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m (Deleted duplicated sentence and changed an i.e. to e.g. . Awkward to find after seven years.)
 
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game to see through to the end. Again, I wouldn't recommend not designing these types of setups - but I would advise you to be prepared for this kind of outcome.
 
game to see through to the end. Again, I wouldn't recommend not designing these types of setups - but I would advise you to be prepared for this kind of outcome.
  
You can avoid this by nonrandomly selecting players for your super-roles, but unless it's explicitly stated ahead of time that the game features super-roles and lets you know who they are (i.e. Seraphs), that may cause more problems than it solves.
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You can avoid this by nonrandomly selecting players for your super-roles, but unless it's explicitly stated ahead of time that the game features super-roles and lets you know who they are (e.g. Seraphs), that may cause more problems than it solves.
  
 
==The Review Process==
 
==The Review Process==
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I probably could have just typed that at the beginning and saved myself a few hours. :/
 
I probably could have just typed that at the beginning and saved myself a few hours. :/
  
There will still be some people who reject this entire guide out of hand. These are the people who believe that mods should have to do nothing except join the queue, let players sign up because they want to play a Mafia game in general and the game in question just happened to be the next one in line, run the game however they want, and that's the end of it. If they achieve success with that formula, I can't complain and I'm certainly not going to send gypsy women to curse them (though I have considered it before). But I'm entirely confident I have the right of it. But I'm entirely confident I have the right of it. Being able to sell a product is probably the second most important thing you can learn to do in any walk of life (learning how to communicate effectively is the most important) and I expect people who ply that skill set to this online game to be more successful with it.
+
There will still be some people who reject this entire guide out of hand. These are the people who believe that mods should have to do nothing except join the queue, let players sign up because they want to play a Mafia game in general and the game in question just happened to be the next one in line, run the game however they want, and that's the end of it. If they achieve success with that formula, I can't complain and I'm certainly not going to send gypsy women to curse them (though I have considered it before). But I'm entirely confident I have the right of it. Being able to sell a product is probably the second most important thing you can learn to do in any walk of life (learning how to communicate effectively is the most important) and I expect people who ply that skill set to this online game to be more successful with it.
  
 
Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your future games!
 
Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your future games!
  
 
[[Category:Modding Guides]]
 
[[Category:Modding Guides]]

Latest revision as of 20:48, 10 July 2019

Type:
Author:

History

Original Publication: December 25, 2011 by Vi
Recovered from Crash: March 8, 2012 by Vi

Introduction

About two years ago I published my Comprehensive Modding Guide for 2010. It was mostly received well, but some prominent scummers vehemently opposed the third Chapter, which was about advertising your game. They said things along the lines of it breaking the queue system and providing a slippery slope leading to a world where casual mods would be left out of the loop, and quite firmly told me to take the whole section out entirely.

This separate article devoted to expanding that chapter is dedicated to those scummers.

The Big Question

How do I make entertaining games?

We already have a modding guide for how to make and run games smoothly. Yet you can still follow all of those rules and have your game never take off - it may just turn out to be a bland experience, or it may never even fill in signups. That's a lot of effort wasted, and it's a horrible feeling.

So here is my experience on what to do and what NOT to do in order to increase the chances of your game running successfully and leaving your players wanting more. While this applies to sites beyond mafiascum.net, I am providing examples from that site for the sake of having them, sacrificing formality in the process.

If there's a tl;dr of the tl;dr version of this guide is, it's this: Make your games as attractive as possible to as many people as possible. Of course, that seems like common sense, but it's not always obvious how to do this - hence the guide.

Before You Even Begin

Develop a good modding reputation.

This should go without saying. If you run an OMGfun game, your next game may as well be free. You won't even have to do more than say you're running a game to get signups to roll in.

...Okay, this might be something of an exaggeration. But not much of one. People will jump at the chance to play one of your games, because they know something cool is about to go down - because that's what happened last time.

Develop a good playing reputation.

Of course, it's hard to get a good modding reputation if you haven't modded any games yet. Likewise, if your last game went bust, you won't be able to point to it and coast on its fame.

That just means you have to start from scratch like everyone had to at some point, though. The easiest way to get people to want to play your game is to establish contacts with other people on the site. Play games, have fun, and get to know people. You don't really have to have any outstanding characteristics except that people know you and like you, so don't worry if you're not great at Mafia or don't have some personal quirk to exploit - as long as you're not a dick and have some grasp of logic, you can easily establish a good rapport with others.

Putting it another way, mafiascum.net is a huge site with about a hundred games going on at once (true statistic). In addition, most people who are at least somewhat established onsite will not indiscriminately play games. So without giving them further information, you want people to want to play your game out of all of those. This is especially true of Normal games, which actually are pitched as interchangeable; you want them to play YOUR game because of YOU.

As a general rule, people assume that good players will make good mods. There are some very powerful exceptions to this, but those are few and far between.

One interesting side note is that this doesn't entirely apply to your reputation strictly within Mafia contexts. Maintaining a positive presence on the board as a whole can get your name out there and get people interested in you.

Pay it forward.

If you want the support of others, it would be helpful if you joined their games so that they can repay the favor later. It's never a guarantee, but the more goodwill you sow, the more you can hope to get back when it's your turn to mod a game.

Game Design

Fill a niche.

One easy way to ensure that your game has at least some signups is to pay attention to the kinds of games people want to play. Some people like teeny seven-player games, others may want a particular hot theme, and so forth. If you're comfortable channeling your creative energy to fit their desires, congratulations! You have a fair amount of your player list already set and waiting for you.

The opposite of this would be to claim a niche that only appeals to you. This may include game mechanics that go severely against the site's meta or game themes that nobody knows about. As an example, once in the past someone tried to run a game based on Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!. Maybe on a site that actually knew what that was, it would have fared much better. As it stands, nobody signed up for it and the game was eventually pulled after languishing in the queue. If you want to run a game that's outside what people are used to, you'll have to market it that much harder.

In case you're wondering, people outside Japan know that theme as Elite Beat Agents. If you still don't know what that is, that's kind of the point.

Mix things up.

If you're not up for being trendy, try putting a twist on Mafia for your game. Before you start getting worried that this is going to be difficult... well, it can be, but it doesn't HAVE to be. The easiest way to do this is to look at other games - or play some games - and make note of a mechanic that you liked. Ask the relevant mod about how the mechanic worked and any suggestions they would have to do things differently with it. Design the game from there. If you're not really confident in your own abilities, enlist that mod as a reviewer. At the end of the day, you will have very safely put together a game with a novel twist to it.

If you want to branch into new territory by creating your own mechanic, well and good. You will primarily be in charge of understanding the mechanic and how it works - and you will become the expert on the mechanic during and after the game. It's not something you can just do halfway, in other words.

Coming up with your own mechanic means you need to understand some basic questions from the players' point of view - how will the Town or Mafia try to exploit the mechanic? How does it affect basic play? How much of the game revolves around the mechanic? Find an experienced player (not necessarily an experienced mod) and ask them what they would do with the mechanic as the appropriate alignment. If it turns out that the game comes down to "gaming the system", you have probably not made a good game of Mafia.

You can substitute "role" everywhere you see "mechanic" in these two paragraphs. The gist of the matter is that you can do something different from the norm provided you understand the nature of what you're doing and that it won't break or degenerate the game.

Give your game personality.

For your first game, the above options may not (and possibly should not) be available to you. That doesn't mean you should resign yourself to a boring game, though! What it does mean is that you'll have to make people want to play your basic game without them already wanting to play it.

The easiest way to catch passersby is with original flavor. I'm not talking about the novelesque walls that some moderators put out where every vote count has a screenful of text attached (though if you want to do that, go for it!). Quality always beats quantity here. You can still go for basic novelty here - cr3t1n ran a game with exaggeratedly stupid and misspelled flavor, and people joined in just to see what would happen. A better example featuring a game that wasn't horrible would be Amrun's "The Death of ReaperCharlie". With the permission of one of the site's most enduring trolls really great people, Amrun took what was no doubt the dream of several scummers and made it the headline of her Large Normal game. Given mafiascum's regulations, she couldn't actually include much flavor pertaining to ReaperCharlie's death or make the actual game have anything to do with it, but on the strength of the title alone she raked in a very impressive player list in the one game category most experienced players avoid.

