Monday, April 2, 2012

Hunting: the flip side

Having completed Steam Hunt 6, and finished talking about all the prizes, I am of course taking a break from hunting... oh, wait, I'm not, I'm doing the short "Werewolf in Love" hunt, set up as a benefit for one of the Historical Hunts team, who is facing RL medical bills.

Anyway.  When I started on the Steam Hunt, I posted a set of simple guidelines for happy hunting aimed at hunters; it occurs to me (since I've set up gift items on one local hunt, and have every intention of applying to be in Steam 7 when that rolls around) that it might be helpful, or at least that it might fill out a blog entry, were I to post some ideas on how merchants might conduct themselves when participating in a hunt.  So, herewith, my set of suggestions:-

  • Don't make it too easy.  Now, this might seem strange, coming from someone whose main ambition is to tear through all the Hunt stops in as short a time as possible, but... I don't do these things just to get the stuff.  A lot of the actual pleasure I derive comes from looking at the clues, interpreting them, and solving the puzzle, so if there's no puzzle, there's no challenge, and no fun for me.  And, if you're in one of the big Hunts, you will be one of more than a hundred shops, and I am much more likely to remember you if you had a clever clue and a clever hiding place, rather than having your hunt item out in the open so I can grab it, forget about you instantly, and move on.
  • Don't make it too hard.  The more obvious advice from a person like me, I grant you.  But it is in your interests, too, O hard-pressed SL merchant, because it is not the case that all publicity is good publicity, or all traffic is good traffic.  If I have spent three-quarters of an hour in your shop, grinding my teeth and crying tears of rage and frustration, camming inside dogs and up drainpipes looking for your item... well, the chances are not good that I will be spending any money there, or recommending you to others.  I am not going to name any of the shops where I have shook the pixel dust from my virtual sandals and sworn never to return (until the next time they're in a hunt), but believe me, there are some out there.  What you want is the Goldilocks level of difficulty; not too easy, not too hard, just right.
  • For flip's sake stick to the rules.  One thing which will make people angry is if the Hunt has clearly posted guidelines - like, how many decoys you can use, or how far away from the sign your gift can be placed - and you don't stick to them.  It may get people to hang around your shop longer and thereby boost your traffic statistics; it will not make you any friends.
  • Try to see things from a visitor's perspective.  You have placed all your vendors, you may well have built your own shop, you know your place inside and out, and that Hunt item in its dark corner stands out like a sore thumb to you.  Your average hunter, on the other hand, is leaping into a new and baffling place, likely one that is very slow to rez for him/her, and what is obvious to you is very likely not obvious to them.  (A classic example, from a shop that I am too charitable to name; the merchant hid the hunt item, and told people it was hidden, under the vendor for the very first sales item they'd made.  Obviously, the merchant knew which that one was, and it had a special place in their heart; equally obviously, none of the hunters had the first flippin' clue.)
  • Consider whether you actually want all these visitors.  This is a funny one, but... One stop on one of the hunts I've been on was in a roleplaying area with a very strict in-character policy.  Now, there is nothing wrong with that - for people who want to roleplay.  But if you're one stop on a generally-themed hunt, people are not going to want to take time out to read your rules cards and change into appropriate outfits just to do that one stop.  Indeed, until they get there, they may not even know they have to.  So, you must resign yourself to out-of-character visitors, or spend time and effort (and aggravation) actively policing your visitors... or consider whether you want visitors on those terms at all.
  • Grow a very, very thick skin.  Because you can do everything perfectly, and the Hunt organizers can do everything perfectly too, and you are still in SL, so you are guaranteed a barrage of abuse and invective from people with the emotional maturity of a two year old who think you've slighted them in some way.  Smile sweetly, then reach for the gin and the block list, is my advice to you here.

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