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Shift in Indie Game Design?

Started by Christoffer Lernö, April 14, 2003, 02:56:42 AM

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Sorry to come late to the party, but its definitely an issue that I wanted to express better than, "I'm not really interested in what's going on with Indie Design anymore...".  It's definitely an issue that I feel strongly about, since it once was a place I'd always check out, if not chime in.

The major change that I see is a lack of communication of Creative Agenda.  

The question that I think comes up the most in the forum is "But what do you do?" for any game, and I think not enough people really look deep enough into that.  Consider Otherkind, its short, its sweet, but basically its "Save the Fae".  The basic idea is quickly communicated, and you either dig it or you don't.

Right now, many of the ideas presented either give you a "Here's a cool setting!" or "Here's a cool mechanic!", neither of which really tells you what the game is supposed to be about.  Really it falls into the classic problem with a lot of game design, which is really just "Look, I've shuffled around the idea of stats and numbers, and the probabilities are different!  How innovative!"

I'm not trying to knock the folks who are trying to design, but ultimately trying to do a Heartbreaker is pretty much uninteresting to me.  Likewise, folks asking for help to do research("How realistic is realistic?")" seems also to be off track as well.  Reinventing the wheel doesn't even seem worth the time to work on, or comment on.  I've seen it on other sites, but there's only so many times I can deal with seeing someone go, "Here's a fantasy game, except(ooo, you're going to love this) everyone's half dragon!!!!"....

The only advice I can give to folks is twofold:
-Have a clear, specific goal in mind when designing, communicate it immediately
-Mike's Standard Rant: Know your'll save you the time of reinventing the wheel.  Most of the "innovative" stuff can be had for free or $10, its not that hard....



Couple responses to a couple folks:

1) Andy and MJ -- please, for the sake of all our sanity and goodwill relations everywhere, do not -- I repeat -- do NOT engage in "us vs. them" bashing here. Seriously.

I've been a member of RPGCreate since mid-to-late 2000. Nathan Banks was/is a member. Fang Langford was/is a member. Gareth (Contracycle) was/is a member. You should recognize these names, they are some of the top posters here on the Forge.

Honestly, a lot of RPGCreate's most active -- or I should say most productive -- members have moved on over to the Forge. A number haven't. There are a few designers who were regulars on there I personally know who are published, there's a few who have produced excellent material, including complete games (frex, "At Swordpoint" by Dave Harper -- which unfortunately will not be published until the author returns from Japan sometime in a year or two).

2) Andy, your comparison of group social climates is awesome and enlightening...but some of that dealt with the idea of "proof of commitment." More succintly than in my last post, if we're going to say "Indie Design will support committed authors" then we need to stick to that. That's why I brought up Orx: all that work, yet little support, or at least not as much as I would have expected if this pledge of support were in effect and being followed.

So, all I'm doing is cautioning: if we're going to say something, we'd best make sure our actions afterwards support it, and actually GIVE good support for commitment.

3) A couple of you mentioned that even one poster responding with quality commentary is one of the best things you can get -- yes, I agree completely. Please recognize I was only using that situation as an example of the point above (about commitment not necessarily leading to a high volume of feedback), nothing else. I so seriously owe Kirt a debt of gratitude for all his input and help with that project.

4) Rich, your criticisms of my points about the "clique" are well taken. I should, however, blushingly point out that I'm one of the old guard, so any perceived slams I might be doling out are equally applicable to me as well.

5) Mike...what Jonathan said. Don't just stick your fingers in your ears and hop around going "La-la-la-la-la" because you think Newbie Comelately doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground...whether he does or not is irrelevant, and it certainly isn't up to you to pass judgement for everyone or on those who obviously find productive merit in it for the community.

I wasted a good five seconds of my life reading your post, and another five minutes responding to it. Damn you, Mike Holmes! {humor!}
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Christoffer Lernö

Hmm.. I'm starting to get the impression that "the old guard" is as reluctant to post their games as anyone because they fear they will be ignored.

