From the Blog

Jan
11
Posted by Chubby Funster at 10:49 pm



I think you have accepted that you have made some mistakes. So I am not going to rake you over the coals. I’m not going to make demands of you that are in my self-interest or that seek to bolster some position I have. I am not going to pretend to help you, but really not care about your situation. I am going to take you at your word and give you my honest opinion.

You want to unite the clans. UNITE THEM! I can appreciate that. I can get behind that. So this advice that I give you is truly from the heart. You are an old friend that has, in my view, lost their way. I want to help you. You seem open to it. So here it is…

Live the D&D life

I don’t mean that flippantly. Live the D&D life. Stop marketing. Stop pushing your product on people, start caring about people, and they will buy your product without the push. Care about D&D. Advocate for D&D. Be everywhere, talking about D&D. Know the community, know the people. Feel their pain, know their problems, give them help, and care.

I know you might think you are doing that now. You aren’t. You are trapped in the past. The future is digital and it is passing you by.

Your website is poorly designed and hard to navigate. I don’t want to spend time there. I’m looking at it today, you know what I don’t see? A headline that tells me 5th edition is announced. Just a link to SIGN UP and be a part of gamer history. You know what my first thought is reading that? “Sign Up” is a code word for: Let me market to you . Sign up for my newsletter. It doesn’t scream out that you are making a new edition. It doesn’t make me care and it doesn’t make me click. Your “D&D next” group page is bland and boring. I could go on, but I have no desire to ridicule you about your web design.

You have a twitter feed and a Facebook page. Both are boring. It looks like you are trying to sell me something.

You are talking in marketing speak. You need to stop. Now.

Let me give you some hard advice on how to do that, not just impressions and vague directives.

Hire someone to really take charge of your community operations and lead it in a new direction. If you have someone in charge of community outreach, I don’t know them. And I know a lot of people in the online RPG community and I consider myself fairly well informed. I tried to find out who was in charge of this on your website. There are a few possibles, but I couldn’t actually tell. Trevor Kid? Maybe. Mostly because the content was so old. Announcements from June of 2011 or earlier. I should know this person. They should be commenting and posting everywhere. All the time. Ubiquitous.

So if you do have someone doing this, move them aside and get someone who knows what they are doing. They need to be producing new and exciting content every damn day. The last video posted on your YouTube account was in October. That’s three months ago. In Internet time, that is the last ice age. You need new videos going up every week. Every day would be the long term goal. You need to be producing so much content that people have a hard time keeping up.

And it needs to be good content. Not some lame droning video (no offense to Rodney Thompson, he may be a great manager but he is a poor salesman). It needs to be high quality stuff I want to share with my friends. I need to sense passion and excitement. That doesn’t require fancy graphics and sound. There are people making passionate RPG posts every day without your resources. This isn’t about resources, this is about caring. I need to care. And in order for me to care, you need to be living that D&D life.

See there are TONS of people out there that have played D&D. But many of them are ashamed to admit it. You need to make it cool to play D&D. This isn’t the 1980s. No need to hide under rocks anymore. Be loud and be proud. Eventually, you need a whole team of people out there talking about D&D on a constant basis. Right now, you’ve got near zero capacity. Start small. Hire one person to live the D&D life and talk about it CONSTANTLY. Then build from there.

There is a ravenous hunger for RPG content out there. More than you can possibly imagine. And you are letting people starve. Right now, they have to come to you. They have to follow you on Twitter or go to your Facebook page (both of which, I reiterate, are boring locations). They have to navigate your boring website. People have to find you. They have to want you.

That has to end. You cannot be passive anymore. You have to reach out. You need to find people on your own. You need someone who reports to Mike Mearls every Friday and describes what happened in the RPG community that week. Describes what is supposed to go down that weekend. Who was talked about, why, what was said, and where. Engage people. Show up on THEIR Facebook wall or Twitter feed or Google+ threads or on their blogs. Make comments. Talk! TALK! TALK!

Because all I hear is a fart in the wind.

D&D is a social game. You must embrace that. You must be social!

Why is the biggest forum destination to talk about RPGs rpg.net ?
Why are the most popular people talking about RPGs not Wizards employees?
Why are the most popular blogs about RPGs not hosted on your domain?
Why are the sites aggregating RPG content not yours?

Because you dropped the ball and you let someone else carry it.

That has to end. Take charge of your destiny.

