September Update!

It’s been a few weeks, so I thought I would give an update on where things are with me!

Futurama: Game of Drones

A few weeks ago I passed my first anniversary working on Futurama: Game of Drones. The folks at Wooga are all great, and even though some of them have since moved on to bigger and better things, I continue to enjoy working with them every day. Plus, getting the chance to collaborate with Patric Verrone is amazing, even though he is an incredibly busy man. Here’s hoping I can continue to write gags about porn and Fox News!

Pugmire

Meanwhile, Pugmire passed its own important milestone, as I wrapped up a complete draft last week! There’s still a lot to do — I have to revise everything so it all lines up, and then I’ll have an editor go over it before I revise it again — but things get a lot easier from this point on. I posted a more detailed status on all things Pugmire on Kickstarter and the Onyx Path blog.

2016-08-26-06-32-42-576x1024Earplay

Earlier this month, Earplay got the chance to show off a teaser experience at the Grand Masquerade in New Orléans: a prototype for our upcoming Wraith: The Oblivion interactive audio story. We also launched Earplay on Amazon Echo, so if you have an Echo, go ahead and enable the skill and test out our demos. And maybe we’ll get the Wraith teaser up there as well….

I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up for Earplay. It’s been a lot of hard behind-the-scenes work, and it’s nice to finally get something out in front of people. I’m told all the folks who got a chance to play the teaser at Grand Masquerade had a great time, and I hope we’ll have even more amazing interactive audio experiences for both World of Darkness and Pugmire.

14142075_10157413437020173_829686795637345684_nTravel

I had a wonderful time at Fan Expo Canada! It was certainly the largest show I’ve ever been a guest at, and it was only the second time I had the privilege of going to Toronto. I was on four panels and ran three games of Pugmire, all of which were well-received. I even got to meet a few Kickstarter backers, which was wonderful. There was always something to do, and I even picked up a little souvenir for myself from the dealer’s room. Definitely a worthwhile show!

That said, I realized that I’ve travelled a lot this past year, and while I really enjoy getting to see people, it’s also a lot of time away from getting work done. So, while I’m certainly not going to stop travelling, I am considering being a little more strategic on which shows I attend.

Speaking of shows, here are a couple I am planning to attend!

And More…

There’s a lot more brewing behind the scenes, but those are the highlights this month. I’ll try to make monthly news updates, especially now that more of what I’m working on is actually seeing the light of day. So, see you in October!

Wait, it’s been six months?!

It’s been six months since I’ve posted an update. My lack of communication is partially because I’ve been heads-down on a lot of things, but I need to correct that, right now!

Futurama: Game of Drones

Sometime recently (I think in July, maybe?) I passed my one year anniversary of working on Futurama: Game of Drones.  That’s been an incredible experience — not only do I get to work with Patric Verrone and Dave Grossman, but the company that makes the game (Wooga) has been a wonderful client. If you haven’t had a chance to check the game out, it’s free on Android and iOS!

Pugmire

The Pugmire Kickstarter went very well. Far beyond my expectations, in fact — not only did we make close to $200,000, but we got a lot of media coverage about the game. I just got back from Gen Con, where I ran a number of demos and held a panel talking about the status and future of Pugmire, and things look bright! You can get monthly updated at the Kickstarter or on the Onyx Path blog, but here’s the short version:

  • The RPG manuscript is going well. I’m hoping to have all the words written by early September, which means we’re on track for a January release of the PDF.
  • I just hired an editor for a Pugmire fiction anthology, and I’m hoping to get some great writers for that.
  • I’m in the early stages of designing an interactive audio drama for Pugmire along with Dave Grossman.
  • At Gen Con we announced that we’ll have a Kickstarter for the sister game, Monarchies of Mau, sometime in early 2017.
  • And that’s just the start! There’s a lot more Pugmire stuff in the works.

Travel

This year has been a whirlwind of travel. Milwaukee for Midwinter Gaming Convention, San Francisco for GDC, Raleigh for ECGC, Cleveland for Cleveland Concoction, Atlanta for MomoCon, College Station for AggieCon, and Indianapolis for Gen Con. And next month, I’ll be in Toronto for Fan Expo Canada! I’m also planning to round the year out with an appearance at SIEGE here in Atlanta. If you’ll be in Toronto or Atlanta, come by and say hi!

Advising

As if all of that wasn’t enough, I’ve also been branching out into advising and educating other writers. One area where I’ve been offering my services has been the upcoming Broadleaf Writer’s Conference in Atlanta on September 24-25. We’ll have a ton of talented writers as guests, so if you’ve wanted an intense two-day conference to learn the craft of writing, I suggest you check it out!

More to Come!

Hopefully I’ll have a lot more to talk about in coming months. And I’ll try to be better about posting updates. If there’s something in particular you’d like me to write about, let me know at my contact page!

