The World of Depleted is a visionary community that is helping to encourage creatives from around the globe to sculpt a unified science fiction world through films, stories, comics, scripts, music, and 3D art. Set in a post-apocalyptic future in which man’s Fall has been ushered in through mass panic and hysteria surrounding a covert series of attacks around the globe, the World of Depleted explores one of the most profound mysteries that is common to every culture on the planet: How does it all end? Do we go quietly into that good night, or do we claw our way kicking and screaming from the brink?
By definition, World of Depleted is what’s called a Shared Story World. What that means is that we have empowered our fans to be able to help share the creativity of this world and make a unique universe through their participation. Now, I would be lying if I said that the concept of shared story worlds is unique to World of Depleted (or even to modern society). When we were children many of us played a game called “Pass-along Story” where one person would start a story and then tell it for a few minutes and another person would pick up where the last one left off. As everyone’s abilities were varied as were their interests, the final story was rarely cohesive, but there was something satisfying about being a part of a creation with other people. Later, many of us tried out a variety of paper role playing games, which took that concept a step further, by having one person who was the lead storyteller (often called “game master”) who could judge if new contributions from the players fit into the story properly. This allowed the creativity of the group to build off of one another, but prevented the chaotic and unfulfilling stories of our childhood.
As the internet has grown, people have explored these shared story world concepts, with various results. The exciting thing about this is that we’ve been able to look at what things have worked and what things have failed from external observation (and from the amazing advice of Scott Walker from Brain Candy’s Runes of Gallidon), so that with the World of Depleted Creative Community, we had some very specific things we wanted to address. This has allowed us to come up with a world that is unique, in that it is designed to be more expansive than any story world that we’re aware of, while having enough structure to make sure all the different elements stay meaningful.
With that said, let’s look at some of the weaknesses that can develop in shared story worlds and how we strove to overcome them in World of Depleted:
- The Cloud Community – The cloud community is the web-version of the pass-along story from when we were kids. At its most basic concept, it essentially believes that no one person has any more right to tell a story than anyone else, so all contributions are equal. Much like the concept of communism, it sounds great in theory, but breaks down in practice. In cloud communities, there are rarely any underlying story arches nor many mutually agreed upon events that others can anchor their stories to. As such, most fans of these communities fall away after a fairly short period of time. At World of Depleted, we sculpted a backbone story arch for this world that covers a number of major events. Then, when new contributions come in, we make sure they fit within that backbone before they are Canonized (or “officially recognized”). Because each new piece of Canonized content further sculpts the world, we make sure that progressive content continues to build on what has come before, so that contributors can be confident in their creative footing and fans can be confident in what they’re investing their time into.
- Lack of Potential Financial Reward – A lot of shared story worlds in the past have allowed people to create, but there was no framework for any form of profit sharing. (In truth, many of them probably had no legal way to make a profit, since shared story worlds are a sticky wicket when it comes to copyright and intellectual property.) On the flip side, you had the fan communities who would try to make shared story worlds based on Hollywood creations like Star Wars or Star Trek. These fans would then make films or stories about these worlds, but, because they are actually doing something illegal, their work could be shut down at any time by the studio with a simple cease and desist letter. Most of the time studios don’t do this, so long as the fan doesn’t charge any money for their work. As such, I’ve seen people drop $50K into a Star Wars fan film that they can never charge a dime for. When we created World of Depleted, we spent close to a year with entertainment lawyer, Paul Battista, hammering out an elegant, legal solution that would allow contributors to build within this world and, once their work was officially recognized, profit from their work.
- Ultra-Niche Concept – It’s cool to come up with a very unique concept, but if only a few people are interested in it (or can even understand the premise), then it’s doomed to fail as a shared story world. World of Depleted is based on a very universal concept that spans all nations and religions: the end of the world. While there are unique elements to how this occurs in Depleted and a lot of hidden backstory, the basic concept is one that almost anyone in any culture could adapt to in order to create something in this world. (And, if history is any judge, people have been trying to figure out the mystery of the end of the world for as long as we’ve been on the planet!)
