The Ongoing Worlds community is about as open as you get. Anybody who can access the internet and understands English can join. There are no rules nor protocols listed anywhere except in the game information sections and descriptions of some of the games on the site, and those vary per game. Yet despite that, really becoming a comfortable member of the Ongoing Worlds community and getting the most out of the Ongoing Worlds experience is not quite as simple as it may first appear. Ongoing Worlds offers a substantial number of tools whose value and utility may not immediately be recognizable, and the Ongoing Worlds community itself has a unique microculture, with a lot of values and beliefs that may not be readily apparent either.
In an attempt to help newcomers and veterans better understand the tools at our disposal, how we use those tools, and understand the beliefs of the Ongoing Worlds community, I have worked with the people of the Ongoing Worlds Community Platform to put together a list of ten things that we would like everyone to know and understand about Ongoing Worlds. Many of these are lessons that I have learned through making mistakes, resulting in hurt feelings for me or those that I have interacted with. Hopefully, by sharing this information, others can learn what I have learned less painfully than I did.
1. Email is Ongoing Worlds’ method for Private Messaging. You can find the email address of any given member by clicking the links to their profile page. Email communication is extremely valuable here on Ongoing Worlds, as it is the primary means through which different OW members can discuss things that don’t need to be publicly displayed for everyone to see. The Ongoing Worlds experience is not meant to be enjoyed alone, and email is the primary means of bridging the physical distance between you and other OW members. Keep in mind that you cannot see another member’s email address until you are an accepted member of a game that they are also in. A quick way to be able to see the email addresses of a lot of other members is to join the Ongoing Worlds Community Platform.
Also, because email is so important as a means of communication on Ongoing Worlds, please remember to check the email address you have listed on your Ongoing Worlds profile frequently. Other members often have things they would like to discuss with you, especially if you are a moderator of a game, and they usually don’t like having to wait a long time for their inquiries to get a response.
2. The game information page is a valuable tool for communicating information that you would like players and prospective players to know that does not need to be part of your sales pitch (which is one of the primary purposes of the game description). This page can be found on the pull-down menu next to the game title.
If you are a member looking to join a game, it is a good idea to read the game information section of any games that you are interested in.
3. Disqus is a helpful tool too. You can make comments on posts that have the “This is an OOC Post” checkbox checked. The comments section will be underneath the body of the post. The easiest way to post a comment is to make a Disqus account, but you can also sign in as a guest and use a phony email if you are internet-paranoid or just don’t feel like dealing with yet another account.
Disqus is an effective tool for having discussions that you want other members to be able to see in a format that doesn’t clog a game up with an excessive amount of OOC posts.
Writing and Participation
4. Most games are collaborative writing projects, which means that everyone is on the same team. The purpose of Ongoing Worlds is to have fun, and in most games, this is done by writing stories together. Thus, games that you participate in will run more smoothly and ultimately be more enjoyable when you and your colleagues utilize effective teamwork. This means respecting each other’s boundaries, and characters, diplomatically communicating with each other, and not tying down other people’s characters by failing to follow through with commitments that you make. Also, try to understand what other people want to accomplish with their characters and try to balance that with what you want to accomplish with your character. Don’t become so focused on making your character shine that you make other characters irrelevant by solving every issue yourself.
5. Flesh out your posts, characters, and game descriptions. Most writers on Ongoing Worlds like to see posts that are at least three paragraphs in length and appear to have been reread for spelling and grammar mistakes. If you are struggling to add length to your post, think of the five Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why (I also like to add How when applicable), to explore details such as:
• Who is involved in the events in your post?
• What are they doing and saying?
• What is your character thinking about what is happening?
• What other objects and places are present near the action?
• Where are the events described in your post occurring?
• Where are the people, places, and objects present in your post relative to one another?
• When are the events described in your post occurring?
• Why is your character doing what they are doing and saying what they are saying?
• Why might other characters be doing what they are doing and saying what they are saying?
• How is your character able to do what it is they are doing?
If you can answer most of these questions in your posts, readers will have a much clearer idea of what you are trying to describe with your posts. Remember, other members cannot read your mind, so unless you explicitly state a detail, you should not expect other members to know to be aware of that detail.
6. Respect the style and setting of the game. Most games on Ongoing Worlds try to immerse you into the world of their game and story that is being told. Maintaining this immersion makes the game a much more enjoyable experience and really helps participants appreciate the setting and characters within it. As such, when making characters, do your best to make as much about your character compatible with the setting of the game as you can. So if the theme of the game is that the characters are seriously flawed and morally corrupt, don’t make your character a saint that can do no wrong. Also, try to pick a character image for your character that stylistically is similar to the portraits used by other characters in the game.
