It’s been a touch over three months since I started this blog, and exactly three months since I committed (in my own mind – I’m not silly enough to make a public promise) to making a blog post every week, whether I have something to say or not. This is not exactly a huge milestone. It’s not like I’ve been going for an entire year, or made it to my 100th entry, but it’s still pretty significant for me. Finding the time to design around work and family is difficult, and it’s even harder to dedicate time to writing about the process. So I thought it would be nice to look back on these three months and highlight just a few of the things I have learnt.
- I have learnt that it is really hard to stick to a schedule! Some of these posts I’ve written days – or weeks – in advance, and that’s the only thing that has allowed me to stick to this weekly update schedule. Between family weddings, work busyness, general family craziness and the drudgery of adult responsibilities, it’s damn hard!
- I have learnt that when I force myself to write about my projects, it helps me keep a handle on all the different parts of a design. Rather than having flash-in-the-pan ideas, I write them down to either turn them into a future blog post, or simply to work on them in the future.
- I have learnt that a palate-cleanser is important now and then. I love writing for d3RPG, but getting projects like HexTerra or Crownfall out and publicly available is a good way to take a break while still being productive.
- I have learnt that there is not enough time in the day for play testing. It’s probably the single most important part of game design, and yet Horizons sits on the shelf gathering dust. I have a mostly-weekly social games night with my wife and friends, but we have other games to play, too. And I can only subject them to my whims so often.
- I have learnt that even small projects take more time than you expect. HexTerra went through many different iterations before it was usable, and that’s just some static 3D designs.
- I have learnt that writing an RPG takes even longer than you think. I was under absolutely no delusion that I’d have a usable product by now, but I’m not even nearly as close as I thought I would be. d3RPG is intended to be “rules lite”, and yet it keeps getting bigger and bigger, and still isn’t ready for even early alpha testing.
- I have learnt that self care is really important. Really important. Some weekends I’ve wanted nothing more than to bury myself in my writing, but I’ve realised that I can’t possibly produce anything useful given my mental state, which would just make me feel even worse, so the best thing is to take a couple of days off. Plus – turns out eating right and exercising are kinda important.
- I have learnt that community is critical. The Roleplaying Game Developers of Australia and Tabletop Game Designers Australia Facebook groups are full of people, both new (like myself) and super experienced. Every single one of them is helpful, enthusiastic and wants to see others succeed. The tabletop and roleplaying communities are expanding at such a rate that competition is not something that is considered even a remote concern. Instead, everyone feeds of everyone else’s enthusiasm, and we all benefit.
- I have learnt that I tend to start designing from themes, rather than mechanics. Horizons started after I wanted an exploration/sailing game. A little while ago I set up the telescope for my son to look at the Moon, I saw a set of constellation-themed dice for sale in a trade group, and I listened to a podcast featuring some Starfinder ship combat. These three events – all on the same day – got me thinking about a spacefaring trading game, with no idea how it would work. But damn do I want to explore space!
Mostly, though, I have learnt that it makes me happy to write these articles. The small amount of feedback I receive is helpful in shaping my thoughts, and lets me know that I’m not spewing these words into a shapeless void never to be heard (or read) by a living being. I can’t pretend that my writing has improved greatly over just three months, but I have gotten a lot – a LOT – more comfortable exposing my thoughts to the world, which is most definitely a good thing, both for me personally, and for my future game designs.
Can I keep up with a post a week? I really don’t know. Sometimes the well starts to run pretty dry. But I’m going to keep trying. It’s been a helpful exercise.
So thank you all for being part of this so far. It’s been great, and I’m sure it’s only going to get better. I wonder what I can learn after an entire year?
Yours in Adventure,