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Author Topic: Are We Going Anywhere?  (Read 9951 times)
Nathan
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« on: June 07, 2002, 08:11:37 PM »

Here are some recent thoughts on the spate of island of misfits threads.

My question: Are we going anywhere?

In other words, is our process here on the Forge leading to anything? What exactly are we seeking? Are we making progress?

Paul, I think may have been trying to raise this question earlier. His analogy to us sort of being a strange bunch of misfits, who are misshapen and strange compared to the rest of folk, somewhat supports this. When I first came over to the forge, I thought the whole idea was that folks were on to a "different idea" or a different way of thinking about games. I thought the whole point of this site was so that games won't be disappointing in the ways they used to be -- instead, they would be more appealing and more exciting.

I thought we were supposed to breaking ground. Unfortunately though, it seems like we go in circles, and most of our work is only self-gratifying. Certainly, there are people who seem affected and grateful for some of the discussions, ideas, and thoughts provoked here -- but my impression is that through this forum, our games and the entire gaming industry should get better.

My impression was that we were seeking better ways to do this. Ideally, one of our folks here would finally put out that game that made us stop and say "Whoa... That is what I've always wanted to do -- this is what I have always wanted but could never articulate." I thought our goals were to push away a lot of the old baggage and find out what is most important about our gaming experience.

Now, all of this does imply that the current way is "inferior", and some better way exists. My opinions have changed, along with many others of the Forge, in regards to this same sort of concept. Still, I feel like if our process here at the Forge doesn't lead to something, everything is going to fade and die.

I am saying that -- shouldn't we be going somewhere? Shouldn't we be pushing to have things changed for the better? Shouldn't our work here have meaning to the rest of the gamers in our screwed up little hobby? Shouldn't some of this improve and change the way gamers game?

If not, then it is going to be a vicious, boring cycle. Every year, gamers will pop up, describe their "way cool" fantasy game and expect amazement. A ton of folks are going to pop on, talk like they are amazing game designers, and then fade away when some other interest suits them. Meanwhile, the industry will continue on, unaffected by our wannabe dreams and ravings.

GNS is a segment of that. Unfortunately, it has become mired in confusion and spite. To me, it has only become a wasted tool. The more time I spend on it, the less I understand anything. Surely, there are some methods and techniques that we all share during our design process? Surely, at the very least, there are some very basic concepts we can put together to help people design great games.

Okay, I do not need to go on any further. I think you all get my point. I know some of you don't give a damn about the hobby -- but yet you do or you wouldn't even be here, reading this post. :)

Let me hear your thoughts.

Thanks,
Nathan
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Ace
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Posts: 204


« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2002, 08:46:30 PM »

Quote from: Nathan
Here are some recent thoughts on the spate of island of misfits threads.

My question: Are we going anywhere?

In other words, is our process here on the Forge leading to anything? What exactly are we seeking? Are we making progress?

SNIP

Okay, I do not need to go on any further. I think you all get my point. I know some of you don't give a damn about the hobby -- but yet you do or you wouldn't even be here, reading this post. :)

Let me hear your thoughts.

Thanks,
Nathan


Well what can I tell you, I really enjoy The Forge. The people here are really interesting, the discussions  focused and edutaining but....

And there always is a but, they really don't do me a whit of good in the foreseeable future.

 I have no game group, little interest in design and only a bit of interest in actually playing any RPG's.

So why am I here?

Well If I can answer with a platitude, the journey is the reward. I think the few sparse hours I spend here are well worth my time. They have helped me reprioritize my gaming and I do enjoy the reading the various games and design theory threads, facinating stuff

Frankly I hope I can occasionally contribute as well and not just be a waste of  server space
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J B Bell
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« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2002, 08:56:10 PM »

Uh, what?

