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Author Topic: [A Flower for Mara] So how do I go about demoing *this* game?  (Read 3827 times)
GreatWolf
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« on: July 08, 2008, 07:07:43 AM »

So, the new game that I'm releasing at GenCon is called  A Flower for Mara.In this game, you take on the role of various relatives of Mara, a woman who died suddenly, and play through the first year after her death. I have various design notes here. In addition, this is a rough trailer that I've put together, and this is a sample of play from a test run back in January.

This game is in the tradition of Jeepform LARPing, which means that there's lots of walking around and very little mechanical interaction within a scene. (Almost all the mechanics are dedicated to scene structuring.) It also has a Grief mechanic, which basically says that the only way for your character to overcome his grief is for you to share one of your own Griefs with the rest of the group. It's all very powerful in play, and it works wonderfully...

...

...and I have no idea how to sell this thing at GenCon. I'm at the Forge booth, which is demo-focused, which is very cool and all. However, I'm not persuaded that a 15-minute demo would actually capture what is nifty about this game. Even worse, I'd be afraid that it would make the game look silly. "So, it's time for a scene. Um, talk to each other for a while. Yeah, that's good."

The one idea that I have right now is to focus on a Family Gathering (as seen here and here). Essentially, the family gathers for a holiday of some sort, and the game cuts back and forth from the meal to soliloquies delivered by the characters to express their inner thoughts at the time. Working this inner/outer action could make for a workable demo....

So, anyways, I'm turning to the Internet for help and assistance. Thoughts?
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Ben Lehman
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Blissed


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« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2008, 12:04:03 PM »

Here's my suggestion:

This game takes how long to play? Maybe like two hours, right? It's all jeepy and shit, so it shouldn't be long.

Get together a few people for a demo. Take them somewhere else, off the show floor, somewhere quiet is ideal. If you have a nearby hotel lobby, maybe there. Maybe just some empty dealer's hall space. Enter a new space.

Play the game. Straight up. You can handwave or blow-by unimportant parts, but I bet no part is unimportant. Watch the players. Right at the point where they're clicking and getting it (maybe half an hour?), say "okay, so that's what the game is about, and talk about the game on the way back.

Yes, this is not suitable for shotgunning demos, but a lot of Forge demos (despite trying to take 15 minutes) actually take half an hour. You won't be using up booth space. And you will convey a sense of seperateness, differentness, and the general nature of the game.
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2008, 01:15:29 PM »

This is a really fascinating idea. You're right; at max capacity of 8 players, the game takes about 3 hours. So a half-hour demo, off in a quiet corner somewhere....very interesting.
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2008, 02:11:09 PM »

If we're lucky, the hall will be set up like last time and there will be a bunch of general-use tables and chairs close by. I suggest moving to that space, which often offered enough room for what you're talking about.

Ben's advice is a lot like what I recommend for Universalis - just play absolutely by the rules from step 1, and stop when everyone gets most interested in continuing.

Best, Ron
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2008, 07:30:42 PM »

The best advice I ever got on demos is this:  figure out what it is that makes this game unique and interesting, and then figure out how to make that happen as close as possible to the beginning of the game.

From this advice, I created the Tropical Island world, and at all demos now we start the players on this volcanic island which literally blows up just as soon as they've gotten oriented to play.  This "verses out" everyone into other worlds, and shows the real nature of Multiverser.  I'm embarrassed at how many years it took before we started doing it that way, but once we did our demos became one of the most popular games at the cons we frequent.

From what you describe, you need to move to the grief mechanic fairly quickly, but without making it feel forced.  Not having played the game, I'm not certain how you do that--but probably part of your set-up will help.

Also, I agree that you should not limit yourself to a fifteen minute shotgun demo.  You might even consider posting a "Flower for Mara Demo Schedule" in which you slot out forty-five minute sessions which begin at a specified time for whoever is there.  That gives you the time to orient people to the game and run enough of it to get them to connect, and by posting the schedule you'll get interested people making sure they're there together for it.

--M. J. Young
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