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Author Topic: The new distribution  (Read 8773 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
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« on: May 03, 2001, 10:59:00 AM »

All this talking about what makes an independent game naturally gets me thinking about distribution. What methods are available to the independent game artist (yes, that's the new title I'm using for 'amateur game designer') and what methods haven't been tried?

We've already seen:

a) Mainstream distribution. Printed as a book, sold to distributors who sell it to retailers. (Orkworld)

b) Direct book sales. (Orbit)

c) Direct electronic sales. (Elfs, old version of Sorcerer)

d) Freely distributed, single-source. (http://www.memento-mori.com/main/">Memento-Mori Theatricks)

e) Freely distributed, freely proliferated via Web. (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&q=fudge+game">Fudge)

f) Meme-type replication over e-mail/Usenet (Early versions of Fudge, early Elfs - I saw it in an e-mail 13 months ago)

What haven't we seen? As I slowly become more taken with the notion that RPGs can be art (check out this side note: they sell pre-framed art at Ikea. It bites. They sell RPGs with bright, full-cover colors at Waldenbooks. Hm.) Anyway, as I become more taken with RPGs as art, I want to think more about 'guerilla distribution'--artistic methods of getting something into head-space without using traditional methods. Here's some ideas:

a) Create a small game--Memento-Mori size--and distribute it as a tri-fold flyer on a metropolitan street corner with your website address on the flyer. (This will get people who've never played RPGs before. This is a good thing. The current gamer culture's so damn inbred that creating RPGs for gamers is like making art for art critics--a fucking lame idea at best.)

b) Find an empty wall in your city. Make sure it's public property and not private--say, for example, under a bridge. Spray-paint easy LARP rules there. Instant LARP-wall.

c) [commercial] An on-line dynamic RPG. Create the base system and setting and then have the entire thing in an easy to use database system. You may not even have to show all the rules if you convince people to use the site for the game. Character with a Lockpicking: Good trying to open a normal lock? Click here. As people enter their characters, NPCs, creatures, cities, etc, the game grows more and more. Characters and locations are all on-line, so you can move to a new real-life city and join a new group and your character may already be familiar with them, or at least the area they're playing in.

What other methods can you think of?
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2001, 12:32:00 PM »

Hey Clinton,



That tri-fold pamphlet idea is awesome! And it would be heinously appropriate if the RPG itself was about a school board election or something. I should totally develop something for this idea. How fun.



Another guerilla RPG technique could be a chain letter, although I'm not quite sure how I'd make it work.



Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2001, 01:47:00 PM »

Someone of the #rpgnet chatroom suggested I sell Color Wheel.  The concept floored me.

A bunch of colored marbles, beans or dice.  Hell, we'll just use dice.  A small one-sheet color copy of the rules.
A zip-loc bag.  A price-tag (say, $1 + the cost of the included dice).

Presto!  Instant honest-to-god, for sale indie game product that I could sell out of my bag at game conventions.

Then I could license Color Wheel -- make a Color Wheel setting, post it on your website, pay a license fee of $1 (heh) and I put you in the rules under the "Online settings" section.

Anyway, yeah...remember the Dice Club idea?  Set up a card table and some chairs on a street corner and play D&D... :smile:  It's performance art -- like the "robot guy" or the woman who plays the banjo!

Speaking of art...

Independent Game Artist.  Thank you, Mr. Nixon!  I don't understand the friction on the game-as-art, game designer-as-artist.  I mean, I consider myself an artist.  My medium is RPG's.  Why do so many people have a problem with that?
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2001, 01:51:00 PM »

Quote

Anyway, yeah...remember the Dice Club idea?  Set up a card table and some chairs on a street corner and play D&D... :smile:  It's performance art -- like the "robot guy" or the woman who plays the banjo!


I completely forgot about this. I think I'm going to have to try something like this next weekend in the park.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Zak Arntson
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2001, 03:19:00 PM »

Heck, if you made a drinking game/rpg hybrid (that didn't say RPG anywhere on the thing, but had subtle weblinks to the drinking game homepage, which THEN had rpg links), you could get entire college frats and dorms into rpgs.

Make tri-fold pamphlet with college folks in mind, distribute (at parties especially), see what happens.

I also think a rpg with drinking-based mechanic would be way cool.

-Zak
http://zaknet.tripod.com
zak@mimir.net

[ This Message was edited by: zakarn on 2001-05-03 19:19 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2001, 08:09:00 AM »

I'm thinking about GenCon. I have "entrepeneur" classification, which requires that I sell only one product from my booth. That would be Sorcerer, of course.

However, nothing stops me from giving anything else AWAY. Why not fistfuls of pamphlets and little booklets with games like InSpectres or Soap? (With the authors' permission, of course) Why not a G/N/S pamphlet that makes sense? Why not URL's in profusion, listing tons of independent games? Why not a definition of "indie" and a list of the vast spectrum of their production and content?

This is exactly what I'm gonna do.

Best,
Ron
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2001, 08:23:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-05-09 12:09, Ron Edwards wrote:
I'm thinking about GenCon. I have "entrepeneur" classification, which requires that I sell only one product from my booth. That would be Sorcerer, of course.


Does that include anything else for the Sorcerer line? For example, could Jared's Schism be sold?

Quote

However, nothing stops me from giving anything else AWAY. Why not fistfuls of pamphlets and little booklets with games like InSpectres or Soap? (With the authors' permission, of course) Why not a G/N/S pamphlet that makes sense? Why not URL's in profusion, listing tons of independent games? Why not a definition of "indie" and a list of the vast spectrum of their production and content?

This is exactly what I'm gonna do.


