18 June, 2010


Another forum...

Well, actually a sub-forum of Story Games.

I've been avoiding it for a while, but while The Forge was down and reorganising itself, I started to look for new avenues of game design inspiration. That's a part of the reason why there have been so many posts over the last couple of weeks.

I logged onto Praxis a few months ago, just to see if there was anything interesting happening. My first thoughts were that the forum simply seemed to be doubling up on a lot of what Story-Games was already offering, and the areas it didn't explore were stuff already covered by the Forge. But my recent forays into the deeper world of Praxis have revealed something a bit more.

A lot of the posters on the Forge are new arrivals to the indie scene. They've often got great ideas, but those ideas are either slight deviations of something I've already seen, or maybe they just don't realise that their idea has been done before. Then you get the new arrivals who don't understand Forge terminology, and who get bombarded with posts by people who only understand the terminology slightly better. There are the ones who take instant offence when you try to offer some constructive criticism or a new perspective. And then there are the minority who may not post often but who provide true pearls of wisdom.

It's an interesting mix of people, and even in the few years I've been on there I've started to see some cycles and patterns emerging.

Praxis is a little different, in much the same way that the Story-Games community is a bit different. A lot more of the people offering advice in there have actually produced games, and they seem to talk with a more seasoned wisdom about their craft. It might just be a phantom projection I'm putting onto the Praxis forum, but it seems a bit more open.

I've started throwing a few of my own ideas onto Praxis, just to see what the response might be, and I'm happy to say that I actually got constructive criticism from a few of the designers I've come to respect.

Then there's the other side of the coin...RPG.net

I've also toyed with a few posts over there. If Story-Games and Praxis are places where game designers hang out to discuss new projects once their already released something... rpg.net is the place where fanboys hurl crap at one another and secretly cover their ideas, only revealing enough to show that they've got another companies intellectual property thinly disguised with a couple of quirky mechanisms. I offered a thought out post about 24hr game design, and it looked like it blew people's minds. It was just common sense to me.

It might look like I'm saying that rpg.net is rubbish and Story-Games/Praxis is good, but that's not entirely true. There are a lot of people who don't want to design stuff from the ground up, and there are plenty of people who don't want to sell gaming products, they're just designing stuff for their friends, or tweaking a system that they enjoy playing. It's great to see that there are different forums for different degrees of design.

In much the same way that there are hundreds of blogs about the topic.


Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued. I'm not sure I have a question, but it feels like a question...

A little while ago I tried spending some time on Story Games and I also tried getting into the Forge. I was... underwhelmed. It felt like going to a party where you were the only one who didn't know anybody... so you are just standing in the corner feeling uncomfortable.

Not that it was a "bad" experience, just didn't get anything from being there, didn't feel invited. I'm curious what you get out of the experience. What inspiration does it provide for you and do you feel that it genuinely helps you improve your own work?

I'm not trying to be negative. I just had a very different experience of my time visiting those spaces. I'd love to hear more of another's experience.


vulpinoid said...

I guess you've got a good point.

The first few times I went to the Forge I was one of those new designers with great ideas that I wanted to share. Luckily when I first went to the Forge, the Endeavour part of the forum was a bit more active. Every month or two, someone would launch a contest that would last a week or two. Each contest would have a different restriction...design a system that fits in 4 pages, design a character sheet that you can infer a complete system from, etc...It was only after I started submitting to a couple of those contests that people started to actually take notice of what I was doing, and that sort of stuff just doesn't happen any more.

Both the Forge and Story Games have barriers to entry. To get anywhere on the Forge, you've got to understand Ron Edward's terminology (especially where it deviates from the rest of the English language...because that's where the arguments lie). To get anywhere on Story Games, you have to have released a game.

Maybe it's not that blatant, and if you hang around either community long enough you'll gradually be absorbed into the crowd. In both groups you need to take the initiative, step-on-up, its the participants who make themselves heard who get the attention.

