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[Fastlane] A Call To Arms

Started by Lxndr, August 23, 2006, 08:35:54 PM

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Fastlane is an excellent game.  I have no doubt in my mind about that.  In a recent thread, Ralph agreed, saying "This is a game that needs to be promoted more, and [we] need to pay more attention to it."  And he's not the only one who's said good things about it. Yet, it sold zero copies this year at GenCon.  Let me repeat that: zero.  IPR might not even have brought my books to the convention, and that sucks.

After writing Fastlane I switched jobs, got into a motorcycle accident, got fired, went back to school, and drowned in academia.  Not to mention a car crashed through the front of my house.  While these are not really good excuses, they all contributed to me both dropping the ball, and then not getting around to picking it back up.  This is me saying I'm picking that ball up.  This is me also saying that I can't do it alone.

Tony's Capes demo has inspired me, and by next year at GenCon (or maybe even Dreamation if I can make it there, if they do the 'free crash space' thing for indie designers they did last year) I will have a little demo box with chips, and cards with pre-arranged bids, whether or not I'm there to do it myself.  It will hopefully be made so that anyone can grab it, hand out the appropriate cards, and run the quick demo.  Anyone at all.  I'm also working on a second, revised version of Fastlane - I've already let that cat out of the bag, and there's no way to put it back in. I'm getting a new cover, adding a lot of clarifying text.  But there's almost forty copies of the first printing still around, and IPR sells about ten a quarter, though as IPR grows, probably so will my game's sales.  Still, that means what, a year before Fastlane is sold out, and the new print run ordered?  I know we can make that happen faster, so that next year, the new Fastlane cover will be on IPR's shelves, with me hopefully backing it with demos and scheduled events.

As the recent GenCon threads seem to have illustrated, games often live or die by generated buzz, preferably honest, knowledgeable buzz.  The best buzz that can serve Fastlane right now, the buzz it needs, is Actual Play.  My plan to create a demo, and to schedule Fastlane events, is a direct result of that realization. Maybe even more than most games, people need to be shown that awesome things happen as a result of playing this game.  Potential customers need to see that the wheel is not a hindrance, but an enabler - and they need to see that there's no reason to avoid the game without the wheel, because of the awesome system using six-siders that I'm so proud of creating.  Yes, the wheel is better, but it is not so much better that people should avoid this game.

If you own this game, and have played it - please, post your Actual Play (or provide me with links if it's been posted somewhere I can't find, like on the blogosphere) or otherwise talk it up.  If you own it and are thinking of a new game to play, try Fastlane and let me know how it goes.  Don't let the lack of a wheel stop you!

Also:  Marketing is not my strong point.  For those of you who love the game as much as I do, please, help me formulate a good elevator pitch that might snag someone who's not interested in the minutiae of the mechanics, that won't scare away people the moment they hear 'roulette wheel'.  Something that will impress Robin Laws when he shows up at the booth next year. 

And if you have other, additional ways I can help get word of Fastlane's awesomeness to the people, please share it.  Thank you!
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

C. Edwards

I'd suggest pushing a lifestyle, not mechanics and rules stuff. Like the roulette wheel. Don't even talk about it until it has to be mentioned. Let it sit there on the demo table, just being a presence, with the players looking at it and asking themselves "wtf?"

In your initial pitch, just get people's attention. "Piss your life away! Snort coke off of a whore's ass!" is attention getting and indicative of how the character's in the game live. It's probably not something that you should yell out at a family oriented gaming convention, but the character-lifestyle based attention grabber is the essence of the idea.

- Chris


Chris, definitely pushing the lifestyle seems to be the way to go.  Perhaps, as mentioned on the story-games mirror to this thread, I shouldn't even have the wheel on the demo table at all - instead just the bidding board, some chips, and some dice.  Among other things, this makes it easier for people that are not me to demo the game if I'm not there.

On that same thread, Andy Kitkowski recommended that the wheel itself should be removed from the game - a sentiment echoed in various forms by posters following him.  I think I agree with his direction (it's obvious I need to play down the wheel, and play up the style and the non-wheel alternative) but the distance he's suggesting seems too extreme.  Here's my answer to his statement:

QuoteFastlane has always had support for not using the wheel.  The dice system available in the book is the absolute minimum wonkery possible, and honestly follows the roulette odds for every option precisely down to, like, the tenth of a percentage point.  I've already been pondering increasing the visibility of the dicing version of the game, up to and including using the dice in the demos rather than the mini-wheel I used in 2004.  But the dice system is already as good as it's going to get; imho, as good as it can get. That you found them muddled, Andy, means I definitely should make them clearer, something I've already been doing with that part of the book. 

In short, I agree that it is "nearly impossible" to sell a game that requires a roulette wheel, which is why I'm looking to de-emphasize the wheel and show potential customers that, while the roulette wheel is very nice, it is not required by any stretch of the imagination (and honestly, never has been).  Obviously I need to play that up more, because while having a wheel gives the best atmosphere, it's unrealistic to expect the average person to want to get one; there needs to be much more promotion on the aspect of the system that's alwas been there - the dice.

