Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Practice 2013: Creating a Nordic Style LARP

(by Cecilia Dolk & Martin Ericsson, Celestra LARP)
·         Martin has one Emmy win and nomination, and Cecilia has one Emmy nomination.
·         Created a LARP for Battlestar Galactica called the Monitor Celestra. Takes place in a real cold war destroyer.
·         Immersive live action role playing in the ragtag fleet of BSG. There were no actors in the game.
·         It was a massive undertaking. Different forms of culture all acting together.
·         Participatory Culture book. “Who controls the production of cultural stimuli?”
·         Audience culture = We perceive culture as a single author who produces a work, and then the audience sits down and consumes it.
·         Interactive culture = The author creates the productive stimuli and the illusion of or actual agency, there is some interactivity from the audience but the production is mostly scripted.
·         Participatory culture = People create the cultural stimuli for each other and there’s no grand author (ie. tabletop role-playing, BDSM party)
·         “Lightning Bolt” video clip has done a lot of damage to LARP’s image.
·         The IP of BSG and the fact that it takes place in a real destroyer drew a lot of players who were not traditional LARP players.
·         LARP continuum – Game/Structure vs. Story/Freeform. American LARPs tend to focus on game and structure, while Nordic LARPs tend to focus on story and freeform. The Monitor Celestra falls about 60% towards the story side.
·         Mainstream Nordic LARP has very strong ideologies
o   The Warriors Heart = 24/7 immersive, socialist dictatorship vs. rebels, steampunk theme
o   No Man’s Land = uses real airplane
o   Just a Little Lovin = beautiful memorial, very sad and emotional
o   A Quiet Evening With the Family, Europa, Carolus Rex
o   Till Death Do Us Part = middle eastern man and a western woman
·         Commonalities (pillars of classic “nordic style”) = participatory, physical, what you see if what you get, immersive, light rules, dramatic systems, socially conscious, meta-techniques and blackboxing, arthaus (modern day) and mainstream styles (fantasy, classical)
·         Nordic LARP design is the exploratory creation of frameworks for collective player co-creation. The players are the authors. Game engines, players, and stories are motivated by a well designed framework. LARP auteurs are impossible and destructive to the experience.
·         “I have stopped being an artist and have become a prostitute of the audience.”
·         Franchise framework = known clichés are a designer’s best friend, you are not Tolkien so don’t write your own lore, adaption strategy (canon until it’s not, new characters, new situations), new main allegory.
·         All this has happened before and all this will happen again. BSG is a great allegory about cultural intolerance in Europe.
·         Culture framework = taken from Caprica, took the Tauron and Caprican values, “Caprica” as a primary source for culture. Explored collective vs. individual, privileged vs. minority
·         Story framework = Minos City, Tauron turned into a skeleton ship, starts from the end of the pilot episode so the audience can have context after one episode, starts from the Battle of Ragnar Anchorage,  after some jumps they end up in Sector GCS-2998362, players have the power to steer the ship anywhere they want
·         Character framework = writing process, crews (groups, subgroups, vertical groups), contact suggestions, character arcs, casting and costume, 5000 post-its
·         LARP design and production loop = vision, reality bites and test, compromise, realization, how can physical and legal problems coincide?
·         Producing a mad weekend = mid Friday to Monday morning, tasks (distribute costumes, props, signing wavers, cleaning the boat, fire drills, in-game food, feeding GM’s and phantoms, limitations on number of people onboard, etc.), four 6-8 hour episodes, include hotel and meals
·         Construction of the Celestra = took the museum and closed off some of the rooms
·         Physical framework = make players believe they are elsewhere, give time for players to learn each others’ characters
·         Costumes = looks vs. price, Celestra (reinvented the colonial warriors plus soviets in space), Vergis (jumpsuits), civilians (lab gear)
·         Dramatic systems framework = what are the rules, four episode structure, no guns fired in first act, no killing before second episode, and then anything goes
·         Standoffs and conflict systems (what rules are used to enable safe violent conflict), fist < knife < gun < bigger gun.
·         Color red was the next mechanic, none of the players were allowed to wear red, phantom actors wore red and spoke to individual players secretly, two of the phantoms happen to be twins so they confused many of the players.
·         Safewords = “cut”, “frak”
·         Play to lose = always submit to the demands of the other player
·         Simulation systems = hard-core space sub simulator based on Silent Hunter type of PC games, internal power struggle, external locations, exploration and endings, designed by Dr. Karl Bergstrom (iterative design in progress). Later on, the engineers in the game became the kingmakers of the game. There is actual agency and a lot of content so that people don’t actually get to see it all.
·         Technical Framework = 10 cased networked PC’s, 12+ network cables, lots of Arduino boards
·         Game mastering = by an outside group, spawning Cylon ships, 8 run-time game masters on deck who dress up as splinter groups
·         This game was produced with the insane idea that more is more, taking a lot of inspiration from the Nordic LARP scene.
·         Weird observations = rules heavy (on the game master side), is consistency worth it?, emergent gameplay, chaos vs. directed collective flow, genre clashes, hard consequences and impossible choices make players nervous, messy is messy, players will forget to eat but they will always chat
·         Online framework = Youtube Friday features, use interwebs to promote, going viral, mentioned in Ball Blooded Gnome, the IP people found out but didn’t take legal action
·         The creators made this game out of love.
·         Went to Galacticon and met some amazing people from the show.
·         They did not expect to bring this to the US, but the player desire is driving the movement.
·         Bringing Celestra home = challenges (physicality, liability, new crowd and culture, location), opportunities (passionate fans, fan-financed events, props and prices, official possibilities, the perfect fandom event for the US scene).
·         Disney acquired a patent for using costumes in a role-playing scenario for their theme parks two months after they acquired Star Wars.
·         Successes = the universe, visual spectacle, destroyer and consoles were real, crowdfunding, real online presence, all inclusive. Failures = impossible to deliver fully screen accurate LARP, aim for the stars, more is more work, game 1 frakked (tech failures, etc.).
·, #celestra, #celestralarp
o   Cecilia, @frkgeek,
o   Martin, @elricsson23,
·         Nordic LARP scene brings in a very diverse group of sexual orientation, ages, and genders. But the ethnic diversity is mostly middle-class Caucasians, which they are working on to change.
·         Players don’t need to choose between rules and story. If they feel bored, they can abandon their post at any time to move onto another post that is more interesting to them.
·         Always groups of people who are playing the game and trying to resolve the problems, but other people who are following along the fiction. It’s okay to have these dichotomies exist in the same game.
·         LARPs are just sandboxes for the players. Give the players really fun tools to play with.
·         A lot of off-putting things in LARPs are that people have to put up with tedious tasks like learning to bake bread. Started youth groups to teach people how to do LARPs and acquire skills for the game.
·         LARPs usually require people to come with their own costumes, but many people don’t have the skills to even take the first step. So they are giving costumes at the door to reduce the barrier of entry.
·         Before the LARP, they run several training workshops (trust exercises, improvisation workshops) to get all the players to form a common gaming culture.
·         Dungeons and Dragons is the American Dream essay, reluctance of players to just play what they are. Americans believe that everyone starts out even and levels up together. Nordic LARPs don’t believe in justice, it’s about reveling in what you already are. You can be an elf if you are physically fit.
·         Collective directing / game mastering, use effective episode structure and the players will self-police their actions.

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