Come on.  I'll even defend Paul and say that Ron overshot the mark when he characterized the navel-gazing on the various misfit threads as "neurotic," but this is seriously pushing it.  The big secret is there is no secret.  The breakthrough is realizing that there is no final breakthrough.  Pardon me for getting all Buddhist here, but there's a book out, the title alone of which has much wisdom:  After Enlightenment, the Laundry.

In my own personal philosophy, this is something I often say as "there's always more dishes."  There is no final, perfect game, and waiting for it, or wondering why we aren't accelerating towards it, is silly.  Cripes, man.  I mean, really.  I discovered Sorcerer, it blew my mind, I worshipped the ground Ron walked on.  I've come to realize I have differences with Ron philosophically, and even that Sorcerer isn't the perfect game for me, that indeed, it could use improvement in some ways generally.  But that doesn't make the whole thing a sham, nor even require me to question stuff on such a basic level to feel that "everything is going to fade and die" unless we acquire some mystical direction.

If the Forge has done nothing else for me, Mike and I have a bouncing new baby game that, by God, I am proud of, even if it never sees paper print (and that part of the hobby I really don't give a damn about, not really).  Even if it never becomes "perfect", whatever that means, even if it isn't really all that terribly ground-breaking.  Honestly I think it's just a rather clever summation of several new ideas in RPGs, and that's all Mike wants out of it too, and great!  It's great.  It kicks ass, in fact.

I feel frustrated about the Forge in some ways too.  I want to know why it isn't the big force for social revolution that I want.  But it's not here to be exactly what I want.  It just is what it is--a grand little community of designers, players, and thinkers who, by any reasonable standard, are really quite successful.  The revolution is here, it's happening, it isn't as loud as we expected.  The next revolution is coming and it may not come from the Forge--may not be able to come from the Forge--and that's fine.

The Forge fosters innovative game design, provides a place to discuss theory grounded in actual play, and gives those who want to publish their own stuff a major leg up.  What the hell are we gonna call that, failure?  Isn't that what you mean by making games, and the industry, better?

Pardon my incredulity.  I think when one's wonderings about the Forge lead one to feel that it's staying still because it's not going fast enough, maybe one ought to step out and get some fresh air and focus on some small project for a bit.  Set realistic goals for what you want, and in particular what you want from the Forge.  If the Forge is a failure because it doesn't produce a game that kicks D20's ass (my hunch is that tRoS is gonna do just that, but I guess we can't claim it as one of "ours"--dang!), or a game that gets the kind of shelf space Monopoly does, well then, I guess it's a failure.  But I wouldn't expect it to succeed on that level.  Not this generation, anyway.

To paraphrase, "the play's the thing."  That's what we are here for and that is working.  And if there's stuff the Forge can do (and the designer-swap suggestion seems to be getting steam), then great.  But let's be clear about what "success" means before we get into "vicious cycles" and dying and all that kind of hyperbole.

Pardon me if this comes off nasty--I don't mean it to be.  I mean it in the spirit of trying to shake someone out of a highly unproductive train of thought and encouraging you to get specific and not be so dramatic.

--JB

(And where the hell would we be when that perfect game came out?  Sheesh, that'd be the end of the universe or something.)
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Nathan
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« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2002, 09:20:04 PM »

Thanks Ace and JB for their responses.

I am probably a bit melodramatic. Hehe. Oh well. :)

I'll be a little more specific in targeting some examples of what I see:

I used to post in indie game design and provide feedback and ideas, when I could, about a game. I still try to if I see something that I absolutely love or think is like sliced peanut butter. Unfortunately, the passion goes away -- someone comes on with a rough idea in mind, and we go through the cycle. Then someone else comes in with a rough idea, and the cycle repeats and so on and so forth. Why aren't we finally picking up that if you have a rough idea and want to develop -- answer these four questions and then get back to us.

Instead, we each chime in and give them all the same responses and pat each other on the back about being a great discussion forum.

I don't feel like the Forge is going anywhere, because we simply rehash, rehash, rehash, and rehash. Let's move to the next level. Let's take what we have learned, put it together, and then start from that step.

