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Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?

Started by greyorm, October 29, 2009, 01:45:02 AM

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Quote from: Sebastian K. Hickey on December 15, 2009, 03:49:57 PMThat'd be a dream come true. E.g., I've no idea how to get that kind of gig, except by pure fluke.

I think that's pretty much how it happens: you luck into it. It isn't something you can control. (At least unless you've learned to control other people's minds, in which case why are you designing games and not having the world build you a palace filled with trained monkeys for servants?)

Also, an update of how things go once you've run the local con circuits, good or bad (or mixed), would be great. So please do keep us in the loop.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Sebastian K. Hickey

I'll drop in from time to time with an update on the progress.  Merry Chrimbo everyone!




I'm going to be a bit blunt and maybe an ass about this but the question remains: Did your game ORZ suceed or fail?

Just because you put out a game doesn't mean anyone has to play it. Just because people buy the game doesn't mean people will be excited enough about it to gather others to play it. (I know, I've been there more than once.) My first game (Embers of Empire SFRPG) I put my heart and soul into. I sold two copies. I realize now that EoE is not playable. The good part of it is that it gave me experience on writing a game and allowed me (after another aborted game--60+ pages) to write another two games that are near release. Will they sell? I don't know. I only know I did my best and the public will decide if I produced a good game. Its reception is beyond my control.

My advice is to get away from your game for 6-12 months and then reevaluate it. In the meanwhile, write another game using what you've learned from this one.

Best of Luck, Keith
Idea men are a dime a dozen--and overpriced!


Greetings Keith,

I'm confused because I'm not sure what is it you're trying to ask? I would have thought the answers to your question obvious, given the details throughout the thread, so that makes me think I'm not understanding what you're trying to ask about.

Other than that confusion, all fine things to keep in mind, especially your suggestion that an author get away from the work for 6-12 months (though I'd suggest someone do that after the first draft is done, rather than post-publishing). That's certainly something I do quite a bit with much of my work. However, whether that works for a given individual, and the actual length of time one puts it in the drawer for, is really personal preference.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Dan Maruschak

I don't know if it will work, but I'm going to try to build a community via podcasting. I'm launching a new podcast, Designer vs. Reality. It will have AP recordings of playtests of my game (and possibly other designers' games, if a situation arises where that makes sense). I'm hoping that listeners will be inspired to playtest my game with me over Skype, which will provide content for more episodes of the podcast, which will attract more playtesters, etc. The big trick will be to get that virtuous cycle working, which will require both entertaining episodes and a critical mass of volunteers.

Sebastian K. Hickey

Hi guys,

Before Christmas I mentioned that I'd throw in some updates about my progress in con attendance/networking.  So far, I've only had the chance to attend one convention, Warpcon in Co. Cork, Ireland. Nevertheless, I think I've learned a couple of things, so I thought I'd share.

First of all, before I attended the con I met up with gaming contingents from some of the other convention directors in Ireland. That way, once I arrived at Warpcon I found that I recognised some of the attendees. If you've never attended a convention as a designer, I'd strongly recommend getting involved with the gaming societies at your local university. I set up playtests in three Irish universities, and when I finally ran the playtests in Warpcon I was delighted to learn that the convention organisers had heard reports about me from the gaming societies.

Also, and this was a lesson harshly learned, in one case I found out that I'd stepped on somebody's toes. In one playtest report (for one of the university gaming society playtests), I gave my opinions on a subset of the playtesting participants. It wasn't a positive opinion and it was later read by a member of that society. Suffice is to say that, even though I stand by that opinion, I shouldn't have posted it publicly. It was a schoolboy error, and one I wish I could take back. Unless you're an idiot like me, this is something you would probably never do. Common sense. But if you are an idiot like me, never say anything bad, however true at the time, about any gamer. It's not clever, funny or useful.

I've been invited to attend some new cons for more playtests, I've been asked to send some info via email to interested gamers, and I've been invited to run the game in two of the big conventions in Dublin city (as slotted events). People seem quite excited by the game and although there are still just a handful of people who know of the game in Ireland, I think with more convention attendance I can hope for a little more community.

I'll be back in April to give an update on more Irish networking/convention news.


Thank you for the update, sir! One thought about the error you mention making:
QuoteIt's not clever, funny or useful.
Not knowing the details, I don't know if I can agree with that 100%. Here's why:

If some guy shows up to the playtest, proceeds to shit himself during the game, is loudly and rudely interrupting others, punches another player, and then proceeds to go on a twenty-minute diatribe about why GURPs is way better than any other game...I'm thinking that would be useful information about the playtest. If only because the social behavior of the people at the table really does affect the game, perceptions of the game, perceptions of the rules, and so forth.

Like I said, I don't know the details, so I don't know what the error was or why the public mention was an error in this case, but I can imagine mentioning the behavior as an influence on the game experience not necessarily being an error in some circumstances. I suspect it may be a "depends on how you handle it" situation.

Regardless, I've read the WarpCon playtest reviews and things sound like they went well. Excellent.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Sebastian K. Hickey

Okay, that's a valid point.  If someone at the table ruins your playtest, I think it's okay to announce that in your report. It will help other designers to understand a) that things can be outside of your control (which is comforting to hear from another designer) and b) more about the true failures of the mechanics (vs. the social failures).

