Evermore’s Election

After my total lack of coverage for Evermore’s Aurora and subsequent Mythos seasons, someone might reasonably conclude that I had sworn off the park. But, no. Although I found the conclusion to Evermore’s inaugural Lore season to be lackluster, it didn’t actually engage in some of the really objectionable behavior I feared it might. The champion of Evermore turned out to mostly be a nominal position, and while I still think that contest was ill-conceived, there wasn’t a true finale reserved for a special elite, the true finale just turned out to kind of suck. It was a perfectly fine story, really, it just didn’t require the participation of the park guests very much at all, to the point where it’s not clear why we bothered showing up.

In any case, while that was disappointing, it wasn’t so disappointing that I wasn’t willing to give the park another go. Even if Evermore’s plot is perpetually kind of aimless and just sort of happens around you, it’s still a fun place to be.

It’s just that Evermore keeps shutting down on weekdays, and my professional GMing schedule means I have only a few very specific evenings available, and which evenings those are is subject entirely to what’s convenient to my current set of clients. When Evermore was open six nights out of seven, I had really good odds that one of my two essentially-random nights off would land on an open night.  Now that it’s down to just three, my odds aren’t so great, especially since I’m trying to avoid weekends. I got to Aurora exactly once during the whole season, and while I’ve managed two visits to Mythos and have a third lined up, that’s mainly because my younger brother is finally back from Sokovia and I’m willing to cancel one of my professional games for one night in order to visit the park with him before he leaves again.

As part of the current Mythos plot arc, though, Evermore is having an election. Neat! But this puts Evermore in a sticky position. On the one hand, election runners assert that the “citizens of Evermore” vote in addition to worldwalkers. This might just be for verisimilitude, because, really, it’s weird that worldwalkers even get to vote when we only visit on weekends. It could also indicate that the writers plan to use the votes of the NPC citizens to rig the election in favor of either one of a small handful of specific candidates from amongst the ten or even just one candidate specifically. This is totally reasonable, because unlike in a single-player video game, no one person could have a significant impact on the election anyway, so whether the election is being steered by the masses or by the writers makes almost no difference to the experience of any individual park-goer. It’s not like these people are setting our real life healthcare policies or anything, so it’s not like the actual purpose of an election – to guard against tyranny – is at all applicable.

The problem is, by saying that the votes of worldwalkers are being counted, the writers of Evermore could potentially paint themselves into a corner where the worldwalkers are 1) clearly more numerous (we are) and 2) strongly favor a candidate the writers want to defeat. This makes the election feel rigged. But on the other hand, if the writers say that the worldwalkers can’t vote because, y’know, we don’t live here, then the election feels like a pointless sideshow that isn’t really our problem. The only way to have a “we’re having an election” plot without actually turning over a major plot point to the random choices of the playerbase is to land on one of these two imperfect solutions: Either pretend you’re counting player votes but then don’t, or else tell the players up front that the whole election is playing out on autopilot.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the election totally is being used to determine the next mayor of Evermore by the actual park-goers, the votes of the actual inhabitants of Evermore are being apportioned exactly in proportion to how the worldwalkers vote, and the writers are ready to incorporate Mayor Seftis the mildly psychotic executioner into next season’s plot if it comes to that (it didn’t, Seftis dropped out of the race early, but if the election is actually legit, it could’ve).

Evermore: The Finale That Really, Actually Wasn’t

Evermore claims that it’s big finale would happen on November 3rd. Some of its fanboys passed that claim on to me. I wound up going to Evermore on November 3rd because I figured, hey, it may be Saturday and it will no doubt be way too crowded, but if they do this right I will only need to complete one quest, and if they do it wrong I will not actually have anything to do, so the long lines won’t matter. They did it wrong.

The story of Evermore has been weirdly aimless until now. Plenty of people have helped the Nettletons in the Auctioneer quest and subsequently joined the hunters in the Hunter quest (a decent chunk have additionally completed the other two tarot quests, but they’re more like side quests with little connection to the main plot). By the time I’d got to the end at Halloween I actually assumed that the Fey King plot was going to be multi-arc, to get more use out of that giant animatronic (though I questioned how well he’d stand up to the snow), since the quests we’d completed showed no signs of even getting close to completing it. Lantern bearer Faldo/Falda claimed the Fey King’s true form was out in the woods somewhere and only possessed the animatronic from time to time (a reasonably clever way of explaining why that animatronic is sometimes dormant), early stages of the Nettleton quest (possibly later ones, too?) asserted that Finley had been infected from the woods, and the hunters stated they didn’t let worldwalkers into the woods because it wasn’t safe. It all seemed to be building up to a confrontation in the woods with the source of the plague, if not with the Fey King himself.

That never happened. Really, in the end, we may as well have not even shown up for all that worldwalkers contributed to the actual fight against the Fey King. We ran errands for the Nettletons and Thurgood, which was not a bad way to introduce the problem, but was nothing they couldn’t have done for themselves. I don’t mean in the “I refuse to be immersed” “are we really the most qualified hunters because we spent thirty minutes practicing archery to get one bullseye, I mean, come on” sense, but rather in the sense that the quest literally only required us to deliver items from one to the other. Towards the beginning it at least involved interrogating some vampires in a mausoleum that was allegedly dangerous, but later stages of the quest didn’t even involve that. I did more good for Evermore running fake anti-hex talismans to Duffy because the courage was in him all along than I did in any of the tarot quests.

What did happen was that Wyn Weaver and Wiccam put aside their differences to close the portal – something they could apparently have done just whenever and waited around out of nothing but dislike for one another – but trapped Clara Nettleton on the other side. She’d run in because she was afraid of infecting her new fiance, the barkeep Suds, and they sealed it up behind her. The next day, Thurgood finished his cure, so, not spectacular long term planning skills on Clara’s part. Also, Mother Nature/Mother Earth/Shiri confronted the Fey King in the town square and healed him. I mean, he’s still a giant evil-looking animatronic and not a regular looking fairy, but he stopped being a colossal jerk to everyone. Also, there’s a handful of hints that there are greater evils out in the forest, which will presumably make trouble come December.

I have not directly spoken with any of the champions, however it does appear as though their participation mainly amounted to having front row seats to events that nevertheless played out pretty much completely without their involvement. They stood on stage instead of off to the side, but they were still just watching events play out. I wasn’t there for the earliest bits of the night, however (a quick nap ended with me sleeping through my alarm for over an hour, which gives you an idea of how much extra work I’m doing right now), so the exclusive champion quest may actually have been vital to getting Wiccam and Wyn Weaver to reconcile and close that portal. Even that may or may not have actually been a huge deal. The direction the plot was going earlier was towards the darkness in the forest, where Finely was infected, where the hunters wouldn’t let you in unless you were qualified (and then, psyche, not even then). If the champions got an additional side quest involving Wyn Weaver and Wiccam that still ultimately comes down to just asking the two to kiss and make up, then eh, whatever, that wouldn’t be a big deal, if everyone else got to have their moment where they go into the woods, get chased by a monster, and escape by the skin of their teeth with the final ingredient needed to make the cure (or whatever). If that’s the only conclusion that anyone ever got, then what the Hell, why would you give the build up to that climax to everyone, hold the climax hostage to a contest, and then tell everyone else to come back for the denouement?

The lack of a resolution has been a frequent complaint amongst park guests, frequent enough that I’ve overheard people talking about it on multiple occasions just while wandering around. Now, maybe watching a two minute stage play in which the problem gets resolved without our help ever having been significant is enough for some people, but firstly, I wouldn’t be sure about that, people definitely noticed that the plot had no particular resolution and became aimless after the hunter quest, so betting on the Evermore audience not to notice failures of craft has not been the winning move so far.

And secondly, even if having the conclusion to your allegedly interactive, immersive plot be an uninteractive vignette played out on a stage turns out to be good enough for most people, most people did not actually get that. I was in Evermore when this happened, there were, like, two or three hundred people here for the finale (by which I mean the specific finale events – there were very likely more total guests for that day), but the park brings in 1,000+ on Saturdays alone, with similar numbers on Friday and smaller but still significant populations on weekdays. Even assuming the Saturday crowd is the exact same people coming back weekly every single time, this Saturday’s crowd was not appreciably bigger than the last Saturday I went. It may have even been smaller. This finale did not draw in a whole lot of people like me who usually visit on other days. Speaking personally, even if there had been some kind of climactic quest available today, it still would’ve been a little disappointing, because all of my actual friends in Evermore have been replaced by mysterious dopplegangers. The Wednesday cast isn’t here, the Saturday cast is, and I have to start every conversation with a reminder to the actors that our characters know each other, despite the fact that many of them have never seen me before and most of the exceptions haven’t seen me since preview night clear back on September 8th.

