For me, the best games have great stories, which grab you from the very start and have you hooked until the end. There’s a simple formula for these stories: characters + peril + surprises. If a story lacks interesting personalities, situations where they must risk everything to survive, along with some dramatic twists, then it’s simply not going to engage you. Everything from David and Goliath to Robin Hood to Batman Begins uses this combination, and its successful application is where I think we absolutely nailed it in Mirror State Episode 1. The bonus for Sam and me was when we were the ones being surprised (which happened more than once*).
Overall I was really pleased with the whole day, and a lot of credit has to go to the players who threw themselves into their respective roles and gave us all the drama and excitement of a super power dealing with a sinister global threat. It was a big learning experience for me and Sam, and we both noted things throughout the day we wanted to improve to make the next episode’s experience as immersive as possible.
I was mainly upstairs, dealing with the Antagonists and Agencies. Presenting the Antagonists with their options for mayhem, catastrophe and other colossal spanners in the works was hugely enjoyable, as was discovering their choices and their consequences. The agencies’ actions (and costumes, it’s all about immersion) were a lot of fun to write for, and I found their interaction with the other groups (and each other) very involving. Two moments during Episode 1 that stood out for me were an NSA phone tap (quick, simple and very sneaky) on NASA and an Antagonist seeing their briefing being reported on the big screen news feed only minutes after I’d left the room to deliver it (well done, media).
Here are a couple of points that we intend to fix for next time:
1.) Briefing delivery – this was impeded by a kind of paper bureaucracy I’d unintentionally inflicted on myself – you don’t need to know the details, but the result was that briefings and responses to agency actions were mostly delayed, which was nearly as frustrating for me as it was for the people who needed to know pronto if NASA had lied about shooting down a meteorite with a laser (because NASA are sneaky like that). One word, people: ‘streamlining’. Super efficient information delivery and exchange will be the modus operandi for Mirror State Episode 2, all presented in a way that is both easy to use and which reinforces the game world, to help with that vital immersion I keep banging on about.
2.) Making the game easy to understand – this may be a slightly fluffy objective, but having all the relevant information to view at any time will make the decision-making much easier in terms of available actions, costs, consequences and events as they unfurl. I like to have information presented visually because then it fits in my brain more easily, and I think something that conveys the constant peril will be another huge strength for Episode 2.
Sam and I have discussed the inclusion of a third act, and I think it will be essential to help perpetuate the many possible story lines and crazy ideas that will undoubtedly come up. Like a moon base, for example (*that was one of them).
You – the players – brought the characters to life. Sam, the Antagonists and I supplied the peril and surprises, and together it all formed an amazing story line which no-one could have predicted. Thank you for taking part; we’re really looking forward to creating the next installment! Strap in, it’s going to be quite a ride.