The Second Night War is finally over and what a wild ride it was! The War for Sterion started all the way back in late June and we're now staring down the end of September having just come out the other side of what is one of the longest and most elaborate events in IRE history. The last few events posts are now up and as promised, the postmortem is here filled with trivia, anecdotes, insights into the decision making process, and a number of broader thoughts and opinions.
Before I get into all that though, I want to dole out some raves and give credit to people without whom this would never have been possible. First up is @Razmael
- the amount of time and energy Raz put into bringing all of our (mostly his) ideas to life is nothing less than astonishing. I couldn't possibly ask for a better partner in crime when it comes to story, event mechanics, mirror classes, and of course feature creep. So many parts of this event came about from his ideas and he put up with endless code requests from me and made the execution of the most elaborate parts as easy as giving me a command to type. The #1 hero of this event by far.@Keroc
was an absolute monster of boss creation and fight mechanics, he committed to a significant update to the ylem system, toiled away at war, fixed infinite bugs, and basically held the game together with his bare hands for weeks. @Tedrunai
gave us all a masterclass in progs, creating tons of mechanics including the incredible tower defence game, spiritsabres, bombs, the Arbothian heist dungeon, and more. One of the most difficult parts of running this event was the immense amount of different mechanics and features, and Ted picked up a huge amount of slack here. @Iseult
did the same, cleaning up endless bugs and problems as well as heavily customising the Papers, Please game. @Skog
made bosses and also helped a ton with prog work. @Brax
was always on hand to help with mirror design and to keep me going with hype and ideas. @Zeheia
spent an inordinate amount of time on proofreading and fixing errors. @Raah
singlehandedly came up with the Dictum duamvi terms and all of the Czjetijan phrases. @Doloris
did a large amount of work on the moon ritual, RPing with the Exarchs, concepted a big part of Ravager, and should be credited for the idea of the shadowbound-disconnection. @Izana
was instrumental in Spinesreach and also played an Exarch, as well as providing lots of input on the storyline as a whole. And of course @Haelra
, and @Xaspher
for a lot of the supporting RP throughout.
Now for some trivia! Unfortunately I don't have data on certain things, including the much-requested 'most shadowspawn killed', though I'm posthumously awarding that to Dejaani.
- First and most important: only one loyal follower sent an email to Mother, and it was @Markos
- Most of the team had no idea what was going to happen in the finale, and were just as shocked as you!
- The max number of people I saw online during the finale was 148. That is the highest I've ever seen in Aetolia.
- Saluria was only picked as the site of the first shard due to a bug very early on in the event that caused shadowspawn to appear there, which some people latched onto with speculation.
- The months frequently lining up with their Gods in the story was completely coincidental.
- At one point in August I woke up to absolute pandemonium and panic in the Pools because Google had locked us out of our docs (where most of the planning, including both mirrors, were stored)
- 1468 rooms were overtaken by shadowrot.
- Hippos were devoured by the rot on 73 occasions. 47 of these were Iesid's.
- 96 people became Shadowbound, as well as most NPCs across the game showing as shadowbound in their names.
- In total, 47 shadowbreaks were carried out (Lenoriel was present at 43 of them, the most by far!)
- Only one (1) reclusive mystic was harmed in the making of this event.
- 21648 corpses (Tetchta: 16178!), 6713 units of blood (Xarian 2440!), and 1008 ores (Kurak 731!) were used in the ritual to bind Ati.
- Ati cleared 70 rooms of rot (Sheryni cleared the most with Abhorash claiming the most chiav kills)
- Bloodloch raised 990 troops in their army of slaves for tower defence (credit goes to Gryph for raising 101 of them himself).
- 118 attempts were made by the Archivists before Linne succeeded in producing an artificial Shard of Truth.
- Enorian forged a total of 449 bells (props to Sryaen here for forging 166 of these himself!).
- The Illuminai forged a total of 670 dejanite to repair Ethne's bell (honourable mention to Annerissa for making 176 of them!).
- Enorian gathered a total of 12809 sand for Rhulin (Eliadon personally brought him 5929(!!!)) and made 276 glass (Damonicus wins this one with 152!)
- Spinesreach gathered a total of 7544 sand for Burkhart (Feirenz #1 with 2290!) and made 458 glass (Lenoriel wins with 214!)
