I've been spending a lot of time analyzing the experience we currently have with criminal arrests and jail time, as a gameplay experience.
I've come to the conclusion that there's a lack of long term punishment options for players looking for their characters to experience punishment of heavy crimes (rape, murder etc).
Once upon a time, we had the prison sim for a while, which was great in theory and there were great aspects of it. However, if we analyze the prison sim gameplay experience in a post mortem sense, we quickly see where the flaws in that design were, and we can learn from those mistakes.
Currently, HPD's jail accommodations are the main row of 3 cells, and a segregation group of skybox cells, as well as a holding cell on the main level.
Typically, players are offered a chance at somewhere between 1 and 5 days or so, to have their characters in jail. This of course, can be extended, by special request from the criminal player, on a case by case basis. However, this is not the norm.
Now that those things are laid out, let's discuss the gameplay experience for two hypothetical criminal players. We will call them Player A and Player B.
Player A's character beats up a Clam clerk and robs them. They later get arrested, and taken to HPD to stay in jail for a couple days. During that time period, they are tormented and abused, and perhaps even extorted for money or favors. Things are pretty great for this level of criminal, gameplay experience wise. The character gets a punishment, and those Player A assaulted, get the sense that justice is served. And yet, the criminal will be back out on the streets to terrorize again! This gameplay experience is relatively balanced for the crime vs the punishment and the lesson(s) learned etc.
In contrast, Player B murders another player character, in cold blood and then hides the body. It wasn't a planned murder, so there's forensic evidence and it's messy. They get ratted out by a witness and the character is arrested and taken into HPD by force. The character may get interrogated and intimidated to try to get a confession. They will be booked for an average of 2 to 3 days, and during that time, they may be abused or neglected or given the opportunity to get out early etc.
The storyline that leads up to this murder finale, is amazing. It's character building and ripples outward for miles. It affects the community as a whole and spawns tons of roleplay. These are all great things. However, when the player is arrested and spends an average of 2 to 3 days in jail before being let out without a trial or extended jail time? The criminal doesn't get a sense of the way this murder has changed their character. Murder is placed at the same level of behavior, as robbery. The rush and excitement of being a murderous criminal character, is trivialized and loses its potency. This diminishes the importance and severity of the murder, in all regards. This also means that the player character that willingly allowed their character to be killed, is robbed of the severity of such a gameplay experience, to some degree.
Now, I know that players can request extra jail time for crimes. However, simply logging more time in the current jail set up, does not adequately create a long term punishment experience.
What I would love to see, is HPD get redesigned so that it functions more akin to that of a county jail, instead of a tiny town style jail.
This would bring more roleplay to HPD itself, and would allow players a better option, should they choose to have their characters have more severe, extended stay, punishments. It would also help shape criminals and staff in ways that you simply lack when a character is only in lock up for 1 to 5 days' time.
If the jail added on an extended stay minimum security county-style jail addition (which could easily be done without excess prim usage), this would fix the issue with crimes being in-proportionate to their punishments, should players opt for this. This would also be opt in, not opt out, because this must be designed as a free will RP.
It is my professional belief that if we create this additional, optional layer to HPD--the criminal element will increase and the victims will be more willing to participate because they will know that it isn't an imbalance of consequences. Players playing criminals will have the option to experience the darker side of the wrong side of the law, and have time to actually roleplay out extended stays instead of just NPC'ing that they went to jail for X months or years etc.
This also would help create a bigger niche for lawyers and case workers. The longer stay options could create issues for lawyers to help resolve, and the case workers could be involved if there are children, which also creates more roleplay for youth.
All in all, this small adjustment will have significant, positive results on gameplay experience and sim development as a whole.
Furthermore, some characters that perhaps do not really feel like they have a place in Hathian proper, any longer...could find themselves permanent fixtures of the extended stay community. For instance: Poe. Poe has been around for a long, long time. She is incredibly dangerous, volatile and unpredictable. She rarely ever has an interaction that doesn't involve violence, currently.
While this makes interactions in the city very difficult, if characters like Poe had an option to roleplay punishment in extended stay minimum security jail environment, in Hathian? That would allow her an entirely new way to interact and evolve, or devolve. It would also allow her to influence and interact with other inmates, in ways that perhaps would be simply impossible in the city proper.
Given that Hathian tends to take normal characters and twist them into broken monsters? This opens up a niche that would, up until now, force well-developed characters such as these, into permanent retirement or death.
I know I talk alot, but I'm incredibly passionate about game design, and I've spent about 6 months analyzing this. I believe it is a solid design solution and would bring Hathian back to its roots, while also opening it up to new generations to come.
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