JC Denton

[PUBLIC] The Economics of LARP (or, Are We Willing To Pay What LARP costs?)

This morning I am preparing to go to To Be Continued..., a theatre-style LARP campaign I participate in. Recently, one of the GMs (staystrong62805) has been commenting on social media and in conversation about the sheer amount of effort preparing each session is. There are 45 player characters, each of whom need around 1,250-2,500 words of character sheet each game. In addition, forums must be managed, background must be researched and integrated, NPC's wrangled, space reserved, and so on. 3-4 times a year, I get to take advantage of all this work for about $5 to help cover snacks.

In the New England theatre LARPing community, the burden of games, creative, logistical, and financial, lies squarely on the GM. None of the major conventions (Intercon, Festival, SLAW, or *Bubble) finance the games that run there; if a GM bids a game, they are expected to develop, build, deploy, run, strike, and evaluate their games all on their own time and budget. The reward for all this investment of time, money, and energy is watching players play your game (when you have time to observe.)

The sheer amount of work got me thinking about the real costs of running a game like TBC. Reportedly, for at least several weeks before each session, staystrong62805 is spending at least 1 Full-Time Equivalent each week on prep. Supposing that she alone was carrying the weight of this entire time's development, and was working full-time between sessions to get each one ready, how much is the real cost of the game?

People consistently undervalue their time when putting together business proposals, so in keeping with that tradition, I'll start my estimate off at Massachusetts' Minimum Wage ($8.00/hour.) For a 2,000 hour work year, that comes to $16,000. Splitting that across four sessions a year, that's about $4,000/session. The game I'm in runs about 45 players, which comes out to about $88.89 per player per session. That doesn't even start to count the GM's, NPC's, and other staff present at each session.

So the cost of having a person paid minimum wage to full-time write and run a LARP campaign for 45 players is about $356/player/year. Whether or not you consider minimum wage to be a living wage in the Boston area is beyond the scope of this essay.

I don't know of anybody for whom LARP writing is their livelihood, but I can see in the dim distance of the future a time where campaign LARPs may start employing full-time staff. I've had numerous conversations with many people in both the theatre and boffer LARPing style about the future of LARPing, what players are willing to pay for a game, what GMs are willing to absorb to see their own games run, and if those restrictions are limiting LARP as an art form in New England. I don't think LARP, especially theatre LARP, should be a proverbial Rich Man's Game, but I don't think the current distribution of cost in our community is fair at all, and I think we need to start establishing a culture of spreading at least the financial load of these games out over our player bases, and acknowledging that the time that our writers and GMs put in is worth more than just our hearty thanks at game wrap.

Cultural changes don't happen overnight, but I believe for our community to continue to develop and thrive, we have to start reimbursing our staff for their efforts. I know it isn't practical for a lot of people who LARP these days to pay a hundred dollars a game, and it is important that the theatre LARPing community maintain its low barrier to entry. That said, I think it is also important for those of us who can afford to pay what a game is worth to start doing so -- to voluntarily start paying the costs of our characters, because until a culture of distributed costs is created, I fear we are in danger of plateauing as an art form.

So when I get to gamespace today, and the staff asks me for my $5 admission, I'm going to hand them $100 and be confident that I'm still getting a deal on my afternoon's entertainment.
JC Denton

[PUBLIC] Creative Project 2013

As always after JoCo Cruise Crazy, I am inspired to do something major and creative. A review of my personal projects spreadsheet shows I have enough personal projects that I need a spreadsheet to track them, and my follow-through rate is... lacking. So once more, I'm going to try crowdsourcing my priorities, because that worked quite well last time I did it in Winter of 2010, and it resulted in the first run of Cold Flash.

Below is a survey of all the major projects I've started I have an interest in completing (at least, all the ones I can remember...) If you have an interest, please peruse through and give each one a rating. I'll keep the survey open until Sunday, 24 February, and at the end of that time, I'll close voting and soon after let you know what I've decided to prioritize for the rest of the year.

Vote here!
JC Denton

New Machine!

I just confirmed the order for RUBY's replacement. The new machine (as yet unnamed) will finally displace EMERALD as the most powerful laptop, and in fact most powerful machine period, that I've ever owned. The core is an Intel i7-3632QM processor, most notable in that it will finally give me the hardware virtualization support I've been dying for since I got RUBY. The four hyperthreaded cores will also give me a solid test platform for some of the parallel code I develop for work.

This machine also represents my first excursion into SSD technology on a laptop, starting with a 512GB drive. I'm told they make a shocking difference in terms of image activation time, so I'm looking forward to seeing it go.

For memory I'm pulling 16GB of DDR3 1600Mhz RAM, which I am told may well be my bottleneck on many applications, which I admit tickles me a bit. This will also be my first 16GB personal machine, so I'm excited to have that much main memory to play with. Between that and the SSD, it opens up all kinds of new options for operating on large datasets in reasonable (read: overnight) amounts of time.

The new sound card is nothing to write home about, but the graphics card is an NVIDIA GeForce 640M, with 2GB of GDDR5, so I suspect this will also be able to hold its own if I decide to carry the latest video games into the field with me, or do any heavy-duty XNA or Unity development.

Finally, there are two more items I'm varying degrees of excited about. This will be my first machine with a Blu-ray reader, and my first machine with an anodized alumninum case, something I've been wanting since case destruction is generally what kills my laptops.

