Friday, April 29, 2011
The biggest issue
I want to start to tackle a very complex problem that The Airlock is facing right now. The advanced night members crowd is one of the only stable sources of revenue the business has. Parties and walk by business and all of that kind of stuff is great, but it tends to be inconsistent. The Members night pass has allowed us to pay our bills through the first year... almost year and a half of business here. We have lost a lot of our members night regulars over the past few months, since the installation of RedPlanet. Some of them are gone because they are BattleTech fans and they were suddenly getting half the BT missions for their money. The rest of them are gone because of a sudden change in culture here. A sudden lack of sportsmanship, and friendship that made this place great in it's first year.
If members nights don't improve dramatically I suspect we will be out of business in a few short weeks. I will be making some big changes to the way we handle members nights. The schedule, and the rules are about to change in a big way, and I will try to get to that in the next post. My next post will lay out the plan going forward for how to fix the scheduling issues. I have nights that are almost empty every week, and I have people who are staying away from members night passes because they don't get to play enough of the game they like. That is going to change immediately. There is going to be an additional discount available, and there will now be two members nights. We will not be mixing games on members night anymore, but I will get to that in due time. In this post I want to deal with the sportsmanship issue, as I feel it is even more important.
What is RedPlanet?
For those of you who don't know, we got our hands on the beta for RedPlanet a while back. RedPlanet is a racing game in rocket powered hovercraft in the mining tunnels of Mars. There is a popular game type called MartianFootball in which the players are assigned to two to four teams. Each team has a runner, who gets a bigger score multiplier (up to 16x) for each consecutive lap completed without crashing.
There are three positions, runners, crushers, and blockers. The crusher's job is to smash the other teams runner. The Blockers job is to help the runner by smashing the crushers. The game is incredibly intense, with a very volatile scoring system. A runner on a 16x can add 100,000 points to the team score with a few good boosts, and the crushers add 100,000 points to their score with a well placed hit or two on the runner.
RedPlanet has a tough learning curve. It takes a few missions just to learn the basics of controlling your vehicle. What is different about RedPlanet when compared to most games is that it causes an actual adrenaline response. The combination of the fast motion, the immersion effects of the pods, and the optical system is very intense. We often see people get out of a good RedPlanet game with their hands shaking a little bit, and it is always fun to watch people try to duck so they don't hit their head on a pipe when they fly by.
RedPlanet has a history in this area that goes back to the opening of the Wizards of the Coast game center in the mid 1990's. Many champion players got their start in Seattle and the level of competition was very high. Lots of these players have come back to play the game they have been waiting for since WoTC closed in march of 2001. They did not forget how to play! A lot of our new pilots are also hooked on RedPlanet now, and some of them are experts at this point.
Sportsmanship and sharing the toys
I have noticed a lack of sportsmanship that we never had a problem with in BattleTech. I have had lots of complaints and there is no pattern. Some people would like to blame a select few, but I see a lot from behind the counter. I think almost everyone is guilty of losing their temper a few times if they play enough football. My feeling is that bad sportsmanship is really part of this particular game. It is built in. I have lost my temper, and I keep seeing normally laid back people angry after a football game. There is nothing more fun than an adrenaline packed, rage filled, high speed battle in the mining tunnels of mars. I guess it wouldn't make much sense to be polite as you try to smash the other team into the wall. I am actually ok with that. As I said I think it is part of the game. I think if games are heated, it just means that people are taking it seriously, and that it is important to them. That all needs to end when the screen goes blank. Now we are friends again.
The problem is that we have lost the crowd of people that was sustaining The Airlock Financially. Members nights have gone from a huge group of people that were going to movies together on days that The Airlock was closed, to a small group of people who seem to hate each other half the time.
I have been talking to Roadkill about this and we believe that the problem is the fact that in BattleTech everybody can have a good game... everybody could shoot better and score higher than they normally do, all in the same game. In RedPlanet, and specifically MartianFootball, if one player does good, another player does bad. If a runner has a great game the crusher may chase for 10 minutes and never get a hit. If the crusher gets a bunch of hits the runner may never see the score zone. Add the frustration that somebody might feel if they are really a BattleTech fan, and they don't care about RedPlanet, and we have a huge problem.
This is all going to stop now. We are starting to put together a new document, the RedPlanet pilot's code of conduct. There was a similar thing that was around in the old days at WoTC, we have never needed it here before. Clearly we do now, when I have people telling me that members nights stopped being fun and they aren't going to show up any more. When I notice people who have not just stopped showing up, but deleted The Airlock on Facebook because they didn't have fun getting yelled at on members night.
Rule number one is going to address the fact that this is an intense, emotional game, tempers generally run hot. That ends at the ten minute mark. The screen goes blank and everyone is forgiven, we are friends again. We generally don't run football on anything other than a flat rate pass night. If you had a bad game, we just play again in a few minutes. If the teams were unfair, suggest a way to fix them for the next game. The guy you were yelling at to "GET THIS GUY OFF OF ME" is forgiven, and the guy who yelled at you because you missed is forgiven. If you have a complaint, gripe, etc, that needs to be addressed after the game, that is fine. These things come up, but it will be done in a respectful and calm manner, every time, no exceptions.
If you cannot adhere to the simple rules we are drafting, you will not be welcome to play here. This is not because I am trying to be the referee, or hold down the level of competition, it is because if something doesn't change The Airlock will cease to exist and you will have to go to Colorado to play in a set of pods.
In the next post I will start to lay out my plan to fix all of this, BattleTech fans, RedPlanet fans, and fans of both are about to get A LOT MORE CHEAP MISSIONS, but I am going to need a lot of help from you all to make this work.
Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other
--Jerry Sp.... I mean.... --uglyman