Sunday, February 7, 2016

It's all about the agency

In historical settings, where status matters more, it just highlights the adaptability and agency of the character by how they work limitations and challenges. It also informs on their identity, as with so little to lose they can impress upon the audience how they are different or special.

I always thought and measured scenes by how much it showed the characters agency.

Agency and how a character defines his identity by the color of their actions, intentions,  and objectives.

Looking at the DnD model of race, class, and role in character creation, I realize I cannot compete with that model in simplicity and how it captures the audience. It does it in a way that is so embedded with implied personal self identification.

Its just such a turn-off to decide to be a slave, serf, peasant, townsman, Warrior, clergy, vs the elite in comparison.

When playing a non elite it's about having  agency what makes it interesting to me .In contrast being an elite it's about having no agency - doing everything to maintain status quo and raising it.

 It's not impressive to play a game where character comes from mediocre background, with no messianic attributes of how special a character is. There is no great prophecy or destiny - there is shit and the agency to outwit, work through, or compromise with shit.

 Maybe people will like it because if I work with this baseline, like a shepherds tone, I can make something great with out escalating. More importantly an awareness (availability cascades or denning Kruger effect) of great challenges, tragedy, and sacrifice in one's surroundings. Thus appreciate something that would have been otherwise overlooked after emerging from the distraction of play.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hangouts Updated 2016

Google System Requirements for Hangouts

300kbps (kilobit) (35KBps or KiloByte/s) uploading just voice and downloading just 1 other participant for a total of 600kbps (70KBps)

For every additional participant you download more data. So if you are talking to 3 other people then you will be download 300kbps (35KBps) per participant for a total of 900kbps (105KBps). Don't forget to add yourself for a total of 900kbps down and 300kps up for a total of 1.2mbps or (140KBps).

Like Marching you can move only as fast as the slowest member. This means that the user experience is by the person with the worse internet. This can translate to a bunch of you being affected.

Hardware Matters!

Noise Cancelling Headphones is just plain basic Courtesy in Voice/Video over IP. Even the robust Iphone Earbuds are pretty good noise cancelling. The more ambient sounds you have the get into your mic the harder it is to be understood.

Latency, like in Online Game, Matters
So PING or MS matters. I normally use my Steam PING measures to see how things are by loading Insurgency and see how the Ping is per

or you can use a PING test  to see how is the MS of your country or region with your players/gm's region.

DSLReports is the Bandwidth tester I use these days. It tells me my Ping as well.

Latency Benchmarks are those you need for an FPS, about more than 200 becomes noticeably difficult and blow 100 becomes easy and undetectable. (Check the MS rating for the location)

DDOS Attack Map: Checking the Internet Weather.
Check the Digital Attack Map to see if your Country and Backbones are experiencing any irregular attacks.

Google Alerts ISP Outage and Conditions 
If you use Google Alerts than make an alert sends alerts before your game day about Outages, Interruptions, Maintenance, and Servicing. (Use those words as key words).

2.6mbps (megabit) (350KBps) up or down with video.
So in a Game of 4 other players, thats 10.4mbps (1.4MegaByte/sec). This can even be more if the Video is in HD.

My internet at home is measured at 100KBps. This means I can talk to 2 other people in a voice only Google Hangout. I have a "advertised" 4mbps aka 500KBps. 

If PLDT FINALLY comes up with 50mbps (60usd/mo) and PLDT delivers only 1/5 of promised at 10mbps (1.25MBps) I need to still do the Hangout on Audio to maximize the user experience. 

GM and Players need to MATCH Bandwidth.
If I run a game with 4 other players EVERYONE will need about 1.4MB and a latency of about below 300ms.

Roll20 needs about 400kbps to 800kbps (50-100KB/s) to add on. Again check the latency of this all.  Here is Roll20's image best practices and my Optimized Combat Mapping Post

Turn Off Mic if not Speaking
You will learn that turning off the Mic when its not your turn (and to comment on the chat or send whispers) is better to minimize confusion and maximize everyone's Mental and ISP bandwidth. More Voice Streams of data the more Download the system needs.
If you find it Rude for the GM or Other players to mute you, then be aware when its not your turn and your Mic is on.
The GM may make a disclaimer - Will mute you if its not your turn to talk to limit noise and bandwidth. 

Computer CPU and RAM.
Browsers can surprisingly eat up a lot of ram, and when I have it on my CPU monitor shows all 4 cores firing at max in my i3 computer. So if you can divide tasks by devices it would help. I ran a hangout from my phone and Roll20 on my laptop to help with the responsiveness.

