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General Forge Forums => Independent Publishing => Topic started by: greyorm on October 28, 2009, 05:45:02 PM



Title: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on October 28, 2009, 05:45:02 PM
One of the most oft repeated pieces of advice heard around the Forge regarding getting people playing your game (and hence getting your game sold) is that in order to get people interested in your game, you need to get the word out, specifically by getting people to play the game at conventions, thereby driving sales and interest via word-of-mouth and personal connections with the author. But if you can't make it to conventions, if you're lucky to have one group play your game with you once ever, is there any point to trying to publish your game and hoping you can otherwise make do with the internet?

For example, ORX has sold 120-150 odd copies (mostly to gaming stores), and has received a few reviews (four or five, as I recall). Yet I've never heard of one group (that didn't include me) actually playing the game, or even mentioning it in discussion. ORX has been out since 2005 and I doubt anyone but me, even in the "indie scene", really remembers it, let alone has played it. I'm aware of a good number of other games/designers who are in the same sort of limbo. All the games I do see being played and being talked about being played are games where the creator (or someone else with an interest in the game) is regularly able to go to conventions and promote the game through play, not just by talking about it on-line or maintaining an on-line presence.

I personally began thinking about this when I started working on incorporating the feedback I've received on eXpendable into the current document -- wondering if I should. Given that traditional publishing is discovering (http://www.bkpextranet.com/AuthorMaterials/10AwfulTruths.htm), as we have, that in order to sell you have to utilize your community, and will generally only be able to sell to that community, and that authors have to be their own publicists these days...and that I might make it to one convention a year. So another way to put it might be: if you can't grow your own network (ie: community) from the ground up, for whatever reason, is there a real point in creating and publishing a game in the modern climate (if your purpose is having others purchase and play the game)?

But then the other part of this question is thus: is the accepted chestnut about the necessity of convention play true?


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on October 28, 2009, 06:56:19 PM
Well... I live in Finland, so I never do American conventions, either. Here in Europe we don't usually go to conventions outside our own country, so I haven't promoted my games at European conventions aside from Finnish ones. Zombie Cinema has sold around 400 copies after its first year, I think. Some people have apparently played it, too. I believe that the game could do better through active marketing, such as conventioneering, but that's geography and motivation for you.

(I could also discuss Solar System, but that's tainted by the fact that there is a pre-existing brand and community supporting that one.)

I do agree that not hearing anything about people playing a game is a pretty bad sign. And my experience towards ORX concurs with yours in that it hasn't sold much here, either (0-1 copies I've sold, I think). I don't think that this is so much the lack of convention presence, though - rather, I usually ascribe this sort of thing to bad luck and a lack of Internet noise; if the game had more visibility in the Internet, then it'd attract more people and more buzz, and then its sales might better reflect its quality. A part in why the game hasn't built up an audience could be related to how difficult it is to learn from the text (as I've said previously, ORX almost rivals Capes in incomprehensibility), but ORX is by no means the only underappreciated game in this scene, so it could be just bad luck in timing the publication or something like that.

In summation, I don't think that conventioneering is mandatory to get your game to people's hands, but in all likelihood it's a great help. I wouldn't consider it crucial, as it's lots of work and bother - in principle nothing is preventing me from travelling around Europe conventioneering with Zombie Cinema, but for the fact that I'd rather spend the time writing new stuff. I might be more keen about the matter if my sales were worse, I suppose.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: guildofblades on October 29, 2009, 09:20:17 AM
Two points:

1) Games are social. They require more than one person to play as a group. But that is as much a "community" that is required to make a game commercially viable. If you can market and sell it to "group leader" type personalities, then you will have placed your game at the center of a bunch of local gaming group (ala, micro communities). That can be enough to drive brand recognition and word of mouth propogation that can lend itself to more sales.

2) If you are apt to builder a larger, all connected community around your game (which may or may not in the end be a more overall successful marketing strategy), the Internet is more able to offer that opportunity that play at conventions. Conventions are merely a front line location where you get an opportunity to make a great sales pitch by showing the product in action. Its a sales methodogy with a secondary branding opportunity.  I think it tends to be a favorite method by small companies because its straight forward and can be done with good ol elbow grease rather than needing more capital, coding or resources more involved marketing and sales systems may require. But I don't think anyone should walk away witht he idea that conventioning is the "only" way to market a game. As an example, GOB Publishing has not attended a convention since 2002. Back then we were a two man outfit, part time operation, with no one pulling home a paycheck. Today it is has a staff of 5 between part and full timers and generates many multiples of what it did back in 2002. So convention appearances had zero to do with our growth.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.gobretail.com
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 29, 2009, 11:26:08 AM
I only used cons a little bit during my first few years publishing, and those were tiny local ones anyway.

At that time, "community" for me meant various zines, webrings, and my email list, and that was it. It worked out very well.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Callan S. on October 30, 2009, 11:01:52 PM
Kind of thinking "Selling 'just' 120 copies is pointless??"


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: guildofblades on October 31, 2009, 03:43:53 PM
>>Kind of thinking "Selling 'just' 120 copies is pointless??"<<

Well, 120 copies sold of most items isn't going to be a huge pile of cash. But there would be a significant difference in how they were sold.

120 copies of an item that retails for $30, sold to distributors for $12, costing $6 to produce and another $2 per in free shipping, marketing communications with distributors and other expenses would net someone $720, less all their developmental costs. Which, of course, would vary as based on artwork expenses and if anything like layouts or other production elements were outsourced. If all of that came to zero, $720 cash in pocket for your effort need not imply failure. be up to the individual authors to decide.

Alternatively, 120 copies sold direct off the publishers website, shipping costs charged to the consumer, would be a totally different picture. $30 less $6 printing, less 4% for online payment processing ($1.20) would be $22.80 gross after costs of goods sold, but before developmental costs. 120 x $22.80 = $2,736.

Now, maybe of that 120, we're saying "only" 120 because it has taken 3 years to sell that many, meaning just 40 per year (Not saying that is the case, just making an example). So maybe with direct sales the annual return after costs of goods sold would only be $912. Well, ok, as an independent designer, cobble 50 such publications together in your catalog of games to sell and suddenly you are bringing home $45,600. Some folks could live on that. I know I lived on a lot less a decade and a half ago when starting GOB.

Give them slow sellers some time. You might find they are long distance runners rather than sprinters. They might run a whole lot further than you ever could have thought.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.gobretail.com
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on October 31, 2009, 06:52:05 PM
Sorry, all, would have responded sooner, but the recent 504's on the board have been keeping me away via frustration (I hate sitting for five minutes just trying to get the "Post Reply" page to show up, let alone then trying to get the reply to actually post...and that's all assuming I can get to the thread in the first place).

Eero, Ryan, and Ron, thanks for weighing in. You all seem to be saying much the same thing, which makes me wonder how and why the "conventioneering" chestnut got started? Any ideas?

I do notice at least some small amount of convention play was indicated. Even if it was "just" local it was still connecting with a community through shared play experiences -- though it also looks like that may be no different from any other shared-experience community building (mailing lists, etc). This tells me the fundamental idea that community-building is a necessity to sales and play is correct, even though conventioneering in order to build that community is not necessary (possibly the easiest route though?).

