The birth of Game Unnamed, and the sad plight of the digital RPG
Hello my friends. My internet was down for THREE WEEKS. It boggles the mind, doesn't it? Imagine going three whole weeks without any connection to the world at large except via your Palm phone and occasional laptop totes to the coffee shop. Its been rough, but we finally have this whole thing under control. Whew.
So back to Game Unnamed!
I want to tell you a bit about how this project came to be. But first, I have to tell you a bit about myself.
I have been into table top role-playing games since I first picked up the Dungeons & Dragons basic red box set at Toys R Us when I was 10. (Actually, I first wanted to play when I was about 6 and I saw some older kids playing Tunnels and Trolls at my after-school daycare program. But they said I was too little.) I have played, and run, many RPGs in my day. I met my husband at one of those kooky Vampire games where everyone dresses up in costume and fights via Rock Paper Scissors.
If you haven't played an RPG except via a digital interface, then let me assure you playing in person is quite the different beast. In a table top role playing game, the interface is another human being, the Game Master (or Dungeon Master, Storyteller or a variety of other names). The players play the roles of whatever character they've chosen to represent. The Game Master plays the roles of every other character in the game (Non Player Characters), determines how the actions the players take affect the game world, and sets challenges for the players to overcome.
Having a human interface to the game world means that players can take ANY action that is reasonable to their character and the world they are playing in. In a digital game, the player is limited to whatever verbs have been programmed into the system. In a table top game the player has nearly unlimited verbs at their disposal.
This difference has huge potential emotional ramifications. When playing a digital game, even one that places an emphasis on identifying with your character, there is a disconnect between you and the avatar on the screen. There may be moments when you feel "at one" with your character, but as soon as you try to do something that the system is not programmed to handle, you are harshly reminded that you are in a digital simulation.
If, however, you find yourself playing a table-top role playing game with live people who really are "into" role-playing as an experience, then the game feels very different. It is possible to actually get into a mind space where you feel like you ARE the character. You may find yourself, for example, saying things as your character or telling the GM actions the character is taking that feel incredibly natural. Only after the fact do you realize that they felt natural to the character, and not necessarily to your real self. It can be powerful stuff, and can lead to strong introspection on the part of the player.
Its this feeling, which I once termed "Transportation" in a thesis paper, that I have felt is missing in digital games and which I decided to explore with Game Unnamed. The trick, then, is to figure out how to translate the freedom of action that leads a player to "Transportation" to a system that can be programmed into a digital game.
What is my approach? Backers will find out in my next post.... ;)
I want to thank all my backers so far, not only for their support but for their AWESOME help getting the word out about this project. We still have a ways to go but I'm very optimistic.
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BACKSTAGE PASS -- Access to the behind the scenes blog, which will include all kinds of fun stuff, including my thoughts for the game, little bits and pieces of game world lore that won't be available elsewhere, and many lessons learned! Pledging $3 or more also allows you to participate in the game naming contest (see the project description for what that's about.)
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Party Ticket! I couldn't change the three dollar reward description so I am adding this reward level. You are invited to the Before You Close Your Eyes launch party! I have no idea what the parameters of that are yet, but it will be in the SF Bay Area, and will be after the game launches. It may just be at my house. I have to figure out the details still.
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ENTER THE DREAMLAND -- Access to the blog, and a copy of the game when it is released. (You will receive both an iPhone copy and an access code to the ads-free web version).
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DREAMS OF GRATITUDE -- The above, plus a thank you card signed by my family (including my 2 year old daughter) and special thanks in the game credits and printed Game Design Journal.
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DREAMS OF INTRIGUE -- You receive the above, plus a digital copy of the Game Design Journal. The journal will be a copy of my actual game design journal, featuring my sketches and blurbs of writing, arcane diagrams and the like.
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DREAMS OF BEAUTY -- All of the above, plus a quality print of the game art (will be the splash screen art unless an illustrator makes several pieces – then you have a choice), with a personalized thank you on the front of it -- suitable for framing!
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PATRON OF DREAMS -- All of the above, plus a copy of the KICKSTARTER EXCLUSIVE game design journal. The journal will be a copy of my actual game design journal, featuring my sketches and blurbs of writing, arcane diagrams and the like. And it will come signed! I keep fairly elaborate journals for the games I am working on, and this will be a book to covet. (I covet it and I'm making it!)
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19 backers Limited (11 left of 30)
COLLABORATION PACKAGE -- All of the above goodies, PLUS you will have the opportunity to suggest, write or design a story that will appear as a playable side quest in the game. You will get access to background materials and sweet sweet spoilers that no one else will have. You can write the whole story or just tell me how you want it to go, and I will work with you to fit it into the game. In addition to your words being added to the game, you will receive a completely legitimate "Additional Design/Writing" credit in the game (and on the game's web-site) that you can use on your resume or just to impress your friends!
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3 backers Limited (17 left of 20)
JOIN OUR FAMILY! -- You receive all of the above plus three free bonus copies (one for each member of the family!) of the game and a LIFETIME bonus copy on every single indie game I ever make. It's a lifetime buy one get one free offer! Additionally, your name and the link of your choice (PG please!) will appear on the project's web-site. You also will have sent to you a plaster handprint from my two year old daughter in appreciation for making her mama a happy camper.
- (82 days)