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General Forge Forums => Independent Publishing => Topic started by: tymotzues on March 19, 2012, 08:45:14 AM

Title: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: tymotzues on March 19, 2012, 08:45:14 AM
So Ron finally found my post a home (thanks Ron) and I've got a lot to get off my chest, but some quick background first.

Over 30 years ago I started RPgaming.
Over 20 years ago I started RPgame designing (even if I didn't know it)
Over 10 years ago I made a firm decision to bring it all together
Over 5 years ago I began game testing my system (after much advice from here and elsewhere)
And now I've published.

So here is what I have to get off my chest...
The Trolls!

The launch of my system was a bit haphazard I'll be the first to admit, in a two day period I had to generate a PDF for sale (of a 288pg document with images and separate sections for high res printing), create a website up and running from scratch, get a press release and keep the rest of my complicated life on track as well (Family, kids, wife, work... you know how it goes)

It's been under a week now, since the launch, and I've had what I (and certainly my wife) would consider a decent amount of sales movement.
I've also had a reasonable amount of interest on the blogosphere and forums. The press release (written by someone who knows about press releases but not about the RPG industry) was taken onboard and published by a number of industry sites.

Sounds all rosy so far doesn't it?
And I, being the intrepid, indie-author that I am, sought out these forums, blogs and sites to see what the chatter was. And actually I was surprised that there was chatter at all! But there it was.
However all the chatter was from people, who had not read the book, purchased the book or even (the majority) had the intention of purchasing the book.

But what they were interested in was picking apart the press release and focusing in on the fact that the game was in production for so long.
Here's a few examples;

And FMguru posted the following comments on ( grognards.txt

ďOne of my favorite hallmarks of a terrible Fantasy Heartbreaker in the making is the way they always, always give their core system a grandiose InterCapped trademarkable name - as if their Fantasy Heartbreaker was simply the first in an unstoppable wave of follow-on RealmWorld or FateMaster or RoleCore-engine driven RPGs.Ē

Followed by this from Dire Wombat:

ďIf you write something that long about your "revolutionary" system, you should probably actually explain it. As far as I can tell, it amounts to the players declaring what happens more or less arbitrarily. That's less of a system and more of an agreement to just work things out cooperatively. If the system is crunchy enough to have a big list of "spell weaves", I can't see how that will work out. It could boil down to spellcasters having specific crunchy abilities and everyone else having to make stuff up on the spot. Grog never changes.Ē

Perhaps one of the most interesting comments came from someone whom I suspect of being an industry veteran (whom Iíve also known personally Ė although he wouldnít remember) and was posted as part of the discussion linked above.

Magnum Opus wrote:

ďAlso just some notes on ad-copy:
-"Decade in the making" doesn't make it sound like some perfectly polished gem. Most of the games we all love are a couple years in the making. "Decade" just sounds like basement dwelling obsession.
-Contrasting with d20's says "I have never played anything besides D&D"
-In general claiming that a system is unlike anything else, with the billion odd systems out there, makes you look ignorant and/or arrogant. Even if your system ACTUALLY is uniquely good at something.
Those three together makes it look like you need to do more research on the state of RPGs, which lowers our confidence that your game is really worth playing.
-"Virtual Reality" has been a punchline (sic) for 20 years. It's not necessarily a problem, but it makes it sound dated.
-It's not big deal but there is a very popular RPG system called Fate, calling your system Fate____ may create an association you didn't intend.Ē

Some interesting points to be sure.
But when did spending time on trying to get something as good as it could be become a bad thing?
And perhaps I was being overly ambitious in my acceptance of a press release which contained facts?

Iím not here to bag the trolls and Iím sure Ron is wondering when Iím going to be getting to the point, so here it is.

Having received such strong reaction to the press release Iím curious if anyone else has experienced this, is our industry just not ready for press releases and professionalism (to which I aspire)?

And secondly what are peopleís thoughts on dealing with the forums and blogs? Do we engage? Do we just sit back and watch and let the game speak for itself?

In this media savvy world, unless you possess the new (constantly evolving) language of the age, a good press officer and a media officer to keep track of all the traffic Ė do we stand a chance?

Does anyone suggest some good strategies for dealing with the Trolls?

