The Tentative Plan

December 28, 2011

Here’s my tentative plan for being the change that I want to see. It has a somewhat different tone from one of my standard posts, so forgive me.

There are many ways to get involved in indie game design, Game Chef and other design contests being one of the easiest. However, there’s very little organized assistance in helping a designer progress from a working draft to a “finished” draft — whether that’s intended for commercial publication or just free distribution. Yes, there’s a library of knowledge on various forums and blogs for designers to haphazardly search through; there’s great people you can talk to briefly at conventions and meetups; but there’s relatively few sources of sustained support and structure to ensure that progress is actually made. Instead, most folks have to blaze a path on their own.

If you’re lucky enough to build a working relationship with an established indie games publisher — Galileo Games, Evil Hat, or even how Nathan Paoletta and Meg Baker are publishing games originally authored by other designers — those folks can provide that assistance, but I have a feeling that many folks want the assistance that an experienced publisher can provide while still wanting at least the option of publishing the game themselves. Or they would like to release the game for free, target a limited audience, or use some other publishing model that makes it more difficult for a commercial indie publisher to want to become involved.

My tentative plan for Corvid Sun, then, is for it to be an explicitly non-commercial indie games developer (explicitly not a publisher), providing volunteer preparation and publications assistance to other game designers, including both experienced and up-and-coming folks. This is something I wish existed for me, someone dedicated to helping me achieve my own goals for my games, so I want to offer it to other designers in the hopes that it’s something we all need. While I’m hoping that Corvid Sun can develop a close relationship to one or more established indie games publishers — providing some optional outlets for traditional publication — it’s main purpose will be helping folks prepare their game for whatever release or publication plan they have in mind, whether they release it for free, publish it themselves, publish it through another company, etc. Consequently, all the support I provide to other people’s games through Corvid Sun will ultimately owned by them, to be used however they see fit as long as they acknowledge the assistance somewhere.

The Stage One project is going to be a good trial run for what I want to do in the future, since it operates according the the principles I’ve described here, though the ultimate goal of a single 200-copy print run of an short anthology booklet was something I established in the beginning. That makes sense for an anthology where multiple designers are going to be submitting games, since trying to negotiate collective goals later would be much more complicated. But for assisting with individual games — even where there are 2 or more designers involved — the plan would be to listen to their goals for the project and help them achieve those.

Now, especially since this is going to be a totally volunteer operation, I’m only going to provide support for projects that I believe strongly in. But I honestly encounter those all the time, especially through the design contests I’m involved in (Game Chef, Stage One, Murderland). I’m certainly happy to talk to folks about their projects and see if it’s something I want to become involved in, but I’m also planning to contact potential partners directly and continue to find terrific contest drafts that could use some additional support. That said, I’m going to try to stay aware of my prior commitments and not overburden myself. Right now, I’m pretty much booked solid, but hopefully I can finish up a few things soon and have more time to explore new projects.

In any event, this is one of the things I think indie games really needs going forward, acknowledging that achieving the goals you have for your game can be really difficult, especially if you’re working on your own. But also that indie publishing — like the games themselves — is really a bunch of different activities that all go under the same name. You can’t measure the success of different games using the same yardstick, because it all depends on what your goals for the game are, both in terms of design and publication. Corvid Sun is my attempt at trying to acknowledge and support that, attempting to give back to the community what I’ve gotten from it — in a way that supplements the things I already do through Game Chef — while also leveraging the experience and expertise I have through my day job in think-tank publishing.

4 Responses to “The Tentative Plan”

  1. Hear, hear! I am a little teary-eyed, Jonathan. And excited.

  2. mjbauer Says:

    Game design needs more of this. Well done.

  3. Hans, MJ: Thanks! Here’s hoping that great things come out of it.

  4. kobutsu Says:

    Cool! I’ll be interested to see the future shape of this.

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