- Duiran offered more than 5000 corpses to empower the Guardian Totems, which equated to 447698 totem essence. (Valorie wins both of these with 1295 and 149239 respectively!)
* The numbers are actually higher than this but the log cuts off at 5000 unfortunately.
- Spinesreach infected a total of 1152 eld (this was almost a tie between Aros, Legyn, and Lenoriel who did 698 between them!)
- Out of those 1152 infected eld, 425 of them were slain and absorbed into the pylons (Sheryni wins this with 67!).
- Spinesreach processed more than 5000 refugees. 3163 approved, 909 of which were shadowbound infiltrators. 1837 denied, 318 of which were shadowbound.
- Enorian processed a total of 2822 refugees. 2029 approved, 594 of which were shadowbound. 793 denied, 115 of which were shadowbound.
- Bloodloch processed a total of 2251 refugees. 852 approved, 235 of which were shadowbound. 1399 enslaved, 337 of which were shadowbound.
- The planning doc for this event is currently at 43482 words, and only includes about half of the actual event content since a LOT of the event was just us responding to things that happened.
- Raz informs me that the total event post length exceeds 60k.
- We decided to tie the Akkari and Ravager releases in before the event had even started, after only about 10 minutes persuasion from Raz.
And now the most important piece of data, who shouted the most out of over 5000 shouts during the event.
11th: Didi (119)
10th: Bulrok (125)
9th: Kalena (132)
8th: Kurak (140)
7th: Linne (161)
6th: Tetchta (183)
5th: Iesid (213)
4th: Rijetta (249)
3rd: Rasani (308)
2nd: Whirran (417)
1st: The Herald of Chaos (uncountable)High Points
I asked some of the team to weigh in on this and I've also created a poll with a bunch of options for you to vote on your high points.
Me: The emotions in the finale with Damariel ringing the bell; the insane defence of Kald; everything Chaos Court; the Moon Ritual; Iosyne's Order 66; the Archivist diagrammatics; the infamous botched bell heist; all things Org identity.
Keroc: Seeing 150 people online was pretty cool.
Razmael: Seeing all the orgs embrace their identity and Bloodloch's transformation from just a few short months ago.
Iseult: Dhar saving Ivoln's ass; Papers, Please: Spinesreach autodenying Mulariads.
Skog: The ylem heist arc.
Tedrunai: The Chaos Herald murdering Whirran with his trumpet.
Brax: The esteem explosion + insane player count for the finale.
Ra'ah: Showcasing the planar languages including Ael'mael's use of Dumavai.
Izana: Seeing all the cities get their own spotlight that really helped drive their direction, and also seeing them get REAL hype about it and running with them.
Doloris: Getting the opportunity to really re-engage Duiran with their Guardian lore and seeing it take on a whole new life (pun intended).
Zeheia: The city-wide Pit of Xa'azamit (may she live forever).
Everyone: Seeing the 1v1v1v1 becoming a viable option.Challenges
I'd say the biggest challenge was keeping up the momentum, especially after the initial flurry set such a fast pace. That, coupled with some struggles with ideas on how to achieve some of what we wanted to do meant there were some slow weeks here and there. On that same note we relied heavily on a lot of player ideas and this was one of the best parts (see below for my thoughts on this as a whole).
However, despite our best intentions, we simply couldn't physically respond to every outreach or request or idea. Given the scope of the story, I don't think the event necessarily went on too long, but the unplanned nature definitely meant it lacked the structure and cadence that a classically organised event would have.
Timezones are always a concern but I think there was enough content in this event that we did the best we could in that area, and made use of EVENTS a lot more to be accomodating."Just Do It": A Diatribe on Agency
Moreso than any other event I've ever witnessed or been part of, this one really shone a spotlight on the power that players have to both affect the world in ways big and small, to impact the narrative, to have ideas become reality, and to define the identity of their organisations in ways that are now, in my opinion, some of the best they've ever been.
I want to talk about this more because I think it's an often overlooked aspect of playing MUDs and while it obviously isn't going to be like this every time, and expectations should be realistic as a whole, I do think that there's a lesson here that everyone can learn: 'just do it' or 'just try it'.
