OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


The Age-Old Debate: Quality vs. Quantity

Rolls Royce vs average cars

So Which Is It?

In all my years of simming I don’t think any single issue has been more divisive in the play by e-mail/post/board worlds than the question of quality vs. quantity.  Unfortunately, since no one conducts scientific studies of online role playing or its participants, we’re forced to rely on basic observation and our own experiences, which can be very deceiving at times.  Nevertheless, I can recall multiple instances when a quality vs. quantity discussion blew up into a full-scale battle, sometimes splitting sims, and even clubs on occasion.  I bet you remember similar episodes too!  So what is it?  Which attribute is more important for the success of a sim?  Is it quality?  Or is it quantity?  Answer that question in your head right now.  Better yet, write it down on a scrap sheet of paper.

Wrong answer!  Just kidding… you’re half right.  🙂  The truth is that it’s both.  And neither.  Huh?  In short, we’re asking the wrong question, creating a false dilemma that only serves to divide us and never solves the ultimate problem.  What is the ultimate problem then?  The problem, or challenge, is that we all want to create stable, thriving sims and clubs.  We want sims that are fun, engaging, and push us to become better writers and better people.  Quality and quantity share a symbiotic relationship in that goal.  Without both quality AND quantity we can’t create those special sims that we so enjoy.

The Case Against Quality

First of all, our writing isn’t always the best, and our propensity to write quickly doesn’t help matters.  In fact, many simmers don’t even know the difference between its and it’s!  In my experience, the simmers who are continually running around praising their own writing ability are generally some of the worst.  And since they think they’ve already mastered the craft, they don’t ever improve.  Simply put, no one’s going to mistake any of us for Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, or Anne McCaffrey anytime soon.  At best, our writing is a couple notches below those Star Trek paperback novels in the grocery store.  I’m not saying that we’re all bad writers, but we need to be realistic about our abilities here.

No sim has ever died from a lack of quality.  Indeed, the death knell of every sim is ultimately a lack of quantity.  Sims die when quantity goes to zero.  I remember a great sim that lasted about five years.  It had several fantastic simmers who wrote excellent posts throughout the game’s entire run.  It was a great “quality” sim.  But eventually interest began to dwindle.  The quality dropped a little, but participation continued to decline at a greater rate until posting came to a halt.  That was more than six years ago.  The sim never officially closed, but it’s dead.  I remember another talented simmer who valued quality over quantity so much so that she would openly criticize other sims when they celebrated their prolificness.  Even more, she would complain when she wasn’t recognized with awards for her posts.  She led failed sim after failed sim after failed sim.

The Case Against Quantity

While a sim without quantity is dead, a sim without quality is worthless.  Who wants to read 1000 awful posts?  Not me!  The whole point of simming is to have fun.  I wouldn’t sim if I didn’t enjoy it, and I doubt you would either.  Let’s be honest, simming is time consuming and can even be difficult and frustrating.  If we didn’t enjoy it so much, we wouldn’t keep doing it.  And what makes simming fun is quality.  Writing–you get to create exactly what you want.  And reading–you get to see how others combine your ideas with their own to create something new.  The quality of that continued collaboration is the true joy of simming.  I’ve enjoyed every bit of it all the way back to when I first began on the USS Sunfire in early 2000.

I remember a host whose sim frequently outperformed others in terms of quantity, and he liked to point this out at every opportunity.  It seemed like he couldn’t go more than an email or two without gloating.  It rubbed people the wrong way and turned players off to his sim.  It probably hurt his recruitment in the end too.  I checked out his sim’s archive and it was apparent that they were sending ultra short posts and breaking up longer posts into sections just to inflate their numbers.  That’s not simming.

Classic FerrarisIt’s All Relative

Elevating either quality or quantity over the other may lead to good short-term results, but but isn’t healthy for a sim long-term.  Focus on and encourage both!  I’m not saying that every sim should have 100 posts per month or be full of sim-masters to be successful.  It’s all about balance and finding that sweet spot for you and your sim.  Maybe it is 150 posts for your sim.  Or perhaps it’s just 25?  That’s the question you need to answer–and that answer will change with time as your sim evolves.  You need to really know your sim inside and out and stay engaged with your players.  The same concepts apply for finding that quality sweet spot too.  For example, you might not want the quality to be so high that new players are too intimated to get involved.  The two most common mistakes that hosts make are to:

1) Encourage their players to write more when they have a quantity problem; and

2) Encourage their players to write better when they have a quality problem.

This thinking completely ignores the symbiotic relationship that quality and quantity share–quality improves quantity, and quantity improves quality.  If your sim is experiencing a quantity problem, focus on the quality of your own posts–spend more time on your own posts.  Then talk to some of your more experienced or talented players and get them onboard.  If the sim leaders are sending higher quality posts, it will motivate and encourage others and quantity will increase.  If your sim is experiencing a quality problem, post more and encourage your players to post more.  Nothing helps improve quality more than practice (i.e. quantity).

So get to know your people and your game, and then you can maximize the QUALITY AND QUANTITY of your sim.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it in the end.  Good luck and keep simming!

What does the simming community think?

AJ Wheeler recently conducted such a poll.  He asked which attribute (quality or quantity) is more important for the success of a sim.  The results are:

  • Quality, 19 votes (55.9%)
  • Both are of equal importance, 13 votes (38.2%)
  • Quantity, 1 vote (2.9%)
  • The question is irrelevant, 1 vote (2.9%)

If you haven’t voted yet, head over to and cast your ballot today!

Written by Charles Star. Charles is an active member of Independence Fleet, and as Dick Sprague he commands the USS Chuck Norris.