That's not even to say that you need to go to sensational lengths to run an enjoyable game. Rishi specialized in Newbie games that took a simple premise and ran with it. Using my first game as an example, he took a basic concept in cheesy horror, gave it a name "Mafia Massacre", and with each mod scene posted a preprepared snip of related flavor that was short enough that people didn't mind reading it (three lines, maybe) and was reasonably entertaining to read. Just that understated kind of flavor, if done well, can win you fans.

I don't want to say NOT to do something in regards to channeling your creativity, but frankly we've all read the "you arrive at the lynch square and someone is dead! Now you must kill someone for this dastardly deed" spiels several dozen times already. If you want your game to stand out, I suggest doing something different.

Don't put all of your eggs in one basket.

It's not necessarily a bad thing to have your game rely on one or two specific roles. You may want a lot of a faction's power vested in a small number of roles by design. However, this will make your game less robust to bad play and bad luck. It's a fairly common modding cliché that the one role you want to see most in your setup is almost guaranteed to die Night 1, and it's even worse when that player gets outed or even lynched Day 1. If that role is what was propping your setup up, you've got a long, underwhelming game to see through to the end. Again, I wouldn't recommend not designing these types of setups - but I would advise you to be prepared for this kind of outcome.

You can avoid this by nonrandomly selecting players for your super-roles, but unless it's explicitly stated ahead of time that the game features super-roles and lets you know who they are (e.g. Seraphs), that may cause more problems than it solves.

The Review Process

Be enthusiastic about your game.

At the time you start approaching people for reviews, you will be the only person excited about your game. If you aren't excited about running your game... why run it? It will just be a bothersome experience for everyone, and avoidably so given the advice on the rest of this page. So it will be up to you to get your reviewer interested in reviewing your game.

Let's be honest, cold calls for reviews can and do work, but your reviewer will only give you help proportional to how invested they are in the game. Most people who are not all that interested in your product will do a ho-hum job, especially if there's nothing obviously wrong with the game or if balance is not very obvious to determine. They'll take a look at it, put it off for a few days, come back, and give some response that makes it look like they put thought into your game. You get your game back slightly altered and you hope there are no real underlying balance issues because nobody really thought about it that hard if you didn't.

On the other hand, if you market your game to make the reviewer WANT to review it, you may get a much better result if your reviewer buys into it. Find people you don't think will want to play but like your theme. Make sure you know what the possible weaknesses of your setup are and ask about them when you send over the game. Give your reviewer a direction to go in.

This is, of course, much harder to do with complex games. If you don't fully understand the game, chances are no one will (until some smart-aleck player tries massclaiming) because of the sheer volume of effort needed to keep track of it all. This means you have to work even harder to get a competent review - or make the game solid before you send it to the reviewers.

As an aside, and I know this doesn't go here, don't radically change the game after you get it reviewed. Everyone has last-minute changes, but don't put someone's name up as a reviewer and then make the setup completely unrecognizable from what they actually advised you about. </rant>

Design your own game.

If it's hard to get reviewers that actually want to effectively review your game, imagine how much harder it is to get someone else to help design your setup.

It's your setup. Your. YOU. You design the setup and don't expect someone else to do some even share of it. Unless the person you choose to review is so dedicated to your game concept that they would rather run it themselves - and you probably don't have that kind of concept - they will at best toss out ideas that sound cool to them without taking much responsibility. After all, if they wanted to be accountable for their suggestions, they would be designing the game themselves. In that case, it would be their setup. Theirs. THEM.

The more of your setup you have unfinished, the less likely you are to get help from your average bystander. Enough said.

Do not design a game beyond your capabilities.

This should go in the original modding guide, but until I get a chance to update it it goes here. Do not make a game with post restrictions if you're not willing to keep up with them. Do not make a game that has real-time mechanics if you don't forecast being online regularly for the next few months. Do not make a game that relies heavily on YOU if YOU expect to have problems being online in the near future.

This sounds like it should be common sense, but you'd be surprised. Don't make a game that you can't run.

During Sign-ups

Do the right kind of advertising.

