Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Past, Present, Future

The New Year always ushers in a flood of self-reflection -- often manifest in those pesky annual, ultimately forgotten “resolutions” -- with an eye toward self-improvement. I find it just one of several times throughout the year when I force myself to look back at where I’ve been, take stock in the present, and evaluate the best future course.

The Past Year

Despite limitations on my time, energy, and focus I managed to achieve many fulfilling accomplishments during 2012 related to game publishing, development, and community building.

I released two games through Griffon Publishing Studio, a free, second edition of the kid-friendly Creatures & Caverns-- revamped with some new artwork and updated with some new gamey bits -- and the solitaire u-boat wargame Operation Drumbeat. Both did fairly well by my standards; Creatures & Caverns 2nd Edition received some very positive reviews and numerous downloads, while Operation Drumbeat spent the first two weeks of its release at the top of Wargame Vault’s “Hottest Items” listing and garnered a “Copper Best-Seller” designation. Not all my efforts went toward my own projects; the fine people at Wicked North Games gave me several opportunities to contribute to their Westward steampunk roleplaying game due out later in 2013; these offered more structured but engaging challenges writing to deadlines and someone else’s setting…and I enjoyed it immensely. The company’s custodianship of d6 Magazinealso afforded me an opportunity to give a rather extensive interview and contribute to a future issue.

I accomplished some significant design work and playtesting with two projects, a set of miniatures wargaming tank rules for kids and a retro-clone-style fantasy roleplaying game with some innovative mechanics (and possibly suitable for introducing kids to the hobby, though I’m considering dropping that angle). While I was aided by my young nephew in playtesting the miniatures game, I received considerable advice and encouragement from a small but loyal and intelligent corps of online playtesters for the roleplaying game.

Cultivating specific and broad relationships online remained a large part of my activities in the past year, both from a professional and personal standpoint. Google+ provided a useful and relatively stable platform from which to connect (and re-connect) with people through online social  networking. My activities ranged from promoting my blog writing and cultivating professional contacts (artists, playtesters, fellow designers) to simply catching up with old friends and sharing odd bits of my crazy life. I even ran a Heroes of Rura-Tonga pulp roleplaying game adventure through Google+ Hangouts as part of an online “convention.” After hearing about them through several online venues I supported several Kickstarter projects, notably the aforementioned Westward steampunk roleplaying game by Wicked North Games, Stan!’s The Littlest Shoggoth, and Monte Cook’s far-future science fiction game Numenera. Of course I continued blogging regularly at Hobby Games Recce, though after some earlier self-evaluation I decided to also write about my game design experience on this blog, alternating posting dates between the two but still publishing something every Tuesday.

The Present

I’ve taken the latter half of December off from most game-related work with numerous yet necessary preparations (including lots of baking and cooking) for my son’s birthday and the Christmas holiday a week later, with house guests, dinner guests, and people coming and going; all of which wipes most of my already scarce free time and energy for personal pursuits. It’s a break from my game projects, but I view it as an opportunity to cleanse my palate, focus on something completely different, and vary my routine before hunkering down and getting back to work in the New Year.

The holiday season -- from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, and including whatever holiday one happens to celebrate during the darkest time of the year -- also offers a chance to remove myself from the everyday grind and take a moment to celebrate the mundane and special things that make life outstanding. Among these are my home with a geeked-out office, a supportive spouse, an inquisitive and outgoing toddler son, numerous friends, and the means to pursue my career as best I can at the moment.

The Future

Overall I felt 2012 went fairly well, so I feel pursuing and expanding some of those objectives in game publishing, development, and community building remains an admiral goal in 2013.

I’m looking forward to developing several game projects with an eye toward bringing them to publication. The miniature wargame needs a draft distilled from disparate notes, comprehensive stats for a variety of tanks, an outline and draft of optional rules, and scenario ideas. From a graphic perspective I need to find some way to include top-down scale counters (in lieu of miniatures) and possibly contact the manufacturers of 15mm miniatures I currently own to see what permissions, if any, they might require to use their minis in photographs for the final game. Additional playtesting for modified rules wouldn’t’ hurt, either, assuming I can find a willing group beyond my usual corps of loyal followers.

The retro-clone-style fantasy roleplaying game poses some challenges. I’m still unsure how well the mechanics work for this style of play -- something I intended to explore further with additional playtest materials and already previewed here as the Oracle System -- and I’m insecure about whether or not an audience/market exists for this kind of game. Recent releases (paid and free) in both the fields of games for kids and “old school renaissance” games (OSR) undermine my already shaky self-confidence in this project. I’m also considering floating this as a Kickstarter project, but wouldn’t consider it until other issues find some sense of resolution and I have a solid draft in hand. I might revisit another fantasy roleplaying game project, a system-neutral game setting called The Infinite Cathedral I’ve had in development for a while, though I need to re-evaluate my original plans in light of the new “market model” perpetuated by online game download sites like DriveThruRPG that emphasizes smaller, cheaper releases rather than more substantial, more expensive products. I hope to investigate bringing Griffon Publishing Studio PDF publications into print-on-demand format through the DriveThruRPG program, though this may be limited by my technical abilities and software upgrade budget. Other projects in the board game field could also use some attention as time, energy, and focus make themselves available. I’m also open to considering freelance writing and editing jobs from other publishers to maintain my skills and expand my professional work beyond my own projects.

Community building -- especially with those involved in the adventure gaming hobby at various levels -- remains a priority even if I’m limited to accomplishing that primarily through online venues. I intend to continue growing what little following I have by online interaction and, hopefully, at least one big, new game release this year. I’d like to find the time to engage in more Google+ Hangout games to promote existing game material, playtest new ideas, and enjoy old favorites…all while connecting with fans and friends “face-to-face,” so to speak. I’ll continue blogging at Hobby Games Recce and here at Schweig’s Game Design Journal on alternating Tuesdays. I view supporting interesting, affordable, and well-thought-out Kickstarter game projects as part of my community-building objective. For now Kickstarter remains a great means for creative minds to find patrons willing to fund projects that otherwise might not see production, a model I fully endorse and have advocated for several years. I also hope to find other opportunities to be generous and supportive with what little time and resources I have at my disposal.

Overall I aim to be more positive both online and in my real-life interactions. Monte Cook made a good point back in August about remaining positive in online interactions; it’s an attitude worth adopting throughout the year to make the internet and the world a slightly better place in the face of seemingly overwhelming negativity.

The New Year’s holiday remains a good time to learn from the past, celebrate the present, and look hopefully to the future. Here’s hoping your New Year brings some encouraging and fulfilling adventures into your life.

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