How long is a piece of string?

I’ve had a couple of experiences recently that a tie into the same theme. Just when is the writing of a game or supplement “finished” and ready for release?

1) I have a collaborator who’s working on tying ALL the old Golden Heroes scenarios into one magnum opus for Squadron UK. Brilliant work so far. He recently asked me when I stop writing and start preparing a product for printing. I didn’t have an answer for him.
2) I’ve been struggling to finish a product for years. Squadron: X, my X files to Avengers campaign pack. (I actually wrote the first draft years before the Avengers movie came out but now if feels like my product is a rip off. Superheroes vs. alien invasion? At least I’ve got zombies in mine.)
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Greetings from a crowdfunding project creator

Hi, I’m Ste C, and I’m new here; so I figure I’d best introduce myself and what I know about.

My knowledge of game design is somewhat fractured, being derived from a rather disconnected set of experiences, and ultimately it’s limited: I’ve never completed anything more complicated than a casual card game. While it’s a passion, it’s not a field of expertise.

What I have a better understanding of is Crowdfunding. While still limited, my knowledge is formed from practical experience, and is therefore (in my mind at least) a more useful thing to share.

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Playing with form factor

When producing our works, a lot of games designers limit their ideas of how a game can be presented.  Most games fall somewhere on the normal book size scales. Sure there are differences, and you get the occasional, slightly funky-sized books, like In a Wicked Age or Annalise.

Form factor can be so much more than that. The original edition of Ribbon Drive was one of the most expensive experiments in terms of how much copies of the game ended up costing, but that DVD case with its CD and Booklet in it, really made the whole game an experience.

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Initiative thoughts

The very concept of initiative seems to be hard coded into gaming. To play a game without it feels unusual. I like it, and want to see it used in my War game, but I also want to keep bookkeeping for the GM to an absolute minimum.

To do this I’ve started experimenting with using different systems in my regular fantasy game. This is perhaps the simplest hack I’ve ever been able to pull off. The initiative roll sits quietly in the mechanics, and with the increasing prevalence of cyclic initiative (you do it once and keep the results all the way through the conflict) it’s almost invisible in the game as a whole.

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Playtest Metrics

There doesn’t seem to be much advice — that’s discoverable advice from a few Google searches — on how to run a playtest of your shiny new RPG. As an outsider1 to this process, the prevailing attitudes seem to be

  • play it until it breaks, and
  • if you’re having fun, you’re not playtesting. Playtesting should feel like work, not fun.

The first is good advice but rather broad, and the second stems to the same school-of-hard-knocks mentality that pervades some professions — that you do not learn your job from a book, you learn from doing, being knocked back a few times, and getting stronger. And I’ve been there and done that with a lot of things, both work-wise and hobby-wise, so I’m sympathetic to this view.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to organise my thoughts — and in doing so, maybe I can avoid at least some iterative navel-gazing that arises from the “just see what works” approach. So this post is about me thinking about what I want from the game in a fairly high-level conceptual sense, and how to gauge the response of the players.

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