Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Captain McGrandpa

It started when GameTap announced an upcomming GameTap Original: Captain McGrandpa -- Memory of the Forgotten. Touted as a multiplayer adventure game, and allowing an unlimited number of players to shape the world, it looked too good to be true. Slated for release on April 1, it was an obvious April Fool's gag. Go check the game listing, especially the instructions section, if you have any doubts. But it was what GameTap did, that makes it worth checking out.

I missed the actual game, and I'm kind of sorry I did. It looks like it was fun to play.

Organized and run by GameTap staff member TheRedEye, Captain McGrandpa really was a multiplayer adventure game. Hearkening back to the text adventures of old, TheRedEye narrated a real-time story. Over the period of 8 hours the forum members posted commands and he would use those commands to write the next part of the game/story.

You can read through the game log here (at least for now).
And you can read the Postmortem here.

I encourage you to take a little time, if you have it, to read through how the game went. It was rather interesting. He started the game with only a rough outline of starting areas and characters. The rest of the game, including the ending, was improvised as users provided commands. This did make advancing the game a little difficult, but fortunately he was able to see his way through.
Now, I'm not suggesting that improvisation was bad. In fact, just the opposite, I think it was the key to the game's success. But early on, I did feel the pressures of the game not having a definitive end. Fortunately, about halfway through, I saw a clear path toward the game's solution, which was inspired by items and situations created on-the-fly by our users. I promised that the users would shape the world around them in real-time, and that was accurate.
What I find most interesting is the community's initial reactions, and how they were able to get somewhat organized over time. Being put forward as an April Fool's joke I think had some initial detrimental effects, as people probably dismissed it as a gag and didn't realize that there was actually a heartfelt attempt to create a story going on. This raised a little bit of disdain from some people hoping to replace their dying Uru. However, some people ran with the gag and began to explore the story offered to them.

This led to more people realizing that they really were exploring something, and affecting how the story was turning out. Once that happened, you can see that more people start jumping in with commands and a little bit of confusion and argument crops up about what should be happening. However, with a little nudging from TheRedEye, the community started to work together. Some people started tracking inventory, some were keeping track of conversations, and overall, the game started going in a single direction.

Occasionally griefers got the better of the game and, in true forum fashion, would post ridiculous or counter productive commands. Well, perhaps they weren't really griefers. I can remember playing text adventures and trying ridiculous things to see what the parser would say. The advantage to having a human narrator is that even these out of the box commands resulted in interesting things happening. Even the few times that the game ended because of them.

Over all, I am sorry that I missed the chance to participate in this game and story experiment. I whole heartedly hope that they try something like this again. In fact, I'd love to do something like this myself. It has sparked a couple of neat ideas at least. If you know anyone who knows how to write Facebook apps, I'd like to speak with them.

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