As this story unfolded, we leaned heavily on player input and suggestions in order to figure out our way from A-Z, and we took every opportunity available to put important decisions into the hands of players as often as we could, and to react to things players were doing in order to guide the narrative. Off the top of my head, some of these include:
- Duiran's war starting the entire event to begin with, as well as Sibatti's idea with songlines emerging as one of the very first mechanics we made.
- Most of the city-specific event mechanics (spirit tech (Lenoriel), eld infections (Legyn), songlines (Sibatti), antirot paste (Bulrok), Ascendril shrouds (Kaiara), the entire process of shadowbreaking (Wjoltyr/Raynia), the trenches at the Keep (Mjoll), telepathy forewarning of incursions (Aisling), silvergrit empowerment (Mjoll/Whirran), shadowbane darts (Roux/Ardent)), and likely more I'm forgetting.
- Enorian's choice of Severn's fate, and their rebranding as the Hammer of Dawn.
- Spinesreach's pact with Tanixalthas and their rebranding as the Dragon of the North.
- Duiran desperately contacting Varian about Dendara, leading to the moon ritual and the creation of Dia'ruis
- Bloodloch choosing to stand alone no matter what, seriously reinforcing their themes to such an extent that they got to make a choice about the fate of their patron, resulting in the death of Iosyne.
- The defence of Kald which began with one person's (Reave's) lone vigil, transforming into one of the largest side-segments imaginable (Rasani, Kalena, Eaku, Mjoll, Iesid, Rijetta + others were so influential here).
- How to bring about the ylem theft/subsequent detonation was largely devised by Spinesreach solely with the mandate of 'steal all the ylem'.
- Negotiations with the Chaos Court were almost all decided by player input (Rijetta, Bulrok, Xenia, Sheryni all affected the way these went).
- Et al.
The point of me recanting all of this is to really emphasise the impact you can have on the game simply by adopting a 'just do it' mentality. Don't wait for an admin or a God to tell you that you can do something (within reasonable game rules and expectations, naturally, and without Godmoding or attempting to force outcomes
); don't be paralysed by feelings of helplessness or inability, because there's almost always SOMETHING you can do. There is no more surefire way of garnering admin support than by going out on a limb and just saying to hell with the consequences and trying it anyway.
Sometimes it won't work out. Sometimes you'll lose. Sometimes it might not go anywhere due to resources, lore, or some other reason. Sometimes it'll straight up backfire. But sometimes it might even start a global apocalypse.Closing Thoughts
This was an absolutely thrilling event to run and I couldn't be happier with how it went overall. As always, there are lessons for us to learn and take away from this, but on the whole I'm extremely proud of both the team and of the playerbase - the reactions, the drama, the highs and lows, the schemes, the plots, the fighting, the conflict, the gradual unwinding of diluted, tethered orgs, the shouting (I'd be remiss if I didn't at least make a passing mention here to Iesid, Rasani, Rijetta, Whirran, Linne, Tetchta, and others), the public news post wars, and the absolute rollercoaster of emotions that are, ultimately, why we are all here sharing this weird and wonderful corner of the internet.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions, your responses to the polls, and your questions, which I'll do my best to answer so long as they don't touch on what if scenarios, since I'd rather not go into that.
Are they just gonna be there as monuments that just don't do anything now? Why wouldn't Duiran just use the Totem's power at all times?
Ictinus, you are a madman.
For those keeping track at home, since he won't brag on his own behalf, Ictinus:
I know I'm missing a ton of things here too, which is insane. This man wrote a Brandon Sanderson novel worth of text over the last few months at such a consistent and unmatched quality.
- Wrote all skills and ABs for 2 classes, as well as their accompanying helps, learn messages, etc.
- Casually wrote up, planned an event and mechanics for, and subsequently released a new level 200 class
- Wrote 99% of the script himself (with the exception of Kald, which the glorious Razmael helped with)
- Wrote all of the events posts (we had more events posts in this single event than in the previous administration's tenure as a whole)
- RP'd multiple gods throughout the entire event
- Did the entire Ati progression from start to finish, mechanics included
- Ran the chaos court
- Wrote the descriptions for all generals and bosses
Razmael deserves a shoutout as well, because while his contributions are more behind the scenes, I know that a lot of the fun things that happened either stemmed from his immense lore knowledge, or were enabled by his code wizardry. I usually credit Ictinus for saving the game, but I genuinely don't know how it would continue if we didn't have Razmael either.
