Manifold Mischief

Mission reviews, essays, and documents of record regarding The Matrix Online. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sugar Shack 18: Exile Contact Missions: What Makes One Good?

What are the success factors for Exile Contact Missions? I’ve done more than a dozen and a half mission suites, and am starting to reach some conclusions about them. I’ll be accentuating the positive down below: what works well, and what offers opportunities for improvement.

After doing 18 or so Exiles’ mish suites, I’ve noticed some things about the ones I really enjoyed, and the ones that I barely remember. I’d like to share these below, or the forum’s discussion, and maybe to inspire some in a position to be inspired. Feel free to forward these to anyone in the LESIG.

1. The Personality of the Principal. Think of Hypatia, The Chef, or The Seamstress, Mr. Po. Long after I forgot exactly what I had done for them, I could remember their style, the way they talked to me, and the way their personalities enlivened everything they did. I enjoyed their mishes just for the chance to talk to them, and would be pleased to run humdrum mishes just to hear their perspective on things.

2. Imaginative Requirements. Most Exile contact missions required the same stuff: killing and getting. It made me greatly appreciate ones which created variations on these themes: Pepper's needing amok test subjects put down, Hypatia asking me to switch an ersatz book for a real one, Thalia saying to kill everyone at a base except one to tell the tale. I savored these. This takes time, but the effort is well worth it.

3. Insight into the Dynamics and Backgrounds of the Exiles. Learning more about Dame White during the PB arcs is the best example of this, but there are others: Mr. Black's screw-up daughter, the curious tie between Sister Margaret and The Sculptress, Silver's endless machinations, and Thalia's elaborate malice. I love the feeling of learning more about a society with its web of alliances and connections. I love it when I feel like I am getting some sort of insight into how the Matrix operates. References to how Exiles feel, and to previous iterations of the Matrix always excite me.

4. Use of Player's Name in the Mish. This is always so cool! "She sent Sugaree! She must be really serious about this!", "I've been hearing a lot about you lately, Sugaree, and I'm sorry I won't be able to get to know you better", "If I'd known she sent Sugaree I would have brought more guys!". This is so easy to do, and so pleasant to encounter. It does a lot to liven up the mish, and is often quite humorous.

5. Bonus Items. This is seriously underutilized. The Sculptress, The Seamstress, and Pepper have all given me items. They're useless as far as combat goes, but it's the thought that counts. It would be cool to have some more items that are prestigious in nature, or maybe a few of the activity facilitator pills.

6. Cool Physical Settings. Most Exiles hang out on street corners like pimps, or they hang out in clubs like, well, like pimps. Thalia's pad is way memorable; few others are. Much more could be done on this score.

7. Witty Repartee from Incidental Characters. These are so great because they are so unexpected! When an artist (wearing a chef's hat) tells me that "Of course it looks like an ordinary room! That's why it's art!" or a chef tells me, "I seriously doubt you could appreciate what we do here. Why don't you go get some greasy fast food or something?", or an elite guard whispers to another "Ixnay on the ohay!", I laugh. I love these; they show creativity and wit. Who could ask for more? When I met Persephone, and she told me how talented and attractive I was, I wanted to run the mish over and over. These small interactions, so easily scripted, add immense value to a mish.

Fortunately, most of these sources of excellence are not expensive. There’s no reason not to be able to feature things like this in as many exiles as possible. Here are some concrete suggestions:

1. Work hard to think of other types of missions. The few variations we have are great. Try more.

2. More wit from incidentals: props, clothing, appearance, gestures/moods, and comments.

3. More prestige items. Any item, by being non-decompileable, becomes valuable without being imbalancing. They could be even transferable without unbalancing anything. Such as: Succubus dresses, colored open-toed shoes, Black Lotus Blouses, Jaynes dusters in other colors, other colors in men's hats, etc. To achieve this, existing items are trivially tweaked, so not a lot of dev time would be needed.

4. Maybe some email from one of the Exiles or an incidental character after a mish.

5. Many characters from the films could be re-introduced. The maitre d' from ReLoaded could appear as someone who must be mollified before entrance to Club Hell is assured. The Twins could reappear. Even a couple of Agents could appear.

6. So little goes such a long way. One encounter with Persephone just enlivened the entire Bartender mission suite. These are easy to script and very high return on investment.

7. More variety in physical settings. Some Exiles might prefer parks, the way the Archaeologist does. Having some in dungeons (as in the PBs) is great. Some might have their own offices or board rooms.

8. All Exiles seem to top out at five missions. It might not be too taxing to go back and add some more missions to existing Exiles. The characters are set, as are the styles. The only difficulty would be narrative invention, and the actual coding.

Does anyone else have thoughts on these lines?

This review may be found at manifoldmischief.blogspot.com, along with other reviews and writings relevant to MxO.