In all honesty I was humbled by the fact that they were talking about my game at all, and the fact that they were whinging and gripping about it being a Ďheartbreakerí or a D20 rehash, when they hadnít even visited the website or investigated the game beyond the press release, was just amusing to me.

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 19, 2012, 10:09:04 AM

You've organized your final questions well enough for me simply to swing into responding to them, which is much appreciated.

Although I'm primarily on your side regarding the big issue, the utter grassroots quality of our hobby may have ambushed you. I don't think standard press releases as found in larger-scale publishing or in non-gaming industries are well-suited to our current hobby culture. As you've found, terms are coded differently, and more importantly, in this hobby, the internet tippy-tap-typist is free to define multiple things as they see fit - e.g., whether two years is better than ten for designing a game, or for that matter, whether less than a year is good, or twenty-five years. Therefore pretty much anything you say is potential flame-bait for someone who can decide precisely how bad they feel like making you look, often in an on-line evironment in which scoring cheap points among fellow designated insiders is a top priority.

I'm not defending the jack-off comments and pot-shotting you're talking about, but I do think it's worth reviewing what sorts of phrases set them off, and also worth finding the nugget of insight within all the crapfesting. As I see it, that nugget is, "Only talk about what's inside the tin." There's no point to talking about how great it is, or how much effort or fun was involved in making it, because a person only wants to know what it is, and they aren't you, so your experiences and perceptions aren't relevant either.

I'm not criticizing your exact press release because I haven't read it, nor am I making excuses for people who take the above point as license for being hostile. I'm trying to say that there may be real reasons for what you're seeing, unanticipated by you or the writer, even though these reasons might be juvenile and irrelevant to your interests. My actual advice, rather strong advice actually, is to accept that some people might read it with interest and others will read it as an opportunity to score some points, and don't be defensive. Laying claim to be "the professional one" in the room is a good example of the defensiveness I'm talking about. The press release is out, so let it do its job howsoe'er it will, and concentrate on the next step.

And secondly what are peopleís thoughts on dealing with the forums and blogs? Do we engage? Do we just sit back and watch and let the game speak for itself?
Adding as well your later question,
]Does anyone suggest some good strategies for dealing with the Trolls?

One man's answer: engage when and how you want, otherwise never. I admit straight-up that I am generally averse to broad-spectrum, brief-visit, widespread-presence investigation of other sites about myself or my games. I'm usually the last one to know when one of those eighty-page dust-ups commences ... However, others are very good at it and profit from that skill.

Anyway, to stay focused on the issue of game promotion, this is what I've found given my preferences in internet participation.

1. There are good sites and bad sites. As I see it, a good site is marked by social and intellectual honesty, and the marked failure of violations thereof to prosper. There isn't any percentage to posting at (or even reading) a bad site.

1'. There is a percentage to linking to all the significant mentions of your game elsewhere at your own site, especially without comment.

2. At a good site, the best strategy is simply offering a friendly presence. "Thanks for checking out the game," sort of presence, and acknowledgment of any substantial comment. People appreciate this greatly, and in my experience, are strongly influenced to give your product a shot. The key here, though, is not using fake-ass cheerful marketing talk, whether referring to yourself in the third person ("All of us here at Awesome Games Studio ...") or claiming ridiculous levels of enthusiasm ("... are simply thrilled to pieces that ...") or teeth-gritting faux-hip slang of whatever sort ("... l33t gamers like yourself dig our game!").

2'. A certain polite firmness may be called for, in dealing with flat-out false claims/observations specifically about the game, when and if such claims are found in otherwise decent posts. But that's definitely subordinate to the next point:

2''. Part of that strategy is ignoring gratuitous, clearly ignorant posting. "I haven't read it, but it seems to me ..." is a good indicator, obviously, and so is the fascinating logic of, "If he did X, then it makes me less likely to trust him regarding anything." The latter seems popular in the last couple of years, especially when X is usually some trivial phrasing or essentially-neutral detail. The key here is really really ignoring such posting, meaning, not refuting it, not pointing it out, and not stressing over how some imagined third party is going to be influenced by it.

3. You should have your own turf on the internet, a site where you decide to dedicate serious participation time. The type of choice these days seems to be the better-designed sort of blog, although the right forum is certainly an option. Clearly it should be a "good site" as mentioned above, but the real point is that anyone who genuinely wants to know your views or reactions can easily find you there, and therefore anyone who baits you somewhere else is obviously not serious to anyone else watching. I suppose one could try to build such a thing at one's own site, but as far as I can tell, it's better to start at a public site and either stay there (as I've done, patly by co-founding it), or shift to one's own eventually (as Vincent has done). If it's not at your site, then make sure there's a prominent link to it at your site.

