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Got Issues FAQ & How To Write An Issue

A place to spoil daily issues for those who haven't had them yet, snigger at typos, and discuss ideas for new ones.
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Verdant Haven
Senior Issues Editor
 
Posts: 2376
Founded: Feb 26, 2013
Left-wing Utopia

Got Issues FAQ & How To Write An Issue

Postby Verdant Haven » Wed Apr 08, 2009 12:04 am

The Got Issues Forum FAQ & Guide to How to Write an Issue


What goes in the Got Issues forum?

Got Issues is a forum for discussion about the daily issues your nation gets. Most threads within the forum are related to drafting new issue submissions, or are questions and updates about existing issues.

It is NOT for any of the following:
  • Technical problems on the website -- "Why is this not working?" or "How do I...?" or, "The forums are messing up and here's the error message I got!" Technical problems go in the Technical Forum.
  • Gripes about Gameplay -- "Why did my region just get invaded!" The Gameplay forum is your friend.
  • Personal Problems -- "I hate my next door neighbour...." Get a blog.
  • Gripes about Other Players -- "That Playah is a pain in the butt!" If they're breaking the rules on the forums, you need to report it in the Moderation forum. If it's elsewhere within the game, report it via a Getting Help Request.

Also, please note that Got Issues is covered by the forum's Rules Regarding "Bad Faith" Posting.


Frequently Asked Questions


How to Write an Issue

Credits: This thread is an updated and re-written version of Candlewhisper Archive's previous version of this thread, which was adapted from Sirocco's Issues FAQ, Hack's post on Issues Repetition, Kryo's guide to unlockables, and Kat's guide to what goes in the Got Issues forum.
Last edited by Verdant Haven on Sun Jun 18, 2023 5:26 am, edited 22 times in total.
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Verdant Haven
Senior Issues Editor
 
Posts: 2376
Founded: Feb 26, 2013
Left-wing Utopia

Postby Verdant Haven » Wed Apr 08, 2009 12:04 am

FAQ: How Issues Work


Why can't I get issues more frequently?

Until March 2016, you were limited to two issues per day. Since then, you can receive four per day - one every six hours - so long as you don't already have five issues waiting for your response. There are a whole host of reasons why the issue frequency won't be increased further. These include the number of descriptors that fit on your nation, ensuring the fairness of stats and World Census rankings, and avoiding excessive repetition. If you aren't receiving an issue every six hours, make sure to visit your Settings Page to ensure that the "Issues" dropbox is set to "No Throttle."

I've already had this issue, so why am I getting it again?

There are only so many issues in the game, and not all nations qualify for every issue. For example, a nation that already allows voting is not going to get an issue about granting citizens the right to vote. Eventually you are going to get ones you've ruled on previously again. If you want there to be more issues, why not submit one?

What happens to my nation if I dismiss an issue?

Absolutely nothing. A once-popular myth was that dismissing issues lowers your population's growth rate. That is not true. If you are happy with the current status of your nation vis-à-vis an issue's dilemma, you may dismiss it without further consideration.

Is there a list of all the issues somewhere?

Various players over time have taken the lead to maintain this list. Please note that it may not always be up to date with the newest issues added into the game.

Is there an official list of all the statistical effects of the issues?

No. These are deliberately kept secret.

Is there a way to review all the issues I've answered to see what my answers were?

No, you can only view the effects of the last few issues you answered in your nation's description.


FAQ: Existing Issues


Can I submit suggestions for narrative changes to existing issues?

Yes. However, there is a threshold of experience and understanding of how the game works to be able to comprehend why issues are like they are at the moment. A lot of new players will, for example, ask for additional options to existing issues for the sake of comprehensiveness, without realising the narrative frameworks and framing gameplay considerations that have left the options being as few as they are.

There's also an expectation that narrative rewrites need to happen for more reason than marginal improvement. It does happen, however. For example, Mobile Maladies was rewritten after the concerns raised in it started to look increasingly anachronistic (phones heating up, radiation) and was modernised to address more contemporary concerns (death of face-to-face social interaction, losing awareness of environment, etc.)

If you think a rewrite is needed on an existing issue, then discuss it in The Writer's Block first and see what the community makes of the idea.

Where do I report an issue that had the wrong effects?

Go to the Unusual Issue Effects thead, here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=424650

Read the first post thoroughly, and then if you believe you have an unexpected issue effect that is unresolved, report it on that thread.

Where do I report a spelling or grammar error?

Go to the Help Us Fix Old Issues thread, here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=158858

Read the first post, then post the error to the thread and we'll fix it soon after. This is generally for objective errors, not stylistic disagreements. Issues may be written in any standard version of English.

How do the Capital City, Leader, and Religion issues work?

There are three customizable fields in your Settings that are greyed out when you first create a nation. There is an issue corresponding to each field, which unlocks the ability to edit it.

When your nation reaches the required population, you will receive the relevant issue immediately, unless you already have five unanswered dilemmas, or have issues disabled, or are in vacation mode. Be aware that all options unlock the field, even if their narrative suggest otherwise. If you find yourself with an unlocked field that you don't want, then simply leave it blank: the game will treat this in the same way as if you had not unlocked it at all. If you dismiss the issue, the field will not be unlocked, and you will have to wait for the issue to come up again.

Many nations above the required population have not unlocked the fields. This is because previously, the issues did not arrive automatically upon reaching the required population - or the nation had passed that figure long before. Also, in the past, not all options unlocked the fields. In this case, be patient. You will receive the issues eventually.

The issues are as follows:


Why did my issue choice kick me from the World Assembly?

Certain issues contain an option that, if picked, will result in your nation leaving the World Assembly! There is a pop-up confirmation message that will check if you really want to do this. If you still didn't really mean to leave, don't worry, it's not permanent. You can always reapply to the World Assembly - straight away if you want!

Warning: Please choose this option carefully as the Moderation Team will not intervene if you inadvertently get kicked from the World Assembly and find yourself needing to rebuild endorsements or undo other consequences of your choice.

What is this pop-up asking if I want to dissolve my government?

Issues #110 and #192 each contain an option that, if picked, will result in your nation dissolving its government. These options contain some of the most drastic stat effects in the game - expect most nations to see government departments annihilated, with a load of knock-on effects afterwards.

Once you've picked this option, it's assumed that after a suitable period of anarchy a new government forms and that you are making decisions in the form of that new government. It's up to you whether you want to reflect that in your individual nation's fiction. The reason that we assume this is because if there was permanently no government, there'd be nobody to answer Issues anymore. We'd basically have to lock you out of Issues forever.


FAQ: New Issues


How are issues added to the game?

Issues are written and submitted by players. Submissions that are right for the game will be edited into usable form and given statistical effects by Issues Editors. If you wish to submit an issue, go to the Issues link in your sidebar, and you'll see a link asking if you want to contribute an issue to NationStates. Only nations with a population of 250 million or more may submit an issue - this is to ensure that the submitter has an idea of what a good issue looks like.

I'm thinking of writing an issue. Can you help me?

We have assembled this helpful guide to writing an issue with the best chances of success. If you're going to submit one, read that first. You should also ensure that you check this list of existing issues, so that your idea doesn't duplicate one. If you remain unsure after checking for yourself, post in the pinned Writer's Block thread and other players may be able to offer advice or assistance with your topic selection.

You are strongly advised to draft your issue in its own thread in the Got Issues forum. That way, you can get help from experienced players, Issues Editors, and Moderators. We all wish to see more quality issues in the game, and it makes it a lot easier if the submitted issue is of a high standard - it will require a lot less editing that way.

The success rate of issues NOT drafted in this forum is very low. At an estimate, about 49 out of 50 issues that are submitted without public drafting first end up being rejected and deleted. Issues that are drafted here have a much higher success rate, though be sure to give the drafting process enough time. A draft that never garners any feedback is no better than an undrafted submission.

If you do post a draft in this forum, put [DRAFT] in the title, so it's easily identifiable to those wishing to help. Post new versions of your draft in the same thread and add a Spoiler to earlier ones.

I've submitted my issue. What happens now?

