On Tuesday, I wrote about a unique game of Neptune’s Pride in which the players co-operated under the umbrella of the “Galactic Peace Organization”. Of course, it still ended in star-shaped tears, and I commissioned indie developer Jonas Kyratzes to create a tangible award, The Remnant of The Aspiration, for the winner.
Now I think I’ve written enough about it. It’s time to hear what the players have to say.
The First Place Betrayer
In first place was Captain Wells, played by Electron Dance confidante Adam Wells. He wrote in the comments last month that he prefers games he “can keep in a box”. His reaction to the game is similar to mine in that he found it brutally exhausting.
Boy, that was hard work. When I followed a link from my long time friend Joe (LiberalEurope) to join some game, I was too busy at work to really read what it was about. Then it started. Neptune’s Pride demands attention and its claim to being hardcore is not understated. How did it make me feel? Mixed.
To be clear I won’t be playing again. I was enjoying myself, when collaborating or plotting with fairly untrustworthy allies and our group could have probably kept playing forever through our negotiations and treaties. A daunting prospect.
So I plotted against my real world friend, then stayed up till 1.30 AM to strike, when I was sure that he would be asleep. Dirty, but that’s the point right? By the end I felt like some kind of Mafia boss, with other players authorising their fleet movements through me. I would be interested to hear if they were genuinely under my control (Stockholm syndrome) or if they were waiting to put the boot in.
Victory was strange. Most did not seem to begrudge me for it and felt I played my hand honourably (mostly)… although I may have totally misjudged this.
It was a one-off blast that’s for sure; I like to be in control of my own time and manage it as such. Neptune’s Pride did not allow me to do that.
I’ve also got ten minutes of conversation with Adam taken in a noisy pub. We talked about role play, the danger and security of a central position, the diminishing returns of peace and offing a friend who was “bitterly hated”. Download the podcast MP3 (13MB) or play it right here in your browser:
The intro and outro music is from the soundtrack of Channel 4’s Misfits.
The Second Place Supporter
In second place, Sirron played by long-time Electron Dance lurker mwm.
I assumed the role of Sirron, leading the Veretian long-tailed peoples. Sadly, most rulers referred to us as ‘maroon’. My entire match was essentially the opposite of Veret’s: I was in the centre of the map and so was surrounded by friends… and Blueshift2k5.
I assumed the role of ‘kinda-good guy’: I was invaded, only to bounce back at the end of the match because of the allies I had… and so on. Because I was such a nice person, when the Galactic Peace Organization rolled around, I, being the holier-than-though prick that Sirron was, said ‘I was already doing this’, which was entirely true. Really, I was the only one who maintained his promises throughout the match, so that even the final betrayal was for my friend Wells.
The game was fairly light on my psyche, not only because I didn’t pour myself in it as much as others, but also because I had regular computer access (Lord bless HP for selling my school all those outdated desktops). Role playing was rather simple for me, I just imitated the shade of our presidents, just with greater freedom from ‘oversight’. I was the autocrat who more or less alluded to some toy called ‘the Senate’, who usually wrote in formal style but became stern and frank when the situation became serious, who ended letters with ‘-Sirron, the First’, and who wasn’t above torture, just never saw the need for it.
(Oh, and Adam, I totally noticed that was Blueshift’s last world. I really did want to be labelled ‘xenocist’.)
The Third Place Punk Pacifist
In third place was CitiesInDust played by Shaun Green of Arcadian Rhythms, who has also previously written for Electron Dance. Shaun played a strongly pacifist empire throughout the game and did not participate when the knives came out for LiberalEurope in the final hours.
Hail. Readers of Electron Dance. We are the hard-shelled people. Of the dark blue stellar empire. Our ruler-designate is the one known. As ‘CitiesInDust’. This appellation may be known. To those among you familiar with. “UK post-punk”.
