Permalink 09:15:59 am, Categories: About us, 197 words   English (US)

Kind of sad ...

I've received last week the last batch of illustrations from Greg Taylor ; some sixty illustrations.

We now have all the essence completed and the all the existence for the month of march. April and May are partly illustrated, some hundred illustrations missing. We're reached our goal for beta and I won't be buying out illustrations "from my pocket" anymore ; we shall pay the last missing illustrations from the revenue of the beta.

I've been buying art for the last six years, form different illustrators. This is really one of the best part of this project : finding the illustrator, contacting him/her, making the contract, introducing him/her to the project, identifying the part to illustrate, making the "extract" for the contract (but I won't miss this part !!!), reviewing the drafts and receiving the illustrations.

That's really fun. Who would have known ? Well, anyway, if we don't sell Avalanche, that's the last art I would buy ... So, I feel kind of sad ...

But, hey, let's try to be positive : this might only the beginning to buying new art !!!

And lastly, I've received the second map and the third map is on the way. Those are very, very nice !!!



Permalink 07:45:16 am, Categories: Promotion, marketing : strategic, 1226 words   English (US)

Alpha et beta strategy

Cross posted at the forge

I do have some ideas, but I need some advices.

Current situation and roadmap

Avalanche has been a work in progress for almost nine years now. This is the first "game" we publish. For those of you not familiar with it, Avalanche is pure fluff : a multi-systems, multi-plots, non linear, calendar based campaign. It is almost an illustrated novel, but not really. It more looks like a story-board : a high level, with no details plots and setting. This seems well appropriated for rpg. So, by definition, as it is for storyboards, Avalanche is an unfinished product (and presented as such) : the "finished" version is the game at your table. Will Avalanche ever be finished as a product ? No.

So, where are we ? Avalanche is built to be incorporated into a website orientated toward a service to manage a campaign. Bad news : there is currently no roadmap for the website. Good news : we've got enough stuff to sell it without the service, as a pdf. We're planning to release this pdf somewhere this summer in its beta version (see below for the strategy). What will this include ? Here we go :
- Informative pages on how to use Avalanche (different aspects of the product, impact at the table, possible games, interaction with systems, introduction to the world ...). Those are not written "officially" yet. But most of it has been produced in a way or another on forums (mostly the forge and story-games), my blog and as part of my teaser.
- Example of play (AP post in fact). I've already got a bunch of those. Mostly need editing.
- The first part of the story (Avalanche has four), including the essence (what is usually called the setting). I'm talking here about what is translated and ready to be released. We're talking about 120K word here.
- Various maps (geographic, geo-strategic, rmap).
- Around 350 illustrations out of the 450 needed to cover this first part. The essence is all illustrated (a hundred big illustrations).

Note two things :
- There are no systems whatsoever at the moment. We're planning to work on this and adapt TSOY for Avalanche, but it is not planned for alpha and beta.
- There are some hundred illustrations missing. We're not doing them for alpha and beta.

We're aiming at a very high quality product.

First question would be why do alpha ? But let me first address why not do alpha :
- As Avalanche is "novel like", getting "your story stinks" will not change much things. It is kind of too late (that said it is not what we get so far from the readers).
- Also getting "you should add robots or lizardmen, that would be cool" won't help much either. We're not adding robots nor lizardmen.

So, why do alpha :
- In formative pages are still to be completed. I believe that supporting players might really help me to know what to throw in there and how.
- AP would be more than welcomed.
- Testing in the context of a given system is always different and needed in my publishing model.
- Maybe we could see emerge a community around it. Just maybe.
- I don't like the term buzz, but alpha seems like a right time to do it as we can see the release of the product coming.

Of course, alpha would be in contact with some kinds of ashcan : no layout, not much of informative pages (apart from my blog) but fully illustrated.
Do they seem like good reasons ? Does the timing seems right ? Do I miss something ?

