How To Succeed at Modding a Mish Mash Game
Original Publication: March 10, 2012 by Xalxe
Version 1.1: (September 15, 2012) Added section on Co-Mods; category added; old links fixed
Version 1.2: (November 9, 2012) Added "Player - Player Interaction" section.
Expand Player-Player Interaction.
Add "Availability" section.
Possible accepting new/non-site players section?
Plan a mock Survivor game through the article.
Hi, my name is Xalxe. I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve seen various reality show games in the MishMash forums succeed or fail. A lot of this has to do with the moderators, because games die for two reasons:
- The moderator disappears or just ignores the game for enough time to pass that the players say “fuck it” and give up
- The moderator makes controversial decisions and/or doesn’t plan properly, angering the players and leading them to no longer care
And I really hate to see a good idea go to waste. Abandoned MishMash games make me sad. So I’ve set down some of my tips on how to do this right, in as chronological an order as possible.
About this Guide
This guide is designed for aspiring mods of large scale games. These cover Survivors, Big Brothers, any reality show really, along with other games that require a good deal of effort and a large number of players.
However, you may be looking to run a board game, game show, or some other smaller scale game. In that case, why not check out the Lite Edition?
STOP RIGHT THERE
So you have this super cool fun idea right? STOP. DO NOT PASS GO. Before you even THINK about going any further, analyze several factors.
- First, analyze your life. Are events liable to crop up in the next six months that would lead to you being absent for a significant chunk of time, or leaving the site altogether? If so, stop planning now. Trust me, it's way easier to kill the game now than when you've put hours of planning into it.
- Next, check the MishMash forum. Have similar games been run in the past? How have they fared? Are any being run now? Is the forum over-saturated with such games? If the game has been tried 20 times and never completed, it's a smart move to not go for dead game #21.
Early Planning Stages
Okay, so you've passed the first test and the game hasn't died. Well done, I guess. For the rest of this article, we'll pretend that you're planning a Survivor game, because they are familiar.
So, the first step is the bare-bones planning. How many players do you want? What is the overarching theme of the game? What major twists are present? Consider all of these and write them the fuck down. Seriously. If you don't have a folder full of shit by the time the game is ready to start, you are doing it wrong.
Plan all of this out. Note when twists will occur (example: "A double tribal will occur at the Final 11, followed by Merge; at the final 6 there is no Immunity Challenge). Get this bare-bones stuff down, because afterwards it's fairly easy.
So you have the bare bones down. Now I want you to close that document and put it out of mind for at least 48 hours. Seriously. Don't open it, don't plan more stuff in your head, nothing. Don't touch it for another 48 hours.
After 48+ hours, you can look at it again. Just look, don't edit. Evaluate it honestly. Is it an interesting game? It is over the top? Will the players enjoy it? Is it doable? If not, edit it and repeat this step until it is a good setup.
Note that a game doesn't have to be twist-heavy. In fact, the more twists that exist, the more opportunities your players have to cry foul, and the more unbalanced it is (look, Mafia words in a MishMash article!). Once the bare-bones are good, then we can move on.
Co-Mods and You
Co-moderator (n) - 1) an assistant to the moderator who makes their job easier. 2) an alleged assistant to the moderator who makes their life a living hell
A co-mod is somebody who you choose to bring onto the game in order to make your life easier. After all, two heads are better than one, right? Maybe you're not good at graphics and want a brilliant Photoshopper to help you out. Maybe you're not a writer but your friend makes glorious words. Whatever the reason, co-mods are becoming more and more common. Now, this can work out very well...or be a disaster.
First of all, every moderator should have access to everything, no exceptions. This is as much a backup procedure as it is courteous. Don't cut anybody out of decisions or secrets, that won't lead to good things later. Large games, in my opinion, are the only games that require a co-mod. If you need one to run a game of Ready, Aim, Fire, you're doing it wrong (backups are a different story entirely).
If you do choose to have a co-mod (or two), I highly recommend making it clear from the start what duties each moderator has. Who posts challenges? Who updates avatars? Who posts confessional questions? Who updates the thread? Be sure this is very clearly delineated from the start so there isn't confusion later.
Once the game starts, communication is absolutely essential. Make yourself available as much as possible to talk with your co-mods. If you disappear off the face of the earth, it doesn't work well for anybody. In addition, do your fucking job. I left a game because I was taking far too much time with it when I hadn't intended to, all because we didn't discuss responsibilities beforehand. If you have a good mod team, the game will be beautiful (see: King Boo's Revenge), otherwise, it can end up a flustercuck (see: [REDACTED]).