Come up with a pitch for your game, and toss it into the Upcoming Games thread. You get one post. Throw out some catchy flavor related to whatever you're doing for your game, include an eye-catching image if you can find one, and give a basic description of what the game will be - which forum it will be in, how complex it will be, any prerequisites you wish to have on people who want to play, etc., etc.

Or put another way - consider the quickie advertisements that come up in the Mini Theme queue thread when their respective games take sign-ups. You want a slightly longer version of those. Explain what you want from the players, and post enough flavor to get people excited.

Obviously, this works better for Theme games. If you're doing a Normal and you don't have a giant hook in your flavor, you may not have enough to work with to warrant taking up space in the Upcoming Games thread. That's fine; you can and should still make an advertisement in the queue thread when it's your turn.

Don't do the WRONG kind of advertising.

First, returning to the Upcoming Games thread - don't put up your game's advertisement until you get pretty close to the top of the queue. Posting your advertisement as soon as you get into the queue means it will be months before your game comes up. Not only does that give people license to not care about your game for months, but if anyone actually does pre-/in for your game, they will have months to forget or change their mind or get loaded up on other things to do.

Second, the best advertising is the kind that people want to read. Usually people do not want to read overt advertising. This means for the love of <your preferred deity> DO NOT spam unrelated boards hawking your game. Your advertisements are pretty much guaranteed to annoy a lot more people than they attract, and people will think worse of you for it. If people wanted to have someone try to hamhandedly sell them something when they really would rather be getting on with their day, they would cruise major highways for the sake of looking at billboards. The billboards would probably be more imaginative than your advertisements, too.

Be a savvy recruiter.

Since May 2010 or so, mods have not been allowed to actively recruit players into their games until they take sign-ups. Once your game is cleared to take sign-ups, though, that's the green light!

With that said, there is such a thing as overdoing it. Spamming invites to masses of people looks bad and has a tendency to be unnecessary - especially if you send invites and your game fills before some of those people can respond. You should probably only consider inviting people to play if you REALLY want someone to play (and this should be limited to maybe three people at most) or if your signups are lagging.

The best people to invite are people who are familiar with you and vice versa. If you have already modded a game, try drawing from the players from your previous game who were reliable and didn't cause you or the other players a lot of drama or tension. That way everyone has an idea of what good thing they're getting into.

If you choose to invite people who are not as familiar with you or your games, you really need to tell them why they should join your game. Many players play as many games as they're comfortable being in, but can occasionally squeeze one more in. You need to show them that they need to squeeze YOURS in, instead of holding out for some better must-play game or sticking to their silly self-imposed hiatuses ("hiati"?). Include reasons why your invitee should play your game. They've probably already seen the advertisements, so one idea is show them something they haven't seen yet - your existing player list, for example. If some cool person has joined your game, try telling that cool person's friend to play with them. If you know that the person you're trying to invite has certain preferences in a game, make sure you include that your game matches what they like. Once again, the goal is to make the person you want to invite want to play your game. Personalize your invite without giving the appearance of dragging them into the commitment, and hope for the best.

Include the right kind of people.

I'm sure you read that heading and thought "who exactly is the 'right' kind of people"? If your initial thought was "clearly it meant good players", you'd be surprisingly far from the mark. Games that are only filled with experienced and dangerous players have a fairly predictable tendency to be very painful experiences for everyone involved; nobody can get a read on anyone and it basically comes down to who is having a worse month for playing. That, and experienced players tend to have egos the size of Luxembourg, potentially turning the game into an ugly and negative experience unless they are well-versed in the art of creative insults to keep things light. (The art of creative insults may not be a bad idea for my next article.*)

However, including at least some experienced players in the game is not a bad thing. If you invite a well-known personality to the game, people will come to play your game simply for the chance to play with that celebrity. It admittedly sounds kind of pathetic from a distant observer's point of view, but it's true and happens fairly regularly - let's face it, there has to be SOMEONE you would drop what you're doing to play with.