You need to be producing an avalanche of high quality RPG content. You need people talking about D&D with a passion. You need things to distribute to social media that will actually get shared, read, and excite people about your product. You need to reach out and grab people by the shoulders and say “I AM D&D! HEAR ME ROAR! I LOVE IT! JOIN ME!”

You need to live the life. You need to care so much it hurts.

Get busy living. Or get busy dying.

Much love, brother. Peace.

(originally posted on Google+ : https://plus.google.com/u/0/105771712753508502148/posts/M8oHSPmnqc7)

Jan
01
Posted by Chubby Funster at 11:03 pm

There have been some titanic struggles by various theory folks to nail down what an RPG “is” over the years. There was a lot of discussion on the Forge, and some people disliked it so much that “forge-speak” became a term of derision for theoretical analysis that was so obtuse as to confuse rather than clarify. I want to try to avoid that angle, so if you feel like I am drifting there, let me know.

The reason why I want to define what I want out of an RPG, or how an RPG should be played, or what my kind of RPG “is”; is because I am about to make a go at writing a serious full-version RPG this year. Maybe even make some good progress on the 2nd project that is going to be on my back burner. And as I design those games, I want to be very clear about the experience that I am going for. This is not going to be the focus of every game, I can already think of a bunch that it doesn’t apply to. And I am not judging other games, just defining what I want out of my RPG games. It is how I want to play, how I want people playing my game to feel, and so I need to be very clear about it so that I can judge whether the things I am putting into the game match up with that philosophy.

So the lens I am going to use is Sport. This was originally suggested to me as an analogy by Stuart Robertson of Football, and I instantly saw the brilliance of it. It has since rolled around in my skull and become more refined, so here we go.

An RPG is like a sport in many ways.

The game world serves as a kind of field, the nature of which is controlled by the GM. There are hazards to navigate on this field and they are placed there according to a design philosophy. The setup is made with the intention of making the game challenging but not impossible (like a golf course).  The players engage with this field to achieve objectives (such as getting the ball in the cup, to stick with golf). Their success or failure is determined both by their own skill (strategic and tactical skill of the player), the skill of their avatar (which could be seen as analogous to miscellaneous factors in sport like weather), and in pursuit of a specific goal (XP, plot resolution, whatever). The imprecision of physical activity is absent, but replaced by the luck of the die. Where Tiger Woods might flinch and miss a put, the player may roll a 1 and come up short. The behavior of players is governed by rules, but also by the attributes of the field itself (again, like the golf course). There is also room for the referee (GM) to use their judgement due to rules that specifically empower them as such; much like a rule against unsportsmanship conduct. What exactly is unsportsmanlike conduct? That is for the referee to decide. Further, the referee is not expected to be perfect. It is known that they will occasionally make a bad call, but their decisions stand for the purposes of the game. You can appeal later, but on the field their power is absolute in that sense.

When the players walk out on the field, they do not intend to tell a story. They have an objective, a set of rules to pursue that objective, and a referee to be fair about how those rules are implemented. A player cannot stop and say, “wait, I think it would be really great for the story if I shoot this ball into the goalie’s shoulder, it bounces off and hits that guy’s head, then ricochets into the goal”. The player must actually do that in order for it to be a great story. The great story is the ingenuity of the players in trying to get the ball in the goal, not their creativity in telling a story about how they would like to get the ball in the goal.

The glory of the game is living in the face of the challenge. Nobody wants to hear the story about how you walked down the street unimpeded. They want to hear the story about how you crossed a continent in search of your true love, facing danger and death along the way. The challenge is what makes it fun. And it is important that the player’s don’t control the challenge, they FACE the challenge. They deal with it. They go around it, over it, through it, and so on. It is the struggle against the challenge that is fun, not just giving yourself a way around it. Using a special point so that your die roll succeeds is not dramatic, living with failure is dramatic. There is a reason that The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie. It is about failure and struggling on despite that failure. So the fear of failure must be real and it must be something that everyone must deal with. Succeeding all the time gets boring.

The rules exist to give the players equal footing and to keep things fair, to be predictable in that sense. I know that nobody is going to pick up the ball with their hands in soccer / european football. If they do, they will be penalized. Except if they are doing a throw-in. Or they are the goalie. Knowing these distinctions is important and necessary to the game.  I don’t expect someone to walk off the street with no knowledge of how to play and do whatever they want. They have to follow the rules. But the rules are not, simultaneously, so restrictive that people cannot be innovative. If the throw-in rules (soccer) required the player to throw at a certain angle, to a certain person, or some other predictable formulaic outcome; it would cease to be fun. There can be too many rules, too much restriction on player behavior, too much codification. Players need the freedom to find their own path down the field to the goal.

In RPGs, the role of the referee is not just to adjudicate the game (as in real sports). This person designs the world itself, gives life to the team of NPCs, and plays a much stronger role in the game. And they are the referee for every game in the season (the campaign). Thats why I don’t use the term referee in my games (as James Raggi does).  But the purpose of the GM is to to play, it is to assist the players and enjoy their play. It is to enjoy seeing the innovation of the players, to feed off that, to revel in it. You don’t want the players to win every game of the season in a blowout, they need serious challenge. Creating that challenge is fun. Creating the world is fun. Seeing people interact with your creation is fun. But the GM is not a player. They are held to a different standard. The GM places the opposition on the field, but they are not on the opposition’s side. They use their judgment to predict how the opposition will behave, and of course the opposition doesn’t want to fail. But the GM is not rigging the game in their favor. They are keeping things fair.

A lot of people say that an RPG is not about winning. In many ways, that is true. But relative excellence is what the game should encourage. We should reward the creative player, the energetic player, etc. We should hold up the great player and reward them. If the goal of the game is fun, we should provide incentives to do things that are fun, not penalties. Grappling is fun, but the rules in most RPGs are so convoluted that it makes most players I know just kinda decide to never grapple. The same could be said about disarming attempts, or knowledge checks, or thievery. We shouldn’t require someone to be so highly specialized that they can only do a few limited things. Yes, a basketball center is tall and skilled at defending/attacking the basket from close range. But they are not defined exclusively by that. They can still pass and steal and dribble and shoot from range. They have an advantage, not a straight-jacket.

The game should be an experience. A vivid rip-roaring ride. Something you talk about later with an excited voice and a deep laugh. It should be visceral, not always intellectual. It should be fun.

So that’s my goal with Nordbourne and other games going forward. RPGs as Sport.

2012, I am in you.

Let’s rock.

Dec
31
Posted by Chubby Funster at 3:23 pm

The past month has seen quite a few retrospective posts from a variety of people that I am connected to in the RPG community. Some of it reflective on D&D, some of it reflective on independent game design, some on social media. I feel the necessity to put down my strategy for the new year and how I think things need to evolve for the RPG industry in order to be successful in the long term.

I intentionally used the term industry in that last sentence. The hobby of RPGs will survive for a long long time. The industry, perhaps not.

First, you need to read this:

http://www.businessinsider.com/like-hell-facebook-is-killing-google-2011-12

There are several things to take away from that article.

1. Google is huge and search is very important

2. When people are engaged in social media, they are not in buying mode. Ads are either ineffective or annoy the target.

3. The key will be taking advantage of the moment when they are in buying mode, either through search or through having built a brand in their mind.

Second, you need to understand that the future of basically all commercial products is being driven into two camps; big box stores and the Internet. Either you are buying a book in a big store like Barnes and Noble, or you are buying a book on Amazon or another internet retailer. Doesn’t matter whether we are talking about books or DVDs or video games or whatever. A huge amount of video game sales is being transferred to Steam, for example.  So we are in a moment of transition. The idea that the nostalgia and personal attachment of people to books as a medium is a delusion. And a harmful one. Just ask Borders.

Now the only companies with big box stores access are, in my opinion, too bereft of innovation to come up with a product that can really penetrate that market. I think we will see WotC hold onto some of that space, but the idea of bring a ton of new folks into the hobby through that window seems delusional to me. I just don’t think it will work. At least, not with the products that are being produced by the bigger companies. They are designed to appeal to the existing RPG market, not a new market.

Therefore, I think you can see that I am setting up the argument that any major breakout of RPGs back into a large new market is going to be driven by the Internet. And since we are talking about a new market, people aren’t going to be driven into RPGs by search (i.e. traditional Google search). As Chris Tregenza said to me recently, SEO is almost pointless for RPGs because people searching for RPG stuff are frequently not looking to buy RPGs. So the key is going to be building a brand in the mind of people so that when the moment arrives, they will be thinking of you.

So the challenge becomes building a brand identity among people that are not currently in RPGs. And that is a helluva challenge and I think it is so challenging that people just think it is impossible. It is behind the deep down reasons why people are often pessimistic about the future in this brave new world.