I would really like to see more of the old guard posting their ideas, especially since their postings will help give examples how a nice good presentation should look. Look at it this way: if only newcomers post on indie game design, how will newcomers know what standards they are supposed to hold?

Besides, it could be very educational in its own right.

On the subject of having very little response:

I would like to see people keep trying. No response? Well look at what you wrote, reformulate it and try to narrow down the focus a little. If it's a first post, make sure that the main point is solidly presented. Clarify things and... post again.

Others may disagree with me but I absolutely don't mind having a game presentation or mechanics question presented a second or a third time. Maybe the first post was too long or too unfocused or I don't have anything to contribute. That doesn't mean I'm hating it, nor that I didn't find it interesting. (The only thing that is a big no-no is to say "why don't you reply" "I really want you to answer" etc. Anything that tries to make me answer even though I can't should definately be edited away (aww, I've been so guilty of that in the past).)

I hope that everyone that has been scared away from inde game design can start posting there again. Try it. But be prepared to do solid postings. Don't just write something down and post it. Look through it a few times, make sure it really conveys what you want. Don't force others to wade through your posting looking for the point. (Oh, I'm so guilty of doing this too)

If people are immediately hooked by your idea, maybe they immediately understand it, you can get away with a longer or less clear posting. The more obscure the idea or the setting, the more careful one has to be because it will take a lot more time for people to get into it. It's not always easy to get that right the first time around, so that's why I'm saying that everyone should try a few times.

For example Greyorm, I'd like to see what's happening with Orx even through I only skimmed through it the first time. Go for it man, give us an update! And that goes for everyone else in the same situation. Do it -dare to get a posting with 0 replies!

And to give an example of how things can be quite different in response, I recently posted two threads on Indie Game Design. One saying I ran into a problem doing my effect system and asking about pointers on how to get it right or games that solved it. A second one stating I had this idea on how to do it but I wondered if it would lead to my stated goals. One received 0 replies and I don't expect it to suddenly gain any more, the other is gathering replies as we speak. Did people suddenly go from totally disinterested to the opposite? No. It's just that one question happened to be more accessible to the people who happened to look at it. Maybe some other time it would have been the opposite.

The people at the forge aren't robots who consistently reply using some fixed criterias. We're all human and what catches our attention or what sparks ideas will shift and change. I hope people can dare to post again - that goes for everyone who has been disappointed in feedback on indie game design.
formerly Pale Fire
[Yggdrasil (in progress) | The Evil (v1.2)]
Ranked #1005 in meaningful posts
Indie-Netgaming member

Jonathan Walton

If only newbies post to Indie Game Design, Indie Game Design will only have newbies :)

Sorry, just couldn't help myself...

Le Joueur

Quote from: Christoffer LernöI'm starting to get the impression that "the old guard" is as reluctant to post their games as anyone because they fear they will be ignored.
Just a quick note to point out a coupla things:
    First, posting a 'complete game' also has another (and I've seen this happen) result; "if it's so done, what advice do you want?"

    Some people are hesitant to offer their 'baby.'  A lot of people have the mistaken feeling, what with enthusiam and all, that their idea is so golden that everyone seeing it will steal it and replace sliced bread.  It's quite humbling to realize that, no matter how good an idea is around here, it'll never make you a fortune (so IP rights should only be a minor concern).

    Third, the 'unposted old-guard games' are pretty much subject to all this and one more thing,
they're done-done.  One thing experience teaches you is how to do something.  If a person can sit down and produce a complete game in the time it takes to post the same, which do you think will happen?  It's a myth that the 'olde guard' aren't sharing.

Fourth, I guess I'm considered one of the 'olde guard,' yet I've published no game to date.  My commitment is a low simmer because of outside issues, but the pan sits upon lava (it won't go cold anytime soon).  My strength is critical thinking, my weakness is communicating my ideas in words.  Where I feel that will help, I pitch in; I can't apply any critical thought to 'unfocused ideas' because the nature of the beast (this might explain other non-responses too).