You can also instigate that kind of effect yourself with your invites. If you see that some well-known players are joining your game, start inviting people you like who are up-and-coming. Between the invite to your game and the chance to play with some high-tier players, they'll have to have a powerful reason to refuse. Everyone who wants to be someone is looking forward to the day they get invited to games =D

Last, remember that you'll never know if some people are good if you don't give them a chance. Don't seek to fill your entire game via invites - let some people who are new to you and your games play. Some of the best and most entertaining players I've met have been complete strangers who volunteered to play/replace into my games.

*Actually, it would be a bad idea.

Start becoming a class act.

Just because a player signs up for your game doesn't mean they'll stay in. This means you need to start your good modding practices with your sign-up thread.

What this means is that if you mod like a fascist and don't allow swearing, weekend V/LA, insulting the mod, or some other sign of excessively thin skin, and you show it in the sign-up thread, you're pretty much driving away your players. No, wait. Please show it off in the sign-up thread so all the sensible players can avoid your game. This is moving closer to the original guide's line of advice, though.

The real test of character comes when an undesirable player goes /in to your game. A single player NOBODY wants to play with can be a surprisingly large block to your game filling, and if multiple pariahs show up you may wind up LOSING sign-ups faster than you were initially gaining them. I frankly don't have a perfect answer to how to approach this situation beyond what I have preached up until now - have your marketing grip on the players strong enough that they will be willing to play "just one" game with these unliked players. You never know - some people who are total losers in the discussion forums play much more seriously ingame, earning some new respect. Don't laugh; I've seen it happen. Then again, I've also seen it NOT happen too, so etc.

Make sure you can run the game.

No, seriously. If you find out during or near signups that you may be running into a more busy schedule in the near future, pull the plug. You may "lose your fire" for the setup you want to run, and thus the whole thing may go to waste for that or some other reason, but it's a lot better than the alternative.

Or put it like this. Your RL life should always trump your e-life. The second life depends on the well-being of the first life, right? So if you should let one of your lives drop, it should be your online life. But if you're not modding a game, that's a lot less for you to abandon, and you let down so many fewer people who are relying on you!

A canceled game is disappointing for everyone. Nobody wants to see the game they've been looking forward to taken out of the queue for whichever reason. But they'll be more disappointed - and much more angry - if you have to bail out midway through the game.

This is especially true in the case of complex games. Backup mods in these cases are almost always formalities who would probably rather let the setup die than try to understand it all or take responsibility for it. If the show can't run without you, make sure you can run the whole show.

During the Game

Continue being the professional.

Mods -have- to do certain things like post vote counts, process flips, send Role PMs out after making the game thread but before the players die of old age, etc. You should be able to do all of these in a timely and accurate manner, and this is a minimum requirement. You don't necessarily need to be in the top five for the Smooth Operator award, but it's your responsibility to the site and your players to avoid neglecting the game. If you have to be absent for a while, tell the players. If necessary, tell your backup mod too, and where applicable give them the information they need to do your job for at least the next week. Anything less than this just looks like negligence on your part; like you're not responsible enough to run the game.

If you wish to go over and beyond those core duties, that's well and good provided you don't compromise those duties or the game. For instance, if you want to write detailed flavor but find you don't have the time to do a scene, don't keep the players waiting for two days while you muster the inspiration to put something down (unless the flavor is like that of Mafiascum Fantasy Camp and nobody will disagree about it being worth the wait). Lots of mods have delayed their flavor - some of them never actually finishing it - and not many of them are thought of the worse for it.

Somewhat similarly, there is an art to how much you can interject into the game while still maintaining professionality. Moderators are not generally meant to be players, and should not post like them. Do not interject your own opinions into the thread, and do not draw attention to yourself unless you have an actual mod announcement to get out. I would draw the line at editing deliberately harmless wisecracks into posts - for instance, once one of my players made a post "WHO ARE YOU" and I edited in the next line of a certain famous Who song. It didn't add or subtract any information to/from the game, and was simply there to make people snicker on a reread.

Ensure that the best decisions are made.

As you keep modding games, you'll find that difficult decisions come up - and many times, these decisions need to be resolved immediately. Some examples include what to do with players who get sent the wrong Role PM, or what happens after someone ambiguously quotes their Role PM.