I suck at debates. I never know if I am as eloquent as I hope to be.

Thanks for your patience,
Nathan Hill
nathan@mysticages.com
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2002, 12:17:09 AM »

JB -

Here I hope I've met whatever goal I needed to meet in order to earn a "me too" post.  Because . . .

"Me Too."  Though, not having yet *played* Sorcerer, I'm on shakier ground with a "not perfect" comment.  However, since I've seen Ron type words to roughly that same effect, I'm not too nervous.

Nathan -

I think you (and probably me, and a number of other folks) are where Ron was quite a while back - frustrated that we're still stuck on (say) GNS and not taking it to "the next level".

I'm going to repeat what I've seen from Ron and Clinton consistently, and especially lately - that next level is more actual play.  GNS/Sorcerer ain't perfect?  Horrors, what shall we do?  Well, we think it through as best we can, and when we get stuck, we stop thinking and get out there and play.

Actual play is the only way to get unstuck.

BTW, I suck at actual play of indie games.  I'm working at fixing that, but just so you know, I'm preaching to myself here as much as I'm preaching to others.  And I'm sure I overstate when I say "only" way to get unstuck -I bet folks can come up with other clever ideas in this area.

But until then, I'm going to concentrate on this play thing.  I hear it's supposed to be fun . . . :-)

Gordon
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2002, 09:06:32 AM »

Nathan,

I am having a hard time pulling a constructive 1% out of your post. Gordon seems to have achieved that, and so, if you are interested in my positive reaction, read his post again.

For the rest ...

Bluntly, I don't think I've ever read as blatant an example of projection of one person's problems and insecurities onto a group.

The Forge doesn't have to go "anywhere." It doesn't have to "achieve" anything beyond maintaining its considerable success at its current goals. I don't even have any idea of what you mean by "going somewhere," and I suspect you don't either.

What, pray tell, would a non-wheel-spinning Forge look like?

1) Creator-owned games finding a place for customers to chit-chat with the designers, like a comics letters page. Oh, look! That's exactly what Little Fears, The Riddle of Steel, Sorcerer, Cartoon Action Hour, etc, are doing. Ditto for further development of products, ditto for finding people who are willing to offer their services.

2) Games being written and played. Oh, look! That's exactly what is happening, in the dozens. Does every game get played? No. Does every game turn out to be brilliant? No. Big deal.

3) Games being developed for publication. Oh, look! That's what's happening too, much in the minority, as to be expected. What the hell is your Eldritch Ass-Kicking except for this very phenomenon? Is there one Nathan who develops and publishes EAK, and another who doesn't?

Wheel-spinning, my hairy ass. Everything you describe about goals of the Forge - breaking new ground, doing new stuff, making inspiring games, aiding creator-owned games - is happening full-bore. I perceive absolutely none of your "misfit games" identification - in my view, most games on the store shelf are the hunchbacked thalidomide babies, whereas Otherkind or Dust Devils are functional and fantastic. I perceive absolutely none of your "self-gratification" phenomenon, aside from the necessary and enjoyable process of dialogue and feedback among fellow creators.

There are many RPG-invention sites out there - I claim the Forge as one of the finest and most successful.

Your comments about GNS being mired in confusion and spite are unfounded. Yes, there are confused and spiteful people out there; that's reality. Yes, you personally are having trouble internalizing the contents of the essay - and whether you say, "screw it," or ask constructive questions, is your business.

The net result is positive - and the recent comments about not being addict-customers, and enjoying play more consistently, have been stacking up constantly since my first GNS essay on GO. I read Anthony's comments as success as well - if he doesn't like the activity, and if GNS/etc helps him to see that, all to the better.

Paul's threads recently seem to have brought a lot of issues up-front, which is good. However, a secondary undercurrent seems to have latched onto his points and to engender a behavior that I won't tolerate here.