This is my best attempt to create a strategy to accomplish this:

1. Be present on social media. Don’t use it as an advertising platform. Use it as a social platform and a design platform. Talk about what you are working on. Engage with people, comment on their threads. Make yourself very present. Post pictures of your projects! Reach out to new people with non-commercial messages, try to bring them into your social circle. Reach them as a person. When they later think about spending money, hopefully they will speak with you.

2. Google+ must be an essential element in your strategy. Public posts on Google+ are indexed into Google searches. When people ARE searching for RPGs to buy, they are more likely to find you. Pen-and-paper faces massive SEO pressure from video game RPGs, we need to raise our presence. The WotC website is on the 2nd page of a google search for “roleplaying games”. How sad is that? We have to bring out a ton of integrated search from Google+ to raise the bar. Despite all the stuff I have done in my life before joining Google+ and the fact that there are several people with my name, one a semi-famous sports coach with a good bit of media presence, a google search for my name has my Google+ profile at the top. Above my website, above everything else. Google+ uber alles.

In addition to the SEO component, Google+ is a superior platform for discussing games than Facebook or Twitter. It is better than Facebook in that you can reach out to people you don’t know in real life without the system smashing your fingers and it is better than Twitter in practically every measure; infinitely more space, threaded comments, still accessible on a phone, etc. The conversations are richer and deeper and easier to follow, as well as find later.

3. Build elements into the games that make them expansionistic. Make them good for children, something a teacher can share with her students, something a college professor can use in a seminar to make their subject come alive, make them valuable to someone else outside of RPGs. Give them a hook that will take them into new markets indirectly.

—-

Roleplaying games will not be spread to new markets via marketing messages. They will be delivered by real people with real relationships with other real people. This has actually always been the case. We just deluded ourselves into thinking WotC could carry some magic banner for us all on the commercial stage. We need to take things into our own hands and go back to the classic methods.

Talk to people about roleplaying games. Share your experiences. Offer them a place at your table. Just do it digitally now, instead of in real life.

Join me to carry forth the message in the New Year. The world may end in 2012. But we are prepared. We have a whole genre for that.

Ciao

 

 

Dec
20
Posted by Chubby Funster at 10:57 pm

Here is a page that I had trouble with on Google+ resizing down to the point that it was illegible.

posted here for reference

Dec
03
Posted by Chubby Funster at 8:45 pm

There has been a bit of a uproar in the online RPG community this week about a game called Realms of Atlantasia that was recently released. The creator’s website is here. My understanding is that the spark for all this was a article in a local newspaper that made it’s way online. Once it was brought to some people’s attention, it eventually wound up on an RPG net forum thread that is now 50+ pages long. Michael Tresca talked about it here. Stuart Robertson talked about it here.  Rob Donoghue talked about it here.

Much has been said. I will keep the recap brief and you can read to your heart’s content elsewhere.

Basically, a lot of people have been trashing the game and the creator from three different angles.

1. That the work obviously is terrible (obvious to them, 99% of whom have not cracked open the text)

2. That the author is a mysoginist because he doesn’t allow half-elves (based on a single quote, see a deconstruction of that argument here)

3. That the author is woefully ignorant of modern RPGs (and thus his claims of innovation fall flat)

I think each of these says far more about the people saying them than it does about the author of RoA. 

However, my objective is not to attack the criticizers nor defend the author. Such things are a waste of time. People are going to believe what they are going to believe, no matter what I say (or anyone says). Instead, I am going to talk about what I think is one of the biggest problems facing the RPG online community; it’s insularity.

The structure of the RPG hobby is such that only a handful of people are here talking about it online. A large majority of them only use online resources to find games, through something like meetup.com. But there is an elite at the top of the hobby that talk about this stuff constantly online. They are aware of a LOT of what is going on in the hobby. They know about almost all the games. They are on top of the situation. If I say “well, that’s kinda like Dogs in the Vineyard”, they know what that is.

But they are not most people. Not most people in the world, most people in the RPG hobby. If I walk into some random FLGS and start talking to a person there about Dogs in the Vineyard, they are probably going to give me a blank stare. This is not a negative reflection on Dogs, it is a reflection on the degree to which this small internet community is separated from the rest of the world.

We have built a walled garden here. We use terminology that most people don’t understand. We use acronyms that people don’t understand. So there are a lot of people out there that don’t even know we exist. Just like European-style board games.

