Tuesday, August 28, 2012

[Q&A] Matt Forbeck (Brave New World, Magic: the Gathering comic)

[19:03] <+Forbeck> Hi! I'm a longtime freelance game designer and novelist. I used to run Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and I've written games for most of the games in the industry.
[19:03] <+Forbeck> These days, I mostly write novels, comics, and computer games. I wrote for Ghost Recon Online, for instance, which is in beta at the moment.
[19:04] <+Forbeck> I also write the Magic: The Gathering Comics for IDW. My big project this year is my 12 for '12 project, in which I plan to write a dozen short novels this year.
[19:04] <+Forbeck> I broke them up into trilogies to run on Kickstarter, and the first three were big successes. I'm running the last one right now, for Monster Academy.
[19:04] <+Forbeck> That's a trilogy of YA fantasy novels about young monsters being put into a reform school. You can find out all about it here: (Link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forbeck/12-for-12-40-monster-academy-novels)http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forbeck/12-for-12-40-monster-academy-novels
[19:05] <+Forbeck> And, I could go on a lot longer, so... Done!
[19:05] <~Dan> Any questions so far, folks, or shall I get the ball rolling?
[19:05] <+phgaw> What's the biggest difference when writing for a video game as opposed to analog games?
[19:05] <&Le_Squide> Oh, hey! I didn't know you did work for IDW. Awesome. *ahem* Not really a question, sorry.
[19:05] <+Forbeck> You have a lot more control over analog games. The budgets and teams are much smaller, so the writer plays a much larger role.
[19:06] <+Forbeck> In many computer game companies, the writer is an afterthought or a necessary evil (although not in the best ones, for sure), but in tabletop games, the writer is the headliner.
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[19:06] <~Dan> (Howdy, Dave! Here for the Q&A?)
[19:06] <+Forbeck> As for IDW, I've written a number of things for them. Besides the Magic comic, I wrote a Dracula's Revenge comic many moons ago. Also three different Complete Idiot's Guides to Drawing Manga.
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[19:07] <+Forbeck> Plus a book called Extreme Facts.
[19:07] <~Dan> (Howdy, Ben!)
[19:07] <+BenRogers> Heya, Dan, thanks for the reminder!
[19:07] <~Dan> (Certainly. :) )
[19:07] <+DaveGross> (Yep. Thanks, Dan.)
[19:07] <+Forbeck> Do I say done after every question too? I'm a noob.
[19:07] <~Dan> (Matt, same deal -- just drop us a "(done)" when...yeah, please. :) )
[19:07] <+phgaw> Ideally. :)
[19:07] <+Forbeck> DONE! :)
[19:07] <+phgaw> Followup: Was the technology limiting what you could do?
[19:08] <~Dan> (No worries. Everyone's a noob who does this.)
[19:08] <+Forbeck> And if that's not enough, feel free to ask me to go more in depth. I can ramble on. :)
[19:08] <~Dan> (Oh, Dave and Ben, #rpgnet2 is open for regular chat as well if you're inclined.)
[19:08] <+Forbeck> Video games are always limited by their technology, but that affects every aspect of them: art, programming, design, writing, etc. Budgets limit them as well.
[19:08] <+Forbeck> It's a lot easier to tell the players to imagine the planet exploding than it is to show it properly in a video game. Those models all cost money to create and render.
[19:08] <~Dan> (Matt, just FYI: Ben here is the author of Promised Sands. He's got some new games in the offing and is here in part to see how these Q&A thingies go. ;) )
[19:09] <+Forbeck> Plus, we don't have natural language parsing that's up to par for most games, so there are always compromises there for interaction too.
[19:09] <+Forbeck> Done!
[19:09] <+Forbeck> Hi Ben!
[19:09] <+phgaw> Thank you!
[19:09] <~Dan> Matt, for those not familiar with the game line, could you say a bit about BNW?
[19:09] <+BenRogers> Greetings, Matt. :)
[19:10] <+luc> Hey folks
[19:10] <+Forbeck> Sure. Brave New World is a dystopian low-power supers RPG in which the players take the roles of outlaw superheroes rebelling against a government that drafts supers (known as deltas) into mandatory service.
[19:11] <+Forbeck> It came out in 1999 and was cancelled as a line in 2001. I recently returned to the setting for my first trilogy of 12 for '12 novels. These are now available for sale.
[19:11] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:11] <~Dan> I'm curious why you took the approach you did to supers in the game. Can you describe that for those unfamiliar, and share your thoughts on the subject?
[19:12] <~Dan> (Oh, and howdy, luc!)
[19:12] <+Forbeck> They're low-powered heroes because that interested me most. There are lots more chances for drama with heroes that can't move planets.
[19:12] <~Dan> Well, I was thinking more in terms of the strict power sets.
