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Showcase Rules, Reminders, & Reinforcements - Last Update: 5/20/2018


Kiah
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  • 1 year later...
Monkey Destruction Switch

Roleplaying has never been a major facet of SSMB, but it’s been present to some degree for years now. Since late last year, this has mainly taken the form of the SSMB Heroes Academy: Protect the Multiverse roleplay started by Failinhearts; as a result, this roleplay in particular will be the focus of much of this post, even though the new guidelines laid down will apply to any other roleplays too.

You’ve probably noticed that Sonic Stadium Message Board is a forum which puts a fairly heavy emphasis on post quality. We have a generous definition of spam to apply to essentially any vapid low-content post, we freely lock topics just because they don’t seem to have the greatest discussion value or even if they just have a poor opening post, and we completely disallow forum games. Thus, we’ve long thought it important to have some sort of standards as far as roleplaying goes too, which in the past has taken the form of simply prohibiting script format, meaning posts must not consist of a character’s name followed by a colon followed by dialogue.

However, it has gradually come to our attention that these standards may be too modest to really promote high quality in our RPs. We want RPs to obey the same spirit of posting standards that the rest of the board obeys, but because they are such a different format of posting from the rest of the board, doing so might require more specific rules specifically designed with them in mind.

After all, our general rules were compiled with the spirit in mind of targeting and eliminating specific issues that could be expected to crop up with the discussion forums format. Our one roleplay rule we had before was designed with this same philosophy in mind, but it’s clear in hindsight it was not enough to cover all quality issues that can crop up. Now, we have over 1,000 pages of SSMB’s most popular roleplay to date to draw from to see what tendencies need to be addressed.

It’s certainly regrettable we haven’t done so sooner, especially since some of these issues have been present from very early on. But, on the other hand, that’s all the more reason to act now. After all, the roleplay is the most popular thread in the Showcase forum; unless it, like other Showcase topics, puts effort into displaying a creative work for all members to potentially check out and enjoy, it would be very regrettable for its presence to distract from other “true” Showcase topics.

This popular roleplay has a great potential to bring the forum together and provide a genuine outlet for creative expression as well as the consumption of these written works by onlookers. However, as of now, there are several reasons why it’s not truly achieving these goals, because of various quality issues such as the following, which demonstrate a lack of effort in some important areas and a lack of consideration for various needs.

  • Heavy dialogue focus. In a sense, the point of the script format prohibition was to make sure roleplaying develops beyond just being a bunch of dialogue spouted from one person’s characters to another. However, it’s clear that this “spirit” isn’t being obeyed even if the letter of the law is. (Not that I’m blaming you for doing something wrong, it was on us to make better rules, really.) It’s not remotely unusual for posts in the RP to consist solely of dialogue even if it’s in normal sentence format rather than script format. Occasionally, it dips into literally being no better than script format – rather than writing a full sentence, dialogue is merely accompanied by a picture of the character. If anything, this is actually worse than script format because a picture has the disadvantage of taking longer to load (more on that later).
  • Average post length and quality is very low. Posts which are no more than two sentences long are very, very common, and even when they’re longer than that, having more than five sentences in a post is pretty rare. It would be one thing if there were occasionally posts this short, but virtually every post being so short is too much. And these posts aren’t exactly pithy, either; on average, they mostly consist of dialogue, as discussed earlier, and very straightforward descriptions of actions. Really, the difference between this and a script-based roleplay with actions between asterisks isn’t that much.
  • Excessive and unhelpful usage of images. This has become more and more prevalent in the roleplay as time goes on. People love to plunk images of their characters that they’ve found online into their posts, and these days it tends to be multiple images per person per post. This doesn’t do anything to improve the story itself and, in such large quantities, is a pointless burden on anyone without really fast internet speeds. It’s a bit inconsiderate, especially since it adds nothing to the writing, which I would have thought should be the main focus. If anything, it only decreases writing quality - as stated before, people have even skipped dialogue tags (“he said”, etc.) by replacing them with an image.

Now, you might ask…why bother? The roleplay is tucked away in its own topic on the board and doesn’t particularly affect much else. Why not just let participants have their fun?

However, this isn’t necessarily fair. We don’t treat any other topic on the board this way. We demand that every topic have something to offer to the forum, not just a fun game that contributes nothing to the board as a whole. We want people on SSMB to see interesting topics they can dive into readily and get something out of. There’s no point in setting up a playground in SSMB’s public space just for people messing around. If people want to be able to play their game without truly contributing something meaningful to the public space, SSMB need not be used. They can always set up a Discord server or use some other means.

As it stands now, the roleplay doesn’t have much to offer to anyone other than its current participants. It would be nice if it was the kind of thing that onlookers could read and enjoy and understand how to participate in. So in addition to the specific things we’re going to ask, we’re also going to ask that the roleplay just try a little harder to be comprehensible and newcomer-friendly. As it stands now, so many characters are allowed to be used at one time, the posts are so short and vacuous on their own, and the overall premise is so open-ended that it’s very hard to get an overall feel for the roleplay. Out of curiosity, I’ve tried many times to jump into the roleplay and read it, and never can I really understand what’s happening or what the point of what’s happening is. I’m sorry this is so vague, but surely there’s some way you can streamline and clarify things. I’m not sure what exactly that would be, unfortunately, because of the very fact that I understand so little about the roleplay itself. However, I know there’s got to be some way you can put your heads together and make it happen.

With all that being said, here are the new official RP guidelines.