You have to be patient. Your issue will be reviewed as soon as possible, but those that we feel have merit are likely to be held in our "Pool" of potential issues until an Editor can edit and publish it. We receive a large number of submissions each year, and the editing process for successful submissions takes some time.

If your submission is rejected, it will be deleted. Unfortunately, given the massive volume of submissions that can't be accepted, we do not have the means to notify authors of rejection. For similar reasons, we also can't provide notification should an issue be retained in the pool. The first response you'll hear will most likely be an editor contacting you to say they're working on your issue. Sometimes though, the first notification will be a telegram saying the issue has been added to the game. If your submission is published, you will also receive the issue - regardless of whether you'd usually be eligible for it. Please note that some issues have to be extensively re-written to be of the high quality we want.

We know this lack of direct feedback can be discouraging, but it is a practical necessity given that a hundred or more issue submissions may arrive each week, and it's simply not practical to deal with the inevitable chains of messages that follow when an issue is rejected, or the chasing of publication if an issue is retained in the pool. Your best bet is to use Got Issues and have extended drafting processes. If an experienced author or an Issues Editor tells you during the drafting process that you've got a good issue that's ready to be submitted, then it's a good indicator that you'll probably be added to the Pool, and eventually published.

What do I do if someone copies my issue when I post it in this forum?

Inform a moderator, in the Moderation forum. If a player has stolen your actual issue draft, they will be punished severely. If it's just your idea that's been stolen, however, there's not much we can do. Things like major news stories are likely to inspire multiple authors equally.

There's fair play and reasonableness being considered within the community though, and the Got Issues forum is a great way of showing when you started working on an idea. However, ultimately we want the best version of an idea, not necessarily just the first version.

FAQ: Other Questions


Who edits issues?

Issues are edited by Issues Editors and Issues Moderators. These are players like yourself who have exhibited significant interest and participation in the Issues side of the game, and have been recruited to assist with editing and publication.

Active team members (in alphabetical order):
Baggieland
Candlewhisper Archive
Electrum
Gnejs
Kaschovia
Noahs Second Country
Pogaria
Sedgistan
SherpDaWerp
The Free Joy State
The Marsupial Illuminati
Verdant Haven
Westinor
Zwangzug

Verdant Haven is the Team Manager responsible for running the team. Candlewhisper Archive is the Creative Director of the team responsible for the direction taken on issues. Both of them, Pogaria, and The Free Joy State are Senior Issues Editors.

Sedgistan is also a Moderator, with all the duties and powers that entails.

Hierarchy is not a big thing in the team though, so any Issues Editor or Issues Moderator can be considered to be speaking with equal voice and on behalf of the whole team.

Can I be an Issues Editor?

We are always on the lookout for new Issues Editors, nominated and chosen by the Issues Editing team by internal process. Those who are active within the Got Issues forum, giving helpful advice to others - particularly with the drafting of issues, and those who write especially good issues (whether submitted via the game or in response to a specific request), will be considered. You cannot "apply" for the post of Editor - if you're active here, we'll always be considering you as a prospect.

Additionally, we presently run annual Issues Contests. We tend to keep an eye on winners as being particularly viable candidates to try out for the team.
Last edited by Verdant Haven on Tue Oct 24, 2023 1:03 pm, edited 20 times in total.
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Verdant Haven
Senior Issues Editor
 
Posts: 2376
Founded: Feb 26, 2013
Left-wing Utopia

Postby Verdant Haven » Wed Apr 08, 2009 12:04 am

The Basic Structure of an Issue


All issues contain a certain fundamental structure, regardless of their content. They require a Title, a Description, Options, and Effects. These are the elements with which your submission should be constructed.

TITLE

The name or title of your issue is the first thing a player will see. In game, they'll appear as a news headline at the top of the issue. A good approach, therefore, is to imagine that you're pitching a suitable headline for a tabloid newspaper, though with more of an eye for wry cleverness.

Twisting around a popular idiom is sometimes a good move (e.g. "Any Witch Way Spells Disaster"), or referencing popular media or literature (e.g. "The Unbearable Lightness of Government"). Or you could go for a straight pun (e.g. "Electile Dysfunction") or for double meanings (e.g. "Sound Judgement"). Whichever approach you take, try to be clever and entertaining.


DESCRIPTION

The description is a brief and neutral summary of the dilemma at hand. Getting this premise presented well is the core of good issue writing, and it's where you should devote a good deal of your energy. It's where good writers can be separated from bad, and in most cases, the quality of the opening description can tell us outright whether or not an issue is good enough to be published.

When drafting in Got Issues, one may hear the term Player Autonomy bandied about as something one must always respect. Essentially, this means not telling players about what their own characters think, feel, say, or do. The following spoilered block explains more:

A nation's Leader is functionally the player's 'character' in NationStates. In writing issues, we often see the error of disrespecting player autonomy. These ideas largely come from tabletop roleplaying games, and comprise a set of rules that go something like this:

1) Don't tell me what my character feels.

When you write or edit an issue, don't say what my character thinks or feels. Tell me what is happening around me, but don't tell me how I react to those things. A thing can be described as "frightening" but my character should not be described as frightened.

2) Don't tell me what my character does or decides.

When you write or edit an issue, don't say what my character's actions or decisions are. The whole point of issues is for me to tell YOU that. You can describe that a meeting has been called, or that advisors have been summoned, but don't tell me that my character has called a meeting, or that my character has summoned my advisors.

3) Don't tell me my character's history, nature, or past.

You have to tell me some things about my nation, that's fair enough. That's part of the Issues game, and if I don't like what you tell me about my nation, I'll press "dismiss" and pretend the presented fiction doesn't exist. However, never tell me that my character used to be a soldier, or that my character is a Christian, or that my character is thin, or fat, or ugly, or beautiful, or male, or female. There's also a line to cross about what you can tell me about my nation - you can probably make assumptions about geography, or about minor historical figures, or commercial companies operating here. You can also make assumptions about the existence of certain government departments and so on. However, it's not a good idea to start telling me about major historical events, like telling me that I came out of revolution 10 years ago, or what the name of my predecessor was, or who the name of the last king from 111 years ago was, or that I used to be a Communist nation, or whatever. Basically, just show some respect for my fiction.

Anything outside of my character, that's fair game so long as it doesn't rely on my character's decisions. You are allowed to introduce a character that is my brother, because nobody can choose to have a brother or not. You don't get to introduce a character that is my spouse, or my child, because these are reflective of my choices. However, also, be reasonable. You can assume I have a father and mother, but please don't assume their marital status or the way they raised me, as that too directly impacts on my character. Don't tell me my brother or sister's name, if you can avoid it. Don't tell me what my dad's career was. In other words, exercise some restraint, and over-ride my personal fiction as little as you can.

Ta-daaa! Player autonomy.


OPTIONS

An issue is made up of two or more options. The number of options there can be is pretty much as many as you please; the largest number that's been used so far is eleven (twelve in an Easter Egg). But your average issue will usually have two to five options. The basic premise is that you've got your issue and now you've got to write down the differing points of view.

The structure of a two-option issue is easy. For example, you could have someone who's FOR divorce and someone who's AGAINST divorce. Easy-peasey.

The structure of a three-option issue is (usually) made up of FOR, AGAINST, and either a COMPROMISE or a THIRD WAY. The 'third way' is where you can really let your imagination run wild, but keep it at least vaguely sensible. For example it could be something like 'Hey, one way of lowering divorce rates is just to stop people marrying in the first place!' It is important that even a 'crazy option' still actually addresses the dilemma.

Anything more than three options is usually devoted to issues which have a broader number of possibilities than your usual FOR and AGAINST. It could be something like two options FOR but in differing ways and two options AGAINST but in differing ways. Take a look at existing issues and try to see how the structure fits in.

Some issues may have a lot of options because it's an issue about choosing things from a list of possibilities, such as deciding which department the majority of your funding will go to, or picking someone to be an advisor, etc. Make sure the actual outcome of your choices differ from each other though. If you have three options that all have the same result, you've really only got one option.

EFFECTS

This is where an option pays off! Each option should be followed by an effect line.

