Growing Pains

Believe it or not, the above history only takes us to early 2009. What followed were several years in which I was less closely involved in World of Hogwarts, although I continued to play both my characters there (Trystan and Gwion from Hogwarts Reborn). I also taught Herbology as professor Maximus and had the honour of having a greenhouse designed for me by Angus Mesmer and Riko.

The Castle Greenhouse from the fourth castle

I should say something about castles. We have had six!

1.The first castle was Harry’s creation in Hogwarts Reborn. Notable for its huge staircase and giant mountain top location with sheer sides, Harry’s castle would have been as good as anything we had since, if he had ever finished it. However, the lack of texture on the turrets was a real blot on what was otherwise a magnificent build. That castle, of course, only ever existed on the Hogwarts Reborn (oahu) sim.

2.When World of Hogwarts was born, to get the build done quickly, the builders went out and bought a castle. It was a rather dark affair but with its own charms. Its biggest problem, however, was that all the major roleplay locations were within chat range of each other, so people in the Great Hall would frequently get confused and respond to someone in the library, for instance. It also seemed to have rather a lot of space devoted to medical use, perhaps showing the interest of one of the builders in particular.

3.Angus Mesmer then built us a new castle, and it was stunning and very clever. It had portraits you could sit in to RP as a portrait. It was a brighter affair than the second castle, and dealt with the chat range issues. It had a beautiful great hall too.

4.Angus was clearly not altogether happy with the third castle though and eventually gave us our fourth castle. This was more than an incremental change – it was a whole new layout, but it also has a familiar feel to it now, keeping what was best in the third castle but adding in all kinds of new improved areas. The new greenhouse was even better than his previous one, and the grassy courtyard was amazing. This castle will probably never be surpassed, but sadly we have not had use of it since we were forced to vacate the witchcraft sim (more on that later).

Angus Mesmer's Fourth Castle

5.The fifth castle was bought as a gift for us by Trodden Miles when we had to give up the Witchcraft sim and move to Forbidden Forest. It was a good castle, with a nice great hall, and only a little primmy, but it was not a had designed Hogwarts Castle.

6. In time we replaced it with our sixth and current castle, largely built for the WOH role players by the WOH role players, such as Harper Vosmus,Chiyo Selona, Kilvin, Jadzia Decuir, and many more.
This is the castle we use now, and has been specifically designed around prim conservation, with the use of rezzers to set rooms up. Jadzia DeCuir has spent huge amounts of time setting those up and creating a fantastic roleplay area and now with Charlotte Brunel, that costs us a fraction of what we were paying in the Witchcraft sim. With role players still helping with the build to update and build for events such as Obvilious Baxton and many other WOH role players.

Anyway we were onto castle number three by the end of 2008 and Hogwarts went through a long period of a succession of roleplay leads with varying styles. Student deaths started to pile up, and in time I role-played Trystan’s withdrawal from school by concerned parents. Gwion hung on though and graduated in time… which reminds me of another ceaseless debate: the roleplay clock.

When Danton set the RP up it was in real time but eventually we moved to a “two school years per year” scenario. When Libbie took over as RP lead she immediately upped that to “four years a year” as she and others with her were in a group who wanted to progress their characters through the school as quickly as possible.

There have always been some players who never wanted to grow up, and others eager to grow as quickly as possible. To be honest, both are problematic. Eternal first years can make no role-play progression, but those rushing through school tend to leave people behind. Moreover these same people seemed to insist on having winter when it really is winter in the UK, and summer when it really is summer, thus tying the roleplay clock to the seasons, but progression four times faster.

Many people disliked or just ignored the faster progression, and when we had the merger I proposed a solution that worked for HR players (who generally wanted real time progression) and WOH players (who tended to want it a bit faster although no one argued for 4 years in a year).

The solution was to have optional progressing per term and encouraged progression per year.

Every school term that ended in exams would now allow people to advance after the exams if they wished. This could happen three times a year, but you didn’t have to advance then. Instead you could just advance each real September (and even that was ignored by some).