But I think, at least based on what I've seen, most indie designers don't know how to do that bit. I think many of us are very much in a "build it and they will come" mindset, because we're not really sure how to help that along (apparently fiction authors these days receive a list from their publisher that tells them exactly what they must do in order to try and self-promote successfully--many are things publishers used to do for them).

What are the guys whose games are selling/well-known doing to help create/maintain a community? One thing I'm seeing: Vincent blogs about interesting gaming questions/observations; Ron started a general gaming forum (duh); Luke likewise has an active product-specific gaming forum. These are all community-building behaviors. So are things like using direct sales and talking to the folks who buy your book, asking them where they found out about it, what interested them about it, and making sure they know you're always open for feedback; all of it creates buzz/widens the circle of potentials and contact points.

Of course, I've also seen plenty of attempts to do similar--the whole "using the internet to create community"--just fall flat on their face, with empty or one-lone-voice mailing lists and forums and blogs with dust bunnies blowing through them.

A part in why the game hasn't built up an audience could be related to how difficult it is to learn from the text (as I've said previously, ORX almost rivals Capes in incomprehensibility), but ORX is by no means the only underappreciated game in this scene, so it could be just bad luck in timing the publication or something like that.

One note before I jump into the following: I don't want this thread to be about my game or its numbers. I was worried even using it as an example, because I don't want the thread to be about it/me specifically in any sense, it was just a relatively easy example to pull out of my hat. And I'm sure any of us can come up with many more games in precisely the same boat if we need another concrete example.)

That said, Eero, I recall that conversation and pretty much agree with you, but am more concerned with the topic at hand and forthcoming products rather than "already were". As such, this "bad luck" more of us run into than not, as mentioned above (ala empty forum syndrome), what could be done about it, if anything? Is there a way to time publications "right", or at least avoid timing them wrong? Or is it pretty much a crap-shoot? (I certainly suspect so.)

Kind of thinking "Selling 'just' 120 copies is pointless??"

I'm going to try to be specific in order to be general. In answer to the question: yes, in this case it is. For a couple of reasons.

Given IPR's retailer discount, the sales made just enough to pay for their printing each time. I actually made very little money on it above printing & shipping costs (at this point I'm not sure I ever actually managed to pay myself back for all the art I'd purchased for it. That is, I don't believe the book ever made it into the black. If it did, it didn't make it far). So profit-wise, yes, it was a failure as a product.

To be fair, a good chunk of that failure is due to not realizing just how many copies would sell to retailers and how much I would have had to adjust my price point to make those kind of sales worthwhile.

I would also rank it as a failure given that despite selling 120 copies, in over four years I have never had or heard one report from anywhere that anyone has played the game; I have also received perhaps two pieces of unsolicited e-mail on the game in that time. Given this, I suspect those 120 copies are sitting in retailer bargain boxes or on dusty game shelves. As such, play-wise it was also a failure as a product, because no one is playing it (or no one appears to be).

Thus, while selling 120 copies of a game may be numerically impressive, or at least not "bad", if the motive for the game was to have people playing it or making at least some small profit from it, then in this case the game failed on both counts, and the simple number of copies sold is entirely meaningless and does not speak to any sort of actual, appreciable success at all, by any measure.

Especially if we keep in mind we are not talking about direct sales.

Nearly all those ~120 sales were retail, and I'm not really willing to count a retail sale as a "successful sale". With a retail sale I haven't actually sold the game to anyone, I've (still) only potentially sold the game to someone -- it is just passing through one more set of hands (at a cut to my profits). Worse, with retail I don't know if the game ever actually reaches a pair of real hands, or if it just sits in a box/on a shelf. Functionally, those "120 sales" are more like "12" (actual, direct sales I can count where a real person has the product). This might be slightly different if retailers were re-ordering the game, thus indicating that it was actually selling in their store. However, from what I can tell, no store ever re-ordered a copy, which tells me something very different.

As such, I hope you can see why "120 sales" could easily be considered a failure.

As a comparison: consider that I've sold likely around 150 copies of Electric Ghosts over nine years. But I made nothing but profit on it (it has long since paid for itself and continues to do so), I'm aware of people who have used it as inspiration for games or played it wholesale, and every last sale was a direct sale to a real person. As a PDF product, yes, it compares slightly differently on the monetary front because I'm not paying for print costs, shipping, etc, but given its consistent direct-sales record in comparison to the direct-sales record of ORX, it comes out a measurable winner in terms of "success", and likewise "success" regarding play/use. (Also, an interesting measure: you can find people pirating Electric Ghosts -- but NO ONE ANYWHERE pirates ORX. That's a good indication that the former is on people's radar/valued, while the latter is completely off it.)

Now, Electric Ghosts also has folks' mind-space because it is linked to Sorcerer. It "borrows" or "rides" the community buzz that exists around that game, so I've never had to sell it or push it. A new game, or a game by an unknown author, can't do the same thing.

Which means I think the question is still valid: while it seems clear that conventioneering doesn't necessarily have to happen, if one can't/doesn't know how to/doesn't want to do that other community building stuff (in lieu of such?), then is the idea that publishing for profit/play is pointless. One has to do some kind of community-building?

Or, Ryan, would you disagree? (I don't know if you did any community-building, other than just putting your games out there.) And that it is (or can be) just a matter of making quantities of potential interest available (ie: multiple games) rather than a focus on making social connections?


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Callan S. on October 31, 2009, 10:42:18 PM
Quote
if the motive for the game was to have people playing it or making at least some small profit from it
Well, it seems possible, historically, to meet that motive by making the same old crap and stretching the income on unending supplements (well, maybe you need one of the main brands to do this, but...)

Perhaps you weren't really thinking of that motive when you made the game?


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on November 01, 2009, 08:57:21 AM
Callan, please note the question from the original post, with emphasis: "...if you can't grow your own network (ie: community) from the ground up, for whatever reason, is there a real point in creating and publishing a game in the modern climate (if your purpose is having others purchase and play the game)..." For this discussion, I don't care about the other purposes one might have for publishing. So I would prefer to avoid discussion of such as not topical -- similarly any talk about reasons for design (a separate undertaking). Let's focus on the intersection of community-building and publishing for the above stated purpose.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: guildofblades on November 01, 2009, 09:46:16 AM
>>One has to do some kind of community-building?<<

Well, community building can happen at several different levels.

>>Or, Ryan, would you disagree? (I don't know if you did any community-building, other than just putting your games out there.) And that it is (or can be) just a matter of making quantities of potential interest available (ie: multiple games) rather than a focus on making social connections?<<

Well, ideally, if you can do both, that gives you two weapons in your marketing arsenal. For us, we've had different marketing strategies for our different game lines and otherwise an over-arching branding strategy for the company. For instance, with our Empires of History board game line, we've had three distinct target audiences for the games, each of which was approached differently and recieved varying amounts of our resources and attention. Those were we joinned existing communities for the Axis & Allies series of games, as our games were billed as "variants" to those. We did not have to build those communities, as they already existed, and merely needed to join them and behave responsibly once in (ala, not spam folks are shill our wares overly much). Another focus was to join existant wargame communities. As our games tend to be more simple than most war games, this was not a large focus, but it was done to maintain a presence to snag in the curious of mind. And the last, broader stroke effort was simply to target folks with an interest in history in general. Other than that, this line never established a "strong" cohensive community as a singular type entity, but rather we supported our customers with good customer service and other support along the way so that they could use our games within their own local play groups and such, forming their own micro communities.