In Closing
Hopefully one day someone can make a Chrome or Firefox Plug-in to automate all this. I'm sure someone would have figured out this pain point and

Second - Skype and Hangouts can have a dashboard for matching.
If all VOIP services can have a way to test and measure. like my tested bandwidth quality, capacity, and beside each name the PING/MS/Latency I have with each player updated every couple of minutes would be AWESOME!

Allow us to Search by Hubs and Discussion on User Experience.
If we can find gamers to play with online by the Quality of the Connection it would also be awesome. Breaking it down to "Hubs" would be ok and an opt in system. As well as informing people how they can improve their User Experience. In my area X is the best way, as I've tried Z, Y and B!

The Philippine Condition
It seems my timing leaving Roll20 is not so bad since I've been downgraded and will need to look for a good ISP. The example is true that If I do get to move to a new ISP at BEST I have only 1.25MB/s to look forward to or 4 player slots in only Voice.

But I'm not getting that until PLDT gets a fiber backbone in our area (by the experience of them just setting up a leased line in our provincial plant may mean x2-3 the amount of time, for a project that should have taken 60 days), I can only get 8mbps which is sobering 200KBs (remember 1/5 of the advertised rate) and that means Voice only and latency problems. Thats probably 2 years away (2018) or never.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How I would have Done it - Some of my story telling rules

Some of the Story telling Rules I try to follow (with limits of my attention) that is applicable to games and writing I use for my games. As a logistics and ops guy in management who appreciates shit being an artist and writer.  I think I'm in a position to maximize creativity in a sustainable cost effective way.

This is some frustration in finding good Anime lately.

  • Action

    • If its spectacular show it. 
    • Action is Coloured by Character and Backstory
      • The scene is framed in a way that the audience can see the options and why the choice of the character informs them of what he thinks.
    • If I can use it to illustrate a challenging concept to De-mystify then it gets some points on priority. 
    • If it informs on difficulty, complexity, and skills needed then it gets points in priority. 
    • If it frames the kind of thinking the character goes through and the limits of his attention points in priority. 
    • If it does a good imprint of the mind of the audience about the character, points. We don't show the melee monster killing a bunch of guys, we skip that. We imply that (see efficient storytelling), we focus on the other characters. 
      • We can have 3rd hand knowledge or observations and clues who did what. Hacking wounds is the Axe man, piercing wounds is the spearman. Etc... leave it to the inference of the audience. Challenge their observation. 

  • Efficient story telling

    • My favourite in this Downton Abbey. Some basic rules. 
      • If the scene is predictable skip it. It its tedious in a non-dramatic way skip it. 
      • If its effects can be inferred, and its effects are a greater mover of the story than a scene of action it self.
      • If it doesnt fit the budget. 
      • There are a lot of scenes that can tell the story, be most efficient that engages the audience in being able to Infer why, how, what, where, when, etc.... 
      • Like in running the TRPG - does your audience want this scene? Distinguish between fan service and story driving content. 
    • Only thing worth Telling is if the telling is an Act that infers something about someone else and the character instead of Explaining something. 
      • if there is time note historical precedence and examples. 
    • Distortion of Probablity. 
      • One of the new tool's I've learned is the biases regarding to Probability really affects our Narrative Thinking (Thinking Fast and Slow Daniel Kheneman). Distort it. 
    • Challenge their observational Ability. Give a scene and see if they can figure it out before someone spills it. Set it as a trend and slowly leave stuff for inference. 
      • Dress the Story Board like an Observation Game. Let's see what the audience can pick up using our Game design training to pick things up. 
      • 3 sets of levels: 
        • for the newbs, telegraph the next scene. 
        • for the fans, telegraph the intrigue. if they can figure it out, use efficient story telling reward them for the observation. Their reward is not just seeing the intrigue but being able to fill their imagination how the character got out of it OUT OF SCENE. 
        • For the BIG fans, reward them for ability to telegraph the next episode and arc. Reward them by something really important happening OUT OF SCENE, that they can figure out from the 3rd party information and observation. 
        • Reward Observation and Understanding the character's have flaws, needs, motivations, and dreams. Reward empathy. 

  • Characters are Flawed but Not Caricatures.