Fifth, one of the biggest problems I face, as an 'olde' character around here (including abilities at communication), is that when I post an idea, it is perceived as complete and unassailable.  That is far from the truth; I wouldn't post it at all, if I didn't want critical feedback.  That's just one of the hesitations to my responses; often, I won't respond because, when I do, it seems to carry this 'from on high' baggage that can obscure an honest reaction (I frequently hang on, hoping my point will get made by another).[/list:u]Over all, I agree that this thread has been invaluable for 'airing' as much as 'illuminating.'  I might be inclined to agree that a 'for critique' Forum might find a home (providing that there was some way to convince 'idea balloons' and 'ready games' to go there, something I'm not too sure of).  I'm glad this dicsussion has taken place and hope it strongly informs the Game Design Sticky.  (Y'know, I'm beginning to think that there ought to be a 'sticky policy' thread; I'll get back to you.)

Fang Langford
Fang Langford is the creator of Scattershot presents: Universe 6 - The World of the Modern Fantastic.  Please stop by and help!


There has been a lot of talk about adding a Sticky to the game design forum.

I'd like to point out that there are already three of them. With four, at a reasonable resolution, you're only going to see one or two actual threads on-screen without scrolling. Personally, I find myself thinking of threads further down the page as "old" - and I'm not likely to read them unless there is a thread that particularly catches my eye.

I'd suggest having one sticky, rather than three or four. That sticky could link to other threads as required (or recommended) reading for the forum. I think that getting to the actual content-filled threads as quickly as possible is visually important.

My very own">game design journal.

Thomas Tamblyn

Agreed, in fact, why not, after a sticky has been there a week or so and everyone's read it, delete it and paste the content to the bottom of the rules sticky.  

That way, at any time there's one sticky which is a compilation of the rules/faq and advice for posting in this forum and the only others are topics the moderatots think are vitally important (as happened recently) or a change to the rules/regs.

Kester Pelagius

Greetings All,

For those who may never have hosted a BBS network, like say FIDOnet or whatever, I am going to briefly outline two adjunct possibility to static stickies IMHO/DSTM.  (I think this might have applied to Usenet groups as well.)

1)  The rules of the forum post.  Posted monthly, with updates where applicable, usually to high volume threads.

2)  The FAQ posting: like #1 above, only there was a designated person who actually compiled the most freqeuently asked questions into a file.  Also posted to the forum monthy, or as updates made necessary.

3)  The link to rules of the forum.  This was more common on small local BBSes without networks of larger than a dozen local nodes.  In essense it takes #1 and #2 and puts them into a G-Files (text) section for those who log into the board to peruse at their leisure.  (Takes time to connect to nodes and transfer data and monthly posting was just a waste of bandwidth and message space, in case you were wondering.)

Either or any of these could be used in relation to The Forge.  Only instead of a monthly posting to the forum it would be a monthy 'update of the sticky' kind of thing.  (IE: Out with the old sticky, in with the new.)

Pros:  The information will always be there for newbies to read.

Cons:  This usually requires someone (ie: a Co-SysOp/moderator type) devoted strictly to the upkeep of said rules/FAQs.  Oh, yeah, and it is usually a thankless job.

Think something like this would be worth doing?

Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri


Quote from: ValamirThis is not directed at you SrGrvs, but I'm not sure I WANT to encourage either types of posts OR people who come here looking for those types of posts.
Except that if a forum exists for such posts, we can get them out of Indie Design and you can ignore them at will -- and the people who enjoy them or want to participate can do so.

I think part of the problem, which several people after SrGrvs has sort of have pointed to, is that Indie Design is CROWDED. Better defining what Indie Design is is a good start to making reading it managable again, but giving a place for stuff that DOES seem reasonable but arguably DOESN'T belong in the Indie Design forum or anywhere else seems to me not only a good idea for the people who want to see those discussions, but for people who DON'T.

Now, volume is an inevitable result of growth. But that doesn't mean we can't manage it some without actually getting rid of people, or seeming unfriendly to newcomers.
love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT

Brian Leybourne

Quote from: xiombargExcept that if a forum exists for such posts, we can get them out of Indie Design and you can ignore them at will -- and the people who enjoy them or want to participate can do so.