Though one notable exception would be our 1483 Online game, which was born from one of the board games from the Empires of History line. It has been in development, first as a PBEM and the last few years in beta as a fully automated MMO game, since 1999. At its peak its had about 1500 active players of which the most active few hundred were at the core of a fairly active online community. That community was centered around the online game though and not direclty around the board game line, so while there was crossover (and still is), its not a 1 = 1 type thing. More an effort to build a seprate enterprise that happens to have a community and to broaden the brand rather than make a centralized community for the board games.

Similar marketing approaches were taken with our Heroes Forever RPG line and Button Wars line. It has worked reasonable well for the Heroes Forever line, but less well for Button Wars. Though we've come to the conclusion that that had less to do with the marketing strategy and more to do with value proposition of the line in its current incarnation. Hence why a new approach for a new edition is in the works.

My overall experience is that you can make all sorts of nice shiny games and sell them all sorts of ways, but the games and game lines with the greatest prospect for longevity will be those you help to build and support communities for (need not be a singular large community).

We ourselves are reshaping our marketing approaches for the relaunch of several game lines with this new understanding of how we should shape our marketing efforts to support community building.

Ryan
GOB Retail
GOB Publishing


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: MatrixGamer on November 02, 2009, 05:57:40 AM
I think I have some useful experience to offer on this.

I've been at this for over twenty years and can not honestly say I've every had much commercial success. We do okay at Gen Con because of stuffed animals and puppets not becuase of games. So profit has never been the prime motive of doing this. Having people play my games is the payoff and that is hard to achieve.

When I started I wrote a ton of articles for newletters (now it would be called Blogging - but this was pre-internet). I put out a newsletter which I gave away for free for a couple of years and then just charged cost. I ran play by mail versions of Matrix Games through the newsletter. Sure I went to some conventions but that was as much because this is my hobby as due to selling. I ran games at regional cons to run games. They were not tied to a product I had for sale. Duh! It took me years to figure out I should link what I run with what I sell!

Along the way all this effort has led me to burn out a couple of times. I could easily have quit but when I asked myself what else I'd be doing I didn't have a better thing to do. Pushing Matrix Games is important to me even though I've never had a hit. Along the way this has lead me to learn a ton of skills some of which are cool (like being able to make board games and hardback books). When I die I will not view this as wasted time.

Right now I continue to make games. I have a yahoo group where we play PBEM Matrix Games. We are about to get a Hercule Poirot murder mystery game going. These are all free and account for a good half of the gaming I do in a year. I attend a few cons for fun (Pentacon this coming weekend in Fort Wayne IN, the Seven Years War Association Con in South Bend IN, Marcon in Columbus OH) and Origins to run games. I only have a booth at Gen Con, where I sponcer three people to run games for me out in gaming rooms.

I know the next step for me is to take my most commercial products and sell them to stores. I know I fear doing this. It is mild social anxiety (one of my fatal flaws) but I move ever closer to that goal. Will that bring "success" I suspect not. A few games catch people's imaginations or get enough buzz to be called a hit. Most things don't so we have to be alternately motivated to do the work.

So about the original question - do con runs sell games? My experience is that they do but not many. Cons are expensive to attend and even big companies shot to break even rather than for a profit. Getting actual play is more elusive than a simple answer. Presistence though is a useful trait - one which I think you have - look at how many posts you've made!

Chris Engle


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: MatrixGamer on November 02, 2009, 06:03:59 AM
I think I have some useful experience to offer on this.

I've been at this for over twenty years and can not honestly say I've every had much commercial success. We do okay at Gen Con because of stuffed animals and puppets not becuase of games. So profit has never been the prime motive of doing this. Having people play my games is the payoff and that is hard to achieve.

When I started I wrote a ton of articles for newletters (now it would be called Blogging - but this was pre-internet). I put out a newsletter which I gave away for free for a couple of years and then just charged cost. I ran play by mail versions of Matrix Games through the newsletter. Sure I went to some conventions but that was as much because this is my hobby as due to selling. I ran games at regional cons to run games. They were not tied to a product I had for sale. Duh! It took me years to figure out I should link what I run with what I sell!

Along the way all this effort has led me to burn out a couple of times. I could easily have quit but when I asked myself what else I'd be doing I didn't have a better thing to do. Pushing Matrix Games is important to me even though I've never had a hit. Along the way this has lead me to learn a ton of skills some of which are cool (like being able to make board games and hardback books). When I die I will not view this as wasted time.

Right now I continue to make games. I have a yahoo group where we play PBEM Matrix Games. We are about to get a Hercule Poirot murder mystery game going. These are all free and account for a good half of the gaming I do in a year. I attend a few cons for fun (Pentacon this coming weekend in Fort Wayne IN, the Seven Years War Association Con in South Bend IN, Marcon in Columbus OH) and Origins to run games. I only have a booth at Gen Con, where I sponcer three people to run games for me out in gaming rooms.

I know the next step for me is to take my most commercial products and sell them to stores. I know I fear doing this. It is mild social anxiety (one of my fatal flaws) but I move ever closer to that goal. Will that bring "success" I suspect not. A few games catch people's imaginations or get enough buzz to be called a hit. Most things don't so we have to be alternately motivated to do the work.

So about the original question - do con runs sell games? My experience is that they do but not many. Cons are expensive to attend and even big companies shot to break even rather than for a profit. Getting actual play is more elusive than a simple answer. Presistence though is a useful trait - one which I think you have - look at how many posts you've made!

Chris Engle


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on November 02, 2009, 03:12:47 PM
Thanks for the input, guys, and thanks for answering my question, Ryan.

Chris, you bring up a good point. Looking back, I realize I was really vague in my meaning of using Cons as a platform: I wasn't thinking of the profit-at-Con motivation or running-a-booth when I posted; I was thinking solely about the use of Cons, local or national, for the use of running slots of the games/products in question. I didn't mean to imply using Cons as a way to sell product, because you're correct about them not being good profit-venues. Rather, I think they are seen as a way to build community (or mind-space in the larger community), and then using the community to actually sell the products.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: MatrixGamer on November 03, 2009, 02:26:54 PM
Thart's how I've always viewed them. Nothing wrong with making a profit if you can but breaking even is a good goal for Gen Con and at other cons I'm there having fun as much as I'm pushing product.

Is there anyway you can run your game on line? I've seen people talking about playing on Skype over on the Story Games forum.

Chris Engle


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on November 05, 2009, 07:58:22 AM
Hello Raven

I also believe that the question of conventions or not is probably only the second concern about the overarching one of community.
I think this discussion needs to take into account three precise points, because this discussion is totally connected to Orx as a product:

1) Elfs and Orx look like they are competitors for the same kind of gamist play with an additional objective of exorcising roleplayers of past AD&D-like frustrations and/or providing slapstick comedy in a fantasy setting. Both are essentially catering to the same demands.
2) Elfs was published before Orx and has a very easy to understand text (Eero seems to say the Orx text is more complicated).
3) I could only find two AP reports on Orx (plus another one which was the report of the first playtest) on the Forge, all written by you, while I've found about ten for Elfs (three by Ron, the rest by others). Both your AP reports have at least some ambiguous notions about the game's ripeness and concerned short one-hour sessions (whereas you imply the game is rather for longer sessions). Only one other player responded to say he was ready to continue testing the game (I'm instinctively thinking: "Oh, the game is not ready.") Ron's AP are enthusiastic and very positive. Plus he manages to get people discussing the game or the session.

