Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Toro! Toro!

I’ve come up with another playable race for the Destination: Rochan module. I’m calling them the Tor, based on the word Toro, meaning Bull. Basically they’re a race of minotaurs that live underground in intricate tunnel systems (ie: mazes). Since I had already talked about the other playable race, the Klixians, living underground, I decided to change that race to being above ground (since they are better suited for the radiation on the surface of Rochan).

As I was driving home, I started coming up with a back story for the two races: there’s a Tor myth about the planet, saying how it had once been a beautiful paradise before the Klixians laid it to waste, driving the Tor underground. However, there’s no scientific evidence that Rochan had ever been anything other than a wasteland to begin with, yet the Tor still blame the Klixians from robbing them of paradise. For their part, the Klixians view the Tor as filthy creatures, living in the dirt. As a result, the insect race is obsessed with cleanliness and has many rituals related to cleansing the body and soul.

This is all preliminary stuff, but it’s good to set some ground work for the expansion. I like the idea of having two new playable races, each in conflict with the other. It creates a good dynamic for adventures and fits in well with the underlying themes of the Imperium Chronicles.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yay, I CAN be taught!

Since deciding to redesign my website, I’ve been relearning a lot about design. For example, if you choose to organize the page using a lot of tables, you can expect to be hunted down by the web police and burned at the stake. Tables are out; DIV tags and CSS are in. I knew a little about the latter, but next to nothing about the former so I’ve been teaching myself (slowly) for several weeks. Eventually, I heard a *ding* which either meant I had finally reached a critical mass of understanding or my microwave burrito was done.

So, this week I made some progress on the site design that didn’t make me want to jump out the window. In fact, over the last couple of days, I’ve even approached being “happy” about the results. It may not last, but at least I can enjoy some temporary satisfaction. Here’s a screenshot of a large graphic I'll be including on the main page. It’s not done and there’s still stuff to be added or changed, but I want to give some idea where I’m doing with it:

Meanwhile, the playtesting continues, but without a lot of progress. It’s nobody’s fault actually, but I’m worried about things that haven’t been tested yet. I’m thinking about putting out some more forum posts specifically for people to playtest the combat system since that’s the part that could be really bad if it’s not balanced properly. I’d hoped to be nearly done by now, but it’s looking like testing will go on into August for sure. Delays . . . Delays . . .

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Challenges of Change

Ironically, I didn’t end up using the picture I had in my last post. I chickened out and used the same original, but simply changed the hue to a different color. It looks nice too, but isn’t as stylized. Basically, I added images for the first couple of chapters over the weekend. After doing it, however, I realized that the ones in the Character chapter are going to shift because I still haven’t added the beginning prose. Blah! Seems like I’m always forgetting things -- maybe because there are so many things to remember!

On Sunday I started putting the miniature renders onto a single sheet (or at least as many as I could fit). Each sheet will have five rows with three different sets per row. One sheet will fill a regular page, meaning there’ll be 15 miniatures per page. I’m still planning to call the product Cardboard Citizens and I even mocked up a quick cover. I can’t say the cover knocks my socks off, but it’s only a draft for now.

For awhile I’ve thought about redoing the website. The problem is that I’ve got dozens of pages for the graphic novel and my short story, all based on the current design. To redo the site, I’d have to redo those also. That’s a lot of work, but I could put the stories back in later and just focus on the new pages designed to sell the game. It’s not ideal, and of course I could just keep the current design, but I wanted something new and hopefully more professional looking.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Breaking up the Wall of Text

Well, playtesting is slowly winding down so now I have to think about adding artwork to the game. Right now there’s already some, but it’s mostly boring stuff like pictures to go with creatures, robots, and starships. I need to add a lot more to make the game more visually appealing. Rules are a pretty boring to begin with (just ask my Editor), but by adding art I can at least break up some of the monotonous text.

I’ve already looked at my two online stories and grabbed some art from there, but I felt like they needed to be more unique, so I used some filters in Photoshop to freshen them up (see below for an example). I’m going to create brand new renders also, using my best friend: Poser 7. I haven’t done any big time renders since I finished Magnus Black over two years ago, so I don’t plan to get too complicated. Mostly I’m just going to create some scenes and maybe some portraits and see where that takes me.

Besides adding artwork, I also plan to create an index next month. I’m dreading it, because it’s an enormous pain in the ass. I’m guessing it will be a few pages long, but I’ll need to go through the entire 240-page document to pick out all the words to be indexed. I also have to wait until playtesting is basically done (ie: few if any changes left), otherwise I’ll have to go back and retag various indexed words. From a usability standpoint, however, it’s vital that I have an index, otherwise it’ll take people forever to find stuff in the game. In other words, by being a pain in my butt now, it’ll be less of a pain for players. Ultimately, I’ll have my revenge by forcing people to look at my hackneyed artwork. ;-)

Friday, July 11, 2008

And so the Klixians are born . . .