However, I also think it's dangerous, especially if you're dealing with gaming societies. If one guy gets cheesed off, and that guy spells out your playtest report's slander to the rest of the society, not only can you lose a significant wing of gamers, but it's also likely that they will infect at least one convention (it's all very incestuous in Ireland). So, to to new designers, on the subject of slanderous playtest reports, make sure you're careful. You never know who might read it.

As to my faux pas, it wasn't really a case of any direct slander, but, I suppose, from a breach of trust. When I left the playtest I never indicated to the host that I was disappointed with some of his players. He read the playtest report, maybe expecting something positive, and therefore would have encountered my distaste with some distaste of his own. Had I explained to him (before I left his company) that I'd been disappointed with his players, I don't doubt that we would be more friendly now. Instead, by commenting the way I did, I upset his expectation. If I was him I'd feel deceived. He has my sympathy.

Thanks for following the Warpcon playtests, and thanks for your encouragement. I'll be back soon.


That makes a lot of sense, Sebastian.

Thanks for sharing that (I wasn't sure if I should even comment on it at first, but I'm glad I did now).
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Sebastian K. Hickey

I promised to update my progress as far con attendance (and community). Since the last entry, I attended Itzacon, Leprecon (in Ireland) and Conpulsion (in Scotland). The results are exciting.


In Ireland, the gaming scene is incestuous. Every time I go to a convention I have more friends than last time. At Itzacon, I bumped into a friendly face, one Alan Jackson, the co-ordinator of Conpulsion, with whom I had a chance to play an awesome playtest.


During Leprecon I was busy with real life, so I couldn't attend for the whole weekend. However on the Saturday, a couple of friends went in my stead, and managed to run a playtest session of Hell for Leather with Shane of the Adventuring Party (Ireland's best gaming podcast). This lead on to a mention on the podcast, of course. Happy days!

At Leprecon I met up with a few of the guys from the Irish Games Association (IGA), including Andrew Coffey, the Gaelcon convention co-ordinator. We were both in a rush, but we managed to speak, and he was enthusiastic about promoting Hell for Leather. He told me to get in touch with a couple of people at the IGA. This would lead on to a few conversations and an eventual meet with the special events co-ordinator, Feargal Fanning.

Now I have a demo table pencilled in at Gaelcon at which I can sell my game (without paying a traders fee), along with two HfL special events and a deal with the charity auction (yet to be figured out).

Leprecon, in many ways, opened the doors for me to the trading community in Ireland.


Lastly, there was Conpulsion. This was an amazing event. I met up with Gregor Hutton, Joe Prince, Malcolm Craig, Neil Gow, Iain McAllister and others. Not only did I get a chance to demo my game (and get an audio AP thanks to Pooka), but I playtested Joe Prince's Hell 4 Leather (notice the digital difference), playtested Hammer Falls (Pooka's game of awesome dystopia) and wound up as a pseudo chairman in the most educational and inspiring talk of my gaming career.

Let me clarify. At the end of the convention, all the big cheeses sat around a low table. There were around fifteen of us. Malcolm Craig, Gregor Hutton and Joe Prince included. The guys started spinning stories, chatting industry, and so on. It was extraordinarily educational. And then, out of the blue, Gregor says "so I heard you had some questions to ask me...go ahead..." I nervously pulled out my notebook (I had come prepared) and started seeking advice. I was asking about bundling, distribution, printing, and so on. Suddenly there were a dozen experts giving me (ME!!) advice on how to prepare and sell my game. It was like I'd gone to fanboy heaven.

Anyway, enough of my spunky happiness.

Since then, Gregor has helped with layout, Malcolm has helped with editing, I've arranged to promote some of the guys' stuff in my book, I've got some more advice about retail, and so on, and so on.

Other Stuff

The contacts I've made in the Irish community have allowed me to run a playtest in UCD (for the second time), introduced me to a couple more of the players behind the con scene, and set me up for a fun, hospitable and welcoming experience for future conventions.

In short, if you're a newbie to this, get your game ready and go to every convention you can find. Even if you never print your game, you're going to meet some wonderful, supportive people.

I'll be back in a few months (in November, I guess) to throw in some feedback about building community. Just to clarify, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. I'm just trying to go to things, meet people, talk to people, help people and, at every opportunity, let people help me. I don't know if it's working, really. I'm not here as any kind of authority on this. If you have experiences from conventions that could help us to learn how to communicate better, let me know.

Oh, which reminds me, I've learned to: make sure you run your game in the most public place possible, make sure your game is loud (meaning obvious, meaning colourful/noisy/nicely dressed) and make sure you have some people with you who love your game more than you do. I'm terrible at selling my game because (1) I'm sure people don't want to hear me talk about something I've done and (2) I don't know if what I've done is any good at all. But my friends are incredibly vocal and welcoming. This means I can focus on getting people to enjoy a demo while the guys focus on recruiting. I couldn't do this without a wingman. Seriously.