MACE 2010 Part 1

It’s been a full week since returning home from MACE 2010.  While it didn’t go as expected, I had a blast when I was actually there.  Here’s the recap.

I was signed up to play in two games on Friday.  The earlier one was a Spirit of the Century game and the second a Savage Worlds game.  I like Spirit of the Century (SOTC) a lot.  I’m a fan of pulp and really get to work that with SOTC.  And it was with a GM that I had gamed with before so I had a comfort level there.  The Savage Worlds (SW) game was with Clint Black, the Savage Worlds brand manager for Pinnacle.  I was really looking forward to this because he is supposed to run a fun, fun game.  And I needed more experience with each of these systems.

But due to some family scheduling snafus I had to miss them both.  I emailed Clint to let him know I was not going to be there.  I didn’t have a way to contact the other GM.  I was sad but ok with that.  I still had Saturday and Sunday.  So on to Saturday.

As a result of not being there Friday night, I arrived late on Saturday morning.  I just missed getting in a game of Macao with Chris and a couple of other guys.  So I wandered down to the dealer room to meet Jodi Black of Beautiful Brains Books and Games.   I have gotten to know Jodi since our interview and was looking forward to talking to her in person.  Jodi was a charming in person as by email.  The con was going well for the store so far and I helped by buying a Savage Worlds Explorers Edition (finally).  As I was leaving her husband Clint (same as above) came by.  I talked to him a while, apologizing for dropping the Friday night game and finding out that I didn’t miss a whole lot.  We talked about MACE West: Cudgel, a new con that he and others are trying to get started in Hickory, NC in March 2011.  I told him I would certainly be there.  I left to wander around a bit.

I did a lot of wandering around at this point.  I was kind of out of sorts about missing things already so nothing seemed to satisfy me.  So I basically wasted an hour and a half.  In retrospect I should have sat down to at least demo some games.  At 11 the Pros Panel started so I decided to go to that.

The Pros Panel – This is a time for fans and pros in the gaming industry to meet and talk.  Attending pros were Darren Watts of HERO Games and Indie Press Revolution (president) and Steve Long also from HERO Games and IPR.  Steve has been in gaming as an rpg writer for a long time.  Peter Schweighhofer of Griffon Publishing, a small rpg publisher.  His Pulp Egypt is an interesting setting.  Lew Pulsipher, Pulsipher Game, a designer and publisher of board and card games, was the only board game pro there.  Clint Black, brand manager of Savage Worlds, moderated the panel.  Sean Patrick Fannon,  creator of Shaintar: Immortal Legends and from Reality Blurs and OneBookShelf/DriveThruRPG.com, arrived late.  Lastly was Greg Porter, an independent designer who had worked with HERO at some point.  On the Fans side – me and three others.  One guy was just there to listen and he didn’t contribute much.  But the other two people, Brian and his fiance?, were there with a mission.  Brian is a fledgling rpg designer and had a ton of questions.  His questions drove most of the discussion.  And it was a discussion of the industry, publishing, lots of talk about licensed material (DragonBall in particular), POD publishing, legal issues, industry growth, and the translation/overseas market.

A lot of the discussion centered on licensed properties.  Brian’s rpg was built around Dragonball Z.  Though he didn’t use any of the character names some of the classes and other terminology.  He wanted to know if he could continue to use these.  The answer was no, not if you don’t want to get sued or have to at least stop publishing the game.  They said it is best if he could pull what it was about Dragonball out and morph that into something that was wholly his creation.   The conversation turned to publishing in languages other than English.  This conversation was, I thought, very positive for Brian’s girlfriend(?) who is a linguistics major and has done a bit of translating work.  The pros said the market is ripe for bringing in games from other countries if the translations are well done.  And that the overseas market is a good one to go after if you can do accurate translations/conversions.  I got the impression that she could jump in right now and start making a name or at least get some work pretty quick.

The topic turned to pdf’s.  SPFannon had a great deal to say on this subject, having his hand on the pulse of the industry regarding electronic media/distribution.  PDF sales have increase dramatically in recent years.  He feels that this is in part because many people are electronic media based, the industry has embraced the technology, and pdf’s are cheaper.  This allows people to buy a wider spread of games than they would if they had to buy the printed material.  He mentioned the reemergence of the old rpgs in pdf form.  We now have access to games that we would never thought we could get our hands on thanks to the electronic format.  ‘PDF’s are re-invigorating the industry’ was his take home message.  This feeling was echoed by all the pros there.  SPFannon also mentioned that OneBookShelf.com will be introducing POD (print on demand) next year.  This means that if you want a printed copy of a game you can order it from them.  Your copy will be printed, for you, and sent to you.  No more printing 2000 books and hoping they will sell.  Books will be printed on an as needed basis.  This will be huge in my opinion.

Jodi joined us at some point in here.  She contributed her perspective as a business person.  She told Brian that he has to approach publishing as a business.  He needs to get some ‘how to run a business’ classes under his belt.  And possibly find someone who knows and likes doing the business part to come in with him.  SPFannon echoed this and said that he is considering this himself.  The HERO guys reenforced Jodi’s suggestions.

Other topics covered were Public Domain properties.  It was suggested to Brian that he might consider using public domain material for his revamped game or for his zombie game.  There was good discussion around public domain and characters that are up for use.

I wanted to revisit the POD discussion and get Lew’s take on it as a boardgame publisher.  He said that there were some publishers/manufacturers that were going this route in a way.  The Game Crafter in particular was one he mentioned.  But he didn’t see POD working for boardgames until 3D POD was possible and not cost prohibitive.

I then asked if Kickstarter was going to impact the industry.  I got some raised eyebrows at this as several of the pros had not heard of it.  Darren and Steve thought that it could be viable but it was too early to tell.  That was the consensus.  SPFannon was very interested in Kickstarter as was Lew if I remember correctly.

That was pretty much it for the panel.  It was very interesting and I was glad to be there.

That concludes part 1.  Come back soon for part 2 – MACE: The Gaming