What's going on?

You're not supposed to know. Not at first; and here we smack into the fundamentals of game design. For a kick-off:

The Introduction

We put you into the game world. A brand new character, a fresh, untried, untested entity. There's a development arc - you will get better over time - but at what? What will you get better at? In this sense games are a process of acquisition. Your character will develop strength, smarts. They'll increase.. something, it doesn't really matter what as long as it brings that all important sense of achievement. There are games which market themselves on how much feudal power (land and armies) you'll acquire, and how much that'll impress large breasted cartoon ladies (probably not very much - they're a tough audience, the large breasted cartoon crowd). There are games where you gain progress (including the deranged genius of Progress Quest (which I see they've now translated into glorious Javascript-o-vision. However they do it the aim is to create a sense of achievement, of accomplishment, which a game well played can do. And for that we need investment, ownership, challenge and achievement. IOCA, is what I'm calling that.

Investment

Zynga used to be bloody good at this; I haven't played a Zynga game for a long time (in common with the rest of the Internet apparently), but they would let you get up to what might seem a stupid high level on your first play - they had a vampire - sorry, free online vampire game! (I'm getting keyword Tourette's here, I really am) - where you could get to level 30 on your first play. Seems silly, but it meant you had an investment in that character.

Me, I don't think Darkness Falls does that enough; we have the tutorial, which walks you through the basic mechanics, but that's it really; everyone gets the same goodies for completing it, no-one has to make a character choice, you're not left with a clear idea of where to go and what to do next. Ok, as of the time of writing I'm not happy with that. As of time of writing that's going down for an overhaul.

So we have investment, and that brings us to one of the things I do like about Darkness Falls, although it might seem odd after what I just said. There's no character sheet. There's no rolling dice and choosing weapon specialities. There are no character classes, no alignments, none of the trappings we've come to expect from the seamless progression of tabletop role playing games to online ones.

If you've sat there creating a character, rolling dice over and over to get just the character balance you want, choosing carefully from a limited skill set, then you've invested. Time, imagination, work. You've invested in that character. You're just that little bit more likely to want to stay with them. To make that all important second log in.

Funnily enough the one that doesn't seem to work is money. You might think that getting a player to invest money in a character would be the easiest form of investment, but in fact it seems to create no bond at all. In fact all it seems to do is raise people's demands and expectations, making it more likely that they'll feel disappointed, less likely that they'll stay with the game long enough to form any sort of relationship with it.

It's like speed dating. First impressions count for so very much. Me, I like the discovery. But that's me.

This is getting longer than I wanted it to be. I'm also thinking I should have used a blogging package. Where are we up to? We'll do the rest on separate paged. Onto ownership!

Let's talk about: a diary, why a diary? Or why does it look so awful? Or, the big one for many of you apparently; what the ****'s going on? Or, one dear to my heart at the moment - Who owns this?