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TMC Player Reviews: Arx, After the Reckoning

Review Submitted By: Bobobo
Author Status: Player
Started on Arx, After the Reckoning: Start of 2017
Submission Date: Aug 22, 2018
TMC Listing: Arx, After the Reckoning

The following review is the opinion of the review's author [Bobobo] and in no way represents the opinions of this website or its staff.

So what is there to say about Arx? Well to start they get a lot right
and they miss the mark on a fair number of things. For the good the
systems they've implemented, the coding is solid and it is regularly
being updated to include fun new features that always seem to include
at least one cool new feature. The player base is phenomenal and
despite having the same occasional bad egg that is endemic to mu*s
period, the rest of the playerbase is overwhelmingly warm and
supportive eager to draw you in and help you get settled. The rosters
that they wrote up (yes this is a roster game love it or hate it) are
generally stellar and feel like they were natural tie ins for when the
game first started up. The setting despite the flaws (which I most
assuredly will touch on later) has great promise and a lot could come
from it. Not to mention the investigation and action system are pretty
cool (even with your actions more often then not resulting in a booby
prize rather then what you'd been aiming for initially. The ooc
intent and tldr fields seem to be ignored if you don't write up
things just right.)

The Meh: Okay lets start out with those roster characters, they did
feel absolutely amazing there in the beginning of the game, but now
they feel a little out of date, but the story runners seem unwilling
to let the world evolve naturally so even if run into the ground
completely they keep a level of undue prominence when it comes to the
nobility. The next meh is once more on the roster system, no one is
ever vetted for anything. We've seen multiple High Lords (one of the
highest org leader positions) given to players completely new to the
game which generally is throwing them in way over their heads. Skills
are done on a white wolf esque system with 5 dots in a skill being the
capping point for 99% of the players. However with the easy
availability of exp, everyone is sitting at 5's in all their core
stats for their concept from peasant to high lord. Thus everything is
scaled to every character being at a level described as 'best in a
generation' meaning if you plan to not be exceptional you are going
to be fucked over because all dice checks in the story, prp's and
general contests are scaled to these monsters rather then the average
person. Not necessarily a bad thing, just a thing.

The Bad:Okay so the bad, every game has its bad and Arx is no
exception. First and the most prominent thing, goddamn this story.
It's not beyond saving but a couple years into it and they've hit a
DBZ spiral of ever increasingly powerful bad guys. Not threats from
within the compact, nope, they are all existential civilization/world
ending threats. Which when you've seen two world ending magical big
bads, can you really find it in yourself to approximate terror at the
third and fourth? It's had a level of exhaustion not dissimilar to
Warhammer 40k, where yes every thing you face is unknowably bad and
ready to end everything. The next is a bit of a minor thing, but still
it rubs me the wrong way. The world is most assuredly on rails and
there is no getting off this train, ever. The part that bugs me here
isn't that its a thing, but the fact that the admins aggressively
denounce that (even having banned a player who suggested it). There is
definitely a favorite game going on, and it doesn't take long to see
who the favorites are as they are rewarded with all the shiniest toys
and roles (which again is denied, but the actions are speaking louder
then words). Which all in all if what you're doing and what they're
doing are on two separate paths, it doesn't matter but if they cross
over into your lane, be prepared to be thrown into the back seat. Lore
is changed at a whim and when it is pointed out anyone who disagrees
with that is told that they are wrong, and that it has always been
like that and they were just engaging in bad rp, despite ample
evidence of the imms having gone with the old lore in the first place.

Overall its a pretty fun place, you stick to your small corner you
ignore the world about you and toss aside any notions of autonomy or
being able to make a difference that wasn't pre-scripted and you'll
have a blast. Run counter to one of the roster characters or favorites
and you're in for a bad time. I'd give the game an overall 6/10, the
story about 3/10, setting an 8/10, the pbase a 7/10 and the imms
themselves a 4/10. Give a shot, you could have a blast here. I know
for all the negatives I've listed I don't plan on quitting any time

Submit Comments About this Review

Comment Submitted By: Apostate
Author Status: Staff member
Started on Arx, After the Reckoning: 2015
Submission Date: Sep 5, 2018

(The following review comment is the opinion of the comment's author [Apostate] and in no way represents the opinions of this website or its staff).

I really appreciate anyone giving an honest opinion of the game, good
or bad, since I think it's always helpful. Even if I think something
isn't accurate, knowing someone felt that way still allows me to see
things that could be done better, or are not as clear as I'd like to
make them. I'm definitely not perfect, and there's always things I
can improve on, so I owe anyone thanks that takes the time to write up
about any negative or positive experiences.

We definitely have problems with scale. When I made Arx, I intended
it to be a game for a couple dozen people that might enjoy playing in
a very story driven, tightly focused narrative, more of an online
tabletop writ large in a persistent world rather than a MMO writ
small. Instead of a couple dozen players, there's been 916 unique
players that have tried the game at some point since it opened. Now
the game is designed around each of those people being able to have a
story around the development of their character and work it into a
cohesive, ongoing plot for the game which has a few dozen strands.
That is pretty challenging, and presents some problems that I think
don't come up too much in other MUs.

