MEETING KEITH "SANNIO" QUINN - ONLINE COMMUNITY COORDINATOR

Team Comment - Sannio on Event Management - February 1, 2002
Creating an Event: Management

This article is the third of four Team Comments wherein I discuss suggestions on player-event creation. Development and Preparation were the first two, respectively, and the next will be Aftermath.

Each event will be a unique situation, and there can be numerous variations even in those that are similar, but here are a few thoughts about some circumstances that may be common to a great many of them.

So, let’s start by presuming your staff is all in place-they’re gating & leading people to the event location, and greeting those who show up on their own. Your helpers are clear on the rules, know how the event is going to proceed, and have all the resources they need. It’s time to start the show.

Screenshots: Don’t forget, right from the start, you or one of your helpers could be taking screenshots of the people beforehand, the crowds during, and, of course, of the big finale.

Not only will it be nice for your personal scrapbook, but one or two of these images will help sweeten the look of your post-event news item. Some good pictures would be the moment a participant has won a contest, or any particularly dramatic moment that might have occurred.

Behind-the-scenes connections: You and your helpers may need a level of communication beyond normal in-game talking or party chatting. Consider having an IRC or ICQ chat up and running before the event begins, and possibly track each other’s whereabouts with UOAM.

Low turnout: Don’t worry if only a few people show up to your event. There’s nothing wrong with playing out a small plot for four people, or having a tournament for a handful of combatants. Sometimes, this can work in your favor, as low turnouts can often allow you to focus more on the event and your small group, as opposed to crowd control and making sure several dozen (or several hundred!) people are happy. Having 10 people happy to show up to all your events is better than having 30 people who never care to return.

Pre-event mingling: You or your helpers could start by meandering through the crowd just prior to the event, setting the tone on a one-on-one level with your growing audience. If your event is to be reoccurring, consider giving out free runes to your location to those who showed up early. Have some food available, especially if the event may involve combat and health level is of importance.

Make pre-event announcements: Give people around 5 minutes or so to show up late and get settled, and then ask for everyone’s attention. This is your opportunity to introduce yourself and your event team, briefly describe what’s about to happen, and-perhaps most importantly-to go over the rules and goals of the event.

You can also take the opportunity to introduce your helpers. If you have a small handful, you could introduce them by name. If they will be wearing special clothing, try to describe what they will look like. If they are all part of a guild, let he audience know which guild and abbreviation.

If you’re offering free food, repairs, resurrections, or any other collateral service, make sure to mention that as well.

Example #1: If you’re introducing a role-played quest, you might begin by stumbling into town, describe (in-character) only the most crucial background elements, and then be very obvious as to what would make the quest a "success" or "failure" before leading the adventurers into danger.

    "I called for help and so many of you brave heroes have come! I am Fitzhue the merchant, and my daughter, Eloise, has been kidnapped by my rival, Naedion! I can offer gold to anyone who rescues Eloise! Be careful: Naedion’s minions wear yellow wizard hats and yellow cloaks, and will be trying to kill us before we rescue Eloise!"
Example #2: Perhaps you’re refereeing a PvP Tournament, in which case you’ll most likely take down all the names of the characters registering for the fight, and then step into the "ring" where you can announce the rules to both fighters and audience alike.

    "Ladieees and Gentlemen! We have 15 fighters signed up tonight, so we will have 3 fights, and each fight will have 5 fighters. All 3 fights will be to the death! The 3 winners will fight each other in a fourth winner-take-all melee with a grand prize of 100,000 gold! The fights are ‘anything goes,’ including magic armor, poisoned weapons, and *looting* at the end. No one is allowed to assist the fighters in any way during the fights, and we have someone from [Res] standing by to resurrect the dead."
Example #3: If you’re having some kind of ceremony or community meeting, especially involving a large crowd, it may be beneficial to also set some ground rules for who can talk and when.
    "Thank you everyone for coming to our town meeting. If you have a question during the meeting, please emote *question*, *!*, *raises hand* or something of that nature. We ask everyone to emote unless called upon because the communication crystals broadcast the speech but don’t ‘hear’ emotes. Each speaker will have 2 minutes to speak. Please understand that anyone who disrupts the meeting, such as by fighting, stealing, or spamming, will be removed from the building (for tonight only). Thank you again for coming, and let’s begin…."
Proceeding with the event: Begin the event while the details of the initial announcement are still fresh in everyone’s minds. If you delay too long, your audience & participants may disperse or become sidetracked with making their own entertainment.

