character already, what's this about?
"Your job is to craft my doom, so I am not sure how well I should wish you. But I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun." - Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal.
So, I (or, more likely, someone more persuasive) has convinced you to try roleplaying and, correctly, you have worked out that the first thing you need is a character. EVE Online character creation finishes after you've selected a race, a bloodline and a gender, and pushed and pulled at the character model until you have a portrait you're relatively pleased with.

That's not the kind of character creation I'm talking about here, though it's a start. Before you start roleplaying your character, there's some things you need to consider. What are they like? What have they done? This is usually called a background. Let's look at a typical first stab at one:
I'm a hard-bitten space pilot who's been around the universe and back, seen it all and come back to tell the tale. I'm an Amarrian, who, disgusted with the slave trade, has rebelled and run with the Minmatar for a while till I got recruited by the Caldari State to work there. I've had my heart broken a thousand times and I'm not looking for one thousand and one.
Well, that's certainly atmospheric. The problem is that it's a character at the end of their story, or at least a long way into it. All the dramatic stuff has already happened. When roleplaying, timescales tend to get compressed rather, so three years of RPing a character can be rather more eventful than you would expect three "real" years to be.

TV Series tend to talk about character arcs, and that's a sensible way to look at it. You want to leave some space for the character to develop, to experience, to change, and to do that you need to begin RPing them earlier in their story.

You can take this too far. There's no need to begin /at the very beginning/. Two years of RP before your character learns to talk is going to trend towards the dull, and it's not very easy to picture newborns in control of spaceships.

If you're starting RPing with an existing character, you can probably start a little further along the arc, but if your character is fresh out of school with the ink still drying on her pilot's license then it's probably best to begin her earlier on the arc. Let her have those experiences IC, rather than have her already having done it all.

It's way harder to come back from being a cynical and bitter veteran than it is to get there. Start your characters as enthusiastic, or at least vaguely positive. They'll probably end up as tired and sceptical old codgers anyway, broken in more ways than you can count, so you might as well enjoy playing their descent.

Everyone's Special.
"Y'know, I know there are people who are normal...but I don't know what they do." - Prison Ward Patient, House of Games.
It's important that your character be interesting. Unfortunately, there are lots of ways to do this, and most of them don't work very well.
My character was abused as a child, then ran away to join the circus Guristas. She then abandoned them to go to the Angels and she has big purple eyes and wings and was captured and modified by rogue drones so she gets on really well with them in a kind of hurt/comfort way.
You should regard it as if there are a limited number of "special points" for you to spend on your background. Pick at most two things that are /really unusual/. There are two reasons for this:
  1. Don't break the world, it's not your toy. Remember that the point of all this is to bring the world of New Eden into your game experience. If everybody's character is well outside of the expectation parameters, then the world we end up playing in doesn't resemble the one that we thought we would, and that's disappointing for everyone. By playing someone who fits at least /mostly/ into what would be regarded as exceptional-but-not-unusual, you enhance and strengthen the world, rather than breaking it.
  2. It's a base, not an anchor. Complex and over-dramatic backgrounds become a lead weight around a character's neck. Really, your backstory is the foundation of the character and the roleplay you build, not the be-all and end-all. If you spend more time talking about your background in character than you do making new stories, you've probably got too much background.
What makes characters interesting and special is not what's in their background. It's how they interact with other characters, how their motivations and ambitions affect other people and how other people affect them. It's about the stories you make collaboratively, not the one you made by yourself. When you didn't know what you were doing. And anyway...

Characters never quite come out how you plan them. You can have a strong image of what they're like, and a good solid backstory and yet, when you start RPing them, they aren't what you anticipated. They develop senses of humour you were sure you'd not intended. They go running off after goals you didn't mean for them to pursue. They're supposed to be the silent type but they keep talking. This is OK. As you start to play a character, you'll start to explore what they're like, and find it isn't quite what you imagined when you created them. It's important that you not get locked in to that original expectation, because if you do, then you'll be disappointed, and stop playing them.

I've seen people do that over and over - start new characters, get disappointed, do it again. Same mistake.

There are limits to this. Too much wiggling around and being inconsistent will end up with you being unsure of what your character is, and losing track of them. They'll be... amorphous masses, rather than characters. But a little bit of it is actually more realistic - people are complex, they're variable and they change. Reacting to what happens IC and your character developing and changing is what it's about.

