A major part of our vision for Exploit: Zero Day involves lively discussion and roleplaying among players. When registering for the game, you pick a hacker handle and automatically have a forum account created for you — the forums are just another part of the game.
In the spring, when our first relatively large batches of folks got access, we saw some awesome roleplaying and player-created story and puzzles. That's since trickled off, and the forums have more site updates and bug reports than anything else.
Why the desire for forum content? There are a couple of reasons.
The first reason is practical. As two people working part-time, and as two people who also want to work on other projects someday, we simply can't be the sole producers of all intriguing plot that people engage with over the next several years.
Our plan for EZD is to release paid "seasons" of content. We'll do a test run with a small prelude, then release a sizable first season. Whether we'll do a second season (and how soon) will depend on the financial success of the prelude and first season.
As a result, there'll be a lag between the finale of our free content and the prelude, and between the prelude and first season. Not only does it take time to build out the puzzles and write the plot, but usually some new game features and samsara-digital.com content/features are needed to tell the story. We want the game to thrive between and beyond this content.
The second reason for wanting forum content is more artistic. Our vision for this game is to try creating something beyond the solo experience of the original Exploit. We want people to talk to each other (kindly!), to ask each other for help, and to challenge each other. We've written before about our intent to guide the creation of an intentional community within the game.
In keeping with the cyberpunk theme of the game, we also want to evoke the feelings of camaraderie and social rebellion present in works like Hackers, Leverage, or Hustle. We're trying to craft a world that inspires folks to play in it, to make their own collaborative "fanfiction" on the forums.
How Does This Come About?
These things don't just happen, though, especially when you have fewer than 200 players in a closed Alpha. We have to give examples, show how it can be done, and be consistent about it. Lots of people have no experience with things like tabletop roleplaying game, live-action roleplaying, or theater, which are where we draw inspiration.
We haven't really done that yet, but we're taking our first steps in that direction. We have a long list of story ideas, many of which are too small to turn into multi-job plots. We could stretch them... or we could use some of them on the forums to kick off plot via NPCs.
Our first attempt at drawing out player response is a challenge to create systems with size and node constraints. That's not exactly strong roleplaying, but it encourages folks who haven't built systems yet to dive in with something small, and for our more experienced players to aim for difficulty, beauty, or both.
We aren't sure what our internal schedule for these will be; it might be every two or three weeks, depending on the quantity and quality of responses we get, and if we see more player-initiated stuff crop up.
What Else Should We Do?
We'd love to hear other ideas for how we can inspire discussion and playing!