Like the main problem is from the original design of 1/30th of the
game size, I intended to be very hands on with each player and be able
to make sure they were having fun and were finding satisfying
roleplay. And I can't really do that. We have a small staff because I
insist on it being only people whose primary passion is for GMing, and
they would never get personally invested in any kind of player
conflict that could bias their GMing, and they are willing to forgo
any kind of personal participation in the story as a player if
necessary to keep it focused on players. The problem here is that
results in a very tiny pool (since the overwhelming majority of people
that want to become staff want to still keep their own PCs where they
can shine in stories), and with so few people to entertain a huge
player base, we're forced in a very reactive role, when really we'd
want to be proactive in making stories for people.

Like when the reviewer mentions favoritism, the truth is I just
don't know or talk to almost any of the players at all. Like he talks
about 'actions' and 'investigations', both of which are
essentially coded heads up to the GMs of, 'Hey I want to try to do
this thing offscreen with my character' or 'I want to try to find
out more about this topic'. The latter can match with already
existing lore that I've written, but still an overwhelming majority
of the 'I want to find out more about X' results in us writing
something new about X, and all actions are still written by the same
people driving the story. The advantage of this is we can keep things
relatively coherent and focused on tying everything together, which is
partly why the game is so popular, because people can really feel a
part of the big overwhelming whole. The downside is with so few
staffers, we have to gate these heavily by time (say a couple 'I want
GMing' things a month), and if people are waiting that long on
something, if they don't get just what they want, they are going to
be understandably very frustrated. That's where I think the
favoritism stuff comes from, since if player A who I don't know tries
one thing once in 3 months and it doesn't go how they hope, and
player B is unbelievably active and organizes 10 different people to
try 10 different things, and 6 result in successes, then player A is
going to be upset, even if I have really no idea who player A and B
are at all and have no personal investment whatsoever in what they are
trying to do. Being forced into a reactive role tilts things in favor
of the most active players of the player base, as they try the most
things, and then see the most visible results from trying things. But
it's hard for me to notice that perception, since there's been about
2700 actions written and 1430 investigations, and each of those could
have dozens of players involved.

And that kind of plays into why I think some players get a perception
of railroading, which I find disappointing. Part of me is incredulous
about it, because I flat out don't know how the big stories will
resolve and I'm the one writing them. Like for season 1, I thought of
maybe 30 different ways the major story arc for the first year and a
half of the game could go based on player actions and decisions, and I
wasn't even close. I thought the king would die (he didn't, so I
opened him up and let a PC play him after vetting the dozen or so
applications for him for a month). I thought there would be a major
war between the PCs and an antagonist group (it didn't happen, they
became allies). I thought a Big Bad type antagonist would be a minor
thing lurking on the edges for a couple years (it didn't, the PCs
attacked it and its minions directly, provoking a large scale
invasion). Similarly, I am just not personally invested in the
direction things go, but when players try to shape the narrative, I
try to think hard about what makes the most sense in the context of
the game, how likely things are to succeed, the abilities of the
characters involved, and so on. The tricky thing here is in order to
have an effective narrative, I want to have some things be obscured,
since running a game about finding forgotten lore just isn't as
entertaining to people if all of that forgotten lore is visible and
transparent to everyone from the get go. It'd be like watching a
murder mystery and already knowing the entire plot and ending. Sure,
some people would enjoy it, but not as many. But obscuring things
opens the door to people having absolutely no idea who is investing
how much effort into what, and of course people are going to feel
upset if things don't go there way. Like that figure of around 2700
'I want GMing' actions. Each of those could have any number of
players helping out on the action. So for some big crisis we might
have literally 200 players going, 'We want to try to make X happen'
and one dude going, 'I am going to make a halfhearted attempt at Y
happening', and then X happens, and the one dude all about Y goes,
'whelp, guess staff always wanted X, it was railroaded'. No man, I
don't care which happened, but there's no possible way to justify Y
happening when the odds are 200 to 1 and it makes more sense. For the
overall plot of the game, I just outline a potential situation in the
broadest possible terms, and then drop it on the heads of 500 active
players, each wanting to do their own thing in response to it. I mean
maybe some people think that's railroading, but it's probably more
like one guy wandering into traffic and expecting every car to swerve
and miss them. The one dude we banned was because he drunkenly
declared he'd do his level best to ruin the fun of everyone he came
into contact with, and hated everyone and everything so it seemed
pretty dumb to be like, 'yeah sure keep playing and try to make
everyone miserable.'

Anyways. I think it's very challenging to help with those
perceptions without undermining some of the big appeals that makes the
player base so invested and generally happy and pleasant, that a
majority of people constantly interacting with GMs in those small ways
(actions, investigations, on screen GMing) enjoy those, and get things
to RP about with other people and drive story. But while we do that,
and it's not visible to avoid spoiling the story, effort is obscured
and to a lot of players it can look like things come easily or out of
left field. I'm not really sure how to fix that aside from adding
more staff, but I don't want to do that unless I can be sure the
staff won't ever be abusive in any way.