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[Avalanche] - Goodies, there should be a way I could use those ?!?

Started by pells, February 17, 2010, 12:34:12 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's have fun !!! We're going to sell this !!
Sébastien Pelletier
And you thought plot was in the way ?
Current project Avalanche

Eero Tuovinen

It seems to me that you might benefit a lot in opening up your work to others by productizing a subset of it with explicit rules into a complete game. I know that this is not the thrust of the project, but that's how people are used to interacting with new rpg material. If you made a small 40-page game using some existing system (Pool and Wushu are systems that work well in short form; Solar System is also doable; perhaps a simple, new system that showcases the benefits of your material format would be the best) and the methodology involved with your material, then you might find that people would find it easier to 1) start playing your work, 2) namedrop your work and 3) delve deeper into the rest of the material.

As we've discussed before, I think that your project is very creative and original - this is a strength, but also a difficulty, as you need to be able to teach your audience in how to use it. This pedagogical overhead is a serious issue for getting people excited about this material. You've approached this marketing problem by playing and adapting your material to various roleplaying games before, including D&D, Solar System and Burning Wheel - it might be that you could write up these approaches and adaptations into solidly productized material, or it might be that what would really give justice to your work would be a new game altogether (perhaps something that really grabs the pre-planned timeline aspect of the work by the throat). It's a difficult question.

I'm pretty sure that if you productized that Tarm material in some manner into something people could point to as a "game", no matter if the rules system were already tested and tried, you'd find that they would be much more likely to actually use it in play. A good example of this phenomenon is "Lady Blackbird", which you might wish to google: John Harper basically took TSoY, stripped out everything irrelevant to his thing, included a small setting and scenario, played the thing, posted a playtest report and then found that well, apparently other people wanted to play it as well solely on the strength of the material itself. It comes to me that if your material can excite the audience, then it should do well in a similar play-ready capsule form.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.



The illustrations are amazing.

Your layout is terrible: the background art is too dark; it is hard to read now and only will be moreso in print. The typography is scattershot. There's just way too much inconsistent spacing between the various elements. The pages look unconnected, from bit to bit and page to page.

Reconsider a more conservative layout that uses the text simply in an easy to read format and slavishly focuses on the art. The art should be venerated, laid on an altar so we can all stand around it and murmur in awe. Do not repeat/slice up art on the same spread! It doesn't tell us anything new about the piece or leave any mystery as to what you're doing. Also, feathering in photoshop was attractive in 1999.

I hope you'll take this criticism in the best light considering my investment in your success.