In the event that you and another mod have a conflict, never ever ever let the players see it. Let them believe everything is happyfuntimes backstage. They've got enough to worry about, don't cause more drama by injecting your own. Deal with that after the game.
As a final note, it is my personal opinion that a team of three mods is mostly unnecessary and that two is fine. When there are three mods, what happens time and time again is that two will go back and forth with each other about brilliant ideas, and the third will get left out and slowly fade away. Don't let this happen! If you need a third person, make sure it's for a very specific reason.
This is the part where we get a bit more detailed. For starters, plan out how many challenges go between eliminations. For Survivor, not every cycle has to have a Reward challenge, and if you're not creative about Rewards, do less. The players won't mind. Again, this is just bare-bones stuff here.
After that's done, count the challenges. How many total? How many team challenges? Individual? Keep this count in a separate document and keep track of how many you have yet to come up with.
Now you're going to create challenges.
The Actual Challenges
- So, the challenges. First off, in MishMash, stealing is the norm. Check other games and steal their challenges. Reuse classic challenges; some work, and if it ain't broke don't fix it. That being said, if you have a great new idea, do it! It's always great to see new challenges, especially classic Survivor-style challenges.
- Make sure no one challenge runs too long. Long challenges will kill your game, so avoid this death by making sure all challenge can be wrapped up in, at maximum, 4 days (resubmission rounds nonwithstanding). Card games do not make good challenges unless you require all participants to be around.
- Speaking of which, live challenges. Live challenges are defined as ones that require all participants to be around at a certain time to compete. These are a bitch. Live challenges usually are decried by non-central players (Great Britain, Aussieland) as unfair because Amurica time is incongruous with their time zones. If you choose to use live challenges, make sure all players are aware at least 72 hours in advance, and please for the love of god make it more interesting than posting a bolded phrase thirty fucking times to win. That's just insulting to our intelligence. Do something more interesting. If you're still in the Tribal phase, having tribes select 2-3 players for their tribe to compete in the live challenge is a good idea.
- Make sure you have a variety of challenges. Major challenge types include live challenges, Flash games and coin games/majority answers types. Seeing the same challenge over and over again will bore players.
And now, for your pleasure, some common challenges in MishMash, as chosen by me.
- Ready Aim Fire
- Coin Game
- Flash games; be sure to playtest them first so you don't give players a broken challenge
- Majority answers
So, you've got cool twists down, you have some bitchin' challenges, and you're feeling good. Now go away again. Go the fuck away and do not come back for another 48 hours.
You're back? Cool. Now run the game. But not with real people. Pick names to represent competitors and randomly simulate the game. Randomly choose the winners of each challenge and who gets voted out. A lot of times you'll catch kinks here (FUCK I forgot a challenge and now there are too many at the end!). Every time you catch an error, fix it and walk away again. You don't want to be running the real game and realize that you now have a final 7 and no more challenges. That's a problem.
Please note that I am always willing to run a simulation or show you how, just ask!
So, now you have the game ready. You can start signups now, right? Well, sure, you could, but it depends on the game. Are you accepting submissions for a week and then choosing players? Then open signups now. You have time to do this step while players sign up. But if it's possible the game could start in three days, then wait.
Anyway, writing shit is a bitch, but the more you write in advance, the more prepared you are. So take this time and write out your challenge posts. Do frequent walk-aways and check for errors (oops I forgot to tell players not to communicate privately; oops I never said how to win). The more you write in advance, the smoother the game will run. Be very clear about things like deadlines, private communication and how ties are settled. (Also, please do tiebreakers other than "first to submit wins" because that's unfair to someone, guaranteed.)
I find that what a lot of games suffer from is boring posts. The jazzier you can make your posts, the better. Make images, add text formatting, anything to be more interesting than a bunch of text on a page. Players appreciate the little things (and yes this essay violates this. Shut up, maybe I'll add pictures later).
So, you've finally planned your way to opening things up for signups! Congrats! Create a thread in the MishMash forum. Give it a snappy title, an interesting intro, and wait! Feel free to PM your friends/MishMash regulars to sign up. Also publicize it in your signature and the MishMash Game List thread.
Frequently bump the thread if necessary, and add a count to the title. Some people just can't resist filling the last few spots in a game.