These three points and their primes are intended to work together. Therefore people can find your game, they can find you, they can see you displaying good will and good boundaries, and they can ask you questions in the right place and get reasonable answers. That "deals with the trolls" in full, because the fact is, you absolutely cannot try to change those people, nor try to change fictional people who you are imagining are influenced by them, and your real target should be other actual people who are observing you.

In this media savvy world, unless you possess the new (constantly evolving) language of the age, a good press officer and a media officer to keep track of all the traffic Ė do we stand a chance?

No, if by "stand a chance" you mean "control the message in all ways and at all times." I think some attention to the constantly evolving language is a good idea, and to the constantly evolving landscape of sites and discussions. But that cycle is not as rapid as it seems; new sites do appear all the time, but only some turn out to sustain activity long enough to matter, for instance. Given that, I think my little strategy above is pretty sound.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: tymotzues on March 19, 2012, 12:22:28 PM
Thanks Ron
Good points.
My Editor also made a good point, in that, presenting my work under an imprint title, people see it as an organisation, not the largely one man operation that it has been, and therefore I need to keep in mind that they are judging it on this basis.
So Magnum Opusí point that most games are produced in two years or so is, most likely, squarely aimed at those games produced by a production team; with a number of writers, one or two editors, a handful of artists and then more marketing and production people.
So maybe a lesson here is that it is better to appear as the lone-indie producer that I am. Too late now, and I donít intend to change tack, but just a point for others to think about. One of the key marketing strategies of the times is to lower expectations, and then reap the reward when your audience is pleasantly surprised.
Perhaps the press release should have been less enthusiastic? But if I canít show enthusiasm for my product how can I expect my audience too? And while I accept both Magnum Opusí points as well as Ronís that any form of emotional language really is a bloody limb to a troll, in terms of attracting the wrong sort of attention, I donít feel that the press release was in any way misleading in its description of the game, flamboyant and subjective, maybe.
I agree whole heartedly that the key is in finding the sites where the posters arenít just looking to flame or troll and are genuinely interested in the hobby to offer both honest and constructive criticism. That is what makes the forge so strong.
But which ones are they? Obviously this is a question of opinion, but Iíd like to hear what everyone thinks.
As is one of the largest, and is reasonably moderated, then I would put it down as my first suggestion Ė I guess the other benefit of it is that it attracts a lot of industry veterans. It is probably also the most obvious of choices.

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 21, 2012, 07:40:42 PM
Hey, is definitely one of the target sites for presenting that easy, unflappable, non-argumentative presence. If you can do that there, you'll benefit from it. Beware of small cliques there who make it their business to bait people, though. They often swarm around reviews.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: tymotzues on March 21, 2012, 07:48:12 PM
Thanks Ron
another site that I think shows promise is Geek Native (http://"")
Most of the things that posts aren't indepth but then again there are bits like this (http://"")

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: David Berg on March 21, 2012, 11:34:45 PM
Hi T.,

Personally, if I put out a press release for my game, and some folks came along to critique the release, I would try to find a way to turn that attention into attention to the game itself.  The people who are just there to bash will be no help, but the people with opinions on how to market games could totally be engaged in a conversation like, "Well here's what my game's about; how would you market it?"  Maybe they'll have some good ideas, and maybe they'll get interested in your game in the process.

I don't know if that's actually the best use of your time and energy; just throwin' out the possibility.

Dunno if you want to discuss the press release itself in this thread, but after looking at it here (, I have some thoughts.  I totally dig Jung, Campbell, Tarot, astrology, and a focus on immersion, but I'd want to know more about how those enter play before I'd plop down any cash.  There are also a few elements in the release that carry negative associations and make me worry.


Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: tymotzues on March 22, 2012, 12:20:36 AM
Hi David
Thanks for the feedback - yes would love to hear your comments on the press release as I'll be doing a lot more of them in the future good to get criticism and practice.

I also agree with you that engaging those who are genuinely interested into giving me constructive feedback is a positive, but honestly the feedback so far is rather mundane rather than informative.