Acting impulsively is your last resort. If you find yourself modkilling people you suspect but can't prove broke the rules, or dealing with a mod error by making a bigger error, you will have placed yourself in that awkward position where you know you probably screwed up but have to justify yourself to a bunch of unsympathetic people.

The good news is that you're not alone. Find an experienced moderator you trust and ask them what they would do. Sometimes they'll have a good idea. Sometimes they won't. But you're the moderator, and it's your responsibility to make the best decision. Take every step you feel necessary in order to live up to that responsibility.

Make sure you have a willing and able backup.

I have never actually heard of a mod saying "I don't feel like modding today; just get the backup to do it". However, that's not to suggest that dedicated mods shouldn't have a backup available. I actually have seen a moderator get into a car crash, and his backup mod had to take over without ever hearing anything from the main moderator. So it's not optional.

The recent trend has been to store all mod-side notes, comments, actions, etc. in a QuickTopic that the mod and backup mod have access to. This is the easiest way to keep your backup mod abreast of the game state at any given time. As a bonus, it should help YOU since it's a place to store your own notes for later.

Nobody likes handing their game over to a backup. If they did, they wouldn't have come this deep into the modding process. Yet if you're going to be gone for an extended period of time, it's for everyone's good if you considered handing the keys over to someone else while you're gone. Similarly, no backup likes waking up one morning to a PM saying "hey, you need to take this game over" and finding that the mod has been absent for a week with no expectation of when they'll return. Don't let your game fall through - tell your backup mod that you need their help.

After the Game

You are still putting out a product!

Postgame is when you start tying everything up and getting people to compliment how nice your setup was without actually telling them to do so. This is easiest to do if your game was close or somewhat exciting, and harder to do if it was a drawn-out slog that ended in a scum win or people have already begun celebrating postgame without you.

You should always post the Role PMs and Night actions. This is especially true of themed games with nonstandard roles or fun flavor. It's just bafflingly counterproductive not to do so, and thus likewise if you don't save yourself a copy of the PMs and actions.

You should also have some mod commentary prepared on how the game went. The key with mod commentary is to be honest, thorough, but still diplomatic. If you screwed up, you may as well own up to it. It's not always easy to do, but the players will respect your ability to admit fault. If someone else screwed up, try to address it but don't start cutting them down unless you absolutely and positively want to burn that bridge and don't care what anyone thinks about it. This is especially true if some people think you could be at fault instead of them - those people will perceive you as having the maturity of a five-year-old, and word will spread quickly.

Basically, postgame should not be a hateful experience for yourself or others, but at the same time you need to be honest about how the game went. Everyone has games that are worse than they'd like. If you, the mod, are one of those people, you need to acknowledge this but show that you understand what happened and are willing to change it for next time.

It's not really bad form to say what the next game you're running is going to be... unless you don't know what it is yourself. People understand that it's like saying "If you liked this game and want another like it, here's the next one". If you really do a good job, people will pre-/in to your next game before it even enters the queue - keep those names with your copy of your next setup so you don't forget about them!

Try not to let discussion die with unanswered questions.

This is self-explanatory. Of course, if the questions aren't directed toward you, there's not much you can do about it.

Don't lock the thread when you think it's appropriate.

This is putting your enjoyment over that of whoever else still wants to post. Our list mods lock threads on their own timetable, and that's good enough.


One Last Note on Modding ~ The Ballad of Tarhalindur

--- WARNING --- A PERSONAL Vi STORY IS APPROACHING FAST --- NO REFUGE

Tarhalindur was one of my modding influences when I was first getting interested in Mafia. You may or may not have heard of him, but you probably have heard of the phrase "Mind Screw" affixed to Mafia games that are overbearingly complex and hilariously twisted. That isn't purely a product of everyone on the Internet reading tvtropes; Tarhalindur used the Mind Screw trope as a theme for one of his games, and it turned out to be so wildly popular that two more games in the series came out, which just boosted its cult more. Scummers and guests alike tried to emulate his style on mafiascum.net and other boards, and that's how everyone knows what you mean when you say "Mind Screw" on a Mafia board.

