I didn't think this was going to turn into a three-part blog, but then I figured: Hey, why not show the developers some empathy for a change? It can't be an easy gig, designing games, when some random schmoe is writing an internet blog about how he's getting so disappointed in some games lately. There are still a lot of good games out there, and I'd like to take the chance to remind everybody of what some of the best ways to stay motivated while developing are. (Not that I know anything about professional game development; this blog is half theory and half borrowing from life-long interest in the industry.)
First of all, I've noticed that it really, really helps if a developer is exicited and interested in what they're working on. That's probably the single biggest factor for staying motivated no matter what side of the issue you're on, whether as developer, player, or character. For developers specifically, we gamers can tell when you're disappointed in your own games. It shows in the quality of work developers put out, and how long they keep up with the game after the initial launch. The longer YOU stick with the game and the franchise, the longer WE'LL stick with the game or franchise. This is one of the big marks in White Wolf's favor; it's been thirteen years now, and they're still going strong with some of their original property, with the WODMMO still being worked on to spite whatever setbacks White Wolf and CCP have faced. That tells us a lot about how valuable the developers think the property is, and from what I've experienced of games that took a long time in production, it's better to spend too much time pre-launch than too little.
My second piece of advice for developers is to keep engaging with your community. No matter what genre or franchise you're working on, you have fans out there somewhere. Let them know you exist. Connect with them. Give them something to be excited about - let your own excitement bleed through in public announcements and features about the design of the game and DAMN those marketing people who say you need to restrict the flow of information based on projected sales figures. (I am NOT writing a blog entitled "Staying Motivated as a Marketer"!) As they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity, and in the gaming industry, if absolutely nothing else, you can be sure that your game's name will be bandied around for months or years before and after launch. Just take a look at what we've been doing here on the WoDNews site with the comparatively few scraps of information we've been getting so far about the WODMMO. Creating a game site is a wonderful way to get the community interested, and to get pumped up about the audience getting pumped up. They did this for The Old Republic MMO, and the developers have commented on just how long they've had a rabid fanbase being engaged with their game before it was even released.
If you make your game cool and fun, then it's a lot easier to keep motivated with the first two pieces of advice. If the game is fun and exciting, then you're excited about it and so are your fans. This is why pushing the envelope as far as gaming is concerned is such a huge deal for both gaming companies who want to make a buck and we players who want to get our money's worth. It's okay if you're in the business to make money, because the community has never exactly been stingy on paying for a quality game. Emphasis, however, on making sure that you produce a quality game. One of the trends I've noticed out there is a lot of the biggest companies are resting on their laurels, producing half-assed games nowadays when they used to produce some of the best games out there. Don't get stuck on relying on the exact same mold for each game; if that's the case, then we may as well only play the first game. A few companies out there have consistently expanded their games over the years, adding in new content, fixing new rules, and most importantly learning from their past mistakes, if they've made any. At the same time, I have to warn developers not to mess with a good thing; take the best and favorite parts from older games and keep them, but change things that didn't work so well, and finally add in something new so you can test it out in the next interation of the franchise. Games that are fun and cool and push the envelope will remain popular for a long, long time, and the longer that your game and your company name is stuck in the audience's mind, the better your chances of selling another game in the future. Combine steps one , two, and three, and you get situations like the publication of Vampire: The Masquerade, 20th Anniversary Edition, which I believe sold out within the first couple months, forcing a second printing. Force is good here.
My last piece of advice is to never forget that you, much like your players, have a life outside the industry. Lots of inspiriation and motivation can be taken from a bunch of sources, not the least of which is real life. You'll never know it's there unless you go out and live a little, though. We gamers like to know that our developers are happy, balanced, well-adjusted people who can go out and have a drink, get drunk, and then run an impromptu frag fest on the game. Such is the stuff the best and funniest webcasts are made of. (I especially like reading the nicknames developers and playtesters have given each other in the end credits; this shows that there's a community on the other side of the fence, too.) They say that real life is stranger than fiction, and they're right, so it never hurts to go take a walk around your block and watch life as it goes by a little bit every now and then. Given that most games have a fictional component, I can personally say that this works wonders for generating content for a game - I've done it plenty of times myself for the little bits of writing I do. I have almost no real life myself, but these occassional trips back to the real world are the best thing for both mental clarity and to ground oneself.
So to all you developers out there who may catch one of these blogs on WoDNews.net once in a while, remember to stay excited about what you're working on, to wave and wink to the audience every once in a while, to make a game worth being excited about, and for goodness' sake don't go insane on us. The insane make notoriously bad programmers.
(For all of you getting bored with the motivational speeches, I promise I'll get back to rampant speculation and wild random blogginess next week!)
345 days ago
My comment deals outside of the intent of the piece and more with one bit of reference you used: V20 didn't have a second printing. There was a... issue that required more of the first print to be run because of a clerical/process error (the Standard Limited Edition (SLE) V20 book--the one with the Ankh, not the Grand Masquerade Limited Editions.) One suspicion is that a number of the SLE versions were set-aside for international bulk orders, but were thought to have been over-run prints and sold online as such, only to discover that they could not fulfill the original orders and so an add-on run had to be made to cover that. That is only a guess to what happened, but they were very careful let folks know it was not a "second printing" (because collectors would cry if they thought their book was a different printing run... heaven forbid they get a book with corrections.) All of the other copies sold were Print On Demand, purchased through Drive Thru RPG (or its mirrored/re-skinned sites) and one of those had the leatherette-bound/silver-edged/ribbons/etc. HOWEVER, I will say this: V20 was originally supposed to be a treat for Grand Masquerade 2011 attendees for the 20th Anniversary of V:tM. Fan interest early-on in the Open Development process not only made them reconsider and offer the book to the public beyond GM 2011, but to also produce the new line of books AND its pre-orders (over a month before the book was delivered) caused Rich, Eddy and White Wolf's masters to approve W20 (Werewolf: the Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition) the day before Gen Con 2011. I think that your analysis of "Take the good stuff folks like, fix the bad stuff, and add some new treats" is part of what made V20 successful, but so was (in my opinion) the nostalgia and interest by folks who once bought books by the dozens, and were clamoring for that bit of "back in the day" by purchasing the book... even if it was $100+ That $100 was the price paid for something to relive and revive something they loved. I know that I personally purchased V20 GM Edition with the full intent that my purchase would be a drop in the bucket that would encourage them to produce W20... which it obviously did. :) But concerning the "2nd printing" bit, I just thought I'd nip that in the bud just in case someone else quoted that and the rumors started that there was a second running of the V20 books due to popular demand (one could argue that there was, but not on purpose ;) )
344 days ago
I bought V20 - of whichever printing edition - not only for nostalgia's sake, but for the fact that it was pretty much anything and everything you'd need to run a Vampire: The Masquerade Chronicle in one book. I've spent many hours flipping through my selection of books to try and track down one rule or Discipline or another. Now I just have to look in one book to do it. ---- In either case of my "second printing" comment, we can at least say there's not a second printing YET. Once the WODMMO goes live, I imagine we'll be seeing a lot more interest in the tabletop franchise, which might prompt the guys at White Wolf to go through an actual second printing, though of course not as shiny a printing.