Archives for: February 2010

02/28/10

Permalink 08:26:41 am, Categories: About us, 409 words   English (US)

Social networks ?

I'm really not a big fan of those. I mean in my private life. I don't even have a facebook account, for instance.

That said, for this project, I do find the blog to be very useful and achieve what we expect : give news and updates on the project, but also, prepare our "final" work - put some editing on the texts we provide here and you've got your "informative" pages for the book.
As for the frequency of the update, it is once a week. And I'm fine with this.

But, at some point, or should I say, at our current point, a lot of stuff is going on in a given week. So, the use of a weekly blog might not be exactly the best way to provide information. For instance, during the previous week :
- We found how and when to use the new name. It was kind of a nightmare, but the solution was very simple.
- We changed completely how we "present" the existence pages. I like those.
- Francis provided us with a big introduction page, soon to be published on a forum.
- Francis worked on the new maps. They are going to be very different from the ones we have. Not only better.
- We also found a new way for the maps to be released in the book. The GM will surely love this one.
- You might remember the thread/post about finding a purpose to life using Avalanche ? Well, nobody cared about it (i.e. answered me) until I had no time to attend to it.
- Our new layout (previous post) ? Well, Luke Crane doesn't like it, and for three reasons (for details, go on the forge). Damned it !!! I though this part was over !!
- I'm taking part, on the forge, in a discussion about CC.
- I've finally got the presentation (executive summary) I need to do. The beast is tamed !!! Well, this is not an easy one : present all the project in a 20/30 slices. That said, the presentation is not written, but I have the roadmap ; half the job.

So, as you see, it's not like we're not doing anything on this project. Our week are well occupied.
That said, that would be nine tweets ? So, shall we move to tweeter ? Bah ... I don't know.
At some point, it shouldn't be about what I like, but what would be good for the company ...

My best bet is that I'm too lazy to do this !!!

Permalink

02/21/10

Permalink 11:24:01 am, Categories: Promotion, marketing : strategic, 1340 words   English (US)

Goodies, there should be a way I could use those ?!?

Cross posted at the forge.

Please note the following : I didn't put any link into the blog, they are at the forge. We're going to "centralise" all our free content ; this is why I'm doing it this way. Isn't it the purpose of the thread anyway ?

First, let's start with the purpose of this thread, shall we ?
- Introduce you to our new illustrator and partner (read associate as in art director), Greg Taylor.
- Introduce you to our new layout.
- Have some thoughts about "goodies" : what we have so far, what kind of results did we get, what we are looking to do in the future and what's to be expected from it.
- Address those "goodies" in term of play-testing.

Our new artist
Let me introduce you to Greg Taylor. His portfolio contains a certain amount of illustrations he has done for Avalanche ; but wait to see them integrated in "goodies".
What else is there to say ? He's impressive, but he's not cheap (I keep telling him each time money gets out of my pocket). I found him on the forge.
Look, he's so good, I decided to "redo" a complete story ; the Tarm story, the one we are going to present you.
Lastly, I'd like to mention that Greg will have done around 150 illustrations for Avalanche, Spring. Knowing that this "segment" represents 450 illustrations and we have so far 350, this is quite an "input" from his part into the project.

Oh, and a little secret : I've been paying Greg a certain amount of time for each illustration (you'll see there are two types : big and small) and I know that he spent more than twice that time. This is, I believe, some of his best stuff ; also this is the only "colored" "story" of Avalanche. But the shortest story for spring.
And we're going to distribute it for free, and we are very proud of it.

New layout
You might remember this thread. Yeah, I know, this is an old one. Well, anyway, at the time (almost four years ago already !?!), we came out with a layout and a teaser, with this great cover from Linus.
This teaser definitely served us well, but, hey, time passed by and we came with other ideas. But what really has changed and where would we want to go concerning our layout ?
- For one thing, over these two years of "non public activities" we found a way (yeah, sure, but it is still to proof) to look at what we were doing from a wider "view" : to separate the idea from the implementation we specifically have done. What we are doing is very simple : our layout needs to tell this. So, we tried to aim at something very simple. A lot of air to "breath", and only two concepts : text and illustrations.
- We are trying to think in term of a lot of single elements instead of a big setting book. Avalanche is supposed (no, it is) to be "segmented", our layout should show this.
- Our layout should be able to respond to a lot of things : pdf, printed book, character sheet, demo material. We wanted to have a very "tactile" feeling to our product. Almost like (well, not almost, exactly like) boardgames material (especially from fantasy flight game, see World of Warcraft) : what we are showing you is "one side", the other is the character sheet, the map ....

Okay, let's stop to talk about this and let's show you !!! Well, of course, maps and relationship map should reflect this new layout. Also, please, bear with me. Not all "pages" are at the same quality, as we are still "joggling" with this stuff. Our objective is to produce and sell a pdf in the next 3 to 6 months. So, yeah, the print quality should be 300 dpi, the characters should be 8 instead of 6 on some "pages". Anyway, this is coming.
Some samples (and by the way, you can find everything I'm showing here, layout apart, elsewhere on the net) :
Murdithem
Lascau
Black orcs
All work done by Linus. Let's take a look at Greg's work now.

The Tarm story (essence ; damned it, there are at 150 dpi !!!) :
Tarm
Valerya
Warped knight

The Tarm story (existence ; 150 dpi, character at 6 damned !!!) :
Page One
Page Two
Out of the three and half page.

Goodies, so far away so close
So, what have we got so far in our site in term of goodies ?
- A teaser.
- Maps.
- A rmap.
- A gallery for our illustrators.
- The blog has a "webcomic" From the deep : six weeks of free material.

What has worked good ? And yeah, I know, I've been "missing" some two years, but the internet has a good memory. I'm giving you numbers for the past four years.
- The teaser : that's between 40 and 120 downloads, french and english, a month. Steady. I can't explain why, but the "version" (only present on the Forge) one are downloaded each month. Teaser is good, but this is not playable stuff. It shows quality, explains the project, but no play value. Maybe if we could add "dungeons" in there ; but still.
- Maps : nobody cares about them. There are ugly anyway (we've found someone to redo those). In their current condition, they could add some play value, but there are no play value in our goodies !!!
- Rmap : don't ask me why, but this is a steady 80 downloads a month. This has been our best pick. Try this : type "relationship map" in google under "images" : a good chance our rmap comes first. Why ??? I don't know.
- Gallery : bof. Who cares ? I would need text with those !!!
- The blog provides a lot of "hits" because, hey look, there is a lot of text. Some people used our illustrations from this story ; but nothing formal. Nobody seems to see this as playable material.

Where are going ? Play value !!!! Every bit of goodies should be around play value !!! But ... I remembered Eero telling me that our teaser was a "drop in the bucket". Yeah, sure, but we've given, and we're going to give (speaking about the Tarm story), a lot of stuff. I mean A LOT. Nice with me, since we want an "open product", but still, we need something to sell. So, let's take a look back :
- Teaser : I'm not quite sure I want an "integrated" teaser ; I mean a single file. A lot of maintenance, and I'm not so sure this is what we are aiming for with our new layout. Anyway, every single piece of "teaser" should be accessible at a single place on our site.
- Maps : integrated as part of "teaser".
- Rmap : oh god, please, don't touch this one !!! Except redo layout ... or, maybe, put hyperlink into it to bits of teaser !!!
- Gallery : same as maps.
- Blog : serves us well ; to provide information on the project, not much on "giving away" stuff. At this point, shouldn't we use twitter ?

Maybe, one the mistake we did was to put emphasis on "version" : we somehow keep each and every version of the stuff we gave. Version doesn't matter : only the latest stuff.

Play value
There is surely a way to play the Tarm story !!! Come on !!! I must be able to find a way to use that stuff !!!
We found two games in there :
- Tarm. A lot of moral dilemma. Are you ready to survive ? Play this with a girlfriend or at convention with someone alone (who would be bored).
- Knights of Theobald. Oh, your game was about some knights ? Oh ... we did turned them into warped knights ? Isn't that nice ?

I'll leave this point open. Should I go with some kind of endeavor ? I mean, I do think a lot, but a lot of systems could do the job for this story ? Doesn't it look amazing ?
What should be my approach ? Anyway, I would it give for free. But is it a mistake ?

Epilogue
Don't hesitate to ask me questions, recommend me some stuff. We're talking about using goodies. Good ones. And, here's my experience with it and my recommendations. What's yours ?

Let's have fun !!! We're going to sell this !!

Permalink

02/14/10

Permalink 11:46:37 am, Categories: About us, 589 words   English (US)

Two years ...

Two years, that's what I told you when I decided to "re open" this blog. It is not like we have done nothing in those years ; the situation has changed for us. Let's take a look at it.

Oh, but, by the way, I was supposed to show you the work we have done with Greg on the Tarm story ; and show you our new layout. Well, we got a bit late on that and I need to present this from a publishing point of view. But, yes, it's coming. And, if you read wisely what I'm proposing you (including following thread), you might be able to spot our new layout.

- Greg Taylor came to work with us as an illustrator. I won't hide it, he's not cheap, but he is doing a great, great job. He is on his third contract for us. That means he will have done around 150 illustrations for us. Quite a difference. Well, in the past, I had shown illustrations from artists as soon as we hired them ; not this time.
- Also, Greg worked with us to design a new layout. And Simon did get some awesome "Photoshop" skills.
- A lot of "hard job" over the time : preparing the production of the final pdf. As you know Avalanche is all "divided into segments" ; so, we have to move from a text file, to a spreadsheet file (including illustrations), to a design page, to an assembly tool. For english and french version. Do I have to mention that this not a particularly exciting job to do. But, hey, if you need to change something and apply it on many pages, sure this is the way to do it.
- We have seen an attorney who acts as a specialist of intellectual property. Many things came out of there :
1. We had to make a presentation (if you know how much those guys cost, you might like to be prepared) for someone who would have never heard of this project, and eventually, not even of rpg. A hard work, but we succeeded. It was a 40 slides presentation, that we still use.
2. The lawyer really challenged us. He didn't answer our questions, but asked others. And then again, we succeeded in answering those. We really felt that there was 8 years behind us.
3. We definitely learned a lot stuff about the "open source" model. We want to have an open product. It is one thing to address this in the comfort of your parents' basement, with your friends. It is another to know exactly how you do it.
4. And yes, we have something here. We thought so ; now we are much more sure. And we need to take this very seriously.
5. We had to came up with a new name and logo. That's exciting stuff !!!
- My ability to present and describe what we are doing is definitely better. I can much more easily use a level of abstraction in my presentations. To separate the "ideas" from the implementation.
- I also think that the market has changed over those years. Indie as traditional. Two years ago, I came up with my ideas at "story-games" and I was almost thrown out (yeah, I know, I'm exaggerating) of there, since "fluff" wasn't really rpg. Well, take a look at this conversation in which I also took part. For the traditional, I might recommend taking a look at SAS from white wolf. Does the structure reminds you of something ?

I do feel I like forgot something. Anyway, I think you get the general idea.

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02/06/10

Permalink 11:34:14 am, Categories: Philosophy, 923 words   English (US)

Questioning purposes - Avalanche meets BW

As I promised, first post about the play testing we had. First post about philosophy.
Cross posted : here

I have been away from this board for quite some time, but here is an issue I think this community is best suited for to help me. It is kind of a follow up of this thread I wrote here some two years ago.

But first the context :
I'm back play testing Avalanche after a long break (at least from a public point of view), and we engaged in a Burning Wheel tryout. And well, things didn't go exactly as planned.
We're happy with the play testing but some major issues, some we didn't expect, came in. Turning this "one AP post about BW" into a whole chunk of posts. This is the first one.

Now, to really understand the context, I have to explain that I was DMing the game, with two experienced players and three new players to this hobby. Also, this was our first experience with BW ; playing out with the "simple rules". We were aiming at a "one session" game ; at least, that was the deal with the new players. Good news, this turned out to be a three sessions game so far, at their request. Which I think is a good sign.
Let's put a couple of things aside for the benefit of this conversation :
- We had a real problem with the character creation. This was more of a strategic nature, not related to BW itself. I admit it, we should have done all the PCs together.
- For the first two sessions, we came up with a problem of "driving the group together" as they didn't have a common goal. This was related to the above, but also to the nature of Avalanche (I'll talk about it below), and the misuse of BIT from our part (I won't talk about it here).
- We were playing Avalanche for the first time in a context of "anchored" characters. Those PCs weren't going to explore the world. And BW really helps in this context by providing tools (character creation and BIT).

The purpose
JoyWriter at the forge, came to me with this comment, which is la raison d'être of this post. And yeah, we are talking about a game here. So, here's the quote :
If that's not clear, it's the difference between a game that fails if you do not seize the moment and the themes/conflicts of the setting, and one that slowly shifts you into the centre of them whether your character goes gladly or not. There's obviously a trade-off in terms of philosophical perspective, similar to the risk of death in other types of game; do we allow the risk of pointlessness so as to represent existential reality (as is often done with death) and the associated fear and drama, or do we soften it because we're more interested in what happens when people are fulfilled and dynamised? Is it more interesting whether we avoid loss and meaninglessness, or how we avoid it?

So, based on that, let's talk about purpose in rpg, depending on systems, settings and plots.
The default purpose
Let's take d20 or its "software" version WoW : what's the purpose of those games ? Get money, get power, kill monsters. I'm not saying you can't have a more personal purpose like, living up in a group, take part in "higher picture" stuff, but I'm saying d20 won't help you with that.

A personal purpose
Anything that goes from "avenging my sister" to "inquiring about the thieves guild" ; a reason for your PC to live. A purpose. Your own. TSOY helps a lot here, but I think BW is much more personal. In fact, I can't see how you can create a "default" character in BW. And beside character creation, BW surely helps you to drive your character toward that purpose.

Questioning your purpose
And that's a "touchy" one. Having a purpose is one thing ; questioning it is another. Am I doing the right thing ? Is that really what matters most ? To me, to the others ? Now, I believe that to be able to question your purposes, stuff must happen in the world. Stuff that do not concern you immediately. A war must have started, a catastrophe must have happened, a conspiracy must be going on.
BW (as for TSOY) really helps managing the impact of changing purpose (changing BIT or keys), but, I think, a setting, another product can really help you propose other things to the players ; help you see them questioning their purpose.

Another important thing to me : to arise this question, the "other stuff" must be highly coherent and time dependent. The existentialist question is first and foremost one about time.

We're still talking about a game, right ?
But is that something you want in a rpg ? I mean, that is something Avalanche can help you do, but would anyone do that ? To be able to question a purpose, someone must somehow stop, take a good look around. It takes time. Time you will not spend on your current purpose.
Thu, a question (JoyWriter's one) : in a game of rpg, are you best to keep your players "on track" driven and occupied by their current purposes or do you change the rhythm of the game, the pace, as to allow "space" to question the purposes of the group ?

And, we might even go as far as asking "why one is the best ?". To that, I'd say I don't know. This is a judgment's call.

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