You have a high quality competitor and no all-out positive AP to speak of (at least on the Forge). Maybe I'm projecting too much of my attitude on the average indie-consumer, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't even consider buying a game if the author isn't all jazzed and positive about it.

Since you're a well-known and long time Forge contributor, you should start by getting the word out here via enthusiastic AP reports. It's one community you're a part of and you've under-used it, in my opinion.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on November 05, 2009, 11:44:28 PM
As mentioned, I really don't want to discuss ORX. It is not the only game in this situation, and talking about it alone does not solve the wider (what I see as a) problem; "Conspiracy of Shadows" or "Fastlane" or something else (to my knowledge) equally overlooked and relatively ignored, which hasn't managed to build itself a community for various reasons, and would have been equally as good to talk about. However, you do make some good points above, though probably not in the way you meant.

I asked originally: if one couldn't make that community happen, then is there a point? And that IS exactly what happened with ORX. To explain briefly: under-utilization of my resources wasn't the problem, it was having nothing to utilize. AP reports are great to stir up interest if you have AP. And I'm not sure what else I could have done in other venues to greater effect.

The longer explanation is: Ron (or etc) has a diverse group of folks who game regularly with him, or the ability to find them, whereas I've only in the last year found a local group I can play RPGs with, after spending a decade looking (I live in shit-ass nowhere. Until relatively recently, I didn't even have local friends, as I'm not into bar-hopping or shootin' things with gunz). For around something like three of the last four years my gaming was sporadic and limited at best; before that, while regular (once weekly for a couple hours) I was only able to game on-line and my play group only expressed interest in D&D. So getting folks to play ORX such that I could write those APs, especially play over the long-term, wasn't happening, and couldn't happen locally. I'm lucky to have gotten the game playtested as much as I was able to (all online) before I put out the print edition.

I suppose I could have just made up sessions in my head and posted them as though they were AP. Set up a couple of sock-puppet accounts for people who don't exist to create the appearance of buzz. But I suspect that even had I done that (which I wouldn't), it would not have been enough.

I say that because I had to push for reviews (and finally got a few); I was at one point putting a lot of energy into trying to get some air-time on indie-popular podcasts (but never did); I was on other forums promoting the game, mentioning the game when relevant, extending invitations to interested parties to play (and report back), etc. Nada.

I've found three reports I've written here. Two of them were specifically about problems I encountered in play, because one was a playtesting session and the other was an online session. The last AP I wrote, about the Forge Midwest game, was positive and enthused, and yet received the fewest responses (ie: none at all). There are two glowing reviews of the game out there, and two mediocre, all of them linked to on a website full of positive happy shit-faced smile about the game.

(The last I mention because somewhere you saw me going "my game is kinda OK -- wah wah", and that's trumping all the above for you? Well, OK. Dunno. Right now I'm pretty burned out on it and don't care if it is showing, but that wasn't the case for the product's actual lifetime, at least from my perspective. I was pretty passionate about how good and fun it was, to the point I was blinded to or dismissive at the time of some of the flaws that needed fixing.)

So there was a whole bunch of time and energy investment sunk into stirring up interest to no effect. Hence the above wondering and questions. Do I really want to go through all that again, including all the writing and slaving over a hot keyboard and playtesting and begging and crap, if I can't get a community up-and-running in order to drive sales? If the same thing happens with eXpendable (or whatever)--if building a community/getting people to actually play the game is going to be like trying to piss upstream into a firehose--is there a point? (Though maybe here we can refine such to say: "building a community via online interaction".)

My experience thus far is: short of taking a croquet bat to people's genitals, I have no clue how to get them to post about their play experiences or even go forth on their own to attempt to have a play experience. If there is some kind of magic formula that doesn't require a year plus of pointlessly beating one's head against the wall, someone please feel free to share.

I know one way to handle this issue would be to avoid doing anything until you have the interest. But that's...difficult to do. Especially for an unknown. Stolze does this with his Ransom Model products, and Baur does it with Open Design -- but both of them are known quantities to their fans: if they say, "Hey, I'm going to do this thing and it'll be cool. If you want to see it, pay me to do it." And people WILL pay them because they expect it WILL be cool.

This is why I was wondering about convention play originally: if you don't have a community expecting that from you, it seems the best way to generate "this will be cool" buzz is to show people at conventions utilizing brief demos or short playtest sessions, etc. And if it doesn't garner any interest and talk then and there, you are forewarned. I'm not sure how to do that just running around the internet posting about it (which didn't/hasn't worked for ORX). I've noted in a post above that successful posting about other topics, as a thing you become known for, produces a community that you can then use to generate "expected to be cool" buzz about other things you're doing.

There is, of course, on-line play (as mentioned): which one can do if one can't find folks locally...though, to be fair, on-line play is weird.

I'm a ten(?)-year veteran of it, and the thing is, it isn't at all like tabletop play. It's different, it has some of its own issues (keeping a group together is even more difficult than in tabletop play, people often disappear for long stretches DURING the game but you never really know when they have/will/are, something like three hours of online play is equivalent to one hour of offline play, no tactile sense of togetherness or of table objects, no one else treats it like a real activity either--such as family members since you're "just" sitting at your computer, and etc etc), so for a number of years I've been personally rather turned off to the whole thing as (overall) an exercise in frustration with occasional bits of fun and exceptional result.

This doesn't mean I won't, but these days the thought of it ranks right up there with the thrill of putting hungry electric eels in my pants.

Tangentially: catering to the same crowd/demands? I disagree. Elfs is meant to be funny in-your-face D&D-snerk slapstick along mostly traditional play lines. ORX is dirty, black humor about how much life sucks and you can't win for winning (ironic, that), structured along very different play lines. Also, Elfs follows on the success of Sorcerer, it has a pre-established community (the author's) willing to give it a look and a shot. In comparison, I'm a bum with a sign on the side of the road. I suspect if Elfs had come first, it would have much less than whatever amount of success it has had, and Ron would be in much the same boat with it as many indies are with their games.

But that's neither here nor there. I really don't know if "you didn't post enough AP!" is a valid criticism, at least in the manner you meant it, though it is valid for what it is. Because, no, I didn't--but how could I have? And given that, should I have bothered? Should I bother again? Etc. Etc. Knowing the history better now, does that make sense?

If so, I think we can go to: in what manner was what I was able to do lacking (if it was)? How could THAT have been improved, or what different methods could have been utilized to better effect (and within reason for hobby publishing rather than as a full-time business)?

-----

PS: I apologize if this discussion feels a bit all-over-the-place. I'm using this to think-out-loud and bounce ideas, and so I really appreciate the feedback, and some stuff seems to be cohering. I know some folks are probably trying to see where I'm coming from -- if I'm coming from anywhere, I'll know it when I get to where I'm going. Hopefully this OK with the mods and kosher with site rules, with this not being taken as navel-gazing or anything of the sort.

