USS Providence, a chat-based sim
Continuing our theme of Star Trek sims (we’ll stop and cover a different genre soon, I promise!) here’s an interview with Josh from USS Providence, part of the FSF (Federation Sim Fleet). Fleets seem very popular with Star Trek sims, it’s easy to unite games when they stare the same theme and same universe. Like I’ve already mentioned in the article about Star Trek Freedom, the sense of community in fleets can make it a great experience, which is probably why many Star Trek sims seem to have existed for a very long time.
The USS Providence sim began February 22nd, 2003. It has run continuously since then. I chatted with Josh Hrach, who is the GM for the USS Providence.
Can you tell me about the history of the USS Providence?
The Providence initially was conceived as a chat sim in a small sim group that has since disappeared. I was involved with some of the inner workings of this group and, as an early simmer/role-player, I was looking to try my hand at various aspects of group and sim management. I was initially assigned as GM2 of the Providence. However, a month before we were to launch the game, the GM1 had to step down and disappeared. Instead of letting the ideas for Providence die, I continued working on them, found a GM2 to assist me, and launched the sim in the beginning of 2003.
When I first began to sim, I was intrigued with the idea of writing characters in a fictional world. I was raised on Star Trek, and I had many stories in my head from when I was a child. Having this creative outlet in itself was fantastic. Being given the opportunity to act as GM and lead the story myself, though, was more interesting to me. Thus, when given the prospect of being GM1 for the game, I didn’t hesitate to take the position.
Could you briefly explain how USS Providence is played?
The Providence has been and continues to run on the AOL Instant Messenger service, chat room name “USS Providence”. At the designated sim time, the room is called to attention, and any important game or FSF announcements are mentioned before we play. Then the brief is posted, questions are taken from the players, and then we’ll sim. Each scheduled sim ends with any closing announcements and the occasional teaser for next week.
The average game will last roughly an hour. However, special games, such as the end of the year and anniversary games, will last two or more hours. These nights are considered as special as a television series’ season finale.
What’s your role within the running of the game?
As the creator and current GM1, I guide the overall story of the game. Each week, this may include acting as the command officer of the Providence, either using my main character or another if my main is out of action for whatever reason.
Ever since 2003, a story has unfolded in our game universe. The events surround a particular nemesis, created for the sim, and an overall story arc exists for the game (and sometimes for each year/season). As such, I’ll work with my GM2 to write stories that go in harmony with the “big picture”. I give them the freedom to write their own stories and sim plots, lending their creativity to the overall series of events playing out in our game universe.
How much control over the story do your players have?
Each story plot that I offer I try to present as if it were an episode of a Star Trek series. While fans may enjoy watching the events as they unfold, a role player wants to have a share in the action.
Thus, player actions can and do change the outcome of the plot. For example, the actions of a particular player in the past have lead to the death of my main character. This was not intended in the plot, but the response to the player’s actions warranted such an outcome.
Some stories are more “open-ended” than others. In all plots and sims, though, I make sure players know that their actions have consequences.
How do you go about recruiting new members?
The primary way we get new members is through the FSF’s main site. From there, new FSF members find the Providence sim. Other avenues of advertisement include posting occasionally to various sim directories as well as occasionally reaching out to individuals via the Providence’s social media presence.
While I enjoy experienced members, the Providence has always been open for players of limited experience. If someone joins that has little experience as a writer or simmer, I will make sure that that individual’s department head takes personal interest in the individual. I also try to do my best to make myself available to assist the new member with learning about the sim, the FSF, and how to sim properly. Personal interest definitely assists such new ones.
Do you have an archive of previous story, or does it all have to be remembered by members? Do you have a summary for new members to use to catch up on?
There is no complete archive as of now. However, an archive was begun two years ago and continues to be worked on now. This is in the form of the “ProviPedia“, the Providence’s own wiki. The eventual goal is for all sim logs (from February 2003 until now) to be uploaded, for summaries to be written of each sim plot, and for articles to be created for every character, planet, ship, NPC, and species. It will be a long process, but it will be well worth it.
If someone joins, we do our best to give them the information they need to know. Initially, that just includes knowing about the current mission and their position on the ship. Eventually, we’ll give them information regarding some of the common races we see and help them to get acquainted.
The FSF has many Star Trek games, do you ever have crossovers with any of the other ships?
One reason for this is that, with how I am with the Providence’s storyline, I like keeping control of the universe. Some games have such drastic changes to theirs that a crossover game would be difficult. Something else that has ‘complicated’ matters is the destruction of Romulus, as noted in the latest Star Trek movie. That event would have occurred early in Providence’s history, but including that in our current stories would have required “retcon-ing” old plots, something that I will not do for the sake of continuity.
As such, while we haven’t done any crossovers yet, I would be willing to attempt a crossover with another FSF game.
Do you have a list of character biographies that other members can use to read about all characters in the game?
This is being worked on as part of the Providence wiki. At present, there is only one NPC for individuals to take note of, which makes it easy for them to learn about them. However, as mentioned before, entire profiles for NPCs is in the planning stage.
How important is the USS Providence website to your game?
The website itself is relatively important. The site is meant to serve important information to an interested individual. Some of the items do need to be updated (a task on my todo list). However, the information that is on there is relevant. Of utmost importance is making sure that the website looks professional and inviting to people. Thus, as we advertise the game or enhance our social media presence, interested parties will see a clean site and will know where to sign up or ask for more information.
How useful has social media (Facebook/Twitter) been to your game?
I do not have any metrics to show how many new members it has helped us to get. However, I know that several players do keep tabs of our updates via Twitter and Facebook. In the past, we have used them to post “quotes of the week”, sharing funny or profound character dialogue from each sim. We’ll be using it this fall to give teasers and sneak previews of upcoming story lines for our members to whet their appetites on.
Overall, having the Providence on social media has proved beneficial. It gives another way for players to stay involved with the game and to communicate with the GMs.
Do you ever have contests and writing challenges?
It has been some time since we’ve done one, but in the past, we did a small ‘contest’ to see who could write the most interesting character log. Writing outside of the weekly meeting time is not required. However, the more time one puts into a character, the more real that character becomes. Also, if a player is willing to put more time into their character, it becomes clear that they care about both the character and the game. As such, those individuals are more likely to see a character promotion than those that don’t write anything for their characters.
I’d like to thank Josh very much for this interview. If you’re reading this as a member of USS Providence or the FSF, post a little comment letting us know how your experiences of this game.