You can imagine that the role-play purists howled at that one, but the seence of World of Hogwarts at its best has always been compromise to the medium. People come, people go. If you are in a group who have know each other a while you can decide to progress together. There are all kinds of ways in which our role play compromises to a highly dispersed player base with huge churn in an online world that only partly mimics life. This was just another place that people can express their imagination or their capacity for willing suspension of disbelief, and lo and behold it has worked. After the fierce debates of the past and the flip flopping on RP calendar, such complaints have gone away and people have accepted this way of working.

Anyway enough of that digression. What did I observe after I stepped back in 2009? Well we had a succession RP leads, and some exciting sim wide plots.

The alt list was a problem. That secret list of everyone’s alt was designed to keep the RP safe from people metagaming or misusing their alts, but it had to be kept private. People should not be sharing alt information, but sadly a later head of the New Members Ministry saw fit to circulate the list, a major breach of trust.

Seeking out alts became centre stage of a wider controversy that swept Second Life in late 2010 and early 2011, when a criminal in Seattle set up a system called redzone that exploited the parcel media bug in Second Life to expose everybody’s IP addresses and to store these against account names in a database. This allowed alts to be exposed without consent, and was used by Hogwarts players although not primarily on the World of Howgarts sim. However it was used by our players and this caused more discord. Redzone went away in 2011 when the criminal behind the enterprise was arrested and jailed for felonies associated with the system, and third party viewers gained patches that blocked the parcel media bug he exploited.

A new crop of players were, however, providing some stability to Hogwarts, and in time a new and promising role-play lead with big ideas was appointed by the GMC. Again the funds had been tight but suddenly there was a new air of excitement and … started to approach players like myself and Leeloo Mill, whose videos of Hogwarts had been as legendary as her Leaky Cauldron parties, to play more actively and get involved again, and we did so gladly.

It took a while but there was very great excitement in the summer of 2012 as we looked forward to the latest Hogwarts relaunch. Some of us old timers created new characters. This was when I created Callum Lothian, as Trystan had grown up and left Hogwarts (or been withdrawn rather) and Gwion too had graduated. There was a problem though in the New Members Ministry which did not seem to be on the same page as everyone else. It took me, as an existing player, well over a month and some pulling of strings, to get Callum approved, even though he was just an alt character. Others faced far longer delays with many people simply giving up.

The relaunch was still good, and it was great to be back with old friends. Jadzia, Prescott and others were all here, and many others were returning but the New Members Ministry was a brake on sim growth, the exact opposite of what it had been created to be (a means to get people approved more quickly than could happen if the RP lead did the work).

There was another issue, which was dissension in the GMC. Looking back on that period, one member of the GMC at that time said that the problem was that the GMC all hated each other. That was unfair though – there was strife on the GMC then as there had been in the past, but there were clearly friendships there.

Still the GMC of that period perhaps recognised the NMM problem but did not act to correct it, and sadly that damaged the relaunch. Role-play still continued but it dried up quite quickly. New players could not join, and old ones became disenchanted, particularly when their offers to help were spurned. Leeloo wanted to return to her advertising role and was rebuffed. I offered to help with the website and quidditch, but was turned down flat.

Behind the scenes there was an enormous amount of backbiting, and you can understand why the GMC thought they hated each other. One GM left, sadly never to return. Others held on grimly determined to take the sim down with them.

Mistaking the sim for the roleplay, Sirahal Rees announced the closure of Hogwarts as she was no longer willing to keep the sim, and did not think to offer it for transfer to someone else in the way I had paid the transfer to her in the first place. Still, this announcement drew an angry response from the GMC. This was from Caffine Rambler, one of the GMs of the time:

How Dare You
postby Caffine on 22 Mar 2013 02:13 am

To close the sim without a vote, you have no right, none of you, and I am ashamed to be associated with any of you.

And then:

If you don’t want to be part of the sim but don’t want to hold a vote to shut it down then you can leave, and leave it to those of us who still want to put in the work.

The GMs knew things could not go on as they were. World of Hogwarts was created to be a player run roleplay and players wanted change…