- Failure to Make Creation Fun – Everyone who’s ever been a fan of anything probably had a life that was separate to what they were a fan of. I would go a step further to say that part of what made them a fan of whatever it is was that it provided some measure of escape from the modern day-to-day world they live in. This could be a show about riding along in a starship or it could be weekly football. Whatever it is, it allows the fans to step into the shoes of someone else and see the world from a new vantage point for a while. It’s only compelling if it’s also fun. No one wants to have their ‘escapism’ revolve around drudgery. A lot of creative communities forget this fact. While it’s true that new creations from members add to the fun of a shared story world for others, there need to be fun perks in store for the person who put the hard work in, beyond potential financial gain down the road. That’s why at World of Depleted, we’ve spent time working on a reward system that encourages behaviors that help build our world, whether it be inviting people into the community or creating an entire series within this world, with cool perks and unlockables for those who choose to participate. As a lot of us are gamers as well, we’ve tried to make sure that the perks are really cool, and not just something cheesy. (After all, who needs a pointless reward for having signed into their account fifty times? However, a reward for contributing three stories to the world that gives you a VIP pass to see a sneak preview of a new Depleted film with the director and cast is something far more worth while!)
- Lack of Community Contribution Focus – Most shared story worlds focus on individual forms creations, like written stories or artwork, as the main way in which they explore their subject matter. While these are very good things to use to explore a world, it’s been shown that communities that create works that require community mindset to create their works in the first place have a greater feeling of belonging and the work is more readily able to hit larger groups of people. (This isn’t a new concept. The notion of barn raisings that our ancestors subscribed to is the same concept.) At World of Depleted, we actually started contrary to the norm of shared story worlds by beginning with one of the most communal creative elements: filmmaking. Because we were spearheaded by MicroFilmmaker Magazine, an online resource to empower low-budget filmmakers, our initial focus began with film. We’ve expanded to include many other forms of art, but because of this initial community focus on creation, there is much more of a feeling of connectivity at World of Depleted. To further enable this, our Contributor section is based on a social framework that permits inner-group formation, chats, comments, user-created pages, sharing content, and much more.
- Too Few Types of Content – Because a lot of story worlds focused on only a couple forms of creation, there’s a limit to how many places that content can show up and, in turn, a limit to how many people can be exposed to it. As World of Depleted started as a film-centric community and then evolved from there, it has content that can show up in video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, multimedia content that can show up in the AppStore, music that can show up on Jamendo and Amazon.com, art content that can show up on Facebook, YURDigital, and Renderosity, and stories and novellas that can show up in a variety of additional places, including the Post-Apocalyptic Stories section of Megaton.us.
- Lack of Assets – A lot of shared story worlds don’t make enough types of things available to their contributors, which makes it harder for them to try out new forms of expression. At World of Depleted, we’re trying to make as many forms of raw content available to our contributors as possible, including high rez photos and logos, CD-quality music, High Rez videos, unedited portions of films, raw narration and voice over tracks, and many other elements. This means that folks might easily find that there’s a new form of artistic expression that had never occurred to them that they could try their hand at without having to track all the materials down themselves.
- Lack of Direction – One of the hard things with shared story worlds in general is that fans aren’t always sure where to start, as it’s so huge. At World of Depleted, we have periodic challenges that we send out with very targeted forms of creation sought, whether it be a story about rebuilding a settlement or taking a pictures of broken down factories or choreographing a gun fight, there are all sorts of challenges that are available to help get you started with creating new content.
When you first come here, we know that you’ll want to explore the content we currently have up. We encourage you to do that.
Feel free to “prove your identity” to become a member of the Outer Ruins of World of Depleted, where you’ll be kept up to speed on news about World of Depleted and new changes.
However, if you’d like to take the next step and see how dark the Black Sandbox really is, then I invite you to explore going through the Initiation to become a Contributor. Within the Inner Cloister of the Contributors, you will find kindred spirits who are helping to form this new world. And, if you’re not sure what you might contribute, that’s alright too. It might be that you will realize something you wish to contribute after your initiation and your conversations with other Contributors!
Whatever you decide, the World of Depleted awaits to welcome you with open arms…and assassin’s bullets!
Interrim Leader of the Post Fall League of Dark Dreamers