So when some dude in rural Canada isn’t up to speed on the state of the art in the hobby, this shouldn’t be a surprise to us. He is actually in the same boat with a huge number of other people. Almost all the things that you know about the RPG hobby, he doesn’t know.

While it is easy to blame his insularity for this lack of information, perhaps the insularity and secluded nature of our community can be faulted as well. Do we not bemoan how there are fewer books in gaming stores? That gaming stores are moving towards board games for their revenue? That even GenCon is almost as much about board games now as RPGs? Do we not talk about gamer shame? This dude had the balls to talk to the paper about how he was proud of his RPG. Have you?

But let’s assume that he was aware of our existence (which I don’t think is the case).

There are still substantial barriers to making a game. And truth be told, some of them are being reduced every day. PDF only distribution, print on demand, and similar technology is making it easier than ever to get a product to the market. But this is a delivery vehicle. These things bring what you have made to market, they don’t necessarily improve the quality by a whole heck of a lot.

The production quality barrier remains firmly in place. When you are just starting out, the production quality of an RPG product seems astounding. That is because it actually is. An RPG product is the fusion of writing with layout, both in an informational flow sense but also in a graphical quality sense. The proverbial man/woman on the street doesn’t even know where to begin. Most people have never heard of InDesign or Quark. These programs cost a LOT of money. They have no experience in art direction, layout, or technical writing. They cannot personally produce the art.  They don’t have the skills or the equipment (Photoshop, Illustrator, Wacom, etc). They are not a professional editor.

In the off chance that they are/have ONE of these things/skills, they still lack the others.  And even a professional editor will have trouble editing their own work.

For me, I came from a background of having taught myself InDesign to make better PDFs for my job. But that was a long long way away from being a formally trained professional. I have actually learned a lot of what I know now by doing, not from what I started with. For proof of that, check out the Synapse layout and compare it to Novarium when I release it tomorrow at midnight. Huge difference! That is 2 years of skill building. Nothing to write off as easy.

And much of this stuff is so alien from the average person’s life that it appears to simply be magic. They can’t see how it works, any more than they can open their car up and see how it works. They just know that it does.

And on top of that, if you want be on top of your game here, you need to read dozens of RPGs produced in the past few years.

Now you can make up this shortfall with money, but that assumes you have a lot of money to burn. I assume you don’t.

So we have this person out in rural Canada who makes what he thinks is really awesome, in the context of what he knows. I say, good for him.

Instead of throwing stones, perhaps it would have been better to consider how lucky we are to know all this stuff. Perhaps we should step out of our privilege and throw the guy a bone. Realize that he is coming from a place of ignorance, not arrogance.

Because let’s be honest, whether Realms of Atlantasia is a roaring success or not, as long as we stay in this walled garden, nothing is going to change. Except that we are going to become old and bitter. So stop slagging on someone trying to do something and get off your own ass and make our community more open, more helpful, and more prevalent in the society we live our real lives in.

Reading an RPG in Public should not be something you do one day a year. Come out of the closet and create change.

 

 

Nov
28
Posted by Chubby Funster at 10:01 pm

Some might consider this a bit early to conduct a year in review. But it is on my mind and I am going to go ahead and knock it out of the way early.

This year has seen some pretty amazing stuff for me. At this time in 2010, Errant was not even released yet (12/17/10). If we include Errant in the 2011 production year, that means that I put 4 games on the table this year: Errant, Statecraft, Oceans, and Cascade Failure. The only game I have made so far that was actually released at this time last year was Synapse. And I am releasing Novarium in a week. That will add one more log to the fire.

So what have I learned this year?

I have learned that there is a productivity curve in creating RPGs that looks a lot like the below graph:

I feel like I have reached that dot. The dot where you want to stop. My work is good, close to being professional, but there is a steep hill to climb to reach that top tier.

Because up until that dot, you are able to gain a lot of quality improvements for very little additional effort on your part. It is basically skill building. You can pick up a few layout skills, put them to use, the quality of the piece improves. Writing a ton of copy gradually improves your writing skills and that doesn’t feel like work. That portion of the curve is extremely important. If you can’t make it up to that dot, you need to just drop out and move on. You aren’t cut out for it.