This is more applicable to joining games, as you are already ideally doing this if you have created a game. If you are the creator or moderator of a game aiming to be immersive, feel free to assertively discuss your concerns with people who submit characters that fail to follow the theme or style that you want. If you want additional members, it is advisable to try to diplomatically come to an agreement with the member submitting the contentious character instead of flatly rejecting the character. Often, when someone submits a character that isn’t in line with the theme of the game, it is because they don’t have a comfortable grasp of what the theme and style of the game is. As such, when an issue like this occurs, the solution may involve diagnosing what the character creator is confused about, then explaining your expectations to that member. If necessary, you may want to then adjust the game description or game information page of your game in order to help other prospective members avoid the pitfall that caused said member to create a thematically jarring character.
Game Creation and Moderation
7. Do all of the things that appear on the “things still to do” list, which I will list and explain how to do below.
• The Game Description, or at least a rough draft of it, has to be written before the game is created and the ” things still to do” list even becomes visible. The primary purpose of the game description should be to grab the reader’s attention and make your game world sound appealing. You don’t need to describe the entire setting of the game here, only the bits of it that are needed to give the reader enough knowledge to understand enough about what your game is about to pique their interest. The rest of the setting information can go onto the Game Information page, described above.
• You can add the Game Image by clicking the “Add game image” item on the list or by hitting the “Edit this image” link under the blank frame where your picture will go. You will then be asked to upload an image. Only JPEG, PNG, and GIF files can be uploaded and pictures that are rather small may not be able to be cropped, and un-cropped images make Winteroak mad. Pictures can easily be found and downloaded off of search engines like Google.
• Creating an Introductory Post can be done by pressing the relevant list item, pressing the “be the first to create a post” button, or by hitting the down arrow next to the title of your game and pressing the “Create new post” button on the drop-down menu. Ideally, the introduction post provides a prompt that gives the first players to join some idea of what they could write to introduce their characters. This could be a scenario, the start of your first character’s narrative, or a world-building post if your setting is particularly complex. If you’re clever, your introduction post could accomplish all three of those goals.
• You can Edit your Character Groups by pressing the relevant list item, or by hitting the down arrow next to the title of your game and pressing the “Game Settings” button. This will then open up a page titled “Settings for this game”. From there, press the link titled “Edit Character Groups”. A page titled “Edit your character groups” will come up, and you will see four textboxes with text like “Vampires” or “Muggles” written in them. You can write pretty much whatever you want in these text boxes, and by pressing the “add new” button, you can make however many groups you might need (I made 26 in a recent experiment). These character groups can be edited whenever, but it is advisable to give these groups at least some thought, especially in games designed to appeal to a substantial amount of people and/or games where there will be a lot of character profiles created. My recommendation is usually to make the groups different factions or institutions that characters might align themselves with, but for the most part, the nature of these groups depends largely on the style of the game.
• You can Edit your Character Profile Labels by pressing the relevant list item, or by hitting the down arrow next to the title of your game and pressing the “Game Settings” button. This will then open up a page titled “Settings for this game”. From there, press the link titled “Edit Character Profile Labels”. A page titled “Edit your character profile options” will come up, and you will see 12 text boxes, 3 of which are grayed out. I would strongly advise that you strategically consider what the remaining 9 boxes should contain, as overhauling the profile labels after people start making characters will mean that all of those characters will need to be edited. My recommendation is to design the chosen labels in a way that encourages members to design the type of characters that you would like to see in your game. For instance, if you are not a fan of Mary Sues, include a specific section asking people to describe their character’s weaknesses. I also like to leave the last profile label for “Moderator Comments” so that I can convey any concerns I have about a character there if necessary.
• You can Create a Character by pressing the relevant list item, pressing the “Create a Character” button further down the page, navigating to the above-mentioned drop-down menu and hitting “Add New Character”, and other methods. Multiple blog articles have been written about how to make a good character, so I’m not going to get into that any more than to recommend that you at least try to make a character that other people will enjoy interacting with who also has the ability to significantly influence the plot while not being able to resolve every possible conflict with ease.
8. Members are a precious resource, so don’t take them for granted. There is a fairly small pool of writers that are active on Ongoing Worlds at any time. Given that this is the case, game designers need to consider the following:
• How many members is the game designed to work with? A lot or a few? If a lot, what is your plan for drawing members and retaining them? The Ongoing Worlds Community Platform is a free advertising medium for all Ongoing Worlds members who join the game (you probably will not get turned down as a member unless you are an obvious spambot). The OW Community Platform is also a great place to propose game concepts and build hype for your game before you launch it.
