Monday, August 29, 2016

On Pending Projects

If it isn't clear from my posts over the last few days, I'm [slowly] helping to put together a new game company.

It's still too early to discuss the company itself, but a lot of work has been under way over the past several months, and while I'm almost certain nothing will be ready for release until 2017, I'm quite happy with the number of projects that are already in the pipeline.

In the past I've hinted at them, and I tend to share quite a few things on G+, at irregular intervals.

You can find some things by searching key words; hints of concepts, like #Waste and #Acrossthestars. Pretty soon I guess #bagofastronauts, too. I tend to have a lot of ideas, but very little time to work on them myself. I'll get a couple of hours a week, at best, to write and share something, but there are times I can go months...sometimes up to a year...without doing anything creative.

Which is what led me to begin hiring writers to contribute to projects. Like +Ariana Ramos+Evey Lockhart, +Christopher Hopkins, and now +Andrew Shields. I'm pleased with the work I've seen them produce, and they are doing great things on projects I want to see get made. I'm really thrilled, actually, because I never thought I'd be at this point, where I was working with other writers to bring my ideas to life. I was certain I'd have to wait until I had made my own things, with all my own writing, to be taken seriously. But after recent conversations I've been having, and thinking back on what numerous friends of mine have said, I am finally starting to accept that my ideas have merit in their own right. That they are worth seriously developing and publishing, and that it's okay if I didn't write them exclusively. There are more talented people than me out there, who have already taken simple concepts I've had and built them up into massive dreamscapes, teenage angst-filled futures, bad ass bounty hunter businesses, and more. I've had artists create content with no guidance, fueling the creativity for myself and other writers, and for each other as well. Here are two examples, by +Anxious P., whose working on the dreamscape-like setting I currently call "Waste":
Dream Genie (and Shadow Worms) manifest from an abandoned oil can...

A tomb wagon rolls slowly through the dry stretches of the Golden Thirst...

And I'm very pleased to announce that +Andrew Walter joins Anxy and Evey as they work on developing the strange place built from the dreams of a dying god. Here is a sample illustration I pulled from Andrew's G+ wall:

Can you tell why I hired him?

Jeez does he do amazing work. You can find Andrew's art (and Anxious too and several other talented people's work) in the latest issue of The Undercroft (#10) (note: this is an affiliate link.) I can't wait to see what he comes up with for Waste, and also for my "Across the Stars" project I mentioned a couple of days ago.

Thankfully, I'm not alone on this journey. So far I've handled and set up some of the product concepts I want to see. But this isn't my company; I have a partner with me, who makes sure we stay on track to complete everything I've currently put into the pipeline. And she's fierce. I'm proud to have her as my CEO, while I handle the finances, making sure everyone we work with gets paid their fair share. Sure, we're a small company, of course, the way everyone starts out. We know there will be plenty of challenges for us to face, and lessons for us to learn. But we're committed to releasing high quality work that we can both be proud of. We want to embrace opportunities to create functional settings and game tools, and things that are fun, too. And we want to embrace what we're most passionate about: people playing games. 

We have a big heart. Just like the tag line of this blog: a big, soul stealing gem heart. And I promise, if you stick with us, if you let us steal your soul with our big gem heart, we won't let you down.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bag of Astronauts

Earlier today I wrote the following comment on a G+ post by +Cédric Plante, in which he mentioned a "bag of astronauts" (toy figures) he'd received as a gift:

I'd play a game called "Bag of Astronauts". Especially a LotFP adventure. Illustrated by +Cédric Plante, of course.
I'd hire +Evey Lockhart to write it. Maybe both her and you, +Andrew Shields.
Maybe set it in #Waste and make it LotFP compatible.

I haven't stopped thinking about it all day.

And now I'm seriously considering seeing if Evey, Andrew, and Cédric (or another artist) might want to work on a Waste/LotFP adventure called "Bag of Astronauts".

It would give me an excuse to use all of this amazing artwork I commissioned from Austin Sung, as well:

This project would also give me an excuse to commission watercolor spaceships. Which I think would look fantastic.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Across the Stars

So yesterday I mentioned my disappointment over Evil Hat's business announcement, their lack of diversity in their hiring practices, and how diverse I am when hiring for gaming projects.
But what gaming projects?

