So, the game I was going to release at CanGames is sort of on hiatus while I clean up a previous game called Fox Magic. The game started simple enough -- about twelve pages in the first draft. I'm on the third (and hopefully final) draft, having had it go through two editors, and I'm in the stage of polishing it up, gathering artwork from the artists I've hired, and looking over the layout of the game. This has been a real education for me -- I've designed game systems before, but this is the first game I've every completed and will be the first of mine to be published.
The first thing I learned is while I like intricate, rules-heavy game systems, I'm fully capable of writing a rules lite game, and enjoying the concepts and designs behind it. This game is more interactive than most RPGs I know and play... in this game, the players have nearly as much control of the setting as the game master does, and can add elements when needed. The game doesn't focus on combat -- the combat system operates like every other part of the game, where the interaction of the players and the environment are more important. Heck, the game doesn't even have a proper damage system, since it isn't needed (though there is character death, both 'accidental' and 'deliberate').
Funny enough, the mechanics for the game blossomed nearly fully-formed in my head while I was trying to sleep. I was drifting off, and wondered 'how would I design a proper RPG about kitsune?' Suddenly, boom, there it was, all spread out for me to write out. I'm actually glad I followed my instincts, got out of bed, and wrote it out, or it wouldn't have been there the next morning. Sure, it ticked off my wife that I got up in in the middle of the night to write the thing, but she's understanding of my 'mad genius' (as a friend put it -- honestly, I think I might be part mad scientist). I stole some mechanics from an earlier project which is on hiatus (the artist, while wonderful, fell off the planet), which seemed to adapt very well to the new game.
The next thing I started to learn was how to restrain myself. I normally go 'oh, this is missing', and write pages of rules for whatever it is I think is missing, adding a lot of complexity to what would otherwise be a simple game. This isn't necessary, usually, and in this particular case, it would be seriously detrimental, so I had to fight the urge time and again. 'Does it need this?' was something I asked myself a few times, as was 'is this keeping the game simple?' I'm glad I am developing this instinct, and it has in fact been ported over to my primary game I was working on as well -- and when I go back to do a second pass on that game, I'll be seeing how I can pare things back.
The third thing was hiring artists. I have three and a half artists slated for this (each being paid $100 for about six to eight black and white pictures). Two of the artists had a few months of prior warning about what I needed, and my description was 'look at the game, see what inspires you, and draw!' Neither artist has produced anything however, even with this deadline -- though they said they'll have some things in by the time they're back from their trip to Japan. The third artist however has proven amazing, and has given me some excellent work -- I'm contracting them for more art for the game, and I'm marking them as my first 'go to' for future projects. A shame, since the other two artists are local friends of mine, but this is business.
Another friend of mine made some nice crests for the game, as well as watermarks to go behind the text and make the book 'prettier'. Nice stuff, but the guy seems to have made extra work for himself. He's had a few books published through the company before (and is doing moderately well, his last cheque was for $500 US... just from PDF sales) but I'd have thought he'd know what's needed for art -- rather than send us the images in TIF with a 300+ dpi so we can resize as needed, he had them presented in GIF and JPG format, at about 100 dpi. Nice art, but it really limited what we could do with it. The other 'oops' was that he didn't make the art properly uniform -- the watermarks should have fit uniform on the screen (2550 x 3300), but they were all over the place. The woman doing layout gave me a list of 'what is needed' and I passed it on to the artist, and his response was 'well, why didn't you tell me?' I had to hold back a snark (shouldn't you know this by now?) and simply responded that this was my first time having to worry about layout and graphics -- chalking this up to a learning experience.
This has been quite interesting ... even fun at times, and it is a good sign when a project you are working on is fun ... I'd almost forgotten what that was like. The older projects, hashing and re-hashing them as I try to get them finished, became a chore, and I hated even thinking of looking at the setting and mechanics. Being able to breeze through this project, seeing it moving towards completion, and still liking what I see, is a good feeling.
Once this is done, I'm going to have to get back to writing a new article for The Grimoire -- the company's e-zine. We've gone from one or two issues a year to quarterly (or more), and it is wide open for any writers and artists to do their own articles. I've finished my first and second article, and I think I've a feel for it now. I'm looking forward to seeing it published, and I'm hoping readers will start offering their own articles. A win-win situation -- they get published, we get readers, they get paid. :) We've got one person publishing a game in parts through the magazine, and I may have a new artist joining in as well.
In other news, we're getting our company logo digitized. This means my mom can actually sew the logo onto shirts and jackets, and now that we know how to do this, we can get some of the artwork done by artists we've employed perhaps done in the same fashion in the future. I think that rocks. :) And potentially, we're going to be getting a card-cutter so we can make custom cards (including for CCGs) to publish through the company.