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Thread: "Realm Fantasy Warfare" & The Zen Art of Game Design

  1. #1

    "Realm Fantasy Warfare" & The Zen Art of Game Design

    So, this whole subject started out in the comments section on TGN News. The guys at Serious Lemon Games started raising funds for a game called "Realm: Fantasy Warfare." It is an earnest effort, but cegorach and I were not too impressed. However, instead of tearing down a game in development, this seems like a much better opportunity for the TGN community to offer up some direct criticisms, as well as general advice to up-and-coming game designers, or as cegorach put it, a course in "‘Small business tips for Wargame companies – what to think about before you waste your time and money." Judging by a lot of the comments here, there are numerous professionals, artists, writers, and game veterans on this website, which should qualify TGN as an invaluable wellspring for burgeoning designers.

    To get things rolling:

    -- Whether you are self-publishing or submitting your game to someone else, you need thick skin. You are going to get your feelings hurt -- a lot, unfortunately. You can write the best game in the world, see it published by a major manufacturer, win all sorts of awards, and inevitably some punk kid is going to post "This game blows balls" all over the Internet (which is twice as true if your game involves a lottery machine in lieu of dice).

    Self publishing is infinitely harsher, mostly because your work has not been vetted through professional channels. You will be raked over the coals, but that's not a bad thing. Creative Writing 101 teaches that bad authors respond to criticism as a personal attack. Worse still, in a world of form letters and impersonal responses, they do not understand the value of criticism or a hand-written rejection. Personally, I have two rejection letters that rank right up there with my acceptance letters just because the editors took the time to address me personally and give me a very heartfelt response. Invite criticism and be honest with yourself.

    For a gaming example, I admire Acheson Creations for weathering flak with their Kaiju Kaos line (my gripes included -- Giant Coblin, WTF!). It is MUCH better to get a strong response, be it positive or negative, for doing something original than a lukewarm reception for retreading the same ground. I hope that they maintain their confidence as the gaming world needs all sorts of crazy crap that I can't understand.

    -- Serious Lemon originally listed a pseudonym for the Creator and Lead Playtester, although this has now been updated. I would never buy a game that doesn't list the author's name. Professional game designers want to see their name on the cover of a game, and sometimes they have to fight for that privilege, so it smacks of amateurism to use a pseudonym.
    Last edited by Soulfinger; 03-22-2012 at 01:16 PM.

  2. #2
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    Thank you for starting this much needed conversation.

    As I do think it very brave and enterprising for these folks to try and start a company from scratch, I also feel that both of you are quite correct in your criticisms. I've been painting minis for about 17 years and am so impressed by this Renaissance of 'micro-brew' minis. It's amazing that miniature table top gaming exists at all anymore when compared to video gaming etc. It's a testament to the passion of the people in this hobby. However, I've watched about 4 new very generic 'fantasy wargames' pop up in the last year. It's not that I don't believe that they don't 'stand a chance' against the quality of much more established larger games. I just ask myself, " why?" The world of fantasy and sci-fi is so incredibly vast, with new books coming out that totally redefine the genre. Why in the world would anyone want to reshuffle around the same generic 'races' in the same general format? I understand the desire to improve and advance the style and substance of that generic fantasy format, but when so many new ideas and innovations get left unexplored I have a hard time even getting excited.Actaully I get a littel bummed. I'm not a 'Gamer' , and when I see this endless line of games I wonder if, like all outsider hobbies, the mini gaming community is becoming a little too solipsistic and self-referential. A perfect recipe for scaring new comers away and killing the (unorthodox) appeal of this special hobby.
    I Wish them luck though and would recommend they reach out and talk with other small startups to ask how they have faired. I am a sculptor for On The Lamb Games' 'Brushfire' Game and believe the owners of that very small company would be more than happy to offer some thoughts.

  3. #3
    On The Lamb hit a great niche market with Brushfire. I haven't played the game, but I've heard good things and hope that it has proven successful for them. The market for everything anthropomorphic has broadened in recent years. Darksword and Reaper had tapped the emerging market for anthropomorphic animal miniatures, but Brushfire is the only miniature wargame I know of in this genre. It seems like an excellent example of the sort of game that can find an audience and prove successful in a super saturated market. I would absolutely love to hear more from Ferk and other members of the On The Lamb team about it from a design and marketing standpoint.

    I'm still edgy about the sustainability of their new offering, Endless Fantasy, just because hex-based and 40mm brings to mind something like Fantasy Flight's incarnation of the Mutant Chronicles. That said, On the Lamb doesn't have to push nearly as much product as Fantasy Flight for the game to be a commercial success, and the anime market is certainly ripe for the picking.

  4. #4
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    I've commented a bit about this on Dakka, and in all honesty the whole thing seems really shady. If they are actually honest about their project, I think they would have been better off going with a Paypal donate button on their website.