• How many other active games on Ongoing Worlds are thematically similar to the game you want to create? What other games have the same target audiences as the one you are designing? When you are making a game, you are competing with other active games for members. The more games of a similar style and theme you are competing with, the less likely your game is to draw a substantial amount of highly active players.
• With less than thirty members active in the average month, the likelihood of encountering more than six people with very similar philosophies and styles to you is rare. If you want more people to join your game, you may want to have less steep joining requirements.
• Starting a successful game is tough, especially if you are new to Ongoing Worlds or have been away for a long time. On top of not really having a comfortable feel for the what is going on and what kind of people are currently active, you also likely won’t have comfortable relations with any of the other Ongoing Worlds members. Often, getting a game off the ground comes down to who you know just as much as whether or not the idea for the game is appealing. You may get lucky and have a few members join your game after creating a new game, but if you find yourself struggling to recruit people, you may want to try to do some networking by joining other games. Also, if you are a new member, and an Ongoing Worlds veteran joins your game, you may want to pick their brain for advice on how to improve the presentation of your game, or just ask them for help figuring out the plethora of features and tools that Ongoing Worlds offers.
• Most of the people who regularly visit Ongoing Worlds are already involved in a comfortable amount of games, therefore, it is unreasonable to expect a bunch of people to join a new game the day it is created unless you have built hype for said game. Be patient, and eventually, some of those thirty people will try your game out if it is worth joining.
• You don’t need a ton of people to participate in your game in order for it to be successful. Most healthy games usually only have a core of three to five particularly committed members, and the other people outside that core group can sometimes be more distracting than helpful to your game.
9. Put a substantial amount of thought into your game before creating it. Members of Ongoing Worlds usually expect the Game Creator of the game they are joining to take charge of the plot and direction of the game. As such, the game will usually stall quite quickly if the game creator hasn’t given an adequate amount of thought to what the game’s setting looks like and what directions the plot could go. Having intriguing, well thought out starting characters can also make or break a game. If your starting character is someone whom nobody would like to interact with, potential members may be deterred from joining an otherwise decent game idea.
You do not have to think up all of the details of your game by yourself. The Ongoing Worlds Community Platform is a particularly valuable utility for collaborative game development. If you have a great idea for the outline of a game but need help coming up with the details, post your ideas on the Ongoing Worlds Community Platform where experienced members of Ongoing Worlds will be able to provide you with a ton of helpful feedback as well as help you flesh out the details of your game if you let them.
10. Moderating a game is a responsibility that game creators and co-moderators need to take seriously. Once people join a game, it is the duty of the moderator(s) to try to enable their players to have fun. Effectively moderating a game requires a lot of time and effort, so if you don’t have a ton of time or don’t quite know what you need to be doing to keep your game going, feel free to ask your player base and/or the Ongoing Worlds Community for help or support.
Appointing a trusted member to be a co-moderator is a great way to split the moderation load of your game. Just make sure that you communicate to your co-mod what it is you would like them to do and what kinds of things you would prefer to take care of yourself.
In the event that you have created a game that other members have joined but you find that you are not enjoying it or don’t have a sufficient amount of time to dedicate to your game, then you really need to weigh your priorities. Real life is obviously more important than anything we do on Ongoing Worlds, and we’re here to have fun, not needlessly stress ourselves out, but again, as a moderator, you owe it to your players to enable them to have fun with your’s and their ideas. If you can’t or don’t want to dedicate the time and energy needed to enable your game to prosper, then you should promote someone else to be a moderator. A large number of games die off on Ongoing Worlds because the creator and sole moderator of a game does not show up enough to be effective. Remember, as the sole moderator you are the only person who can accept new characters and members into your game. Failing to take time to look at new characters and members is a sure-fire way to kill off your game. If you can’t make time to check Ongoing Worlds regularly, you should make someone who does regularly check Ongoing Worlds a co-mod.
If you have gotten to the point that you just don’t want to continue a game that you are a moderator of, you do not have to stay. If you won’t spend the time you need to in order to make your game successful, and the time you do spend is more agonizing than it is enjoyable, you really should consider either leaving the game or closing it. If you are planning on doing either of these, communicate this desire to your members ahead of time. If you want to close the game, please, please, PLEASE ask your members if they would be okay with the game getting closed before you do anything, and give them sufficient time to respond. If they want to continue, promote someone to be your replacement, and then you can unsubscribe from the game. If your desire was just to leave the game in the first place, you can skip straight to that last step.
I would like to thank my fellow members of the Ongoing Worlds Community Platform, particularly LargeHobbit, Esimed, WhiteCaribou, Redsword7, DaMasterT, Jaxx, and DaleighChronicle for their contributions to this post.