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First demo survived
querki
jducoeur
Yesterday, at NELCO, was the first-ever demo of Querki. ("A decade from now, you can tell your family that you were there.") Overall, I think it went pretty well.

We started with a small-but-decent group of about 6-8 people, but it grew as the hour went along -- by the end, we had over 20 folks there, some standing in the back, which was very gratifying. I was a bit nervous, and started with a too-fast (and probably slightly eye-glazing) burble about the history of the project and roughly what it is, but after about ten minutes I managed to take a breath and encourage folks to ask questions.

As planned, we did an exercise of, "Let's write a LARP!" Fortunately, as I'd hoped, Christian was in the audience, so I could just say, "Mike -- give me a game!", to which the answer was Mike McAfee's Funeral. Of course, we didn't write very much content in the twenty minutes we had: one Character (Mike's corpse), and two Bluesheets (Being Dead, for Mike, and Mourners, which was some smart-aleck's response to, "What does a Bluesheet look like if there are no Characters in it?"). But it was a fun interactive exercise, and I think helped folks understand that it's pretty quick and easy to add properties and build your Models on the fly.

The main takeaway was that Apps will be dead-critical. Everyone agreed that the flexibility of Querki was very neat, and some folks were very appreciative of the fact that it's so easy to customize the Space to suit your particular game's needs, but most agreed that they were much more likely to start with a canned LARP Design App than try to construct it from scratch themselves. That matched my expectations. Nobody really *wants* a new platform -- what they want is the things that can be built *on* that platform. That's fine: the business plan already assumes that 99% of users will mostly work from Apps.

A bit later in the afternoon, we had a compare-and-contrast session about game-writing tools, with me talking about Querki; Nat talking about Vellum (and the European project Larpwriter), and Ken talking about GameTeX.

It was actually fascinating, seeing how we had each attacked similar problems. On the Flexibility scale, Querki was agreed to be the most-flexible and least-handholding, with Larpwriter as the most prescriptive. Querki is, so far, mainly focused on the design and writing stages (since those are my passions); GameTeX turns out to be *vastly* more powerful on the production side, with a strong emphasis on final layout (being a TeX variant), enough so that I half-seriously remarked that we might someday explore the possibility of using GameTeX as an output format. Vellum was somewhere in-between, although actually more like Querki at the conceptual level than I had expected.

Some additional interesting questions were raised, including one that hadn't occurred to me: can you do automated gender-switching, for when you're recasting a game? I think the answer for Querki is yes, but doing it *well* is likely to be an interesting problem. (GameTeX does do it, but it apparently took a good deal of effort to get right.)

Overall, it was a great time, and I'm going to have to make room for NELCO in my schedule in the future: it's a good mellow weekend of talking about LARP with other creators, and provided me with lots of good food for thought...
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I boggle at people that use LARP-writing systems that don't make gender easily swappable; except when writing a game set in a historical setting or such with strong gender roles, it doesn't make sense to me to assign characters strong genders before casting. This is presumably because of my origin in the Guild and the two main game-writing systems in the Guild, both of which assume variable gender.

LaTeX-quality PDF output and support for variable gender and similar qualities are both features I'd need to be well-supported before I'd consider using something other than GameTeX or Gameki (my own mostly-working homebrew wiki thing).

It's interesting to think that the tools you use influence what game you end up writing. (I guess this should probably get mentioned in my perennially-unfinished post on my opinions on gender at Intercon/in LARP...)

This is presumably because of my origin in the Guild and the two main game-writing systems in the Guild, both of which assume variable gender.

Yeah -- it depends heavily on the systems and games you're used to. It's not something I've worried about much, for several reasons:

-- Final writing on my games is usually tuned to the signed-up players: the game tends not to be polished until after casting, so I know the genders.

-- I don't often re-run games.

-- When I *do* re-run them, I often do a measure of re-writing anyway (so gender-switching would be part of that process).

-- Some of my games are very intrinsically gendered. Eg, The Future of Oz and Girl Genius were two of my most successful games, both based more or less entirely on existing character lists, and I'm not willing to casually rewrite other peoples' characters like that.

I can see the value of the concept -- it's true that, in most of my from-whole-cloth games, probably 2/3+ of the characters could be gender-switched without any significant difficulties. But it isn't something I've needed to spend much time pondering, largely because I'm not especially focused on re-runnability. I think the only game I *did* really build for re-running was Panel: that one was mostly gender-neutral from the start. (But that game is small enough that I simply take the file and re-edit it for a given run.)

At some point, I might have a deeper conversation with Ken about the details of how it works in GameTeX, if for no other reason than as a useful exercise in "how *should* this work in Querki?" as anything else.

The truth is, the GameTeX model -- declaring pronouns as essentially macros over character pointers -- is very logical and consistent, and would be easy enough in Querki: the syntactic counterpart to GameTeX' (from what I remember on Saturday) "\\James Bond\Them" would be [[James Bond -> Them]], and it would probably only take a few minutes to implement a first draft. (Capitalization would actually be the only challenging problem, since Querki is usually case-insensitive.)

But I don't find it all that natural while writing: I want to be able to speak naturally while I'm blasting out text. I suspect that if I was doing it for Querki, I'd want to explore more interactive possibilities -- something like a UI that went through the sheet looking for pronouns and prompted you for who each one corresponded to. (Or possibly an IDE-like prompt, that gave you a drop-down when you typed "him".)

But I don't find it all that natural while writing: I want to be able to speak naturally while I'm blasting out text.

Thinking about the problem, it really did seem to me like the technical side of it would be much more straightforward than making it easy for an author to use / fit naturally into the flow for an author. I mean, presumably after using just about any system for a while, an author would get used to it, but making it smoother facilitates adoption.

(And a non-useful but fun aside: a non-tech alternative - albeit a difficult and time-consuming one - is to write character sheets such that they avoid gendered pronouns in the first place. I did this for a tabletop one-shot with premade characters.)

It was a good demo, if it did get bogged down in the technical weeds occasionally. I blame the technical audience for asking questions needing those answers. But I think overall, people walked out with a good sense of what Querki -will- be, and that it isn't quite there yet.

And I'm always happy to be the smart-aleck in the room. I think it reminded people that it was an interactive session and that larp-writing should be fun.

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