It reminds me of something I heard Michael Jordan say a long time ago. When asked about professional sports salaries, he responded with something along the lines of “I love basketball. I would play basketball a lot even if I wasn’t being paid. But being paid is what gets me to practice every day for 8 hours when I am tired and want to rest.”

Because the only thing that is going to move you past the dot is money. In order to improve the quality of the work you are doing, you have to push yourself into things you don’t want to do. Things like spending 10 hours setting up internal hyperlinks within the document like I did for the recent re-release of Cascade Failure. For comparison, I can make a poster-sized map in that same time frame. There are a lot of things I can do that are far more rewarding and fun than making hyperlinks. That is boring work right there. Damn boring. The same applies to really deeply revising your writing copy over and over and over. Nobody wants to read their book 10 times in a row looking for run-on sentences. Hell no.

Now the work isn’t terrible. It isn’t hard labor. It just sucks. And so you need compensation to make it happen regularly.

So looking back at the past year, I see myself coming from a position of relative noob to a solid producer. I moved up that curve to where the dot is. And I don’t really want to put in that extra work for that last bit of quality gain, but I feel like that is what I need to do. If I want to move forward into the truly professional tier, I need to spend a lot of time working on some really boring tasks to improve the quality of the book. I need to talk about equipment beyond weapons, I need to write a lot of equipment descriptions, and I truly hate equipment. Expand on sections that I left as just hooks, turn them into full potent descriptions. I need to buckle down and really kick ass. I need to write and rewrite and polish and shine.

Last year, I wrote a post about how I was out there “on the raggedy edge” of the RPG community, borrowing from the Firefly/Serenity motif. I was on the fringe. Well, now I am moving towards the central planets. I am picking up speed. Thanks to Google+, my reputation is growing. I am beginning to gain momentum. But I need to polish the ship and make her look nice. I need to get shiny. So that’s what I am going to do going forward.

But I can guarantee that the next year is gonna see some pretty incredible stuff. This is going to the next level.

I’m a leaf on the wind…watch how I soar.

Nov
23
Posted by Chubby Funster at 9:41 pm

This has been a very successful year for me in terms of branding and influence. I owe that sea change to Google+.

So for my Thanksgiving post this year, I am going to talk about my personal experience in social media and what I think it says about how internet interaction is going be based in the future.

Before Google+, I was a part of a small blogosphere and had about 100 people that regularly followed my work. I was posting what I felt was high value content, but not receiving the traffic that I felt that content deserved. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was trapped in what I am going to call the OLD SOCIETY of human civilization. So bear with me on a little digression into this and I will return to Google+.

I believe the Internet is going to be rewriting the most basic aspects of human organization over the next 25-50 years. The organization methods from before that time I will be referring to as the OLD SOCIETY and therefore the new modes of organization being the NEW SOCIETY.

In the old society, human interaction is mostly based on the arbitrary variable of physical location. You spend most of your time as a child and young adult in a physical location (school), thus your choices in human relationships are in that limited pool. The majority of the major decisions in your life are made in that small pool. As you go back in time, that pool gets smaller and smaller. Until you see people not really knowing anything beyond their own little tribe in the jungle. That’s us, that’s humanity for all of it’s existence thus far.

Now even in that old society, we can see that some people break out of it; the powerful, wealthy, or those with extreme wanderlust. There are stories of ancient elites bouncing around the Mediterranean engaging in politics or war. Travel is a luxury that some enjoyed, albiet only a shadow of what is possible now, and they were able to see new places and meet new people that way. We called these people “well-traveled” and considered them wise. They had seen the broader world and brought it’s lessons home.

Thus the people who are able to rise to the top in the old society are also arbitrary. They happen to live in Silicon Valley, or New York, or Chicago, or wherever. Or born to wealthy parents with the power to travel.And every small town kid that wants to get out of there and go to the “big city” knows this principle very well. Where you are is very important.

Luck becomes the dominant factor in someone’s success. Now they have to seize the moment, sure. But to be given the moment in the first place requires a lot of luck.

Not anymore.

The NEW SOCIETY is different. In the new society, human interaction is organized based on interest. I like physics, you like physics, we become friends. We don’t have to be picked on any jocks that don’t understand our interest. We never get stuck with the jocks because we no longer have to be stuck with them based on pure physical location alone.  The internet makes it possible. It allows us to organize ourselves in different ways. And right now we are doing so only at the middle of the journey of life. We are not allowing our young children to benefit from this. They are still stuck in their schools and still forced down that path. But the tide is turning and we are headed for that world. We just need some innovations to keep kids safe and we are on our way.

Now back to Google+

Before Google+, I saw no need for a social network (read Facebook). Because I just viewed the social network as better organizing the OLD SOCIETY. The people with the highest volume Twitter feeds or Facebook pages were already famous. These are the Ashton Kutchers of the old society, elevated to their position by arbitrary variable of location and luck. They command huge followings because of their positions in old media, old politics, old society. Facebook or Twitter becomes their megaphone.

Now at that point, I didn’t think in terms of old/new society. But what I did know is that I had no interest in talking to my high school classmates or hanging on the words of celebrities.

Along came Google+. And because I was invited by a friend, I joined.

What emerged was that I realized Google+ offers a different path and a new way forward. A way towards the new society. A new way of making friends and forming connections to people that is not based on geography or luck.

In just a few months, I have gone from a small presence on a minor blog to a powerful presence within the interest group I care about. And I have done that by being able to reach out to people and say “hey, this is what I am doing”. They can see the projects I am working on and they can choose to stick with me or not. I spend my time talking to the people that I want to talk to. Not struggling to find them. They are coming to me now. Life is good.

Now why is this possible on Google+, but not on Facebook or Twitter?

On Facebook, you are supposed to be talking to people that you already know. The system is designed to create friction for people that don’t know you. The more people that you send a friend request to that don’t friend you back, the more the Facebook algorithms think you are a spammer. They start creating friction for you, error messages asking if you “really know this person?”. They sort your messages out of people’s pages. Facebook delivers what it thinks people want to see based on what they have seen. Don’t take my word for it. Just watch this: http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

On Twitter, you are operationally limited. You are choked for content. There is a tiny character window that limits the volume of material that you can transmit. You have to use links for anything with heft. When you have conversations with people, they are not combined together, they are dispersed in all these different directions. People on the outside cannot follow what the hell is happening without a lot of work on their part, by switching back and forth between people following the flow of the conversation.

In contrast, on Google+ you are supposed to be talking to people you don’t really know. Maybe you have heard of them, but you probably haven’t talked in person. And that is the point. Google+ is an engine for connecting with people based on INTEREST. When you find someone you are interested in talking to, you add them to a circle. They get a notification, they can look at your stuff, and maybe decide to share back to you. There are no friction errors asking if you “really know the person”. There are no limitations on your content.

Furthermore, you can search for people on the basis of their content and add them. You can share circles of people that you have found so that other people can connect with them. Can you imagine Facebook allowing you to instantly add 500 people to your friends list? Hell no. The Google+ system comes with tools to help you locate these new people that you don’t know yet, but want to, and provides seamless tracking of their exploits.

Even further, Google+ has propagation patterns that make collaboration possible between people that aren’t even connected, as demonstrated by Dan Soto earlier today on Google+. Because you are connected to people based on interest, it is more likely that ideas or concepts will combine, that people will connect, than when based on geography or luck. Your friends on Facebook don’t really share your interests 100%, they are unlikely to trigger rippling reshares.

Now Facebook is trying to fight back. They are trying to copy Google+ in many ways. But they ultimately can’t because they are an interface with the OLD SOCIETY and Google+ is the best tool we have for moving towards the NEW SOCIETY. The best tool for organizing your interactions with other people based on interest, not who you already know and not through a tiny little structure. The best tool for moving forward into a digital future where luck is not the primary determinant in who gets heard.

And Facebook is fighting dirty. As Mike Elgan pointed out today on Google+, Facebook looks like they are trying to plant information to discredit Google+ using it’s content controls.  Despite enormous gains in marketshare in a tiny timeframe, there are stories propagating about Google+ dying? How is that possible? Furthermore, Anil Dash also posted on Google+ earlier this week (and on his blog as well: http://dashes.com/anil/2011/11/facebook-is-gaslighting-the-web.html) that Facebook is screwing people that are even cooperating with them, trying to take absolute control over the process.

So this year, I thank Google. For making the Internet… better. For helping us move away from the old society and into the new.

The big task now is to not be evil and start copying Facebook!

 

 

 

 

Nov
21
Posted by Chubby Funster at 10:38 pm

Alright, here is the first glimpse at the dramatic resolution system that I came up with to model Star Wars. I know this is probably painfully light on details for some of you, but I don’t want to give away the store just yet.

Nov
17
Posted by Chubby Funster at 10:42 pm

For a while, I have felt that none of the Star Wars RPG systems that exist really capture the essence of Star Wars. Despite being branded Star Wars, I felt like they weren’t any more applicable to Star Wars than GURPs was. No element of the design really spoke to what I feel is the Star War experience.

I should clarify here that what I feel is the Star Wars experience is the original Star Wars trilogy.

I know that it is a source of contention and I don’t want to get into a Originals vs Prequels debate in the comments. But I have my reasons and I want to lay them out. I feel that the Prequels are so overloaded with material, light, sound, stuff, etc. that they lack the dramatic tension of the originals. And as I describe what elements of that drama I am trying to capture with this method, it is going to become pretty clear what exactly I am talking about here.

The aspects of Star Wars that I want to capture:

1. Dramatic Tension: There are many times in the original films where the audience is placed into a kind of extreme anticipatory mode. Something big is going to happen. When combat occurs, someone is in serious danger. In order to care about those characters, there needs to be few of them. When 50 Jedi fight 2000 battle droids, there is no tension. Just a visual extravaganza. You can’t care about an individual in that kind of mass melee. But when Darth Vader turns on his lightsaber and steps out of the shadows to face Luke, there is tension. Normal round-by-round combat does not encapsulate this. It transforms combat into a sideshow game. A tactical experience. I don’t want to do that and I will be abandoning that.

2. Active inner conflict: The characters need to struggle with their own desires in a serious way. They need to be tempted to cast their ideals aside and take the “quick and easy path”.  Choices are hard. Do I stay on Dagobah and become a better Jedi or go to face Vader and potentially get killed, but save my friends? What the character WANTS to do should be in conflict with what they SHOULD be doing. They should be staying on the moisture farm, they should be getting a better deal on travel but they need a smuggler, they should be trying to get off the Death Star instead of rescuing the princess, they should be trying to live instead of letting Darth Vader kill them, they should be running away to survive instead of flying towards a giant space station of doom, etc. But they don’t. In the prequels, despite having this conflict, Anakin and ObiWan continually give in to the bad behavior. They let things slide, they fuck up, they do it wrong. Now I know the stories are about a series of mistakes, but maybe stories about mistakes… kinda suck? Someone who continually fails to live up to their own morality isn’t a hero. They are an enabler of evil. And stories about how people just kinda let evil happen are not fun. In my opinion.

3. Mobile action-oriented characters: The characters are central actors, not sitting around waiting for something else to happen, they take action because they are propelled forward. Defend the princess from random assassins that could strike at any time is not a heroic mission, it is guard duty and doesn’t seriously challenge the characters.  Aside from the beginning of ROTJ, characters in the original trilogy are mostly on the move. In the prequels they are constantly hiding and avoiding things. Very different dynamic. Active characters are forced to make choices to accomplish their goals. Choices are made FOR passive characters as the action is brought to them.

So how to do this?

I have developed a cluster of RPG mechanics that work together to create the above effects. I think.

But that is the subject of tomorrow night’s post. I am tired. But I have my notes here and I will deliver my answer tomorrow.

Nov
14
Posted by Chubby Funster at 10:17 pm

The new beta version of Cascade Failure is now available!

Cascade Failure is a post-apocalypse future RPG. Set in the aftermath of a devastating war that collapsed the interstellar economy, Cascade Failure is a survival game that casts the characters out into a dangerous and hostile universe. The game is built on a rugged OGL chassis that is melded with a variety of new subsystems to round out your character. You can jump into unique character classes like the Kinetic that can move objects with their mind or into a unique alien species like the insectoid Sahael with a hardened exoskeleton and powerful mandibles for biting attacks.
The Cascade Failure universe was once rich with technology and as a survivor you will struggle to bring it back online. Learn to pilot mechs, hovercraft, starfighters, foil-based watercraft, and more. Enhance your body with cybernetics or through the consumption of powerful pharmaceuticals left over from the before times. There is even a species of robotic Golems that are literally living and thinking technology.

If you enjoy the post-apocalypse genre, but tire of endless deserts and mutants, Cascade Failure can provide an alternative. Check it out! It’s free!

Download from RPGnow (so you can get notifications of future updates and provide feedback through the review system):
http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=3655&products_id=96589&filters=0_0_0_0_0&manufacturers_id=3655

Or download direct from this website:
www.chubbyfunster.com/CascadeFailure_PublicBetaV1_2.pdf