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Production value (split from Mainstream)

Started by Jon H, November 13, 2002, 12:59:07 PM

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Jon H

Quote from: Paul CzegeHey Jon,

Fantastic post. Having never seen a pg45 style store, it's strange and exciting to see you write of the nuts and bolts from firsthand. Seeing description of the way the posters work, that kind of thing, somehow renders what seems idealistic into thrillingly viable technicolor. I'd love to see even more detail, perhaps a map of the store, with some notes about product layout, and photos.

One thing I'm not sure I'm understanding is how we need to be thinking higher production value is important to a RPG retail translation of the pg45 model. How exactly can a title like Zot be understood as competing in terms of production value with stuff from Image? Zot, in my mind, competes in terms of ambitiousness. It seems to me that the primary job of the pg45 style store is to aid the potential customer in getting beyond surface characteristics as the primary factor in purchasing decisions. D&D3e, for instance, has very high production value.


Nb: before I respond, I just need to make it absolutely crystal clear than I was never a Pg45 employee - merely an impressed customer who went on to work for a totally unconnected comic store, taking some Pg45 ideas with me.  That in mind, I don't claim to speak for the Official Pg45 model - if there is such a thing!

Phew.  Glad that's out of the way.

I want to give the idea of production values some more thought perhaps - as Ron mentioned - in another thread.  (maybe we could take this post as the start of a new thread?)  I agree it's a potentially controversial issue, very much dependant on intention.  Lets not forget that Pg45's primary purpose is to make money as a business selling comic books.  That may not entirely mesh with an indie RPG producers intentions - that is to say indie RPG makers may not have commercial interests at the heart of their operation.  I happen to believe that Pg 45 does.

What strikes me most about an actual Pg45 store is the vast majority of stock, whilst not Image titles, still has a very high aesthetic value, and a production quality on a par, if not in excess of Image.  Perhaps it would be going a little far to think that they encourage customers to look past appearances - appearance is often half the draw of a well produced comic book.  Maybe that does not apply so strictly to an RPG, but I would be wary of discounting the aesthetic side of the model.

Aesthetics is, IMO essential to its success.  The target audience, it would appear to me, has a fairly large amount of disposable cash to spend on good looking books.  

Dave McKean, John J Muth, A lot of Vertigo, Acme Novelty Library, Love and Rockets...a good stock of monograph art titles...think Fantagraphics, and that's a pretty good indication of the type of stock I'm talking about.

All very much outside what would have previously been called 'mainstream' comics, but all very well produced none the less.  

Perhaps this is what Page 45 is doing - offering a quality venue for high quality material - both in terms of content AND production values.  There is no doubt they have recognised the very high level of visual attraction and aesthetic regard given to many comics outside the 'mainstream'.

There is definitely a 'high class' alternative feel to Page 45, rather than a punk/garage feel.  Whilst they do stock an extensive range of very small press/garage comics, that doesn't appear (to my eyes) to be the main thrust of the model.  It certainly isn't what pulls new customers in through the door.

I would also add, that I feel Zot has pretty high production values - the trade paperbacks certainly rival the quality of traditional 'mainstream' b/w publications.

I'm wary of linking less than high production values with a kind of 'indie- integrety', as I think that weakens the model somewhat, but others' mileage may vary.   I think in the comic book world, succesful indie titles thrive on a high regard for aesthetics and production values.   'Cerberus' being a case in point.  Very high aesthetic values.

But I must go and think on this one some more...glad people are getting some use out of my rambling!

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

I've split this post off from the Mainstream: a revision thread.

I'd like to emphasize that my distinction between (and reversal of) mainstream and alternative applies strictly to the imaginative content of the game.

1) It is not the same issue as independent vs. non-independent, which is a matter of self-publishing and ownership.

2) It is not the same issue as electronic vs. paper publishing, which is a medium issue.

3) It is not the same issue as direct-sale vs. three-tier, which is a distribution-method issue.

4) And, it is not the same issue grassroots (or "punk" if you will) vs. high production value.

Discussions of "indie" or of the Forge's mission in general continually confound these five things (four numbered above, plus mainstream/alternative). I'd very much like to keep them distinct, conceptually. They do have specific relationships to one another, but not only do these relationships change over time, they are second-order phenomena and not the categories themselves.

So let's talk production value per se. I'll leave aside why most game stores focus on the high end of production, all the stuff about profit margin and so forth. You can find all that in the Channel conflicts thread. That's where I explain why game retailers gravitate toward more expensive games and why gamers get trained, in those stores, to agree with them.

Let's look at it from the non-hobbyist consumer's point of view, and I think that we, as hobbyists, frequently forget that a customer can tell the difference between gloss and class very, very easily.

To take it to the comics store analogy, what you'll find is that in many stores with a primarily-Page 45 approach, they also have racks and racks of low-production value 'zines and minicomics. In strictly mercenary economic terms, these are highly valuable: they add cred to the store's hipness.

Furthermore, such publications fall into production-grades of their own, within their "grassroots" nature. Two stapled pamphlets might have cost the same to photocopy, but one has nice layout and a cool graphic, and the other is a dogeared mess with gray patterns on the page that obscure the text. This stuff matters a lot to people - if you go into the hip comics store, and you see the grassroots rack, these do not compete, in your eyes, with awesomely spiff graphic novels right behind them. They compete with one another - and class is unmistakable, even in the costs-pennies category of production.

Therefore I think a games store of the sort we're all visualizing at the moment would include a wide-ranging mix in terms of absolute scale of production value, but it would also (for purposes of plain economic survival) be rather exacting about the classiness of the products, within each category of production value.

Last Exodus: high production value (in terms of appearance; they printed it overseas), low class
D&D3E: high production value, high class
Sorcerer (PDF version): low production value, low class
Universalis: low production value (in terms of appearance), high class