You two are such a dynamic powerhouse duo that enable each other (for better or worse lol) to do some really incredible things for this game, and it's beyond appreciated.
This is Aetolia at its best.
I'm still buying mirrors.
The sabres and bombs only work on beings of pure elemental shadow! So there's not much to nerf there, any more than the fact that Syssin can banish those same beings. And as for ylem bombs, they'd be so utterly insanely energy-intensive and require working together as the whole city with the direction of a Divine that it's pretty much 'end of the world crisis' only.
The players were also fantastic. I don't know that it's my place to reveal specifics, but you have no idea how many moving parts were left in your hands and how well you handled it. Not to forget how many times you folks exceeded our expectations through wonderful writing and ideas. You adapted just as much as we did.
There's never been a better time to be an Aetolian.
It was so fun to feel that... OOF. The betrayal, the loss, the discomfort of not having everything we needed available and having to rely on interesting ways of getting supplies. That was just so different and awesome.
And the satisfaction of taking the city back room by room with Ati and Abhorash! The team work makes the dream work feeling was just so awesome and did a lot to 'rally' Bloodloch.
The finale was such pretty writing, which allowed for easy visualization of how the events would go down.
These EVENTS POSTS read like novels that I want to read! I will fight whoever asked Icti before me, for his signed novel!!
I'm so glad I came back to playing Aetolia, like 4-5 months ago? This event makes it feel like I've been back for years with the amount of content we've been through though! You guys are fantastic and we are lucky to have such a great team working on Aetolia!
But really, every bit of this event was spectacular, and I am so glad I started playing when I did. Its been such a great experience thorough the whole of it!
Both Admin and players alike deserve mad props
@Ictinus and Co.: We truly appreciate that "this is not possible" has become an unacceptable response to player ideas and aspirations. You already said it in a more coherent fashion but it truly feels like the world is able to be changed and can, most importantly, evolve past the status quo established in the mid-2010s or so. Major props, all the kudos, I'm renewing my Iron Elite as soon as possible in the hopes that the administration above you sees that this is a game worth making investments in for the future.
*but really, not to be a petty bitch but #idea-log in the Achaean Discord server is like an embarassing case-study in how NOT to do customer service, just sayin'
Ylem 'nukes' are a much different consideration of course, but I think most of the circumstances enabling this to happen will almost certainly not be possible again due to the RP fallout that comes from it (from both mortals and Gods).
And it shall come to pass that when the song of heaven lies forgotten,
So shall the people of the sun cry tears of grief.
Ere despair there will be hope,
And the three shall convey upon them their solemn charge.
This refers to the Djinn forgetting the Heavenly Peal, and the Triad bestowing the task of finding it again.
By the five shall they seek the peal,
And know paradise.
The "five" here refers to Paimri, the Djinn fortress in Rahiela.
When the gates of sanctuary have opened,
Light and fire shall be as one.
Thousands shall die by ancient accord,
And fell sorcery shall be vanquished.
This refers to the ancient war with the Indorani.
And in the Age of Midnight,
War shall ravage the holy lands.
The devil-black shall shirk His war-made bindings,
And passion shall be snuffed by She Who Burns.
This refers to Yvalamon getting free and attacking the Djinn, as well as Seelis being their god of death.
And when the spine of reality is mending,
From ruin shall come madness.
The grains of sand shall fall more swiftly,
And order shall shatter ancient pacts.
Odravh fixing the Planar Spiral, ruin (Ruin) being the catalyst for Odravh and, consequently, the shapeshifter madness, as well as order breaking the pact between Prime and Fire due to time realigning (as theorised during Jezreth's ascension event).
And when the black pyre flees the wrath of empty night,
And sundered time bequeathes a bounty broken,
Five will come and six will fall,
What follows after stained by war.
The black pyre is Yvalamon, empty night here is Severn (same language used for Ohlsana = Shadow). The five are Niuri's five elder guises, the six are those five dying + Niuri herself.
Then open will the violet eye of twilight,
Ancient evil from its slumber woken,
Sibilant, its clarion call,
Seeping in through breach and bore.
This one is the war of night of course.
And yea, then shall the mother of shadow reach out and touch the land,
And all the light of all the world shall be as darkness.
