This is the fourth and final in a series of shorter articles that will hopefully bring newer designers up to speed on the kinds of expectations I have for this blog and those who help in the Design forum on the Forge have for new games.
In the initial question, when I say “we” I mean “me.” Others can speak for themselves. These last few articles are really intended to get out there what I’d like to see here at Socratic Design and on other game design forums like those at the Forge, RPGnet, and Story Games. I’m not going to be very long winded about it (I hope), because it’s pretty simple.
I have four things I’m really looking for when it comes to deciding how interested I’m going to be in someone’s design:
1. The game is based off the idea that the author is trying to maximize some kind of fun he is already having.
2. The game breaks with Tradition in some way, shape or form.
3. A game where the designer is determined to avoid the publishing aspect of the Heartbreaker.
4. A game that will be finished in one form or another.
So what do I mean by these? First, if someone is designing a game “just cause”, “to participate in the community” or “for fun/an exercise” then it’s really a waste of my time and frankly anyone else’s. No offense. There are a certain number of minutes a day I (or anyone else) can devote to reading, reviewing, and offering advice on a game design. Personally, I would want to use those minutes to help someone who is serious about designing a game that he will use to enhance his fun and the fun of those he games with. I want the time I put in to helping someone to matter to more than just one other person.
Second, hey Traditional Games can be fun, but they’re well…Traditional. I’ve seen them before. What really sparks my interest is something new and different. Okay, you want to make a Fantasy RPG. How’s it going to be different from most of what I’ve seen before? Got a vampyre game? Sweet! What’s new? If you want to design a Traditional Game to get some experience in game design as David Chunn said, that’s fine. You want to really get my (and no doubt others’) interest sparked? Do something that’s out of the ordinary with your game. And I’m not saying you have to abandon every aspect of a Traditional RPG. Far from it. Even doing one thing in a wild and new way is righteous. I just want to encourage folks to expand their ideas beyond what’s been termed “regular” in the broader RPG community.
Three, if you’re planning on sinking thousands of dollars into a game that makes the same offering as say DnD, Vampire, or Rifts then I’m probably not going to help you. In fact I’ll hope that you get discouraged and scrap the design. Talking about three tiered marketing plans, building a network of games stores and distributors, and ignoring the internet/pdf market are big red flags for me. If you are an independent designer, then sinking gobs of money into trying to get your game “out there” into the public is a very risky endeavor- one that I’d advise avoiding in the early part of your production and publication. The last three questions of the Power 19 will tell me a lot about your plans for the future of your game. Consider them carefully.
Last, I hate helping people who just flame out two months later. No doubt in my mind they had a gem of an idea, but gave up anyway. That sucks. I hate it for them because I know if they could have just finished it, they could have added a verse to the chorus of games indie designers are producing. Heck, I probably would have bought a copy. So please, if you start a game, work to finish it. I’m always available to help.
Speaking of being available, let me establish this right now. If you would like some feedback from me on your design, feel free to post a reply to any article on this blog. I don’t care if it’s off topic or not. The main mission of Socratic Design is to help newer designers get started and get finished. So I’ll drop whatever I’m doing to lend a hand. Now I’d *prefer* to talk about your game on your blog (if you have one) or on a forum like the Forge or RPGnet. So including a link to such a place would be helpful. But if none of that is a possibility, this is an open space for feedback and response. Consider the welcome mat dusted off and the door wide open :-)
In closing, I hope that nothing I’ve said here sounds harsh. But if it does, think about it in this way. I’m truly after people who want to design and publish an RPG. I’m serious about it, and I want them to be serious too. We’re all in this fight to publish together, and I want to be the most effective resource I can for you. Meeting those four requirements above will help me be that.