Evermore’s pace grinds to a halt halfway through its story, not simply because there are villains left to defeat (personally defeating the Fey King is impossible simply on the grounds that it can only happen once), but because there is never any climax, nor really any point at which the worldwalkers do something that the townspeople of Evermore couldn’t have done for themselves. I’m entirely willing to meet the park halfway on this kind of thing, and just assume for the sake of suspension of disbelief that becoming a hunter/knight really was an important pre-requisite to entering some kind of haunted house with a plot coupon hiding in the middle, even if the skills tested for and oaths sworn never actually come up. That didn’t actually happen, though. The plot grinds to a halt right before the climax, never resumes, and then Evermore solves its issues on its own initiative. Why did I even show up?

Evermore: The Finale That Wasn’t

As I write this, there are two minutes in Halloween left here in Utah, and I’ve just got back from Evermore for my fifth visit. The long and short of it is that I have fully plumbed the depths of what Evermore has to offer and feel like I have a very good idea of what’s going on and how this park works. And how it works it that there just isn’t any kind of finale, not even on Halloween. There was live music and fire dancers and lots of guests in costume, so it’s not like it was a completely typical night, but what there wasn’t was any kind of confrontation phase of the plot. The NPCs seem to be resolving this whole “dark blood” thing almost entirely of their own initiative, making steady progress on a cure with no more assistance from the players past running errands back and forth between the Nettletons and Diet Thurgood the alchemist. To whatever extent there is a climax, it’s gonna be for ten people:

Evermore Champion Page

This here is the page explaining that the exclusive “Champion’s quest” – presumably the actual finale to Evermore’s first arc – is going to be reserved for at best ten people (assuming all ten finalists get to go) and determined based on winning a goddamn social media popularity contest. The “champion of Evermore” is the person whose shallow desire to provoke envy from others drives them most fervently to create effective clickbait – and if it’s not, then that’s because by happy accident the sorting process failed to deliver results. Evermore’s reach might be too limited for Darwinian selection to kick in – or maybe not.

On the bright side, I did come away with some sweet loot:

IMG_20181031_235336

Continue reading “Evermore: The Finale That Wasn’t”

Evermore: Sluggish, Confused, and Contrary

Yeah, that’s what everyone’s been waiting for, right? More Evermore posts. Longtime readers will be pleased to know that Threadbare posts are resuming tomorrow, it just so happens that my schedule freed up enough for real blog posts again just in time for a Friday post.

Fans of nitpicking will be pleased to know that Evermore is beginning to manifest some flaws, however. Three in particular. First, Evermore is sluggish. I mentioned last time that I’d just barely managed to get to the end of the hunter leg of their Halloween plot. I turned up today, showed Killian my hunter card (new actor on this one, I hope it’s because vital characters have different actors on different nights and not because they’re seeing actor turnover within the space of a single plot arc), and asked what to do next. She had nothing to give me. The plot dead ends there. I was okay with this during the soft open, but halfway through the entire arc the actual ending still isn’t available? The idea here seems to be that the plot advances week by week or maybe even day by day, and you have to come to Evermore very regularly to get each moment. But there’s not actually a whole lot more to do if you go multiple times, and people who visit early on during an arc and aren’t able to return until it’s over just never get to see how that arc finishes.

Evermore is also confused. The actors do not appear to be properly briefed on what the current plot is at all. I was receiving quest hooks for finding black stones to bring to Thurgood the alchemist (who I’m now confident actually is the dual-personality alchemist I met on preview night, but when I met him on other nights, he was played by a different actor – I don’t fault Evermore for this, retaining the same actor every night, six days a week, for every single role would very possibly run the actors into the ground). The problem is, that plot hook is no longer a thing. The Nettletons already have a supply of those black rocks, which they’re grinding up into little bottles of powder and distributing to anyone who asks about it to bring it to the witch Wyn Weaver (pronounced “when weaver,” I only know how to spell it because “Wyn Weaver’s cookies” show up on the food stand menus – they’re pretty good, too, but the hot chocolate is the real selling point when it comes to Evermore food).