All the clouds shall rain tears of blight and poison,
And hope shall wither on the vine of despair.
And this one
There are 3 more verses to this but they are as yet lost IC!
Question: Will that super cool dungeon in Arbothia become open for general usage? It was amazing and huge props to @Tedrunai for it!
Always interested in knowing how I'm doing!
THE YLEM HEIST
After further consideration, I decided to start with the most important part, even though I wrote this section last.
The Ylem Heist led straight to everything I wanted for Spinesreach, the Archivists, and Legyn.
Spinesreach staked its claim as the city of Lovecraftian steampunk mad science.
The Archivists got so many opportunities to do unnatural science and brought Numerology back at the forefront of the lore.
Smuggling spiritbulbs to Bloodloch and fighting off shadowspawn with Duiran and Enorian while plotting to steal all their ylem was an amazing experience. Watching it go off was so cathartic. All the deceptions and the scheming, all the science and experiments, all the prayers to Chakrasul, everything came together in that moment and I knew I could start working on projects I'd been wanting to do for months.
I messed up trying to talk about this on Discord before, so I want to give it another try and be as clear as I can be.
Spinesreach getting 3v1ed after the ylem theft wasn't just the expected result, it was the intended result. I have no problem with that. When Inkh called the meeting and told Legyn, Pietre, and Aliyah that Spinesreach needed all the ylem in the world, it was an intensely liberating moment as a player. I'd often avoided conflict because I didn't want to drag people into a fight they didn't want, and I knew that, one way or another, those days where over. If anything, I'm extremely excited about the way things turned out. What I am afraid is that we, as a player base, are going to fuck it up somehow and push people back to avoiding conflict. I want to start more fights with everyone, but I won't be able to if it's always going to lead to Spinesreach getting raided every time, not because I want to avoid PvP, but because a fight of that scale is an exhausting amount of hassle to deal with and I don't want Spinesreach to get dragged into everything the Archivists do anyway. Sometimes, I just want a few hours of PKing to break up the monotony, and that's it. Anything roughly on par with getting a bounty or something, I'm going to be okay with 100% of the time, and I'm always fine with the guild getting hit for what it does, but if every conflict sprawls out, I won't have the energy to keep it up as much as I would like.
It's the same for the other orgs. I don't want the Akkari to hold back their Crusades because it'll take more effort than they're willing and able to invest. Come at me, Albedi cultist bro.
With that out of the way...
I have a hard time imagining what it must have been like to be in Spinesreach after Severn's return and not know about any of the ongoing conspiracies. Up to that point, Spinesreach was doing its duty as the wardens of Czjetija and for a while, it looked like Spinesreach and Enorian were going to work something out as the only reasonable adults in the room. I would've rolled with that for the sheer novelty of it, but it would have ruined most of my plans for the Archivists. Needless to say, I'm much happier with the way it turned out.
I'm also impressed by the way everyone in Spinesreach was able to keep the eld project secret enough even when it was obvious we were the ones mutating the eld. When Inkh said he wanted the whole city to start injecting eld, I was sure something would go wrong, but we pulled it off. This bodes extremely well for Spinesreach's future. I don't know if the city's going to be doing any more shady conspiracies, but the Archivists absolutely are.
I don't know how the conversation between Severn and Inkh went, but Inkh took the lead with Spinesreach's new direction and I took my cues from him every time I wasn't sure what to do.
We finally get to do all the things I wanted to do!!!!!!!!!!!
I have so many crimes against humanity planned for the Archivists now that there's no point in caring what anyone else thinks and I love it. Everyone did a great job with (what they knew of) the Liruma Project and we're going to keep going.
The guild go so many examples of cool toys. I always have a difficult time gauging what is and isn't mechanically possible for an OrgReq (and I'm glad Ictinus pointed when I did seriously lowball on some things) so every improvement on the Science Spire made my life easier when it meant I had to revise my plans for the Alchemy lab. Everything Spinesreach can do, the Archivists will do, except better and much more horrifying.
Everyone in the guild has been great. Special shoutouts go to Linne, Molotok, and Knigi for establishing the correct baseline of weird Archivists in different ways, and to Saidenn for popping back in just in time for Spinesreach to live up to his expectations.
I would like to once again apologize to Chakrasul for all the cringe prayers. I would also like to apologize for the fact that the cringe prayers will not stop.
