Good News/Bad News

Billy Crystal isn’t hosting the Oscars. Whoopi Goldberg is. There are six billion people on this planet and this is the best they can do?

I posted the following to a discussion thread on rpg.net about mentors, and thought I’d repost it here before the thread vanishes into the mists of forumdom.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of genuine mentors to whom I owe a great debt. First there was Keith Herber at Chaosium, and two of his crew of freelancers: Kevin Ross and Scott Aniolowski. All three were invaluable in teaching me the lessons they’d learned about writing for Call of Cthulhu.

Jonathan Tweet taught me a heck of a lot when I worked for him at Wizards on Everway, as well as here and there before and since. He’s one of the very few game designers I know who actually wants to design games, as opposed to designing games while whining about how they want to be writing novels or comic books or making movies or whatever. Jonathan really, really wants to make games for people to play, pure and simple. It’s not just a stop on a longer path for him.

Robin Laws taught me a lot when I was editing Feng Shui at Daedalus. Going through his rulebook manuscript line by line, seeing what he was doing, was like a master class in carpentry. And the day he spent discoursing on intellectual property and branding issues was pure gold.

John H. Crowe III opened my eyes to good scenario design. His approach is to reject the plot-driven style used by most designers and instead focus on creating a narrative environment: locations, characters, and agendas that, when added to player choice, generate a story. Most published scenarios are just stories where you roll dice instead of turning pages. Crowe’s scenarios are to gaming what good screenplays are to movies: the well-honed framework within which a group of people actually make the magic happen.

Bob Kruger taught me good copy editing, which in turn taught me better writing. My prose is much more focused and crisp because of him.

All these people were much more than just inspirations. I was able to work with them, study their techniques, discuss their ideas, and carry away a tremendous amount of knowledge. I couldn’t have accomplished half of what I’ve done without them, and I feel very lucky and very privleged to have had so many opportunities to learn.

I visited Jesper in Snohomish last night and played Halo until the wee hours. Very good game. I spent the afternoon at Flying Lab hatching various plans and getting a look at how the animation is coming. It’s going really well. Those guys are working crazy hours right now for this demo, but the results are superb. Tomorrow we’re going to rerecord some of the dialogue and I may try to rewrite it a bit as well–too movie-banter I fear, though Rusty at Flying Lab makes the good argument that with only thirty seconds of screen time and characters no one has seen before, cliched dialogue may be just what we need for people to enjoy this promo piece. But man, I wrote a thick slice of cheese there, no lie.

Revland is up on the new server and everything is working. My old form-mail script broke for some reason, but the new host supplied a replacement. SQL is up and running and I’ve begun testing the new software that I hope to rebuild the entire site with. My problem now is I want nothing more than to work on Revland, implementing the new database-driven design I’ve got planned, but I need to keep pushing forward on UA2. I’m bouncing between writing, editing, and laying out different chapters in the book, essentially moving three different points in a single timeline forward at once. If the book is A-Z, I’m writing R, editing O, and laying out K. It feels like juggling–trying to keep track of what I’ve done on each of those three fronts and moving them forward. I know I’ll make mistakes, but I have to keep pushing.

I found a thread on rpg.net tonight about running UA games, and it was heartening. There are a bunch of people out there playing our game, and they really get it. They understand what it’s supposed to be. If they got that far with UA1, UA2 should help them shoot the damn moon.