I think part of the problem, which several people after SrGrvs has sort of have pointed to, is that Indie Design is CROWDED. Better defining what Indie Design is is a good start to making reading it managable again, but giving a place for stuff that DOES seem reasonable but arguably DOESN'T belong in the Indie Design forum or anywhere else seems to me not only a good idea for the people who want to see those discussions, but for people who DON'T.

Now, volume is an inevitable result of growth. But that doesn't mean we can't manage it some without actually getting rid of people, or seeming unfriendly to newcomers.

I think that's the best argument I have heard yet.

Brian Leybourne

RPG Books: Of Beasts and Men, The Flower of Battle, The TROS Companion

Jack Spencer Jr

Quote from: Christoffer LernöI'm starting to get the impression that "the old guard" is as reluctant to post their games as anyone because they fear they will be ignored.
Oh, I'm not afraid I'll get ignored. I just don't have anything but more corpses for the idea graveyard, as Clinton so nicely put it. Too many of then end with "...and they fight crime."

Looking at some of Fang's comments, I can see it going two ways, if the game is complete or the post is just long for whatever reason, not everyone can or will take the time to read the whole darn thing. It the post is short, often it's too vague to really answer.


Seems to me that the simplest solution is a single division.  In one forum you'd have things that are approaching completion, in the sense that they are (or are very nearly) play-testable.  In the other you'd have everything else.

When I posted Shadows in the Fog, I got lots of good feedback, much of which I have folded into a revised design.  I continue to draw on these comments.  But I don't think I got great feedback because it's the most wonderful game ever.  The reason is (1) the game is PDF, available, and written up in details; (2) it's ready to playtest; and (3) I had some specific questions.  I did not see any "old guard" effect here, nor cliquishness:  I got feedback from "old guard" and, er, "new guard," so I don't see that issue as a real problem.

But there is one thing that worries me greatly about this discussion.  There is this constant harping on, "Yeah, but you haven't finished the game, so you're not serious."  I, too, have not finished Shadows in the Fog.  Nor do I expect to for a good 6 months or more.  Although it was phrased very poorly, the remark about "substance and quality" was apt: I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I like to tinker and tinker and tinker before I claim my work is done.  Some folks have even PM'd me to ask when the game will be done, and I say, "About 6 months, maybe, for a Beta-test version."  But is this because I'm not serious about the game?  Hell no.

So while I think the Indie Design board should be split into play-testable things and ideas/other, I don't think it's fair to suggest that the former means that the game will soon be done.  Some people work very fast, of course, but Shadows in the Fog for example necessitates two big PDF documents.  In fact, volume 2 is probably going to be a couple of hundred pages long, not including images.  Surely you can see that that's going to take a while!  I like the idea that games ready for playtesting be posted separately -- if nothing else the types of critique are going to be somewhat different -- and I agree that the intent of such games should be to finish them in reasonable time.  But let's stop harping on what "reasonable time" should mean.  (Cf. Scattershot, right?)

Sorry -- that just really annoys me.
Chris Lehrich

Blake Hutchins

My two cents.  But first, I'd note that once upon a time I posted a game idea that was half-baked, not well-thought out, and far from clear as far as my own goals.  I received some indications of interest, but most posts candidly pointed to the incomplete and muddy nature of what I'd posted.

Cool.  That was good for me.  I'm baking it slowly on my own time.  I don't feel any pressure to put out something complete or mostly complete.  Each designer will have his/her own design goals - and those should, I think be the one clear beacon one has in place when one posts for feedback.  I'm less impressed with game posts that say "I'm sorta interested in doing something with this (genre/mechanic/color/piffle) as a game.  What do you think?"  Not to be snarky, but that's not too far from what I did, and I got the reality check I deserved.