Effect lines are reported back to a player immediately after the option is chosen, and will appear by themselves on the page. Because of this, they should work as a standalone idea. For example:
private businesses are paving paradises to put up parking lots


Several effect lines will be combined to create a list of recent legislation on the player's nation page. Because of this, they should be self-contained and short enough to act as a small part of a larger sentence, and formatted somewhat like a factoid from an encyclopedia. For example:
Following new legislation in Candlewhisper Archive, the nation forgives those who are big enough to admit they made a mistake, chrome-clad space marines are such stuff that dreams are made on, private businesses are paving paradises to put up parking lots, and it is illegal to make racist remarks in public.


The last requirement means that effect lines should always start with a non-capitalised letter, should be short and concise as possible, and should generally avoid both commas and using words like "and" or "or". However, expert authors with a good understanding of how effect lines are used may be able to use commas and conjunctions skillfully without causing any problems to final paragraphs. Try to have the line make sense after "Following new legislation in @@NAME@@, ..." as that is how it will appear in your activity feed!

Critically, issue effect lines should never go opposite to "the direction of movement" of the option. For example, if you have an option about investing in education, you shouldn't have an effect line saying that "despite education students remain ignorant as ever". This is because nation descriptions are meant to reflect the nation's decisions, and a line like that suggests low priority on education, or worse, that you have ignored the player's choice.


Validity and You


A 'validity' is something that tells the game who can receive a given issue. For example, nations that haven't gone to space shouldn't receive an issue about their space shuttle crashing. Remember that nearly anything that shows up as a policy for your nation can end up as a validity. This is important when writing, as it is easy to accidentally create a validity conflict without meaning to. If you mention somebody driving past in a car, but the car isn't relevant to the issue, then that doesn't work for "No Automobiles" nations. If you've got somebody yelling over the sound of an airplane, but your issue doesn't involve aircraft, that causes trouble for nations with the "No Aircraft" policy. If a speaker looks up from their steak to say something, or is wearing a fancy jacket, or is fiddling with their wedding ring, that's potentially a conflict for nations with "Vegetarianism," or "Nudism," or "No Marriage." It is entirely possible to write doppelgangers for these challenges (see below), and that's exactly what we'll want you to do if the element in question is important to your issue. If it isn't important to the story however, it's helpful to try to avoid these unnecessary validity checks!

You can also use a Validity for only a specific option. For example, if a nation has established autarky, then it shouldn't be able to access an option that involves importing goods to solve a problem. A common advanced technique in this situation is to create a "doppelganger option" where two versions of an option will be presented as either/or. To use our autarky example, one option might be presented to non-autarkies that encourages Leader to offer a favorable trade deal in order to get a desired item, while a doppelganger version for autarkies encourage Leader to pump money into domestic manufacturing to increase the local supply of that item. Doing this allows your issue to reach as many nations as possible.

Not all issues require validity checks... in fact, we love it when an issue is potentially available to every nation! Still, due to how many possible validities there are, they are not at all uncommon. The main thing is to try and be aware of what validities you're using, and to only do so when it is beneficial to the issue. Issue Validities should be listed in your draft near the beginning, usually either just before or after the description. Option validities should be noted with the option itself.

Some of the most frequently encountered or problematic validities include:
Atheism (have to avoid having religious speakers or perspectives)
Autarky (no economic or trade relationships with foreign countries)
Metricism (would need doppelgangers for any options with imperial measurements)
No Aircraft (all non-military aircraft are prohibited)
No Automobiles (bans all motorized road vehicles)
No Capitalism (private enterprise is not allowed)
No Computers (this includes smart phones, game consoles, etc)
No Judiciary (the nation doesn't have trials or courts)
No Internet (prevents reference to online chat, emails, GPS, etc)
No Marriage (doesn't work to describe people as being or having a husband or wife)
No Sports (nation won't have athletes or sports teams)
Vat-Produced Infants (likely no biological relationship between parents and children)



A Note on Verisimilitude


Verisimilitude - This refers to the sense that the presented fiction is consistent with the previously established fictional world. It's not the same as realism, and is more important than realism to good storytelling. If Batman transforms into a pink banana, then there's no verisimilitude or realism. If Batman accidentally kills a mugger by punching him too hard, that has realism but no verisimilitude. If Batman fights a psychotic crocodile-man then that has no realism, but it has verisimilitude. Spot which of these three work for a Batman comic! For NationStates it's harder to make that call, but have a look at existing issues, and that will help give a feel as to what fits the fiction.


Existing Issues Canon References


These topics, largely assembled and maintained by members of the Got Issues community, may be useful for authors seeking to draft new submissions for consideration.

Stickied Topics:
List of current NationStates issues. Caution, spoilers!
The Writer's Block. Discussion and input on issues topics and submission ideas.

Player-created resources:
[INDEX] A nation's Ministers/Secretaries according to Issues
List of NPC Nations
List of Religions and Cults
List of characters and companies in issues
List of cities and towns in @@NAME@@

Still Stuck?
Come join the Got Issue Discord Channel
Last edited by Verdant Haven on Sun Jun 18, 2023 5:18 am, edited 13 times in total.
- Verdant Haven

User avatar
Verdant Haven
Senior Issues Editor
 
Posts: 2376
Founded: Feb 26, 2013
Left-wing Utopia

Postby Verdant Haven » Wed Apr 08, 2009 12:04 am

Macros and their Uses


The Macros

What's a macro? A macro is a tiny piece of code which changes depending on who's viewing it. For example, take this macro: @@NAME@@. Whenever I, Verdant Haven, look at the part of an issue which says @@NAME@@, I see Verdant Haven. Example:

My name is @@NAME@@ -> My name is Verdant Haven

Pretty neat, huh? Here's the current list of usable macros:


NAMES AND PRONOUNS

@@RANDOMNAME@@: Generates a random name (for a person).
@@RANDOMNAMEMALE@@: Generates a random male name; only use when a specific gender is needed.
@@RANDOMNAMEFEMALE@@: Generates a random female name; only use when a specific gender is needed.

@@RANDOMFIRSTNAME@@: Generates a random first name only. As above, add MALE or FEMALE to the end to specify a gender.
@@RANDOMLASTNAME@@: Generates a random last name (surname) only. Surnames are not gendered.

@@HE@@/@@HIM@@/@@HIS@@: Macros that automagically match the gender of the preceding @@RANDOMNAME@@. The @@RANDOMNAME@@ needs to come first for them to match. They will match the last @@RANDOMNAME@@ no matter where it was in the issue. They recognize no boundaries, just like a ghost. Spooky! These macros can also be used without a @@RANDOMNAME@@ to produce he/she or him/her or his/her(s) at random.

Example:
"@@RANDOMNAME@@ is the head of the Issue Examples Enclave. @@HE@@ grabs @@HIS@@ head in frustration." --->
"Lisa Obama is the head of the Issue Examples Enclave. She grabs her head in frustration."

@@HERS@@: If you need the possessive case rather than objective case, this is for you. While @@HIS@@ will yield His or Her, use @@HERS@@ to yield His or Hers.

@@MAN@@: A macro that either produces 'man' or 'woman' based on the last @@RANDOMNAME@@. Like @@HE@@/@@HIM@@/@@HIS@@, this needs to come after the @@RANDOMNAME@@ but can also be used absent any @@RANDOMNAME@@. These macros eliminate the need to hardcode a gender unless absolutely necessary for the narrative.

@@BOY@@: This one is similar to @@MAN@@, but produces 'boy' or 'girl'.

Example:
[option 1] "@@RANDOMNAME@@ is the head of the Issue Examples Enclave. @@HE@@ grabs @@HIS@@ head in frustration."
[option 2] Your unnamed and totally evil henchman screams, "Arrest that @@MAN@@!"
--->

[option 1] "Lisa Obama is the head of the Issue Examples Enclave. She grabs her head in frustration."
[option 2] Your unnamed and totally evil henchman screams, "Arrest that woman!"


But what if you want to use one of these before the name it references? Or maybe in a completely different part of the issue? It's not too difficult: just add numbers! Count the number of random names from the start of the issue until you get to the one that you want to reference, then add that number to the macro. Open this spoiler for examples:

Examples:
A @@MAN1@@ suddenly breaks down your door and sashays into your office. "I am @@RANDOMNAME@@, the greatest dancer in all of @@NAME@@!" --->
A man suddenly breaks down your door and sashays into your office. "I am George Garabaldi, the greatest dancer in all of Exampleland!"