[19:12] <+Forbeck> The rules allow you to pick a power package and go. It's fast and easy and was meant to be marketed to comics readers rather than gamers.
[19:13] <+Forbeck> Turns out gamers like to tinker a lot more than that, so they generally prefer systems that let you dig into the power sets more. Sadly, Pinnacle broke up less than six months after BNW hit print, so we never got to put it into comics stores either.
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[19:14] <+Forbeck> Pinnacle's still going, of course, but Shane Hensley continued on with it while the other partners (including me) went our own ways.
[19:14] <+Forbeck> Done?
[19:14] <+luc> So given this tie in with comics, do these play a large part in what influenced Brave New World? If so, any particular examples?
[19:15] <+Forbeck> Sure. I'm a huge comics fan. I actually wrote the revised edition of The Marvel Encyclopedia for DK Publishing a couple years back.
[19:15] <+Forbeck> When creating BNW, I took a lot of the tropes I loved about comics and tried to put them into a setting in which they made more sense. For instance, the main city is Crescent City, which doesn't exist.
[19:16] <+Forbeck> Like Metropolis or Gotham. But I wanted it in the real world, so I destroyed Chicago and built Crescent City on the banks of the crater left behind.
[19:16] <+Damiar> yeah, I have met Shane on several occasions, he's cool and has done well for himself with savage worlds. I remember BNW, I played it a few times at a firend's place.
[19:16] <+Damiar> *friend's
[19:16] <+Forbeck> That brought up all sorts of story opportunities too.
[19:16] <+Forbeck> Shane and I are still friends, although we don't see each other nearly as often these days. He still owns Pinnacle, although other people run the daily bits for him while he works in the computer game industry.
[19:17] <+Forbeck> Computer games = more money than tabletop.
[19:17] <+Forbeck> Done.
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[19:17] <+J_School> I am a man of constant sorrow.
[19:17] <~Dan> A question about the BNW setting, Matt...
[19:18] <+Forbeck> Shoot!
[19:18] <~Dan> ...I know that it's a "single source" supers setting, but I also know that there's some other weirdness in the setting -- vampires come to mind. How generally "weird" is the world aside from superheroes?
[19:19] <+Forbeck> Not too weird. Even the zombies I had in the game run down to that single source. They're more meatbots than horror movie zombies.
[19:20] <~Dan> Did any players you know of find that restrictive?
[19:20] <+Forbeck> It's much more of an "all its own thing" setting than a kitchen sink setting. Much of the weirdness comes from interdimensional oddities.
[19:20] <+nick3> meatbots better then nazis for shooting
[19:20] <+Forbeck> The setting? Not really. Every setting has some restrictions. No guns in D&D, for instance. The rules? Yes, certainly.
[19:21] <+Forbeck> Bingo.
[19:21] <+Forbeck> Done.
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[19:21] <~Dan> Why don't you tell us about the M:tG comic, Matt?
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[19:22] <+Forbeck> Most people really dug the setting. Lots of them liked the rules too, but I got the most vocal complaints about the power system.
[19:22] <~Dan> (Welcome, Guest96589! You can set a nick with the "/nick" command.)
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[19:22] <+Forbeck> Sure! I started work on the Magic: The Gathering comic last summer, meeting with the people at Wizards and IDW. I've known both crews for years, so this was a real treat.
[19:22] <+Colombus> thanks
[19:22] <+phgaw> (welcome to the Q&A, Colombus)
[19:22] <~Dan> (Certainly. Here for the Q&A with Matt?)
[19:23] <+Forbeck> IDW asked me for a pitch and selected it against a couple others they had in hand. It's the story of a thief turned mage who has the special power of being able to pry spells from artifacts he can touch.
[19:24] <+Forbeck> He also can pry memories from these items, giving him glimpses into how they've been used in the past. He's gone when his entire town gets slaughtered, and he uses these powers to try to track down the killers.
[19:24] <+Forbeck> It's broken into four-issue miniseries. The first one's out, and in trade paperback now. We're two issues into the second ("The Spell Thief") and the third "Paths of Vengeance" was announced at Comic-Con.
[19:24] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:25] <+nick3> This is a bit of tangent , but you have any idea why there been such a long gap in magic the gathering comics
[19:25] <~Dan> That must be a lot of pressure, creating a comic based on such a beloved property.
[19:25] <+nick3> I remember there was a bunch of them in the early 90's then next to nothing till recently
[19:26] <+Forbeck> It's a bit of pressure, but I've written for high-profile projects before. The folks at Wizards really care about it, so they're a great help with making sure that I stay true to the property and its backstory.
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[19:27] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, HalG! Here for the Q&A?)
[19:27] <+Forbeck> There was a large gap because the original licensee (Valiant/Acclaim) went out of business, and no one picked up the license again.
[19:27] <+HalG> Yes I am
[19:27] <+Forbeck> IDW has a broad license with Hasbro, and that includes Magic, as well as GI Joe, Transformers, D&D, etc.