If there's one thing I didn't see coming, it's Legyn's involvement in Chakrasul's order.
A quick report to Bulrok turned into joining the order. Things got a little out of hand after that. Philosophical thought exercises on Corruption became a full-on Guide To Life after Qelres committed the heinous crime of not filing its reports (Ironically, Linne did file the report, but it quite literally got lost in the mail because of login spam or something) and Inkh gave the order to start all the criming. I needed something to work with, so I doubled down on Corruption at every possible opportunity. Aside from threatening Severn for endangering Linne and trying to use the Arbothia deal to ask the Carnifex to heal Kanivara, everything Legyn did after that was for Chakrasul, and it kept working so he kept doing it. The timing of everything couldn't have been more perfect.
Legyn's transition from unassuming affable bureaucrat who wants a nice, quiet library to work in to deranged psychopath who wants to science everything and maybe deal with the consequences later if they're interesting enough for him to notice would not have been possible without Chakrasul, Severn, Inkh, Rijetta, and Bulrok nudging him along just by existing (Elene was bashing through most of it). Getting appointed to Order Representative and esteemed by Chakrasul remains the highlight of the event for me.
It's going to be so weird when I finally remember to ask for directions around the temple.
There's not much I say here that hasn't been said already. Everyone did an amazing job of running with this absolute insanity. Ictinus has been consistently supportive and helpful whenever I have a question about something. I do apologize that the OrgReqs keep coming. I only have about... 15 left. Unless I decide to add another floor to the research wing.
I will take everyone's word Razmael did amazing work.
I also look forward to what Keroc is going to do next with combat. My preference is for smaller-scale conflict and open PK areas, but murder is always fun.
Spinesreach pissing everyone off was necessary. The admin wanted a 1v1v1v1 scenario for the game's long-term health and they were going to get it one way or another. I am personally excited about it because it means I can now move forward with plans I had for the Archivists that I'd avoided because I wanted conflict with Duiran or Enorian. I am also not complaining about the war declarations on Spinesreach.
Separately from this, I am concerned that players will push it too far, escalate every conflict out of proportion, and push everyone back into passivity. Again, I'm not complaining about the wars, but they are mentally exhausting. I need to trust that if I start a small-scale fight, it's going to stay a small-scale fight. Otherwise, it's just not going to be worth the effort.
I have made the deliberate decision to have Legyn take the most extreme position possible on Spinesreach because I think someone needs to and it's a logical character progression.
What characters in Spinesreach do as individuals is none of my business. Don't disrespect the undead in Bloodloch, don't disrespect the spirits in Duiran, don't disrespect the Duamvi in Enorian, don't disrespect the science in Spinesreach. Aside from that, people can do whatever they want.
I always knew some people would quit Spinesreach. Bloodloch and Duiran both lost players when they went harder on their themes. If players aren't interested in Spinesreach's direction, that's totally fine.
Spinesreach did get a rough deal overall. Everyone else got their major shift much earlier in the event, it was a lot more straightforward for them, and the Shadowspawn were there to keep everyone else too distracted to really demand payback. Spinesreach got a global conspiracy players couldn't engage with until it was almost done, the event ended soon afterwards so there was nothing to stop the other cities from raiding, and the raids made it impossible to process what happened and adapt to the changes. It'll get settled and we'll figure out how to move on from there.
In any case, there's something special to be said about @Rihrin and @Iesid's initial leap of faith that kicked this rollercoaster off. Watching all of Duiran quickly band together to lean heavy into the story and support one another in their own unique ways to explore the truly unknown and express their voices was just so rewarding to watch and experience from start to finish. Especially in the face of and despite the flak that inevitably rained down from all corners of the globe, you all managed to strengthen your pocket in the community and that's no easy feat.
Some of my favorite highlights:
There are really too many great moments to go through them all. When I think back to what the game was and what it is now, it's utterly unrecognizable in the best way possible. Players dipped their toes in the water and realized it wasn't as daunting as it seemed before just about everyone dove right into the roleplay presented to them. There are many great supporting casts of characters out there in the game that seamlessly enhance the game. It's really, truly great to see. And of course, the stellar leadership helmed by @Ictinus, @Razmael, and @Keroc. I look forward to sharing another year and many more after with the Aetolian community!