Rerun941

Game Development 101

45 posts in this topic

I'm an outsider to this whole game design/game publishing thing. I'm basically an IT Project Manager in my day job, so I can tell you what it takes to design, build, test and implement a new IT system in a business. As well as some common problems/pitfalls these kind of projects encounter.

 

Can anyone give me the basics of how you go from "hey, I've got a great idea for a game" to getting it produced/published? What are the steps involved? What are some common problems/pitfalls? What are the roles of the various people involved? (designer, writer, editor, publisher, printer, etc.)

 

PS - I can also tell you the basics of what it takes to plan and execute the air portion of a military operation, but that's a whole other thread. :D

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  • Have an idea
  • Write the manuscript
  • Edit the manuscript
  • Revise the manuscript
  • Play through the manuscript
  • Have it edited by someone who is not you
  • Get the artwork done or do it yourself
  • Layout the book
  • Have layout looked over by someone who is not you
  • Find distribution (preferably more than one)
  • Get print quotes (lots of quotes from lots of people)
  • Print book
  • Ship book to distributors
  • Collect copious amounts of cash
  • Spend cash on giraffes, black market organs and mail order wives

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  • Have an idea
  • Write the manuscript
  • Edit the manuscript
  • Revise the manuscript
  • Play through the manuscript
  • Have it edited by someone who is not you
  • Get the artwork done or do it yourself
  • Layout the book
  • Have layout looked over by someone who is not you
  • Find distribution (preferably more than one)
  • Get print quotes (lots of quotes from lots of people)
  • Print book
  • Ship book to distributors
  • Collect copious amounts of cash
  • Spend cash on giraffes, black market organs and mail order wives

 

Yes.

 

However, these days, you might also consider:

 

[*]Layout the book

[*]Create a usable PDF

[*]Sell PDF through RPGNow.com

 

[*]Find distribution (preferably more than one)

 

Depending on how much money you want to invest to start with. As an average, if you do all the writing and art, a decent print run will cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000. If you need to hire freelance artists and writers, you could spend a good deal more.

 

Pete

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Depending on how much money you want to invest to start with. As an average, if you do all the writing and art, a decent print run will cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000. If you need to hire freelance artists and writers, you could spend a good deal more.

 

 

A “decent” print run for this hobby is now fairly small. When I started you could easily sell 1000 books but now I struggle to sell that many now and I’m happy with orders of 20-30.:eek:

 

 

You can get by with a lot less on an initial print run. I would suggest printing POD and doing about 1-200 books tops.

 

 

I don’t want to be rude or appear elitist but most people planning on using the open D6 won’t sell more than that. I suggest starting with a small print run and building up a fanbase. You won’t be able to depend on all the D6 fans out there to buy your product and if they did you would still only sell about that many.;)

 

 

My biggest piece of advice is don’t depend on the system to carry you. If you don’t bring the heat with something creative and compelling you’ll be a memory very quickly.

 

I’m not saying don’t come into the pool. I’m just warning that jumping into the deep end may be dangerous.

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A “decent” print run for this hobby is now fairly small. When I started you could easily sell 1000 books but now I struggle to sell that many now and I’m happy with orders of 20-30.:eek:

 

Why do you think that is? When did you start?

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Why do you think that is? When did you start?

 

 

The market is shrinking, fewer retailers are carrying RPGs, especially from smaller companies, and distributors are resistive of buying RPGs as a backlist product. This has been slowly changing situation. You can could it has been gradually happening for a few years. To be fair, this has been slowly happening for a dozen years.

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I printed GODSEND Agenda 1st edition in 2002 at the beginning of the D20 boom. Back then it was a lot easier to sell books because there were more people to sell them to and there were a lot more distributors.

 

After the D20 glut and a few distributor implosions there are now only a few distribution outlets with Alliance at the top.

 

I n the first 6 months of GODSEND Agendas life cycle I sold about 600 copies. I went to Gen Con and sold a few more…life was good back then.

 

If GODSEND Agenda had been a D20 product I could have easily sold twice as many (it reminds me of the black and white comic boom of the 80s).

 

In the last six months Wizards Attic started doing funny business.