[19:27] <~Dan> (Excellent. Please feel free to ask away! :) )
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[19:28] <+Forbeck> Again, because the Magic team is so careful with the property, they don't approve anything unless they have the time for it and are comfortable with their partners. They tried some in-house comics on the web, but they weren't ecstatic about the results, so they turned to IDW.
[19:28] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:28] <+phgaw> How difficult is it to work within somebody else's world? Was there something that was particularly hard to write for?
[19:29] <+Forbeck> I've written in lots of other worlds, done many tie-ins, so that was't onerous at all. Some of the controllers of those properties are tighter with them than others, but there are ways around that.
[19:30] <+Forbeck> I always try to get an outline approved before I start work. That way we all know where I'm headed, and there are fewer chances for disappointments along the way.
[19:30] <+Forbeck> It's hard in the sense that you have to try to anticipate what the approvals guy wants as opposed to your readership, but it's easier than doing original work in that there's a built-in audience and much of the world-building has been done for you.
[19:30] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:31] <+phgaw> Editors and world bibles are worth their weight in gold, then?
[19:31] <~Dan> How did you translate the magic rules into a narrative context?
[19:31] <+Forbeck> I always appreciate a good world bible, and I love the editors who treat me well, which has been almost all of them. I've been fortunate.
[19:32] <+Forbeck> While most people don't see it, there's actually a world bible for every new Magic expansion, and it's filled with all sorts of story seeds you can take and run with. These have been used for developing novels and comics in the past. It wasn't too hard for me to follow in those well-laid tracks.
[19:33] <+Forbeck> That said, I try to stick to the rules and the cards when I write the comic. The Magic team, especially Brady Dommermuth, who's their main story guy, often supplies me with better cards/spells than I could have guessed about on my own.
[19:33] <+Forbeck> He just knows the backstory and the game far better than I ever wil.
[19:33] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:33] <+HalG> I may have missed it did you slip what your plans are for 2013? And hi Matt! :-)
[19:33] <+Forbeck> Hi, Hal!
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[19:34] <+Forbeck> My plans for early 2013 are to finish up the production on my 12 for '12 novels and hopefully to keep writing Magic: The Gathering comics. I have a few other things in the works that are too early to talk about yet, but those should keep me busy as well.
[19:34] <~Dan> (Howdy, onine! Q&A with Matt Forbeck in progress!)
[19:34] <+Forbeck> I try to both book up and be flexible. Juggling projects is the freelancer's biggest challenge, but I enjoy it.
[19:34] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:35] <~Dan> BNW is a "Big Secret" setting. To what extent to the novels address that secret, and did the fact that you already revealed the secret making writing the novels more problematic?
[19:35] <~Dan> (Okay, that came out garbled. I hope it make sense regardless. :) )
[19:35] <+Forbeck> The novels blow all those secrets out of the water. I wrote them as if most people wouldn't be familiar with the setting at all, and then I threw in a few twists sure to surprise even the longtime fans. The end of Book 2 has a twist that made my wife want to kick me.
[19:35] <~Dan> Heh. :)
[19:36] <+Forbeck> Just because some of the secrets of the backstory have been revealed doesn't mean there's no more room for surprises. :)
[19:36] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:36] <~Dan> Can you say if Alphas show up in the novels? Or would that be a big spoiler? :)
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[19:37] <+Forbeck> I don't think it's too big a spoiler to say that they do. In a big way.
[19:37] <~Dan> Sweet.
[19:37] <+Forbeck> One of the great things about the novels is I don't have to worry too much about the game mechanics. I can introduce alphas, for instance, without a new rules set for them.:)
[19:37] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:37] <~Dan> Heh. Good point. :)
[19:37] <+phgaw> What's your dream project? For what would you drop everything that's on your schedule?
[19:38] <+Forbeck> I'd be happy to write the next Avengers movie. :)
[19:38] <+phgaw> hah!
[19:38] <+Forbeck> Honestly, I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I do think writing for Spider-Man or maybe Star Wars would pull me away. I had to face that dilemma earlier this year actually.
[19:39] <+Forbeck> I helped set up a book deal for the people at the Leverage TV show, and the offer to write one of the novels came through after I'd started 12 for '12. I had to decide whether or not to try to cram that in.
[19:39] <+Forbeck> I'm a glutton for such things, so I said yes. It's put me a bit behind schedule for the rest of the year, but I had an absolute ball writing the book.
[19:39] <+Forbeck> It's set at Comic-Con, which made it that much more fun.
[19:39] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:39] <+HalG> Do you think there is longevity in Kickstarter?
[19:40] <+Forbeck> Yeah, I think so. In many ways, I think we're still in early days on it. Most people don't have any idea what it is, so there's a lot of room for growth.
