Thursday, February 02, 2006

What if my Game Turns out Crappy?

Should we make crappy games?

Yes! And I say yes because we really don’t have much of a choice. What??? You may ask. Well, I’m going to be blunt with you guys because A) sugar coating won’t do you any good, and B) I care about you enough to tell the truth: Your first game is gonna be crappy. More than likely, your second and third game will be too.

Your first try won’t turn out like you had hoped. Trust me. I learned this from painful, PAINFUL experience. But you know what, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Looking back on my first foray into game publishing, I realize how much I learned. It was awesome. We got to talk face to face with the product developer of a huge corporation (well, huge in the gaming industry anyway), we got to learn how to use PageMaker, we built a website, we had our own GenCon booth, we dealt with over-stock, distributors, and all kinds of wacky stuff.

None of the original members who worked on Ember Twilight are happy with it now. And we sunk a ton of money on it. But now that I’m working on Cutthroat, Hierarchy, and Standoff, I realize just how much those experiences meant to me and how much they will help me get these games out the door. So why am I telling you this? Because I want to encourage you and warn you at the same time.

Encouragement: Don’t wait for your game to be “perfect.” It won’t be. Get it complete, play test it, then publish it. There is no need to obsess for years over your design. Hit it hard, get it finished, and then get it out there. See what happens, and learn from your experience. There really isn’t any better way to learn how to write and publish an RPG than to do it. You’ll get your nose bloody for sure, but that’s okay. It will make you tougher the next time. Don't lose out on an opportunity to get this experience because you don't think your game is"worthy" to be published. 'Cause it is.

Warning: Don’t sink a ton of money in your first design. Let it grow at its own pace. Selling your game through online companies like RPGNow, Drivethru RPG, or Lulu is a great way to start. Thinking you’re going to succeed with a “multi-tiered marketing and distribution strategy…” is the road to heartache. Start small and let the games you design grow at their own pace.

Go back and notice that I said “games” with an “s” at the end. Once your first design is done, start your second. You’ll be surprised how much easier the process is and how you’ll see where you have already learned and improved.

So let us see your crap! Publish your game with no fear. Then design another.

Peace,

-Troy

10 comments:

Nathan P. said...

Ooooh yeh.

There's a constant war in my head between "I shouldn't be asking for so much money for Timestream because there are so many holes and problems still in it" and "Timestream is good enough at what it does that its worth the price, regardless of its problems."

I think one fear that keeps people in the perpetual design phase is that others will perceive their game as bad because its "not done." Fuck that. People will buy (or download, or whatever) your game. They may very well complain about it. But you know what? Both their money and their complaints go directely towards making your next game that much better.

Isn't that cool?

Troy_Costisick said...

Right on Nathan!

That's how you have to look at it, IMO. Game design is a process, not a result. Especially, since there is no "school" for design, and even those who are held in high esteem admit that they are still learning.

In truth, I don't think we've seen a Masterpiece RPG from a single author yet. We're all still in the journeyman stage. And, well, I am still in the apprentice stage. So let everyone understand that even the "best" still have all kinds of room for improvement.

Peace,

-Troy

Darcy said...

I'm with both of you 100%.

But let me also wade in with a tangential point: don't be too eager to get that game out the door, either.

Recently, I had to set Domus aside for a while and deal with some real world stuff. To top things off, I'd had a rotten playtest leading up to this cooling off period.

I'm back at it now, and that month (or so) of "stewing" time has helped me a great deal with addressing design issues and focusing the game even more on what it needs to do.

It really does become a fine line between "perpetually designing" and publishing real crap (aka: something that you could have made significantly better).

Just like everything else, you'll fall down a lot, I guess. It's all about picking yourself back up.

Frank said...

Any thoughts on what you do when your design stalls? I had a good head of steam for a while with my Troll Slayer project, but in the past couple weeks it's really stalled. Partly I'm really conflicted about my personal commitment. Cold Iron, or at least Frank's Houseruled Cold Iron, works good enough for me, so do I really need Troll Slayer? Sure, I have this want to "get the word out" but if there isn't really any interest, is it worthwhile bothering?

Part of what I take with this post is that it is worth bothering, but how do you keep your energy up when you realize your game is turning out crappy, either halfway through you just realize your whole angle is a bust, or just flagging enthusiasm?

Frank

Darcy said...

Ah, yes. The "why bother going forwards" doldrums. I've been there more than I care to admit. I suspect that's true of just about everyone out there who generates art of one kind or another.

The harsh truth is that game design (and just about every other kind of art) is a solitary endeavour. Yeah, there's playtesting and whatnot, but when the rubber hits the road, it's just you and the typewriter.

I can't tell you what you should do, but I really wish that I'd not succumbed to the doldrums as often as I have -- because with time and distance, I can still see a spark of something worthwhile in those aborted games. But the truth is, I've got better ideas now, so those misshapen beasts from days gone by will likely stay right where they are.

I can't speak to what your specific issues with TrollSlayer are (because I don't know what they are), but for me it was always getting too caught up in mechanics. I *like* mechanics -- even if they're just mechanics for their own sake.

Odds are pretty good that if you strip your game back to first principles (whether you use "the big 3", "the power 19", or "Frank's bag of questions" is kind of beside the point) and keep asking yourself -- what is this doing for me here? If the answer is "not much" then out it goes.

Once all that's done, look at what you have left and see where that's headed. The skeleton of your old game will likely point you towards what you really wanted the game to be about all along.

Troy_Costisick said...

Heya,

how do you keep your energy up when you realize your game is turning out crappy, either halfway through you just realize your whole angle is a bust, or just flagging enthusiasm?

Easy, go back to what sparked the design in the first place: Actual Play.

You have a lot of nice things to say about Cold Iron. Play a few sessions of it, keep notes, then look back on what you wrote down. Then ask yourself, "How can I create mechanics to enhance this sort of play even further?"

The best thing to do when you are stuck is to go back and play some- then reflect on what/how you played. Just don't scrap your design.

Peace,

-Troy

Frank said...

Thanks for the suggestions. Now that I'm playing in a Dogs in the Vinyard game, I should also have some play experience to contrast with Cold Iron. Dogs has some stuff to teach me, but as a narativist game, it's very different from what I'm used to.

Frank

Stevoboi said...

Frankly, you're wrong... I'm a developer and this is my first game I have made.


Empires Of Galldon has been undergoing heavy maintenance and support over the past 2 years to sculpt the game into what it is today...
Yet the recent down-time from January to March left members feeling like it was the end.

Ressurected from my old laptop, I found the core files needed to get it up and running, and have even made some changes to the original layout (In other words, Modernizing It.) and have come back with great comments about the site look, feel and gameplay.

Ticks are set at 5 minutes, so there is no need to keep your browser up, simply maintain your empire and fend off any players trying to get in your way with brute force and the rest is done on its own.

Game Features :
- Militia Units (12 total)
- Suicidal Units (1 total)
- Siege Units (1 total)
- Militia Buildings (6 total)
- Militia Building Upgrades (4 total)
- Suicial Buildings (1 total)
- Defensive Structures (2 total)
- Razing Of Buildings, Disbanding Of Units
- Empire Engagement : Attack/Suicide/Intel/Theif
- Player to Player messaging
- Clan establishment, clan joining
- Leaderboards (Acres, Experience, Civilians)
- Forms of currency : Gold, Wood, Stone, Food, Civilians
- Automatic Tick Production every 5 minutes (No need to keep browser open for empire to grow)
- Trade system for resources listed : Wood, Stone, Food, Civilians, Recruits, Acres ( For Gold )
- Clan management
- Clan funding
- Online Chat Support 24/7


http://empiresofgalldon.co.nr

Stevoboi said...

Empires Of Galldon has been undergoing heavy maintenance and support over the past 2 years to sculpt the game into what it is today...
Yet the recent down-time from January to March left members feeling like it was the end.

Ressurected from my old laptop, I found the core files needed to get it up and running, and have even made some changes to the original layout (In other words, Modernizing It.) and have come back with great comments about the site look, feel and gameplay.

Ticks are set at 5 minutes, so there is no need to keep your browser up, simply maintain your empire and fend off any players trying to get in your way with brute force and the rest is done on its own.

Game Features :
- Militia Units (12 total)
- Suicidal Units (1 total)
- Siege Units (1 total)
- Militia Buildings (6 total)
- Militia Building Upgrades (4 total)
- Suicial Buildings (1 total)
- Defensive Structures (2 total)
- Razing Of Buildings, Disbanding Of Units
- Empire Engagement : Attack/Suicide/Intel/Theif
- Player to Player messaging
- Clan establishment, clan joining
- Leaderboards (Acres, Experience, Civilians)
- Forms of currency : Gold, Wood, Stone, Food, Civilians
- Automatic Tick Production every 5 minutes (No need to keep browser open for empire to grow)
- Trade system for resources listed : Wood, Stone, Food, Civilians, Recruits, Acres ( For Gold )
- Clan management
- Clan funding
- Online Chat Support 24/7


http://empiresofgalldon.co.nr

Cheap wedding dresses said...

Very happy to see your article, I very much to like and agree with your point of view. Thank you for sharing. At the same time,i love best pram very much .wedding dressesWelcome to look at my website and blog articles.Hope we can become good friends, and exchange and to help each other! Thanks!!