One of the playtesters pointed out that I didn’t have an insectoid race in the game, or at least not a playable one. He suggested that type of race was common in most sci-fi games, etc. I’m really not sure why having an insect race never occurred to me, since they’re usually pretty cool. Although I don’t plan to include such a race when the game is published, I have been thinking for awhile about what to include in a future expansion. For a long time I’ve thought about having a supplement focusing on the planet Rochan, so it occurred to me that I could include a new playable race in that expansion. They would fit together well because I’ve always envisioned Rochan as being crisscrossed with mining tunnels beneath the surface. Perhaps the insect race would also live underground (to escape Rochan’s inhospitable environment), and come in contact with the miners (perhaps in conflict).

So this week I started brainstorming about this new race. I found a nice model on the Daz3D site and from that I starting thinking of a name. I went through several ideas, but ultimately decided (at least for now) on the name Klixian. The name comes from their language, which is a series of clicking sounds. In other words “Klix” sounds like “clicks”. I like the use of the letter K and X in the name also because it gives it an alien quality.

As for the racial stats, those are still up in the air, although I’d like to incorporate some psionics, perhaps even a so-called Hive Mind. Right now only the Dahl have good PSI skills, so it would be nice to have another race to give additional choices for players. Also, while doing research on insects, I found that ants have something called the Metapleural gland which secretes antibiotics. By adding that to the Klixians, I can give them a high Disease resistance modifier. I will likely give them a decent Radiation resistance as well.

While I’ve been thinking about the new playable race, I’ve also been working on the game itself, adding changes based on playtester comments. I plan to publish a new draft (verison 0.4) next week. I’ve also been doing new renders for the paper miniatures (see image). I’m thinking about calling the product Cardboard Citizens, or something like that. ;-)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Art and Miniatures

I spent a couple of hours yesterday working on renders in Poser for the paper miniatures I mentioned in my previous post. Since I haven’t worked too much in Poser lately, it was a time consuming process. Also, Poser crashed on me (effectively went “poof!”) so I had to redo some setup. All in all, I only got six sets done, which include three middle-class and three aristocrat figures. Each set has three renders, one from the front and one from the 135 and 225 degrees. I have many more to do, but it’s good to get at least a few renders under my belt. See below for a sample:
So, last Thursday while I was driving home from work, I had an idea to hopefully drive some additional traffic to the Chronicles website. Since the game originated from ideas for a book and then an online graphic novel, it seemed logical that I should have artwork and prose featured on the website. In other words, I’d like to get artists to show their works and writers to post their fiction on my site. In both cases, they would need to have either a sci-fi theme or, preferably, relate directly to the Imperium universe. As I envision it, the artwork would lead directly to the artist’s site or perhaps some other site like DeviantArt. Either way, my site would act as an affiliate, hopefully attracting people to the artist’s sales site. At the same time, it would hopefully attract people to my site as well. Of course, I’m not sure how well any of that would work, but it’s just an idea.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

An Organic Process

I sent out the July newsletter this week. Not a lot to really talk about except a progress report on how playtesting is going. In many ways it’s an organic process: of the people who have shown an interest, at least half have not been able to actually take part. Half of those couldn’t do it for technical reasons of one kind or another. One person didn’t have steady internet access and another person needed the rules in printed form (which is a hefty 240 pages). Since I’m incorporating the testers’ comments into new drafts every couple of weeks, it’s vital that the testers receive the drafts via email (as opposed to regular mail), so internet access is very important.

Another group of people who ended up not taking part simply disappeared. I basically stopped getting email replies. I assume those individuals simply decided to do other things (or perhaps they just really hated the game). I don’t think that last part is the case, although there’s no real telling. In the end, those who remained have made very good comments and I’ve found their input invaluable.

To that end, I’ve been making several changes since publishing version 0.3 of the draft rules. Most recently, I’ve added a whole section to the Starship chapter involving component damage when a ship takes a critical hit. This was directly due to the comments from playtesting that suggested the rules needed it. I had thought of it before, but left it out, but apparently I did so in error. :-)

During this period, I should also work on a supplement to the game: namely, paper miniatures. I’ve mentioned this before, but I haven’t really done much since. They are 28mm miniatures printed on paper (or card stock) that players can cut out and use to play the game. A handful of others offer paper miniatures, but mine will be tailored especially for my game, including creatures and other baddies featured in the rules.