    • They are fleshed out, even the Archetypes. always an inconsistent view. Use narrative bias towards behavior (Thinking Fast and Slow). Characters sell a narrative to the audience but the words says different thinks and their flaws are out of scene. 
    • They do not exist in a vacuum. 
    • If death can move a story - kill the character. 
      • But not before milking it. 
    • Set a Pattern of Expectation - who dies, and break it unpredictably. Make them guess. 
    • Add layers of depth. Compose a scene with the 5W&H in mind. Then Ask the guide questions again with the following tool:
      • About characters not in the scene. 
      • The over-aching plot. 
      • What are we priming and anchoring - What are we telegraphing. 
      • What should we prime fore and break that dissonance. 
    • Fleshing out the World through the Character. Using the availability bias to telegraph the setting. 

    From my Old Notes. Just as a Comic with a a lot of pages.  
    • Release at the rate Manga is released. But all the story board and writing has been done already. This is pure production and flexibility to allow for audience participation. 
    • 1 year project.  
      • Capex for a small office with bunk beds for a total office of up to 15 people. Living and working. 
        • Probably cost all in all 2,000/mo including all utilities. about 4,000 if I include all the capex. 
        • Near a University with Artists so that the Project Manager (typically a University Prof ) can easily come back and forth. 
      • The script is done with a staff or writers who did the ugly drawing. ideally another artist did the story board to see how different the project manager translates. 
      • Drawing tablets and Rigs (Krita)
        • Side project is Adding more to the Krita Body of Knowledge.
    • A project manager, a senior artist who would do key composition. Senior Artist of about 800usd/mo. he just needs to be in the project for over view and on call for problems. Making sure all deadlines  
    • An art staff of 3, 
      • averaging 500-600usd/mo for a contract of and work he could do about 6-10 hours a day if they had to do reworks.
      • Background Artists
      • Inker and Colorist. 
    • Paid Interns of 4-5
      • 200usd/mo per mo. Lock in. 
    • Hosting discussions weekly. Talk to the artists and challenges. 
      • Talk to various experts who can comment. Discretionary budget of 1k usd for consultations. 
    • Secretary and IT. 300-400usd. two different people. Secretary is assistant project manager for follow up.  
    • Capture Team. Hiring a Studio to capture and make videos with the team for Best pRactice for making this.  About 3,000usd for a set of video projects of a total of 120 minutes of 5 minutes each. Ideally document the whole thing for Crowd funding. 
    • Crowd fund as a way to recoup gamble. 
    • All the material if able to be used for fan and Wiki building. The project should run for a 2//3 the time and the rest in content creation. That content should give some shares for the artists. 
      • Some not broken way to make money out of the IP to give some parachute for the participants in a way proportional to the success. But guarantees that the IP will be public in 30 years. (like a savings fund that pays out dividends)

    Monday, January 25, 2016

    High Initiative Narrative

    A warrior, a guy in armor, is a vision of Prowess being much younger. But then ones grow up and learn the logistics and problems having to depend on armor, even load bearing gear. The best "warriors" are the killers who slide in undetected and slaughter many in ambush with the thrill and cunning of a predator outwitting its prey*. (The feeling of getting into a flanking position with a unaware enemy and how quickly they all go down).

    *like Utred, to experience this, even when assisted by a more effective force is worth experiencing even once. It stays with you for life.

    Armor is being associated with Logistics Support. It would be great to have, but to depend on far less of it in return for speed and initiative is a more successful long term strategy for building up strength. IMO.

     High Initiative style of personal strategy and narrative I got from a lot of study and learning, Its natural for some and alien for many like me. I cannot imagine how someone who began like me, without the natural instincts for it, get to such without constant cultivation. Its been 8 years of airsoft and reached my maximum failure saturation 4 years ago lolz.

    Where does the high initiative come?

    • Strong Improvisation - trained for Improvisation with good rationality and self awareness of pattern tendencies. 
    • Self Aware of Internal Biases and with sufficient Coping mechanisms to over-ride such. 
    • Sense of Time and Place. An awareness of how much time and resource for every action in an intuitive sense. 
    • Good Empathic Ability enough to be able to passively track context of social situation of a game to go with the flow or to pivot when its not working. 
    • A good understanding of various processes and logistics. Having tried to do a lot of things in real life and seen the reality why its hard and appreciate the work that goes into difficult tasks. 
    • Mastering more real world Coping and Predictive Heuristics (which are modular and testable), particularly those that have done much to eliminate system 1 biases (TF&S Daniel Kheneman) . 

    It took me a long time being very stubborn and maladaptive. For those unlike me then it would be something they would come to naturally, but for those like me it would take years. Nearing 12 years if I count from my 25 year, when my frontal lobe has fully matured and the world became different.