 

 

Luckily I didn’t get caught in that fiasco and was only out about $1-200. I got my remaining 200+ copies back and sold a few here and there.

 

 

I eventual gave most of the remaining stock away as promotional material and now have two boxes in my garage which I plan on keeping for old time sake.

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The market is shrinking, fewer retailers are carrying RPGs, especially from smaller companies, and distributors are resistive of buying RPGs as a backlist product. This has been slowly changing situation. You can could it has been gradually happening for a few years. To be fair, this has been slowly happening for a dozen years.

 

How much of the market shrinkage do you think is the result of console and PC games, particularly WoW? Do either of you expect to see a resurgence in RPG sales?

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Computer games aren’t to blame. Neither are card games (which was the blame before WoW)

 

They didn’t kill all the distributors or created the shenanigans from fulfillment houses

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Computer games aren’t to blame. Neither are card games (which was the blame before WoW)

 

They didn’t kill all the distributors or created the shenanigans from fulfillment houses

 

Hear, hear.

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Thanks for the replies!

 

Is there a "typical" timeline from start to finish? Obviously Jerry pointed out the pitfall of editing and proofing your own work, but are there other risks?

 

From what I can tell, these days most of the steps are accomplished by the same person, is that true?

 

Who has the property rights after all is said and done?

 

Anywho, keep up the good discussion. I had a random thought that I might want to really publish something someday and was curious what it would take.

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Is there a "typical" timeline from start to finish? Obviously Jerry pointed out the pitfall of editing and proofing your own work, but are there other risks?

It’s always good to get a second pair of eye on the book. Someone who doesn’t care about the book and doesn’t have an emotional investment in it. They will tell you what parts aren’t clear and what looks funny because they aren’t part of your “creative vision”.

 

From what I can tell, these days most of the steps are accomplished by the same person, is that true?

I do a lot of the work on my books because

1- my ego is so large I believe no one can do it better than me:p

2- It saves cost

3- I do most of this for a living anyway so its no big deal. I also have a good friend to bounce ideas off of and good play groups

 

Who has the property rights after all is said and done?

I own all my IPs and keep it that way. When I buy art or writing I buy all the rights so I don’t have to worry about reusing it in the future.

 

Anywho, keep up the good discussion. I had a random thought that I might want to really publish something someday and was curious what it would take.

If you have the fire in your belly I suggest doing it.

 

A lot of people THINK about doing stuff

Just do it man. Get your vision out there.

 

Nothing makes a printed author any more special than you. The only difference is that they did it. They took the leap and enforced their will upon reality.

 

Not saying your ideas stink but even if they did and had no chance for successes I suggest following your passions to the end. Never utter the words “I should have done that” when you can say “Oh yeah, I did that”

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I own all my IPs and keep it that way. When I buy art or writing I buy all the rights so I don’t have to worry about reusing it in the future.

 

If you have the fire in your belly I suggest doing it.

 

A lot of people THINK about doing stuff

Just do it man. Get your vision out there.

 

Nothing makes a printed author any more special than you. The only difference is that they did it. They took the leap and enforced their will upon reality.

 

Not saying your ideas stink but even if they did and had no chance for successes I suggest following your passions to the end. Never utter the words “I should have done that” when you can say “Oh yeah, I did that

 

Thanks Jerry, always good to have a mentor in the biz. Wayne Gretzky once said: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

 

btw, what's an IP? Is that Intellectual Property? Otherwise, that means "Internet Protocol" or "Instructor Pilot" to me. :)

 

I really love RPGs and gaming, in general. I love BSing around the table, creating characters and then coming up with stories around those characters with my friends. Creating worlds and settings also sparks my imagination and I get a chance to "play God."

 

Just a week or so ago I was in the forums chatroom asking folks for ideas for my pulp hero character for mbentley's pbp game. I absolutely loved that experience... trading and sharing ideas back and forth. Sharing my vision and ideas, listening to other folks put their own little twist or flavor and in the end, coming up with a very satisfying character concept. It was a blast.

 

I guess it comes down to a choice of continuing to "publish" my thoughts/ideas on the web for free vs charging people for it. Gaming to me, is a hobby... like other folks play golf or fix up classic cars. I'm passionate about it, but I don't look to it as a source of revenue. But at the same time, I like sharing experiences and if I can interact with a larger group, all the better.

 

Does that make sense?

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Now, I know nothing of publishing or game design.

 

What I do know is business, and these are a mess in most ways. If you are doing it for fun, to make something, thats great. I think people just need to realize that the likelyhood of making any money is slim at best.

 

The market is just too badly hamstrung.

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Now, I know nothing of publishing or game design.

 

What I do know is business, and these are a mess in most ways. If you are doing it for fun, to make something, thats great. I think people just need to realize that the likelyhood of making any money is slim at best.

 

The market is just too badly hamstrung.

 

I'm still curious about why. Everyone mentions how the market is crap now, but no one seems to attribute it to anything. People don't just suddenly, and randomly, stop doing stuff en-mass. That seems to be the general opinion I'm hearing though.

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I'd theorize that it's the overall economy. I've seen a lot of ire out on the net over the pending 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that was announced at GenCon - some of it because of the dramatic changes to the system, but more because it'll be a boxed set with a $99.95 price tag. At the moment, the economy in the U.S. being what it is, things like RPGs start to become more of a luxury item than they were ten years ago. Ten years back, if an RPG tweaked my interest even a little, I'd pick it up. Now, I research the living daylights out of anything I'm considering, and then make sure that all of the bills are paid and there's a cushion in the event of unforeseen circumstances before heading off to pick whatever it is up either online or at the game store. Ten years ago, for instance, even with the negative reviews, Mongoose Publishing's Babylon 5 Universe for Traveller would have been a must have - as it is, with the reviews and Mongoose retiring the license, I let it go by. Maybe there was some good stuff in it; don't know. Too rich for my blood to take the chance, at this point.

 

That said, there are still some things, like Septimus, that I'll grab as soon as I have the option to, because, well, it's D6 by Bill Coffin, and it's set on a Dyson Sphere. What's not to like? :cool:

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I'm still curious about why. Everyone mentions how the market is crap now, but no one seems to attribute it to anything. People don't just suddenly, and randomly, stop doing stuff en-mass. That seems to be the general opinion I'm hearing though.

 

 

That’s just it, they haven’t suddenly started disappearing this has been going on for quite some time.

 

I talk to Mike and Lisa Pondsmith (oops excuse my while I pick those names up) at conventions and they tell stories about the 80s when a small print run was 3,000 copies of a book and that if you couldn’t sell that many then it wasn’t worth doing. Now 3k is a HUGE success!!!

 

We share some of the same problems with comic books. The fanbase isn’t getting younger and increasingly becoming set in their ways. If they bought White Wolf in 1991 then they probably still buy White Wolf today…and don’t buy anything else (or at least very little).

 

You can blame the economy for some of the problem but last year at Gencon I had one of my better years. People still spend money on what they want there’s no doubt about that. I know I still spend a ton on money on comics and they just had a price increase to $3.99 a book. :eek:

 

 

The difference with comics is that Hollywood has found that they can make money from a R&D department (comic publishers) that is self sufficient and turns a profit. That hasn’t happened yet with RPGs but if it ever does you’ll see a huge paradigm shift.

 

Publishing RPGs are hard. If I had to survive off of what I make I would soon be turning tricks behind the Steak and Shake. I make enough to travel to cons and hang out for a week plus enough to cover my cost and printing for the next book.

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You can blame the economy for some of the problem but last year at Gencon I had one of my better years.

 

Wasn't last year's GenCon when you released HELLAS?

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I'm still curious about why. Everyone mentions how the market is crap now, but no one seems to attribute it to anything. People don't just suddenly, and randomly, stop doing stuff en-mass. That seems to be the general opinion I'm hearing though.

 

I would say that it is primarily because of the generational changes. I started playing D&D now about 20-22 years ago, when I was 10 years old. Now kids who are 10-15 live on video games, don't read, and have as little interaction with their peers as possible. Combine this with the stigma of the game and the difficulty of getting it together and you have a serious problem.

 

Think of it this way. Lets say that in a given 20 mile radious you used to have 1,000 players of RPG's in general. Now that number has decreased to 600 lets say. This exponentially decreases the likelyhood of finding a game, let alone a good game, or of the particular game in question. It is all a game of exponents. Losing 1 player does not effect 1 game, it effects 5-6 people who may have played with that person and breaks a game down entirely and so on. It is a massively cascading effect only made easier by simple alternatives in the form of video games and MMORPG's.