Now, here's a couple of questions about those alpha :
- I would be looking at a very few numbers of alpha testers ; we have the number five in mind. Does this seem enough ?
- The thing I really hate about alpha is getting people knocking at your door, looking at the product and not even playing it. So, I thought of dealing with alpha somehow like I deal with illustrators/master mapper/translator : through a contract. The clauses would include : no diffusion of the product, engagement to play and report games through AP with a certain amount of words (we're thinking about a mandatory three sessions), permission for me to use the AP in the product, credit for the alpha, beta and final version for the free for the alpha. Is this a usual practice ? How should I approach this ? Would I frightened people doing it ? Is a contract "overkill" ?
- Whom should I target for this alpha ? As I see it, I have, more or less, two choices : propose it to various communities (something like here at the forge) which would give me a larger range for systems (and maybe problems) but less support to the players (they would be less able to help each other) or propose it to an already existing community of players (for instance BW or d20), but thus "putting all my eggs into the same bags" (I'm not sure this translates well from french). What's your recommendations ?
- Where should I manage the support and AP report ? Setting out my own forum for this doesn't seem like a good idea. We plan on doing it, but more in beta phase. Any thoughts on this ? What worked for you ?

I'll present this since it is somehow related to the alpha.
Beta should come somewhere this summer and would be considered to be our first release. Beta would include informative pages and layout. But not the missing hundred illustrations.
What we want to do is sell the beta, limited to some hundred copies. And that, for three main reasons :
- Finance the final illustrations.
- If we cannot sell a hundred copies of the beta, that's very bad news. This also allow us to test our marketing strategy with strict, and limited, objectives.
- Encourage the beta to play it. We believe that people getting out money out of their pocket are more incline to invest time in the product.

As you can notice there's some kind of "bounty" model here (the bounty is the final version).

Finishing the beta, before opening for the final product, we should be able :
- To pay for and complete the final hundred illustrations.
- To pay for and complete the translation of at least some parts of the continuing story. Enough to go into periodical mode.
- Adjust some informative pages and see what kind of support are needed.

The beta would have access to the final version in pdf for free when it is released. We might even throw in the possibility to buy the paper version at "the cost".

Is fixing such objectives a good idea ? Is this common practice ? Does the deal seems fair ? Does this encourage play ? Does presenting it as a bounty seems a good strategy ?

Opening the final version
When the beta is completed (objectives reached), we close down the selling, prepare the final version (which should be a work in progress), distribute it for free to the alpha and beta and "re open" selling.
Now, and let's take a step at a time, a whole new horizon opens to us and we can "deploy" our publishing strategy, based on selling a periodical and throwing in some CC aspects. But that will be the purpose of another thread.



Permalink 08:56:36 am, Categories: Burning Wheel, 874 words   English (US)

Concluding BW

Concluding our actual play about BW. This has been cross posted at the forge and to see our upcoming actions, you might go read the answers that followed.

Maybe just to conclude this thread and summarize our (Francis and I) common position following this play test. Please note that some of the issues I'm going to address are on the verge of publishing.

Burning Wheel
This is, in my opinion, one of the best system out there. It really helps out playing and provides rules that helps me, as a DM at the table ; I mean it helps me and my players focus on what we want to address.
Maybe the most enjoyable and eye opening mechanic for me was the character burner. And I'd like to talk a little bit about this.
The character burner, in my opinion, is quite different than the classical character creation. In what way ?
I do see the character creation as having a character sheet and completing it. Character burner seems to me like a different beast : you have a specific sheet, with a lot of little characters on it, that you use to create your character. In this process, there is a lot of emphasis about the character personal story. After this process, you moved some parts of the initial sheet to the final character sheet, the one you will use in play ; thus throwing away the character burner sheet.

Now, would I prefer a simpler character sheet for BW ? I guess, yes. I mean, yes, BW is great, but a little bit too complicated to my taste (read here "rules heavy"). BW is great, but better to use it with hardcore players. And do I have access to this kind of players ? Not really, see below.

Also, which is great for Avalanche, BW seems perfect to play campaign, which is the purpose of Avalanche.

Finally, I do feel that BW and Avalanche is almost a perfect match. By that, I mean I don't see any real reasons to have a separate version of BW for Avalanche or a single version of Avalanche for BW. According to this AP, do I seem right ?