40 Days and 40 Nights of Pugmire

Yesterday, the work of over two years reached a new level, as Onyx Path launched the Kickstarter for Pugmire.  I spent 10 hours at my computer, doing last-minute preparations and then talking to lots and lots of excited people as the game funded in an hour. As I’m writing this, 24 hours later, it’s passed 300% funding, and it’s still climbing. I’m a little stunned at the whole thing, when I’m not smiling so much it hurts.

Typically in these kinds of situations, I would say that I’ll try not to talk too much about my current project. I would beg forgiveness for the amount of discussion that I’ll have for the duration of the Kickstarter, and plead tolerance as my friends are awash in forty days and forty nights of Pugmire.

But I don’t want to apologize, because I’m excited. For once, I’m not shackled to NDAs. I don’t have to check with a committee of people on what I can and can’t say. I can make decisions, try new things, make horrible mistakes, and ultimately enjoy the hell out of this because it’s mine. And it’s clear that lots of other people not only want to talk about it with me, but also want me to do more with it.

So, this is a thing you’re going to hear a lot about in the coming months, but not necessarily in my personal spaces (like this one). If you want constant, up-to-the-minute updates, follow the Kickstarter, check out the Pugmire Facebook group, or follow Onyx Path or Pugsteady on Twitter. And if all goes well, there will be another huge thing coming that I won’t shut up about. I understand that self-promotion can bug some people. Personally, I love it when people are enthusiastic about something they’ve made, even if it’s not my cup of tea, but I understand when it feels like they only talk about the latest thing they’re shilling.

However, this world of dogs and cats means a lot to me. It’s not just a silly little game I’m knocking out to make some cash — I’ve never worked that way, and many folks can attest to the blood and soul I’ve poured into the World of Darkness. Rather, Pugmire is about proving that all of my plans and ideas and partnerships and opinions on how a world can be built and presented to a community can work. It proves that when I have total control, I can pull together a plan that is creative, exciting, and sustainable. It demonstrates to the world — and more importantly, to me — that I can build something from scratch.

There’s a lot more of me in this than normal, and a lot more of me to come. It’s a flood: 40 days and 40 nights of me grinning like a mad fool as I build the ark I’m floating on, all while watching more and more people falling in love with a piece of my soul.

… lost the metaphor there. So, yeah. I’m going to babble about dogs and cats for a while. Sorry, but not sorry.

Reflections and Predictions

As some of my readers know, I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. If I need to make a change in my life, I’d rather do it right away, instead of waiting for an arbitrary date. However, people are drawn to ritual, and the end of one year before the start of another is a good time for reflection, as well as assessing the path forward.

The best way to describe the past year would probably be “evolution.” 2014 was really a year based on reorienting myself after a life-changing layoff for me and my wife, so success was very binary: can I continue to earn money in my chosen career? Having established that the answer is “yes,” 2015 pushed me in new directions, beyond my comfort zones and established networks.

Some of it has been amazing: if you had told me in 2014 that I would be writing for Futurama and working with the lead writer of that show, I would have laughed. Some of it has been painful: a handful of friends and peers have tried to undermine me and my efforts. I’ve found areas where I can be a better friend, professional, and mentor, but I’ve also learned that sometimes the only answer is to walk away and move on to the next project.

I’ve embraced more of my production skills without sacrificing the creative side of my life, and I’ve reached a point where I need to turn down interesting work so I can focus on what’s best for me and my family. I’ve learned to cook, I’ve written software, I’ve taken proactive steps to help with my allergies, and I’ve become interested in the politics of freelancing, self-employment, and small businesses.

I can’t point to a specific thing I’ll do more of in 2016. Due to the nature of schedules and planning, some projects and initiatives that started in 2015 will see light next year, showing a continued evolution. I’ll make a few more enemies, most likely, but I’ll make a lot more friends. I’ll make some cool stuff, and I’ll make some colossal mistakes. I’ll keep celebrating the victories of my friends as much as I celebrate my own. And maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll finally get good at reading contracts before I sign them.

In the end, I’m taking bigger, more calculated risks in the coming year. Parts of it will suck, and parts of it will be amazing. I hope that all of it will make me a better person.

Pugmire Crowdfunding News!

Hey all! I know things have been quiet on the Pugmire front lately, but I wanted to take a moment to give you an update on the Pugmirecrowdfunding campaign.

First off, back at Gen Con we said that we would have the crowdfunding campaign by the end of the year, but that isn’t going to happen. Partially, it’s because Rich and I have been keeping a careful eye on milestones, and we made that decision that we didn’t want the excitement for Pugmire — which is Onyx Path’s first creator-owned game — to be eclipsed by the Changeling Kickstarter and Onyx Path’s other announcements. But mostly it’s because we’ve been looking into some amazingly cool opportunities to show that Pugmire can be something really special. We both want this to be more than just a game, but a world that people all over can enjoy. It’s still up in the air how many of these opportunities will end up being a part of the campaign, but all in all I think the wait will be worth it.