As you walk down the street, a @@BOY4@@ stares at you with disdain.
(Three options follow, each with a unique random name.)
Finally, you see the @@BOY4@@ who was staring at you earlier. "I'm @@RANDOMNAME@@," @@HE@@ says. "Please, @@LEADER@@, I want some more freedom of assembly." --->

As you walk down the street, a girl stares at you with disdain.

(Three options follow, each with a unique random name.)
Finally, you see the girl who was staring at you earlier. "I'm Olivia Twist," she says. "Please, King Stupendous XIII, I want some more freedom of assembly."

"Did you see the purple cow?" shouts @@RANDOMNAME@@. "What? I thought they only lived in @@NAME@@," claims @@RANDOMNAME@@, as @@HE@@ pushes @@HIM1@@ out of the way to get a better look. --->

"Did you see the purple cow?" shouts Erin Mucha. "What? I thought they only lived in Pogaria," claims Jack Lalique, as he pushes her out of the way to get a better look.

As you can see, numbers are only needed when your macro is before a random name, or appears after a different random name.

You can also use numbers to repeat a name. As before, just count the number of unique random names until you get to the one that you want to reference. Use that number with any of the duplicates, but not the original name.

Example:
@@RANDOMNAME@@ knocks on your office door, furious about the new law that prevents people from referring to themselves in the third person. "@@RANDOMFIRSTNAME1@@ doesn't put up with this sort of nonsense! I'll work to overturn your stupid law, or my name isn't @@RANDOMNAME1@@!" --->

Elmo Little knocks on your office door, furious about the new law that prevents people from referring to themselves in the third person. "Elmo doesn't put up with this sort of nonsense! I'll work to overturn your stupid law, or my name isn't Elmo Little!"

Keep in mind that when you are counting random names, any duplicates (which have numbers) should be ignored.



PLAYER DEFINED FIELDS

@@NAME@@: Gives the name of the recipient's nation.

@@REGION@@: Gives the name of the region in which the recipient resides.

@@TYPE@@: Gives the pretitle of the recipient's nation. eg. The @@TYPE@@ of Luna Amore -> The Reticulated Splines of Luna Amore

@@ANIMAL@@: Gives the national animal.

@@CURRENCY@@: Gives the national currency.

@@SLOGAN@@: Gives the national motto.

@@DEMONYM@@: Gives the country's demonym. You can query the adjective, noun, and plural noun depending on the need – just specify in the macro. A real-world example of these would be "British", "Briton", and "Britons", in that order.

@@CAPITAL@@: Gives the nation's capital.
NOTE: Nations with no capital will see it differently: they'll see it as 'I live in @@NAME@@ City'. Keep this in mind when using this macro.

@@LEADER@@: Gives the leader's name.
NOTE: Nations with no leader will see it differently: they'll see it as 'Good evening, Leader, how are you keeping?' Keep this in mind when using this macro.

@@FAITH@@: Gives the national religion.
NOTE: Nations with no national religion will see it differently: they'll see it as 'I am a firm believer in a major religion.' Keep this in mind when using this macro.

For the last two macros, let's use the United Federation for the examples.

@@NAMEINITIALS@@: Gives you the initials of your nation's name.

Example:
"I want to work for the @@NAMEINITIALS@@IA - the @@NAME@@ Intelligence Agency." --->
"I want to work for the UFIA - the United Federation Intelligence Agency."

@@DEMONYMINITIALS@@: Gives you the initials of your demonym.

Example:
"Or maybe I could work for @@DEMONYMINITIALS@@ASA - the @@DEMONYM@@ Aeronautics and Space Administration." --->
"Or maybe I could work for FASA - the Federal Aeronautics and Space Administration."


OTHER MACROS

@@MAJORINDUSTRY@@: Gives the name of the nation's biggest industry.

@@POPULATION@@: Gives the nation's population in millions.

Example:
"There are @@POPULATION@@ million people here!" --->
"There are 10479 million people here!"

@@DESCRIBEPOPULATION@@: Gives the nation's population as one see's it on the nation page.

Example:
"There are @@DESCRIBEPOPULATION@@ people here!" --->
"There are 10.479 billion people here!"


Advanced options:

In certain circumstances, certain modifiers may be able to be used for certain other macros. If you really need to know if something can be done, go ahead and ask and somebody may be able to verify functionality. Examples include pluralizing nouns, adjusting capitalization, or punctuating acronyms in specific ways. No guarantees, but if it genuinely will make your issue better, we'll certainly see what we can do.

Disclaimer:
The actual macros used backstage in preparation of an issue for publication are in some cases different from what is seen here. We ask that those here are used for consistency and ease of understanding. At the end of the day, as long as we understand what is supposed to be happening, we'll do our best to make it work.


The Issue Submission Page


After you are satisfied with your issue draft, you'll be ready to submit. Here's a breakdown of what you'll find on the the issue submission page

Three Checkboxes: This is where you acknowledge you've read this guide, you've read the Got Issues forum FAQ, and you agree to the Terms and Conditions of the submission process.

A Newspaper Headline: This is where you type your issue's title.

Description: This field is the text which summarizes the premise of the issue.

Validity: This is where you write what sort of nations can receive the issue. First you will be asked if it is valid for all nations. If yes, then you are done with this portion. If no, you will have a small text box to describe your validity. See the section above entitled "Validities and You." If you have written your issue with a co-author, this also serves as a good place to add that information for us.

Next, you'll need to start adding issue options. To add a new option, click the +Add New Choice button. This will bring up a pair of form fields:

Option: This is where you enter the text of an option.

Fallout: Enter the effect line for the option that precedes it.

Repeat the "+Add New Choice" process once for each of the options in your issue.

Once you have your issue draft fully typed in, hit Submit Issue and you are done.

If your issue is accepted into the game, you will receive a telegram notifying you. In addition, your nation will receive the finished issue and a nifty author badge:
Image

Advanced View: In the upper right corner is a small text link called "Advanced View." This system is deprecated. Though still technically functional, it does not provide as clean an input as the "Regular View" that the page defaults to. For ease of reading on our end, we would appreciate it if you submit in Regular View.
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How To Write An Issue & Got Issues FAQ

Postby Verdant Haven » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:26 am

Issue Writing for NationStates: Part 1

(A Subjective Guide)


Introduction

This guide will attempt to help issue writers, especially newer ones, towards the sorts of writing that has seen the greatest success in reaching publication.

We always encourage aspiring writers to consult previous issues for a general concept of what does and doesn't work for issues. In particular you should read the most recently published issues. Those issues will be the most closely tied to our current thinking on the style of issue we are looking for. In the more than two decades NationStates has been operating, styles have changed, and they are likely to continue changing in the future.

Using this guide does not guarantee publication, nor will it reveal any secrets about behind-the-scenes decision making or processes. Please read and understand the technical portions of this thread for information about hard requirements, macro use, and other important topics! This portion focuses on the more subjective aspects of issue writing: topic selection, writing, and editing for submission.

Topic Selection

Topic selection is the foundation of your entire issue. Barring a bolt of inspiration dropping from the blue, choosing and honing a topic can be an hours-long to days-long process, and can require research.


INSPIRATION

Inspiration for an issue topic can come from a number of directions, any one of which can produce an interesting and valid issue. Some examples include:

Current Events – If a unique and impactful (on a national or global level) event comes up on the news, it might make a good issue! Make sure that the event calls for government intervention and has staying power in the future. Celebrity gossip, internet memes, and other ephemeral subjects rarely make for a solid draft. If you do feel yourself irresistibly drawn to these topics, focus on presenting them in ways that will be relevant and understandable to players (and nations!) in the future.
Examples:
Issue 305 "Who's Occupying What" was written at the end of 2011, and is based off the Occupy Wall Street movement which was heavily active at that time.
Issue 1560 "Flight 201: An Airspace Oddity" was written mid-2021 about Ryanair Flight 4978, which had at that time just been forced to land in Belarus under false pretenses, in order to arrest dissidents passing through that country's airspace.