I am a long-time observer of the widespread behavior, among role-players/hobbyists, of embracing failure. It is widespread, it's pernicious, it's addictive, and it's contagious. Aside from the 1% that Gordon was able to eke out from your post, I consider your input to be an excellent example of this problem - and I am wholly unsympathetic.

Best,
Ron
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Nathan
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2002, 10:08:12 AM »

Ron and Gordon, thanks for your responses.

Gordon, actual play is where it is at. I agree. I've got one of the best D&D campaigns I've ever had going right now, and tonight, we are going to play Eldritch Ass Kicking... Yeehaw!

Ron, my personal fears or whatever have nothing to do with the post.

Where are we going is such a valid question for anything. Right now, I am the Minister's Assistant at my church. When someone says, "let's start a new program", we say - "does this fit into where we are going?" Every so often we stop and say - "Do we remember where we are going?"

If the Forge is just a community and sharing our related experiences is the only goal here, then the Forge is doing a heck of a job. EAK is an example of this. Without the publishing advice, general insightful opinions, and support you folks have given, it would not be possible. But if that is the only goal, I suppose I am starting to want to look for something different -- even if I can't articulate what that is.

My ideas are mostly quasi-mystical bullshit, so I hope you guys know to take me with a grain of salt half the time. I don't mind you getting on my case, because, I need it most of the time. This all may be me just remembering too much into the days when Jared and everyone traded comments about the "indie rpg scene" or the "punk rpg whatever". I may think of the Forge less of a community and more as a "movement", whatever that means. Or -- maybe I have even been looking at the Forge as a "service"?

Of course, this would explain why I keep asking, "where are we going" or "what's next". I honestly believe there should be something next or better.

And looking back at my post, I probably was "embracing failure", and I apologize for that. I hadn't ever thought of it that way. Rather than hold up our shining examples (of which I had blabbered about before), I've been holding up our perceived failures.

With that said, Ron: where do you see the Forge in five years? Gordon: where do you see your game design in five years? Forge: Are we still going to be debating the mechanics to Palefire's fantasy game in five years? Hehe.

Thanks for your patience guys. I apologize for being misleading/confusing/etc.

Thanks,
Nathan
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Bankuei
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« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2002, 10:35:56 AM »

Quote
Of course, this would explain why I keep asking, "where are we going" or "what's next". I honestly believe there should be something next or better.

And looking back at my post, I probably was "embracing failure", and I apologize for that. I hadn't ever thought of it that way. Rather than hold up our shining examples (of which I had blabbered about before), I've been holding up our perceived failures.


I think we need to step back and look at what we're using as a model of progress, success and failure.  If you have a group that is led, or directed, then you can institute goals, and make that the success/failure measure, as in companies, as in volunteer groups, etc.  

The Forge has moderators, but not necessarily leaders or directors of it.  That is, Ron has stepped back, he hasn't abused his "power or influence" that is perceived, he isn't doing the Cult of Ron BS that everyone accuses him of.  The Forge is for all of us, by all of us, the Forge is effectively anarchism at its best.

What is the goal of the Forge?  To foster independent gaming and design.  Are some of the people playing independent games, if not all of us? Yes.  Does the Forge foster more independent gaming than, say, the boards at WOTC?  Which is friendlier to that specific goal?  Likewise with design, apply the same questions.  Is there some specific numbers that we have to hit? A bottom line?  No, we aren't a corporation, we aren't an organization, we're a collective of people who are here because we want to be.

I say that the question is a projection of:"Where will I be in regards to gaming and design?, Where am I going?"  No one here can answer that question for you.  Do you want to publish, are you happy just playing games, are you afraid all you'll do is simply discuss games the rest of your life?  These are decisions for you to make.  If you find these questions coming up, these are personal decisions, not a community decision, although I think you'll find a lot of support here no matter what decisions you make.

