We want to make Empire be a community game in the sense that everyone who participates in the game has an in-character and out-of-character opportunity to be involved in making the game better - if they wish to be. Our goal is to try to make Empire a community game, one that everyone can contribute to and be a part of if they want to.
Our long term goal is to work with the players to develop the game to make it cooler. Once we have the basic game up and running and things are running smoothly, we want to build on the enthusiasm of the players and work together with players in the nations to create better sets, costumes and set pieces to make the IC camp look cooler. Working closely with everyone involved should allow us to produce a much more visually compelling game. Profound Decisions can provide funds for materials, participants can provide the skills and labour to make those materials into awesome costume and sets, so everyone gets a better game.
Why are Profound Decisions doing this?
In the past, we have striven to keep the players at arm's length when creating our events. We have taken the philosophy that it's our responsibility to create the game, and that the only appropriate responsibility for players has been to play it. We created a clear division between those who were crewing our games and those who were playing them and politely refused offers of help from the players. We did this to create games where having an important and significant character happened because of the things your character had done - not because of the things the player had done to help the event organizer. In Empire the leaders of nations, the famous heroes, the powerful mages - should be those characters whose in-character actions have brought them prominence, not the out-of-character time they have contributed.
But the undeniable truth is that the costumes, props and sets that we have created have simply not been as good as if we had accepted or sought out help. But there are also more subtle consequences. By refusing most help from the player-base it has been harder to identify and recruit new crew. It is also harder for players to use our campaign setting as a platform to develop their own event-running skills. It creates artificial distinctions which encourage distrust between organizers and players. Ultimately I think it runs contrary to what most live-roleplayers want - LRP is a very social game and events are most enjoyable when produced by an interested and involved community. Dividing people into players and crew works to undermine that community.
It is a perfectly valid criticism that a commercial LRP company could simply pay to have these things done commercially. In practice the economics are painfully clear; Profound Decisions has always been reliant on volunteers; there is no financial framework in which we can operate on a purely commercial basis. But more importantly what we can achieve by working with volunteers is not just better than that which we can achieve by operating alone - it’s unimaginably better. A key part of the logic of seeking much closer co-operation with everyone participating in the game is that we want to produce an epic game, we want to produce something that is utterly amazing - the closer we work with the community - the closer to that ambition we can get.
Why Get Involved?
We are determined to ensure that out-of-character involvement remains completely voluntary and does not affect a player's character in the game. Many of us have time-consuming jobs and don’t have the time to do anything more than turn up and play and participation won't be for everyone either for practical or taste reasons. We as event organizers - and the community of players who play Empire - need to ensure that “just playing” is no more or less valid than those who get involved in other ways. If we want the community to be as inclusive and accessible as possible then we need to make participation enjoyable - so that it becomes its own reward - not something that you exchange for credit with the players and organizers.
So getting involved is not about having an important or powerful character in the game. The reason to get involved is because you want to help and most important of all - because you'll enjoy yourself. We are striving to do everything possible to make the experience of getting involved as enjoyable as possible. Whether you're helping us put tents up, building incredible sets or monstering a battle, we want the experience to be fun. LRP is our passion and we want to work with people who share that passion. If that's you and you have time to contribute to making the games cooler than that is the reason to get involved.
Ways to Get Involved
There are loads of ways that players enthusiastic in Empire can get involved. A lot depends on what your skills are, how much time you have spare and what sort of things you enjoy. For the most part we are using Facebook to organize groups of people, but if you don't have a Facebook account then you can always email us and get involved that way.
For the first event we are working to complete our two-storey tavern as well as building the Senate structure. There are also small projects around set dressing and creating props for the market place like street lighting. At present most of our set building takes place on site at Tournament Stud over the weekends. People come down for the day to help or camp over if they're able to do both days. All the materials and essential tools are on site, but if you're a skilled crafter and don't mind bringing your tools, more always helps!
Anyone can help with set building, provided you can work a drill or a hammer or a paintbrush and don't mind hard work. Some artistic talent or skill with tools is incredibly helpful, but everyone can play a role. Please don't just turn on spec though, get in touch and let us know that you want to come down. The best way to get involved is through the Facebook set building group.