PPS: I wanted to mention something else tangential. The print edition of ORX was honestly a mistake because the text really wasn't ready; it went to print because I'd spent years on it at that point and wanted all that time to have gone somewhere, plus it all the cool kids were doing it (nor did I see the prospects for getting more feedback improving anytime soon, which I was correct regarding).


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on November 06, 2009, 02:07:57 AM
Hello Raven

I'm an ass, I forgot to say how much I appreciate you talking about this in the first place and how you give detailed replies. This is a lot of food for thought for me, and I want to make sure that it's clear that I admire your honest and open discussion about a dissatisfying result (which I count as just as useful as accounts of very successful publishing.) I'm sorry I didn't say that upfront.

Let me state that I stand corrected where I had to be corrected. Nevertheless the distinction between Elfs and Orx wasn't that clear to me (and I might argue that from what I read in your AP reports, there was a good deal of slapstick humour, but hey, as you said, it's not the point)

What you say about online play is pretty much how I feel about the thing as well, so probably reports about online play are not as appealing as those about table top play. I understand that your situation was difficult, but alas, I think it has a major impact on everything, one that can't be ignored. I'm glad to hear you've found a more stable group and I hope you'll be able to do more for eXpendable. In my opinion, that's the first condition that has to be met to even start designing a game.
Or put it another way, as far as I know, all the very successful (I know, it's a vague notion) indie titles have been played a damn lot by their authors before going on sale. Their authors also play other stuff a good deal.

It's true that what I say does not even start to describe why Conspiracy of Shadows and Fastlane have had a hard time, but then again, I don't know their numbers and design history, whereas for Orx you have been quite detailed. As far as I know, Conspiracy of Shadows is going on to a third edition, so is it really that bad?




Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Seth M. Drebitko on November 06, 2009, 09:11:00 AM
If you are trying to generate AP giving free stuff away always helps. I believe the guys who did Diaspora did this with some funky fudge dice. Maybe every month you could pick a random AP and give them a free set of dice?

The other thing I can think of is keep the people who have bought the game interested in it with say a newsletter encouraging play and questions, as well as articles from other fans.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Dan Maruschak on November 06, 2009, 12:55:15 PM
AP reports are great to stir up interest if you have AP. And I'm not sure what else I could have done in other venues to greater effect.

The longer explanation is: Ron (or etc) has a diverse group of folks who game regularly with him, or the ability to find them, whereas I've only in the last year found a local group I can play RPGs with, after spending a decade looking (I live in shit-ass nowhere. Until relatively recently, I didn't even have local friends, as I'm not into bar-hopping or shootin' things with gunz). For around something like three of the last four years my gaming was sporadic and limited at best; before that, while regular (once weekly for a couple hours) I was only able to game on-line and my play group only expressed interest in D&D. So getting folks to play ORX such that I could write those APs, especially play over the long-term, wasn't happening, and couldn't happen locally. I'm lucky to have gotten the game playtested as much as I was able to (all online) before I put out the print edition.

...

There is, of course, on-line play (as mentioned): which one can do if one can't find folks locally...though, to be fair, on-line play is weird.

I'm a ten(?)-year veteran of it, and the thing is, it isn't at all like tabletop play. It's different, it has some of its own issues (keeping a group together is even more difficult than in tabletop play, people often disappear for long stretches DURING the game but you never really know when they have/will/are, something like three hours of online play is equivalent to one hour of offline play, no tactile sense of togetherness or of table objects, no one else treats it like a real activity either--such as family members since you're "just" sitting at your computer, and etc etc), so for a number of years I've been personally rather turned off to the whole thing as (overall) an exercise in frustration with occasional bits of fun and exceptional result.

Your description of the shortcomings of online play sound like they refer to text-chat-based play. Have you tried playing over Skype? I don't have any good in-face tabletop experiences to compare to, but I've had several enjoyable Skype based games.

The "you can't get there from here" problem of needing AP to generate interest to generate AP is similar to the problem I am having with finding playtesters for the game I'm designing (http://dansdesigns.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/final-hour-of-a-storied-age-new-title/). I don't have a local RPG group, and I haven't yet been able to convince my Skype RPG groups to playtest it with me. I think it's kind of disappointing that the only designs that ever have a shot of working out are the ones designed by people who are also well-connected enough to get the help they need to kick things to the next level. A potential solution would be forming AP or playtest groups with other designers for mutual benefit, but that requires finding other designers who are interested and a good match, which is probably even harder than finding players.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on November 12, 2009, 03:08:43 AM
Hey all. I apologize for the lack of response, so I just wanted to pop in and say I really appreciate all your input, I am thinking about it all, and I will get back to this thread ASAP. I've had booku computer problems the last week (ie: I had to reinstall my entire OS...twice), as well as continuing connection problems with the Forge. I'll try to get to it this weekend.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: MatrixGamer on November 12, 2009, 10:56:24 AM
I think the issue comes down to burnout.

You've worked hard. You've written a game. You're living out in BFE. There are no gamers around or those that are are only playing D+D and on line your work is not getting recognized.

I think that sums it up.

I've hit that burn out wall in gaming three or four times in the last twenty years. Others have had significantly more success than I've had and I feel envy. It sucks and I've taken whole years off of writing due to it. Sometimes that's what you've got to do. Working hard banging you head against the wall will not make a door.

All that said, everytime I've burned out I come back. It is possible to create a small group to talk games with and the energy from that group can help project me into outreach efforts to the wider world. I don't control the outcomes but I can try different approaches when I hit the wall. Each failure can lead to growth. When I die I will not look on this effort as wasted because it was better than drinking and shooting (I'm with you on that!)

For now you need to get more of your social needs met. If game making helps that then cool. If it doesn't - well hose it for a while.

When you come back work on projects that jazz you, they are the only ones worth bleeding for. That is the only reason I keep on working on Matrix Games. I insanely believe in them. Success is slow and if it ever really happens will be fifteen years after my ego wanted and expected it. So it's not about ego - it's about discipline and lifestyle.

Vent your spleen and accept my sympathy the life of most game makers is not easy. There is no magic reciepe for success.

Chris Engle


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on November 28, 2009, 02:19:09 PM
I'm an ass, I forgot to say how much I appreciate you talking about this in the first place and how you give detailed replies. This is a lot of food for thought for me, and I want to make sure that it's clear that I admire your honest and open discussion about a dissatisfying result (which I count as just as useful as accounts of very successful publishing.) I'm sorry I didn't say that upfront.

There is no need to apologize at all, Chris, nor consider yourself an ass, and I apologize if it seemed in any way that I was snapping at you. And thanks for the kind words, I'm very glad this is proving helpful to someone else as well, rather than it being just me waxing long and whiny.

Quote
Let me state that I stand corrected where I had to be corrected. Nevertheless the distinction between Elfs and Orx wasn't that clear to me (and I might argue that from what I read in your AP reports, there was a good deal of slapstick humour, but hey, as you said, it's not the point)

Yet something I've been thinking about now, so thank you for bringing it up!

Quote
It's true that what I say does not even start to describe why Conspiracy of Shadows and Fastlane have had a hard time, but then again, I don't know their numbers and design history, whereas for Orx you have been quite detailed. As far as I know, Conspiracy of Shadows is going on to a third edition, so is it really that bad?