In the end, the choices you make when envisaging your character are less important than the choices you make when RPing them, but it's good to try and set a solid foundation they can grow from. Start them off early in their story, let them change and develop and allow yourself some space to find them and their voice.

But what's my motivation in this scene?
"We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired." - Blake, Glengarry Glenn Ross
More important than facts about their past is a character's needs, wants, goals, aspirations, fears, neuroses, habits and interests. Let's call these drivers. Drivers can be long or short term, internal (I want to be like /this/) and external (I want to free slaves!), changeable or constant. It's important to realise that small, short term, drivers are more powerful than longer term ones - for example, yes, I want to pass my literature degree, but right now I need the facilities. Negative drivers ("I am scared of being alone") are stronger than positive ones ("I like dancing"). Be aware of what your character's drivers are, and always be looking for new ones. A character with good strong drivers will always have something to do, something to work towards, something to avoid. Characters with agendas (rather than players with agendas - important distinction) are more interesting to RP with than ones without. If you run out of drivers, it's OK to invent some new ones. It's the kind of meta-gaming that's good.

It's even better if some of these drivers conflict. In fact, that's where a lot of interest comes from. "I want to be the best combat pilot in the Universe!" vs "I'm scared when I see a red ship on overview." Internal conflict (within a character)  is, if anything, more interesting than external conflict (between characters). Internal conflict is harder to resolve, but less disruptive. It creates plot that doesn't have limitations.

This may seem like an awful lot to think about, but it quickly becomes instinct. You internalise the character's drivers when playing them in the same way that you do when you read a book. It's just part of getting to know the multi-faceted, deep, character that you've built. Which is kind of where the fun is.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

OOC: RP Guide. Why Roleplay in EVE?

The first in an occasional series about Roleplaying in EVE.

Why should we listen to /you/?
"It shows to go you, you never know who anybody is." - Susan Ricci, The Spanish Prisoner.
Well, the simple answer is that you don't have to, and you probably shouldn't. Nobody made you read the blog (if I'm currently standing behind you with a threatening expression, ignore this bit). I've been an RPer in various forms (Tabletop, Forum, Live Roleplay, Live "action" roleplay, MUSH etc etc) for twenty years, so whilst a relative newcomer to EVE, I do have a little experience elsewhere. Take everything with a pinch of salt. Don't believe anything anyone tells you. If it works for you, then that's great, though I should warn you that the Arti Drake is never likely to be flavour of the month.


Why should I roleplay? I don't even /own/ a wizard hat.
"Everybody makes their own fun. If you don't make it yourself, it isn't fun. It's entertainment." - Ann Black, State and Main.
"EVE is a sandbox", people are fond of saying. What they (often) mean is that there aren't any goals or paths provided - we make our own. We form groups, we set objectives for ourselves and our corporations. We make up activities - the "Low Sec Roam" has no particular genesis in the game itself, it was something that people came up with. What we do has meaning only because we give it meaning, and it has value only in as much as it provides us with enjoyment.

What the game does provide is some tools and resources. And one of these resources is the backstory, in the chronicles and the novels and the text in game (1). This is the world of New Eden.

There's a choice. One can say "Well, that doesn't have anything to do with the game I play," and either consume the backstory as entertainment or ignore it entirely, as you wish. That's fine. But it is intentionally limiting your game. (2)

The other choice is to bring that backstory into how you play EVE, and what you do, and how you interpret what happens. And the way you do that is via roleplay. By creating and playing a character that lives in the world, and by interacting with other characters, you bring the backstory into your game experience. The main game activities remain the same - you mine, you pew-pew, you build, you haul, you trade. But each of them becomes part of the story you and others are telling (though often in a very small way). Roleplay is not an activity done separately from other bits of the game, it's a method of weaving meaning around it.

Saying that EVE is a game about internet spaceships is like saying Hamlet is a play about succession to the throne of Denmark. It's technically true, but it's a very one-levelled approach. From very early on, EVE has been a game featuring spaceships set in the world of New Eden. You can play it how you want. It's a sandbox. But if you want to deepen the game, wrap layers of meaning around it, immerse yourself further in it... then that's why you should roleplay.

(1) I didn't say it was all good. Or any of it good. Your mileage may /definitely/ vary.
(2) Everyone limits their game. The game's way too big to do it all. It's not a bad thing, but one should do so knowing that one is doing it.