Here are some baseline rules we’re going to enforce from now on. These rules are absolutely by no means some ultimate barometer of quality. Their main purpose is simply to prevent some of the clearest and most notable problems in the RP. They’re not perfect, so just as with the ban on script style RPs, it would be perfectly possible to obey the letter of all these rules and still have a pretty low quality RP, and alternatively, if the RP had much more consistent quality, it wouldn’t matter much if there was an occasional violation of some of these. But for now, we will enforce these rules, though it is possible for them to be amended later to be either harsher or more lenient if we reassess what the RP needs.

  • Posts should never be less than three sentences long.
  • Posts must always contain at least one purely non-dialogue sentence. The dialogue tag of a dialogue (“he said”, etc.) is part of a dialogue sentence, no matter how elaborate it is, including actions being attached to it.
  • A maximum of 2 (non-spoilered) images per user per page is allowed. Any image counts towards the total, including images that are repeated via quoting. (If you make an error because you don’t realize a new page isn’t starting or something, it’s best to just be more cautious in the future – better too few images than too many. In the meantime, edit your post ASAP. We won’t show leniency because of this reason)
  • Use of images must just be decoration. Write every post as though they can’t be seen at all. This means you can never use an image as a substitute for a dialogue tag, for example.
  • Just for posterity’s sake, let it be clear that the “no script style” rule is still in effect.

Considering these rules are considered more or less to be the bare minimum, they will most definitely be enforced without a particular abundance of leniency.

Here are some more broad and subjective guidelines. Since they’re much more vague, they won’t be subject to the same kind of enforcement as the ones above, where any violation will be met with immediate action, but if we feel you’re drifting too far from them, we’ll give you a tap on the shoulder and let you know.

  • Whenever you write, imagine people other than your fellow participants reading. Would what you’re doing be acceptable in an original work of fiction for others’ perusal? If you were reading a story and saw it was nothing but dialogue and action scenes described as simply as possible with little detail beyond that, would you really be satisfied? Basically, what I’m asking for is more effort and less posts that look like they were dashed off as quickly as possible. I’m not asking for extremely deeply thought-out super-long posts, but I am asking for more than we’re seeing.
  • Consider the amount of characters that can be used. From what I’ve seen in the roleplay, you just throw in as many different characters from as many different sources as you like. It makes it very messy and confusing to read. Please consider at least imposing a greater limit on the number of characters in a scene or some such. It makes the story quite hard to read and comprehend, so it would be nice if you at least dialed it down.
  • Posts should actually advance the plot or contain something meaningful, not just be a character spouting off their reaction to something when it makes very little difference and adds nothing unique.
  • Make the overall plotline more discernable. For an onlooker, the overall point of the RP is hard to make out. Try to just be more clear and focused, I suppose.

Where to go from here

First of all, the existing SSMB Heroes Academy: Protect the Multiverse topic will be locked. The reason why is simple: we don’t want the previous >1,100 pages of the topic to risk setting precedent and being the baseline contributors fall back on. All those pages of non-conformity to the new rules have an awful lot of “gravity”, if you will. The temptation to do less than what’s required will certainly be great enough without that additional demotivator. We want to give the roleplay a fresh, new start with new standards, so this simply makes sense. There’s no reason to take the risk caused by allowing the previous precedent to stand.

Of course, you’re free to start a new topic and keep going with the same roleplay – same people, same characters, same story. And anyone else can start a new RP too. Just please make sure to follow our guidelines. If you don’t, if our new standards don’t “stick”, we should make it clear that banning roleplays is something we would be willing to consider. This isn’t trying to scare you, it’s just being honest.

To put it simply: If you want to continue roleplaying on SSMB, you have to play by our new rules. If you don’t want to, you can take your roleplaying elsewhere.

Thanks for reading! I hope these rules just serve to make roleplaying on SSMB more fun and rewarding for all.

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Monkey Destruction Switch

OK, gotta dash off something quick in response to some of the partially-justified backlash.

Honestly, a lot of things concerning staff reaction to the roleplay could've been handled way better. But a big part of the problem was us not acting sooner, which sort of caused us to be more inclined to take swift and decisive action now. Maybe too swift and too decisive. But I feel in this case, there really is no ideal solution that doesn't require a time machine. Still, I'm sorry for any pain inadvertently caused.

I just want to issue a reminder that we aren't asking anyone to throw out their storylines or anything like that, even if our current plan is to ask for a new topic to be created. New topic does not equal some sort of total reboot. What we're looking for is mainly format changes insuring higher quality and an added dash of newcomer friendliness. That doesn't mean abandoning plotlines.

I think both Chris (in response to Failin's status) and myself (in the rules post) gave our reasons why a new topic is a good idea, but it's not like it's essential. We're still open to discussing it amongst ourselves and taking your input into consideration. That doesn't mean we'll definitely change our minds, though.

But we are serious about the changes in format and quality and we'll be clarifying more via PMs in the future.

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Monkey Destruction Switch

For consolidation reasons, the roleplay rules have been merged into the general Showcase rules topic.

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  • 4 months later...
Monkey Destruction Switch

We've had a bit of a problem recently about people posting about their game or fan game projects, but having nothing to actually show other than vague ideas with no details, or something extremely minor. Not that it's likely to get you in trouble, but we've been locking these threads and will continue to do so in the future. If you're going to post about your project, have something to show. You don't have to have the engine fully programmed or even partially programmed (though it certainly is nice to see you've put thought and perhaps even work into the actual technical aspects of the game), but at the very least, have a nice detailed description (not something short and vague) and/or some aspect of the project that we can tell you put effort into. Thanks.

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Monkey Destruction Switch

Formerly, we required people to wait 3 days before they double-post with new content. From now on, we will only require you to wait one day. Enjoy!

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