Last winter, I posted about my ideas surrounding marketing co-operatives by teams of creator-owned RPG publishers. This new post is the evolution of that idea — my solution to the puzzle of shared resources vs. creator ownership. Indulge my self-interview:
Hi, Matt. What’s up with you lately?
Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about how successful some indie RPG publishers have been because they have an identifiable audience. I just heard that Brad Murray, co-creator of Diaspora, sold 1,200 copies in about 1 year. He was quick to point out the boost he got from the FATE community. So, he had an identifiable market that really helped. (Congrats, Brad & crew!)
Let me guess, you want to make FATE games now so you can sell 1,000 copies of your next game?
No. I don’t prefer FATE as the way to go. But, the model is compelling. What I’d like to do is a get a bunch of designers together to create something FATE-like, and then turn it loose so anyone can design on that framework, while simultaneously building a market. Oh, and I mean FATE-like in the sense that it’s an open game, not that it uses Fudge dice and uses Aspects and all that.
Wait, back up. So, this is just like D20/OGL then? That’s so last decade!
To some degree, it’s similar. But, no, I’m not advocating D20 games here. I suppose it could use the OGL itself, just like FATE does. But, again, D20 isn’t what I’m after.
So, more like a universal system? That sounds even more lame.
I agree that so-called universal systems are not very good ideas.
So, rather than universal, let’s call it modular. What I envision is an open, modular game system. Designers can take the core bits, but then tack on parts as needed to create their game systems really have some cool, tailored components.
Overall, my vision for this thing would be a system for indie folks in the way that Savage Worlds is for traditional RPG lovers. That is, a lean, mean machine for running a variety of character-driven games. So, think of it as Savage Worlds for people who like lots of character development and story in their games. Fast, furious drama, so to speak.
So, what are you after, exactly? This doesn’t sound very new or worthwhile.
The open design concept is not new. That’s true.
But, if it goes anything like I envision, it would be worthwhile. It would do two things
First, it would give gamers a great go-to game that they can customize for their play style.
Second, it would give publishers who use it an identifiable market, rather than having to create a market for each game, every time. This saves them time and effort. Players see the “core” of the system, and can easily pick up published variations. They play without a learning curve, and discuss it, expanding the community and word of mouth.
Hey, whatever happened to System Does Matter. I thought that was you guys’ mantra?
That’s fair. This idea does fly in the face of System Does Matter some.
The System Does Matter philosophy informed a lot of innovation and great games, including my own designs. I think it has considerable merit. What I’m talking about here isn’t meant as a direct challenge of that philosophy.
That said, there are many things that System Does Matter just does not address for obvious reasons. It doesn’t speak on distribution, creator ownership, marketing and so on, despite all these things being part of the conversation surrounding System Does Matter over the years.
Think of this as a new philosophy: Marketing Matters, Too. I’m not trying to polarize stances between design and marketing. They are not opposites, as some people in indie RPG publishing seem to suggest. In fact, what I’m suggesting is that the two merge as much as possible.
That means making design considerations based on what the market wants rather than on what the designer wants in some cases. I suspect there are at least a few designers – people who are friends of mine — who view that as blasphemy. That’s ok. I still think they’re great designers and great friends. And, of course, they need not participate.
So, what now?
Good question. I see this happening in phases. The first is making the case to fellow designers in particular. I’ll do that in a follow-up blog entry.
Then, assuming I can get a crew of designers together, we begin setting goals and expectations for the project, then on to design, playtesting, community support, and ultimately creator-owned publishing takes care of the rest.
[ Read Part 2 ]