Not only that, but apparently the Mother Nature/Mother Earth dichotomy is not a result of a divide between pre- and post-corruption, but instead everyone is just referring to her exclusively as Mother Nature, and reacted with bemused surprise at the notion that she was ever called Mother Earth. One of the off-duty actors even reacted with surprise that Mother Nature’s name was known to park guests at all, having apparently been told that it was being kept secret. This is what makes Evermore contrary. Not only do the actors not seem to be properly briefed on the current stage of the plot, they seem to be being given information that’s flat-out false. I met Mother Nature, identified by that name, during the soft open. That actor who was told she’s a secret wasn’t behind the current stage of the plot, they had been given information that was never true. I suspect there was an attempt to back up and hide Mother Nature’s identity (possibly why she switched to Mother Earth), which they later decided was infeasible so they walked it back. Certainly that would square with Mother Earth being reluctant to admit that she had previously been known as Mother Nature when I talked to her under that name during my first visit after the full opening, and then actors being unaware that she had ever had that name.

I did still buy tickets for Halloween, which will hopefully not be too horribly crowded. My last visit was on a Wednesday, and the more manageable crowds have reaffirmed my “don’t go on weekends” stance. Unfortunately, Wednesday and Saturday are the only evenings I have available, and next Wednesday is Samhain, which means I just have to hope that Evermore isn’t too crowded for the holiday.

There’s still a plot to wrap up here, even if it did advance hardly at all. Many side quests now give out little “gold” (actually pyrite, I’m pretty sure) nuggets, and if you hand enough of that gold into the acolytes, they’ll tell you that gold is magic and had something to do with the opening of the portals, and Wiccam and his assistant William can both tell you more. Wiccam’s not here, so William it is, but psyche, just kidding, William doesn’t know jack. Maybe Wiccam doesn’t either and the acolytes just weren’t informed that the next leg of the plot doesn’t exist yet. Hopefully my efforts to actually get to the end of the Evermore plot this Halloween won’t be thwarted by either heavy crowds or by the plot not actually existing.

Evermore: For Real Open

I haven’t gotten any more free tickets to Evermore so far, but I also probably won’t be returning for another week at least, so we’ll see whether the chain of free tickets has finally expired. The tl;dr of my opinion on Evermore’s full open is that it’s good, but if at all possible do not go on a weekend. All theme parks are worse when there’s long lines to major attractions, but Evermore has a story and an atmosphere, and the pacing of the first is absolutely slaughtered by sitting around in a line for thirty minutes between beats and the atmosphere takes a lot of damage when costumed NPCs are drastically outnumbered by uncostumed soccer moms pushing strollers. There’s not really anything Evermore can do about either of these, obviously they can’t require costumes to enter and it would be foolish to set their capacity for an optimal experience rather than a functional experience, so I don’t fault Evermore for either of these things (nor, for the record, do I fault the soccer moms for showing up with strollers), I’m just advising anyone who actually plans on visiting the park to avoid weekends.

The one thing Evermore can do about the massive lines is the one thing that it has: Offered lots of side quests to chase down to help disperse crowds between different locations. The primary quest regarding the Nettletons and subsequently the hunters is absolutely packed but if you want to resolve a spat between Harvey the Ghost and the gatekeeper, the steps on that quest are generally much less crowded and more accessible. There’s another quest about finding the missing pieces to someone’s necklace that I heard about but didn’t have time to actually complete, something about an elixir that Mother Nature/Earth is working on, and possibly more that I haven’t discovered.

These still don’t solve the problem with pace, however: Once night falls and the all ages Magical World of Lore event gives way to the spookier Cursed World of Lore, I went direct to the hunters. The good news is that capturing a vampire requires proving your worth to become a hunter, and that requires actually completing some challenges: You have to get a bullseye at an archery range, go through the top floor of the catacomb and retrieve a special black stone as proof, and then get a tarot reading from the fortune teller, who tonight is a different person from the other fortune teller but still seems pretty cool. This is exactly the kind of actually doing stuff that should be required at this stage in the story, since it helps transition from exploration to investigation, albeit in this case it’s more general preparation, but that might be a better name for that phase anyway. What matters is that we are no longer just learning serving as a messenger between NPCs who are exchanging favors with each other and are instead being required to actually do stuff that other NPCs couldn’t do for themselves.

The downside is that with a thirty minute line at the archery range, even if you get your bullseye with your first three arrows it’d still be a massive understatement to say the pacing grinds to a halt. After my first attempt failed, I wandered off to go find something else to do (thankfully, as I mentioned earlier, there are other quests) and came back when the park was nearer to closing and the lines were short enough that I could try again once every minute or two. During the soft open, the archery range pretty much always had at least one bow open, and I loosed a few dozen arrows with no line at all. I hope that’s because it was Wednesday and not because it was the soft open, because I’d like to shoot some arrows again (quest requirements or not), but I really don’t want to stand in line for it.