You can also get involved with planning and creating set dressing. Set dressing is a real art, it takes talent to be able to look at a tent or a structure and know how to dress it to look the best. But planning before the event is incredibly useful, there are always bargains to be had on ebay and other places and preparation on set dressing before the event helps to transform a set. If you are able to help with dressing the sets and want to help then get in touch or join the Facebook group.
No LRP group can ever have enough costumes! We have two trucks full of costume, but we still need to create many more costumes for Empire. We need to make ref livery coats, civil service mantles, costume for Eternals and their heralds. We need costume for foreign dignitaries and barbarian orcs. But we also need shield covers for the shields we've bought, quivers for the arrows we've bought and so on and on.
We are buying all the materials, and of course in some cases we are paying for costume to be made up, but if people can help us by getting involved and turning material into costume or the like then it allows us to create vastly more costume for the same amount of money. The net result is that the NPCs and the game look better. The players are making incredible efforts on their costume and we want to make sure that we do everything possible to match their efforts.
The best way to get involved is through the new Facebook costume group. Sewing costume requires a degree of skill, but what is needed most is some enthusiasm and enjoyment of making kit. Some projects also suit folks with other skills, for instance making leather accoutrements for the barbarians or creating shield covers. At some point in the future we are planning to organize some costume making days, to get folks together to make kit, but until then most people involved are making kit at home.
Contributing to the Wiki
We want the Empire wiki to become a fantastic resource for people who are looking at making their own kit and costume. A number of very talented people have helped us create costume guides to offer advice on how to make kit and we're now adding to those with new submissions by players.
A kit diary is a fantastic way to contribute to the game. If you're making a new piece of kit, whether it's costume, a prop, shields, weapons, a tent - anything that could be useful for Empire, then keep a record of what you do, take plenty of photographs along the way and then write it up. The easier your kit diary is to understand and follow, the better. Once it's complete email it to Jude Reid who is collating the kit diaries and adding them to the wiki.
Eventually we hope to expand the wiki to allow player submissions in other areas.
We are going to need a lot of crew for Empire, particularly people who are up for playing orc barbarians and having a lot of fights! We have a few spaces for people who want to help out with game administration in GOD and other roles, but our biggest need is for people to get involved and help us create the game by playing a wide variety of roles. There will be a lot of combat roles, but there will be a good mix of purely roleplaying roles as well.
Most crew positions are full time at the event, so crewing is something to consider as an alternative to playing the game. Crewing is free and is a lot of fun and you also get the satisfaction of knowing you have helped to create something a thousand plus people have enjoyed. If you are interested in joining the crew then the best place to start is by reading about crewing at Empire.
The alternative to crewing for those who want to play the game is to pitch in and help when you want to. If you're on site early and your own camp is already set up then find one of our set-up team and give them a hand putting up tents. It's hard work, but it's fun. If you want a break from playing your character for a while, or you just want to have some extra fights, then come and volunteer to NPC for us and we'll find some fun roles for you to play.
A lot of players have expressed an interest in creating their own monster kit for the event. Obviously we don't expect anyone to do this, but it's another brilliant example of the kind of commitment and contribution that will help to make the game look awesome. Eventually we hope to add guidelines to the wiki for players looking to create an identity and costume for the barbarian roles for when they are monstering the big battles.
Ultimately the best way to contribute to Empire is to just do something that adds to the game. The people from Mandala recently ran a £30 costume challenge, challenging themselves and players to try and make costumes on a budget. They are organizing the whole thing but hopefully we'll have lots of pictures and information to add to the wiki when it's complete. By talking to other people in the Empire community we can share ideas for making costumes and props. A few people have already spoken to us about the prospects for running their own events in the Empire setting, something we're keen to support; there will be more information on that later in the year.
Our hope is that Empire can become a great platform for people who enjoy LRP as a hobby, not just playing but all aspects of LRP, writing plot, playing roles, creating kit, building sets, organizing events. We want to do what we can to support that and we hope that those of you who have the time and inclination will join us.