Have to ask Keith, but from things he has said and the scarcity of AP reports, I had assumed the first two editions were not well received nor sold well. I may well be wrong about this.

Your description of the shortcomings of online play sound like they refer to text-chat-based play. Have you tried playing over Skype? I don't have any good in-face tabletop experiences to compare to, but I've had several enjoyable Skype based games.

I have not tried playing over Skype. That was just starting to come into vogue when I was leaving the on-line play scene. I may have to try it out at some point; do you know of any good places where folks arrange those sorts of on-line games?

Quote
I think it's kind of disappointing that the only designs that ever have a shot of working out are the ones designed by people who are also well-connected enough to get the help they need to kick things to the next level. A potential solution would be forming AP or playtest groups with other designers for mutual benefit, but that requires finding other designers who are interested and a good match, which is probably even harder than finding players.

That has been one of my main frustrations as a designer as well, something I've mentioned a couple times over the years as a definite hurdle for the would-be designer. And from what I've seen, and there have been a few such attempts at creating just such a thing, it does indeed appear to be more difficult.

Vent your spleen and accept my sympathy the life of most game makers is not easy. There is no magic reciepe for success.

Always good points to make. I don't think I'm looking for a magic recipe, as I'm well-aware there isn't one, I am trying to see if there are activities that actually do boost the chances in the crap-shoot of attaining success (I'm also well-aware there are plenty of illusory boosters that "everyone knows" which on examination turn out to be so much wishful thinking or false pattern-finding). While I recognize success is a matter of dodging bullets on the battlefield until you reach the other side, and that you can make it right off or thirty years down the line because gun-fu is a fantasy, I'm interested now in seeing if there are any ways to speed up that process or affect the actual odds.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Dan Maruschak on November 28, 2009, 02:46:06 PM
Your description of the shortcomings of online play sound like they refer to text-chat-based play. Have you tried playing over Skype? I don't have any good in-face tabletop experiences to compare to, but I've had several enjoyable Skype based games.

I have not tried playing over Skype. That was just starting to come into vogue when I was leaving the on-line play scene. I may have to try it out at some point; do you know of any good places where folks arrange those sorts of on-line games?

I don't know if there are any good places. Both of the groups I'm a part of came from contacts made on the discussion forums for The Gutter Skypes (http://www.anim5.com/IDDFOS/TGS/index.html), an Actual Play podcast based on Skype gaming. I see posts in the RPG.net Gaming Gathering forums (http://forum.rpg.net/forumdisplay.php?f=21) about setting up Skype groups, and that may work, too.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on November 28, 2009, 05:17:11 PM
I don't know if there are any good places. Both of the groups I'm a part of came from contacts made on the discussion forums for The Gutter Skypes (http://www.anim5.com/IDDFOS/TGS/index.html), an Actual Play podcast based on Skype gaming. I see posts in the RPG.net Gaming Gathering forums (http://forum.rpg.net/forumdisplay.php?f=21) about setting up Skype groups, and that may work, too.

Thanks for the pointers, Dan. I'll look into those.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Sebastian K. Hickey on December 14, 2009, 02:01:46 PM
Hi guys,

I just posted this comment in another thread, and I realise it would be more useful if it were answered here.

Once I've got a game, assuming I can't take on the US conventions (nod to Eero), what should I do now?


That's the question.  Here's the backup:

Quote from: Luke Crane
I announce on my forums and others that we have a new book coming out. I encourage folks to speculate on what it is.

I announce the nature of the produce 30-45 days later. I put it on the front page of my website. I announce it on other forums.

15-30 days later, I put the product up for presale. Depending on the product, preorders get a PDF when they order and then wait 30-45 days for the actual book. I never put up a preorder until the book is at the printer.

I also make sure I do this around the same time every year, once a year. I release one product a year and my fans know it. They can rely on it.

I attend conventions, demonstrate the product and personally sell it to interested folks. At conventions, if there's a busy dealer's room, I get a table and hang banners and sell from there...Last year I went to Dreamation, Origins, Dexcon, Connecticon, Gen Con, PAX and Draconis. It was a light year for me. At the height of my effort, I was doing just under one a month.

Assuming I'm at the delivery point of my first game, and I'm happy to get it out to the printers, where should I start promoting the product?  Luke mentions that he'd use his own forum, but I don't have enough fans for that.  In fact, I don't have any fans yet, except for the people I have played with face to face.  Which leads me on to the next question.  If I were living in a remote, green little island off the coast of Europe, where every convention offers the same faces, how should I expand my audience? In other words, I'm from Ireland and I can get to every con here, but there won't be any new imaginations to capture unless I head to Europe (a costly and scary business).

What would you suggest?  Is there a way to bring my game to a U.S. convention without actually flying around the world?  Or should I just move to the States and cash in on the indie RPG gold rush (read irony)? Everyone advises that the best way to create an audience is to go out there and play your game at the conventions (except the people in this thread), but what if the doing of that is prohibitively expensive?


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Luke on December 14, 2009, 09:51:31 PM
Sebastien,

Have you done the con circuit in Ireland? Have you made yourself a fixture and feature of those cons? Do the organizers know you and welcome you? Do fans attend specifically for your games?

You can get a lot of momentum in your own backyard. I didn't travel too far for my first run at the conventions. Hell, I started demoing in a game shop right here in town.

-L


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on December 14, 2009, 11:50:29 PM
That's a great place for this question, Sebastian. Sadly, Northern Minnesota is basically a lot of trees and hills and a couple itty-bitty conventions a year hours away from fuck all anything (ie: "Dude, I'm having a convention! Like, ten people showed up! Whoo! Success!" or "Dude, I'm having a con...oh, snowed out. Nevermind.").

Now, you've said you hit the local circuit, so can you build a decent home audience? Get that audience out there helping you push the game on-line (being vocal/active/participating fans (http://www.deadlyfredly.com/2009/12/no-silent-fan/))? Maybe find/gain a member of that audience overseas, someone who already runs the con circuit in some area of the US, who is willing to run your game at conventions?


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: northerain on December 15, 2009, 04:31:48 AM
I'm in the same boat as Sebastian, though my game is a bit off from being done. I live in Sweden and while I plan to hit the local cons when the time comes, I'd love to have a larger con presence. Unfortunately, it looks like the only solution is to hit up UK and US cons, with UK being cheaper and closer to me.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Sebastian K. Hickey on December 15, 2009, 07:49:57 AM
Actually, I've not done the Con circuit, yet. Not as a developer.  I've started plugging at the games societies in the universities, and I've got a playtest scheduled with the con directors of one of the conventions in January, but it's just the start of the process.  From what I can tell, you guys think that is enough to get started with, so I'll go at it and tell you how I get on.

I'm also meeting with some designers in London (fingers crossed) in January, to maybe run a game of HfL.  I know that some of them are "loud" fans, as in they're likely to contribute an online voice if they see something they like, which makes me extra excited and extra nervous. I'll follow up if I learn anything useful (failure or success).

Quote
Maybe find/gain a member of that audience overseas, someone who already runs the con circuit in some area of the US, who is willing to run your game at conventions?
That'd be a dream come true. E.g., I've no idea how to get that kind of gig, except by pure fluke.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on December 15, 2009, 04:14:04 PM
I'm in the same boat as Sebastian, though my game is a bit off from being done. I live in Sweden and while I plan to hit the local cons when the time comes, I'd love to have a larger con presence. Unfortunately, it looks like the only solution is to hit up UK and US cons, with UK being cheaper and closer to me.

Come now, why not hit conventions in Denmark and Finland? There are quite fine conventions in both. Come to Ropecon next year and see for yourself.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on December 15, 2009, 07:59:44 PM
That'd be a dream come true. E.g., I've no idea how to get that kind of gig, except by pure fluke.

I think that's pretty much how it happens: you luck into it. It isn't something you can control. (At least unless you've learned to control other people's minds, in which case why are you designing games and not having the world build you a palace filled with trained monkeys for servants?)

Also, an update of how things go once you've run the local con circuits, good or bad (or mixed), would be great. So please do keep us in the loop.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Sebastian K. Hickey on December 16, 2009, 03:18:14 AM
I'll drop in from time to time with an update on the progress.  Merry Chrimbo everyone!

Sebastian.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: KeithBVaughn on December 21, 2009, 02:38:19 PM
Greyorm,

I'm going to be a bit blunt and maybe an ass about this but the question remains: Did your game ORZ suceed or fail?

Just because you put out a game doesn't mean anyone has to play it. Just because people buy the game doesn't mean people will be excited enough about it to gather others to play it. (I know, I've been there more than once.) My first game (Embers of Empire SFRPG) I put my heart and soul into. I sold two copies. I realize now that EoE is not playable. The good part of it is that it gave me experience on writing a game and allowed me (after another aborted game--60+ pages) to write another two games that are near release. Will they sell? I don't know. I only know I did my best and the public will decide if I produced a good game. Its reception is beyond my control.

My advice is to get away from your game for 6-12 months and then reevaluate it. In the meanwhile, write another game using what you've learned from this one.

Best of Luck, Keith


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on December 21, 2009, 03:28:25 PM
Greetings Keith,

I'm confused because I'm not sure what is it you're trying to ask? I would have thought the answers to your question obvious, given the details throughout the thread, so that makes me think I'm not understanding what you're trying to ask about.

Other than that confusion, all fine things to keep in mind, especially your suggestion that an author get away from the work for 6-12 months (though I'd suggest someone do that after the first draft is done, rather than post-publishing). That's certainly something I do quite a bit with much of my work. However, whether that works for a given individual, and the actual length of time one puts it in the drawer for, is really personal preference.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Dan Maruschak on December 24, 2009, 10:13:08 AM
I don't know if it will work, but I'm going to try to build a community via podcasting. I'm launching a new podcast, Designer vs. Reality (http://www.danmaruschak.com/podcast/). It will have AP recordings of playtests of my game (and possibly other designers' games, if a situation arises where that makes sense). I'm hoping that listeners will be inspired to playtest my game with me over Skype, which will provide content for more episodes of the podcast, which will attract more playtesters, etc. The big trick will be to get that virtuous cycle working, which will require both entertaining episodes and a critical mass of volunteers.



Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Sebastian K. Hickey on February 03, 2010, 03:48:19 PM
Hi guys,

Before Christmas I mentioned that I'd throw in some updates about my progress in con attendance/networking.  So far, I've only had the chance to attend one convention, Warpcon in Co. Cork, Ireland. Nevertheless, I think I've learned a couple of things, so I thought I'd share.

First of all, before I attended the con I met up with gaming contingents from some of the other convention directors in Ireland. That way, once I arrived at Warpcon I found that I recognised some of the attendees. If you've never attended a convention as a designer, I'd strongly recommend getting involved with the gaming societies at your local university. I set up playtests in three Irish universities, and when I finally ran the playtests in Warpcon I was delighted to learn that the convention organisers had heard reports about me from the gaming societies.

Also, and this was a lesson harshly learned, in one case I found out that I'd stepped on somebody's toes. In one playtest report (for one of the university gaming society playtests), I gave my opinions on a subset of the playtesting participants. It wasn't a positive opinion and it was later read by a member of that society. Suffice is to say that, even though I stand by that opinion, I shouldn't have posted it publicly. It was a schoolboy error, and one I wish I could take back. Unless you're an idiot like me, this is something you would probably never do. Common sense. But if you are an idiot like me, never say anything bad, however true at the time, about any gamer. It's not clever, funny or useful.

I've been invited to attend some new cons for more playtests, I've been asked to send some info via email to interested gamers, and I've been invited to run the game in two of the big conventions in Dublin city (as slotted events). People seem quite excited by the game and although there are still just a handful of people who know of the game in Ireland, I think with more convention attendance I can hope for a little more community.

I'll be back in April to give an update on more Irish networking/convention news.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on February 03, 2010, 10:03:52 PM
Thank you for the update, sir! One thought about the error you mention making:
Quote
It's not clever, funny or useful.
Not knowing the details, I don't know if I can agree with that 100%. Here's why:

If some guy shows up to the playtest, proceeds to shit himself during the game, is loudly and rudely interrupting others, punches another player, and then proceeds to go on a twenty-minute diatribe about why GURPs is way better than any other game...I'm thinking that would be useful information about the playtest. If only because the social behavior of the people at the table really does affect the game, perceptions of the game, perceptions of the rules, and so forth.

Like I said, I don't know the details, so I don't know what the error was or why the public mention was an error in this case, but I can imagine mentioning the behavior as an influence on the game experience not necessarily being an error in some circumstances. I suspect it may be a "depends on how you handle it" situation.

Regardless, I've read the WarpCon playtest reviews and things sound like they went well. Excellent.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Sebastian K. Hickey on February 04, 2010, 05:15:53 AM
Okay, that's a valid point.  If someone at the table ruins your playtest, I think it's okay to announce that in your report. It will help other designers to understand a) that things can be outside of your control (which is comforting to hear from another designer) and b) more about the true failures of the mechanics (vs. the social failures).

However, I also think it's dangerous, especially if you're dealing with gaming societies. If one guy gets cheesed off, and that guy spells out your playtest report's slander to the rest of the society, not only can you lose a significant wing of gamers, but it's also likely that they will infect at least one convention (it's all very incestuous in Ireland). So, to to new designers, on the subject of slanderous playtest reports, make sure you're careful. You never know who might read it.

As to my faux pas, it wasn't really a case of any direct slander, but, I suppose, from a breach of trust. When I left the playtest I never indicated to the host that I was disappointed with some of his players. He read the playtest report, maybe expecting something positive, and therefore would have encountered my distaste with some distaste of his own. Had I explained to him (before I left his company) that I'd been disappointed with his players, I don't doubt that we would be more friendly now. Instead, by commenting the way I did, I upset his expectation. If I was him I'd feel deceived. He has my sympathy.

Thanks for following the Warpcon playtests, and thanks for your encouragement. I'll be back soon.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: greyorm on February 04, 2010, 06:36:59 PM
That makes a lot of sense, Sebastian.

Thanks for sharing that (I wasn't sure if I should even comment on it at first, but I'm glad I did now).


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Sebastian K. Hickey on May 06, 2010, 09:34:51 AM
I promised to update my progress as far con attendance (and community). Since the last entry, I attended Itzacon, Leprecon (in Ireland) and Conpulsion (in Scotland). The results are exciting.

Itzacon

In Ireland, the gaming scene is incestuous. Every time I go to a convention I have more friends than last time. At Itzacon, I bumped into a friendly face, one Alan Jackson, the co-ordinator of Conpulsion, with whom I had a chance to play an awesome playtest (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=29380.0).

Leprecon

During Leprecon I was busy with real life, so I couldn't attend for the whole weekend. However on the Saturday, a couple of friends went in my stead, and managed to run a playtest session of Hell for Leather with Shane of the Adventuring Party (http://theadventuringparty.libsyn.com/) (Ireland's best gaming podcast). This lead on to a mention on the podcast, of course. Happy days!

At Leprecon I met up with a few of the guys from the Irish Games Association (IGA), including Andrew Coffey, the Gaelcon convention co-ordinator. We were both in a rush, but we managed to speak, and he was enthusiastic about promoting Hell for Leather. He told me to get in touch with a couple of people at the IGA. This would lead on to a few conversations and an eventual meet with the special events co-ordinator, Feargal Fanning.

Now I have a demo table pencilled in at Gaelcon at which I can sell my game (without paying a traders fee), along with two HfL special events and a deal with the charity auction (yet to be figured out).

Leprecon, in many ways, opened the doors for me to the trading community in Ireland.

Conpulsion

Lastly, there was Conpulsion. This was an amazing event. I met up with Gregor Hutton, Joe Prince, Malcolm Craig, Neil Gow, Iain McAllister and others. Not only did I get a chance to demo my game (and get an audio AP thanks to Pooka), but I playtested Joe Prince's Hell 4 Leather (notice the digital difference), playtested Hammer Falls (Pooka's game of awesome dystopia) and wound up as a pseudo chairman in the most educational and inspiring talk of my gaming career.

Let me clarify. At the end of the convention, all the big cheeses sat around a low table. There were around fifteen of us. Malcolm Craig, Gregor Hutton and Joe Prince included. The guys started spinning stories, chatting industry, and so on. It was extraordinarily educational. And then, out of the blue, Gregor says "so I heard you had some questions to ask me...go ahead..." I nervously pulled out my notebook (I had come prepared) and started seeking advice. I was asking about bundling, distribution, printing, and so on. Suddenly there were a dozen experts giving me (ME!!) advice on how to prepare and sell my game. It was like I'd gone to fanboy heaven.

Anyway, enough of my spunky happiness.

Since then, Gregor has helped with layout, Malcolm has helped with editing, I've arranged to promote some of the guys' stuff in my book, I've got some more advice about retail, and so on, and so on.

Other Stuff

The contacts I've made in the Irish community have allowed me to run a playtest in UCD (for the second time), introduced me to a couple more of the players behind the con scene, and set me up for a fun, hospitable and welcoming experience for future conventions.

In short, if you're a newbie to this, get your game ready and go to every convention you can find. Even if you never print your game, you're going to meet some wonderful, supportive people.

I'll be back in a few months (in November, I guess) to throw in some feedback about building community. Just to clarify, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. I'm just trying to go to things, meet people, talk to people, help people and, at every opportunity, let people help me. I don't know if it's working, really. I'm not here as any kind of authority on this. If you have experiences from conventions that could help us to learn how to communicate better, let me know.

Oh, which reminds me, I've learned to: make sure you run your game in the most public place possible, make sure your game is loud (meaning obvious, meaning colourful/noisy/nicely dressed) and make sure you have some people with you who love your game more than you do. I'm terrible at selling my game because (1) I'm sure people don't want to hear me talk about something I've done and (2) I don't know if what I've done is any good at all. But my friends are incredibly vocal and welcoming. This means I can focus on getting people to enjoy a demo while the guys focus on recruiting. I couldn't do this without a wingman. Seriously.


Title: Re: Point/Success of Publishing Without Community?
Post by: Sebastian K. Hickey on November 10, 2010, 09:04:03 AM
The last time this thread was active, I promised to return with some updates on my progress (?) with the building of community in Ireland and abroad. I recently came back from Gaelcon and, although it was a dismal failure, I think I've got some things to share.

Gaelcon

I spent a lot of time talking with the convention organisers. They were very supportive. They gave me my own stall for free and arranged for a floor space to demo my game and run special events.

I spent nearly all of the four days of the convention at my stall or nearby and I sold four books. It was a total waste of time. Now, there are a lot of whys and why nots, but in the end, they're irrelevant. What I'd like to share here are the positive things that I learned and some of the negative things that I'd avoid next time.

Networking gets you stuff. By being nice to people and offering help, I was able to save myself 100 for the stall. I may not have sold anything, but I didn't make a loss. So that, in it's way, is a success. If you're newer than me to this business, my advice is to try to contact and meet (and drink with) the convention organisers whenever you can. If you're enthusiastic and genuine, I think that these gamer organisers will do their best to support you (especially if they know you haven't got any money/credentials).

Manning a stall is probably not a good way to sell a new indie game to an Irish audience. I knew that Irish gamers were stuck in their ways, but, somehow, I thought that my game was going to change it all. Hahaha! I was/am an idiot. So, I've learned that if you have a gut feeling about your audience, listen to it, and don't believe that you will be able to change your audience. You've got to change for them. So, if you think you've got a hard sell indie game, then manning a stall probably won't get it sold. You need to convince people through play. I reckon.

If you do have a stall (and this is particular to the small conventions in the UK and Ireland), do what Graham Walmsley did at Indiecon this year. Be there for 90 minutes a day at 10:30, 15:30 and 18:30. Leave a sign telling everyone that you're playing games and go and enjoy yourself. Maybe, by playing new games, you'll meet some awesome people who MIGHT want to peek at your work.

Lastly, if you don't sell any of your game, it might be because your game is flawed/shit. That's what I've come to learn about my game and, even though it hurt, the lack of sales and interest helped me to nail the coffin shut on my suspicions. That nail has helped me to become a little more realistic about my expectations for the game and, therefore, how much support I should be giving it going forward. So, even if it sucks, there's still something you can learn. Some people call that the bright side.

Lucca

This is a funny little story. I got in touch with some Italian gamers at Gente Che Gioca, because most of the Hell for Leather Facebook group was made up of Italian fans. Gente Che Gioca is an Italian version of Story Games, more or less. I asked if someone over there would like to sell a couple of copies of the game for me at Lucca (and earn a profit for themselves, of course).

A couple of people replied, including Claudia Cagnini of Narrativa. She put out a thread to ask if anyone would be interested and, if so, to sign up for a copy. That way we'd know how many books I should ship.

In that thread, I told everyone that not only would every book be signed, but that I would also write a rude dedication. I have some great Italian friends, and if there's one thing I know about Italians is that they love blasphemous, shocking humour. Like me. Twenty people signed up for the book, I shipped those to Italy, and all of them sold at Lucca.

The guys over in Italy are great supporters. I'm so happy I got in touch. So, if there's a lesson to learn, it might be "fortune favours the bold." I sent one little message and it ended up accounting for more than a fifth of my total sales.

In summary, I think a lot of this building of community comes from just turning up at things and having fun, but some of it comes from being bold and the most part comes from someone else pimping your shit. The only way that happens, of course, is by accident.

I won't be contributing any more to this thread, as I think I'm totally under qualified. But I'd love to get some feedback.