Project ADD

December 28, 2010

Suddenly moving from being busy to having free time always gives me project ADD, where I can’t decide what thing to work on first and end up doing partial work on a dozen different things. This can leave me with nothing to show for my trouble besides more unfinished projects, most of which will never get finished, but it’s still fun.

Here’s some things I’ve been thinking about, but no promises on any of them:

Assuming he brings his bassoon back from New Mexico, Sage and I are going to work up a few songs. That doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to start a band, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t either. I’m also not-so-secretly hoping we can convince Leigh (my brother) to play my Zendrum or maybe tradeoff Zendrum, vocals, and string instruments. The Walton boys have too much ambition to be confined to a single instrument! Unfortunately, since Jefferson Death Star is a prominent indie band in Seattle, we probably can’t call ourselves Jefferson Bible Society, a great name I recently came up with. Oh well. Maybe I’ll write a song with that title instead. In any event, writing for a bassoon rather than a bass guitar is going to be fun. Haven’t done that since the Paradise Lost operetta I wrote in college, which had TWO BASSOONS! There’s no such thing as too many bassoons. Or sackbuts. I actually missed getting to hang out with an acquanitance from Oberlin who plays the sackbut due to exams. Very unfortunate timing.

I really thought I was gearing up to finish a draft of my How to Host a Dungeon + Mountain Witch hack, now tentatively called Last Crawl, or That Ancient Serpent, my one-page Apocalypse World hack for doing dragons + body horror. But then Emily posted about a design contest in January focusing on single-player RPGs. That got me thinking about how many of my games are actually attempting to recreate fiction that works best with a single protagonist — a trap that I think a lot of indie designers fall into, since a lot of thr media around us revolves around a lone hero, set apart.

So now I’m thinking about both my long-time interest I’m writing a Zelda-inspired game (Super Snow Queen, Ghost Opera) and whether Firmament works better as a solo game, since one of the core emotions I’m trying to invoke is loneliness. John even poked fun at me the other week — I forget specifically about which project — that I was doing something else where all the characters would never meet up and do things together.  It’s true; I do really like playing in sessions that provide opportunities for solo spotlighting. That’s not just a camera hog thing, though, since I really like watching other players interact mostly with the GM.  It gives me time to reflect and appreciate what going on, as an audience.  In any event, I’ll probably submit something Zelda-inspired to Emily’s contest, though I might take my own advice and base it on Western literature (more like Super Snow Queen than the Shang Dynasty-inspired Ghost Opera).

I think my analytic article for Magic Missile is going to be about what I’ve learned about design from participating in and running design contests. There’s a lot I could potentially say there, and I honestly want to begin building some sort of “legacy” document to leave behind on Game Chef and what its first decade has meant: a document that future generations should trod all over, but they should at least trod with a sense of purpose, rather than just massacring the whole thing do to avoidable mistakes (and believe me I’ve made more than a few).

There’s also the introduction to the book, which Macklin and I will presumably share portions of or collaborate on. I suggested the general theme of the battle over “system matters” being over, with a victory for the pro-design forces or at least us driving away most of the hippy freeformers, which may not be a real victory so much as something that has happened. In any event, there should be an effort to move beyond the “we’re doing something unique and special, unlike those other games” discourse. Those other games and the culture that surrounds them isn’t clearly different from what we’re doing. And I’m not sure it ever was. But there’s no need for us to be defensive and protective of what we’re doing. Looking for some other behemoth (after “mainstream roleplaying”) to oppose is like fighting that battle all over again, which would be really dumb. We’ve fought for enough space in which to exist and thrive, but our future significance involves continuing to make and play games that are fun and well-written.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

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