February 10, 2009

Delays, Excuses and Explanations

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 1:45 pm

So, I am more than guilty on my part of delays. A common excuse is “It’s the printer” but sometimes that is a real explanation. For instance, Roma True20 should be in distribution but the printer I was using went bankrupt…as they printed the book. I got my books but by then (a delay of months) the fulfillment company needed to resolicit Roma True20 and that took three months. Then, about when it was to be released, they had a downturn and dropped HinterWelt along with several others (Hi Brett). In the end, I am beginning Roma True20 is just not meant for trad distribution.

On a different take, I have Britannia. This is a supplement for Roma Imperious and has been in the works for close to 3 years. The biggest problem I have here is that it is seriously time intensive to work on. Massive amounts of research need to go into it on areas not well documented (at least in the sources I can find). That is an excuse. I have the cover. I have artists willing to work on the interior art. I have a beautifully rendered map. So what is the problem? Time? Energy? Interest? A combination of them all plus a 4 year old at home. Still, I should get working on this.

Then we have Tern: Planetary System Guide. This one is even closer to done. It is an incredible source book for Nebuleon if I say so myself. However, sales do not warrant a lot of source books for Nebuleon. A lot of people are interested but the sales numbers for the line just do not warrant working on another supplement when I could be writing a squirrel book. Yes, Squirrel Attack! books now out sell all my other games.

I also have what I call vapor ware. Future Skein is the leader of these. Nothing but a cover and a lot of ideas. I have had the cover for years. I know what the book will be about but a big part of this one was the arrival of Theo. Children change a lot of things.

In the end, I can blame no one but myself. I can make excuses but when it comes down to who is getting the books out or not it stops right here, with me. I suspect it is so with most other publishers big or small. The dynamics might change and I wont negate outside forces but it still comes down to what you do to get your books out.

February 9, 2009

E-Paper and the future

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 11:15 am

I am a great proponent of the use of technology with RPGs. Amazon has announced its new version of the Kindle with wider format support (PDF, yeah now we are talking) and a color screen amoungst other things. Read more about it here.

This is the sort of thing I feel will eventually open the PDF market up. When you get hand held e-paper that can hold all manner of documents then we will see the market go mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, it is growing now, but when this is the default type of device that students use for their books, people read news papers on and we all sit at the table referenceing games on then the future will be here.

Oh, and in fairness the Sony Reader.

February 8, 2009

Zombies For All : Distribution Experiment

Filed under: Business,Games — bilbo @ 8:02 pm

With Zombipocalypse, I want to take the approach I have with my other games a step further. I will be offering the PDF for free download. The full PDF. The same PDF that people will be able to buy. Inside, I will tell them to upload it to P2P networks, host it on thier sites, send it to their friends and generally reproduce it as much as possible. In addition, I will ask the reader that if they like what they see in Zombipocalypse, then purchase a copy or the print version. I will have links to the purchase sites and ads for my other games as well as ads for other publishers (if interested).

What I hope to accomplish here is to look at a possible alternative means of producing

1. Loyal customers

2. Greater customer satisfaction and thus repeat customers

3. Increase brand recognition through wide distribution

4. Increase sales through wider distribution

Now, as a side note, I would say that I am interested in the social experiment here as well. It will be interesting to see if it spreads, is downloaded, talked about and purchased. Here’s to a grand experiment.

February 7, 2009

Zombie Rewind:The System

Filed under: Games — bilbo @ 10:51 am

So, when I got the idea for Zombies it worked much the way it does for any setting I think up. The setting ideas came first then I thought about system. Some people will claim the “System Matters ®” and my usual response is, “No, at least not the way you use it”. I believe that the system is not tied to setting. It should reflect setting or possibly, say it should support setting. What I mean here is that for Zombipocalypse, for instance, it was not a case of thinking “I need a rotting flesh mechanic, fast combat and chase mechanics”. Those are one view and I am not saying it is wrong, but it is not the way I approach system design.