I actually haven't released anything yet, mostly due to poor time management, procrastination, loss of interest, and of course, imposter syndrome.

But over the last five years, I have hired a number of artists to create awesome content for me. I've collected art, writing, and maps to be used eventually, when I finally put everything together.
So this week, I started seriously thinking about an SF game. And I decided to dust off a bunch of art assets that I had made years ago, and see what I could make out of it.

It's nowhere near ready, but I'm doing my best to stay diligent this time. I've surrounded myself with some pretty great people to keep encouraging me to work on this, and I feel good about the direction it's moving in. Here's a brief summary of what "Across the Stars" should be:


In Across the Stars, players take on the roles of privateers, contracted by one of 13 member organizations of a massive merchant guild known as "The League of the Buyers". Their job is to travel into dangerous, unexplored regions of space and make discoveries: cataloging the mineral composition of stellar bodies, logging habitable worlds, and discovering new flora and fauna, bringing renown and prestige to the faction they work for.

At times the player characters will also encounter intelligent species, and while making first contact can be challenging, it can also be very rewarding.

This job isn't as easy as it sounds, though. The wild frontier is open for business, and many free agents are heeding the call, seeking fame, fortune, and glory. The competition is fierce; the player characters will have to contend with competing explorers, pirate clans, refugees and lost colonies, unknown threats inhabiting planets and star systems, and even rogue AI that fled after the end of the Great Age, in humanity's distant past.

But the need is genuine, despite the obvious motivations of profit driving the League to act in this new mission of exploration and colonization. Weird, planet-sized ships belonging to an unknown alien threat have begun to appear in the systems on the edge of the old imperium, the former human empire from which the League has risen to prominence, and these massive, star-powered vessels exert powerful gravitational forces on the systems they invade, shifting the delicate spatial balance of worlds and stars alike.

So new worlds are needed, and new sources of mineral deposits.
And there is plenty more to discover, in the vast unknown.


And here's a piece I wrote about the League's bizarre obsession with documenting everything and using paper forms:

A Garçon organizes appropriation documents for Hish, who is worried how much he'll pay in fines for the robot, a crashed starship, and insta-evac from the jungles of newly discovered Xanth.
Original Art by +Khairul Hisham.

On the League and its Insistence on Using Paper

Some question not only the League's seemingly endless streams of forms and contracts and reports required for filing, but also their bizarre requirement that all documentation be turned in on physical paper, a Byzantine method of acquiring and recording information.

Representatives of Central Banking state that it has to do with security; computer systems are, inevitably, prone to hacking. When it's pointed out that paper documents can be forged, the reps respond with a calm smile, as if they're in on the joke, and reply, "Who uses paper? Who could possibly forge anything that relies on such antiquated technology?"

Of course paper documents are easy to forge, especially when an entire governing body depends on their usage (word is the illicit Epson dot matrix business is booming, actually), but that isn't the point.
"Time" is what it's all about. Time and control. Relying on ancient printer formats that take forever to print forms, jam easily, and suffer various other malfunctions, slows any attempt to get anything done to an agonizing crawl, rendering all effort moot. This matters little to Central Banking and its parent organization, the League of the Buyers; they set the pace because time is money, and the longer a process takes, the more micro transactions of interest they can build up, to the point that sometimes, doing business with the League leaves an entrepreneur in insurmountable debt to the League, worse off than when negotiations began.

Of course the League is sympathetic to anyone harmed by the lengthy process, and offers a method of recouping lost monies through their official Complaint Board to resolve any disputes, for a small processing fee.

The wait to meet with an agent of the complaint board is currently just under five years, but that timeline is unfortunately lengthening rapidly, due in large part to the League's refusal to shift to an electronic system.

Of course, there's always the indentured employment option, where citizens in debt to the League or one of its members can complete work to pay off loans or excessive fees they've incurred while waiting for paperwork to process. The Ministry of Diligence and Aptitude is able to expedite processing in a way that baffles the employees at the complaint board.


There's a lot more in development, including a character advancement system built around incentives, attributes that focus on social interactions, deceit, etc. to survive and succeed, and a "vice" system to complicate encounters.

I look forward to sharing more about the project. I discuss a lot of it openly on Google+, so follow me there to keep up to date. I also have a private community set up to develop the game rules and setting, and everyone is welcome to join.

I'll share more details soon, I promise!