Some more thinking about Odyssey from the files of the Wayback Machine, this time from Ian Andrews and myself.
I’d guess this was published shortly before the system started. You can tell by the optimism… Apparently, we thought it was a game back then. It’s interesting that the subject of PvP came up here, as well as later on in another post I’ve dragged over into larpx. I guess we didn’t get that bit right first time round.
It’s a game…
Odyssey is a game built to produce stories of heroism and myth. One of the questions that came up early in the design process was – what will players actually do at events? I’d spent years at the LT where a lot of very hard-working people spent (and I’d have thought still spend) thousands of hours on creating and running plot, still to hear cries of “There’s nothing to do!”. So, an aim I think the entire design team shared was for a game where everyone had lots to do – and the opportunity to do make their own plans as well. And where the “lots to do” was as obvious as possible. The mechanics and setting are built with that in mind. There’s opportunities for conflict between characters played by players, and those played by the crew as inspired by the story team. In MMORPG terminology, there’s PvP and PvE.
I’m hoping we’ve set expectations of what the game is about as clearly as possible, so no-one is suprised by the structure of the event. I strongly believe that if you play the game in the spirit in which it’s intended, you’ll have a great time. But make no excuse for the fact that if you don’t participate in that spirit, you’ll probably be disappointed.
For example – the primary method of settling pvp conflict is by combat out in the open in the arena. The setting is structured to make that a real and effective tool, with clear positive outcomes for victor and loser alike. The game world is not designed to respond well to camp-rolling and similar tactics. I’d love to see you at Odyssey, and I’d love to see you give our take on structured PvP a try, but if having done this, you still prefer more informal conflict resolution – you’ll probably enjoy other games more.
This isn’t to say there’s not opportunity for underhand action: treachery, betrayal, and the rest, form an important part of the setting. However, a game where you “win” by simply killing all of your enemies is not the sort of game I’m after. So the game world is designed to resist these sort of tactics: both out-of-character in its mechanics, and in-character in the history and characterisation of its story-controlled characters. You’ll win by making great stories, and while, yes, some of those will be about crushing your enemies, they won’t be about wholesale merciless murder. Because such stories are unlikely to end well for the murderers. Unless… Unless your character is an assassin who takes pride in never getting caught – even in a mythic world where the afterlife can be very real. You’d best be very very good, but the possibilities for the professional, personal, killer are definitely there.
Anyone who hung around the Pagga bulletin boards in the early to mid noughties will remember (with a yawn, I suspect…) the endless interminable arguments between me and Matt about the relative merits of what was then called player-led versus story-led plot; what’s now termed (I think) PvP or PvE/PvM and the amount of scripting, story and pre-prepared plot that a game can or should bear. After the best part of a decade of experimenting I think Odyssey is going to be the elusive game that captures the best of all available models. There is no bar to the Maelstrom-style player versus player game; there is enough ongoing story and campaign plot to satisfy the story-led devotee; and as H notes above, the game has been structured in such a way as to ensure that there is no shortage of things to do, for any of the numerous kinds of players who we hope will attend.
If my own experience at Maelstrom is anything to go by, though, in order to get the best out of any game you have to accept it for what it is and not complain about why you’re having a bad time because of what it isn’t. Odyssey will require buy-in from the players; there’s more, later, about the social contract and about the principle of explicit over implicit that had guided the construction of this game. I’d encourage anyone who’s considering Odyssey to come with an open mind prepared to have fun. Parts of the game are quite old-school; other parts sufficiently avant-garde that I don’t have a frame of reference to compare them to. But all of the game’s mechanical structure, backstory and campaign setting is designed with the players’ enjoyment first and foremost in mind. Give it a chance to impress you and you won’t regret it.