I was about to cave and feed the trolls a short excerpt from the book detailing a combat, as they've been beating down my door to get a sample of play. And while the example gives a good showing of the combat mechanics it does nothing for the more in-depth roleplay side of the system and therefore I think paints it in a very two dimensional aspect, when it is anything but.

Any opinions? I understand what David is saying about wanting to know more about how the mechanics work before throwing his cash down, but really, I can't post the whole book, the system works like a clockwork, there are all these little cogs being driven by the bigger cogs to do little things that add to the whole but trying to distil that down into a sound bite is near impossible.

I'm desperately trying to convince a reviewer to take the plunge but as I think I mentioned in another post, they seem very reluctant for whatever reason. And so the trolls keep scratching.

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: David Berg on March 22, 2012, 12:47:39 AM

I just read that first RPGnet thread you linked.  I'm afraid I have to strongly disagree with your assessment of what's going on there.  The first page was snarky, sure.  But the people who are still there are not trolls.  They are the second best thing you can possibly hope for -- potential customers who weren't immediately sold by your press release, but are enthused enough to seek more info.  These people like your ideas and just want a little proof that you can deliver on them, unlike all the games they've seen that failed to deliver on such promises.

If people are asking for an example of play, I have no idea why you wouldn't want to provide one, and it baffles me that you'd call them trolls.  They are your audience -- gamers with a million games to choose from who are pondering giving you $25 for a PDF, but not without a little more demonstration of value.  I mean, dude, there's no reason at all to expect selling an RPG to be easier than that.  If you'd rather not deal with with skepticism, requests, and the occasional jerk, then I wouldn't blame you, but I'd expect that you'd only reach a small percentage of your potential audience.

I might be interested in reviewing your game.  I'll PM you about that.  I can be a tough critic, though.


Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: tymotzues on March 22, 2012, 01:04:08 AM
Hi David
Yes, I know the guys that are still there arenít trolls, and Iím not treating them as such.
My wife just told me I deserved your chastisement LOL
Alright so Iíll be nice from now on.
I fully appreciate their position. I wouldnít want to just throw my cash around either. But Iím really concerned that publishing an excerpt of the book is not going to give the right idea about the game.
So, Iíll put my heart out there and show you guys and you can tell me what you think. Please keep this link to yourselves as Iím still debating whether to allow public access or not.
This is the example of combat which comes directly from the book. The issue I have is that it shows none of the roleplay side of the game, it shows none of the character nuance that makes the game what it is; itís pure mechanics, so even though it demonstrates the success of the combat system it doesnít highlight any of the really cool bits that are behind the scene.

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 22, 2012, 05:12:46 AM
Another solution: post here in the Actual Play forum. I suggest doing so quite literally, that is, talk about a real and actual experience that you and others had during a particular session, when the fictional result was especially fun. Include how people's decisions at the table were expressed in mechanical terms using the rules, and what happened when the mechanics were applied.

Although such an example will not showcase every aspect of your game, it will show some of the clockwork gears in action, which is not only what jpeople are reasonably asking for, but will advertise your game better than any summary statement possibly could. This advice is quite battle-tested, and I recommend you seriously consider it.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: tymotzues on March 22, 2012, 12:33:52 PM
Thanks Ron
I'll see to it.
Little pressed for time at the moment as I've got two new supplements to get out ASAP and still pimping Ascendancy. I have a great deal of confidence in the system and feel that once it gets some play out there it will find an audience, so I'm not too bothered by the sceptics, but as David pointed out I don't want to be ignoring my potential audience who are just after some understandable clarity to what, I will openly admit, is a system with a lot of esoteric threads.
In the meantime I'd be happy to receive any criticisms or feedback, from anyone, on the linked example above.

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: guildofblades on March 24, 2012, 08:33:40 AM
Hi Tim,

From a PR perspective I have had the best luck in doing the following:

1) Respond informatively and as promptly as possible to those people with actual comments or questions in regards to the system/topic/event being advertised. Be there to clarify and inform.

2) Let opinions stand on their own. They don't need a comment from you.

3) Ignore trolls. They never warrant a response of any kind.

GOB Retail / Publishing

Title: Re: Crossing the Bridge without feeding the Trolls
Post by: tymotzues on March 24, 2012, 01:45:31 PM
That's some great feedback Ryan, cheers I appreciate it.