Keep things simple, organized, and moving. Long pauses can lead to distraction. Excessively complicated rules or plot twists can leave participants confused and frustrated.

Where is the event going? Some results are "event-driven," and the event will play out according to the occurrences of specific circumstances that have been planned by the creator of the event. Wedding ceremonies, theatrical plays, and some quests are created this way.

Some results are "player-driven," which means the results were not pre-determined by the creator of the event. Tournaments, contests, and some quests are created in this way.

You won’t be able to plan all the directions in which an event can turn, but try to be aware of possible variations, and try also to maintain some flexibility when the event takes a turn you didn’t expect. Keep track of the things around which you had to adapt; they may even help to make your event more full and enjoyable by the end.

Dealing with trouble: The pace and style of each event will vary and ultimately be up to you, your helpers, your audience… and the often-inevitable troublemakers.

No matter how confident you might be that those who show up have seen the announcement, Web site, or notes, make sure to summarize the event at the start of it, and reassert the rules as necessary (throughout the event). This can avert problems of miscommunication, such as someone showing up late to a tournament with a "no interference" rule, but begins healing a contestant. No ill-will may have been meant, and it may be easily averted with periodic announcements of the rules.

Some people will come to your event with the sole purpose of stalling or stopping it. They’ll spam, kill mounts that remain outside, steal your pivotal quest item, fight your helpers, steal from your audience, and do whatever they can to make everyone miserable. You will not be able to account for all the ways your event can be ground to a halt, but here’s some quick suggestions that will hopefully keep any damage to a minimum.

  • If the event centers around one particular item, especially if it is to some degree rare, try to have more than one of that item available. It’s not only a good way to thwart a problematic thief, but it’s also a potential lifesaver if the item-bearer is unable to log into or start in the game for whatever reason.
  • Try to not have the event outside of a protected area. If you have a house, you have the opportunity to lock the house or rooms within the house, or even call out "I ban thee" against any miscreants who try to enter & ruin your activities. If your event can occur in a guard zone, you have the special protection of the guards in case any fighting breaks out.
  • Hire guards to patrol areas outside a guard zone. These could be player guards (specializing in melee, magic, taming, etc.), or even NPC mercenaries. (On a personal note, some of the best guards I’ve ever known were actually highly skilled in Stealing, and thus able to disarm troublemakers of their precious reagents & weapons even in the middle of battle.)
  • If your only way out will be to "insta-log" within your house, do not fight back. At the moment you fight, you activate a timer that will keep you from insta-logging, even if someone else started the fight.
  • If your event’s in a house and area-effect spells are being cast against your participants, but your audience doesn’t have the capability of insta-logging, ask everyone to stand in the center of whatever room they are in. Area-effect spells can’t reach in far enough to attack someone who is standing in the center of a room in a player’s house.
Segmenting the event: Some events may involve a lot of dialogue or attention to a large number of individuals and go on for a long time. It’s often a good idea to give people a chance to take a break-to grab a drink or snack, use the restroom, or even fill in their late-coming buddy on what’s already gone on.

It might be a good idea to factor in some periodic, short pauses into your schedule-questors may need to wait 5 minutes while a secret potion is brewed, duelists may be asked to take 2 minutes to prepare for the next fighting match, and other events may simply take a break "on the half-hour mark".

Many people aren’t able or inclined to spend 3 hours participating in a single event. If your event needs to be that long, consider breaking it up into 2 or 3 segments, or even2 or 3 nights.

Try to somehow clearly announce the end of the event, or the end of one phase of the event, whenever possible.

Closing speech: Thank everyone at the end of the event. Besides being polite, many events often need obvious closure to their proceedings, and a short notation when the event’s over often fits that bill.

If there’s to be a Web page with a write-up, screenshots, tournament results, etc., mention that URL.

Promote your "next time"-if there will be a follow-up event, or if the event will be re-occurring, announce the details (or URL) of what people will need to know for next time.