Tarhalindur was one of those celebrity posters I mentioned earlier. He had ZERO trouble getting his games filled just by saying he was going to mod them. People would angle to get into the games he was playing for the sake of playing with him. When he posted his tells to the wiki, Information Instead of Analysis (IIoA) and Chainsaw Defense became memetic across the entire Mafia-playing Internet. He had the name recognition, he had the reputation, he had the awards, he had the groupies, he had everything you could possibly want.

By the time Tarhalindur finished modding Tech Tree Mafia, he realized that he was running out of free time IRL to mod. He set Mind Screw IV up to mod anyway. The game was not only ludicrously complex, it had real-time/post count-based elements to it as well, and most players knew it. The game's post count spiked within the first few hours, and by the time Tarhalindur got to it, he was awash in actions he had to process. Within a couple of days Tarhalindur simply couldn't keep up. The backup mod couldn't do much about it because of how complex the game was and how many mod errors had already occurred and continued to crop up. The game fell apart, and it was written off as a failure. But people were okay with writing it off due to RL issues.

Several months later, Tarhalindur came back and got ready to mod two games - a Mini and a Large, both once again designed to be atrociously complex. The Large game, Mind Screw V, relied heavily on the moderator staying on top of the game to administer all sorts of weirdness.

Tarhalindur's existence on the face of the Internet fizzled within a week of those games starting. Before he left, though, he modkilled one of his players over what amounted to an overreaction to a joke. Mind Screw V's many during-the-game changes and intricacies were not documented well enough for the backup mod to continue the game intact. The setup itself was revealed to be rather biased against the Mafia anyway. The Mini Theme was ridiculously swingy and included one role that was pretty much guaranteed to be incredibly powerful for its faction.

Any one of those by itself - the imbalance, the modkill, the modflake, the swing, the over-overpowered role - would probably have been okay, and two may have caused only slight grumbling. But this was an instance of all five happening simultaneously, and the fallout was MASSIVE. Notice that we still have no idea why exactly he stopped coming to the site. To a major extent that doesn't matter for the same reason media sound bites work - in one way or another it happened and explaining the context after the fact wouldn't be as memorable and would take too much time.

Tarhalindur is no longer thought of as a pioneer. Whatever good he did in the something-like-eight setups he ran before Mind Screw IV has been largely forgotten. He is now an example of what NOT to do in several ways, and still has a fairly dedicated hatedom. None of this matters if he doesn't return to the site, of course; but if he does, it will be a long time before he can rise back to the shadow of his former glory.

The lessons here are:

  • Do as I say. You should be doing this anyway because it's me speaking.

But seriously, notice that I've already talked about most of those issues previously in this article. I'm not typing this because I'm out to make a buck or because I need a train of devoted followers. These are the practices that I have personally observed work. I've seen what happens when people don't follow these practices, too. The keys to success are all right here - it's up to you to make the most of them combined with your own talent, or disregard them at your own peril.

  • Remember that this is just as true in matters of reputation as it is in the performing arts: The first thing people remember is the last thing that happened. Never get lazy and never assume that you have credibility "built up" to where you can let one dud fall.

Afterword

It's important to remember that while I'm trying to help new mods become great at what they do and that this is what I've found to work, this is not a glorious manual that everyone Must Follow or their games will be ruined. I don't even follow all of this advice all of the time (though admittedly some of this advice comes from me wishing I had done things differently in the past). So if this giant article seems like a bit much, I understand. But most of it is elaboration on a fairly simple mindset:

  • Take ownership of your game.
  • Make the game positive and exciting to anticipate, review, play, and remember.
  • Serve the players well, even if you can't do it yourself.

I probably could have just typed that at the beginning and saved myself a few hours. :/

There will still be some people who reject this entire guide out of hand. These are the people who believe that mods should have to do nothing except join the queue, let players sign up because they want to play a Mafia game in general and the game in question just happened to be the next one in line, run the game however they want, and that's the end of it. If they achieve success with that formula, I can't complain and I'm certainly not going to send gypsy women to curse them (though I have considered it before). But I'm entirely confident I have the right of it. Being able to sell a product is probably the second most important thing you can learn to do in any walk of life (learning how to communicate effectively is the most important) and I expect people who ply that skill set to this online game to be more successful with it.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck in your future games!