The L Word

It was the single most expensive thing Laria had bought that wasn't designed to fly through space, or facilitate flying through space. Quite how the display case worked was beyond her - it was an offshoot of warp technology, she knew, but more than that got complicated quickly.

Still, there it was, in the corner of her quarters, emitting a soft light through the glass box that formed the top part of the device. Beneath was a solid plinth, containing the apparatus that she had been strongly admonished - on pain of unspeakable horribleness - not to fiddle with. It was almost soundless - if she listened very very carefully, she could just hear a faint hum. A lot of money, and a lot of effort, to do a simple thing. Capture a moment. Hold onto it for as long as possible. Preserve it beyond it's normal span. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it was better to let things have their cycle, to be formed, to exist, to decay.

Not today, though. Today she would cling to it.

In the display case, held in near stasis, was a single rose.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Keen

Laria looked at the list on the datapad, and with a finger stroked firmly across the touchscreen, scoring through one of the entries.

Probably for the best. Still, it only really left her two candidates, though it was a big universe. She glanced at the door to her quarters, and then decided against it. She wasn't, she decided rather forcefully, upset. It was more... things hadn't exactly been going to plan. Maybe staying in was better than going out. And she had these books to read. "Interstellar Intrigue". It sounded fun.

...

....

Laria set down her datapad. Well. That was... a surprise.

Was that what it meant to be sassy? Maybe one of these other ones would have a clue.

...

"Educational". That was the word. Definitely "educational". Laria pulled up her lists on her datapad, and created a new one. There were more things she needed to get before she was sassy enough to have a book written about /her/.

Though... some of these things did seem... anatomically tricky.


Friday, 8 April 2011

Jolt

High up on the Republic Fleet Testing Facilities station in Gulfonodi, on the capsuleer reserved level, in a standard transient Captain's Quarters, in a bunk, with the covers pulled up over her head, Laria was curled into a little ball, her eyes screwed up and firmly shut.

What had she done? What had she been thinking? She had acted like a... like a... like a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl. That wasn't dignified. It wasn't rational. And it was certainly not, in any conceivable way, sassy. She reluctantly put her head above the covers, only to see the giant poster of Evanda Char staring down at her as if in disapproval. She gave a wail and pulled the covers back up. There. Safety.

Everyone would be laughing at her. Especially Jude. And Vince. And everybody. It had all seemed to be going so well, too. An upsetting and difficult topic of conversation but... good. Communication. Maybe even connection. Laria wailed again and kicked her feet, slamming a toe against the bulkhead and yelping in pain. And she had totally totally ruined it. They would never think of her as a cool stylish adventuress. They would only remember her /blushing/ and /running away/.

There was only one solution she could see. So she couldn't even make a proper list. She was going to hide in her bunk and never ever come out. Ever.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Integrity

Laria was pleased, in general. Everything seemed to be going rather well, at least on the "mining vast quantities of plagioclase" front, and they certainly weren't going badly on the "serving drinks" front either.

There were, of course, a few minor issues. Some of the types that came into the bar stretched "roguish" to breaking point, and she rather felt that her vague "be polite and reclaim them for the side of righteousness" plan was avoiding the issue rather than a cunning solution.

There was also a nagging doubt that itched in the back of her head. This quest for sassiness had really taken shape after her last neural remap, and after she had installed some of her current implants. If her personality, as well as her ability to process information, could be changed via artificial means, and her current body was potentially replaceable at any point, what part of her was... /her/. What part of her was incontestably Laria, rather than Laria+implants, or Laria+boosted intelligence.

And did it actually matter? If she learnt something today, then in a small way that made her a different person from yesterday. If she was forever changing anyway, like a river slowly moving to the sea, then the big changes were just waterfalls. It was still the same river.

Yet... she didn't much like that. It felt too impermanent, too amorphous. There had to be some anchor, somewhere.

She frowned, and kicked back onto her bunk. What she needed was some way to record important parts of who she was. Things that mattered. And then she could always go back and at least touch them, ground herself back in who she was.

Once a week. That was about the right level. She reached for her datapad and allocated a station container to it, naming it "Laria's Hall Of Memories." There. That was a good start, and of course the container was, itself, a memento. "One," she said, aloud. She moved a mining laser that she had kicking about in her "Reprocess" container into it. There. Laria the miner, and the habitual classifier of things. Now, what could she put into it next?