If you post a game idea and you thereafter let yourself get agitated about no feedback at all, or no or sparse feedback from the "heavy hitters," then I submit that's an indication you might want to rethink and repost your game design with more intention behind it.  It's a marketplace of ideas here, right?  The better ideas and more passionate designers will move their games to the top.  But whining about how Game X got a lot more interest than yours just ain't gonna cut it.  I'm not a big fan of a brainstorming forum, since I think we'll likely get a lot of the unbaked, toe-in-the-water stuff that the poster isn't fully committed to.

I don't see any crisis with Indie Game Design.  As Ron points out, there's an ebb and flow to the forums here.  Increased volume of new submissions makes me more choosy about what I spend my time reading.  I think there's a lot of great feedback to be found, but you've got to work if you want a lot of it.  My ersprungligen game idea got - what? - maybe a half-dozen posts.  And I was happy to have 'em.

Incidentally, I may have my impression of The Forge's mission off-center, but I don't consider myself a game designer.  I find the community's discussions of actual play and RPG theory the most useful parts, along with the discussions of the indie games I'm interested in.  Hence I approach my involvement as a player and a hobby devotee, and that's fine by me.




Hi all

Wow, how time flies, seems just like yesterday I was bitching in the same
kind of thread. Anyway, thought i'd add a few minor comments to this
mammoth thread, I will be glossing over attribution, as i can't remember
it all out of the 50 some posts.

Hey, I'm an RPG-Create loser!! I'm still working on my game, the same
game, my one and only game, which may spark your derision for that
group, but hey they piss me off to, mostly by not responding to my posts
on my ...... THough there is a ton of inane arguments, there have also
been some great crunchy detailed mechanical discussions, plus a couple
of posters on there, the Mogensen's, offer very useful statistical anyalysis
of dice mechanics and such, even having created a program specifically
for that purpose. The group is a empyrical example of sturgeon's law,
unfortunatley there are like 40,000 posts, 90% of 40,000 is 36,0000, so
that's a lot of crap posts:)

Game Challenges & Half assed ideas fishing in Indie design
I am very much down on this, but that could be due to my pure bull-
doggedeness. I have only one project, TMW:COTEC, that I am working
on, and will work on till it's complete. It's big and grand and a magnum
opus, plus due to personal reasons that, were I to reveal them would
make you think I was even more of a loser than the guys on RPG-create,
it often lies fallow for weeks or occasionaly months. So it is nearing
completion at a somewhat glacial pace, but I still like to spout about the
cool meltwater coming from it. So people "flooding' the forum with 50
posts about the 24 page RPG they wrote while underwater basketweaving
with GM Skarka in Paul's basement, or whatever the hell it is does get on
my nerves somewhat. Same with weekly posts about my cool new half-
assed RPG idea. But hey, I'm a single-minded bastard with one burning
desire to follow the mandate of my ancestors to unite all under heaven!!!,
err finish The Million Worlds.  On a related note, i don't follow much in the
other forum's, again because of my single mindedness to work on my
game, even if it occurs at only slightly faster than geological time.

One more possibly different point
I got a minor slap from Ron about my posting bits of my game which
talked about my game. He was rightly pointing out that it is more
important to actually generate the real meat of the mss, how to play the
game, rather than just talk about the game. My only point/objection is
that I find it helpful to me "cheerleader" my game a bit, it keeps my
investment and interest in the game, and perhaps it provides grist for
garnering the interest of other posters, who aren't inclined to read 4 or 5
embedded links to previous documents. Any comment on this,


(P.S. I will complete my game, I will. 2005 is my current I'm a loser finish
date, which coincides with my paying off my student loan. Oh, that's right,
I didn't finish college, sigh.... )
Rob Muadib --  Kwisatz Haderach Of Wild Muse Games --   
"But How Can This Be? For He Is the Kwisatz Haderach!" --Alyia - Dune (The Movie - 1980)


[accidental double post deleted]
Rob Muadib --  Kwisatz Haderach Of Wild Muse Games --   
"But How Can This Be? For He Is the Kwisatz Haderach!" --Alyia - Dune (The Movie - 1980)