Overall, I'm very excited to be getting the new kit, and I hope it lasts me another three years.
JC Denton

[PUBLIC] New Lexicon

A number of circumstances have come together to inspire me to once again run a Lexicon game. For those unfamiliar, Lexicon is a wiki-based creative writing game in which the various players play the role of scholars writing a series of papers, or an encyclopedia, on a specific text, topic, or theme set out at the beginning of the game. The exact details of implementation vary (and I'll clarify the specific rules before launch), but the general idea is for each player to write an article starting with a specific letter, and then create a certain number of references within that article, also starting with assigned letters. On subsequent turns, players fill in the referenced but unwritten entries, and create new unreferenced entries, and so on, until each player has created twenty-six articles, each of which is interwoven with the rest of the articles.

The output of the game is a large, hopefully coherent, world or setting fleshed out by the players as a whole.

I'm reviewing various rules and variations to decide on a specific ruleset, but if you have interest in participating in this game, please let me know. I expect the game to run as 26 1-week turns, which each player "owing" one 250-2000 word article per week. I'm actively seeking a ruleset that handles drops elegantly (based on previous experience running this and other weekturn games), but I'd appreciate players to actually stick with game from start to end so I don't need to find replacements mid-game.

My previous run of Lexicon (2006) is available at The Nullosk Eventuality.
JC Denton

[PUBLIC] The Business of War

I've been working on a new boardgame concept, but while I was working on it, I realized that it might build out into a weekend-long LARP pretty easily (for very large values of "easily".) Stealing a few ideas from Labor Wars, Across a Sea of Stars, and their ilk, I think I could probably write it in 60-90 days. My question is, is there interest in a weekender running in Q4 2012, or has that ship long since sailed?
JC Denton

[PUBLIC] Done With That

Today the last regular post to Ten Years on Terra went up, the weekdaily blog I've been keeping of the A Time of War (MechWarrior) tabletop I've been running for the last year. Writing that has been a major contributing factor to the lack of posts on this LJ -- most of my content creation effort has been going there, trying very hard to keep up with the once-a-weekday schedule I was holding myself to. The first three weeks were definitely the hardest, but anytime the frontlog dropped below three entries or so was stressful.

On the other hand, maintaining the log was a tremendous boon to my as a gamemaster, and made sure that I spent at least a few hours a week thinking about the game, even if I wasn't running that particular week. I think I may make this a regular feature of my GMing style -- perhaps not publicly (this one was partially done as a service to the rest of the BattleTech community) but the public exposure definitely motivated me to keep writing.

I could make comments on the game itself, but I've already done so (quite exhaustively) there.
JC Denton

[PUBLIC] 7-Topic Meme

In an effort to get more content here, I asked darkoni42 to provide me with seven topics to talk about. I believe the rules of this meme obligate me to pay these topics forward on request, but I expect everyone who reads this and is likely to participate has already gotten a goodly set of topics for themselves.

So, without further ado, Collapse )
JC Denton

[PUBLIC] Be Advised Intercon Tower, We Are Coming In Hot

Oh, hello, LiveJournal. Haven't talked to you in a while.

This week finds me in Alexandria, VA, having just returned from JoCo Cruise Crazy II. The new cruise felt very different from the first one, but I still had a lot of fun, and went snorkeling for the first time ever. The cruise was marked by an eagerness among everybody to make the most of the time we had, so it wasn't very relaxing, but I met a lot of new and interesting people and reacquainted with some friends from last year. I'll likely go on the next one, too.

We flew back late Sunday, landing at BOS shortly before 0000. I had my flight to DCA at 1100, 102 emails from work, 62 of which were marked urgent. I still haven't slapped a lid on everything yet, but I've been running flat-out pretty much since we landed, and two days later I'm taking some time to collect myself.

Intercon is barreling down on me like an on-rushing freight train. It has long been my policy only to sign up for the Saturday afternoon and evening timeslots at weekend LARP conventions, because I'm never sure if I'll be flying Friday or Saturday. This time it paid off -- I'll be traveling both days. Of course, costuming will be almost impossible. Fortunately, I think I slap together a costume for Linfarm Run from what I have at home, but Prince Comes of Age may suffer. I'll miss Dead Dog, too -- Indianapolis waits for no man.

Projections indicate I'll have some time to myself at home sometime around the 12th of March, although I have several projects in the tube that might want that space. Here's hoping I get some downtime before TechEd.
JC Denton

[PUBLIC] AIsteroids

This got generated as something of a byproduct of my research into a number of different things, but I thought I'd share it. I built a simple Asteroids network game. The architecture is such that the server calculates the entire game, and sends each client a report on what they can see. The client then sends back a very specific data structure that details what actions the ship takes. The server continues calculating and sending reports, and the ship continues sending orders. Any number of ships can be connected at the same time, and the game tries to spawn then close to each other.

The heart of this game is the C# Project that comes with it. The project contains a simple client with two procedures in the frmMain form (CreateShip and Think) that can be modified to build a new AI for the ship. The idea here is that multiple people develop different Ship AI's, and then connect them to a server to see which can accomplish a goal faster (although at the moment the only reasonable goal seems to be to shoot the other ship.) If there's interest in this kind of thing I'll spend some time to expand on it, if not, I'll probably let it go.

Anybody who is interested can find the starter kit (the C# project for the client and two different server applications) at this location. If you don't already have a C# (or other .NET) development environment, I suggest Visual Studio C# Express 2010.
JC Denton

[PUBLIC] Into Cold Storage

Because of a few changes around here, the amount of shelving I have has dropped. As a result, I had to find about five feet of books to take off the shelves and move into storage. I thought I'd share the list of books that I decided I probably wasn't going to reference in the next year or so.

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I'm not sure some of those books will ever see service again, but I am loathe to hurt or dispose of books, no matter how old.
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