When coming up with a system in general, and The System (the name of the Zombipocalypse engine), I think about what would be the basic elements that could be fun in play. Yeah, for a moment just let that “fun” reference go by. 😉 For Zombipocalypse it was the ideas of

  1. Simple binomial dice statistics. I wanted a game where you would have a median you could work off of and have a good chance that everyone would have the required dice. Thus the ONLY dice you use are 3d6.
  2. I wanted to use a static dice pool. This is a mechanic I have not used before and I think would add some interesting combinations to the mix.
  3. I wanted wound levels but I wanted the damage to be tied to degree of success. So, how much someone makes their skill by is important as how much the target dodges by.
  4. I wanted a roll over system. This has a certain appeal to people other than my traditional customer base (Iridium is a combination of roll over and under). With roll over across the board we have a chance to play with target numbers and bonuses. Easy to understand and manipulate.
  5. Initiative was lifted whole cloth from Clash Bowley at Flying Mice Games with his permission and cooperation. I cannot recommend his games enough. Init, in The System, is set at 0 but then can be adjusted up or down for a bonus or minus to actions allowing a the character to go later or sooner respectively.
  6. One roll combat. I still have hit locations but they are more an option than an vital. Two dice of the three are designated “Location Dice” and they map to a hit location chart. If the Group does not wish to, they need not track damage location but with The System they can. It can be helpful in that it can indicate the difference between a Critical Wound to the head or to the arm.

The fact that this is a Zombie-PA-Sci-Fi game did not come into consideration. The main goal, as with any system I design, is to have the system fade into the background but be a fun exercise in and of itself. I think The System is well on the way to accomplishing this.

In general, the system can stand on its own and work for a group in many settings. It is the group that determines the system they use. It should accommodate things like dropping or adding mechanics to suit the play of a group. “Tying” a system to a setting is, IMO, a myth. One that is propagated by people’s personal prejudices. They expect an anime game to have X and so it must have X or it is broken. Usually this is an observation int he abstract. My counter point would be to say “A group expects X from their play. Does the system support that?”. They will find a way to make the system play in the setting of their choice (usually by adding sub systems). So, whenever I design a system, I keep in mind that the system should be able to support the setting (I supply the sub-systems) as a product.

Of course, this is just my way of looking at it…;)

February 6, 2009

Zombies Amongst Us!

Filed under: Games — bilbo @ 12:36 pm

As is standard for games I design, this is not the clear cut zombie game the market seems to love. Zombipocalypse is a cross between the zombie, post-apocalyptic and science fiction genres. Essentially a colony ship from an alien culture has been traveling for thousands of years between stars looking for an appropriate planet to seed with the virobots it carries. These virobots will rewrite the dna of the primitive algae on the primordial world it finds. Due to the mind of the ship malfucntioning, it determines Earth as being an appropriate world. It lands.

Shortly after this happens, near Detroit,  the US government is all over it but then a few things start happening. Strange plants start growing. Animals start going feral. Then, within 48 hours, hospitals start filling up. It goes rapidly downhill after that. It is not long before the virobots go global, infecting the refugees as they flee and spreading it across the oceans. The worst damage is centered around population centers. There are survivors, both small and large. The Republic of Alaska has resisted the Infected and several military groups have done so as well.

Six weeks later, you are a survivor, with a group, looking for a way to live, to fightback. Anti-virals help, some home remedies help but in the end, you need to stop this plague. Some will try to find a cure. Others believe the answer is in the ship, which has grown to become an orbital tether with a huge station in orbit. Others still believe they have found a way to live between being entirely infected and free of the virus. The greatest danger is not necessarily the living dead or the Infected but often take the form of other survivors themselves.

A note here, there are two major types of zombie. One are the Infected and the other are the Living Dead. The Infected are alive still but have been driven made by the virobots. These small living machines were never meant to interact with such a complex life form. They have had detrimental effects to the human body and mind. The live in pacts, usually formed as they were infected, and need to eat, usually whatever they can find. The virobots will infect anything living so you also have Infected dogs, cats, elephants, trees, plants, mosses and, well, anything living.

The Living Dead are more nefarious. They seem to be controlled by something. They will not always attack but seem to be going about some task. Some theorize they are clearing land for the Thorn Plants while others insist they are looking for something. They will attack anyone who interferes with their work…and sometimes that is as little as seeing them work. They are not affected by suffocation, disease, cold or warm but their bodies must stay essentially intact in order to work properly. Shoot one through the arm and it will not stop him immediately but it will slow him down. Eventually, as the blood that is its hydraulic system leaks out it will cease to move. Destroying the brain or heart is the quickest way to put the Living Dead down.

So, that is what I have so far. I am working on the system over on our forums.

February 5, 2009

HinterBlog Is Up!

Filed under: General — bilbo @ 10:11 pm

This is the HinterWelt blog. I will be using this place as a means to let customers and fans know what I am upto for HinterWelt, what products are coming, the design process, some business insight and all manner of HinterWelt affairs. Hopefully, some will find it helpful or entertaining or both.

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