Thursday, January 10, 2019

Forward in the Opposite Direction

It is hard to stop on any journey and realize that to go further on, we will have to forsake the route we've taken and retrace our steps.  Yet that is a reality of adventuring on any frontier, where there are no guideposts or even a clear destination we can see.  That is what I've had to do with my former 22nd class for role-playing.  I've abandoned it and changed the title of the post.

Queerly, as things happen, I had been designing that post in my head for about three months before it came time to write it; and now, after a week, I've come to realize that I should have abandoned that line of thinking before I arrived.  But as I said, we hump our rucksack up a river valley, hoping we'll find a pass that gets us to the other side of this mountain range ... and then find there isn't one there.

The post rang off-key as I was writing it.  I've tried to consider the next post after and it feels like a worse derivation still.  I'm clearly moving in the wrong direction; and watching a particular video this afternoon put it plain and simple for me.  Or rather, it highlighted everything I'd already been thinking.  Brian Upton is a good speaker ~ I strongly recommend watching lots of his stuff if you're interested in game design.  This video features him at his pragmatic best:

And to this, I want to be sure to post the "Red Flag List" that's found immediately under the video:
1. I don't give a crap about your back story.
2. I don't give a crap about your inventory system either.
3. I'm not going to design your game for you.
4. Pillars are not hooks!
5. You never explained what the player does.
6. Don't use realism to excuse bad design.
7. You don't need a framing device if it's not necessary.
8. Is it really a game, or just a knockoff?
9. You never mentioned your glaringly obvious tech risk.
10. Your proof of concept does not prove your concept.
11. Having lots of shitty art doesn't make them less shitty.
12. I can't tell what's placeholder and what's not.
13. You polished too early.
14. Your sample dialog sucks.
15. You're pandering to the latest tech craze.
16. You just pitched a phone game to a console publisher.
17. You're making a Gone Home/Minecraft/PUBG ripoff.
18. You want us to negotiate a risky IP deal for you.
19. I know more about your monetization than your mechanics.
20. You have no idea how much money/people/time you need to make this thing.
21. You don't have a team.
22. Your business plan is based on outliers.
23. You seem like you'd be a huge pain in the ass to work with.
24. You expect me to know who you are.
25. You're annoyed that I'm asking questions.
26. We're trying to watch the pitch on your phone.
27. You brought a laptop, but no headphones.
28. You're hungover/drunk/high.
29. Don't trash other games/companies/developers.
30. You need to take a shower.

Look hard at that list.  I did.  As I listened to Upton break it down.  If we're going to make a game, or run a role-playing game, we're on the hook to answer every one of these questions, without handwaving.  Our players, and we ourselves, deserve real answers here.

While I'm not going to break down this list as I pick up a rewrite of the 22nd class, some of what's above is going to be in my mind as I rebuild my forward going outline.  I don't treat this as a failure; I don't treat this as anything except forward movement, even as I backtrack and reconsider.  This is how design happens.


Ozymandias said...

Now I want to write a post that addresses each of these items from the point of view of DMs and players making a pitch for the game.

Or is that kind of the direction you were thinking?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Feel free. I'm going in another direction; rather than deconstructing this, it has encouraged me to deconstruct what I've already done in a fresh direction.

Ozymandias said...


It's a rant, to be sure, and I couldn't fit each item on a one-for-one basis. But it was fun.

Baron Opal said...

Much like some Warning Stickers, I'd like to hear some stories that created some of these rules. I guess I'll have to watch the video.