What's next ?
So, here's my situation : Francis is going to leave for China in two months, and for some reasons (including friends of mine living oversea) I don't have access to hardcore players. Also, setting out a campaign might turn out to be very difficult. And, please, bear in mind that I intend to publish Avalanche somewhere this summer ; that means a lot of work, leaving even less time for playtesting.

That said, we intend to continue a little bit of playtesting until Francis is leaving ; at least two games, but with very specific purposes. We want to try out some "demo" stuff. That means single session introducing Avalanche. Thus, no real space here for character burning and we do see TSOY to be a better take for this kind of play. Do you feel that way ?
And note that this is not really a problem as Avalanche is presented as a multi-systems campaign.

Now, back to BW. I do see my options as follow (there are not mutually exclusive) :
- Continue, against all odds, to playtest BW, eventually to the sake of other type of playtesting, or even work on the final product. Is there much more to learn for me in that context ?
- Write down a review, to be or not, included to Avalanche. I do have other ways to propose it, in my blog for instance.
- Write down suggestions, or guidelines, on how to best use BW and Avalanche together (taken mostly from this AP).
- Try to find playtesters within the community of BW. That would mean for alpha testers (free version of Avalanche for those testers). And note that I see a difference between encouraging this kind of playtest and providing guidelines, getting customers who play BW and let them build a community. But I do want limited alpha testers. Is BW really where I want to put the efforts ?
- Putting out characters sheets for BW in Avalanche is not an option I can do alone : I need Luke permission. Should I "push" on that ?

Or, maybe, I should just not worry about it and do nothing ... Or maybe, I'm missing out something.

Our goal, our system
After much thoughts, we decided to come up with our own system. But, wait here : that is no big deal !!! We're going to do a variation of the solar system, which works well with Avalanche, we know that already. And the system works too, so it shouldn't be too much work (*cough*cough* ... see "risky" here). That said, we would like to introduce a kind of character burner in the solar system.

Anyway, the main thing is : time is limited. I would prefer to spend time working out on this variation and playtesting it than BW. You see my problem ?

But maybe, there could be a couple of very little things I could do to close down the BW issue that would really pay off. Any suggestions ?
And please, keep in mind that I want Avalanche to be open about systems. That is one of our main publishing goal.



Permalink 06:14:08 pm, Categories: The goodies, 140 words   English (US)

Maps, again

Robert delivered us the first map.
Here it is : Lands of Exile, new map

You might notice that this is the same map I've already designed, just done with a lot of talent.

Also, note that this is a pure geographic map. Our contract with Robert covers three maps.
We have drafted the second one, and its purpose is completely different. The second map will be geo strategic : who controls what part of the world and where are there some troops, or say some forces, that do not control any "ground".
Different layout, different purposes : that is what we are looking for.

Last thing concerning maps : we see them thru a "spectrum". At one end, there is pure geographic, at the other end there is a pure rmap. Everything else goes in between.

So, this is it for this week.



Permalink 10:28:17 am, Categories: About us, 269 words   English (US)


A short update this week, if you would allow me ...

Couple of information first :
- The first final version of the map has been delivered. It looks great !!!
- I've prepared the informative pages, like I mentioned last week. I took stuff from the teaser and this blog ; no editing, just pasting the text. It comes to 18K word count down. It seems like my 20K word estimation might be wrong.
- Francis is working very hard on the concept of the system. It would come from the solar system, using the "idiomatic" symbols from the chinese philosophy. It works well.

Now, my problem (at least one of them). I'm in a situation where most "positions" are secured : art director, web developer ... but I do have a BIG problem : translation. Not much about the informative pages, but for the text of Avalanche itself, which is a different beast. And why is it a problem ?

Because I intend to release Avalanche is a kind of magazine, with frequent updates. Bringing up new illustrations, maps, systems is not a problem. But the text ? I would need to release part of the text, upcoming weeks of the story frequently. So, I do need a translator, otherwise our (english) customers might find the updates a bit "not enough" and might be inclined to "unsubscribe" ; which would be a bad things for us.

Now, of course, this is long term ; and only a problem if we meet some kind of success. But, I need to assure this position as soon as possible.
Well, I might have found the translator !!! Negotiations are on the way ...


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