As readers of Arcadian Rhythms may be aware I’ve spent quite a bit of time with Iron Helmet’s games. Neptune’s Pride, however, was the game I’d dabbled in the least, having found the one match I’d played a dispiriting and cruel experience. Neptune’s Pride and its players will fuck you up any way they can. This is cool if you’re playing with, uh, ‘friends’, but against strangers it doesn’t work as well. Thus I hesitantly appreciated the opportunity to play against opponents who were if not friends then at least people who would take the game seriously.
As the game gained pace my involvement became greater and my immersion more complete. I can’t and won’t pretend that I ever rearranged plans in order to play the game–that includes waking up several hours early or going to bed several hours later just to launch a fleet at the optimum time/screw over another player with maximum dickitude–but after a few days I was checking in at every opportunity.
As covered in my game diary, I found the game a hugely rewarding and enjoyable experience, in part because I adopted a consistent persona and carried it through to the end game, and in part because of the way my experiences defied so many conventions of Neptune’s Pride, but mostly because the other players engaged with everything that happened with as much enthusiasm as I did.
That’s right: I feel closer to these people because of Neptune’s Pride. I told you we defied almost every convention.
The Accidental Architect of Peace
LiberalEurope, played by Joe Litobarski, founded the Southern Alliance on the basis of self-interest but it later gave way to the Galactic Peace Organisation. He’s still writing up his own diary of the game. Joe works in the media and has written for The Guardian. Not that I’m jealous of the bastard or anything.
The game we played can be split roughly into three chapters. In the opening third, everything was exciting and new; it was my first ever Neptune’s Pride game and there was still everything to play for. Creating the “Southern Alliance” was a diplomatic coup and, as the Alliance gradually morphed into the bureaucratic Galactic Peace Organisation, there was a genuine sense that we were doing something a bit different with the game. It looked like we might actually have a pacifist game of Neptune’s Pride!
In the middle third, though, things started to stagnate as we ran up against the physical limitations of the game world. We had essentially managed to break the game at this point, and galactic peace had been established… but the game itself would only end when one of us conquered 99 stars, so we were all locked in until we either walked away in boredom (which seemed a bit anticlimactic) or went back to playing by the original rules. We could be playing this thing for months!
The final third of the game, though, was the escape route. This is where we truly tunnelled free of the game’s rule systems and role-played our way to freedom. Some of the highlights of the game were in these last few days, as we played with the characters and mythos we had jointly created over the past couple of weeks. The whole experience highlighted to me the difference made by good players in any game; if you have players that are open to new ideas, inventive, imaginative and mutually supportive, then it doesn’t matter what the actual rules of the game are on paper, you can shape the experience however you want.
And The One Who Brought Terror
RoboCaptain was played by Todd who organised and sponsored the match. His empire resisted the GPO and Todd also invented Doctor Terror as role-play cover for his attacks on a neighbour.
This game was by far the most intense I’ve ever been in. I think a large part of it was… no one dropped out. Even Grand Space Lord Al, who I eliminated (“xenocided” in one player’s words), kept logging in to check out the game. He never went “AI”. No one did.
So that kept things interesting from a strategic standpoint. There weren’t any ‘easy wins’ to go after, no abandoned empires to gobble up. Basically, once all the stars are claimed, expansion came only through one method — pissing someone else off.
The player LiberalEurope constructed a treaty that he tried to get all the players to sign. I thought it was completely ridiculous. Even now, my reaction to the treaty is surprisingly hate-filled. For someone who mostly poo-poo’d the intense emotional aspect of most “recaps” that I have read, this game really got to me. All I wanted to do was see LiberalEurope’s yellow empire burn. When he marked me as a galactic outlaw for attacking green empire Grand Space Lord Al, I figured I was doomed. So I adjusted my personal “winning conditions” appropriately — Al must be exterminated at ANY cost.
After achieving that goal, the game was largely down hill for me. The role playing really took off and as the game was winding down people started using the “chat box” as “out of character” talk. That’s when I realized LiberalEurope was only PLAYING a dick. Turns out he, and many others, were just amazing role players.
Thanks for letting me hijack your blog’s comments for that amazing game! I’m afraid it will be a long time before another game lives up to it.