There's definitely an "IN" crowd in indie game design, a few key people whose words are viewed as "gospel from on high", there's a few on the periphery who occasionally make a wave or start something cool (I'd like to think I'm in that part of the group), and then there's the long tail of casual observers. I'm certainly not big on either forum, but my posts get looked at and more often than not they get responded to.

Most of the reason I visit the two forums on a regular basis is to keep my finger on the pulse of what's happening in the indie scene, to occasionally compare it to my own work, and to offer some suggestions where I think the recipient might be open. Then I go back to plugging away at my own projects in my own world.

Anonymous said...

First, Morrison, sorry your experience at the Forge was unproductive. Lots of folks come through, post a little bit of something, and then are never heard from again. So it's easy to get lost or ignored because regulars don't know if they're wasting their time. Sometimes an idea just doesn't catch.

Other times folks post a lot of stuff, but they don't get ego-stroked as much as they'd like and they disappear. I'm not saying you did this, just saying it happens.

Other times folks hang in for a long time and eventually realize it is the quality of feedback, not the quantity (I'm one of those), and try to generally give back to the community here and there. Honestly, I don't know most of the people there currently, so I just wade in. Best way to approach these things.

Vul: honestly, after a few years of activity there, I stay away from RPG.net because, yeah, lots of poo-slinging in place of feedback. The one thing I can say about the Forge is that at least your feedback there isn't the unmoderated shitstorm of RPG.net.

Still, I've been at the Forge/in the indie community for a decade, and I agree with the notion that there is an "indie design clique" whose words and games are treated as the best things ever. Unfortunate as it may be, and as much as some folks dislcaim the idea, it happens.

There are popular games that only achieved such because of who produced them. But the same is true everywhere in everything: quality doesn't count even an eighth as much as networking does (economic truth).

I'm not a member of Story Games or Praxis, so no feedback there. Though years ago, SG felt very cliquish to me, very oriented towards a specific culture of people, and so I avoided it. Don't know if that continues to be true.

I just learned about Praxis, and I'm considering maybe hitting it to see if I can get more feedback on some things I'm working on than I was able to at the Forge. Still, feedback is such a hit-and-miss beast.

Sheikh Jahbooty said...

It's pretty much just 1km1kt.net or RPGLaboratory.com for me.

You don't see the same level of innovation and interesting setting and mechanics as you do in the forge or story games, but there's absolutely no ego in those places, just pure supportive attitude.

If someone has a PDF of your game, he will give it away, at least to his players, since that's the easiest way to teach them how to play.

And if you're interested in making a lot of money, writing RPGs is a pretty bone headed thing to do. Pretty much every other writing gig that exists is more profitable.

So for me to find an online community that faces that, that says, "Even though this might see a print run soon or you can buy it on Lulu, here is a free PDF. What we do here is only about sharing this hobby." is for me, a rare and awesome find.

Very few forums in any topic are so open and honest with themselves.

Jeff said...

I've only gotten into the whole indie design scene in the last few months, but I've been into RPGs and noodling around with design a lot longer than that, and so when I discovered there were communities for this stuff, taking it seriously, I got real excited.

I started hanging out on the Forge and posting, but due to my current situation, could only really post in the 'first thoughts' forum, and, well, there was a high noise to signal ratio. Plus, going back to any of the 'groundbreaking stuff' in the archives was daunting, cos there was so much of it.

To contrast, I've found Story Games and Praxis a lot easier to jump right into and participate in discussions. There's definitely the 'in-crowd' there, but so far even as a total n00b, people have responded to my replies and posts and been helpful. I like the 'feel' there so far.

Once I get where I can do some more serious playtesting, I think I'll start hitting up the Forge more again. I'd like to echo your wish for more activity in the Endeavor forum - creative constraints coupled with a way to 'get noticed' would be very good.

Anonymous said...

Hadn't even heard of those forums. Have to check them out.