 

I'd theorize that it's the overall economy. I've seen a lot of ire out on the net over the pending 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that was announced at GenCon - some of it because of the dramatic changes to the system, but more because it'll be a boxed set with a $99.95 price tag. At the moment, the economy in the U.S. being what it is, things like RPGs start to become more of a luxury item than they were ten years ago. Ten years back, if an RPG tweaked my interest even a little, I'd pick it up. Now, I research the living daylights out of anything I'm considering, and then make sure that all of the bills are paid and there's a cushion in the event of unforeseen circumstances before heading off to pick whatever it is up either online or at the game store. Ten years ago, for instance, even with the negative reviews, Mongoose Publishing's Babylon 5 Universe for Traveller would have been a must have - as it is, with the reviews and Mongoose retiring the license, I let it go by. Maybe there was some good stuff in it; don't know. Too rich for my blood to take the chance, at this point.

 

That said, there are still some things, like Septimus, that I'll grab as soon as I have the option to, because, well, it's D6 by Bill Coffin, and it's set on a Dyson Sphere. What's not to like? :cool:

 

Respectfully disagree here Lee. In a bad economy RPG's offer one of the cheapest methods of entertainment out ther. Anything else you do on a saturday night is going to run you $20, if you have my wife, $100.

 

That’s just it, they haven’t suddenly started disappearing this has been going on for quite some time.

 

I talk to Mike and Lisa Pondsmith (oops excuse my while I pick those names up) at conventions and they tell stories about the 80s when a small print run was 3,000 copies of a book and that if you couldn’t sell that many then it wasn’t worth doing. Now 3k is a HUGE success!!!

 

We share some of the same problems with comic books. The fanbase isn’t getting younger and increasingly becoming set in their ways. If they bought White Wolf in 1991 then they probably still buy White Wolf today…and don’t buy anything else (or at least very little).

 

You can blame the economy for some of the problem but last year at Gencon I had one of my better years. People still spend money on what they want there’s no doubt about that. I know I still spend a ton on money on comics and they just had a price increase to $3.99 a book. :eek:

 

The difference with comics is that Hollywood has found that they can make money from a R&D department (comic publishers) that is self sufficient and turns a profit. That hasn’t happened yet with RPGs but if it ever does you’ll see a huge paradigm shift.

 

Publishing RPGs are hard. If I had to survive off of what I make I would soon be turning tricks behind the Steak and Shake. I make enough to travel to cons and hang out for a week plus enough to cover my cost and printing for the next book.

 

Again we talk about compounding and exponents. If the hobby has shrunk by 20%, then the volume of material will shrink by at least that. When this occurs the profit margin shrinks because of higher cost per unit of production, which means the entire line becomes less profitable, breakeven, or more than likely a money losing operation.

 

Whenever you have something like printing involved, you have a massive quantitative disadvantage. The more you print the less it costs per unit, by a large margin, meaning you profit margin is higher per unit, and your incentive to produce is higher.

 

Now, you have a rising cost of production, lower total number of units being pushed through, a greater pressure of distribution, and a lower overall profit model.

 

The.business.is.hosed. (economic term).

 

I have spoken with Hellsreach at length about this because I don't know crap about the industry, but I do know alot about business in general and how they work etc. I simply don't see a light in the tunnel. The only thing that I can see making money are cheap to produce options spun off in small groups, but you will never make real money at it anymore.

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I agree that the player base shrinking has a profound effect.

 

My post was based on my own experience with the gamers I know in Southern California - one has lost hours at his job, and has other concerns such as rent and a storage unit, and being able to afford a tank of gas to get to and from work now more pressing, and all of us have cut back from being avid buyers to (what I'd classify as) very cautious buyers, but you're right, RPGs are a far better value for the entertainment dollar than anything else out there.