    Quote Originally Posted by ferk View Post
    I Wish them luck though and would recommend they reach out and talk with other small startups to ask how they have faired. I am a sculptor for On The Lamb Games' 'Brushfire' Game and believe the owners of that very small company would be more than happy to offer some thoughts.
    Indeed, I've talked with a number of startups at cons and in e-mails about getting started with games/minis. Most of the folks in the industry are happy to talk about how things are done, you just have to ask. Mantic was a huge help for us. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get things off the ground and if your not willing or able to deal with that.. then your not going to succeed. Also having fantastic artists and sculptors working for you helps.


    Quote Originally Posted by Soulfinger View Post
    That said, On the Lamb doesn't have to push nearly as much product as Fantasy Flight for the game to be a commercial success, and the anime market is certainly ripe for the picking.
    Thanks for your comments/concerns. We've been working on addressing a lot of the feedback we've gotten for EFT before we get ready to do the Kickstarter.

    And your quite right about the thick skin, you wouldn't believe some of the shit people say on Youtube & 4Chan about our staff.
    -Emily Fontana
    On The Lamb Games
    http://www.on-the-lamb.com

  5. #5
    As an update, Realm: Fantasy Warfare has raised $1,203 of their $2,000 goal with 4 contributors and 25 days left to go. Then again, almost the entire amount was donated by two anonymous contributors. I have never used Indiegogo, so I have no idea if they hold the cash in escrow or if that $1k donation is just a pledge.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by On The Lamb Games View Post
    I've commented a bit about this on Dakka, and in all honesty the whole thing seems really shady. If they are actually honest about their project, I think they would have been better off going with a Paypal donate button on their website.
    Here is the aforementioned Dakka discussion.

    Frankly, I think the game is a train wreck. However, my best guess is that the creator(s) is a teenager -- probably the kid in the promo video -- with the best of intentions, which is why I figured it might merit some discussion. I think we were all there at some point, young and naive and having just rewritten Dungeons & Dragons but with worse grammar. These days, the Internet puts unparalleled resources at the hands of independent designers, be they industry veterans or a thirteen-year-old writing from his basement, which creates a unique conundrum for the consumer. How do we recognize and cultivate emerging and overly ambitious talent without crushing it under the criticism we would normally reserve for professionals? The biggest obstacle, as I see it, is that young people generally try to conceal their inexperience while emulating professional examples, which is going to lead to a game like Realm getting raked over the coals for what then appears to be incompetence and poor implementation.

    As On the Lamb Games was kind enough to point out, "Most of the folks in the industry are happy to talk about how things are done, you just have to ask." That is great news for emerging developers who are willing to put the time and effort into cultivating their talents. Therefore, it seems that the best strategy for anyone interested in the games industry is just to be out there, shaking hands and meeting the professionals face-to-face. You can accomplish a lot online, but being a name on the Internet still isn't enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by On The Lamb Games View Post
    Thanks for your comments/concerns. We've been working on addressing a lot of the feedback we've gotten for EFT before we get ready to do the Kickstarter. And your quite right about the thick skin, you wouldn't believe some of the shit people say on Youtube & 4Chan about our staff.
    The Internet is especially tough, because everyone comes across as an a-hole even when they aren't trying. We are all much more interesting and agreeable people in person (except for William Katt). I expect that mistaken associations with furries, yiffing, and what-not contribute toward the most harsh criticisms of Brushfire.

    Here is an interesting interview with On the Lamb Games for anyone interested.

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    Hey guys!

    Good to see you're still talking about Realm

    After the flood of abuse and accusations this past week, I've grown quite used to it already.
    At worst I anticipated indifference and nothing more for releasing what is essentially free wargaming rules, so it has been quite a bizarre experience for me, personally.

    Anyway, we're just starting out and you never know, one or two folks out there might actually like what we're doing
    Last edited by realmfw; 03-27-2012 at 04:49 PM.

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    Good luck Realmfw.

  9. #9
    I think you are missing the point. Look at the outpouring Games Workshop gets just for releasing a new line of paints. Having bought into the game and invested their time and money, people have a sense of ownership. You have put yourself forward as a game company and asked for $2,000 from this very same community. Far from abuse and accusations, you have actually received some very valid critique. Yes, the tone is harsh, but in a way it needs to be. The consensus seems to be that people want you to succeed, but you need to change what you are doing to receive their support -- at least financially. This is a market that is looking to invest into new games and ideas -- Blackwater Gulch was put forward on Dakka as a perfect example -- and that is willing to give you, free of charge, the sort of customer input that major corporations spend millions of dollars to extract. So, the question at this point is whether you are making this game for you or for them?

  10. #10
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    Thanks ferk!

    I don't think I have missed the point, Soulfinger =) I've listened to every word of it and understand what people are saying.
    I have to draw the line at suggestions that I am a liar and a thief though

    But! This thread is not about me, it's about how tips on how to run a successful small games company, so hopefully we can get some more input from the pros

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