Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Why the Rush to GenCon?

I think this might be worth dialoging about. Here are my thoughts.

GenCon is arguably the biggest gaming convention of the year. Having a new game there means a huge amount of exposure and possible sales.

However, I think it’s easy for any given product to get lost in the sea of new products. Even if you’re running demos at your booth (Ashcan Front, Play Collective, Forge/IPR, whatever), it’s still hard to grab people and translate that into sales.

And are sales even what we’re aiming for? I know that there are folks, like Paul Czege, who are more interested in purchases translating into actual play than purchases translating into profit or fame. I know I’m not doing this for money – or even fame. (I’ll detail my reasons along with my alternate Big Three Questions post.)

Assuming things kick into high gear, the earliest I’d consider releasing Seiyuu would be Dreamation 2009. I think, if you want to aim for a convention for release, Dreamation is actually better – there’s a lot of indie presence there, especially via the IPR booth. I realize this doesn’t work well for west coast folks, but I suspect there is something similar – doesn’t Endgame have something?

Even if Dreamation 2009 doesn’t work out, I’m not just considering a convention for my release schedule. Just look at Spirit of the Century – it came out a few months after GenCon and had no real convention tie-in.

How do the rest of you view a GenCon release or aiming your release for a major convention?

April 10, 2008 - Posted by | General Advice & Thoughts, Goals, Group Feedback


  1. Gen Con is the Holy Grail, but then again I am aiming for a different publishing strategy than you.

    Personally I feel this recent trend towards making you feel guilty or bad if you want to have your game out by Gen Con is bullshit. It’s a good goal to have, especially if you are a deadline-oriented person. Should you rush? No. Should you strive for GC? Hell yeah.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | April 10, 2008 | Reply

  2. Deadlines can be helpful, as Daniel says. Yes, you shouldn’t rush to get to Gen Con, but the phrase “Gen Con” shouldn’t be an immediate cause for suspicion.

    I want to put the game out at Gen Con because I’ll see more game designers there than at any other time, including Dreamation. I want this thing to be as widely distributed as possible so I can get a somewhat-increased chance of having the game played.

    Also, it’s a deadline. Deadlines are helpful (to me). I’ve said that already but it bears repeating. Often.

    Comment by robertbohl | April 10, 2008 | Reply

  3. Also, it’s a deadline. Deadlines are helpful (to me). I’ve said that already but it bears repeating. Often.

    I work this way too. What are your intermediate deadlines?

    Comment by ptevis | April 10, 2008 | Reply

  4. Right now? Have a first draft by the end of April. Which will probably wind up being May.

    Comment by robertbohl | April 10, 2008 | Reply

  5. Sure. And then what deadlines between the first draft and the ashcan?

    Comment by ptevis | April 10, 2008 | Reply

  6. Concurrently to the writing, we need to get the cover and the small black-and-white “icons” that I’m going to use to button up the end of each article/chapter done. Then there’s editing, playtests, and layout (which I’m doing myself). I want to try to get all of that done by mid-July, which means the end of April for first draft is really a needed deadline.

    Note, as I’ve said over and over again, if it’s not ready by Gen Con I’m not going to rush it and make it suck for Gen Con.

    Comment by robertbohl | April 10, 2008 | Reply

  7. I don’t think that rushing to GenCon is a good idea. I don’t think saying that is bullshit.

    Contrast the above with: I do think that a deadline of GenCon isn’t a bad idea.

    It’s a fine distinction, but I think it’s an important one to make, because I would bet that I’m not the only one saying “don’t rush to GenCon” out there, with it being taken as “a GenCon deadline is dumb” — and if that’s the case, the listener is making assumptions about the message that aren’t accurate.

    To break it down:

    Deadlines work, but they have to be REASONABLE to work. Set yourself an unreasonable deadline and you’ll guarantee yourself disappointment, guilt, and stress. All of these things are absolutely deadly to a creative endeavor. They’re what turns something creative into a chore.