[19:40] <+Forbeck> I think it's been remarkably free from growing pains too. We haven't seen too many projects implode spectacularly yet. Eventually something will, but even then I think Kickstarter will continue on.
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[19:41] <~Dan> (wb, Squide!)
[19:41] <+Forbeck> I plan to do more with it once 12 for '12 is done. I'll try to give my backers a brief breather first though. :)
[19:41] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:41] <+HalG> Well you are a huge supporter of it I have never seen anyone back more projects LOL
[19:41] <~Dan> Any plans to return to gaming? Or does that fall under stuff you can't talk about yet? ;)
[19:42] <+Forbeck> I haven't really left. I don't believe in burning bridges or declaring things to be over and slamming doors behind me.
[19:42] <+phgaw> And if so: Would a new BNW revision be in the cards? And if so, what would you definitley change?
[19:42] <+Forbeck> For instance, I worked on the new Marvel RPG from Margaret Weis last year, although just a bit. I also wrote a bit for the Kobold Guide to Board Game Design.
[19:43] <+Forbeck> I'll have more in the future, I'm sure. I'm even writing a Fiasco playset for my Dangerous Games trilogy of novels (thrillers set at Gen Con!).
[19:44] <+Forbeck> I don't know if I'll ever get back to BNW as a game. For one, AEG owns the game now, and paid me well for it. They'd have to be interested, and they have plenty of other projects to juggle.
[19:44] <+Forbeck> If I did return, I'd come up with a new powers-creation system. Other than that, I'd probably keep it much the same. I'd save groundbreaking new ideas for new games that fit them better rather than shoehorn them in.
[19:44] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:45] <~Dan> To expand upon my earlier question... It's been a while, but as I recall, M:tG is pretty abstract in terms of what's really "happening" with spellcasting. How did you translate tapping lands for mana, for example, into prose?
[19:45] <&Le_Squide> What's your favorite RPG to play/GM?
[19:45] <~Dan> (Question pause while Matt catches up, please.)
[19:45] <+Forbeck> I haven't played in a regular RPG campaign in years, but I always enjoyed D&D in its many incarnations. There are a lot of other gems out there too. I want to play a bit more Fiasco before I write this playset, for instance.
[19:56] <+Forbeck> Part of being a game designer is I tackle games differently from most people. I usually play a game once or twice and then move on. I'm more interested in seeing how a game works than in getting good at that particular game.
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[19:57] <+Forbeck> As for tapping lands for mana, I use that in the comic, but I don't focus on it because it's such an abstract concept. The Magic folks don't really have a set way for it to work either, so it was easier to dance around it than concentrate on it.
[19:57] <+Forbeck> That's often the solution for such troubles. It's a lot easier to avoid the sticky spots than it is to tackle them head on, especially when licensors are involved.
[19:57] <+Forbeck> Done.
[19:58] <~Dan> (Welcome, Guest05824! You can set your nick with the "/nick" command.)
[19:58] <+Forbeck> Whew. :)
[19:58] <~Dan> Matt, what's your opinion on current trends in game design? For example, I've noticed a trend in supers games becoming a lot more narrative and abstract. Thoughts?
[19:58] <~Dan> (You're doing great, Matt. :) )
[19:58] <+Forbeck> Thanks, Dan! :)
[19:59] <+Forbeck> Most indie games are heading in that direction, becoming storytelling games rather than tactical combat games. I think that's because video games do a better job at that kind of combat game. It's natural for tabletop games to move in directions that video games can't copy so well.
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[20:00] <+Forbeck> The freeform nature of tabletop games makes them idea for stories, even if they can't compete with graphics and adrenaline-pumping gameplay.
[20:00] <+Forbeck> Done.
[20:00] <~Dan> Hmm. Would you follow that trend yourself in designing a new game?
[20:01] <+Forbeck> Probably. Or if I wanted to go tactical, I'd likely go with a board game rather than an RPG masquerading as a minis game.
[20:01] <+Forbeck> I enjoy games like that. I just played Space Hulk with my eldest tonight, and it's one of my favorite games ever. It's important to know what each category's strengths are though and play (literally) to those.
[20:01] <+Forbeck> Done.
[20:01] <~Dan> See, for me, hard stats helped get me into gaming. I love knowing the "real scoop" behind people, places, and things.
[20:01] <~Dan> I don't want to be told that Galactus "can't be" or "shouldn't be" statted up, for example.
[20:02] <~Dan> How do you feel about that?
[20:02] <+Forbeck> Sure, and there's a lot of fun in that. Take a look at the new Marvel RPG for an example of how to stat out heroes and villains without going totally tactical though.
[20:02] <+phgaw> (nice save! :P)
[20:02] <~Dan> Well, I think even the Marvel RPG has a "hard cap" on attributes, doesn't it?