    Right now my chinese studies are eating 10-12 hours of my week, I have help now at work but still a lot of getting down to system 2 (TF&S Daniel Kheneman). If I were to give a bunch of games for someone to develop their own set of coping mechanisms and empower their agency It needs to be very accessible. Ideally someone in their mid and early 20s who has the intra-personal intelligence to be aware of such a bias and can game.

    Friday, January 22, 2016

    In Medias Res - Why can't we just have all Action?

    The Anime Hai to Gensou no Grimgar triggered this post. It was an experience which had promise at first but then failed right after (only 2 episodes ).

    The story began in Medias Res, a technique that's hard to do in a TRPG but can be doable with enough GM skill. It had action then it goes to Flash back and proceeds to TELL and not SHOW (show vs tell in TRPGs and Storytelling).  I got angry and skipped it, and skipped some more and some more (30 sec to 1 minute) and would go back if the new scene made me wonder - but it didn't. It was the classic "Yankee in Camelot" trope.

    The thing that struck me about the show was: why did the Action have to end? Why could it not keep going? Why can't it be sustained as long as possible? Why can't it be like the Shepard's Tone?

    Link to the Wikipedia Sound File Example.

    Sheperd's Tone is an Audio Illusion that seems to keep increase but doesn't. Its interesting and relevant because Priming and Anchoring is what is "spoofed" by the illusion. (Drawing again from Daniel Kheneman's Thinking Fast and Slow.  )

    You can keep escalating the Story but never running out of things to do. You don't need to climb a higher mountain, you just need to see the height of the mound amidst its circumstance. You can prime circumstance to make something humble awesome. This is why I recommend checking out Framing Effects and Non-Fiction Writing. There are tools that allow you to make a game awesome with less.

    Now going back to the Anime that triggered it, why couldn't we learn everything there is to learn about the characters: their weaknesses, backstory, personality etc. in the details and how they deal with challenges? They are not always going to do things the same way as everyone and that says something about who they are, where they're from, and what they want to be.

    The GM comes in by asking these questions and cueing in the Players when these things would color their decision. Every (cognitive) dissonance or internal conflict the PC has is shown in a circumstance of scarcity and they have to draw the line,  be very creative about their compromises, or deviate from who they think they are (and reconsider who they think they are).

    So in Summary:

    • work towards more engaging activities and circumstance.
      • Combat, 
      • Adventure, Ventures - Journeys
      • Trials
      • Social Conflicts
      • Schemes 
      • Enterprise
      • Planning and Execution
      • etc... every moment can be engaging. Ask players what do they find engaging. And gain the skill of making any of these exciting and engaging. 
    • Master pacing because it will allow you the Shepard's Tone without burning out. 
      • Pacing includes Scaling, which I will cover in the future. But you probably can figure it out: anchoring the adventure based on the priming effects you (the GM) uses to set the Scale and Scope of the challenges. 
    • show and not tell, 
      • In the Activities (above) let the character's likes, dislikes, what they want, who they are, etc... color their action. What makes "running" PC Z's "running". What about is tactics and strategies describe the PC. 
    Wow - nothing like disappointment and the inspiration to rework it to something "better" to inspire me to think this through and write.  

    Friday, January 1, 2016

    Framing and its Ethics; the Framing of Condition Level Systems

    The relationship to Games is the GMing Skill in Framing Affect: The ability to Frame in: Opportunity Seeking vs Loss Aversion. 

    One of my curiosities and fascination is Framing and the ethics surrounding it. If you're aware of current events and curious about game theory and behavioural sciences then the sesame credit special is one of those curiosities that challenges boundaries we draw about framing. 

    if you play shadowrun I guess this is SIN being implemented in the real world.

    Particularly the ethics of framing effect: If a person decides differently when the same information is presented but framed differently - 

    "You stand to lose out on $20,000usd in this opportunity"
    "You may gain 20,000usd in this opportunity?"

    "If you don't take our Identity Protection services, you stand to lose your life savings?"
    "Our Identity Protection Services gives you the peace of mind when it comes to  your life savings?" 

    A common bias is how Climate Change is framed - "We stand to lose Food Security and lose value in our assets due to Climate Change and not acting to adapt to it" vs "We can improve food security and improve the security of our assets if we act on Climate Change". 

    Too often I'm used to Switching Between Opportunity Gaining "Gears" to Loss Aversion "gears" when talking to clients, bosses, associates, and people and general. I tend to frame on what ever gear I was last on. 