Next time: the curtain’s closed and the crowd’s thinned, but some event-goers liked the people & activities so much that they decided to hang around afterwards. Take the opportunity to meet & greet in your event’s "Aftermath" phase.

==========
Keith "Sannio" Quinn
Online Community Coordinator
Ultima Online
Origin Systems

Team Comment - Thoughts on Event Preparation from Sannio - October 8, 2001
Creating an Event: Preparation

My previous Team Comment began a four-part commentary, discussing ideas that players might find helpful as they create in-game events. In this second part of the series, I’ll go over some ideas for supporting the “Preparation” phase of an event’s development.

I’m going to presume you already know what type of event you’re creating (contest, tournament, ceremony, or quest, etc.), that one or more people have volunteered to help (or have been drafted ;]), that your team has worked out when & where the event’s going to happen, and that some general rules for participants have been discussed.

Who does what? Even if you just have one other person helping you, it’s important to decide which of you will be assigned any related task before, during, or after the event.

Consider the strengths of your helpers: someone who types fast & accurately may be a main quest character, someone who writes well may create your rules or announcements, and someone who is very skilled at “PvP” combat might do well as your tournament referee.

Consider also the characters that will be used: a house-owner might work well as the “bouncer” of a roof-ceremony, a mage or healer would be important toward resurrecting characters during “fight nights,” and a player who doesn’t mind getting murder counts may be useful as a quest adversary.
  • Master of ceremonies: Who will be announcing the rules of your contest or the winner of a tournament? Who will be the minister in your wedding ceremony?
  • Quest characters: Who will be the curious figure who draws people into a mystery? Does your quest need a “bad guy”?
  • Documenter: Your “staff” may share equal responsibility of taking screenshots, but who will write the announcements? Who will note the names of the survivors of your dungeon crawl on your Web site, or announce the victors of the latest bagball tournament?
  • Writer: Someone may need to design contest rules, adapt a script, write wedding ceremony vows, or plan out quest elements to be plotted out in advance. Make sure to pass them along to the related event staff members.
Make sure there are no questions about which person has which responsibility, including that most important question: who will people go to if there are questions or problems?

Who makes the call? However you distribute responsibilities, make sure that everyone knows who will be “making the call” in the face of any emergency. This person may have to make some important decisions in some sticky situations, such as: if you only accounted for one winner, but two characters “come in first,” this person will have to decide who gets the one prize and why. If a scavenger hunt asked for “bolts,” and one team brought in crossbow bolts and another collected bolts of cloth, the “person in charge” needs to decide what’s valid, typically on the spot.

Make sure that your staff, participants, and audience will know this person/character and their “in charge” role before, during, and after the event. You might even consider saying it straight out during an opening speech at the beginning of the event.

Prepare yourself outside and inside the game:
  • Contact between event staff: Will you and your helpers maintain a behind-the-scenes chat? Make sure everyone has compatible chat software, and knows when and how to use it.
  • Screenshots: If you’re going to be taking screenshots of the event, do you have the proper software?
  • Rehearse: If you’re performing a play, wedding ceremony, or timing-critical quest scene, consider practicing some of the most important lines in a dress rehearsal.
  • Pasting text into Ultima Online: Did you know you could set up a “Paste” macro in UO? Simply go into the macros section of your UO Options menu, create a new macro, and set it as “Paste.” I’ve conveniently set the keys “Control+V” to paste text into the game for me.
  • Gather Resources: communication crystals, food, rewards, barkeeps
  • Mark Runestones: Has anyone marked runes to any of the event-related locations? Handing out free marked runes during an event is a great way to get people to return. Some people even sell them on their vendors throughout the week for this purpose.
  • Helper’s supplies: Consider giving your helpers a bag of event supplies (pre-Marked runes, reagents, books with contest rules to be handed out).
If there is one particular item that is key to the progress or success of the event, make sure you have more than one of them, with each held by separate people. If this item is stolen, lost, or the holding player/character can’t log into the game, your event won’t end up being a bust.