[20:02] <+Forbeck> You can get those stats from other sources nowadays, like the Marvel Encyclopedia or the Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe.
[20:02] <~Dan> True.
[20:02] <~Dan> But I want game stats, darnit! ;)
[20:03] <+Forbeck> It does. Every game's a compromise between all its possible versions, and we went back and forth on that spectrum a lot.
[20:03] <~Dan> Yup. And I realize that my tastes are not the end-all, be-all of the game market.
[20:03] <~Dan> As crazy at that may be. :D
[20:03] <+phgaw> Do you see a way to reconcile these extremes of tabletop games?
[20:03] <+Forbeck> When I created the Marvel Heroes Battle Dice game for Playmates Toys, for instance, I lifted the stats directly from the Marvel Handbooks. This made it a LOT easier to get them through approvals, as I could point to the handbooks and say, "See? It's all right there."
[20:04] <+Forbeck> I don't know if a game can be all things to all people. The designer needs to identify goals for the game and shoot for those. It's okay to appeal to a particular kind of gamer — as long as there are enough people like that to make for a viable product.
[20:05] <+Forbeck> D&D's a good example of a game that came close in its early days. Lots of people played it in loads of different ways. That's diminished as time's gone on, though, and now it's far more restrictive than it once was.
[20:05] <+Forbeck> Perhaps the new edition will fix that, if it can be done.
[20:05] <+Forbeck> Done.
[20:06] <~Dan> Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on the OSR "movement", and do you see it as something that will last?
[20:06] <+Forbeck> I think it will, even if only as nostalgia. There's something pure and simple about those original rules, and it's fun to try to recapture that.
[20:07] <+Forbeck> I've played those games with my kids too, and they've enjoyed them, so it's not exclusively nostalgia of course.
[20:08] <+Forbeck> It's great to see people realize that they can continue on with their favorite games even after they're no longer actively published though. The idea that a game dies when it's discontinued is silly, and it's been perpetuated by publishers who would like you to believe that so you buy their new thing instead.
[20:08] <+Forbeck> Done.
[20:08] <~Dan> (Anyone else? I don't want to "hog the mike". :) )
[20:08] <+phgaw> This is helped by easier access to publishing tools, isn't it?
[20:09] <+phgaw> With a word processor and an internet connection you can keep stuff alive longer (circulating the tapes, perhaps).
[20:09] <+Forbeck> Sure is. Anyone with a computer and some basic software can produce a game these days. It's much easier.
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[20:09] <+Forbeck> The internet also makes it easier to find people who enjoy the same things you do and to keep the game alive that way. Used to be you were restricted to your own town, but now the entire world can join in with you.
[20:10] <+Forbeck> All these new online play environments help too.
[20:10] <+Forbeck> Done.
[20:10] <~Dan> No kidding. I play almost exclusively online these days, just because it's so much easier to create and maintain a group.
[20:10] <+phgaw> If you see a copy of BNW online in the usual channels of illicit content: How do you feel about that?
[20:11] <+Forbeck> It's inevitable. I don't see the need to rail against it. As is said, the only thing worse than being pirated is not being pirated.
[20:11] <~Dan> Hmm... actually, my next question might interest BenRogers. Given the uncertainty involved with marketing a new game, what combination of Kickstarter, PDF, POD, print, cover type, color, B&W, etc., would you go with initially?
[20:11] <+Forbeck> That said, I don't encourage filesharing, and I don't engage in it myself if I can help it. Sometimes I've done it for research purposes for projects that I can't find things for any other way.
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[20:12] <+Forbeck> If you're starting out? Go with a black and white PDF and POD. Go as low-cost as you can and try to make it as cheap as possible to broaden your reach.
[20:12] <+phgaw> And related to Dan's question: Would you use a permissive license (Creative Commons, as an example)?
[20:12] <+Forbeck> Color art costs a LOT of money compared to the elements in the game. I love it, but it's not cheap.
[20:12] <+Forbeck> If you run a Kickstarter, though, make color art a stretch goal. Then you cover the costs fine.
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[20:13] <+Forbeck> POD and PDF tech means zero inventory control problems, though, and I've seen that sink many a publisher in the past. Try to not get caught up in that guessing game if you can avoid ti.
[20:13] <~Dan> (Howdy, Wondy! Q&A with Matt Forbeck in progress.)
[20:13] <+BenRogers> Is it better to have a beautiful product (lots of great art) or a well marketed product (average to good art, but wider reach) for success, in your opinion?
[20:13] <+Forbeck> Would I use a CC? It depends on the project. I took part in a Crucible of the Realms podcast, for instance, in which we released the world we riffed up together under a free CC license.
[20:14] <+Forbeck> Most times it's just easier to keep the rights yourself, but again, it depends on the project and what you want to do with it.