    Too many people, too many companies, select GenCon as a deadline artificially, rather than as something that fits with the reasonable deadlines they’d set for themselves independent of the event. When a GenCon deadline is misused in this fashion, it doesn’t get us good products!

    Sometimes you set a deadline and then realize halfway to getting to it that it wasn’t as reasonable as you thought it was. You also have to prevent GenCon from blinding you to this realization. Be honest with yourself. When deadlines HAVE to be slipped, SLIP THEM.

    But GenCon is a big audience, and as someone who is promoting the work you’re creating, I don’t think that audience can, nor should, be ignored. Have something new to say. Have a playtest demo to run. Hook into the community-at-large and make something of it. Give them something to talk about, something to go home with, something to build a targeted audience for your product when it DOES arrive. (Witness Evil Hat’s ongoing efforts to keep interest and confidence in the Dresden Files RPG alive even though we keep missing our time-targets.)

    If you have the actual product for them — if it’s reasonable to produce it by then — great! But don’t kill yourself to make it happen; don’t sap the joy out of your project in the name of the GenCon rush.

    That’s all I’m saying here. Deadlines can create good stress (eustress) or bad stress (distress). Usually that’s 100% due to whether or not the deadline was well-selected. Ditch the distress reasons, whenever possible. Stay healthy.

    Comment by fredhicks | April 11, 2008 | Reply

  8. Thanks, Fred. That exactly sums up my feelings on the matter.

    Comment by robertbohl | April 11, 2008 | Reply

  9. I think Fred hit most of my concerns. From my own perspective, I think that it’s too late for most of us to expect a finished product by GenCon. I think it may be too late for an ashcan – there are only 17 weeks left until GenCon.

    For those who think I’m wrong, I would just say: figure out a schedule, and see if it’s reasonable. If there are 17 weeks until GenCon, what have you been able to accomplish in the *last* 17 weeks. (I realize this may be an apples-to-orange comparison, but I think it’s worth considering.)

    As for the “GenCon sucks” vibe, that’s not what I was getting at either. I guess my point is this: if you go to GenCon unprepared, that’s what folks will remember. If you don’t go because you’re not prepared, no harm, no foul. And I don’t think it’s worth trading a GenCon release for a rushed production schedule.

    Comment by Matthew Gandy | April 11, 2008 | Reply

  10. Thanks for that long clarification, Fred. I never thought YOU were saying that, but the feeling is certainly out there, and I think it’s good to explain what the nuance between those two sentences is.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | April 11, 2008 | Reply

  11. Matt, it was around a month from now last year that I decided to do Know Thyself as an ashcan. The time & labor was murderous, causing me to miss my own birthday party & stress every day for nearly a month while I was rushing to get it done. It honestly sapped my joy from the game, and I put out a mediocre ashcan as a result.

    Last year, when I interviewed Matt & Paul about the ‘Front, I asked them if this might create a vibe to rush an ashcan to GenCon. To my disappointment, they said they hoped so (though, for monetary reasons as the booth had few people). So that’s why I figured it was okay to rush for mine. Ya’ll have seen the result, both product-wise and the impact it’s had on me.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | April 14, 2008 | Reply

  12. Ryan,

    How long had you been working on Know Thyself before you started writing it in May? How done were the rules, how many playtests, etc.?

    Comment by robertbohl | April 14, 2008 | Reply

  13. A half-dozen playtests at that point, when I started writing. I thought the rules were more done than they were when I started — through the writing process, I uncovered problems that I hadn’t anticipated during design, being my first design and all.

    And again, I was shooting for just an ashcan at GenCon, not a “full text.” So, having that in mind caused me to forgive things that I wouldn’t forgive today (i.e. I’ll never again say “it’s okay, this is an ashcan.”)

    I had the design from March. I spent around the same amount of time that Paul had for Penny.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | April 14, 2008 | Reply

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