An unfortunate side effect of this is that I was entirely out of time to figure out what happens next. I finished the quest, got the card, but it was practically midnight by then, well past time when it would be reasonable to do anything else but wrap up dangling loose ends before going home, and certainly too late to start a whole new quest. What happens next? Is it any good? Are they going to be able to move into a confrontation with the dark forces of the Fey King as effectively as they transitioned from exploration to preparation? No clue. The hour I would’ve spent doing that, I instead spent drinking hot cocoa and watching the Fey King heckle people in the town square. Which, the interactivity of the giant Fey King animatronic is still really cool and it was fun to watch, but there was a shadow of anxiety over the whole thing, that maybe the crowds would never die down and I’d end up wasting the whole night just waiting. Having to put the main plot on pause for a while didn’t just mean I had to find something else to do, it meant I did that something else while worrying that I’d never get a chance to see the plot through to its conclusion.

Continue reading “Evermore: For Real Open”

Evermore: Soft Open

It’s never a good sign when a company starts giving you free stuff to apologize for the quality of an event you have tickets for but haven’t actually been to. That’s the position I was in last Wednesday, having woken up to an email in which Evermore offered me a free ticket to the hard open because I had “bought” a ticket to the soft open, which I got for free when I actually bought a ticket to the preview night back on September 8th. I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep chaining these free tickets along? Are they going to be so embarrassed about the barely-finished state of the opening proper that they’ll give me free tickets for Halloween, and then be so embarrassed by that that they’ll give me free tickets to their winter arc, too? Is this going to end up with me just getting a lifetime subscription to the park because I bought a Comic-Con preview ticket?

Personally, I wasn’t disappointed with the soft open, but I can see why other people would be, especially people who went on the first day, when it was likely even more unfinished than when I got there. Unfinished sections of the park were roped off with uncostumed staff standing there to make sure no park guests accidentally (or maliciously) wander off into the construction zones and the plot stops dead in its tracks halfway through because the goblin forge isn’t finished yet, so they just awkwardly tell you they’re locked out and please come back next week when we can get on with the plot. I didn’t reach that point until the park was near closing time anyway, but then, I’m not super concerned with getting through the story as fast as possible. I take my time talking to characters and other park guests (“worldwalkers,” in the parlance of the park’s lore), and am further slowed by frequent pauses where I try to figure out something to say without breaking character. Also, on at least one occasion I was slowed a bit by being mistaken for an NPC and people asked me for plot threads which, since it was late in the night, I was actually able to provide. So far as I know, those people still think I work for Evermore. In any case, people who are more mission focused and less awkward can probably get through significantly faster and hit that end of the plot “sorry, come back next week” point sooner.

One thing Evermore has significantly improved upon since the preview night was how eagerly the plot was thrust upon me. That one fellow who asked me to slay monsters back on preview night? This time, he directed me straight to Clara Nettleton, who is now the starting point for the plot, so obviously so that I don’t even feel like it’s spoilers to mention as much. Further story spoilers are going below the break, so if you’re reading this because you actually want to go to Evermore during the current plot arc (ends November 8th), now might be the time to stop.

Continue reading “Evermore: Soft Open”

Evermore: Preview Night

As of the writing (and slightly more so as of the posting), Evermore has been soft open for several days. The proper and official opening is coming September 29th, and the first arc of the story will run until November 8th. I got into the sneak preview at Comic-Con clear back on September 8th, and as part of the bundle for buying that ticket, I also got a free ticket that I’ll be using Wednesday, September 28th, to check out the soft open.

So what is Evermore? Evermore is a theme park unlike any other, by which I do not mean “so much better than Disneyland that it deserves a category of its own,” but rather “so different from Disneyland that if you think of it as being like Disneyland you’ll get it all wrong.” If you have to pick between going to Evermore or going to Disneyland, it’s not a question of which one is better, it’s a question of whether you like LARPing better than rollercoasters. Evermore has shows, restaurants, and food stands, but it has no rides. Instead, it has actors in costume, in character, wandering about the park that you can interact with. A fairy king has fallen to corruption, and that corruption is spreading through the town fast. A couple of people are trying to figure out how to reverse or at least contain it, but no one seems to be making much progress. Dig in the right places and you’ll find some of the townspeople are handing out honest to god quests.

I’ve been following the development of Evermore from a distance for years, and I decided that for the occasion I would slap together my very first cosplay.

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