Friday, May 24, 2013

As an Example...


Dave Arnoson had already left before 1982, over "intellectual property" issues, and went off to create his own gaming company. It didn't do as well, until they started writing computer codes for games (some of these early BASIC computer language codes would later end up in D+D like computer games : "Ultima" and Nintendo 's hugely successful "Zelda" video games).The FBI delayed the printing of TOP SECRET, the role playing game, thinking it was a 'threat to national security' (Merle Rassmussen, the designer and writer of the game had to prove he got his "intel" from the public library, and not a foreign agency), and slowly D+D was being associated, in the news, with crazy people weilding swords , running around in the sewers, looking for dragons to "vanquish" and, eventually, Satanists.

Gary Gygax, dabbling in a project to bring D+D to Hollywood,  was "forced" out of TSR, by 1987-1989, and most of the "old gang" was gone, replaced by a younger group, that spear-headed the 1984-1985 Second Edition D+D game. A version that was even more accessible to a greater number of people, but was accused of "dumbing down The Game". Other role playing companies ( Chaosium, White Dwarf / Warhammer ) started outselling D+D, using tweaked D+D rules, and TSR was taken over by a rich woman named Lorraine Williams, who knew nothing about role playing games, and was hoping to "turn it" for a profit. Story is: She was such a control freak, game designers were always clashing with her, over what made a good D+D game, and spent the better part of 1988-1993, reprinting older editions, in fancy print runs, or in special collected hard backs. One story goes: As the gaming offices were imploding, the fiction writers were saving the company.

Tales from The Forgotten Realms, and Dragonlance Series, and countless other, were long running fantasy novels, and they were / are very popular. The novelization of D+D related works sold across the board, because you didn't need to be a gamer to enjoy the books. These books still make it to the New York Times bestsellers list every once and a while, and the charatcers in these books have spun off into their own series of books. It was great to be a fiction writer for TSR, until you became so famous (Tracy Hickman, R.A. Salvator), you started to effect the bottom line, and, persumeably, asked for more money, more creative control, more anything, from the sounds of it. Those that did, were escorted out the door by security, only to file their own lawsuits aganist the company later. Everything related to the game was selling (the calendars, action figures, coloring books, computer games, and, suprisingly, the miniature figures), but the actual "game" material was not doing so hot.

In the early 90's, "Vampire, the Masqurade", (you play as vampires in a dinner mystery-type game) and "The Shadowrun" ( set in a post apocalyptic future where invisible inflammable gas pockets can kill you, and alter the human spieces into mutant monster) kind of nailed the coffin shut on D+D games, which had grown stale and dull. The folks I knew never bothered with the Birth-Rite, or The Dragons of Croym series etc.

By the time Pokemon and Magic the Gathering card games were hitting the states, TSR was facing up to the harsh reality. It was impossible to dominate the game market ever again, because there was 30-40 years of other legal published material based loosely on a HG Well's public domain game and Gygax's "make it up as you go rule", In other words, (as I said previously) any role playing game ever created was, and is, going to be derived from Dungeons and Dragons, because it was the first formalized role playing game. You can't have one without the other. And when the video games DOOM and Tomb Raider came out, you were lucky to find guys willing to sit around for three hours, roll some dice, and draw up maps. In comparison, that was just soooo last decade... 


Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Mysterious Disappearance

Well, I've been gigantically busy lately (and not just the normal end of the school year kind of busy stuff...I'm talking about the kind of freaking busy where the last thing on your mind is posting stuff on some blog). Too many problems. Not enough time. Not enough for my virtual life anyways. So, that's why I've been out of the loop these past few weeks / months. It happens. I'm not complaining, just explaining. I've been doing some drawings for some new games coming down the pipe. I'd tell you about it, but then my benefactor(s) would have to kill me. Corperate spies are everywhere and things must be very hush - hush...You understand. 
For instance, I'd love to go on and on about the new game I'm brewing up here in the lab, but if I blab on about it, I'll never finish it. I'll figure, hey, I told you about it, so why bother with all the headaches of printing and distributing it? Why not just type out all the cool ideas here on the blog and be done with it? If anyone wants it, it could be downloaded as easy as pie. Everything is done on-line now-a-days. So true. Why this ridiculous need to draw it up and send it out, in a vain attempt to sell it? Didn't anyone tell me printing is officially dead (Dude, it like, died back in 2003, when all the newspapers went out of business). Plus, do we need another fanzine?

Well, the simple answer, (depending on the kind of day I'm having) is I'm a andraline freak for rejection, or I'm a lazy perfectionist. I want it to be an enjoyable game to play and a fun game to read. That's a tall order, since the first rule to game design is: Be clear and consise, and keep it impersonal and uncluttered. So, already, I'm starting behind the 8 ball. But I can't help it. Pushing, bending, and mashing up the rules (as I've in said in earlier posts) is one of the things I enjoy about the game. I also want this game to work as a opening salvo to an over-ambitious project to produce a series of like-minded games. Hopefully, I'll have three mini books coming out, but at this point, I'll settle for one. The other reason...

Well, I come from an Underground Artist kind of background, and the pull to publish (or be published) is a strong and undeniably competitive drive for us types. Maybe it's motivated by the fact that we couldn't afford art school, or maybe having to slave away for hours at a drawing table for other people's product line, or maybe it's just they way we were put together. I dunno, but it's sometimes confused for insanity. God knows, it can drive some people insane.   
I won't lie. This is partly an exercise in ego stroking. I like having a series of books with my name and work in them on my shelves at home. It gives me a self-satisfying tingle. If nothing else, the work is real. It's here, in my greedy little hands and it's something that may actually out live me. Not in the long reach of history kind of way (I'm not that arrogant, or self-deluded). I'm thinking more in son's sons or daughters may one day flip through these books and think, "What kind of weirdo was grandpa back in the early twenty-first century" sort of way.
Plus, when the sun spits out the big solar flare that knocks out all of the earth's computers (and my virtual history), I'll still have my little shelf of books to go back to... as Google, Yahoo, Facebook and all the rest explain that the world will just have to  re-re-re-boot and start all over again. 
But yes, I should say something about the game I so boldly claimed was coming just around corner (30 some weeks ago). Thing is, I don't really want to show any of the artwork or designs just yet. Playtesting has been fun and frustrating. I'll say this: The game is an attempt to combine some of the best facets of role playing games under one roof, while presenting an entertaining. and striking, adventure. Hopefully...