Once you have a playerlist, announce it (if necessary) and give them a bit of time to socialize and make threats before the first challenge.
Starting the Game
The start of the game is crucial. If you do it well, the game is set on a good course. If you start it off by fighting with your players, it won't end well.
Make sure to post all challenges on time, but ESPECIALLY the first few. Consistency will allow you to drop the ball once or twice without being lambasted for it. Be clear about deadlines and your general practices. Respond to questions and PMs. Make it as easy as possible for players to get attached to the game; it'll make things easier for you in the long run.
A recent trend that has emerged in large, anonymous games is the inclusion of a "General Discussion" forum for the players to fraternize, which causes some controversy. Instead of beating about the bush, allow me to offer my opinion: in a true Survivor game, this is a terrible idea and you should feel bad. In other games, it is acceptable, but Survivor is the only game I can think of where teams are sequestered on the real show. Before the merge, the only time players from opposing tribes interact is at challenges, which is acceptable.
As a player, I abuse the GD forums. By the time any sort of merge rolls around, just from GD posts I know who I would be likely to align with, who I can get votes to eliminate, and who I like or don't like. This isn't really something that could be done on the real show. Therefore, it is the official opinion that if you are running a Survivor game and include a General Discussion forum without having a game reason for it (see: Survivor: One World), then it is almost no longer Survivor.
Don't do it.
MishMash is, on the whole, a laid-back area for more fun games. However, that doesn't mean that as the Mod, you can crack jokes and mess with players. You're still the mod, and like it or not there is a line. Making a joke or responding to a player who addressed you is one thing but remember: many games are very social, and what you say will count. Don't call someone out as a liar or insult them. That will get them pissed, and an emotional outburst, while full of drama, is not your job. Leave that to the players. Trust me, they've got it under control.
Players will often contact you via PM or chat to talk about the game. This is awesome, trust me. Getting them to spill is juicy and fun. However, never under any circumstances say anything about the other players, or how to play the game. Just agree with what they are saying and they'll keep spilling. You don't want to engineer a blindside. You have more information; don't let any of it slip.
Congratulations, you pissed off a player! Maybe your challenge decision was unfair in their eyes. Maybe they got fucked over by a twist, or maybe their ally was eliminated because of a surprise elimination. Whatever the situation, they're pissed, and they're pissed at you. This is serious business. Do not respond with the following:
- Catty comments
- "Shut up, it's the game"
- "Obviously you aren't very good at this then"
- Ignoring the issue entirely
Contact the offended party via PM. Invite them to chat calmly with you, via AIM, Skype, PM or in a QuickTopic. Allow them to explain their issue, and then calmly explain why you ruled the way you did. Answer all questions as fully as possible without revealing information they shouldn't have. If necessary, contact a neutral third-party and ask them to offer their opinion. Do everything you can to appease the player, while at the same time understanding that it is what happened and it won't change.
This game you've started is a commitment. I told you at the beginning to check your schedule, but sometimes life happens. If life does happen, be honest with your players. Tell them that you'll be suddenly away for a few days, so updates are on hold. They'll understand, so long as you come back.
However, if you find that for whatever reason you can't continue the game, come out and say it. Will your players be hurt? Yes. But they'll appreciate that you didn't just disappear and let it die. If possible, find someone (possibly an early boot not named Blackberry) to take over for you. Do whatever you can to save it before you call it dead.
It's also possible that you neglect it for a week or so and then suddenly remember. Again, honesty. A post that says "Sorry guys, I totally forgot, lemme just update real quick" makes players so ridiculously happy it's not even funny.
Holy shit, you made it. The game is finished. A winner is declared. Well done! Truly. The number of large games that complete is depressingly small.
After you post the end, ask players for feedback. Find out what you did well, and what you didn't. That way, if you do this again, you'll know what to improve on.
Also, if you do choose to run two large-scale games, congrats! You're officially certifiably insane! Welcome to the club!
I'm writing this guide so that the games in MishMash get better. Not that they're bad by any stretch, but I want mods to know what they're getting into here. I would ask that you not edit this page without my consent, as this is my personal work. If you have issues or ideas for additions, please post them on the discussion page or PM me. Similarly, discussion should go there.
I would also add that this guide is by no means perfect. I'm human, and I can be wrong. These are my personal views, not site policy. You can certainly ignore this guide and go back to making shit up as you go.