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.