This panel was much more practical and much less political, and also much more narrowly focused on gaming. (Though perhaps not narrow enough; the panel was written to address all gaming, from electronic to board, card and book. We had to start off with a disclaimer that we could only talk about publishing on wood pulp.) Previous years’ incarnations of similar topics have looked primarily at big companies’ publishing processes, so I hoped that this one could look at all scales, from tiny one-person enterprises (ahem) to larger companies.
We organized the panel in a chronological way, starting with “where do you get ideas” and ending with “how to fulfill Kickstarter promises”. I also created a handout with a bunch of resources on it, so we wouldn’t need to repeat a bunch of URLs for people. Things I mentioned on the handout:
- CreateSpace: Print-On-Demand (POD), linked with Amazon bookstore.
- Lulu: Another POD company. The one I decided to go with for the printed edition of Blade & Crown.
- Lightning Source: Another POD company.
- DriveThruRPG/RPGNow: PDF and POD retailers, both part of OneBookShelf. I sell the electronic edition of B&C here.
- Game Crafter: Printing of cards, counters, etc.
- MorgueFile: Public domain photography.
- OpenClipArt: Public domain vector art.
- DeviantArt: Copyright art, so don’t use it without permission, but a great way to find artists!
- Freeware publishing programs: Serif PagePlus, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, InkScape, GIMP, etc.
- Kickstarter: Fundraising for indie projects.
Other things that came up during the conversation:
- Ron Edwards’ important article about fantasy heartbreakers.
- Meeplesource, a company that sells various kinds of boardgame counters and bits.
- The game designers’ resource thread on RPGnet.
- Eureqa, a program that can discover hidden trends in data.
We made a lot of good, specific points, too: if your idea for a game boils down to “like D&D, but better”, you should probably rethink your idea; don’t be afraid to cobble together ideas, mechanics, etc.; having a good bullet list of what you’re trying for can make good advertising later (it certainly did for me — the back cover of Blade & Crown is essentially my bullet list of design goals for the game). We talked about how early prototypes probably should not look beautiful; how it’s important to look at all permutations of chance in your game, even unlikely ones, because they will happen sometimes and the game needs to be fun even then; and how to balance creativity, skill and player choice. We discussed the importance of blind playtesting, and mused that it’s now possible to ask players to record a session as audio or video, so you can truly see how they interact from scratch with the game, even if you don’t have a game room with a one-way mirror (like some large publishers do).
We addressed a lot of good things, and I think the audience came out of it pretty well-informed about how to create and sell a game. And right after the panel, an audience member bought a copy of B&C from me! So I consider it very successful all around.