[20:14] <+Forbeck> I think marketing means a lot, but if you have a bad product, you don't have anything to really market. Good marketing can't save a bad game, and honestly, great art is marketing in and of itself. Little beats a fantastic cover for marketing.
[20:15] <+BenRogers> What about the internals?  I agree on the cover and *select* images--but where do you draw the line?  or do you?
[20:15] <+Forbeck> Best money we ever spent on Deadlands at Pinnacle was for that Brom cover. It was pricey, but it was worth every penny.
[20:15] <+BenRogers> I have to agree, that cover was beautiful. :)
[20:15] <+Forbeck> I usually go for high-quality art and less of it over more, lesser art. The game looks far more professional that way.
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[20:15] <+Forbeck> Also a decent layout artist can make the game look great, even if you skimp a bit on the art.
[20:16] <+Forbeck> Sink some money into that before you spend a ton on the rest of the graphics.
[20:16] <~Dan> A good point. Art for art's sake is never a good idea, IMO.
[20:16] <~Dan> (I have another marketing-related question when you're ready, Matt.)
[20:16] <+Forbeck> Sure. Shoot!
[20:16] <+Adam_Kadmon> For>I will say the Stone cover certainly was a shot in the arm. Made it pop off of the shelves.
[20:17] <~Dan> Okay. Currently, I work for a market research company, and I can't help but wonder how, if at all, that field is used in gaming for anyone beyond the big boys like WotC. (more)
[20:17] <+Forbeck> Yeah, that and the flame orange trade dress in that sea of black books really grabbed people's attention.
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[20:17] <~Dan> If you're introducing a new RPG, do you do any market research, or is it pretty much always a leap of faith?
[20:17] <+Forbeck> It's not. No one can afford it outside of Wizards.
[20:18] <+Forbeck> It has to be a leap of faith. Market research is notoriously bad for predicting hits in the creative fields anyhow. If it was a perfect science, we'd never have flop films, for instance.
[20:18] <~Dan> Fair point.
[20:18] <+Forbeck> Fact is no one knows what will catch fire and be a hit. We all just take our best guesses, line up our best shots, and hope for the best.
[20:18] <~Dan> Heh. That's pretty much what I thought, but I wasn't sure.
[20:19] <+Forbeck> That's not to say it's useless for pointing out potential problems, but it's far from a magic bullet.
[20:19] <+Forbeck> Wizards actually focus grouped the first novel I wrote for them.
[20:19] <+phgaw> so, gaming in all forms is a "hit driven industry"?
[20:19] <+Forbeck> Secret of the Spiritkeeper, their first YA book. That's part of the Hasbro heritage infecting them, I think.
[20:20] <+nick3> not really phgaw, but strictly a personal opinion
[20:20] <+Forbeck> All entertainment is hit driven these days. On one side we have large producers, and on the other we have hobbyist/artists. You see this in film, music, novels, video games. The gap between the hits and the indies grows every year.
[20:21] <+Forbeck> There's little room in the middle any more. But that's okay. You can make a living on the lower end, but you just won't have the same reach unless you find a fluke hit.
[20:21] <+Forbeck> Then the larger companies will often dive in and fight to see who can show you to the top.
[20:22] <+Forbeck> Done.
[20:22] <~Dan> I don't think anyone's asked this directly yet, so... do you have any games coming up? :)
[20:22] <+Forbeck> I have the Fiasco playset I'm writing for my Dangerous Games trilogy, and I have a few other things I'm looking at. Nothing for sure yet.
[20:23] <+Forbeck> I get asked to pitch games all the time, and I have a standing invitation with many publishers. It's a matter of finding time.
[20:23] <~Dan> Really? That's pretty impressive. So they basically tell you that if you come up with a game, they'll publish it?
[20:23] <+Forbeck> It's hard to make a living on RPGs, which is why I mostly did collectible games over the past several years. That market's shrunk down a lot too. Only a few designers working in that field that aren't in-house.
[20:24] <+Forbeck> They tell me they'd love to see anything I might want to pitch them. If they like it, they'll publish it. Given the relationships, there's a good chance it would happen, but it's never a guarantee.
[20:24] <~Dan> Ah, gotcha.
[20:24] <+Forbeck> I could come up with some crazed RPG that mixes Cthulhu with the songs of Janis Joplin, for instance, and I think that would be a hard sell. ;)
[20:24] <+phgaw> :(
[20:24] <&Le_Squide> I dunno, Janis Joplin moves units
[20:25] <+Forbeck> Damn. Did I type that out loud?
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[20:25] <+Forbeck> My kids encourage me to get back to it. Every year at Gen Con I think I will. I just have to find some time to tinker. Given 12 for '12, it won't be this year.
[20:25] <+Forbeck> Hard to make money writing short stories, too, although I do a few of those every year it seems.
[20:26] <+Forbeck> For RPGs, my needs are beyond most publishers' budgets. I'm considering board games, card games, etc., though, that are a bit less of a commitment. They can take a long time to design, but once you're done, that's usually it — unless it's a hit, of course.