    Loss Aversion is more powerful bias, because the cost of loss is a total mental and physical adaption strategy. Versus Opportunity Gaining - which requires Playfulness, Curiosity, and Ambition to be realized. Playfulness, Curiosity, and Ambition is something that is at a loss when someone cannot find the time to think in such a way. 

    Here is another thing to think about: Condition Systems and Framing. 

    Do I "Take Damage" or Lose "Health" (Injury and Physical Condition)
    Do I "Suffer Stress" or Lose "Resolve/Reserve" (Emotional Labor)
    Do I "Suffer Fatigue" or Lose "Endurance/Energy" (Energy based Systems). 

    One system tells you "I can take X damage" (substitute X with emotional, fatigue, physical). 
    But one system tells you "I'm losing X " (and you begin to think how much do I have left to lose). 

    Because Loss Aversion is more powerful, I will default with Loss Aversion but I can frame it. But its interesting when we switch gears: "I take damage" or "I lose HP". "I spend mana" or "lose energy" etc... 

    So If I want to put players in more of an edge: I tell them how much they Lose vs how much they "take". "I lose sanity" lolz. 

    Wednesday, December 30, 2015

    A5/Statement Booklet Analysis Notes: Breaking up Ideas in 5min chunks

    I'm currently fascinated by the Statement Sized (half letter) and A5 booklet format. One reason is because it is easy to carry even if it gets up to 200 or so pages. There is some economics about data in a full letter size vs my data upload rate.

    So I realize one of the things needed in History RPGs is a fun way to think of the past. Particularly what are the things that are universal when getting into a Medieval or Low Tech setting. This is not just for Medieval RPGs but any RPG. I learned that I need to think in 5 minute Ideas.

    By 5 minutes I mean about 1000-1500 words. Words that are ideally in lines 2" long (I have some reading problem when lines are more than 3" long. My eyes get confused what line its looking at; I read much faster in Anime Subtitles even with the distractions of the Animation than in Books).

    I have to think in 5 minutes Ideas, spell out these Ideas and look at the most complex or nuanced ideas and think in Info graphics. useful infographics.
    In the case of the medieval booklet: Low Tech Life. - One simple Infographic is graphing the people a commoner knows by how they have died. If I illustrated that its easier to get into character of a medieval person and understanding the biases and superstitions they believe - while not downgrading or dehumanizing them. Asking questions: how many close loved ones have died and in what way answers a lot of they psychology of such characters. Then make a comparison to today. 
    So 1000-1500 words is about 4 to 8 pages of this, If I broke down major ideas in Flow Charts and InfoGraphics. Ideally Entertaining kinds.

    Each Booklet represents 1 game session prep on the Players Side. It represents 5 minutes of personal investment while leaving the Player enough Self Guiding Questions to ruminate about. Like comparing the loss of loved ones of a low tech person vs his own situation. And more questions that help role-play and think in such tech levels.

    I dont need to get into Technicalities.
    I would love to but should avoid getting into technicalities of medieval life or hard scifi Life. To me the numbers and statistics tell a story which is great for me, but not my players. I have to make the story for them - that is my job as the booklet writer and the GM. The numbers tell a story and I have to fill in the details that make it a story.

    The Point of Views.
    I will use the a few commoner points of Views. I will also use the Ruling Elite, Educated (typically the Theocratic Elite), Professional Elite, and Fighting Elite. I will have to keep it short and simple, about a paragraph.

    The Baron's Heir, is 13 and already his father is pressuring him to marry this girl he hardly knows who was just born. Of a merchant no less. His steward explain him they need the money but he doesnt see how this fits in with the Chivalry or the Warriors way. Doesn't his King provide for his father and family? If we need the money why is the King entitled to a third of the Dowry? etc... 

    I'll try to keep it short. TRY

    I'd like people to Dive Right in. F*ck reading up on the setting. But the thing is this is enlightening and kinda sets the right Emphatic Frequency while negating much of the miseducation about the past. This would not be needed if history was for everyone but it isnt. Neither is Sci-fi or Science. It should be for everyone but - like me - access to such had a lot of barriers.

    I note that even if it will be 5 minutes I can imagine people still struggling to read it. They would want to just scan through it. So I'll accommodate them by just letting them just read the Headings. 

    You can imagine I wanted to make this for all sort of settings I've played: 
    • Homebrew Scifi
    • Crusades
    • Warring States
    • Three Kingdoms Era
    • Modern Fantasy Homebrew
    • Public Domain Conan
    • 19C Philippines
    But I cant do it all and I have real life to do. So I have to be strategic in what I want to tackle - right now education and the fascinating world of the First Crusade will be my first foray into such.