Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Good Manners on the Internet

It’s happened before, so I should be used to it. But I still get annoyed when a player in my PBEM campaign fails to reply to repeated emails. It causes great disruption to the campaign, but worse it makes you wonder whether the whole thing is worthwhile. And all because someone fails to reply to an email.

Of course it is possible that they are unable to reply because of personal circumstances or perhaps their computer had broken down. But I always feel that this is a little like the old “cheque in the post” excuse. It’s possible, but pretty unlikely.

It does cause a lot of delay and inconvenience to the campaign administrator and the other players, but that is not the most annoying part. It’s the frustration that someone has treated you with an unreasonable lack of consideration and there is nothing you can do about it. The feeling that someone just can’t be bothered to reply to your mail, even though to do so would only take seconds!

This is the extreme example of bad internet manners. But what about the casual lack of consideration. The failure to reply to a mail without a reminder. There are eight players in my PBEM campaign and I have had to send 28 reminders in 13 moves. That is bad enough, but only very rarely does the eventual reply contain an apology.

Is bad manners now the norm? Reading through the forums I use, and particularly TMP, the answer would appear an obvious yes. If so is it only on the internet, or is it so in “real life” too.

We live in Spain now, and I am always pleasantly surprised how friendly and helpful people can be – both locals and “ex pats”. Of course most of our friends are “of a certain age”. The younger generation we come in contact with are usually Spanish, and they are without exception polite and non threatening – not at all like the “hoodies” I recall in our local park or the city centre of respectable Salisbury.

So perhaps the lack of good manners is now common practice. Perhaps it is me who is out of step with the world and everyone else is too busy to exercise good manners, or simply feel it is a waste of time. If so, what a sad reflection on life in 2011.


Monty said...

Totally agree, possible solution, Total War: Napoleon on PC...:D

Ron said...

The sad fact is, more often than not, your assessment of the state of "civilization" is all too obvious. Addressing wargames campaigns in general, I now tend to avoid participation in them because quite simply, they always sputter to an unsatisfying end, largely for the reasons you give in your post. We seem to now live in a world where personal accountability is strictly optional, and one where too many only live up to their promises if it is convenient to do so. Given this, perhaps campaigns really aren't worth the bother. Sorry to say but it seems to be true.

MurdocK said...

Having run at least 5 different internet based campaign games, from Space ships to Napoleonic to Ancients there is one item I have come to count on in such actions.

Delay or non-response from key players.

After the big Napoleonic one where the FRENCH player became non-responsive for weeks, I have instituted a new set of 'consequences' for such failures.

First offense, a local commander will take such action as he sees fit (me the Game Master gets to decide that).

Second offense, a high-level subordinate 'self-appoints' and begins to take action in the place of the senior official. By this I mean that I (the GM) will go out and recruit someone to take on your place in the recalcitrant situation until you return, no more than three moves will be done this way after which point either the replacement gets the 'job' meaning the original player is just OUT of the game or that the original player will commit to a timely series of responses from then on or lose his position.

If a suitable replacement cannot be recruited a coup-de-grace or etat has taken place.

This happened in the case of the FRENCH in 1807 after a few years of really quite good campaign the FRENCH player just vanished, it was a big job and none could be found to replace him, given that this delay had caused a waning in spirits in the game we wrapped it all up with the coup-d'etat approach and had Murat and Davout fight it out in Northern Italy in a 2nd Revolution ... Davout won.

It was one of the most memorable games as the quality of troops and commanders was great and as one player put it everyone that died was French!

Back to practical, set a time limit on responses, use the local commander option for small actions (up to a Corp sized stuff) for the really big sweep stuff players must commit to participation in advance and I would actually suggest using understudy players ready to take over if the lead 'flakes out'. For long-term campaigns have the players commit in advance to taking part for 6 months or 2 years with a minimum posting time of turns, 1/day or 1/week or 2 weeks or month ... if this gets missed - get a replacement or start the game again.

Having run my little Waterloo game 5 times I can honestly say that having good visuals and at least one move a week makes for enough action and can lead to fast turn around times (battle sections were often done 1 move every day) ... any protracted delay of more than 3 weeks is a killer of momentum and people will forget what is going on.

thistlebarrow said...

Hi MurdocK

Thanks for your interesting comment.

Clearly I am not alone in this experience.

I admire your reaction, but I am not sure I would want to do the same. If I had a surplus of players I might be tempted, but in fact I find it quite hard to recruit the eight players required for the campaign.

But I would rather have less players than have to put up with such apparent disinterest.

Like you I also aim for one campaign move per week. I also publish a battle report with one move per day. Most battles last 10-12 moves, so this give both me and the players a break.



thistlebarrow said...

Hi Ron

Its a shame that you now avoid wargame campaigns because of similar experience.

You are quite right that the key is accountability. You are also quite right that it seems to be in short supply these days.

I think the problem is that it is just too easy to "walk away" on the internet. There are no consequences.

But campaigns can be very enjoyable. The key is to find a way of dealing with the odd bad apple. I will have to find a way of designing the campaign so that it can run smoothly on those rare occasions when one player drops out.

Much easier said than done!



thistlebarrow said...

Hi Monty

I have a number of PC games, but find them frustrating or boring after quite a short time.

My real love is wargaming with model soldiers. The solo campaign filled our needs for a few years, but eventually you miss the exchange with other players.

PBEM works well, and most players are really very dedicated. Its how to handle the rare problem player that prompted the post.

I wish PC games did meet the same need, but unfortunately not for me.



David Chiles said...

Understand that email is not immediate. A good rule of netiquette is to respond to emails within 24 hours.

thistlebarrow said...

Hi David

I do appreciate that not everyone has the time or inclination to reply to email immediately.

I would agree that 24 hours is a reasonable time to reply. Indeed I find that if I don't reply at the first opportunity I often leave it much longer. However my players live in many different time zones.

It is for this reason that I allow 48 hours for a reply. Even with players on different time zones I feel that is a reasonable amount of time to reply.

And, of course, if they are unable to do so they only have to let me know and I will make alternative arrangements.