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[20:27] <+Forbeck> If I did another RPG, I'd probably self-publish, and I'd probably keep it smaller because of that.
[20:27] <+BenRogers> Do you have an opinion on a genre that sells better than others? I ask because we have six realms and are still debating the order of release.
[20:27] <+Forbeck> Fantasy traditionally outsells everything else. It's also the starter genre for every hit category in the past forty years.
[20:27] <+Forbeck> Doesn't have to be straight fantasy, but it needs to be recognizable as such.
[20:28] <+BenRogers> Do you categorize "sci-fantasy" as "fantasy" or "sci-fi"?
[20:28] <+Forbeck> I think most people recognize that as SF, much in the way that they'd put Star Wars into that category.
[20:28] <~Dan> I agree, for whatever that's worth.
[20:28] <+nick3> genre dicussion alway fun
[20:28] <+BenRogers> I agree, just wnated your perspective
[20:28] <+Forbeck> Still, it's up to you how you want to position your launch. Fantasy tends to have the broadest appeal though.
[20:29] <~Dan> Even given the market saturation?
[20:29] <+nick3> like being in a room with your favorite music turn up to ear bleeding loud
[20:29] <+Forbeck> Which market? RPGs? The market's been saturated since D&D. Nothing comes close to it. All other games stand in its shadow.
[20:29] <~Dan> Well, I mean the fantasy RPG market, specifically.
[20:30] <+BenRogers> If I can toss in some info, we're planning to release a "Dark Desert Fantasy" followed by a more traditional fantasy, then a Steampunk/Sci-fi.
[20:30] <+Forbeck> Being different from D&D is a valid marketing position though, and it's stood many companies well.
[20:30] <~Dan> If your goal were to sell well, would you design a "standard" high fantasy game, or fantasy with a twist, like, say, Iron Kingdoms?
[20:30] <+Forbeck> I think Dark Desert Fantasy can find a market. There's the whole Al-Qadim setting, for instance, that Wizards hasn't gone back to much.
[20:30] <+BenRogers> ...not to mention Dark Sun.
[20:31] <+Forbeck> I'd do something with a twist. There's no use saying, "I'm like D&D but better." Even if you are, those people playing that game already have their vanilla fantasy fix.
[20:31] <+Forbeck> For instance, I'd do something like the setting for my Shotguns & Sorcery novels, which was originally a d20 setting I'd planned to release.
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[20:32] <+Forbeck> Selling well is a relative thing too. You can sell well enough to make a living without making a hit. If you want a real hit, you need to concoct a whole new category, like RPG or CCG. We don't see those too often though.
[20:32] <+BenRogers> Eberron seemed like a perfect "D&D with a twist" setting.
[20:32] <~Dan> Oooo... What was that going to be like? (Shotguns & Sorcery, I mean.)
[20:32] <+Forbeck> Right, although Wizards didn't support that well with 4E.
[20:33] <+Forbeck> I ran a Kickstarter for the S&S books. You can find it here: (Link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forbeck/12-for-12-20-shotguns-and-sorcery-novels)http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forbeck/12-for-12-20-shotguns-and-sorcery-novels
[20:33] <+willows> What makes you say that? It seemed like 4e was built from the ground-up as an Eberron-style kitchen sink system
[20:33] <+Forbeck> Think of the 1920s or so, but with magic replacing lots of that era's tech. Wands and guns and enchanted pistols side by side.
[20:33] <+willows> Almost as if it were -intended- to mesh with the setting's kitchen sink attitude
[20:33] <~Dan> Sounds a bit like Cast a Deadly Spell.
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[20:34] <~Dan> Wheee.
[20:34] <+Forbeck> Well, that was interesting. :)
[20:34] <+Forbeck> Anyhow.
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[20:35] <~Dan> As I was saying: Sounds like Cast a Deadly Spell. :)
[20:35] <+Forbeck> The books are set in Dragon City, a place in which the Dragon Emperor rules by virtue of a pact to protect the people from the hordes of undead that scratch endlessly at the city's walls.
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[20:35] <+Forbeck> It's more Tolkien than Chandler, but yeah, Cast a Deadly Spell's on that continuum.
[20:35] <~Dan> A bit like Unhallowed Metropolis, too.
[20:36] <~Dan> (The city under undead siege bit, at any rate.)
[20:36] <+Forbeck> You can read one of my stories in it for free here: (Link: http://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/99365/Goblintown-Justice?term=goblintown)http://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/99365/Goblintown-Justice?term=goblintown
[20:36] <~Dan> Cool. :)
[20:37] <+Forbeck> I like to think of it as a place in which magic's been around long enough that we've built sophisticated cities around it. In that sense, it's a bit like Eberron too.
