I am become designer, creator of worlds! (p.4)Written by LanJemWezz - Published on June 25, 2013
“I am become designer, creator of worlds!” is a limited series on the ins and outs of building your own roleplaying game from the ground up—and with it a business model by which to grow and create more new ideas.
Previously, we discovered how underestimating our audience’s response to Pure Steam™ hadn’t been the case. How then would that bode for our hopes of getting meaningful feedback? Read on to find out!
Had we then overestimated our audience? Perhaps. First time appraisals of the game indicated that players hadn’t been concerned over much with the placement of our numbers and text, like we had expected, but that the game imparted a distinctive feel. While I didn’t participate in the GenCon sessions, I did play in and run a couple at-home sessions that yielded some of the same responses. Players seemed to enjoy a D&D-like ruleset married to a “steampunk Old West” that offered more than a simple reskinning of familiar concepts. You know the old adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt”? Not in this case. Here, the more invested and “dressed-up” the game was in steampunk and 19th-century American mythology the better the experience.
Brennan goes on, “Reflecting on it now, the fact that we got the amount of feedback we did is still pretty amazing considering that we were a brand new Indie game development team that no one had ever heard of. Statistically, the amount of feedback you should expect is about 1%, and we got just about that, so we didn’t flop completely. Despite the apparent lack of feedback, however, we are still developing a fan base, and that is pretty awesome. People like our product and that speaks volumes to me, making me proud of the team we’ve pulled together.”
It’s wise to maintain openness and be willing to make concessions throughout any playtest period, but I would hasten to add that it’s important also to remember why you made the decisions you did and to stand by your material when it’s valid. What’s valid to one person may not be valid to another, and that’s why it’s important for creators not to blink at every instance of negative feedback. Sometimes you have to let an idea bear out over time, and find its home. Even if a gamer buys our product for one or two of the things contained in it—as we know some of our followers have boasted online after seeing new playtest releases—then at least we know that game mechanic or concept has found a home. And if someone buys it for the whole kit and caboodle (and he tells a friend, then she tells a friend, wash, rinse, repeat), well then, drinks are on us!
Creation is a continual process of evolution—moving from one stage to another and improving to find a better way. “Pathfinding,” if you will. If we allow ourselves to fall into roles where we best complement the group (and thus the project), and allow the public to be heard without sacrificing (the project’s) validity, that is where our creative compass will be the strongest.
“Playtests don’t give you answers, they give you direction,” says Brennan. “While playtests do provide answers to a couple questions, what they really do is either affirm the current direction of your project, or they divert your project in the correct direction.” And for once, he and I completely agree on something. :p
In the next article, I’ll hand the reins over to Adam, the Pure Steam™ creator himself, as he explains how getting involved in the business of RPGs has shaped our humble little game company. Until then, thanks for reading and commenting!