Back at the Ranch

All home in one piece, and still catching up with the gaming goodness and the work I missed while I was away. Lots going on, though as usual I can’t tell you about much of it yet. I think I mentioned that I was taking a new notebook with me, and that’s been half-filled with cool ideas. I’m particularly pleased to have had the time to focus on a game that I’ve been working on for several years, and have given it a reworked and greatly improved framework to build on. I think that it’s finally looking like coming together the way I’d always envisaged it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m designing a game it feels very much as if it has a will of its own, and it can be helpful or otherwise. Some are compliant and eager to please and will easily slot into whatever brief is required. Usually they end up being very slick and effective, though there is sometimes a danger that they are so slick that there is no real substance beyond the polish. Other projects work smoothly, but refuse to sit in the space you wanted originally, and you just have to go where they plainly belong; they know what they are, and it’s your job to keep up. You can try to resist this drift, but that’s a bad idea and you will end up with something that doesn’t fit comfortably. If the game wants to drift too far away from the brief then a far better plan is to follow enough of it to make notes on where it’s going and then take 3 steps back and start over with a different tack. Ideas are never wasted, and if something doesn’t fit the current project it may be good for the next one. Some can spark a new project all their own, which is just a bonus.

The final set of games are both the most frustrating and possibly the most rewarding when you finally nail them down. These fight every inch of the way, though all along they drop sufficient hints for you to know that you’re onto a winner, if only they would just stop wriggling. That’s the kind I’m referring to above. It’s been several years that I’ve been working on it intermittently, putting it down for months on end at times so I can have some clear space to try and work out what’s not going right. In more pressing circumstances I’d obviously have to settle for where I’d got to, but this design is for me and not a client, so I can make it perfect. It’ll get released when it’s ready, and what I’ve been able to do over the week away is stand back and redefine all the basics again, using some of the existing work and building in new facets so that the whole chimes nicely and does what it needs to. Next step is writing it up as a playtest set so I can make sure that it does on the table what I expect it to.

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10 Responses to Back at the Ranch

  1. Jonathan Peace says:

    What you describe is very similar to the process of screenwriting and to a lesser extent short fiction writing. Sometimes the idea is greater than the sum of its parts, in that there is the supernova of the “What if…” scenario but no strong cement to bind it together to make a strong structure.

    Then there are the reverse scripts when the characters are just screaming to get dictated to the page and the pen burns in the haste to get the story down.

    And then there are the times when the script just loses its way and you have to walk away, let the sucker stew a while (sometimes for years) and then hit it with fresh eyes.

    All the best with the project 🙂

  2. Quirkworthy says:

    Thanks Jonathan. It is indeed a similar process to all manner of creative endeavours, and I suspect not just writing. I think part of learning to be good at whatever you’re doing is understanding that process, and sometimes letting the beast you’re creating have its own way 🙂

  3. I was once told by somebody far wiser than I am, that any creative process leaves a part of you behind, and that sometimes if you don’t quite yet know who you are it’ll never come and that its better to leave it and grow as a person because the idea will grow with you… he was absolutely off his rocker but he might have been onto something, because he did know how to write a damn fine guitar riff.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Danger! Existentialism ahead Cap’n!

      Sounds like he was saying something similar too. As I said, I’ve long suspected that the “artistic” bit of the creative process is essentially very much the same regardless of the craft skill you apply it to. Writing, painting, music and so on are, at their heart, all driven by a similar process and similar part of the brain.

  4. Elromanozo says:

    Ideas have a way of maturing like wine… And they take the taste of their surroundings. Maybe this trip was in order to get this game a little sunshine !
    In any case, welcome back !

  5. MP7VRN says:

    someone told me once, that being creative is like being a God, only on much smaller scale. 🙂

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