[20:37] * ~Dan nods
[20:37] <~Dan> As an aside, have you seen Weird Adventures?
[20:37] <+Forbeck> I concocted it and sold it to Mongoose back in 2001, then had to abandon it when my wife became pregnant with quadruplets. Just not enough time.
[20:37] <+Forbeck> Which ones are the Weird Adventures?
[20:38] <+Forbeck> Looking at it now. Google is my friend.
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[20:38] <~Dan> It's a systemless setting. 1930s pulp mixed with fantasy. Hillbilly ogres packing shotguns and brewing moonshine, for example.
[20:38] <+Forbeck> There's some of that flavor in it too, although the conceit of Dragon City gives it a bit of a sharper edge.
[20:38] <~Dan> Gotcha.
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[20:53] <+Forbeck> I have the first novel in that going out to backers this week or the next. I'll release it to the public soon after.
[20:54] <+Forbeck> Also people who got in on Reaper's huge Kickstarter get a free copy of the first book as part of the Vampire package too.
[20:54] <~Dan> Well, let's see... We've got just over 5 minutes left in "regular" Q&A time. Anything you'd like to bring up that hasn't been addressed, Matt?
[20:54] <~Dan> (And as I said, you're welcome to hang out and answer questions as long as you like.)
[20:54] <+Forbeck> Um, that's been a lot. If you like what you've seen from me before, I urge you to check out my latest Kickstarter for Monster Academy. (Link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forbeck/12-for-12-40-monster-academy-novels)http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/forbeck/12-for-12-40-monster-academy-novels
[20:55] <+Forbeck> It's a trilogy of YA fantasy novels in which the good guys won and set up a reform school for young monsters that haven't proven themselves to be evil — yet.
[20:55] <+Forbeck> Even if you don't back it, just spreading the word helps, and I appreciate every bit of that.
[20:56] <+Forbeck> Kickstarter's been very good to me so far.
[20:56] <~Dan> Glad to hear that. :)
[20:56] <+Forbeck> I can hang out a bit longer, but I ought to tuck my kids into bed before too long. :)
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[20:57] <+BenRogers> On a more personal note, how many kiddos?
[20:57] <~Dan> Welcome to #rpgnet, Mixmaster!
[20:57] <+Forbeck> I have five kids. My eldest is 13, and we have quadruplets who are 10. :)
[20:57] <+BenRogers> I saw that you mentioned that earlier.  That must've been quite a change in lifestyle!
[20:57] <+phgaw> woah
[20:58] <+Forbeck> When people ask me how I can work so hard, I point to my kids. :)
[20:58] <~Dan> Awwwww. :)
[20:58] <+BenRogers> When people ask me about my retirement, I point to mine... ;)
[20:58] <+Forbeck> Nothing can be harder than that first year with the quads, but we had a lot of help. 30-35 people volunteered and came into our house every week that year.
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[20:58] <+phgaw> :)
[20:59] <+Forbeck> They were wonderful, and I don't know how we we would have made it without them. The kids are a LOT easier to deal with these days. And so much fun.
[20:59] <~Dan> Okay, on that high note, I'd like to thank Matt for his time! Very informative chat, Matt!
[20:59] <+Forbeck> Thanks for having me, Dan. I truly appreciate it.
[20:59] <~Dan> (Again, not trying to rush you off or anything. :) )
[20:59] <+Ettin> Man where was my hello Dan, you are LOSING YOUR TOUCH
[20:59] <+Ettin> (I am kidding)
[20:59] <+phgaw> indeed, lots learned here.
[20:59] <+Forbeck> No worries. After this, if anyone has questions, you can always reach me at matt@forbeck.com or follow me on Twitter @mforbeck.
[20:59] <~Dan> Heh. Sorry, Ettin. :)
[20:59] <+BenRogers> Thanks for all your excellent information, Matt.  I really appreciated it.
[21:00] <+Forbeck> Anytime, Ben! Good luck with your game.
[21:00] <~Dan> Matt, I do hope you know you're welcome to hang out here anytime you like. :)
[21:00] <~Dan> That goes for the rest of you who just stopped by for the Q&A as well. :)
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[21:00] <+Forbeck> I'd like that. Thanks! I don't have a lot of spare time these days, but feel free to prod me when you like too. :)
[21:00] <+phgaw> Forbeck: Done! Careful what you wish for... *Twitter stalks*
[21:00] <~Dan> I'll take you up on that. :)
[21:01] <~Dan> As always, a log of the chat will be posted on my blog.
[21:01] <~Dan> I'll give you the link once it's up, Matt.
[21:01] <+Forbeck> I'm good about saying no when I need to, and I'm sure y'all won't be offended if so. I try to be polite.
[21:01] <~Dan> Certainly!
[21:01] <+Forbeck> Thanks, Dan! I'll be sure to post that on my site too.

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