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Author Topic: Best format for web-published games  (Read 6192 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
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Posts: 2624


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« on: April 09, 2001, 01:46:00 PM »

When you get a game published on the web (for free or by payment), what is your favorite format?

- HTML, of course, is readable by anyone with a browser. Of course, it may look different depending on the browser, and you have little control over fonts and color design.

- There's always text. Anyone can use it. It's chock-full of information. It's also ugly.

- MS Word documents can do anything you want, plus other people can edit them to include new rules, house rules, errata, or whatever. However, you have to have MS Word to read them.

- PDF files: They're pretty and can do most anything--although font embedding can get tricky--but they often end up very large, and you can't edit them.

What's your personal pick and why?
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2001, 02:45:00 PM »

HTML...

Small pages, you can have color, layout and images, they're easy to edit and everyone can see them.

The best of all worlds.

- J
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
ephealy
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Posts: 22


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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2001, 08:15:00 PM »

HTML - for the same reasons MM mentions.

However, I _always_ want to see a txt, rtf, or pdf version of the game available for download - esp if the HTML version is in many small pieces...

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EP Healy
Creator of Hephaestus' Forge

[ This Message was edited by: ephealy on 2001-04-10 00:15 ]
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Hephaestus
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2001, 07:34:00 AM »

I agree with Ed. HTML is fine for web-based reading and appreciation, but I've come to think that people like a tangible, single "thing" to download or buy. I also think that a printable format is best, and the very same creative flexibility afforded by HTML can make it problematic for a lot of people's printers.

So if we're talking about selling an RPG as a file, I'd recommend PDF. Things have changed a lot since 1996, when I was distributing Sorcerer as a shareware ASCII file. People get Acrobat Reader with their computers, and it's entered the publishing biz as an acceptable format for submissions.

Best,
Ron
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JSDiamond
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Posts: 276


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« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2001, 02:50:00 PM »

MSWord

I *know* that HTML is better in a lot of ways, but with MSWord I know that it's going to print out *exactly* as I formatted it for everyone (provided, as you mentioned, they have a '97 to current version of MSWord to begin with).  But the odds are most do and at any rate, I mention this up front.

-Jeff

 
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JSDiamond
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2001, 05:24:00 PM »

I thought of other issues that played a big role in my decisions.

1) HTML design of an RPG requires a lot of files - a person is basically getting a folder with a lot of interacting files within it. This isn't a big deal to some, but to others, I think, they want a "thing" rather than a collection of interacting things.

2) I've had VERY bad experiences with MS Word and e-mailing, when images are involved. After a few cases of Bloat - in one case a file leaped up to 8 mgs and crashed the recipient's drive - I've stayed far away from it. I presume zipping it is a good defense, but experiences like that left me disinclined to find out for sure.

3) No one's brought it up, because it's pretty much unnecessary, but I also wanted to point out that a lot of people don't know anything about ASCII files any more. A whole bunch of times, back when Sorc was shareware, I had to explain to some indignant customer that No, you could not just click on such a file out of your attachment in the e-mail program. You had to save it to your drive, open your word-processing program, and fetch it that way. Times have changed and I don't think anyone is considering such a format to be viable, but I thought it ought to be said.

Best,
Ron

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-04-21 21:25 ]
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ephealy
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« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2001, 08:11:00 PM »


After watching the indie rpg sceen over the last six years, I've seen a lot of things.  However, there are some very consistent ones which I've noted:


  1. People always have questions about your game.  Not putting an email address on your site is one of the biggest mistakes I have seen.  Suprisingly, it is still very common to see this.  Even more common, is a website where the email address is so hard to find that you wonder if the author really wants to talk about their work.

  2. If your game is free, one of the best ways to get a nominally curious person to investigate it is to put an HTML version on your site.  This allows you to break it up into 'digestible' peices, and allows people to answer their questions easily.  The best example of this is the http://www.mimgames.com/cof/">Children of Fire and http://www.mimgames.com/window/">Window RPGs.  You can get a good feel for the games right away, as well as delve into the areas that interest you most without much difficulty.  Simple putting a one page HTML doc will frustrate and overwhelm people, so I suggest breaking it up.

  3. As much as HTML is good for getting people into the game on your site, it is loasy for downloads.  Once someone is 'sold' on the fact that the game would be worth reading to play, they will want something they can download and print out.  HTML just doesn't cut it.

  4. TXT versions of a game are great for the person who just wants to publish a system or a mechanic, or even an unfinished setting.  However, as we all know, they are very restrictive for formatting.  Still, they do have a place.  I'd suggest using them if you have smaller manuscripts or for testing pieces of a larger game / setting you are building.

  5. Once you have your game in finished form, PDF is the best way to go.  Most people don't use the full potential of a PDF file, and just treat it as a glorified text document.  PDFs can act as local versions of your HTMLized game if done properly - with internal links, hotlinked indexes, etc...  If you have the time and inclination, practice with the Adobe software so you can use these features, they are worth it.  Using PDF allows someone to have the best of both worlds - a printable file as well as an internally referenced (HTML like) file to view online.

  6. MS WORD is not a good idea.  Formatting may be good, but you can't count on graphics going through properly.  I've also found that these files are larger than a properly executed PDF file - something that doesn't matter much to those of us with DSL or cable modems, but it's a real concern to those without them.

  7. Forums are great for getting grassroots support for your game.  Obviously, The Forge can help you there, but only set up a forum if you plan to participate on it.  There if nothing worse than setting up a forum, having someone post to it, and then not get a response from the author.