Promote your event: Someone should write up a short announcement for your event, and try to include the following bits of information:
  • The name of the event
  • The Web site or message board URL for the event
  • The name & details of who to contact (e-mail address, ICQ, IRC nick, AIM nick, etc.)
  • Time and date of the event (ex. 7:00pm PST, Friday, August 28th, 2001)
  • The location (including shard, facet, location, directions on how to get there “by foot,” and even the Web address of a good map)
  • Any special rules
  • Any special gifts or considerations (ex. “Prizes will be awarded to the winners,” “Gates will be provided from Britain’s ‘Chamber of Virtue’ to the event location beginning 15 minutes prior to the event starting time” or “Please make sure to leave precious valuables at home, as we’ll be entering a dangerous area.”)
Once you start announcing your event, make sure to actively spread the word. Post your article on the front page of your own web site. Send your news article to fan news sites, our Event Calendar, and Ultima Online e-mail lists. Announce your event on message boards, including ours. Contact people with e-mail, IRC, ICQ, AIM, and whatever resources you feel appropriate. And let’s not forget good, old-fashioned legwork: walk around town and let people know about your event directly from you.

Plan to announce your event several days before it occurs—perhaps even more than once, such as one full week before, two days before, and 12 hours before, for a large, one-time-only event. Smaller or weekly events may do well with only one announcement a day or two beforehand.

Barkeeps: Players now have the barkeep to assist them in their events. Players can “program” their barkeeps with up to four “paragraphs” of text, one which will be called out whenever someone drops any amount of gold on it, and the remaining three when anyone says the related keyword(s) nearby. They’ll also announce any recent official Scenario news if someone says “news” to them.

Every barkeep will respond to the word “news,” and to a tip; these can work in your favor. You can include some event-based facts in barkeep phrases, as well as hint to players about some of the barkeep’s other keywords. For example:

Player: “news”

Barkeep: [scenario message, and…] “Well, there’s also the TOURNAMENT this Sunday, the 4th at 7pm by the Eastern Sky.”

Player: (gives the barkeep a tip)

Barkeep: Thank you very much! I’ll just add this to the PRIZE for the TOURNAMENT on the 4th.

Player: “tournament”

Barkeep: “We hold a fight night every Sunday. There’s more NEWS at www.yourdomain.com”

Player: “prize”

Barkeep: “We’ll be giving away 10,000 gold to the winner of the TOURNAMENT”

In the example above, note that each phrase includes at least one keyword hint for players who may be looking to learn more about the event.

Here are some other examples:
  • “rules”: “No magery will be allowed in the CONTEST, otherwise anything goes.”
  • “event”: “You’re welcome to join our TOWN Meeting, the first Tuesday of every month.
  • “[the barkeeps name]”: “I can’t place your face, friend, but we get a lot of strangers here since the MURDER.”
  • “[the name of the building]”: “Yup, that’s where you are. You looking for the OWNER, that lazy bum?”
Books: If you think participants may have not seen any announcements, or information beyond what the barkeep provides, consider locking down a book or books in your house. Remember: players can’t write in locked down purple books, so they might be good for displaying a schedule, rules, or contact information. However, players can write in locked-down brown books, so they are great to use as guestbooks or as a place where people can post questions.

15 minutes before: Helpers should probably be available and ready at least 15 minutes before most events’ starting times. This may mean being in a related Internet chat, or their characters should be in certain in-game locations, or both. Some magery-based characters might need to begin casting magical Gates in key, well-known and high-trafficked locations, to help bring in a larger audience.

You could chat with players who show up early for your event. Don’t forget, it’s never too early to promote your next event. ;) Give out food to your guests. Start getting a headcount of participants, and consider if you need to make any last minute adjustments to the scale of your event based on how many people show up.


Next time: your event has begun and you’ve entered the heart of the event in the “Management” phase.

=========
Keith "Sannio" Quinn
Online Community Coordinator
Ultima Online
Origin Systems

Team Comment - Event Ideas from Sannio - August 24, 2001
Creating an Event: Development

Some of us have already created, or plan to try our hand at creating, events for other players in Ultima Online. This article is a checklist of sorts, collecting some information which might be as helpful for those of you who are just starting out, as those who are seasoned event creators. In fact, this is the first of a series of four articles: “Development,” “Preparation,” “Management,” and “Aftermath.”

By the way, when I mention “event,” I mean a whole variety of in-game activities, the type which require players to create, manage, and support. An event could be a contest, a tournament, a ceremony, a quest, or many other player-sponsored activities.

