Recently I have been contemplating the development of a new BattleTech AU. The working title for this project – BattleTech: Age of Chaos. Sounds pretty dumb doesn’t it? Well like I said, it’s a working title.
Like most working titles development of the project is a work in progress, with new additions and subtractions to the core content an almost daily occurrence. As I figure out what works and what doesn’t with the universe’s foundation a lot of ideas that were once in the “usable” pile quickly end up in the trash. Community development often operates around the same parameters – try and try again. If something works, it’s adopted. If it doesn’t, it gets tossed to the wayside.
However, the trial and error approach to community development has its pitfalls. While the shear randomness of the system lends an extra ounce of open creativity, it can play Mary Poppins (or Hari Kari depending on who you ask) on your efforts and the commitment of the community. For example, a constant string of “not working” ideas – anything from determining the outcome of a battle with a poll or having the community art contest for your next fanbook – can sap the strength of an online, community-driven project. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying polls and contests are terrible ideas, but if they form the cornerstone of your AU’s development you may be in trouble.
Since progress is often determined in minute incremental advances I figure we’re due to talk about some of the most basic advances made with the AoC (that’s Age of Chaos in case you’ve already forgotten.)
First, I’ve made some decisions about the AU’s developmental framework (DF.) Now developmental framework is exactly what it sounds like – i.e., how we’re going to development the bloody thing. This could or rather should include community participation, direction, needs, and so on. Developmental framework is a very liberal definition applied to a very liberal set of standards – and by standards I’m referring to whatever the author of the AU decides is necessary to successfully create his AU. For AoC I’ve opted to take a very different route with my developmental framework.
Combining what I feel are some of the more successful social media/community building strategies and some of my own homegrown experimental ideas I’ve constructed a loose “frame” for working with the AoC AU. Rather than corral the strict direction of the AU, I’ve opted for something with far more flexibility.
Now, before I get into the specifics I should provide a disclaimer – there is a strong possibility this framework will not be successful for some of the following reasons. One, the community of OBT.com is fairly small in number so our pool of possible member participants is also small. Two, participating members will have to showcase dedication to the project in excess of what a larger membership could possibly provide. With more bodies available, member responsibility decreases, (if you want a true community developed AU) while AU resources increase. Three, I get frustrated with the direction of the AU and pull the plug.
That being said, what I propose to set as the DF is a form of basic history primer which will regale the full back story of the AU’s fictional universe. Along with a comprehensive map outlining the major and minor states of the AU, potential member developers will have a solid foundation from which to build upon. To help provide loose direction for the AU, I’ve come up with a number of flexible “Turning Points” – major events in the evolving story arc. These turning points were specifically designed to be fairly random in nature, with some being a battle, or a death, but overall important to how the universe should progress, their orientation in the time line is also arbitrary and can be modified as required. However, the spaces between these turning points were left intentionally blank so that the community could literally – fill in the blank. The end result becomes something akin to a brand new house. I’ve built the walls and the roof, (and even decided when there might be a leak or two) but the community will be responsible for decorating the interior and turning it into a home.
The AU I envision is an AU where I provide both small and large “Point A – to – Point B Moments”, but the community decides how we get there and the flavor. Meaning, history is often taught in terms of dates. This is usually a boring process and often forgotten by the student. The fun part in learning history, or almost any subject for that matter is not in the start or the end destination, but in the journey to the destination. This AU will be patterned around that simple principle or guiding mantra. It’s not the start that’s important or the end, but how we get there.
So what I think community members will find most appealing about the basic DF of the AU is the ability to put a real creative spin on 9/10ths of the AU’s history, nations and characters. I really want to hand the keys of the kingdom to a community developer, say – “Ok, here’s what it looks like in 3025. How’d we get there, who’s in charge and what are they like?” – and then see where it goes from there.
Until next time…