Sunday, February 26, 2012

Up the Hill Backwards Bowie would say. To say I've been throwing ideas around for a long time now for the game system for WILD would be putting things mildly. But just recently I've been doing things a bit differently and seeing if it works, and there are a few things to thank for that...

First up, strangely after discussing this with the lovely wife last week, the BBC posted a news feature (entitled "The Myth of the Eight Hour Sleep" which you can read here). Basically, it discusses the theory that our sleep patterns have been frelled by artificial lighting and other things, and the whole "I must get eight hours sleep" is a myth. What is revealed in Roger Ekirch's book "At Day's Close: Night in Times Past" is that in the past we went to bed was the sun set, slept for about four hours, then woke, did things for a couple of hours, then went back to sleep again for another four hours.

I was chatting with the wife about it as it sounded like some of the Transcendental Meditation she was looking into, how those two hours in the middle of the night can be some sort of "super clarity" time, when the brain is active, working well, but rested and uncluttered from the day.

I must admit, I had that moment last night, having gone to bed early due to stinking head-cold. I woke about 1am, with a clearer mind, and realising what I should be doing.

Which brings me to the second part. I'd been looking at some videos online about RPG design and stumbled upon John Wick's series of videos discussing just that. Something he said in the second or third one really struck home...

With his business partner, Jared Sorensen (who did the awesome "Lacuna - Part I: The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City"), he came up with the big Four Questions of RPG design:
1) What is your game about?
2) How does it go about doing that?
3) What behaviors does it reward?
and 4) Why is that fun?

Which got me thinking about how I was going about writing WILD. There I was thinking about a generic system that I could adapt for other things, when I should be thinking about what I want from this game.

And then the moment of revelation came. Sod the character stats, and which dice and whatnot... what I should be concentrating on is how Dreams work in the game. And bingo... it came to me. With the excellent advice from Derek (who was one of the rules brainstormers for Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space) I think it's just about sorted.

Now all I have to do sort out what the characters can do, what they want to do, how they'll get up to it, and what mechanics are needed to facilitate that.

It's just a bit different from how I normally do things. Rather than starting with Stats, dice mechanics, and then seeing how it all works, I really am walking up the hill backwards, doing things from the reason to have a rule, rather than the other way around. Hopefully, this will result in a better game system for the setting, something simple, easy to use, easy to remember without lots of referring to rulebooks - that's intuitive and makes sense for the game.

Anyway, enough chatting, I need to get some work done!!!

Until next time!

Sweet dreams.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Systems are doin' it for themselves...

Another sleepless night. I don't know what's going on. I'm supposed to be writing about dreaming, and I'm not sleeping enough to actually dream. I spend my time laid in bed (or woken by the cat's demands for food) pondering over game systems.

A couple of days ago, I'd just had this idea for the actual stats for the characters, woke fully thanks to the cat, and wrote them all down (hence my Twitter comment about having a breakthrough). The more I thought about it, however, the more I thought it wasn't the huge breakthrough I wanted, it was just an idea...

Last night was the same. I was drifting off to sleep after a day off from the day job spent reading game systems and watching some Youtube videos about RPG design, and I suddenly thought of a dice rolling system that hadn't been used before. I got up, scribbled it down, and went back to bed, thinking about it...

Then, five o'clock this morning, I woke again from a half-sleep, with another realisation about the system. What I'd written down was far too complicated and time consuming. And I'd thought of something new. What do I need Attributes for anyway? Why am I getting so bogged down in traditional gaming? No, it's not going to be super weird just for the heck of it, but the very nature of the subject is lending itself to a different type of game system. It could be the way to go, but it needs a bit more thought and pondering.

It's odd. I can see what I want the book to look like completed. I can see in my mind the layout, the design, the size, the colour and the shape. I can see the interesting gimmicks I want to add - like augmented reality codes. I can see how an iBook version of it would look, complete with animations and "going deeper" options in the text.

But can I nail down the system?

Soon. Hopefully. Even if it takes another couple of sleepless nights...

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Gaming Career (in Lego)

This morning, my lovely wife was about to depart to see family in London, and gave me a couple of Lego minifigs. Before I get too carried away with this post, I have to say that we're both big fans of Lego, spent Christmas putting together Hogwarts, collect the little minifigs, and I can't wait for the Avengers and Lord of the Rings sets due in the summer.

Anyway, the two minifigs were completely random, but they both represented parts of my roleplaying game writing. One was a grey alien, just like the ones in Conspiracy X, and the other was the tired guy, who can be posed so he's asleep or sleepwalking, very representative of the new game, WILD.

It got me thinking, I think we have Lego minifigs that represent 90% of my game writing career...

Challenge Accepted!

Okay, before the published stuff, I tried my hand at writing RPGs in the past - my first real attempt at getting published was writing (using a typewriter, and posting a manuscript to West End Games) a couple of adventures I concocted for their awesome Ghostbusters RPG. If it wasn't for the positive and encouraging letter I had back from WEG I wouldn't have tried to continue.

It wasn't until I started talking to the amazing guys at Eden that I actually saw my work in print.

While I submitted a supplement for All Flesh Must Be Eaten, my first published stuff was Project Editor on Terra Primate, the "Planet of the Apes" version of AFMBE. And look, there's a mini fig for it!! Terra Primate was a blast, and a surprise too - I was hired to take the settings and plug in the AFMBE rules, converting and adjusting for the new game, and it surprised me the scope of Ape related gaming! Cool stuff!

Terra Primate was cool, but working on Buffy The Vampire Slayer was awesome. I just playtested for the core set, but the future tech and a few additional weapons were mine in the Slayer's Handbook, as well as working as Assistant Editor on the Slayer's Handbook and Monster Smackdown. Real shame the game didn't continue. But, hey! Lego cheerleader! It's Buffy!

While doing that, I also helped with the edits on a few of the AFMBE supplements. Most of the work was on Zombie Smackdown and a Fistful of Zombies, but I also helped out on some of the other supplements, and did some rules help on Army of Darkness (groovy). I was surprised to see that Lego even did a zombie, but it's really cool. Need to buy a whole lot more of them though to get a horde!

After that came the badgering to Eden to convince them to let me change Conspiracy X into Unisystem. Thankfully, they agreed to let me do it, and I spent the next four years working on those books. The little grey alien Lego dude is great... fits in nicely with the Lego alien invasion range with the saucers, the abducted redneck, now all I need are some suited agent Lego minifigs! Conspiracy X 2.0 is having a new lease of life thanks to Kickstarter, and the supplements are starting to hit production right now!

And then, I have to cheat a little. Okay, so it's not Lego, but it's compatible with Lego. While Conspiracy X was on hiatus, I worked with Cubicle 7, pitching the concept of the Doctor Who roleplaying game to the BBC. Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space hit the shelves to critical acclaim in 2009, and the new 11th Doctor edition should be hitting the shelves in the very near future.

Which brings me up to date with my most recent project. At least, until Lego decide to do their Inception sets, with little Lego Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page minifigs, this little sleeping Lego minifig is the best representation of WILD I can imagine... so far. But then, you can dream of anything, so anything is possible in the game...

Which reminds me, I have some time off from the dayjob to get some writing done, and here I am writing about Lego! I'd best get back to writing the game.

Let's see... "It all began with a dream..."