Anyway, to share my awesome dice system, here's the short form:

  • Player:  Roll two six-sided dice, of different colors. The lighter of the two dice dictates what column to use, the darker dictates what row to use, giving a number between one and thirty-six.
  • Croupier:  Rolls two six-sided dice.  If he rolls snake eyes, the result is a zero instead of the number the player rolled.  For an American wheel, if he rolls snake eyes or boxcars, with boxcars being double-zero.
This gives odds that are different on the tenth of a percentage point in the worst case scenario (0.3% more likely to get a zero using the American wheel version) and a thousandth of a percentage point in the best case scenarios (0.002% less likely to get a particular non-zero number on the European version).  The only thing it lacks is the natural 'timer' that the roulette wheel gives from ball bouncing start to finish.

The system gets slightly more complex in the Fastlane rules because Fastlane uses a handicap system to give each player a different number, both with the wheel and with the dice.  No more than one person can get a zero at the same time, but the chances for any one person to get the same zero remains the same.

On the wheel, the handicap means you move along the wheel for each person from where the ball stopped.  With the dice version, each player is given a different number to look for (so, say, double 1s are zeroes for one player, double 2s for the 2nd player, etc) but the odds of each player getting a zero remains the same.  So, the only difference is that each player is watching for his own personal numbers on the Croupiers dice, instead of everyone looking for the same ones.

Now, maybe I'm too close to the system, but as far as I can tell, on a pure numbers level, the dice system isn't "off" at all.  I'm toning down the part that says "but you should get a wheel" though.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Lance D. Allen

Here's one voice crying out against Kitkowski and his thugs (obviously loaned to him by the Crystal Caste mafia I warned you about the other night...).. NO!

Do not even think about removing the roulette wheel. Push the dice system. Don't emphasize the roulette wheel. But don't remove it, and don't de-emphasize it.

In your demo, how many conflicts show up? hopefully at least three.. Here's an idea. Use the dice for the first few. Then, if the demoer has a wheel available, pull it out for the final conflict. As it's the final conflict, the pressure to bid well and bid quickly is on, and the waiting tension for the wheel is there, too. It'll show that the system works with dice, allows them to get used to the bidding rules over the course of the first conflicts without the pressure of bidding while the wheel is spinning.. And then it'll give 'em a taste of the difference the wheel brings, and let them decide which they like.

As for pitches.. I'm going to reiterate what.. Thomas? Nate? What someone said last night; First you have to get their attention. Then get them to listen for 10 seconds. Then a couple minutes. Then sit down for a demo. Think of your pitch in phases like that. The hook, the pitch, the summary and the demo.

The hook, to steal Chris' phrase below: "Piss your life away! Snort crack off a whore's ass!" Or whatever shocking, attention grabbing phrase seems appropriate. Get a few, switch 'em up. The idea is to get someone to look at you, focus on you for a moment.

The pitch: Push the lifestyle. Paraphrase the song lyrics. "Live Life in the Fastlane, Surely make you lose your mind. Everything, all the time." Mention source material. Use a phrase like the one I did last night: "Play pretty ugly people who push the very edges not only because they can, but because they have to." A maybe the cliche you used to use occasionally.. "It's the game of living fast, dying young, and leaving a good looking corpse." The whole point here is just to get them to keep listening, get interested enough to not move on to the next booth, the next flashing light.

The summary: This part is where you're probably more comfortable. Talk about the rules, the things that make your game cool. Don't mention the roulette wheel, but feel free to mention that it uses bidding mechanics inspired by roulette. By this time, you should have already handed them the book to look over, Flip through a few pages. Take a couple minutes, watch their expressions. If they seem genuinely intrigued, stop talking and get them moving toward the demo table.

The demo: See above. Start with dice. A couple conflicts with the dice, fast and loose, to get them used to the rules. Then tell them about the 'variant' that uses an actual roulette wheel, which you just happen to have on hand. Tell them some of your friends won't play without one. Do this while pulling it out of a shoulder bag or something, setting it on the table. Spin it idly, and ask them if they'd like to give it a try?
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls



Don't worry, the roulette wheel is definitely not being removed!  I'm definitely going to be bringing more attention to the Six Sided Roulette system (it has a name now), both in the text and in the demos I'll be running.

That said, the emphasis on the wheel is being toned down - the new cover will not have a wheel in a big stamp on the face, and Fastlane demos will be run using the Six Sided Roulette rather than the wheel.  The wheel will most likely be saved for actual convention events.

Sticking to the ideal of the "ten-minute demo", I don't know if I'll have time for more than one conflict - so the idea of pulling out a wheel at the end, while interesting, might not be tenable.  We'll find out more once I start trying out my demo with three people and a stopwatch.

As for pitches, I'm just going to need to train myself to not say "uses a roulette wheel" as one of the first things out of my mouth. Fastlane almost sells itself apart from that one line.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming