Monday, June 30, 2014

Traditional Roleplaying and Doing The Same Old Thing

I have been, for a long while, struggling against a certain odd assumption. This is, bluntly, that there is no innovation possible/being done within the traditional RPG envelope. It seems to be a fairly common assumption - traditional RPGs are dead, they just don't know it yet - but it is also unconscious and for the most part unvoiced, showing itself mainly in circumstantial ways.

Here is the thing I keep hitting in a nutshell: _All traditional RPG designers are doing is what has been done before, either purposefully, as in the OSR, or blindly, in all other cases. All real innovation is coming from story oriented games or from 'the challenge is the game' games._

As a designer who does his best to push the envelope while still remaining within the traditional framework, this is crippling. It is akin to the "I read a game you wrote back in 2004 and it wasn't for me, so nothing you do could ever be of interest" put down - like one can't ever get better, or learn from one's mistakes, or even just change. This assumption makes every day a salmon day - I'm swimming upstream, against the current, so I can spawn and die.

What is funny is I never feel this from other designers. Never. They design the games they design because they are interested in exploring this way, and they assume other designers are doing the same thing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

First Review for Lowell Was Right!

Lowell Was Right! got its first review -

My favorite line was the first - "I've yet to play this game but based on my first cursory read through I'm kind of in love with it."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

I Don't Make Art

Reading posts from various game designers - I read a lot of stuff from all over - and I can see there is a fundamental difference between me and many of them. Many of them are trying to make art. I'm not. Everything in my games is purely functional, including the illustrations. When I make an illo, what I care about is that the information I am presenting visually is properly conveyed. That is probably why I prefer making my own illos - I can control the substance - and why I don't usually do illos for others.

These other guys care deeply about the look and feel. They agonize over the kerning. The typefaces. The way the 'art' is presented. The gutters. The binding. The 'heft' of the book. The texture of the paper. It's all about making art, and there is nothing wrong about that. It's just something fundamentally different than what I am doing.

I couldn't care less about these things. As long as the text is readable, I don't care about the typeface. I let the program I use to write with care about kerning. The printed book is an afterthought for me. That's why I stay away from two column format. It's terrbile for reading on-screen. The book covers are there to protect the pages. So long as the paper is think enough to prevent bleed-through from the opposite side, it's the last thing I would think about. There is no art there!

I don't think of the game book as art. It's just a medium to convey the game. It's why I prefer pdf to print - I can more efficiently get stuff across. I would ideally prefer to present this info in another way. I prefer html or xml to pdf, but people don't pay for works in these media. That's web stuff and it's free. Most people have finally gotten to the point where they accept the idea of paying for a pdf. A printed book is just a less efficient pdf. It has no hyperlinking or flexibility, but people *like* printed books, and I am forced to use them.

By day I am a well-paid tech writer, who writes about esoteric stuff like x-ray fluorescence and laser induced Raman spectroscopy. In that field, we write pdf user guides because of regulatory requirements and liability issues. The last thing people want to see is a "wall-o-text" that they have to read through from front to back. Really, nobody reads user manuals. Nowadays my real work is writing "How Do I Do This?" web documents that link together text, animation, video footage, e-learning, simulators, and whatever else is the best way to get that information to the customer.

I would love to write a game like that, letting the reader explore the things they are interested in, and not bother them with things they already know or don't care about. My games tend to be big because I put lots of group level tools in them. Lots of customization tools. If I could write them the way I write my technical documentation, the game book would only be as long as the reader wanted it to be.

Maybe Patreon is the answer, but somehow I doubt it. I don't think there is enough interest in what I do to support anything like this. I don't own the tools I use at work to make this kind of construct, and those tools are expensive.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Questions about Lowell Was Right!

So Brett Bernstein asked me a few questions about Lowell Was Right! on his blog: