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Title: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 27, 2006, 12:21:19 PM
Post 1 of 3

Hello,

Now that the It Was a Mutual Decision books are printed and shipped - yay! - I thought I'd give a little history and outline the decisions that brought me to this point. Or "An RPG from concept to publication in eight months."

PART ONE - inspiration and proto-design

It all started with the Ronnies contest. I'd announced the contest but the starting date, September 6, was still a few days away. It just so happened that I had the first real break in my schedule in a solid year, and that it was my birthday weekend. And of course I was excited about the contest and about the 24-hour RPG concept in general, and about the terms I'd proposed. It's practically inevitable that I'd hurl myself into the contest process myself. (Note - my game was not one of the submitted contestants. This was all done privately.)

Terms: girlfriend + rat. Me, a pen, and a small steno pad of paper. Wife more-or-less not in the house, and me with neither a stack of papers to grade or any particular domestic tasks that couldn't be ignored, plus a couple of days afterwards available, in case aforementioned wife disagreed with me about the aforementioned domestic tasks.

Looking back at the game, it's now clear that I wanted to stretch my design-brain into a type of RPG that hadn't really interested me, previously - the family of Narrativist games that include InSpectres, The Pool, Universalis, My Life with Master, The Mountain Witch, The Shab al-Hiri Roach, and similar. What bumped me into thinking creatively about this sort of game was Breaking the Ice, and to a lesser extent Death's Door and Under the Bed. I was curious to see whether I could bring certain personal sensibilties into that framework of play. To be clear:

Personal sensibilities at the moment: I Will Not Abandon You as opposed to No One Gets Hurt (the latter was more common in the games cited; I prefer the former), rules utilizing real-person gender as a variable (from my book Sex & Sorcery), a meaningful role for specially-colored dice ((Paul's fault!), groups of people communally playing single player-characters (inspired by my Sorcerer demo at GenCon), and a general dislike for the emotions-uber-alles mindset that prevails in a lot of romantic film (prompted by Breaking the Ice, to be praised in that the couple is not required to end up happily ever after).

That Framework of Play: the intimate, potentially confessional procedures required among the participants; short, potentially one-evening play as the default; instant buy-in and activity of play without extended traditional character creation and prep elements; clear and mechanically-defined chapters of play as indicated by dice outcomes; and a strong random element that included solid disappointment or defeat for a fictional character.

Rat + Girlfriend. Were-rats! Romantic breakup! Without further detail, starting at 9 PM and finishing at 3 PM, I had a pretty good summarized outline and procedures (rules) for a playable game. Social contract? Check. SIS, especially Situation? Check. Reward system? Check. Resolution totally combining all three of these into a humming set of turns and rules? Check. Did I like it? Check.

I figured out how to make a PDF after consulting the Forge's Publishing forum, found a couple of suitable images on the internet for a cheap-y cover page, and was all set. I'd done a 24-hour RPG! I instantly bugged Vincent and Paul to distraction about how wonderful I was. Really, it was quite a rush.

Part One is a big deal because, having done this, I knew that anything and everything else to be done was either refinement to make the actual play process better, even best suited to what I was after; or logistics, getting the thing beaten into a marketable object.

Remember: the activity is not the same as the object, even though we use the same word ("game") to describe each. Therefore I had two distinct jobs now: to make the activity work better, as well as to make the product just right to teach the activity. The 24-hour process meant that I was fully situated to get on with these, without futzing around any more with anything fundamental to the whole endeavor.

PART TWO - playtesting and acid-testing (done partly in tandem with Part Three, but always conceptually forefront to drive Part-Three decisions)

I diddled with the rules a little more after the 24-hour process, although I preserved the 24-hour PDF as itself as an artifact. I didn't change much, but some. Then it so happened that our regular gaming group wasn't meeting that week, leaving regular members Maura and me at loose ends, and Tim Koppang and I had been shooting some emails back and forth about "we really ought to hang out again one of these days." Not very many people for what was supposed to be a two-group game, but hey, why not. We got together for an afternoon, and Tim had his own rough draft game for us to try too. That led to a full afternoon and early evening of play.

After that first playtest, the good news was that the fundamental framework, the personal buy-in, and the actual process of who speaks or rolls when, all worked. However, some of the dice results weren't as easy or sensible as they'd seemed, and needed revision, and I didn't like the chapter transitions as much as I thought. Scribble, scribble, and time to schedule a new playtest.

The regular group did meet the next week and wearily agreed to yet another damn "Ron's new game idea" session. Three guys and two gals, so I could assess the group play a little better, too. This time, again, the basic process of play instantly shone forth and the fundamental questions posed by the game were all felt and addressed by everyone there. That's something that had been hard to assess with just me and Tim and Maura; it's a larger-group issue. However, and this is typical for playtesting, I confused myself regarding the revisions so far and actually didn't apply some of the changes I'd made. So the draggy and dissatisfying features of one of the three phases of play was all too clearly revealed as absolutely wrong, providing a negative test of those changes. OK, not the best way to playtest, but live and learn.

I like to think of this step culminating in an acid-test, a new decision whether to publish the game. This has to happen - too many RPGs are powered only by initial vision, and should be scrapped after playtesting or other indicators really let you know that this isn't worth the next round, at this time. I look at what I had and what we'd done, and decided, from scratch, "yes," this could well become a published game.

All of this led to the first major draft of the real rules, in part reorganizing the original version and in part starting to think about this whole thing as a readable object. So as I continued to playtest, revision of the activity became less of an issue and although this overlapped with it, development of the product started to take on a life of its own.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 27, 2006, 12:21:53 PM
Post 2 of 3

PART THREE - designing the book and organizing the team; budgeting

The most fundamental element of this part is simply having a well-organized, fully-sufficient, and readable text. I'd already found my "voice" for the project, which was one of the other benefits of doing the 24-hour version, because you can't do a good 24-hour RPG project if you put on a fake-y or please-the-imaginary-gamer voice. Once I printed out a pretty thorough draft, I sent it to people like Paul, Emily, and Vincent, and gave hard copies to Julie and Maura. I also started reading it over and over myself, correcting or adding or coming up with new ideas ("Oh! I should say this!") as I went. I decided not to use the term "role-playing" at all and simply to explain exactly what to do in the most basic, linear way possible.

This is basically the donkey-work of writing. Very soon, it becomes less a matter of busting out golden brilliant prose, and more a matter of editing reams of indigestible, gloppy prose into something at least tolerable. I used others' comments either as plain old superior revisions, or as signals that I needed to come with something better. I know this process well and treat it as a routine activity, just something you do with part of the day whenever possible. Read hard copy, mark up, correct on the screen, print, read hard copy, mark up, repeat until you die. Phrasing gets changed, and paragraphs get circled and arrowed to some other section of the text. Sometimes whole sections get crossed out and sometimes the back of a page gets absolutely filled up with a new scribbled section.

A nearly-as-fundamental element of this part is having a vision of the physical product in mind, especially if it is finely tuned to the physical use that you envision for actual play, and for what it looks like lyin' around someone's house. For a parlor-game type activity, - wait -

* Note: "parlor game" is a good description for these short, easy buy-in, group-friendly RPGs; "parlor narration" is a negative term I coined for certain resolution mechanics that I don't think are very functional; they are not the same things and have no relationship with one another.

- OK - for a parlor-game type activity, I wanted the object (a) to be easily picked up and glanced through, so someone at a gathering would say, "Hey! What is this? Is it like a game? Can we try?" It should also be small and portable, so as to be fun reading in public places. And finally, it should be hip and a little edgy, like impulse-buy books based on strong gender humor, which are legion at any bookstore, you know, "How to Close the Toilet-Lid and Other Man-Training Tasks," or "Shoes Aren't That Important, Honey," that sort of thing. I'd not only found my voice, but at this point, by thinking of both text-as-text and book-as-product, I'd found my audience.

I don't know what two neurons finally rubbed together, but I actually had a good idea all of a sudden - a landscape-format paperback book, exactly like you find in humor sections at bookstores. A lot of cartoon collections are this size, and a lot of little manuals for dozens of different activities. I grabbed one of my Dykes to Watch Out For collections (top five comics list member! read it now), which are published in this size, and flipped it as a object, looking at the way it handled. Yes - this was it, this is what this book needed to look and feel like.

That led me to think of two other features I'd been meaning to combine for a while: the visual organization of the Sorcerer texts using graphic tabs, and the relatively large font and judicious, yet liberal use of white space in My Life With Master. They were perfect for this format; I could put the tabs on the side edges rather than the top, and the typical book in this format is expected to pay off the reader in punchy two-page-spread content, rather than in fill-every-inch tiny print. You open it to any page, and you knew where you were (and what the rest of it had in it), and you could read what was right there in ten seconds and go "yeah."

Oh, and one other feature seemed just right - a little pitter-patter graphic of rat footprints, running across a few of the pages, here and there in different directions. Perfect!

So, illustrations ... well, full-page seemed called for. I have been getting more and more into full-page illustrations for a while, and Polaris really clinched it for me. I had also been wanting to work with Veronica Pare for, geez, two years now, and since I'd met her after Sex & Sorcery was published, hadn't really had anything suited to her style until now. And then I realized that Keith Senkowski's style was perfectly suited to hers, and hey! A male artist and a female artist! That's perfect too. I didn't want to break the bank, but I knew this would be the first outlay, in solid $100 chunks. Two of them for Veronica, actually; I wanted to cement a really good economic relationship with her for the future, and at this point, I was thinking of her doing a color piece for the cover as well.

I contacted both artists and smiled gently when each told me that what I'd offered really didn't lease that many pieces. I gave each a list of possible ideas and emphasized the unusual size and layout. I had faith in my material, and sure enough, Keith bitched and moaned that he kept getting inspired and simply had to do "one more" piece. And who would've thought, one of those turned out to be the cover. One of those moments when you see a picture and say, insta-decision, "that's the cover." It wasn't my first plan to have a black-and-white cover illustration, but staying open to these moments is a big part of getting the book out at all. I decided to use hot pink letting and graphics, and that combination seemed even better suited to the design/object sensibility I was after.

It was also time to seed the internet with some advance warning and see whether any buzz might be there, so I posted some threads at the Forge and pointed people to the work being displayed on the artists' sites. Technically, I should have put up a webpage for the game at adept-press.com, but you know, it just didn't happen. It seemed a little less important now that IPR handles my on-line ordering, although that doesn't mean I should have nothing at all.

Armed with the first sketches and the text, which was still being revised here and there but now, around mid-November, was approaching its final form, I could start making mockup pages and thinking about final length. To my surprise, the book broke 100 pages, a lot bigger than I'd thought based on the original, 28-page standard-sized 24-hour RPG. Huh ... given that I wanted full-page chapter titles, a few ads in the back (Breaking the Ice seemed necessary), and so on, I was looking at a nice hefty little book, not just "like" the cartoon or humor books I'd used as a model, but exactly like them.

Now it was time to think about the rough outlines of budgeting. How about a $15 cover price? Same as Elfs, and there's always the "Ron's new game" factor, and it has a novel look and feel. All right, assume I print and sell 100 books over the next year, including GenCon 2006. I'd make about $10 a book after shipping and printing costs, I figured. With $400 for art and layout, there's room for profit there, but not as much as I'd like. Time to check print costs.

And if I wanted to talk to printers, it's also time to talk layout so I could give them real information. Snyder!! I like to push his design sensibilities past his comfort zone; he seems to enjoy the abuse. He said, "What, are you nuts? Rat footprints? All right, I'll do it." OK, there went another $100. H'm, $400 so far, it's time to start thinking about how much to charge for this thing, and who's going to print it.

Hubris kicked in at about this point, too. I said, "Hey! I could get this out for the New Year!" Yeah, right. I always say something like this and then, mercifully, forget I did so.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 27, 2006, 12:22:17 PM
Post 3 of 3

PART FOUR - the actual book

I have gone through many bidding processes with printers, and after a while, you hit on the one you like the most and stick with them, only looking elsewhere if the job really doesn't suit them. Therefore for Sorcerer books, I use Patterson Printing; for POD books, I use Express Media. I know their strong and weak points, I like their prices, and the books look good. I gave'em a call and got a bid - about $2.70 a book, which with various extras I'd probably want after all, I knew would round up to about $3 eventually. Not bad!!

Let's see, now I could do some actual rough budgeting. Assume I print and sell 100 $15 books over the next year, including GenCon 2006. That's $300 for printing et cetera, $400 for art and layout = $700 total cost. 100 books at $15 apiece, well, let's say I see about $10 per book, given shipping and commission costs (very rough estimate) ... that's $1000, giving me a clear profit of $300.

Not much, not as much as I really like to see, but it's better than breaking even (my personal criterion), and I do have hopes that the book will sell past that point over the following year. After all, Elfs does, which I never expected, and Mutual Decision is pushing into a different sort of market that might yield a longer haul. $300 profit means an easy next print run, and sales on that become pure profit, about $10 a book from then on. I can do that.

I now brushed up the manuscript yet again, aiming for proofreading and anything I was forgetting. I assigned it an ISBN from my list, double-checked with Express Media that they could do the bar code, and contacted Emily and Paul for advertisement files; I told Matt he should put one in too. Matt sent me mockups for layout, and we debated several points and tried different versions until both of us were satisfied.

1. Should the tabs be on both right and left sides, or just the right? Conclusion: just the right.

2. What order should the illustrations be in? Should we try to match content to subject, or should we stick with the remarkable narrative sequence that had emerged from combining Keith's and Veronica's work? After much head-scratching: the latter.

3. Where should the rat footprints go? We doped out an irregular, but not too irregular page count between instances.

4. How about type face, color, and graphic design for the cover? Shadowed or other set-off techniques? Cursive? We tried a bunch, and oddly, one of the versions that was not a starting top pick for either of us turned out the best, when you actually printed it. Hard copy to the rescue, yet again. Matt's first choices of pink didn't provide that whorish, female-humor feel I wanted, so I told him, "chimpanzee in estrus, Matt." He made that face Midwesterners always make when I say such things, but sure enough, the next pink was the right pink.

5. Letter size and line space, as well as specific sorts of bolding and bullet-points ... all this is just more donkey-work, and you print and compare, print and compare until it works the way you want.

Now, who's been paying attention? What do I keep telling you about layout? It takes twice as long as you think. And then it takes a little longer. There's no point in rushing it, and no point in badgering the layout guy. It's his baby now, for a while, and all you'll accomplish by nudging him is waiting longer, or shoddy work, or both. Sure enough, I didn't get it to Express Media until February, which was a minor bummer, because Emily had contacted me about getting it and Breaking the Ice into a Valentine's Day two-pack. Fantastic idea, but just not logistically possible, and that's not a slam on Matt, either. Layout takes a long time. It's work. It has to be done right, and even then, you know there'll be fixes to make for the second printing.

Oh yeah, and to add to layout delays, I had my usual back-cover crisis. I never know what to write for a back cover. And then, at the last minute, it always occurs to me. Same thing happened this time.

I zipped the PDF for the cover and the text to Express Media in early March. No problem. We're set, right?

That "New Year" ambition was long in the past, so it was time for more hubris. I thought, Forge Midwest is in late April, so I'll have it by then. Three nasty things happened, then, in quick succession. Have you published a game, yet? No? Well, learn this now - when everything is going fine, three nasty things will happen in quick succession. I'm not kidding, they just will.

1. Forge Midwest got rescheduled to early April. Whoa! Two weeks lead time, gone. I pretty much wrote off the chance of having the game for it. No big deal.

2. Express Media tells me the cover has some kind of format goof ... what? I'd sent their specs to Matt even before he started to work on the cover. Damn! Email to Matt, and give the Express rep Matt's email too. And unaccountably, Matt's email stops working. Like, for the first time since I've been mailing him with it, way back in 2002. Right at this crucial instant of "we're printing." Days pass before this gets ironed out and Express gets the fixed file, and we still don't really know what was wrong with the first one, or at least Matt's explanation was unintelligible to me, ignorant of layout software as I am.

[At this point, the proofs arrive. They look good! They did two covers for me to compare and I picked the one I liked better. A few typos and minor layout issues make themselves evident, and I decide they are not worth repairing for the cost; none of them are howlers or damage the book's utility. The only thing I'm concerned about is how the grey in Veronica's pieces turned out, but again, it's minor. I fax my approval to Express Media and give'em my credit card info.]

3. Express Media hits a crunch time and back-burners the project for a week or two. Kids - this is how things go. POD printers don't work in bulk, usually, like I have them do, and given the burp in the process in #2 above, they simply had to bump up something big rather than wait around on some kind of email miscommunication on our end. The problem is when they promise a certain delivery date, like right before a con. In this case, I'd specifically not given them a hard deadline, knowing that's not this company's strong point. Never give yourself a con date, or any kind of public-event release, for a hard deadline - ever. Don't blame printers for their on-site scheduling decisions if you do, if they are printers that deliver good physical books.

But still, these were three stressful things, at least as long as I retained the illusion of showing up to Forge Midwest with the new books. That just wasn't going to happen and realizing that was a professional necessity. Therefore I didn't have to enter into what I call my Grope & Kill mode, which I've had to do a couple of times with Sorcerer publishing, but the happy task-oriented ride I'd enjoyed with this game until this point was definitely over. I made calls, made snap decisions, and with any luck made no enemies in getting through this stage.

I was able to bring the proofs to Forge Midwest and also to enjoy a phenomenal fun game with a bunch of great people, as I posted about in Actual Play. After that, it was just a matter of settling down until the books themselves arrived. I asked Express Media to ship 85 to IPR and 15 to me at home.

AND NOW

I have'em! They look great - much better than the proofs did, actually. I'd decided to laminate the covers after all, and the book looks tremendously sharp, with that pink doing its job just as hoped-for.

On second reading, of course, right in the flush of holding the thing, you know what comes next. Sure enough, why look, a typo. Another one. Fuck! Another one. And that sentence is awkward, I could never have written such trash. What is happening here?? Then I settled down and remembered that all books do this, and made a nice list for Snyder and the second round. Once the hyperventilating was over, I looked at it again and said, "Not that many - certainly not as bad as Sorcerer's first print run. So, all right."

Brennan should be putting them up at IPR momentarily, I suppose, so bug him if you want it. I wrote and published a game! Cool!

Questions, comments, anything? I'd really like to help out some folks just moving into book publishing this year, so ask away.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Adam Dray on April 27, 2006, 01:15:56 PM
Thank you for all that. It was both entertaining and educational. Seeing actual costs for art and editing and layout gave me a clue what is standard, even if I've clinched some killer deals with people.

I'm looking ahead to publishing my pervy cyberpunk game Verge in the next year. I probably have a layout guy lined up. If not, I have another contact who will do it. Free and stuff. I've got an editor. It's my first game, so I don't really need it all to be perfect, but I also want people to feel they're getting quality for the money I ask from them.

When is the right time to start thinking about layout? I've heard Clinton say he likes to write directly into the layout software so he can fit content to the pages. I'm finding it hard to wrap my head around how to use Word properly to build sidebars and similar text boxes and not cause a headache for the person who has to move all that into InDesign or whatever. (I am rather good in Word and can do all kinds of layout-y things but I feel I oughtn't be doing it.)

Also, it seems you didn't playtest a whole lot. Am I wrong? How many times did you play the game before sending it to the printer? How many times was it played by groups that didn't include you? Granted, I haven't been doing this as long as you, but every time I playtest, I discover some aspect of the game that is totally broken and go back to the drawing board. It gets better (http://adamdray.livejournal.com/161991.html) and better (http://adamdray.livejournal.com/162250.html) with each rewrite, and I'm gonna have to draw a line at some point and call it done, I know, but I know I need a lot more playtesting before I'll be comfortable putting a dollar amount on this.

Again, thanks!


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 27, 2006, 01:47:10 PM
Hi Adam,

I think people differ a lot regarding authoring vs. laying out. For me, layout has a finalizing quality which impedes my ability to edit and revise. As I go, once in a while, I'll use layout to try out different looks and font sizes, experimenting with the vision, fairly early in the process. But I always go back to the plain text page and use that for the writing, editing, and revising. Ultimately, I like to have a text-only, complete manuscript in standard format as "the" archival text copy, which then goes into layout. If layout gets screwed up in some way, we can then step back to the archival text for a re-try.

Maybe that would help you. Always keep a Word file with no layout or formatting beyond the basics, and type all corrections and revisions into that first. Then you can grab a piece of it and play with the layout software all you want; you can always 'port the whole text into that format if you want to, later.

Granted, I didn't playtest this one quite as much as others I've published. I did playtest it very thoroughly, in the sense of mechanics, and got a lot of feedback on the manuscript. I think I left out one playtest too, which included Ralph ... or was that one of the Hyde Park sessions? Aggghh, I know there were at least a couple more sessions in the early stages beyond what I described. My phrase "continued to playtest" was supposed to refer to them.

Also, this is a very simple game in mechanics terms, much more like Breaking the Ice and nothing at all like, even Sorcerer. The scale of resolution is very large, in whole scenes, and all the rules concern big conflicts and shifting some points and numbers around each time. Once I got it to hum nicely, there really wasn't any hidden corner or feature that needed to be attended to ... and hey, in the third phase of play, if you want your character to kill the other character, you just, uh, say so. It's not like any points are involved that need to be balanced or anything.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Judd on April 27, 2006, 01:50:34 PM
I now brushed up the manuscript yet again, aiming for proofreading and anything I was forgetting. I assigned it an ISBN from my list, double-checked with Express Media that they could do the bar code, and contacted Emily and Paul for advertisement files;.

Ron,

I am ashamed to be a library student and asking this question but could you talk about how you got your own ISBN numbers, what it means and why you'd bother to do so?

Thanks,

Judd


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 27, 2006, 02:14:34 PM
Hi Judd,

The Wikipedia entry for ISBN (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISBN) is pretty good.

Ultimately, nothing mandates that I or other publishers must buy and use ISBNs. But stores and other merchants expect to see them, to the extent that you won't move the book through many or nearly any of them without it. And I confess I find it helpful to think of every book as having a universal identifier.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Judd on April 27, 2006, 02:23:26 PM
And naturally, I forgot the most important part of that question, the how do you procure an ISBN?


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Justin D. Jacobson on April 27, 2006, 02:37:53 PM
And naturally, I forgot the most important part of that question, the how do you procure an ISBN?
http://www.bowker.com/


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on April 27, 2006, 03:41:26 PM
When is the right time to start thinking about layout? I've heard Clinton say he likes to write directly into the layout software so he can fit content to the pages.

You didn't hear me say that. That's a fucking awful idea. Use a text editor and write with no formatting at all, or at the most, type in Word, using the styles intelligently. That will keep your layout guy from hating you.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Matt Snyder on April 27, 2006, 05:25:28 PM
Quote
The only thing I'm concerned about is how the grey in Veronica's pieces turned out, but again, it's minor.

Minor, maybe, but also the thing I cringed about when otherwise drooling over the proof at Forge Midwest. And, since FM was a flurry of activity I never got to ask you about it. So, we agree, it isn't cool.

As we go through another round to correct errors and such, I'll adjust the hell out of those images and get those funky grays darkend up (which I presume is more "correct" and certainly will look better, I think).

That said, I half wondered if this wasn't intentional on Pare's part. I decided it probably was not intentional, and we should adjust.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Adam Dray on April 27, 2006, 06:44:00 PM
Thanks for the response, Ron. That answers all my questions. Separate content from presentation and let the layout guy worry about it. And I'm sure my game needs a ton of playtesting -- I'm new at this and my game is complicated -- and it's fun to playtest anyway, in that morbid, trainwreck sorta way.


You didn't hear me say that. That's a fucking awful idea. Use a text editor and write with no formatting at all, or at the most, type in Word, using the styles intelligently. That will keep your layout guy from hating you.

Hrm. Someone at MACE said that. Thought it was you. My bad!

I use Word styles intelligently, but then before I know it, Word has created a billion variant styles like Body Text+12 pt and crap and I get frustrated and kick it. I should stick to emacs.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Eric Provost on April 28, 2006, 04:08:35 AM
Thanks Ron.  I really enjoyed reading it all.

-Eric


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: David "Czar Fnord" Artman on April 28, 2006, 07:41:39 AM
I use Word styles intelligently, but then before I know it, Word has created a billion variant styles like Body Text+12 pt and crap and I get frustrated and kick it. I should stick to emacs.

Advice: Keep the Style sidebar open as you work, and you will spot these as they show up and you can kill them. To avoid it ever happening, set your styles so that they DO NOT automatically update, turn off your Formatting toolbar, and make your own custom toolbar to do things like Show/Hide , open the Style palette, monkey with tables, etc.

Opinion: Switch to an editing environment that doesn't allow overrides at all (for example, use pure HTML or FrameMaker without a Format bar). I tend to draft in a "style-strict" Word environment or an HTML editor (if I am working "open" or trying to easily distribute for reviews) and then work in FrameMaker for the final layout (InDesign can go suck it; Frame FOREVER!).

You didn't hear me say that. That's a fucking awful idea. Use a text editor and write with no formatting at all, or at the most, type in Word, using the styles intelligently. That will keep your layout guy from hating you.

Opinion: As a professional "layout guy", I can assure you that it is time- and money-wasting to author without some use of style. Otherwise, your layout guy can't determine the metadata behind your content (which is what formatting conveys: relationships between content, author emphasis, distinguishing referential and procedural and anecdotal content, hierarchy/priority of content, inheritance of meaning, etc, etc). And, thus, you go through revisions solely due to confusions of intent, emphasis, and organization. For an obvious example, ask yourself how a layout guy can tell a major (chapter) heading from a minor (section) heading, in plain text? Anyone about say, "With ALLCAPS verses Sentence Case or with hyphens," is going to piss off a layout guy MUCH more--that sort of "pseudo-style" formatting is actually the HARDEST content to typeset, because it must be cleaned up before it can even be assigned a style. At least a Word style leaves the content as basic text that any good layout tool can Paste Special to Unformatted (Unicode) Text. Pseudo-styling (styling with content edits) actually more directly couples the format to the content!

Advice: see above quote.

Thanks Ron. I really enjoyed reading it all.

Me, too. And I owe you one for the ISBN reminder... the recent focus on internet publishing makes me forget it is nice to at least CONSIDER retail channels as options. ;-)

David


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on April 28, 2006, 07:51:08 AM
Opinion: As a professional "layout guy", I can assure you that it is time- and money-wasting to author without some use of style. Otherwise, your layout guy can't determine the metadata behind your content (which is what formatting conveys: relationships between content, author emphasis, distinguishing referential and procedural and anecdotal content, hierarchy/priority of content, inheritance of meaning, etc, etc). And, thus, you go through revisions solely due to confusions of intent, emphasis, and organization. For an obvious example, ask yourself how a layout guy can tell a major (chapter) heading from a minor (section) heading, in plain text? Anyone about say, "With ALLCAPS verses Sentence Case or with hyphens," is going to piss off a layout guy MUCH more--that sort of "pseudo-style" formatting is actually the HARDEST content to typeset, because it must be cleaned up before it can even be assigned a style. At least a Word style leaves the content as basic text that any good layout tool can Paste Special to Unformatted (Unicode) Text. Pseudo-styling (styling with content edits) actually more directly couples the format to the content!

You are talking nonsense and I am the one that will tell you so.

http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/8098

Plain text can be manipulated into styled word-processor text with the flick of a hand. Also, writers should worry first about writing, and pay layout people to suck it up. Trying to deal with formatting while writing is damaging to your ability to write.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on April 28, 2006, 08:52:32 AM
I don't pretend to be an expert, I've just published three books and writing my own now, but I do the write-straight-to-layout thing. I usually do the pure text approach, and when writing for somebody else to lay out, I mark the text with xml tags or similar to give necessary layout instructions. But when writing my current project Eleanor's Dream I've found that what do you know, I write easily and with a good flow straight to layout! And I can gauge the text's rhythm for the reader while doing it, measuring the length to be exactly right. I also lose track less often in my text, can make decisions of necessary illustration while writing, and so on. Overall it's been superior method thus far for this project.

Of course, I don't expect the layout I write in to survive in the actual layout process, especially as I'm currently writing into a web-pdf spread layout, but plan on publishing as a book. And this is definitely not something to do as your first venture into making a book, you have to have the work outlined and planned, and know how to move your text between implementations.

About what to give to layout guys: as both layout guy and writer I prefer to tag the text structurally with xml. It's increasingly well supported, easy to transform to something else, and as flexible as it needs to be. Also allows analyzing your text in new and weird ways, the browser xml tree as the simplest example. I could well do the writing in some word processor and just have it add the xml, if I wanted to. It minimizes the layout work, because the text conforms to expectations without exceptions, removing the need for the typical manual step in moving the text to the layout program. Compare to word processors like Word, which are a nightmare and practically useless as "pre-layout" structuring tools for most layout systems, as you have to copy the structure to your layout program manually. Also compare to non-structured text, which has all those drawbacks David mentions.

About Ron's story, which was both entertaining and educational: If Matt's reading this, could you elaborate on why the cover didn't work for the printer? I do my own layouts and thus have become very, very interested in common layout catastrophes. I have my own list of everything from printers with too low lpis to


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Matt Snyder on April 28, 2006, 10:20:02 AM
About Ron's story, which was both entertaining and educational: If Matt's reading this, could you elaborate on why the cover didn't work for the printer? I do my own layouts and thus have become very, very interested in common layout catastrophes. I have my own list of everything from printers with too low lpis to

Yep. I had lots of grief getting the grayscale images the right tone. So, I cheated. Keith's pics were line art. So, I set them to REGISTRATION in InDesign. Now, they wer DARK! Good. Turns out, however, that this was a very bad idea.

Registration means that all values of CMYK were 100%. But, I was ignorant that the cover was to be done in two color only. Having the black actually set to 4-color 100% meant that Ron would have to pay more and they weren't expecting that to happen. So, happily, I scaled it back to plain ol' Black, which is one color. (I am pretty ignorant of how they make it a two color -- presumably the other color is the pink, but I have no idea how that actually works since the pink itself used Magenta and Yellow values, if I recall rightly.)

Also, here was a bit of frustrating weirdness that caused a delay. Ron sent me back the printers request for bleed marks. Great, says I. No sweat. I set up the bleed marks approrpriately in InDesign, and then exported to PDF. Here's the tricky bit that had me pulling out my hair ...

The printer could only accept up to 18" wide paper. That was just within my guideline. It should have been no problem. I checked, checked again, and re-checked the damn bleed settings and marks. Everything was correct. But, the damn PDF was something like 18.22" wide. No good. Where was this extra width coming from? Argh!

Finally, I figured it out. When I exported to PDF from InDesign, I had bleed marks on the page. Turns out, by default, these were JUST long enough to make the PDF document expand to beyond 18". When I figured that out, finally, I just removed the marks entirely. Then, the document worked just like it should have, well within the 18" limits.

This bleed marks bit caused at least 2 days of delay for Ron. What a pain in the ass!


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Clay on April 28, 2006, 10:33:04 AM
What Clinton said.  Also, because I got paid to write that article (by the magazine, not Clinton).

Seriously, I took his plain-text version of The Shadow of Yesterday and turned it into a PDF with a functioning table of contents in two hours.  It was great for a reference copy, even if it looks exactly like a technical manual.  I used a different set of tools than he did, but the fact that it was plain text made it very easy to transform.  Everything reads text.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on April 28, 2006, 10:58:00 AM
Thanks for the details, Matt. Have to watch out for that if I'm ever doing other than CMYK in the covers. I've had my own foibles with grayscale vs. bitmap pictures resently: Finnish digital presses have an annoying habit of assuming that if you're using a digital press, you'll be happy with whatever quality of shit they choose to print for you. It appears that roughly half of the so-called digital presses are unable to produce lines per inch above something like 45, which makes for the interesting effect of totally screwing up grayscales, while leaving everything else looking fine. It took me two books and a year to come to the conclusion that the problem is not my inexperience, but the incompetense of some of those presses.

Registration means that all values of CMYK were 100%. But, I was ignorant that the cover was to be done in two color only. Having the black actually set to 4-color 100% meant that Ron would have to pay more and they weren't expecting that to happen. So, happily, I scaled it back to plain ol' Black, which is one color. (I am pretty ignorant of how they make it a two color -- presumably the other color is the pink, but I have no idea how that actually works since the pink itself used Magenta and Yellow values, if I recall rightly.)

They pretty much find the closest matching Pantone color, and use that, I imagine. Perhaps they have some suitable program at the press to take your CMYK-defined pink and separate it from the rest of the picture? From what I've read, it used to be so that you separated the colors at the repro stage and simply printed the same sheets several times (however many colors you had) with different inks. Don't know if the digital press machines somehow do it in one go. When we did MLwM, the cover was practically duocolor, but the printer didn't have the capability for doing that, so they did the cover with a 4-colour machine.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: David Berg on April 28, 2006, 03:42:27 PM
Ron, thanks for the thorough description, it's clearly been a great springboard for addressing some specifics about the process.  I'd like to diverge from layout for a moment and ask about:

Printing

I have gone through many bidding processes with printers, and after a while, you hit on the one you like the most and stick with them, only looking elsewhere if the job really doesn't suit them. Therefore for Sorcerer books, I use Patterson Printing; for POD books, I use Express Media. I know their strong and weak points, I like their prices, and the books look good.

Do you have any advice to someone who has never gone through the bidding process?  Any tips on what to look for and look out for with regards to printers, and how best to search for a good one?

Distribution

I asked Express Media to ship 85 to IPR and 15 to me at home.

I am guessing that this means you don't expect to sell too many copies in person.  Is this because you don't get a large number of interested buyers at conventions, or because most interested buyers at cons are just as happy to visit a web site to purchase your game? 

Or, do you figure that regardless of how many copies you sell at a con, you will sell about 6 times as many online?

Did in-person sales account for a greater percentage of your total when you started doing this than they do now?

Technically, I should have put up a webpage for the game . . . It seemed a little less important now that IPR handles my on-line ordering

In addition to the obvious benefits of having your work appear in one place with lots of other cool games, are there any further advantages to having IPR handle your on-line ordering instead of doing it yourself directly through your own website?  Any offsetting costs?

I appreciate you sharing your experience with aspiring neophytes like myself.

-Dave


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Thunder_God on April 28, 2006, 04:56:00 PM
Do you have any advice to someone who has never gone through the bidding process? Any tips on what to look for and look out for with regards to printers, and how best to search for a good one?

I could swear I started a thread a month ago or so, but it isn't there...
There are so many printers, and I know of so few, especially with the added limitation of living abroad and wanting the books printed within the USA.
Which Printers are out there? What are their strengths and weaknesses? why did you end up using them and for what?


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 28, 2006, 06:51:54 PM
Guy, your post is empty of content. Please restrain yourself while I talk to Dave. If you're wondering where a thread is, ask me by private message. Threads are not deleted here.

Dave, here's the basic thread about printers and bidding for you: What are the common mistakes of printing? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16692.0) See also:
POD printer roundup (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16359.0)
Printer recommendations (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18561.0)
Distributor questions (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=12778.0) (actually mostly about printing)
POD vs. distributors (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19097.0)

Regarding my print run and anticipated sales, you're misunderstanding the situation. Brennan will be bringing the bulk of the print run to GenCon, whatever hasn't sold yet out of the 85 - or, who knows, however many more I've printed if they sell out before then. The 15 I requested are not for convention sales, but as a backup personal stock for archival purposes or extremely local sales, and for sending to artists and so on.

To answer your questions about that, my in-person sales are ... how does one put this ... extremely high at conventions.

Also, you might not be aware that 100 copies for one of my smaller games tends to sell out fairly soon, and I then hit a cycle of "order more" without really thinking about it much. The 100 as a total has nothing to do with anticipated sales, it's merely an affordable chunk and easy-to-store batch.

The chief benefit of using IPR isn't the association with other games, although that's a good thing and I don't discount it. But bluntly, Adept Press' web presence and ordering sites on its homepage are already established (now those buttons lead to IPR). For me, the whole point of using IPR is never, ever having to fulfill a game myself ever, ever again. The very name of this activity, "fulfillment," is an obscene joke. Daily, I praise IPR and Key 20 for being strange and obviously demented enough to do this for me. I wouldn't ever ever do it again, not for love nor money.

Good questions!

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: David Berg on April 28, 2006, 09:48:24 PM
Ron, thanks for linking all those threads.

I did indeed guess completely wrong on my distribution query, I should instead have simply asked:

For a first-time game publisher with a small initial print run (due to, y'know, not knowing if more than a handful of people will buy it), how would you recommend dividing my promotion and sales efforts between in-person and online?

If this is an issue that has already been discussed ad nauseum on these forums, feel free to admonish me for not browsing them more thoroughly before asking...

For me, the whole point of using IPR is never, ever having to fulfill a game myself ever, ever again. The very name of this activity, "fulfillment," is an obscene joke.

Is "fulfillment" simply getting some UPS envelopes, sticking books in them, addressing them, and taking them to the UPS store?  Is there more to it, or am I simply making it sound like less of a pain in the butt than it is?

Thanks,
-Dave


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 29, 2006, 07:14:37 AM
Hi David,

Quote
For a first-time game publisher with a small initial print run (due to, y'know, not knowing if more than a handful of people will buy it), how would you recommend dividing my promotion and sales efforts between in-person and online?

You're making an artificial distinction. The answer is, when you're in an in-person sales situation like a convention, you max out your promotion/sales effort in that context, and when you're not, you max out your promotion/sales effort on-line. There's no

I think you have this idea that you'll say "I'm printing X books" with some notion of how many are going to sell in which way. There's no point to that, for two reasons.

1. In the brave new world of POD printing, getting a few more books when you sell out is just a button-click away.

2. Cons last a couple of days; on-line sales are an ongoing thing.

Maybe it'll be easier if I explain the LuLu model rather than the short-run model. With LuLu, or with some other POD companies, you don't make a print run at all. Every on-line order, they print and send a book, end of story. Oh, here comes a convention in a couple of months. Hey guys, print me up X books for my con; and they do.

See? The on-line sales are an ongoing, low-level, long-term whirrr of sales. The con is an add-on, for which you bring as many books as you think you can sell at that con, at that time. Whatever doesn't, save for the next con.

Now let's take it to the short-run model which I prefer. It's practically exactly the same, in that about 100 books are printed, and used as a bank for on-line sales until it gets low, then 100 books are printed, and so on. If a con is coming up, I have Brennan (IPR) send me (or bring, if he's there) a batch of books from the bank. Whatever doesn't sell, no big deal, those books are still in the bank.

It's not like you stamp "con" on one book and "on-line sale" on another. Looking at all the books in the bank, their number steadily decreases through on-line sales. When I want books for a con, I grab'em from the bank. Whenever the bank gets low for any reason, order some more to be printed.

Everyone should adjust this model (instant POD or short-run) slightly for their own purposes, but the basic idea is sound. For instance, Sorcerer presents a trickier situation, because the books are not POD but traditional print - I have to print 1000 books or so at a time for it to be cost-effective. Store orders get factored in as well. But that just modifies the model in my case and isn't a big deal for explaining here.

Does that help at all?

Also, yes, you've described fulfillment accurately. If you don't think it's a pain in the ass now, tell me after you've moved 100 books that way. One or two publishers seem to enjoy fulfillment past that point, but they are obviously deranged.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 29, 2006, 08:31:10 AM
Pure self-serving announcement: the book is now available for purchase at IPR (http://www.indiepressrevolution.com).

Back now to our regularly scheduled discussion.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Bryan Hansel on April 29, 2006, 10:56:15 AM
Ron, would there be any reason to switch your Sorcerer game from traditional printing to a short run method or why have you decided to stick with traditional printing for Sorcerer?

I also echo your fulfillment comments. I sell photographic prints via my website and wholesale to local stores.  There is nothing worse than having to deal with getting the order together, boxing it, and mailing it...and if they want it shipped via UPS it's even worse. Total energy sap of utter boredom.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 29, 2006, 11:15:19 AM
Hi Bryan,

The fact is that no current POD company can match the current physical quality of the Sorcerer core book. The case-bound, clothbound, hybrid-sewn, leaf-stamped, slip-cover combination is something a traditional printer can organize without any infrastructural maneuvering - but even the most diverse POD company, at this time, would have to scramble to figure out how to arrange any of this, probably with a lot of out-sourcing. To do it for short runs would be incredibly labor-intensive and, in my view, logistically unreliable on their parts.

(Just as Sorcerer's rules-features are still being discovered as innovations by many players, close to 10 years following their first public appearance, the book's physical design still sets one of the highest bars in role-playing. I stress that gaudiness is one thing, but raw physical quality is another.)

For the supplements, which are paperback, I looked into it about a year ago and made a few calls. The general response was that for books of this size (non-traditional dimensions, remember), the per-book cost of any print run size would actually exceed my current cost per book using Patterson Printing. It helps, you see, that my traditional printer already has all the film and all the specs for those books, without any hassle, and I have a good relationship with them which tends to cut me some slack when it comes to unexpected glitches or corrections. So I have to compare, not start-up costs between traditional and POD printing, but established traditional vs. start-up POD costs. And the latter come out as a money-sink in comparison, for the Sorcerer supplements, not least because I'd demand their absolute best quality, and also considering those intangibles with Patterson which have been a real blessing on occasion.

On the other hand, It Was a Mutual Decision was physically designed with current POD capabilities in mind, so it actually is built to optimize their strengths - net effect, sharp and cheap at the same time. I still can't help picking up and handling the book, and everyone I've showed it too instantly grabs it and does the same.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: David Berg on April 29, 2006, 02:12:14 PM
Ron, thanks for describing the POD, short-run, and traditional modes of printing.  My questions about online vs in-person sales were based in part on my ignorance of the flexibility afforded by some of these systems (as I think you gathered).

I still have some questions about the relative costs of these modes, and which book formats are optimal for each, but I think I'll read those threads you linked before pestering you for any more specifics.  (Though, of course, if you have a concise breakdown at your fingertips, I'd love to see it.)

Thanks again,
-Dave


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Larry L. on April 30, 2006, 04:24:38 AM
Ron,

Thanks, this is enlightening and juicy. Even moreso than the "How I published Sorcerer" stuff.

I don't think I saw any mention of whether your short-bound format caused any trouble or extra cost with your publisher. I had wondered about that a while back.

Regarding your nifty insights on the "impulse buy" styling, I'm somewhat curious; Do you think, content-wise, (and assuming you'd deal with the distribution for such) that this game actually could be sold on the counter at a major bookstore? Or is it just an aesthetic choice?

Speaking of which... The cover graphic looks really good, judging by the little thumbnail on IPR (http://www.indiepressrevolution.com/). Much less pink that your essay had led me to fear.




Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 30, 2006, 06:09:33 AM
Hi Larry,

Quote
I don't think I saw any mention of whether your short-bound format caused any trouble or extra cost with your publisher. I had wondered about that a while back.

None. They don't care which edge they slap glue into.

For those of you dealing with printers, whether POD or traditional, you should learn about the dimensions that they are set up to print without any cutting-down afterward. Sorcerer is a non-traditional size: about 10" by 6.5". That's an extra step for the printer, because they print it on 11" by 8.5" and then trim it.

In my experience, printers do 11" by 8.5" without any trouble, and if I'm not mistaken, they do 9" by 6" without any trouble either (I could be wrong; they might have to trim to it, but if they do, at least they're used to it). I think they can do 17" by 11" and 14" by 8.5" all right too.

Now, one thing we discovered here at the Forge a few years ago, and Luke discovered by himself because he's Luke, is that printing exactly 1/2 of a standard size is also easy for a printer - slicing it in half is no big deal to them, and they don't charge for it. Cool! That's why 8.5" by 5.5" is looking so common, as well as the fact that it's a nifty pocket-size as an object as well. You can do the same with the larger standard sizes, if you want.

Quote
Regarding your nifty insights on the "impulse buy" styling, I'm somewhat curious; Do you think, content-wise, (and assuming you'd deal with the distribution for such) that this game actually could be sold on the counter at a major bookstore?

"Could" it? I think so. That's what I call staying open to fortuitous opportunities, as opposed to actual business plan. If it had been an actual goal to get the book into bookstores, and not in the RPG ghetto section either, then I'd have run this entire project differently from the start.

Everyone, do not bug me about what I mean. That's not on-topic here.

Quote
Or is it just an aesthetic choice?

Dunno what you mean. Of course it's an aesthetic choice. Whether it's an aesthetic choice that has economic impact remains to be seen. To be clear, it'll take a lot more than a look & feel to get an RPG (or RPG-like thing) into the shelves of a mainstream American bookstore in a productive way. (Any piece of shit can make it into the RPG ghetto, and obviously does.)

Regarding pink? Heh ... you should see this book my wife just bought, "The Girl's Guide to Being the Boss (Without Being a Bitch)." This is a big-money item, highly rated, widely read, well-written, acclaimed, etc. And a solid half of the cover, front back and spine, is hot pink. My little lettering tain't nothin'.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Adam on April 30, 2006, 08:24:52 AM
In my experience, printers do 11" by 8.5" without any trouble, and if I'm not mistaken, they do 9" by 6" without any trouble either (I could be wrong; they might have to trim to it, but if they do, at least they're used to it). I think they can do 17" by 11" and 14" by 8.5" all right too.
Also, be aware that to some printers, 8.5" by 11" is actually 8.375" by 10.875", and 6" by 9" is similarly reduced. The particular printer I'm talking about [Transcontinental] would do exactly 6" by 9" or 5.8375" by 8.875", but the slightly smaller size was slightly cheaper, and to the layman, looked the same . . . except when the first book in the series was printed in 6x9 and the second in the smaller size.



Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Thunder_God on May 01, 2006, 06:10:13 AM
How did you handle Editing by "Outside People", as in, people who are not you, of the final manuscript?

This seems to be a somewhat obscure point about Indie RPGs, as far as I've seen.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 06:21:45 AM
Adam, good point about the trimming. I always forget that.

Guy, I'm not sure what you mean about "handling" the editing ... when someone edits a manuscript I give them, I typically incorporate all their changes. Either I go right ahead and change what's indicated, or sometimes, I say, "I see why you marked that, but I can think of a better solution" and change it in a different way. I try hard to suppress my authorial worship of my immortal prose when dealing with someone else's edits of it, and to say, "Listen, ego, they're the reader and it's their turn now."

In my experience, no manuscript is rendered 100% pristine via editing; all we can do is try to keep the awful little fucking errors to a minimum. Also, some typos and errors of formatting occur at the layout stage, when the poor layout guy has to mess with the document a little as he's making things fit, and a letter gets clipped off the front or end of a line, for instance.

That brings up another point - the proofs stage. Contrary to the ideal, I have never found it logistically possible to revise proofs and make the printer do it over, except for really serious errors. This is partly a failing of mine, in not heeding my own advice about deadlines (in which case I see the error, wince, and suck it up, growling, "next printing"), but it's also a failing of the printing process, which frankly tends to over-charge at that stage, as I see it.

I'm also not sure whether there's any point to looking for a trend of any kind, about editing issues, across independent games. Asking for editing, responding to editing, etc, are highly individualized. You'd certainly see a trend within one person's set of books, sure. Non-independent games display an equal diversity, for the same reason.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Thunder_God on May 01, 2006, 06:27:16 AM
I meant, how many people do you give your manuscript(final version) for editing, how "professional" are they, do you look for grammar/format editing or also content, etc.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 06:45:14 AM
Depends on the game. Sorcerer underwent outside editing from a variety of sources, at a number of different steps in its unusual publishing history from 1996 through 2001. Elfs got a thorough going-over from a publisher who was interested in it, before that relationship went belly-up and I decided to publish it myself. In the case of It Was a Mutual Decision, I had two extremely scholarly friends (academics, library folks) go over it. For future purposes, I'm planning on bothering Thor Olavsrud for editing more often. He's done fantastic work for Burning Wheel and others.

As you can see, in my case, it's not a formalized or standard procedure from game to game, outside of the fact that I think it always needs to get done.

As a related matter, I have occasionally edited for others. My general impression is that response to editing is highly variable, up to and including ignoring most of it, even typos-corrections. My approach of accepting all edits in spirit and nearly all of then in concrete acceptance of the indicated change, seems to be rarer.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: David "Czar Fnord" Artman on May 01, 2006, 07:26:54 AM
You are talking nonsense and I am the one that will tell you so.
*sigh* Yes, you are, aren't you?

Quote from: Linux Journal
Clinton's choice of tools is slightly unusual for an author. He wrote his text with vi, an editor more traditionally used by programmers than by authors. His choice partially is explained by the fact that Clinton also is a programmer.

Because he's a programmer, it also was a natural choice for him to use Python's DocTools to convert the text source to HTML, the format used to publish the book on the Web. This copy of the book was released under a Creative Commons License.

From the HTML files, Clinton was able to load the book into OpenOffice.org Writer. Writer interpreted the HTML files beautifully, converting HTML tags to OpenOffice.org styles.
Quote
Plain text can be manipulated into styled word-processor text with the flick of a hand.

So I am going to guess that these lines carry the kernel of your refutation? Something like, "It's OK to author without structure, because you can easily determine your structure as you assign HTML tags to the unstructured text. And then Open Office can open the structured HTML and assign styles automatically." Or something like that? Well, of course you can.

MY point was that some other person, hired to take a stack of TXT files and make a book, CAN'T do that TXT > HTML part where structure is assigned. Not without at least one (and probably a few) revisions. So, sure, layout guys take TXT as source... and chuckle as they increase their hourly estimate and number of drafts/milestones (that's how we "suck it up": we suck up client money). Yep, you can author without structure. Yep, you will spend time adding in structure if it isn't there.

Quote
Trying to deal with formatting while writing is damaging to your ability to write.

How unfortunate for you. Not at all true for me. I'd advise folks to try it both ways: outline, organize, then author; or freeflow author and go back to build up structure. One way or the other will work better for each individual.

But I think this thread is about publishing processes/stages/gotchas, and I thought I could offer advice as a professional typesetter, book designer, and producer who's worked for Fortune 500 companies for a decade. Perhaps readers will find a professional's opinion valuable, even though it was the rudely dismissed by an amateur who makes his living as a programmer. (I tried to report the post... guess who is this forum's Moderator, folks? hehehe)

With good cheer and hope for continued "moderation" at The Forge;
David


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Dav on May 01, 2006, 08:34:44 AM
Quote
I thought I could offer advice as a professional typesetter, book designer, and producer who's worked for Fortune 500 companies for a decade. Perhaps readers will find a professional's opinion valuable, even though it was the rudely dismissed by an amateur who makes his living as a programmer. (I tried to report the post... guess who is this forum's Moderator, folks? hehehe)

A couple of things (at the risk of drifting this thread into a typesetting nightmare from which no reasonable discourse might return):

On the subject of rudeness:  I looked this over a few times and must have missed the rudeness (or I am such an egotist that assuming someone would be rude to me is just plain crazy-talk).

On the subject of format and writing:  I tend to just type crazy-go-nuts, spewing forth manuscript until it is finished.  Then, after this, I will separate out text to be offset or somehow "jankied" into shape into a separate file complete with notes.  I don't format as I type for a variety of reasons: I don't like to stop writing when I write, I suck as visuals, determining where text should be broken into manageable and digestible parts is a nightmare to me.  In short, text I can do just fine, making it understandable for others, that's the job of an editor and/or layout guy.  I'm perfectly willing to sit back and let division of labor make my world easier.

On the subject of jobs: I really really wish that the Forge would adopt this general stance that telling people what your do for a living is something similar to coming out in a bar in a foreign country... who the fuck cares?  It always comes off as this smug, smarmy attempt to say, "I am better than you, and here's why."  If your years of intelligence and wisdom have not shined through in your discourse and ramblings, tacking on a resume` ain't exactly making me sit-up-and-say-ah.

I was actually enjoying the description of "Style-use" for Word enough that I was just about to go popping off toward mine own WP and check the style-guides in that to see if I can make it go in some manner for mine own work, then the rudeness thing jerked me back to distraction.  Rude is something I have rarely-to-never seen attributed to Clinton... Ron, myself, maybe... Clinton, he's the nice guy! 

Anyway, you aren't making life better.  I figure you may have had a point or purpose or something with that line of "professional vs. amateur," but I don't know what it was.  That just plain made me not enjoy you at all.  Anyway, coming to an indie game design site and railing at professional vs. amateur is not exactly a wise maneuver.  Don't.  Fucking.  Do.  It.

Dav



Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Andy Kitkowski on May 01, 2006, 09:34:36 AM
Christ, I bet I'm like 1-2 posts in before this thread gets closed. :-)

However, this might be worth a new topic:
Quote
It always comes off as this smug, smarmy attempt to say, "I am better than you, and here's why."  If your years of intelligence and wisdom have not shined through in your discourse and ramblings, tacking on a resume` ain't exactly making me sit-up-and-say-ah.

I think there's a lot to gain in backing up your statements with "oh, and I do this for a living" and the like, as long as you're not smarmy, belligerent, or too into putting others down. Knowing that, for example, this dude lives and breathes layout and design and publishing for 8+ hours a day (like Luke Crane) will help me understand the discrepencies between their comments and Joe Schmoe's (Joe being an ernest, helpful guy who did it once by himself) comments. As long as you don't swing your cred like a club, I don't see a problem with backing up your comments with your credentials, if they're relevant. Especially if you can be specific ("I worked a 6-month contract with a financial company, which worked this way; then I worked with a 3-person NPO that did things that way", etc. In other words, grounding your cred in what you're discussing).

So for me? Keep the credentialls rolling. But yeah, please don't use them as a club (that goes for both sides of the exchange), and never talk down or dominate by authority; that's just plain closed communication.

-Andy


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: David "Czar Fnord" Artman on May 01, 2006, 11:15:12 AM
On the subject of rudeness: I looked this over a few times and must have missed the rudeness (or I am such an egotist that assuming someone would be rude to me is just plain crazy-talk).

Me: [Offering advice based on professional expereince. I even tagged it with an "Opinion:" run-in heading.]
Clinton: "You are talking nonsense...".

I consider that rude. Object to the point using a refutation, not with borderline ad hominem: "boderline" because he states that *I* "am talking" nonsense; not that "this point is" nonsense--which it wasn't, but such an objection is meaningless from an amateur, in his or her ignorance.

Quote
On the subject of format and writing....

That's how you do it; cool. I note that you did not accuse my professional (to that in a sec) advice of being "nonsense" in the course of your alternate example/opinion. See? You can hold an Opinion (just like me, a pro)! You can assert it all day.

But one who accuses me of "talking nonsense" gets ME to deal with, not just my argument. Understand, now, the rudeness point?

Quote
On the subject of jobs: I really really wish that the Forge would adopt this general stance that telling people what your do for a living is something similar to coming out in a bar in a foreign country... who the fuck cares?
....
Anyway, you aren't making life better. I figure you may have had a point or purpose or something with that line of "professional vs. amateur," but I don't know what it was. That just plain made me not enjoy you at all. Anyway, coming to an indie game design site and railing at professional vs. amateur is not exactly a wise maneuver. Don't. Fucking. Do. It.

The moderator agrees... oh, wait, that's Clinton. (Who watches the Watchmen?) One quick aside: how helpful was your Demanding. Phrase. With. Periods., to resolving this thread or propegating it? I mean, you hold me to an Ideal of Discourse, the failure of which to follow devalues anything I write... so, how do I view what you write, when you attempt to declare right behavior using Heavy. Handed. Punctuation. To. Sound. Like. Authority.?

I tend to agree with Andy: the opinion of a pro is generally worth more than an experienced amateur's. Seems to relate to what they get paid--or maybe the other way around? ;-)

Finally, I find the irony of your objection in THIS thread sort of funny: it is only Ron's perceived professionalism that makes him an authority whose posting such a thread is interesting. hehe....

Anyway, I'm done with it.

Folks! Feel free to spooge content into TXT files--drop capitalization and punctuation, while you're at it: damnable structure, that; it'll cost you any ability to write well!

Meanwhile, we pro typesetters will happily take your TXT files and add in a revision stage or two to our estimate of hours to produce, so that we get paid to reassemble your Jello into something resembling its intended mold. And if you are so lucky as to find an amateur who will do all of this in days, for pennies... go for it. I recommend a small inital run. ;-)

Advice off. Flamer off. Interest WAY off. Enjoyed the post Ron--until your Moderation Crew got here.

See ya!
David


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 01:50:37 PM
Andy and Dav, I appreciate the spirit of the input.

David, it's obvious you'll continue to read this thread; your little sign-off fools no one. So here's your message: you blew it. You made a good case via PM for me to review the thread and think about moderating it. Then you pulled a little hissy-fit and started stamping about in more posts here, waving the "professional" club in an attempt to save face and strike back at perceived insults. You totally had your chance to kick it up to the social-contract level at the Forge (me), and then you dragged it right down to defending your ego-turf as if you were in a typical forum or blogspace on the internet.

By the way, everyone who's reading: fuck the typical forum or blogspace on the internet. This is not there. This is here.

It's as if the cop came up to the two guys arguing in the street. The one guy says, "He hit me!" OK, says the cop, settle down, let's get a look at you two. Then whoa! The guy who just spoke, he swings on the other guy, goes crazy, crying and yelling. He takes a swing at the cop too.

You know what happens then.

So too bad. Whatever the merits of your position, whatever my judgment would have been about posts replying to you, you successfully evicted yourself from the real humans trying to interact here, instead of the posturing egos. Don't post in this thread again.

Everyone else, I'm interested in continuing to discuss my girly rat game.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Gregor Hutton on May 01, 2006, 05:17:23 PM
Just two quick things...

(1) I liked the use of the "for Story Now play" description, rather than "a roleplaying game" or whatever in describing the game. Is this something that you think you'll use to describe future games, or was this just appropriate for this game?

(2) Technical point about colour covers which may be useful for others... Sheridan Press have an excellent white paper on digital art (http://www.sheridanpress.com/assets/pdf/DigiArt_WP.pdf), and it recommends that Total Area Coverage (http://dx.sheridan.com/advisor/tac.html) (TAC) for black or dark elements or for black areas within color images should not exceed 300%." Basically, just something that leapt out when I read "Having the black actually set to 4-color 100%..." But, it's always good to talk to your printer as Ron does and keep in contact with them about what you want and what they can provide, etc.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 05:43:48 PM
Hi Gregor,

At present, I'm disinclined to write a role-playing game wholly within the context of gamer culture, ever again. Perhaps some of the games I'll write will be procedurally quite standard (roll to hit, roll for damage, whatever). But I'm also certain that I'll be working with topics, procedures, and presentations that have been extracted from what I've learned here, after six years at the Forge. So whatever of "old role-playing" remains, it'll be integrated with and just right for the stuff that I'm doing that is not "old role-playing," whatever it might be for that game.

Now, at the level of analytical abstraction, that's no reason not to call these future products role-playing games. I could. The term has no definition; it is a legacy rather than a definition, as put so brilliantly by another poster, recently. So the question is not whether the activity presented in any of my future books is a role-playing game by principles-based definition, but whether I want to sell the thing in the commercial context of that legacy. At the moment, my long-term interest in doing so is slight, at best.

I see It Was a Mutual Decision as a possible transition. I'm still selling it primarily in gamer culture, but clearly it's not going to appeal to anyone in that culture outside the rather fringe-y circle represented by the Forge, Story Games, et al., and whomever I can rope into buying it at GenCon. Since I personally may be moving on to other things, and since the tastes of the wider culture are tuned sharply and strongly toward things like It Was a Mutual Decision (as opposed to any typical RPG you could name), then perhaps it can be taken with me when that day comes. Calling it Story Now is part of that mental transition, expressed in this case as a commercial label.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: David Berg on May 02, 2006, 08:51:11 AM
So, sure, layout guys take TXT as source... and chuckle as they increase their hourly estimate and number of drafts/milestones (that's how we "suck it up": we suck up client money).

Seems to me like the moral here is:
1) try to find a layout guy who will answer your questions honestly
2) ask him what formats will take him the least amount of time (and the least amount of your $, if that's the arrangement)
3) if you're capable of doing a decent job on any stage of the process, paying someone else to handle that stage for you is a waste of money

I'd advise folks to try it both ways: outline, organize, then author; or freeflow author and go back to build up structure. One way or the other will work better for each individual.

In fact, I find different processes work well for different parts of a project.  In my own case, I free-flow when generating narrative content ("...the world of Ugladesh is dark and foreboding...") and outline when writing up system mechanics or short descriptions.  I've been very happy using a sort of textbook-style level-tree:

1 - races
     1.1 - elves
          1.1.1 - aging
          1.1.2 - mental powers
     1.2 - humans
2 - classes
etc.

This forces me to think about what needs to get written and what doesn't, a dynamic that my free-form process deals with quite poorly. 

Of course, for those who prefer not to decide what they'll discuss until they're already in the creative rush of free-flow writing, a level-tree can't be Step 1.  Ron, am I correct in thinking this was the case for It Was a Mutual Decision?

-Dave


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: David Berg on May 02, 2006, 09:19:35 AM
the question is not whether the activity presented in any of my future books is a role-playing game by principles-based definition, but whether I want to sell the thing in the commercial context of that legacy.

This raises two questions in my mind:
1) what kinds of subject matter will sell better or worse if marketed as RPGs
2) what kinds of game formats will sell better or worse if marketed as RPGs

the tastes of the wider culture are tuned sharply and strongly toward things like It Was a Mutual Decision (as opposed to any typical RPG you could name)

Just to get hypothetical here:
As a type of subject matter outside the traditional RPG milieu, presumably It Was a Mutual Decision would have greater sales potential if marketed toward a different audience than the small crop buying traditional RPGs.  However, given the format of the game, who exactly is likely to a) give it a chance and b) find it accessible?  (I was thinking about end-users, but perhaps the question more pertinently applies to publishers.)

I have been thinking about this ever since my parents picked up "How to Host a Murder Mystery," a game with an element of roleplaying (albeit coached by the game designers), as if it were interchangeable with any other party game like Scattergories or Balderdash.  How many copies did that game sell?  How much did its designers get paid?  How much better a racket is that than RPG publishing?

-Dave

P.S. If anyone's interested in how "How to Host a Murder Mystery" works (for the purposes of this discussion), let me know and I'll describe it.  It's a fun game, though personally I much prefer the imagination and player contributions of traditional role-playing.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: greyorm on May 02, 2006, 03:43:56 PM
In fact, I find different processes work well for different parts of a project.  In my own case, I free-flow when generating narrative content ("...the world of Ugladesh is dark and foreboding...") and outline when writing up system mechanics or short descriptions.

Hey guys, here's the thing: there's a huge difference between writing into an outline, and writing into a layout. These are very much not the same things and I see people confusing them in this discussion (talking about the problems with one, then giving an example of such a problem using the other). I myself find project outlines very useful for everything from games to fiction, but I find writing into a layout to seriously scuttle the flow of my writing.

Definitions
Outline: "I'll write about this, then this, then this, with maybe some information about this here and here."
Layout: "The physical look of the page will be thus, with text bars over here and double columns like this."

Writing into a layout screws you up while writing because you start worrying about the WAY the text looks on the page instead of writing the text (ie: "Uhoh, I have a line bleeding over onto the next column. How do I fix that? I must revise immediately!" and "Ooops, deleting that paragraph has destroyed the layout for the rest of the document! Must fix!"). You have stopped thinking about content and started thinking about presentation.

Writing into an outline does no such thing because you are still working with the information and writing the text (ie: "Ok, I need to write some stuff about elven weaponry here. Oh, hey, I just wrote stuff about battle tactics, too. Must remember to put that into the outline later."). As well, outlines can be as flexible or rigid as fits your style, with subject headings as broad or focused as you like and initial details of varying specificity, and you do not have to go in order, finish anything before starting something else, etc. This is NOT a layout because it has nothing to do with how the text looks; it only deals with what the text will/might contain.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on May 02, 2006, 05:01:51 PM
Well, I don't have those problems writing straight into the layout. I usually write a layout unit (page or sidebar, whatever) at a time and only revise for layout sporadically, when mulling over the text anyway. Can't say I've ever had to stop to trim a paragraph. And I don't flow the text from one page to another; one of the main reasons I chose to write straight to layout was that the book is inherently composed of independent pages or small clusters, so it's pretty important to write an appropriate amount of text for each page. But, it's stupid to say here that this or that way of writing will confuse you or whatever. There's a great number of writing projects and writers, so what one finds blocking his flow might be perfectly natural for another. So there's not much basis for saying that some particular method for writing doesn't work.

As for outlines, I have a difficulty imagining somebody'd have something against them. They're an established, powerful writing tool, one of the few such.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Jason Morningstar on May 03, 2006, 04:03:41 AM
A general related observation and question - it seems like the production cycle for self-published games is shrinking, or is becoming increasingly easy to shrink if that is the designer's goal.  Is this the result of a maturing POD marketplace, better software tools in the hands of designers, a growing body of design and production knowledge, all of these, or something else entirely?



Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 03, 2006, 04:50:53 AM
Good call, Raven.

Eero, you're just weird.

Jason, before I answer this question, I want to encourage you to buy this first print run of It Was a Mutual Decision so you can revel in the minor errors, compared to the Roach.

So, shorter cycle? Perhaps - for some authors and for some games. Three things seem implicated: (1) more experience in actually doing the work, so fewer false starts or dead-times are involved for some projects (this applies to writing, revising, layout, print-bidding, etc); (2) much, much faster printing technology and much easier setup for commercial release (just send it to Brennan! beats the shit out of negotiating for pre-orders, etc); and (3) shorter-text games with shorter play-time and minimal to no text matching the standard organization and content of a mid-1990s RPG.

But I emphasize, for some authors, and for some games. Nor is that faster-cycle necessarily a good thing. In my case, the ease of #1-3 above is also a wicked pit of carelessness. So one lesson I learned from this game was where I need to slow down - specifically, late-stage proofing.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Thunder_God on May 03, 2006, 04:55:59 AM
I believe it may also have to do with "Name recognition".

It's actually an answer in a way, "How much more attention and playtesters do you get once you're a published author?".

It's hard to revise with a limited proofing/playtersters pool, and it seems to me once people get "noticed" so do their projects, which in turn lead to more playtesting, more opinions, And in a shorter amount of time.

How do you people see this?


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Larry L. on May 03, 2006, 06:03:17 AM
Ron,

Speaking of minor errors, you mentioned there was a cost to fixing typos after the proof. This surprised me a little for POD publishing. It's not like they have to throw out a plate or anything, just twiddle with the computer. Is this just "them's the breaks," or what?


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Jason Morningstar on May 03, 2006, 07:29:34 AM
Larry, with RPI at least if you want to amend the proof they generate another proof, which they will either send to you or, for really minor things, review internally if you agree.  With The Roach we had a single line of italicized text laid out oddly in InDesign that was chewed up in the first proof (the result of .pdf versioning incompatibility).  We fixed this (and half a dozen other things) and they ran a second proof, which cost something like $50.  They don't change a single thing and they certainly don't edit your manuscript for you.

It turns out we completely forgot to correct this .pdf error in our second printing, and a second proof was again required - but we let them check it in house this time, since we all knew what the problem was. 


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Paul Czege on May 03, 2006, 01:11:31 PM
Three things seem implicated: (1) more experience in actually doing the work, so fewer false starts or dead-times are involved for some projects (this applies to writing, revising, layout, print-bidding, etc); (2) much, much faster printing technology and much easier setup for commercial release (just send it to Brennan! beats the shit out of negotiating for pre-orders, etc); and (3) shorter-text games with shorter play-time and minimal to no text matching the standard organization and content of a mid-1990s RPG.

Acts of Evil has already received more playtesting than My Life with Master did before it was published. And when I publish Acts of Evil it will have taken me more work, maybe three times as much work, over a longer, maybe as much as 50% longer timeframe than My Life with Master. I think as a development community we've gotten good at things like preserving character protagonism, apportioning narration, constraining narration and play options in dramatically interesting ways, and rewarding for creative/interesting/on-premise play. And we've developed an expertise at playtesting and giving truly meaningful playtest feedback to designers. I think fast cycle development has become possible as a result, for games within the tradition of this expertise. Yes, Acts of Evil will be a longer game text, and yes I did recently get married, but I think the extended development time is more because my goals are outside the development tradition than anything else. I'm designing for Acts of Evil player characters as static antagonists, and NPCs that emerge from play as protagonists. And I'm trying to provoke creative and interesting antagonism from the players via competition amongst them, rather than through direct reward mechanics. So while I've benefited greatly from our community's playtesting expertise, and in fact would never have come close to where I am on Acts of Evil without it, I've found I must second-guess my own design instincts, and those of experienced playtesters. Because those instincts would guide me to what we're good at, a game of player character protagonism.

Paul


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Sydney Freedberg on May 03, 2006, 01:26:17 PM
Paul, that's fascinating. (Plus it allows me to console myself, as I labor on the playtest-proven brokeness of the third set of core mechanics for apocalypse girl, that the reason this is so much harder than the two RPGs I designed in college and played with my friends is that I'm trying to do something radically new, even if it is essentially second-generation Capes).

Ron, how would you compare the speed of the inspiration-design-playtest-revise-publish cycle for this game to Sorcerer? (Of course Sorcerer kept evolving after the publication of the initial email version and of each book, so it's a particularly complex example). How about Elfs? Trollbabe? Doctor Chaos and other pending projects?

In particular, I'm interested in whether designing gets progressively faster and faster for you because you've done it so much, even if mechanics and techniques in each game may be radically different, or whether the game you do today may be much, much more laborious than the game you wrote ten years ago because your ambitions and willingness to experiment increase even faster than your experience?


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 03, 2006, 01:33:01 PM
Guys, I think you're totally missing my crucial qualifier, which I said twice: for some designers and for some games. In this case, me, and this particular game. It doesn't apply to other games I'm working on, and it sure doesn't apply necessarily to other designers, although here it there it might - for some games.

Paul, maybe I'm just not understanding. On re-reading, I cannot tell how your post relates to the text I'm quoting. Are you agreeing or disagreeing or what?

Also, bear in mind - all this subtopic is in response to a fairly vaguely-worded, probably intentionally-provocative question of Guy's, which included a dubious imputation ("the publishing process is getting shorter") in order to be asked. It's not surprising that we're kind of flailing at one another now, because the imputation and my attempt to answer the question aren't providing us with a shared intellectual ground. For instance, I only answered relative to myself and this game.

Perhaps it's better to junk this subtopic before more people bring in their guesses, reactions, and probably resentments or whatever into the mix.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Thunder_God on May 03, 2006, 01:45:49 PM
I meant the playtest reports take a shorter time to arrive/happen, not the design process(except for parts relating to Playtesting).

Sure it may have been a bit provocative, but it does refer to published game makers' future games, this being such a game.


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 03, 2006, 02:03:57 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Guy. Again, I can only answer for myself and for this game. I think I gave the reasons for why it seems (or is) a little light on playtesting earlier. I can also add that it played so well after the first round of post-playtest revision that I was astounded. Further playtesting showed that the real hump had been surmounted, and resulted only in minor revisions of clarification.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion
Post by: Troy_Costisick on May 03, 2006, 04:23:39 PM
Heya,

Quote
But I emphasize, for some authors, and for some games. Nor is that faster-cycle necessarily a good thing. In my case, the ease of #1-3 above is also a wicked pit of carelessness. So one lesson I learned from this game was where I need to slow down - specifically, late-stage proofing.

-Ugh, no kidding Ron.  Thankfully I have a wife who is a literacy teacher and is willing to read my stuff.  I highly recomend an outside reading to help find gramatical and spelling errors in one's text.  Even then, there will still be some.

Peace,

-Troy