Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Projects and Hobbies

From Project Waldo

"Jiyoung told me that one of the things she's noticed in talking to Americans is that we all have "personal projects." I hadn't realized this tendency defined us until she pointed it out. Everybody is writing a screenplay, working on an album, putting together a portfolio. I don't know what this says about us.

In Korea, people don't have personal projects, they have hobbies. I was really confused about this at first. Right after they ask you how old you are, they ask, "what's your hobby?" What does it mean, that they have hobbies and we have projects? I feel like there must be some revelation there. I should mention that when Koreans pursue a hobby, they go all-in. If they say "Salsa dancing," assume they are better than anyone you know. If they say "yoga," they mean they can touch their nose to their tailbone. And if they say "Starcraft," well..."
I really think this is really interesting on a cultural level. In Canada and America we're taught that to be successful we have to be "doing what we love" for money to a degree. I don't know if that's healthy.

As a guy who has "a project" in gaming, I'm very much part of the American side of things in the project/hobby spectrum. Personally I don't care if I don't make any money with this project, but there are other people that have a stake in this project that I can't disregard, which is why i can't just release it to the world without some due diligence... it's too bad, because I'd really rather be treating it like a hobby.

Friday, August 7, 2009

On Tone

A friend of mine mentioned the game Heavy Gear a while back. He wasn't too complementary about it actually. His words were somewhat to the effect of: Gorgeous Book - Terrible System.

He went on to wonder out-loud how a game could create such an "embarrassment" of a set of mechanics and still do well? Which is a pointless question really because we all know that production values sell a game first and foremost. Compelling system and setting just keeps people coming back. So I ended up picking up a used copy of the 2nd Edition mostly because I wanted to see what he considered to be a really good layout. Since I've been reading I've found the book is nice looking and the layout is sharp, and though I haven't playtested the system I don't think it's as bad as my friend describes it, but those things aren't what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the tone of Heavy Gear because I find it to be a good lesson to RPG writers out there.

Heavy Gear keeps their text reasonably tight and minimal which I think is nice, however the game constantly makes references to how GM's should be "dealing" with problem players that play wrong. Which is about as insulting as it is pointless. The whole book is written like it's talking to the GM saying: "We know, your players are idiots. But don't fret, we'll fix them for you."

The "Hooks and Tips" sections of each chapter are just plain insulting and always start with the assumption that up til reading this book everything has been done all wrong and then offer patronizing advice on how to get it right. I believe this is probably the textbook example of what RPG Pundit describes as Swine.

As RPG designers we have to have some conceit. I know that I wouldn't keep working on Hardkore if I didn't honestly believe that it's the bees knees and that the world will be better off having it. But I won't portray a 'better than thou' attitude in my writing because I'm not making a bible with which I'm preaching from on-high. I'm writing a game book for people that want to play a fun game just like I do. That means even though I'm some hotshot game designer that got my book published I can't carry through in my writing because the people that will make or break my game are ultimately the fans.

I'm not sure if I ever noticed this undertone of conceit in any previous games, but if any of you know any others please give a shout out.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nevermet Press Banner! Put Your Mouse-Cursor Over it and Make-It Go *click*

I have been writing for Nevermet Press for over a month and have been a lazy douche about not plugging some of the pro-stellar work that gets done over there. Well no longer I say! I command my ENTIRE readership (yes both of you) to click on the banner in the sidebar and go there right away.

There. I expect that Karmic reward to come any second now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Easiest and Toughest on Making Contemporary Work

There are many game designers out there who have said that the modern world makes the best setting because there are no shortage of splatbooks for it. This is true, but it's both a blessing and a curse. When a player is more savvy than a GM on certain things (inevitable in usually one or two things) the GM can feel like his game isn't authentic when the player challenges him with questions like: "Why are these cops following [X] procedure?" or "I just go to [website X], they have all that information as a matter of public record."

If you're a GM that doesn't know the details of how a particular aspect of the modern world operates (say you've never been to prison, so the procedures of prison guards aren't familiar to you), you have a few options available to you.

1. The first one should always be EDUCATE YOURSELF. There are a lot of TV shows with pertinent subject matter out there, especially on the internet. Discovery channel is every gamer's friend, shows like THE SHIELD can show you plausible loopholes in the police system and Burn Notice is a veritable instruction manual on doing sneaky things.

2. The second one is going abstract when you don't know the specifics. You may not know exactly how a police officer interrogates a PC, but you can always gloss over some of it and get right to the pertinent part of the interrogation to see what the cop learns.

I know the hardest thing for me in running a contemporary RPG is how to keep the world sane. Players want to do crazy stuff, but society functions by not tolerating the disruptions created by doing crazy stuff. Whenever you make a scene there needs to be repercussions, but sometimes you as the GM need to let that scene be made to make the game fun, finding that balance has been a trial for me as both a player and a GM, and I'd be interested in knowing how any of your game groups manage it?