Historical Events – Fascinating or unusual events from the past might lead you to some clever ideas for an issue. In general, issues are written for a roughly modern world, so make sure you're not writing about problems that wouldn't make sense in this context unless you've got a good way for it to believably happen.
Examples:
Issue 521 "The Wreck of the Edward Fitzpatrick" is based on the tragedy of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. The Fitz was a massive freighter lost with all hands in a storm on Lake Superior in 1975.
Issue 1536 "The Birdman of Pelicanz" takes its name the the 1955 book (and 1962 film) Birdman of Alcatraz, but is based on the real historical individual Robert Stroud, about whom that book was written. A very complex person, at the heart of prison reform debate at the time.

Existing Fiction – Books, television, and movies have inspired a number of issues that have been published. You don't want to plagiarise what you're referencing, but you can lay in enough obvious references to make it fun for others who recognize your source. A key with this inspiration is to make sure that your issue still makes sense and is enjoyable even for people who have no idea what your source was.
Examples:
Issue 618 "The Jaws of a Dilemma" is based on the movie Jaws. Sharks attacking swimmers at a beachside tourist town in the middle of peak season? Sounds like an issue.
Issue 1155 "The Banquet of Walnuts" is about the historically fictitious "Banquet of Chestnuts." A rumor spread by those seeking to discredit the Borgia family, it became the focus of an episode in the recent TV series The Borgias.

Believable Make-Believe – Issues don't have to be inspired by anything but your own mind! Feel free to let your creative juices flow, and write an issue based on nothing but your own thoughts and ideas. The main limitation is just that it has to be believable as a dilemma that occurs in the nations of NationStates.
Examples:
Issue 902 "Killer App" is about the murder of a pop singer using a professional app-based dark web assassination firm. Pop singers have been murdered. Hitmen have been contacted through the dark web. The combo of source and target are not (to my knowledge) something that has actually happened, but it could potentially occur.
Issue 951 "The Wrath of the Fish King" details threats against the government from an aggrieved group of fishermen who want to reduce regulation. Terroristic threats are certainly real. Industries and industry groups definitely lead protests. I don't think this particular combination has ever occurred, but there's no particular reason why it couldn't.


Off-Limits Topics – We are never looking for issues that involve sexual abuse of minors - end of story. At present, we are not looking for additional submissions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. These are topics that received extreme amounts of attention very rapidly, and are ongoing situations. These globe-shaping events may be the subject of future issues chains that are crafted by the team to encompass, as fully as possible, the diverse elements at play. We are not accepting AI-written issues. Attempting to pass AI work as your own is likely to be unsuccessful (it writes terribly), and as such things are not your own work, we reserve the right to treat any such attempts as plagiarism.

NOVELTY

It is important to ensure that your topic is fairly unique in the issue canon. There's nothing more heart-breaking than binning a draft because a topic has already been covered. To prevent this from happening, try to identify similar potential duplicates in the Issues Spoiler thread. Doing some searches on keywords related to your topic is a quick way to find things. If you want to write about surfing, you might do searches on terms like "surf," "beach," and "board." If still in doubt, post in the Writer's Block thread and ask. The collective knowledge and memory of the issues community can usually identify overlaps before too much effort gets expended.

The editing team does recognize that it has become more difficult to write issue drafts that don't overlap in some way with the large number of issues we already have. We would like to clarify that as long as a draft approaches an issue from an original angle then it may be considered for editing even when there is some level of overlap.


APPLICABILITY

Ask yourself if your topic is something that will potentially be applicable to nations in NationStates. If you've got a fascinating idea that only makes sense for your own nation, or which players will only care about if they have some extremely esoteric knowledge (functionally an inside joke), that probably isn't a suitable topic. We all have little niche hobbies and interests we would love to talk about, but if you're the only person who knows enough to care, it just won't work.


KNOWLEDGE

Consider whether you have the personal knowledge and interest to actually write about your topic – especially if it is technical. Issues in NationStates do simplify complex topics, but there's a difference between simplification and making mistakes. You don't need to be an aerospace engineer to write about planes, for example, but if you use a bunch of fake technical jargon to get around things you don't understand, or misuse actual terms, it's going to go over like a lead balloon. Either do your research, seek a co-author who is the expert your need, or find a way to write your issue that doesn't require that level of technical detail.


HUMOR

Always remember that this is a comedy site, and that issues are satirical. The best satire is painfully on target, joyously irreverent, and deeply thought-provoking. The real world presents us with countless examples of dry, humorless, sad, or unpleasant situations. If your topic is one of these, make sure you add some levity to the situation, and present an issue that will provoke smiles, not tears. The goal is to entertain.
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Left-wing Utopia

Postby Verdant Haven » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:31 am

Issue Writing for NationStates: Part 2

(A Subjective Guide)


Don't forget to review the basic structure of an issue before you begin to write! Each issue needs:

An eye-catching title
A short and punchy description of the topic
A few options provided by individual speakers who think they've got solutions to your problem
An effect line for each option - punchlines for the player's choices.

We do not need stat or policy suggestions. Let your writing tell us what will happen!

Ready? Let's move on.

Writing

Once you're happy with your topic, you're now ready to write! To have the best "C.H.A.N.C.E." at publication, make sure to follow the following principles:


CLEAR

The description needs to include all necessary information for the leader to understand the options presented in the issue. Don't rely on outside knowledge or assumptions to fill in the blanks about why something matters, or why a given option is being proposed. In other words, tell us why the dilemma is important and why each of the options is important! Avoid fluff that doesn't contribute new or important information, both in the description and in the options.


HUMOROUS

One of the most difficult aspects of writing issues is trying to get the level of humor or seriousness correct. Even when dealing with a serious topic, it is usually considered desirable to have humorous content included, and even a humorous topic is likely to provoke serious responses from at least some speakers. The place where humor is most often seen is in the effect text, where plays on words, absurd situations, and unintended consequences routinely play out. Effect lines should rarely be predictable. Again, remember that this game is satire. There are no points for literalism.


ACTIVE

It is important that each option you present be an "active" choice, which is to say, the choice needs to do something! A person arguing "just ignore this" is no different than clicking the Dismiss button. In addition, it is also important that the effects of each option are different from each other. If two different options end up with the same outcome, reconsider the arguments being made. Don't railroad the players to a certain ending.


NEUTRAL

Along the lines of not railroading players, it is also important to present your options non-judgmentally and as equals. This is especially important to watch for when you write on a political, religious, or other hot-button topic about which you yourself may have strong feelings. Do not present one speaker (who just so happens to agree with you…) as a debonair, intelligent, universally-loved expert, while presenting the opposition as a buck-toothed, ignorant, widely-mocked hick. Present opposing arguments the way supporters of those arguments would. Allow the player to then choose who is right or wrong.


CONCISE

Frequently, authors want to write complicated explanations describing every detail they had in their head when they chose their topic. This is not helpful. You should be able to present your issue description in perhaps 2-3 sentences. For example, you don't need to write "people want your opinion" - we know! Option texts, including dialogue tags, should be relatively short as well. Consider aiming for no more than 80 words in each option unless there's good reason to use more.

(For reference, the above paragraph is about 80 words. It isn't a lot.)


ENGAGING

When writing options, remember to make your speakers interesting. Use descriptors so your speakers have personality, and use the random name macro unless it is important that your speaker's name be very specific. It is much more interesting to read "Sub-Lieutenant Akira Gutenberg of police department's venerable 'Hat Squad'" instead of "a police officer." Use a thesaurus if needed – don't have people just "say" things. Have them exclaim, interject, murmur, grumble, shout, yodel, yelp, or whatever other descriptor suits. Use the limited number of words you have to express the position of the speaker, rather than telling us about how they walk into or out of the room at the start and end of every option. Another good principle is 'show, don't tell.' Instead of calling someone 'suspicious', describe them as 'wearing a trench coat, glancing furtively'.


Editing for Submission

The first step, for smart writers, is to post your first draft publicly on the Got Issues forum. The publication rate for people who draft here is far higher than those who don't. The reason why is that it is extremely helpful to have your issue picked apart by different people with different perspectives. Their perspectives will help lead to a stronger submission.

However, if you post just a raw outline with no content, or a huge mess that takes an hour to parse, people simply aren't going to be willing and able to help! The more effort you put into your initial draft, the more useful the feedback that can be given. When editing publicly, the following habits will help:


PATIENCE

Rule number one is to be patient. When we get a good idea and pour our hearts into writing, it's really easy to get caught up in wanting to submit it right away. Waiting a day for feedback can feel like forever but it's best to give it time. It's best practice to give your draft at least two weeks on the board before moving on to submission. People, including issues editors, don't have the time to constantly check the forums, review multiple drafts, and put together thoughtful feedback. Be patient, and if your draft is slipping off the page without feedback, then try giving it a little kick.


FLEXIBILITY

As mentioned previously, you may encounter suggestions that come from a very different perspective than your own. You don't have to agree with or use all feedback, but please consider it. If you receive the same feedback from different people, it's a good sign that something needs changing. Seek to understand the feedback you're given. Once you understand it, you can make an educated decision on whether or not to follow it. You don't owe anybody an explanation about why you did or didn't use something they suggested, but you should be able to explain it to yourself.


COHERENCE

While all issues must be written in English, we're happy to work with whatever variety of English you use. The non-dialogue portions of your issue, such as the description and the dialogue tags, must be presented with proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation at all times. The editing team will obviously do its best to clean up whatever needs cleaning, but an issue is far more likely to make it that far if it's as close as possible to correct prior to submission. Dialogue, on the other hand, can be written dialectally and with a certain amount of deliberately improper usage. However, always remember that English is not the first language for all players, so it's important that what you write doesn't impede the ability of the reader to actually understand what is being said.


SELF-CORRECTION

On several occasions throughout the public editing process, you yourself should reread your draft and look for things to improve. You don't need to wait for outside feedback to improve your issue or post a new draft. Try to read your work as a disinterested party – not based on your knowledge of what you intended, but on what is actually said on the page. Does it include all the information needed? Do the options actually address the dilemma? Sometimes it helps to read it out loud, or to walk away from the issue and work on it later with a fresh pair of eyes.


PATIENCE (Part 2)

When your draft is as good as you can make it, go ahead and submit it. You should submit it when you actually believe that what you have created is as good as you're able to make it, and that it's ready to go. At this point, it's time to be patient again! The editors are real people, with real lives and real schedules beyond NationStates. When a submission goes into the pool, we may not be able to get to it immediately, even if we want to. Editing itself is also team-based, and every issue published goes through an extensive feedback process. The time between submission and publication, should a draft be accepted, can be anywhere from a couple days to multiple years!


FLEXIBILITY (Part 2)

If your issue does get picked up for editing, be flexible! There's no guarantee that the editor of your issue will contact you, but if they do, they may have suggestions or questions about your work. Be ready with responses and rewrites to help the process along, if requested. You can definitely stand up for your version if you feel strongly about it or have a good reason that is being missed. Just recognize when you're standing up for something good, and when you might be being a bit defensive about something that can be safely changed. The issue editing team really wants your issue to succeed, so if they're reaching out for input, their suggestions aren't arbitrary.


PERSEVERANCE

Not all submitted drafts will ever be picked up for editing. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee anything, and with thousands of drafts submitted each year, the overwhelming majority will not be selected. Every one of them is reviewed, however, and if you wrote a good solid submission that was drafted on GI and followed the suggestions here, you'll have given your draft the best chance it can have. At the end of the day, if you want to write issues, just keep working at it! Learn from each cycle through the process, and hone your skills.
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Left-wing Utopia

Re: How To Write An Issue

Postby Verdant Haven » Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:46 am

Issue Writing Examples





Problematic:
Recently in @@NAME@@ there has been a spate of issues brought to your attention that need to be addressed. So many in fact that there has been argument about how many issues you should receive each day. After all, you're only one person, and the work can be intense! Some people think that you should receive more, some think you should receive fewer, and some think that it's just right the way it is. Now your advisors are asking you for an answer.

This description has numerous problems. Think about the guide above, and see what problems you can spot! Then read on:

- It is much too long – five sentences! This spends a lot of time describing the circumstances instead of the dilemma that needs answering.

- The first sentence is not helpful for the dilemma. If the problem is how many issues Leader receives per day, then the fact that there are a lot of issues coming to Leader is already implied. Stating it separately doesn't help Leader decide what to do, and isn't relevant to the decision.

- The final sentence adds nothing. Every single issue is about Leader being asked for an answer – that is the format of the game. Descriptions do not need to specify that people are now asking for your answer.

- The description here tries to tell you what the options are... but that's what the options are for! The description should only describe the dilemma at hand, and should contain the objective information needed to choose amongst the options. No more, no less.

Eliminating all of that fluff, we are left with a working copy:


In Progress:
There has been argument about how many issues you should receive each day. After all, you're only one person, and the work can be intense!


See how much clearer this is? A person reading this knows exactly what the dilemma is, and knows exactly what the options that follow will be about – the information contained is complete. Problem is, it's boring, but with this as the base of the description, we can do some adjustments to make it sound interesting and flow like a narrative, adding back in little snippets and keywords of what we had before to give it flavor.


Final Version:
Concerned that you're only one person, and are facing an intense workload, your advisors have been heatedly arguing about how many issues you should face each day.


Just like that, we've got a description that is concise, relevant, and has just enough urgency to understand why it is landing on Leader's desk. We have emotion (concern, argument), a problem (intense workload), personal connection (it's all about Leader), and It has only one third the number of words as before, while including all the same information about the dilemma. Most importantly, it concludes with a strong and unmistakable statement of exactly what the challenge is that you'll be answering.


Effective Descriptions, Example 2

Problematic:
A customer recently got angry with BigStuff.Inc after @@HIS@@ order arrived late. BigStuff blamed the shipping company FastStuff ltd, FastStuff blamed a missed fuel delivery, and now the customer is threatening to sue both companies into oblivion.


This description has different problems than the previous example. This is more concise, and the information presented is straightforward and factual, but it's also totally unusable. Think about this issue. What challenges do you see?

- First and foremost, what is the actual issue about? What problem are you being asked to solve? Is it the package not being on time? Is it problems with fuel distribution? Is it interceding in lawsuits? Is it sorting through all the claims to figure out what actually happened and where fault lies in the first place? There are four different potential problems being introduced, and a given set of options can only reasonably address a single one of them.

- Secondly, why is this an issue? Things like customer service issues, corporate blame games, and private lawsuits aren't government matters. It doesn't matter how clearly a dilemma is stated – if it isn't relevant for the government in some way, it doesn't make a good issue.

Even though this example dilemma might in some ways be 'better written' than the previous one, it actually takes far more work to fix, because the issue premise itself isn't actually clear.

Let's cut down on all of these different elements, and really focus it in on one thing. Perhaps the missed fuel delivery is what we want to think about. If so, we need to de-emphasize the other topics, emphasize fuel logistics as a bigger problem, and get that part of the question front and center:


In Progress:
Facing lawsuits and customer dissatisfaction due to numerous late deliveries, shipping company FastStuff ltd has placed the blame squarely on a series of missed fuel deliveries, which it claims have kept its trucks stuck at the warehouse for want of gas.


That gets rid of the unnecessary second company, and turns the customer and lawsuit into more general background. It boosts the question of fuel to be the obvious focus, and makes it clear that this is an ongoing problem needing a solution. It doesn't solve the second problem, however – that of making this relevant to the government. In order to get a government response, we're going to need to either raise the stakes, figure out how the government is responsible for the shortage, or both.

For purposes of example, let's do both. Rather than a mere package being delivered, what if it's something that could actually get some media attention if it failed to show up? How about a transplant organ? That's literally a matter of life or death, and failure to deliver is unquestionably a big deal. Secondly, what if the company is blaming the government? Fuel is something that's likely to be regulated in most countries - it's flammable, it's poisonous to the environment, and its production and transportation is dangerous - these are all things the government gets involved in. Let's toss that in along with some slight tweaks for flavor, and see how things come out:


Final Version:
Facing lawsuits and outrage after failing to deliver critical transplant organs, medical transport company FastHearts ltd is publicly blaming government regulations, claiming fuel distribution is so hampered that its fleet of helicopters is grounded for want of gas.


That's a heck of a change from where it started, isn't it? The importance of picking a specific topic to focus on, and making sure it is relevant, cannot be overstated. This is only one of a number of directions it could have gone, but each of those directions could give us an entirely different issue. Pick a direction, and commit!






Problematic:
"I have an idea, would you like to hear it?" says a person named @@RANDOMNAME@@. "I think my idea is great. We should cut taxes so people are happier!" @@HE@@ smiles. "Aren't you glad I came along to solve your problems?" Having given you @@HIS@@ opinion, @@HE@@ walks away still smiling.


This option is almost meaningless! There are major problems with both the characterization of the speaker, and with the options they provide.

- Leader is given almost no information whatsoever about this proposal or its effects! The speaker does not provide any supporting arguments – they simply repeat over and over that they are pleased with themselves, which is not a worthwhile argument. The only content is the declaration that cutting taxes would make people happier. It does not include anything supporting taxation being a problem, nor anything to support the statement that people will be happier due to a tax cut.

- Fully a third of the option text is spent on dialogue tags, and they are as meaningless as the text. Why was this person chosen to provide you with advice? What is their standing? They are full of vague background information like "smiles" and "walks away" without those actions contributing to any aspect of the suggestion. The closing tag even just tells you what you already know – that you were just given this person's opinion. A single tag, written well, could contain better versions of all of this information, while leaving more room for actual dialogue.

- The character is boring. "A person" who "says" something and "smiles" might as well be the wallpaper in another room for all that description gives us. A nation's government has a massive range of people who work for it, consult for it, influence it, or are affected by it. Present those people, and have them be relevant. "Boring" characters can be ok... but only if the point is that they are boring! Ben Stein's portrayal of the monotone teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off is funny *because* it is so distinctively "boring."

If you remove the dialogue that doesn't contribute, and condense the dialogue tags down to the parts that tell us something, we see exactly how thin this option is:


Trimmed:
A person named @@RANDOMNAME@@ says "We should cut taxes so people are happier!"


That's it. That's all that's contained in that original example. Even though it's so little, however, it's still actually an improvement over what we started with! Here we can see exactly what is missing, and can start adding content. First, let's support that argument!


In Progress:
"I've been looking at some numbers, and citizens are upset about how high their taxes are!" says a person named @@RANDOMNAME@@. "Now, in order to avoid cutting the services they depend on, how about we stop spending so much on foreign aid? If we cut foreign aid, we can cut taxes, and our people can have their cake and eat it too!"


That looks like a lot of content was added, but it's still the same argument. This time however, we know where the argument is coming from (somebody asked citizens what they were unhappy about). The pitch also anticipates the practical consequences of the action (cutting taxes means cutting government spending somewhere), and tries to present it as an upside, as a supporter of a position will tend to do.


Now, let's address that character description. This is still just some random person we don't know, being about as exciting as slime mold to a non-mycologist.


Final Version:
"I've been looking at some numbers, and citizens are upset about how high their taxes are!" exclaims your Treasury Secretary's intern, a frequently nationalistic young @@MAN(1)@@ named @@RANDOMNAME(1)@@. "Now, in order to avoid cutting the services they depend on, how about we stop spending so much on foreign aid? If we cut foreign aid, we can cut taxes, and our people can have their cake and eat it too!"


Here we've introduced a full identity to our speaker. Their dialogue tag word is suitable to the emotion used (passionate statement -> exclaims), their role supports why they're looking at poll data related to tax rates (they're an intern in the Treasury dept.), and their descriptor hints at why they propose the specific solution that they do (a nationalist might well want to reduce spending on foreign aid). This makes it so the option has appeal, but also provides caution to remind Leader that perhaps this speaker has their own agenda, as so many do.



Interesting Options, Example 2

Problematic:
"The simple fact of the matter is that poor people are wastes of government time!" roars mustache-twirling arch-capitalist @@RANDOMNAMEMALE@@, eagerly unveiling his latest villainous scheme to disenfranchise the suffering workers of @@NAME@@. "I don't care how long they fought for the right to vote, or how badly hurt they'll be by taking it away! Do it! I'm rich, I'm powerful, and I love stomping on their dreams!"


At first glance, this feels like a much stronger starting point than before. It's written fluidly and with interesting language, but what we've got here instead is a caricature of a position, rather than an actual position. Despite the colorful description and strong characterization, this option is telegraphing to the player that this speaker is bad, and that this option is bad as well.

- When it comes down to it, this option also doesn't include significantly more supporting information than the previous example! The speaker asserts things without backing them up, he loudly expresses his opinion, and he leaves Leader with no cogent argument beyond "I want to be evil," which is not sufficient to justify government action.

- The dialogue tags are full of loaded language that pre-judge the speaker and the option. Tag terms like "mustache-twirling," "villainous," and "scheme" are all weighted towards saying "this person is bad." Using words like "suffering" to describe the opposition suggests that there is moral superiority to the other side. Even a strictly legal term like "disenfranchise" carries significant negative implications in this context. It may be ok to use such descriptors with care and in balance with other aspects, but this is totally overboard.

- The dialogue itself is not written as the argument that would be presented by a supporter of this position... it's written as how that argument would be portrayed by a person *opposed* to this position! Remember the guide above, where it says the argument should be neutral? This is not neutral.

Let's do as we did before and reduce/summarize this down to its core content:


In Progress:
"Poor people are wastes of government time!" roars capitalist @@RANDOMNAMEMALE@@, who wants to eliminate workers' right to vote.


We've got one unsupported assertion, a basic speaker identity, and a motivation. Can we expand these out with some content that makes for a better argument, and sounds like something that would actually be said by a person trying to get the result this speaker wants?


Final Version:
"The working class tends to vote against you, while we investors are squarely in your corner!" roars venture-capitalist and corporate bigwig @@RANDOMNAME@@, casually checking the time on @@HIS@@ Rolex. "Why should rabble-rousers who leech off the government be given the same voice as those of us in whose hands @@NAME@@'s future lies? Voting should be restricted to those of us with sufficient assets to understand our nation's true needs!"


Same basic outcome, same basic understanding of who this character is, but presented using a cogent argument that gives Leader an actual reason to choose it. "This isn't about crushing dreams and denying rights, don't you see? This is about taking care of @@NAME@@, and yourself of course, dear Leader!" This is still basically an opinion-based argument, but it is an opinion presented in logical-sounding terms that are believable for the context, and might actually be used by a supporter of this course of action.



Last edited by Verdant Haven on Sun Jun 18, 2023 5:26 am, edited 39 times in total.
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Verdant Haven
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Founded: Feb 26, 2013
Left-wing Utopia

Postby Verdant Haven » Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:06 am

Issue Writing Examples (Cont'd)







Effect lines are difficult, and there are a number of common slipping points that catch even the most experienced authors. Observational humor ain't easy! Generally speaking, people run into challenges with the following aspects of their effect lines:


Excessive Literalness:
If you look at the effect lines on some of our oldest issues, you'll find many that are extremely literal. Issue 0's "voting is voluntary" or Issue 84's "gun ownership is compulsory" are about as cut-and-dry as they get. We're not about to go back and edit old issues just to change the style that was accepted at the time, but these are not the kind of effect lines we're looking for anymore. Let's look at a couple hypothetical examples.

Let's use our finished example option from "Interesting Options, Example 1" above. As a reminder, that option reads "I've been looking at some numbers, and citizens are upset about how high their taxes are!" exclaims your Treasury Secretary's intern, a frequently nationalistic young @@MAN(1)@@ named @@RANDOMNAME(1)@@. "They also don't think we should be spending so much on foreign aid. If we cut our foreign aid, we can cut taxes, and people will be happier on both counts!"


A problematic effect line:
the government is cutting aid to fund its tax-cuts


This is true, but isn't really interesting. Can we find a way to tell people this without simply repeating what has already been said? What about thinking of the effects one might expect from the action in question? If cutting taxes is going to make people happy, perhaps they will want to celebrate? How about the people whose aid was cut – are they going to be relegated to poverty as a result? Those are two pretty opposed emotions, so we've got a potential for some juxtaposition here....