The idea: What kind of event do you want to have? Sometimes the hardest part of the creation process is deciding what you want to do. It’s often good to first consider your interests, your skills, the amount of resources, and the people who can help you. Here’s a list of some common event themes:
  • Adventuring & Hunts: Wilderness hunt, dungeon crawl, treasure hunt, fishing net hunt, adventuring quest
  • Large Battles: Guild war, faction battle, Hero/Evil battle
  • Fight nights, tournaments, and duels: Basic one-on-one duels, two-on-two fights, massive “last man standing” brawl, pets only, summoned creatures only, magery only, no-magic, anything goes
  • Races: Foot race, horse/mount, boat, drunken
  • Games & Contests: Board games, trivia contests, riddle contests, gambling, raffles, lotteries, auctions, scavenger hunts, skill use races (ex. chopping wood, cooking, crafting, etc.)
  • Ceremonies & social gatherings: Guild ceremony, swearing-in, grand opening, birthday party, wedding, singles night, theatrical play, storytelling, poetry night, afternoon tea
  • Education: New player introduction, skill training seminar, shrine pilgrimage.
If you’re still not sure what to do, there’s nothing wrong with asking others for ideas. Contact friends, guildmates, or even other players who have done previous events which you’ve admired, and ask for their input. Some good contact methods to use are e-mail, ICQ, IRC, or message boards.

As suggestions come in, don’t be opposed to revising your idea based on the comments of others. Your helpers may have some great suggestions to improve your event, or they might point out some concepts that may not work as you thought they might.

Determine your resources: As your event idea develops, keep in mind available resources. Make a list of everything you think you may need to have in-game at the time of the event, and make sure you have everything prepared far before the event is to happen. This list will probably change several times as you develop your event.

Gather wood, food supplies, ingots, weapons, reagents, communication crystals, and any props you might need. If there’s to be special prizes, like rare items, large amounts of gold, or special rewards, make sure to have them available at event time. Consider even setting a budget for your event.

Consider your audience: Not every event will be geared toward every player or character type. Will your event be invitation only, such as for your friends & guildmates, or will you have it open to everyone? Are murderer characters (“Reds”) allowed to participate? Will both combatants and non-combatants be able to participate? These details will be important to note in any announcements and rules statements.

Determine & document the details: Once you have your event’s concept set, write out everything you’d like to do. Write out all the rules for your contest or tournament, and try to state them as simply as possible. If you’re making a quest, make sure you have the entire plot planned out, especially the ending(s).

Try not to rely heavily on the event’s backstory in order to run your event. There may be a number of people who aren’t familiar with the event’s history, and may become frustrated at any amount of required knowledge.

Allow people to be either active participants or sideline bystanders. Some people may just want to watch, and others will not want to participate at all, so don’t try to force them. If you feel you won’t have enough active participants on your intended date, consider rescheduling the event for some later time.

Define the “victory conditions” for your event. A tournament might simply be “to the death.” A quest might need certain goals met in order to be completed.

Quests could, and perhaps should, be developed with both positive and negative results in mind, and the respective rewards or penalties which might ensue. If you’re prepared to deal a variety of tangents, these “event killers” could become your “event enhancers,” and can lead into improvements for your next event. Consider what would happen if it never occurred to anyone that your imprisoned guildmaster could be rescued. What if the players in your quest actually killed your leader? It might not be what you had in mind, but they are certainly viable possibilities.

A given event might be one night only, lasting one hour. Or, it might be a series of 4 events, each one 2 or 3 hours in length. Consider sometimes splitting up your events, with each part of the event series having a clear ending all of its own. A tournament could have nightly winners, with a final “grand champion” at the end of the series. Each “chapter” of a quest could have a “stand-alone” feel, played out as a short story all their own, which is great for players who can’t attend all the related events in that series.

You may need other people to read your notes, so try to make sure to keep them brief, readable and accessible. If possible, post them on a web site, or distribute them to your new helpers as a text (.txt) file.

What will the rules be? An informal ceremony might have simple rules: “No fighting, stealing, or harassing.” A quest might ask everyone to give fair warning before every fight (“I’ll let you keep your head for 100 gold,” or “Halt or die!”), helping to confirm one’s place in the event. A battle might restrict anyone who died to remain in deathrobes while they recovered their own loot, but did not allow them to return into the fight. A tournament in Felucca might have duelists “go grey” by targeting a mutually agreed upon player-target before starting any combat.

