Monday, September 28, 2015

Want to get into game design? Work-shopping is key.

Want to be a RPG Superstar? How about get into Wayfinder, or freelance as a game designer? It's the competition's worst kept secret that most of the best get there by practice and work-shopping. This however isn't going to be an advice article on how to get the most out of work-shopping this is going to be an article about being good at helping others through work-shopping.

The thing some people don't seem to get is that to get better you have to give  more.

Image result for giving tree

When giving feedback the first and most important key is that it is specific. Telling someone something as general as "I like it" might be good for their ego but it doesn't help them identify what makes their work good that they can take to their next piece. Just slamming something in a general sense and saying you do not like it without being specific as to why is equally useless in helping them improve.

I used the good, bad, and ugly format with a summary for feedback for awhile because it forces em to look at something positive, something that isn't majorly bad but worth noting, my biggest issue, then a summation of my overall impression. Generally that turns into 4-5 talking points which is about right for a pass at something. Going more in-depth then that can be helpful but only if you're asked to do so, otherwise you might be overwhelming the author by giving them too much to focus on. which leads me into my next point.

Know your role as a pit crew person. What kind of feedback is the designer looking for from you. Grammar and format editing? Where they looking for focus group feedback (like this, dislike that and so on?) Are they looking to bounce and build which is to day they suggest something you expand on it or suggest a direction they run with that suggestion and develop it further into a new idea and so on... For the record I'm the king of bounce and build sessions or focus group style feedback and shit at grammar and format editing as I have a tendency to auto correct as I read. Knowing your strengths helps you build others and it also informs on what you need from them when they return the favor.

Detach from who they are. It is natural for you to want go go easier on your friends or perhaps be a little less respectful to someone you do not know or like. It is important to be around people that challenge you and it is important that you are that person even to people you really like.

Being honest isn't brutal. I tersely informed one contestant this year that his inherent concept would be an immediate must have for every power gamer. He toned it down but kept the concept going because the phrase every blaster would want one was in there and he held onto that. He made top 100.

Except for a pair of DQs I missed (sorry again Jeff and Andrew details aren't my thing) of the 16 items I pitted for 8 made top 36 along side my own item and the remaining 6 made top 100. The range is my best friend to people I've never met outside the boards. This doesn't mean I want to do 100 items next year this is me telling you as a community find people you trust and work off of one another. Practice, learn and come back stronger next year... because I know I will.

To the top 8, you know where to find me.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Don't be that Contestent.

Hi gang,

This is an open letter for those that participate in the RPG Superstar contest. Not just for those that have made it into the competition, but to those on the sidelines that entered an item into round one but fell short of the top 36 entries.

The TL:DR version of this article is some advice I heard a lot when I was looking to join up in the military... They's say, "don't be that guy." They's say don't be that lady to the women but we're past excluding those that don't fit into gender binary perceptions so; Don't be that contestant.

Image result for drill sergeant

What they mean by this is don't do something stupid to eliminate yourself from your opportunities like get drunk and drive, or get arrested for drug use, or fail out because of the physical requirements. For me the end of the road was that my feet are a little too flat for the DOD but that isn't relevant here because the advice is still sound advice for this competition.

Even if you missed the mark this year, your words and reputation can carry forward into future years and if particularly ill advised cost you other opportunities. I'm far from the only publisher that pays attention to and hires off the Superstar design boards.

Here's my pitch for new designers: We're a great place to cut your teeth and develop as a designer, but we pay like good bbq it's low and slow. I basically tell people we're slow to publish, turn a profit and pay and I still get no shortage of takers. Oh and I factor in people's reputation on the boards and professional demeanour nearly as much as I do their design talent regarding who I invite to work with my team.

The truth is there's a lot of talented folks that want to design. It's a publisher's market and we typically cannot afford to bring in designers that are a liability so here's a list of deal breakers for most publishers.

Don't be that Contestant that...

1) Reacts poorly to feedback - We're willing to take on and train writers we see some mojo in. Running a 3PP is a risk, publishers are risk takers. Defending your choices professionally is fine, flaming out or reacting badly to feedback makes us question your maturity and your ability to handle criticism from an editor or a harsh reviewer. There is no bigger red flag than a thin skinned and fragile ego designer.

2) Lives in a puddle - I'm not taking about being shy, I'm talking about being unaware of opinions that differ from your own. I'm talking about living in a puddle and fighting any rival beta fish that enters your tiny puddle. You can always tell who these people are by how they react when they are called out for their behaviour. If your go to defensive move is to talk about how things work in your home game or within the confines of your limited experience then this is you, get out of you puddle and reach out and experience other game styles.

3) Casually offends people - This typically goes hand and hand with living in a puddle. I've seen some tone deaf statements about how 90% of the items this year suck... good luck selling your work to those 550+ people you just offended. There's a difference between snark and being a total a-hole and usually the line is this, would you say that statement after it was revealed you were in the top 32 and you need people to vote for you? If the answer is no, don't be that contestant.

4) Breaks the gag order - While I was happy to compete I'd rather have not done so on the grounds that my competitors DQ'ed themselves by not following the gag order. I'll wear my top 32 tag with pride but it wasn't my desire to get it because the competition hamstrung themselves. It happens every year, resolve yourself next year that if you get the opportunity it will not be you. I'd still hire the person that makes this type of mistake but a lot of publishers are a lot less lose with the concept of NDAs then I am.

5) Bores us - Look at the end of the day you can be a lot of things and succeed but don't be boring. I'll hire someone that took a risk and whiffed a little on execution over someone who did something plain and safe like gloves that give a skill bonus...

6) Forgets the prize is a job - You win, you get a job. Want a job in game design? You have other tools to reach that goal even with Paizo. That also means don't argue with your potential future co-workers in a way that is going to make them not want to work with you which can literally be anyone you're competing with. Don't piss off the possible winner of Superstar Season 12 then have to work with them because you won Superstar season 16 and they got an editing job... It's too small an industry to create enemies.