An improved effect line:
citizens celebrate when foreigners go hungry


This sticks to what we're told in the issue, but presents it in an unexpected way. By choosing words carefully, we can create the impression of something unintended happening, while technically telling the truth. Mix a bit of irony with a bit of political critique, and you've got satire.


Excessive Length:
Effect lines need to work as short fragments of a single larger sentence, which is composed of four separate effect lines all linked together on the answerer's nation page. Think of them like small soundbites or facts grabbed out of an encyclopedia about the player's nation.

For example purposes, let's suppose we have selected an issue option where the government is concerned that foreign spies may be exchanging information under the guise of attending holiday musical performances:


A problematic effect line:
the @@DEMONYM@@ Intelligence Agency is looking into rumors that the song The Twelve Days of Maxxmas contains secret code phrases to communicate with enemy sleeper cells


The idea is pretty funny, and definitely evokes a strong image of something gone a bit overboard, but it's also quite a mouthful. Remember, this is one quarter of a longer sentence containing three other effect lines! Can we get the same idea in a smaller package?


An improved effect line:
holiday carolers are suspected of treason


This is shorter, more easily understood, and provides the vast majority of the same information. It is true that a few specific details don't make it through, but this is important in effect lines. They need to be quick and snappy – not a full recap of everything that just happened.


Punctuation:
Often (but not always) associated with length, an effect line should rarely require punctuation. Besides not requiring initial capitalization or terminal punctuation, an effect line should generally avoid using punctuation beyond that needed for specific words (such as apostrophes or hyphens). Remember that an effect line will appear in a comma-separated list with other effect lines. As such, commas should be particularly avoided.

If your nation picks an option in an issue about flag colors, which includes a detailed proposal with aspirational artist-speak, it could be tempting to list it out...


A problematic effect line:
The new flag of @@NAME@@ contains green, yellow, red, and "the color of dreams."


Unfortunately, this is going to run afoul of all that punctuation! In additional to eliminating the unnecessary capitalization and period, those commas in the center will make this awkward to read when it's in the middle of a list of other items separated by commas. Depending on your preferences, it can also be bothersome to end an effect line with quotation marks, as the comma or period that the game introduces will appear after the quote mark. This is correct in British English, but incorrect in American English, and can make things seem off to some of the audience. Authors are encouraged to write in whatever version of English they prefer, but it is always worth being aware of differences like these.


An improved effect line:
"the color of dreams" features prominently on @@NAME@@'s new flag


In order to avoid the commas, it may be necessary to eliminate lists from effect lines. As with above, resist the temptation to be comprehensive in summarizing the choice as well. Instead, focus on the most interesting element, which in this case is clearly the concept of "the color of dreams." By moving that quoted text to the beginning, we also now avoid any potential difficulties that arise from varying English standards, and have a shorter, cleaner effect line.


Missing Context:
Because effect lines are delivered to a player immediately upon their response to an issue, it can be tempting to have the line directly reference specific people, places, or things from the chosen option. Don't do this! In addition to being shown to the player, that effect line will also appear on the nation's homepage, as well as in its activity feed, where it will be seen and read by others who have no idea what the issue or option it references is. The effect line should be able to be understood completely on its own, with no further explanation needed.

As an example, let's suppose we've received an issue about what to do with a murderer and known escape artist nicknamed Hacksaw Jim, who is in custody while awaiting trial for his many alleged crimes. We pick an option that holds him on a remote island in order to prevent his escape prior to the trial.


A problematic effect line:
Hacksaw Jim has been exiled on assumption of future guilt


The basic premise is solid, the critique or the practice is valid, and the length and punctuation are fine. What's wrong here? A person who has never heard of Hacksaw Jim, because they didn't just receive this issue, is going to have no idea what is being said. It becomes unimportant, because the name is meaningless without the issue to accompany it.


An improved effect line:
suspected criminals are exiled on assumption of future guilt


By taking the specific example in the issue and generalizing it, we've now got a line that makes sense to anybody who reads it. It also helps get away from literalism by recognizing the concept of precedent – if your government does something in this situation, that's establishing a precedent that they will do it in other situations, and that is where stat effects come from!


Inside Jokes/Ephemeral References:
Humor is difficult. While acknowledging that some things will always be hit or miss depending on the audience, trying to find the right balance of humor when you're going for a joke is extremely important. Whatever humor you go for, however, it is best to have it derive from timeless sources like irony, puns, or extremely common references which don't rely on insider knowledge, rather than from whatever the latest trend is. Memes in particular make for very poor content for both issues and effect lines in all but the rarest of cases. The game is more than 20 years old. Most jokes and memes that were current in its early days are totally unknown to many players now, and the jokes of today are no different.

Consider an issue where an influential corporate donor gives Leader a branded hat, hoping that Leader will wear it to an upcoming public event. If Leader chooses an option to instead give the hat away in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, what might the effect be?


A problematic effect line:
@@LEADER@@ gleefully insists that hatten är din


Now, if you've been on the internet since NationStates came out, you might well recognize that reference. You may even find it bringing an amused smile to your lips, in recognition of one of the more popular viral meme videos of the early 2000s. If you don't know that reference though? Crickets. How likely is a person who isn't familiar with it to recognize a popular year 2000 Swedish joke translation of a 1981 Lebanese love song? Rather than deriving humor from such an ephemeral source, can we find another hat-related joke?


An improved effect line:
@@LEADER@@ keeps corporate sponsorship under their hat


Here we've got a fun play on words, which accurately references the situation, and which has a low barrier to understanding – the phrase "keep something under one's hat" has been used to mean "keep something secret" since the late 1800's! This is a vastly superior joke for use in NationStates.



Last edited by Verdant Haven on Sun Jun 18, 2023 5:25 am, edited 18 times in total.
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Reploid Productions
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Democratic Socialists

Bad Faith posting in Got Issues

Postby Reploid Productions » Fri Apr 20, 2018 1:16 am

In a case of "This is something that makes an awful lot of sense, why hasn't this been done already?", the rules regarding "bad faith" posting have been extended to include the Got Issues forum and the Issue Editing team. Our editors are hardworking volunteers, and they deserve the same protection from outright harassment over how they do their jobs that the mod team gets.

From the One Stop Rules Shop:
Bad Faith: It is expected that players post with the intent of making the site a better, more enjoyable place to be - this is good faith posting. Bad faith posting is when a person is no longer interested in this goal, and instead seeks to score points, contributes nothing useful, or is deceitful.

This standard is enforced in the Moderation forum by default as well as Got Issues, and may be declared as applicable by the Moderation Team in other threads elsewhere when said threads involve policy discussions, mechanics discussions, discussions of potential additions/modifications to the game or forum, or other pertinent announcements. These threads, like Moderation "discussion threads," are meant to gauge the opinions of the community and otherwise help better player experience; posting in bad faith in such is detrimental to this process. Please note, in the instance a post is removed for being in bad faith, it is not deleted, but instead moved to the "Evidence Locker" where it may be reviewed if necessary.


You can review [violet]'s original announcement of the "Bad Faith" protocol here.

What this means:
For most users, this pretty much means nothing to you. Most of you already engage in discussion about issues, issue stats, and the issue editing team in constructive, helpful manners. You guys want to make existing issues better, thrash out cool new ideas for new issues, and work with the Issue Editors to do so. That's awesome, you guys are awesome, just keep on being awesome.

For a small subset of users, this means that the ongoing harassment, baiting, and points-scoring against the Issue Editing team that has been permitted to carry on to the detriment of the editors, the constructive players, and the game as a whole will no longer be tolerated or permitted. Much like in the Moderation forum, deceitful, unconstructive, harassing commentary will be removed to the Evidence Locker outright. Continued harassment of this nature may lead to warnings and other moderation sanctions, such as being barred from participating in the Got Issues forum entirely.

This doesn't mean that the Issue Editors are above being argued with or criticized. It just means that attempts to do so for no other reason than to harrangue the team will no longer fly. The editors' only goal is to make the game better via expanding and fine-tuning the game's pool of issues. If your goal is to make their goal needlessly, pointlessly difficult, you will be shown the door.

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