 

I bought Traveller in the Black Box version back in 1977 and still play it in 2009, so that outlay of perhaps 20.00 dollars in 1977 has provided more hours of entertainment than I can readily count. Same with Star Wars and Ghostbusters.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that there are plenty of newer releases that might be "the next big thing" or end up being a "collection game" - one that you read through but no one is that interested in playing, for whatever reason, so it ends up on the shelf. In the past, I'd pick up one that I might leverage toward something else. Now, the games on my radar are Septimus and Cubicle 7's Doctor Who in October, because I know we'll actually play them. Anything else, like Eclipse Phase, while it certainly looks like a good game, I'll be researching like crazy because at this point every entertainment dollar is a bullet that must hit its mark. I know Doctor Who is a shoe-in because last Saturday at my Birthday party some of my players were talking about things that happened in the Doctor Who playtest and how much fun it was, so I know already that if I send out word it's continuing that I've got the group's buy-in.

 

In short (too late!), I agree that it's other factors beside the economy as well, but for me and my friends here in Southern California, I'd say the economy is the big one.

 

To loop this around to the original topic, I'd listen to any feedback from playtesters and responses to any marketing attempts very carefully - make sure that the game has the factors that make a game bring the awesome to the gaming table. I think with D6 powering it, that's a good start. If the setting is intriguing and cool and loaded with potential for adventure, that's pretty much the deal-closer. If it's a setting that, every time you post about it, you're seeing replies like "Yes, but what do the players do in the setting?" then you might consider that it's in need of more development. That's an important thing. I see that all the time on the web, in game design forums, and if you can't answer that question I think that more time at the old drawing board is required.

Edited by Lee Torres

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Publishing RPGs are hard. If I had to survive off of what I make I would soon be turning tricks behind the Steak and Shake. I make enough to travel to cons and hang out for a week plus enough to cover my cost and printing for the next book.

 

To back up bave's point, I think your statement there is very telling, Jerry. You can't make a living solely by publishing RPGs. The guys from Eden Studios are here in Albany and they operate out of the second floor of their FLGS. My guess is that the combined profits of publishing and retail allow them to remain in business.

 

I've heard a rumor (I can't remember where) that publishers are going to focus games and adventures around 1 GM and 2-3 PCs rather than the traditional 1 GM and 4-5 PCs. I think it's a smart move.

 

I've been here in Albany for over a year now looking for a gaming group and have come up empty-handed. Unless I want to A) play a game that doesn't hold a lot of interest for me or B) risk tempting the ire of my wife and children by playing on a weeknight.

Edited by Rerun941

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To back up bave's point, I think your statement there is very telling, Jerry. You can't make a living solely by publishing RPGs. The guys from Eden Studios are here in Albany and they operate out of the second floor of their FLGS. My guess is that the combined profits of publishing and retail allow them to remain in business.

I’m sure they also do a lot larger volume than I do with publishing. Its not impossible to make a living in the RPG business its just very hard. Most of us just don’t have the business savvy or that one paradigm shifting product (Magic the gathering) to be super successful.

 

I plan on changing with my brand new RPG called What’s the Smell?

 

 

I've been here in Albany for over a year now looking for a gaming group and have come up empty-handed. Unless I want to A) play a game that doesn't hold a lot of interest for me or B) risk tempting the ire of my wife and children by playing on a weeknight.

 

I have the exact opposite problem here in Vegas

 

I have 3 gaming groups. One on Sunday. One Wednesday, one on Friday. All different games with different groups of friends. There is also a monthly game meet with the gamers here in Vegas. I have the opportunity to play almost any game I want.

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I've been here in Albany for over a year now looking for a gaming group and have come up empty-handed. Unless I want to A) play a game that doesn't hold a lot of interest for me or B) risk tempting the ire of my wife and children by playing on a weeknight.

 

Wish I still lived in Upstate, NY. In theory I might be back up there living in 8-10 months. Not that any of this has to do with the topic. Sorry:o

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I have the exact opposite problem here in Vegas

 

I have 3 gaming groups. One on Sunday. One Wednesday, one on Friday. All different games with different groups of friends. There is also a monthly game meet with the gamers here in Vegas. I have the opportunity to play almost any game I want.

 

*cry* The people around here seem to be stuck on D&D and/or they only want to play on weeknights.

 

Lemme know if you're back in the area, mbentley, would be great to meet ya. :)

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