Whatever rules you choose, try to take exceptional care that everyone participating in your event knows them. Pointing people to a Web page where the rules are listed is a great start, but think about also handing out in-game books with those same rules, and perhaps even having an “event crier” announcing those same rules between bouts or periodically during a hunt or quest.

Choose your helpers: You may need to pick some other players to help you create your event, and it’s important to consider their schedule, personality, and their characters’ abilities.
  • Schedule: Be flexible; adjust your schedule as necessary. Some of your helpers may not be able to assist you on certain days, and this detail may be critical later on if your event becomes a regular happening. In fact, many events find success in occurring on a regular basis - daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly. It helps your audience to know that they can count on showing up at your house, for instance, every Sunday night at 8pm Central Time and be involved in some form of entertainment.
  • Personality: Your friends may be eager to help you out, and while some of them may be great “people persons,” others may have short fuses. The harsh fact is that events can be tough to develop & manage, and sometimes it might be in your best interests to suggest a certain friend might have more fun as a participant than as staff. ;)
  • Characters’ Abilities: Find out how your helpers’ characters can contribute to the event. Can someone resurrect fallen duelists? Will someone be able to Gate people to your location? Do you have a great “speaker” to be an MC at a contest? Who is tough enough to be the adversary in your quest? You’ll need actors for quests, announcers for “fight nights,” ministers for weddings, dealers for gambling events, etc., and it’s important to pick the right people for the right jobs.
Choose your location: The location(s) can be very important toward the success of your event. Details to consider here are guard zones, players’ houses, old world or “lost lands” of the Second Age, and which facet (Felucca, Trammel, or Ilshenar).

Is your location easily accessible, or will people need to Recall or Gate, use a boat, or will it require Third Dawn? Keep in mind the space you’ll need for your event. An afternoon tea party with four people might do well in a small house, but 20 people trying to duel each other in that same house will grow very frustrating, very fast.

If your house is the location of the event, it’s good to also have a vendor selling runes Marked to your front steps, and even books with your Web site’s address and some brief details about your event. It also doesn’t hurt your public image to give away some of those things as you travel.

I’ll go over some tips for the “Preparation” stage of your event in my next Team Comment, and I’ll try to keep it shorter next time. :]

Keith "Sannio" Quinn
Online Community Coordinator
Ultima Online

Team Comment - Comments from Sannio - July 26, 2001
Hi, everyone. I’m your new Online Community Coordinator, or “OCC,” and you can call me Sannio. Some of you may recall that name from my time as Seer Sannio on Chesapeake. I played for well over a year as Wixim the Mad, Lord Hughert, Korryn, Joye (Minax’ patsy in the Trinsic invasion), and even Dupre, plus a bunch of other characters and monsters and such. Before that, for a short time, I served Napa Valley for a few months as Counselor PapaMan.

Players from Baja may know me as Nobody, Brother Huberty, or Nathan Harper, among others. In some way or another, I’ve been involved with a lot of groups & communities there, such as Britannia Search & Rescue, the Freeborn Press, Avalon, Lumaria, Golden, the Golden Players, the Baja Mage Tower, the Scorpions, the Kingdom of Dawn, and even UO Stratics’ Baja section, plus a whole bunch more. (And I’m also sure that everyone who knows me from Baja also appreciates the brevity of these comments, as opposed to my usual lengthy ramblings!)

Before joining Origin Systems, I’ve done Web design, desktop publishing, illustrating, comic books, trading cards, and other creative things like that. Now that I’m Ultima Online’s OCC, I’ll be a kind of “communications middle-man” between all of the players and all the teams here at Origin working on UO. The Online Community Relations team and I will try to help keep you informed on all the latest updates & changes in the game—but don’t expect me to give away any event scenario secrets! :] I’ll also be trying to be your voice here at Origin, keeping everyone here informed in all the things that you care about or ways in which you’d like the game to advance & grow. You’ll probably see me most often posting on the UO.com message boards, and I’ll look forward to posting back and forth with everyone there.

Sannio
Online Community Coordinator
Ultima Online
Origin Systems