I got a bit off topic, so I'll stop.  Basically, my point is that there is no 'one' solution.  IMnsHO, the best course is to use a combination of HTML, PDF and other formats to promote your game.


The last distinction is whether you are publishing for fun or for money.  If it is for money, then you'll have a lot more unanswered questions.  There are few people publishing online for money - Adept Press (Ron's company) is one, as well as MicroTactix and (to some extent) Hero Games.  The numbers are growing, though.  Even WotC is selling their old TSR products online...

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EP Healy
Creator of Hephaestus' Forge

[ This Message was edited by: ephealy on 2001-04-22 00:12 ]

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Hephaestus
Clay
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« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2001, 09:04:00 AM »

Adobe is far and away my favorite format.  Ed's dead right when he says lots of people don't use it properly.  Properly executed
it's the easiest format of all to navigate.  

The cost of Acrobat doesn't need to be a hinderance to using PDF.  I work on UNIX almost exclusively at home, so I don't have many options for desktop publishing, and no affordable options.  I get by with LaTeX, a free document formatting system.  There's a wonderful utility for it called dvipdfm that converts the output of LaTeX to a PDF file, complete with all of the PDF bells and whistles.  Best of all, the whole lot is free.

If you want to see what it is capable of, take a look at the first edition of Dominion Rules (http://www.dominiongames.com) or at the in-process version of my own game at http://www.story-game.com

Clay
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
Jared A. Sorensen
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Darksided


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« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2001, 11:20:00 AM »

There's also a shareware program called Easy PDF.  It looks pretty cool...

http://www.zdnet.com.au/downloads/reviews/story/0,2000015992,20171703,00.htm
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Dav
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« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2001, 11:40:00 AM »

I would have to go with .RTF or .PDF formats.  .RTF solves some (but not all) of the compatiblity issue, and gives some latitude in terms of layout.

.PDF is the real hardcore, but I know few people that are willing to use it to the fullest extent.  Besides, when I see mainly a text document in .pdf form, I wonder what the hell the person was thinking.  

I would go with HTML, but the problem with this, as mentioned previously, is the fact that it tends to be not just one file, but a whole truckload of stuff that somehow (and to my mind, magically) work together to state the opening paragraph.

I think .RTF is the big winner for me.



Dav Harnish
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seasong
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« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2001, 05:47:00 AM »

I am a new poster, I will try not to drip too much :smile:

Speaking as a consumer and downloader of such things, rather than a publisher, my ideal situation is an HTML page I can look over, and a PDF file I can download and print (or use as the local hard drive copy). This assumes a free game, of course...

For pay-for games, I prefer either a PDF which prints nicely into a bindable format, or an actual hardcopy book.

On PDF format itself... I mostly like it because it prints well, is a single file, and because I can navigate it rapidly with arrow keys. Hyperlinks are okay, but only if they are accompanied by page numbers for the printed version. A sidebar navigation pane is a pain in the butt - I DON'T have a huge monitor, and using it makes the main text unreadably small. I prefer a simple Table of Contents on the front few pages (if you want to be snazzy, just make them hyperlinks).

Some other notes:

1. If I see a Word document, I skip it. Yes, I have MS Word on my machine. Yes, I can read it. And yes, MS Word is a security vulnerability into which foreign files are not to go. Plus, Word files are larger than they should be, misbehave on images, and occasionally screw up formats on different computers for no reason discernable to me.

2. RTF is okay, but if you are going to do RTF, you might as well do HTML. They print out about equivalently well, and HTML is more flexible in terms of format and appearance.

3. TXT is readable, but more than 5 pages of it is very difficult to read. Keep it for very small files :smile:
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a little fish in a big pond (thomas weigel)
Clay
Member

Posts: 550


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« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2001, 10:35:00 AM »

I have to admit that I agree with Dav on the point that few publishers are willing to go whole-hog with a PDF.  I was shocked when I first started seeing this, because I'd been using LaTeX to generate my PDF files, and LaTeX makes taking advantage of PDF painless.  Free hyperlinking and cross-referencing, free bookmarks, free table of contents, and a lot of other goodies.

Of course, what isn't free is the learning how to use LaTeX.  The font selection is small unless you're willing to break your brains learning how to install fonts (the basic 14, plus the native LaTeX fonts).
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
Adam
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Posts: 165


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« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2001, 10:08:00 AM »

Quote
I *know* that HTML is better in a lot of ways, but with MSWord I know that it's going to print out *exactly* as I formatted it for everyone (provided, as you mentioned, they have a '97 to current version of MSWord to begin with). But the odds are most do and at any rate, I mention this up front.
This isn't totally true - depending on which printer drivers you have installed, a Word file can change in formatting from one computer to another. It's usually nothing major, but it can be annoying.

[ This Message was edited by: Adam on 2001-06-30 14:09 ]
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Misguided Games
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« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2001, 03:20:00 PM »

.PDF is the real hardcore, but I know few people that are willing to use it to the fullest extent. Besides, when I see mainly a text document in .pdf form, I wonder what the hell the person was thinking.

---------------------------------
Dav, I think one good reason to use .pdf with a text file is if you are using unusual fonts which you can't distribute.  I expect we will make supplementary materials for Children of the Sun available on our website in this format for that very reason.
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Dav
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Posts: 432


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« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2001, 10:11:00 AM »

Lewis

Ahh, good point.  I tip my hat...

Dav
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