Chris
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Nathan
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« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2002, 10:40:14 AM »

Thanks, Chris. You are probably are more right than I may realize at first glance. :)

Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

Thanks,
Nathan
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Blake Hutchins
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« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2002, 11:45:36 AM »

Let me just say, Nathan, that your response to Ron was one of the most mature and gracious answers I've seen, even on this site (which has the lowest defensiveness/flame quotient of any site I know).  It's great to see someone able to take blunt criticism like an adult.  Bravo.

Best,

Blake
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2002, 12:07:55 PM »

Hey,

As far as achieving more than the primary goal of the Tokyo Rose performance and discussion house ...

When, in the past, has a horde of grass-roots designers been able to storm GenCon with actual play? Never.

When, in the past, have games that could only have been defined as competitors (Little Fears, Riddle of Steel, Sorcerer) been a solid and allied bloc in the industry? Never.

When, in the past, have games that were not mediated through third-party publisher-approval, and that were not written by already-recognized authors, been able to hit the stores with an already-established customer base? Never.

The Forge is not single-handedly responsible for all of these things, but it does remain the beacon and rallying point for them. I'm "in the industry" now, and I have access to the mailing lists and forums that you guys don't see. Heads are turning. People are shocked. Big companies are nervous.

You guys should recognize that the "social revolution" J B speaks of is happening, and that you are doing it. You don't see it because ... well, I don't know why not. Maybe you expect a parade in the street in your honor, or a sudden transformation of your local retail store, or something. Step back, take the months-to-years perspective on this process, looking back and looking forward, and you'll see it.

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2002, 01:13:34 PM »

You know, by asking "Where are we going?  What is the goal?" I don't think Nathan is so much talking about creating "the perfect game" or "storming the industry" so much as churning out a useable toolset for game designers.

We have GNS et al.  Great start.  I think what Nathan is asking for, and he can correct me if I'm off-base, is taking everything we're learning as we design and discuss and turning it into something more, instead of repeating the dance each time a new system or discussion appears.

Such a desire can easily be likened to the original discussions of GNS.  Obviously we did not want to repeat everything already discussed -- do the same dance -- each time the topic came up, hence the document was discussed and altered by the results of that discussion, even if the "alteration" was a clarification or expansion of the existing material.
The goal was a clear, useful explanation of GNS and its application to the actual play of groups.

Its a tool.  I think Nathan is asking, "Ok, where are the other tools, now?  The ones we should have from all this great discussion and designing we keep having?"
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Nathan
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« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2002, 01:28:10 PM »

Greyorm,

You are my hero!

I think you have summed it up, much more eloquently than I. I should have used the word "tool". GNS is a great start, but what about a document which walks a budding game designer through a series of design questions about their project? Or a document which walks them through publishing options? Or whatever?

Sort of like:

So, you want to design a game? You should have been bitten already by the imagination bug, with a great idea or inspiration for your game. What next? While there are no completely common ways for you to start, you can help the Forge understand where you are coming from by answering these four questions about your project:

1) What is the premise of your game? (explain premise)

2) How do characters interact with the setting? etc. etc.


It seems to me that we all have been doing this enough where we can collectively hash together a set of questions that helped us focus on our design. It would be a tool -- but I am sure there are many others we could come up with too.

Wow! Tools! Yes... I don't believe in a perfect game... Sorry if I made this extremely confusing..

Thanks,
Nathan
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Fabrice G.
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« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2002, 01:48:07 PM »

Nathan, Greyorm,

as a wanna be game designer I just have to say : that's a great idea !

If the most prolific creators dare to share some of their technics, it could be very helpfull. Not to merely copy it, but as some base to think upon.

Again, obvious when I think of it now, but a great idea none the less.

Thanks,

Fabrice.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2002, 03:06:18 PM »

Hello,

I posted a series of steps of exactly what you're asking for. It was quite a while ago and I haven't managed to find it after a while of hunting. Have patience, and I'll find it eventually.

(Oh, I can't wait for the reactions, though. "Ron says you should do it like *this.* Who does he think he is, trying to dictate how people should design their games? That fascist." I'll send'em to you, OK?)

Best,
Ron
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