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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 27 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Publishing for Blind Playtest (Ashcan/Beta?)  (Read 2220 times)
Xibalba
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« on: September 25, 2008, 10:59:48 AM »

Hi Chad,

Excellent topic, and this is definitely the right forum for it.

As far as I can tell from all these years, the issue of facilitating play isn't determined by hard-copy vs. PDF. I mean, it might be in this case or that case, but it could go either way. The general rule seems to be that if people are confident that a dialogue is available about their playtesting, and if they're excited by any particular feature of your game, then they will indeed playtest.

The term Beta is from computer programming, and it means that all the bugs are probably not worked out. The term ashcan is from comics, and it means a copy that isn't in the same format or production value as the intended eventual product. The first refers to design and function; the second refers to look and presentation. The way Paul Czege adapted the term to role-playing was to combine the concepts, along the lines of, "Take your Beta and present it as an ashcan." So by presenting an ashcan-RPG, you're pretty much saying up-front that it's also a Beta or late-Beta design.

It's also worth pointing out that this isn't an exact culture and people are going to adopt either term to their promotional needs.

I can't think of any reason not to use Lulu or any other POD method for an ashcan. I know that Paul has generally encouraged a hand-made or crafted aesthetic for the concept, but it's not like he owns the term or otherwise dictates how you want to do it.

Quote
-I would write a page explaining this is an Ashcan/Beta and note specific rules/questions that I want playtesters to look at and include this page at the front of my game.
-I would get about 10 copies of the game as a POD from lulu.
-I would give one or two away to my close friends who have play groups, but have not yet played my game. 
-I would then try to sell the other 8 copies for about $10-15 to acquaintances (for example, people I have met at conventions or past RPG games) with the understanding that they will playtest it and get back to me with feedback. (How would I do this, I have no idea.)
Does this plan make sense?  How could I go about selling the Ashcans/Betas?  Is there a better way to go about blind playtesting?  Am I completely misunderstanding the Ashcan/Beta concept?

I think it's a pretty good plan. The one concern I have is that Lulu is actually a bit pricey for getting a supply of books (as opposed to selling them one per client order), and you might do better with another company. There're lots of them.

Well, maybe a look at the bigger picture might be good too. Let's see - is there anything that sounds undesirable about keeping this version up at Lulu for anyone who wants to check it out, even someone who's not near you? It seems to me that you might be limiting yourself with the whole, "must observe" idea. Sure, I understanding wanting to observe, but why use that as an absolute limit?

Lastly, the best promotion you can do for your game is to post about playing it yourself. Go ahead and use the Playtesting forum and talk about what it's like. People who are turned on by the same things that turned you on as a designer will be happy to try it out for themselves.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: September 25, 2008, 01:56:25 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged

Chad Davidson
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2008, 01:58:15 PM »

FUCK! I can't believe I did that! I hit the wrong button and actually edited my reply onto Chad's post!! That is the dumbest thing ... I don't even know how I did it, I wasn't even trying to edit anything.

Sorry man. I'll try to reconstruct it if I can, but this might have been a moderator moment that I can't fix.

Best, Ron
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Xibalba
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« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2008, 02:25:19 PM »

No problem, Ron.

Luckily I had the OP in another file. Here it is:



I have been playtesting my game, Heirs to the Lost World, and I am feeling ready to move to the next step. I have  been running a campaign for about a year, I have played as a GM and as a player, and I have run several demos at conventions with strangers.  I think the game is complete and playable, but I want to make sure it is possible to learn the rules from the text (without me there to help) and to get some feedback on a couple rules issues.  To me, this means I am ready to start doing blind playtests outside of my normal play groups.  Before I start, I have a bunch of questions.  To me, these questions seem to be closer to "Publishing" rather than "Connections/Playtesting" because they are (mostly) questions about printing of a  book (, so I hope I chose correctly by putting it here).

1. I would prefer local playtesters so I could observe the group from time to time.  It seems that I should have something physical (rather than a PDF) for my blind playtesters.  My thinking is that this would make them more likely to actually do the playtest and not just read the text.  Is this accurate?

2.  What is the difference between an Ashcan and a Beta?  I've read the FAQ at the Ashcan Front, but I also see Paizzo using the term Beta for their Pathfinder game.  Am I offending anyone if I use one term rather than another?  Are there any assumptions built into one term as opposed to the other?

3.  The page count of my game is about 200 pages.  I do not have any easy way of printing/coping so a Print On Demand book at lulu is about the same cost as a printout at kinko's.    I think that a POD book would look and feel better.  Is there any reason to avoid the POD for the Ashcan/Beta?

4.  Assuming I know the answers to the above questions (which I do not), my plan would be:
-I would write a page explaining this is an Ashcan/Beta and note specific rules/questions that I want playtesters to look at and include this page at the front of my game.
-I would get about 10 copies of the game as a POD from lulu.
-I would give one or two away to my close friends who have play groups, but have not yet played my game. 
-I would then try to sell the other 8 copies for about $10-15 to acquaintances (for example, people I have met at conventions or past RPG games) with the understanding that they will playtest it and get back to me with feedback. (How would I do this, I have no idea.)
Does this plan make sense?  How could I go about selling the Ashcans/Betas?  Is there a better way to go about blind playtesting?  Am I completely misunderstanding the Ashcan/Beta concept?
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Chad Davidson
Xibalba
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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2008, 12:26:26 PM »

Ron, thanks for clearing up the Beta/Ashcan thing.  I think you have a good point about leaving the book up on Lulu. While I have not done any promoting yet, perhaps there would still be non-locals willing to playtest.  As long as the playtesters were good about feedback, this would still be very useful, and would start the marketing process.  I would just need to be clear up front that the game is not yet a final product.  What do you think about putting "Beta" on the cover?

As for cheaper ways to get 10 or so books, what would you recommend?
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Chad Davidson
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2008, 07:02:32 AM »

This may be coming in too late to the game to help you, but I still wholeheartedly recommend CreateSpace.  Your book (assuming the interior is B&W) would range between $3.25 and $4.85 each, depending on the package you use.  If you have a color interior, the pricing isn't quite as desirable (between $15 and $25).

We love what they've done for us so far.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2008, 07:32:51 AM »

I'm sorry to have taken so long to get back to this thread.

Regarding putting "Beta" on the cover of your book, I leave that to you as publisher and decision-maker. We all know that RPG companies have made a practice, especially cynically in the 1990s, of releasing half-baked product in flashy packaging, then completing the editing and design through more "editions." I hope but cannot demand that you'd take the opposite approach.

In order to acquire small numbers of books from a printer, or what's called a "short run," it's pretty painless. There are dozens of good POD companies, although which are good at any given time can change. Check out some of the threads in this forum for advice about that.

Best, Ron
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