Friday, April 27, 2007

Flawed Published Products

So, there has been some buzz around the webs this week about indie game design and publishing, specifically here at Story Games and here at the Forge. The gist of these conversations is that some games have been published in an unfinished or half-baked form, and many folks believe that this is harmful to indie games in general, and unfair to gamers who may have purchased these products.

This is a topic of some interest, of course, and I agree with (most of) what everyone here is saying. Some of the solutions being put forward are excellent, including the idea of printing ashcans, or beta versions of games, in cheap formats for low prices, and then incorporating all the live play feedback you can get into a final version of the game. Plenty of people have done this, and it works.

If you've followed the discussions above at all, you will know that the reason I'm bringing the subject up here is that Mortal Coil gets called out for some heavy critique on these threads. I wanted to say my piece about it in my own space, rather than jumping into these other threads with long discourses about my own game. The main reason for this is I'm not really interested in getting into a long argument about the game on those other threads, or dealing with the attacks and well-meaning defenses that would inevitably come up.

I know that Mortal Coil has some problems with how the rules are presented. Lots of feedback from players, with the same questions coming up again and again, are an excellent indication that some areas of the rules are not well explained. If I had done a better job communicating everything in the text, I wouldn't have as many questions coming up about it.

Some players are going to contact me and ask questions no matter what. There are players out there who like to gather all the info they can before starting a game, even one that is well layed-out and explained. These aren't the people I'm talking about. The ones I feel I've failed are those who bought the game and couldn't understand it well enough to give it a try. Some of these people have contacted me, or gone on the web and found some of the FAQs and examples I've posted. Many of these people, on the other hand, took the game and put it on their shelf, and they will never play it. Those are the ones I feel I have failed.

So, mea culpa aside, I want to talk a bit about the expectations that go into a design and second editions. I've been accused of picking gamers' pockets by publishing Mortal Coil the way I did. I don't really see it that way. Mortal Coil is playable, and many people have figured out how to play from the text alone (I know because I have heard from some of them).

I design and publish games and try to put the best product out there I can, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how to present the rules in Mortal Coil so they can be understood. After getting all of this feedback, I have a much better understanding of how I missed, and what I need to do next time to present the rules in a better way. My next product will be much better. I also plan on revising and releasing a new version of Mortal Coil at some point, to better explain the rules. Nothing about them is going to change, I am just going to adjust the areas where comprehension was difficult, and add in the extended examples of play I've written for the forum. This will be a better product than the first version.

All I can do is learn, and improve. That's my duty as a designer, and that's where I am going to go in the future.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Voice of the Revolution, Episode 7

Episode 7 is now live! Paul and I review Hero's Banner and interview Chris Hanrahan of Endgame Oakland.

Show notes:
0:29 - Despite audio problems, Paul and Brennan are back for the April show. As always, the episode starts with IPR news. New:

The Zorcerer of Zo (PDF)
Intergalactic Cooking Challenge (PDF)
Nine Worlds (PDF)
Seven Leagues (PDF)
Vs. Monsters (PDF)

Dust Devils Revenged
Beast Hunters

02:41 - Hero's Banner, by Tim C. Koppang, is a roleplaying game that focuses on coming of age stories.
15:38 - Chris Hanrahan of Endgame in Oakland, CA, talks with Paul and Brennan about indie games from a retailer's perspective.
29:07 - Brennan talks about the process of procuring art for your game in the latest installment of Pravda.
39:26 - Paul and Brennan talk about what they're playing now. Paul even goes first this time.

Other games:

Dogs in the Vineyard
Mortal Coil
Don't Rest Your Head
The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach
carry. a game about war.
Primetime Adventures
Mystery of the Abbey

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Not Much Off the Writing Desk

Or the Raven for that matter, lately. I know I've been remiss about posting here, and I thought that would be a topic for a post. I've been exceptionally busy with both IPR and Galileo Games in the last months. Here's an update on what I've been doing:

IPR has been going gangbusters for the last year or so, and the work is getting pretty significant. This year, I've done a number of things to reduce the amount of time I was spending on web maintenance and packing boxes. The company is successful enough that it was long past due, but that has required a lot of logistics and time juggling. Luckily, now some of the pressure is off (so I can concentrate on other things and add more pressure).

Galileo Games, unfortunately, took a bit of a back seat during this whole process, pretty much since GenCon last year. Mortal Coil is doing really, really well, better than I expected, and is still one of IPR top sellers. This pleases me greatly.

Bulldogs! ran out late last year, and it's taken me entirely too long to get things worked out on reprinting it. I did some revisions and updated the system for 3.5 (long overdue), and a new edition will be out this month.

My new project, How We Came to Live Here, is moving sluggishly. I just haven't had a lot of time to tighten it up. I have been playtesting, which has gone extremely well. The changes I am making are mostly tweaks. The text, on the other hand, is barely notes, and completely incomprehensible for anyone other than myself, and that's the next task: I need to get it written up in a form that can go to outside playtest.

That's the update for today, and look for some more stuff on here in the next week or so.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Voice of the Revolution, Episode 6

The Voice of the Revolution Episode 6 is now live!

Paul and I do a Conspiracy of Shadows review and interview Joshua A.C. Newman and Emily Care Boss.

Show notes:

0:29 - Welcome to the sixth (slightly delayed) episode of the Voice of the Revolution. As always, Brennan starts us off with IPR news.
Vs. Outlaws
3:26 - Conspiracy of Shadows, by Keith Senkowski, is a game of Doom and Destiny in an analogue of medieval Poland.
13:11 - Joshua A.C. Newman (Shock:, Under the Bed) and Emily Care Boss (Breaking the Ice, Shooting the Moon) stop by to talk about their games and their gaming group.
27:11 - Brennan brings the next installment of Pravda, in which he discusses the importance of external playtesting.
35:52 - Paul and Brennan close the show with a brief discussion of what they're playing right now.
Other Games:

Conspiracy X
Call of Cthulhu
The Mountain Witch
Mortal Coil
Spirit of the Century
Primetime Adventures
Full Light, Full Steam
Other Links:

Games Expo
Nerdly Beach Party
Game Chef