I'll contribute in any way to this effort. Perhaps I could make a Forge pamphlet with profuse links.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
joshua neff
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2001, 01:35:00 PM »

clinton--

i LOVE the pamphlet idea & the graffiti idea--brilliant! guerilla art is some of my favorite art...& i like the color wheel idea, too...oh, & the dice club idea...

i agree that bringing fresh new minds into rpgs is a good thing...
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
poppocabba
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« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2001, 01:54:00 PM »

well the other method I am using is cd hand outs.
I load the cross platform cdup as a give away with all my original material, and all the freeware / public domain material I can muster (and there is a ton of it if you have the time to look ). also getting some permissions from good authors to use their material. it works pretty well as an attendance builder for my con games.
 the other idea I have been having is a cd-rom rpg magazine that either could be sold or given away that featured all indy games. perhaps as a charity fund raiser? I think on some level it would be nice to see this happen because then small scale games could really get a leg up on the horrors of hasbro, and big business games.
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poppocabba
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« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2001, 02:00:00 PM »

it occurs to me that if the line between board/ drinking game and rpg could be blurred there might be a way to bring more folks into gaming..

hey zakarn
 I just had the same drinking idea.. I am even publishing some gaming drink recipes in the next issue of my newsletter, we should knock heads on this
hey Ron
 would you want to take a look at a sample copy of my freebie indy cd to see what you would think, and offer up some notes?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2001, 05:23:00 AM »

Mike (Mike, right?),

I'd be happy to look at any materials you send me, although sometimes schedules keep me from getting to things right away.

I'm concerned, or skeptical, or some hybrid of these terms, about CD products for RPGs. I haven't seen any evidence that, well, anyone WANTS them. At first glance, it's a fine idea, but I've already had one bad experience in trying to market Sorcerer that way.

Jeff Diamond once told me that the saddest, loneliest booths at any SF, comics, or gaming con he attended were the CD products. I'm not sure whether cons are a valid test market, but there's a nasty ring truth to his observation.

Still, maybe you've thought of something no one else has yet.

Best,
Ron
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poppocabba
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2001, 07:44:00 AM »

for me it is a simple matter of economy. for half the price of just printing background materials, I am giving out enough material for folks to start their own campaigns, and on top of that over 280 megs of other stuff. according to my figures each cd saves about 12-16 hours download time, and not to mention god knows how long in search time. then you can factor in the time saving of having a ton of weblinks at the lucky recipients finger tips..great googly moogley!
 
because most of what i do is at least based in reality. I am able to use vast amounts of free educational resources. period books from project gutenberg, and period photos from the libary of congress etc.
 I ran a game set 1938 new orleans, and I was able to include 600 images, and tons of text. for a space game i slapped on hubble images. for my latest project ,set in the enlightenment, i've got uniform images, accounts of old battles,  period documents, as well as fiction.
 I think any gm worth his salt is going to research setting on the internet, and most likely at least 25% of his source material will be free, there is no reason not to give it out to players, as well as including all your adventure files.

 in terms of how this could apply to more commercial projects, why not offer free related downloads when people go to the page to the page where they download the product, why not have an html page include just of related links with the download if free use is only for non-profit enterprises? you can also order up those business card cds, so folks could use them as a business card with a sample version of  their product.
 
in terms of selling points, when players come to my games, or express interest in my gaming club, they walk out with enough material to start their own games, they have maps, and free systems, related fonts, and images.
 one last idea..I have recently been very impressed with the way the independant music scene supports itself by having benefits, and I was thinking of the fact that my 2 favorite systems ( Kult, and Whispering Vault ) have recently gone under. I think it would be of tremendous benefit to the entire hobby, and indy games inparticular if game designers would ban together to support each other, like musicians throwing benefits for those among them that have had a down turn for one reason or another, things would be much better, and cds could very well be the method of doing this. who else is going to support us, Wizards? rpga?
 i think cds are unquestionably the way to go for high value freebies, and I also think that it wouldn't take much work for them to massively increase their appeal in a more commercial sense as well
sorry for the grammar and some rehash -popo
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2001, 08:26:00 AM »

>Jeff Diamond once told me that the saddest,
>loneliest booths at any SF, comics, or
>gaming con he attended were the CD
>products. I'm not sure whether cons are a
>valid test market, but there's a nasty ring
>truth to his observation.

Huh.  I've always thought that a GOOD CD product (appropriate images & sound, search/retrieve and print interface that really works, and etc.) would be a natural for RPGs - even a perfect "setting book" format.  And "adventures" - come up with as many handouts as you want, they can just print 'em out!

But, like many things computer, it would take some serious work to really do a good job, so maybe that explains it.  Slapping your website on a CD does NOT fit the bill.  

Gordon C. Landis
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Clay
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« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2001, 09:52:00 AM »

CD's might be cheap to burn, but they're even cheaper to throw away.  What I've noticed at trade shows is that I never open the free CDs that are handed out to me.  I can't do it while I'm walking to the next booth, or sitting down over lunch.  It requires that I take the effort to load it into a computer to read it.

Now ask yourself, are you going to go out of your way to read somebody else's marketing material?  I'm certainly not.  If they want me to read it, they're going to make it trivially easy for me to access.

My recommendation is to print your material on paper.  Don't waste a lot of money on expensive glossy stock or four-color separations.  Print in one or two colors, with an eye-catching design.  You can find a print-shop near you that can print five hundred or a thousand copies cheaper than you can photocopy the same quantity at your local Kinko's, with a much nicer result. Pricing in the print industry is cut-throat.

On that printed sheet, put enough information to get people interested.  Scatter your web site promiscuously throughout the flyer.  On your web site, place all of your free materials.  Make sure there's a way to order all of the free goodies on CD on your web site, at a small profit to yourself.

This route will save you money, as well as increase the probability that people will see your material.
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
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