And the good news is, the wait won’t be very long! Once the Changeling Kickstarter ends, we’ll take some time to get things ready for Pugmire, and then we’re hoping to have it active in the third or fourth week of January. After some debate, Rich and I decided that we’ll stick with the Kickstarter platform for the campaign, although we both want to try some new things this time around to get as many people as possible excited about Pugmire.

One of the things we’re trying is making a playable game available the day the campaign launches. I’m calling it Pugmire Early Access, and it’ll be more than just a manuscript tossed up for review. It’ll have some art and layout work done, to give you an idea of what the full game will look like. If all goes well, then backers will be able to start playing Pugmire as soon as they pledge, so everyone will know if it’s the right game for them.

In addition, part of the goal of the Kickstarter is to get Pugmire into retail. I’m a big believer in buying and selling games online, but I also know that many people get their first taste of games from their local stores or from retail booths at conventions, and we want to try and support that.

Those are just a couple of the ideas we’re exploring for this campaign. We’ll make more announcements as the date gets closer, but for now keep an eye out in the second half of January. And until then, remember to be a good dog!

Ratings War: A Personal Milestone

In case you missed it, my interactive novel, Ratings War, went live yesterday. It’s only $1.99 for the next few days, so check it out on iOS, Android, Kindle, or Steam. And watch the cool promotional video! Implant cameras in your eyes to win the news wars of 2061.

I’ve been working on this game for over a year now, and it’s a big milestone for me. It’s my first shipped video game title where my name is front-and-center. I’ve worked on a couple of other shipped projects that I’m very happy with (and a couple that haven’t seen the light of day), but this one was primarily mine. I pitched it, I outlined it, I wrote it, and I coded it. I still worked with a team (namely the great folks at Choice of Games), but there’s a lot of me in Ratings War.

Second, this is my first novel. For years I’ve had a mental block on writing them. I’m not entirely sure why that was, but in my head I couldn’t write a full novel, even though I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words for role-playing games. Ratings War clocks in at 80,000 words, even if you don’t read every word in each playthrough. It might not be something you can put on a shelf, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a novel (and luckily, SFWA agrees). Now whenever I get that mental block, I can tell myself that I’ve written a damned novel, so I can write more.

Third, it’s the first project I coded from start to finish. The scripting language I used, ChoiceScript, is pretty friendly compared to Python, but I was definitely writing code. I wrote the entire thing in SublimeText, and I regularly had to debug it, recompile it, run automated testing, and figure out what the hell I was thinking when I wrote that code six months before. So while it’s my first novel, it’s also the first computer game that I built primarily by myself.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, it’s a game that is inclusive, in the way I feel games should be inclusive. This was something I wanted to do from the beginning, and not only did Choice of Games support that, but they pushed me to go further. I wrote this game (which has one obvious and one hidden romance option) so that people of any sexuality and gender identity could be the protagonist. I reached out to non-binary people as well to make sure I handled that correctly. I switched things up where I could. I used lots of pronoun variables. I wanted this to be a game where all of my friends could have fun, and I hope I accomplished that.

Ratings War is not something I could do a few years ago. There’s a lot of post-2011 me in that game, and I can see how much I’ve grown, and how much I can still improve. I hope other people will see that as well, and have some fun being a cyberpunk journalist to boot.

The Case of the Cloned Game

This is a rare moment when I get to talk about two things I’m passionate about: game design and Sherlock Holmes!

One of the oddities of game design is the confusion around what parts of a game are protected by law, and what parts aren’t.1 For many years, it has been asserted that the rules and mechanics of a game cannot be protected, but the presentation can. This is why, for example, there are probably hundreds of platforming games where the character runs to the right and uses jump as a primary means of movement and attack, but very few of them (legally) feature a character named Mario.2 Similarly, any card game can turn a card sideways to express that it can no longer be used, but only games made by Hasbro (such as Magic: The Gathering) can use the term “tap” for this action.

In reality, the line between “rules” and “presentation” isn’t that simple. There has been a long history of video game cloning. It’s happened in the tabletop RPG space as well, and made even muddier by the d20 Open Game License and a number of successful “retroclones” that emulate previous game designs to various degrees of fidelity. Further, where public domain begins and ends is even more complex. And thus we get to the Great Detective himself.

Continue reading The Case of the Cloned Game

  1. I’m a citizen of the United States, so all my references to legality are US-centric, only because that’s the legal system I’m most familiar with.
  2. Digression: I’ve noticed over the years a certain “linga franca” in game design. For board games, references are usually to Chess or Monopoly. For role-playing games, it’s Dungeons & Dragons. And for video games, it’s Super Mario Brothers. At some point I should compile a list of “games every other game designer will assume you’ve played.”

Writer. Gamer. Sherlockian. Usually Not Dead.

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