Master Mines

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Seiyuu: Developer Call #1

As some of you may or may not know, Leonard Balsera (the “teflon brain” of Evil Hat Productions) has agreed to be my developer for Seiyuu. (Hurray!) What I was looking for was someone who had enough interest in the game that they could keep motivating me to work on it, who could discuss mechanical issues I was having (a weak point of mine), and who had enough general knowledge of anime that I wouldn’t constantly be explaining things. Lenny brings all of that, in spades.

We haven’t worked out all the details yet, but mostly this boils down to right now is two things:

  1. General ass-kicking for me to work on the game.
  2. Weekly(ish) Skype call to discuss current status and work through outstanding issues.

Last night was the first “Seiyuu developer call” (or SDC, as Perrin might call it), and it went really well. I was left with the following “homework”:

  1. Define a “mission statement” for the game – what I really want the game to be like.
  2. Finish breaking down the game into discrete concepts (using the “Roby method”) – this was half-complete as of last night.
  3. Take the resulting “outline” and reduce it to one (“the Lenny version”) that just handles the procedure of play.

I will attempt to make quick updates here either before each call, detailing what I’ve done, or after, summarizing where I’m going now.

June 25, 2008 Posted by | Seiyuu | 2 Comments

Seiyuu: Update

I spent an hour and a half breaking the game last Wednesday, using the Joshua Bishop-Roby’s method that Daniel Solis used for Do. I have a half-finished post sitting in my Inbox, but other things keep getting in the way. Hopefully, I’ll post something soon – at least something after I finish breaking the game.

I’ve been trying to schedule a playstorming session with some of the locals, but summer is turning out to be incredibly difficult for many of us. Work is crushing me, Andy is in a similar situation and has two projects with final edits due by the end of June, and others are on vacation or have tough schedules to coordinate. I’m going to keep trying, but I’m lowering my expectation to get significant playstorming or -testing done prior to GenCon.

That said, I’m now focusing on having a fully playable draft for GenCon, and I’m looking to collect commitments from any and all to participate in playtest sessions at GenCon. I have a separate post on my design blog (xposted to LiveJournal) soliticing commitments, so please sign up there, if you’re interested.

I wish I had more and better to report, but that’s where I am right now. I’m thrilled to hear about everyone else’s progress, though, and I understand that Mythender is being released at the end of this week. Maybe Ryan can explain the need for the name change to Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition? 🙂

June 3, 2008 Posted by | News & Updates, Seiyuu | 4 Comments

Greatly Exaggerated

Just a quick ping to say I’m still alive and kicking, but largely buried by work and life. In order to put myself on a bit of deadline, I’ve scheduled a playstorming session for Memorial Day weekend. Even if it gets postponed, it should only be by a week or two, so I’ll still have to get some work done.

As I get actual work done on the game or have design questions requiring feedback, I’ll be sure to post here.

May 14, 2008 Posted by | Seiyuu | | Leave a comment

Seiyuu: The Real Big Three (Plus One)

Crossposted from Ready, Fire, Aim!

Anyone who knows me well knows I can be…verbose. It should come as no surprise that I’ve traditionally found this questionnaire difficult, as I want to explain every nook and cranny of my design idea.

Screw that. Here are my answers.

1) What is your game about?

Anime. Slight unpacking: experiencing your own anime show.

Edit: Fred has already Luke Crane’d me on this one. Answer: Change. The game is about telling stories about characters who change over the course of the story and which reach some sort of closure. Or to put it in a more D&D way: build character, change character, build plot, pay off plot.

Edit the Second: Fred continues to kick my ass. *sigh* This is why I hate this questionnaire. I suspect it would be easier to answer for almost any other game.
It’s about voicing characters in an anime. Although, to be fair, that part of things is the diciest right now; I fear for its implementation.

Edit the Third: Now Fred’s just doing it for me. Can you tell I hate this question? “It’s about casting and creating an anime show — with the players as the voice talent and writing staff rolled into one, as agents that uphold what excites them about the possibilities of anime entertainments.” (slight edit for clarification)
In my own defense, my original “slightly unpacked” answer gets at this…just not with the verbosity of Fred’s answer.

2) How is your game about that?

Conventions. Participants choose elements (genres, characters, and tropes) appropriate for an anime. They then play through a number of episodes, which have a central issue to be resolved at the end of the show. Along the way, the players try to resolve their characters’ own personal issues. If this sounds like PTA, it is – with a bit more crunch.

3) How does your game reward or encourage that behavior?

Incentive. Bringing in your character’s facets and the show’s features gives players valuable resources, but subjects them to input from other players. This allows them to win conflicts, but they still have to choose between further the aims of their character or the current plot facing them. Also, players can even get resources by playing a supporting character in scenes where their main character isn’t active.

+1) How do you make that fun?

Choices. There’s a lot of creative constraint during series and character creation, to help focus players. During play, they choose what scenes they want, how to approach conflicts, what is advanced by their successes, and how their characters change, with a little input from others.

Feel free to question or deconstruct.

April 28, 2008 Posted by | Seiyuu | 6 Comments

Seiyuu: The Big Three

Crossposted from Ready, Fire, Aim!

What is your game about?

Seiyuu is about anime – Japanese animation – where the players take on the role of seiyuu or voice actors. Each player speaks for one main character and possibly additional supporting characters, as those characters journey through the story of the movie, OAV (Original Animated Video), or full anime series defined during the first session.

What do the characters do?

The characters strive to resolve their issues – goals, motivations, or other factors that drive them through the story – as well as attempt to answer the central question of the show, the premise. Successful characters are likely to gain the closure they desire for their issues, as well as possibly reach a happy (for them, at least) ending.

What do the players do?

Each player controls the action of one main character and may control the actions of supporting characters over the course of play. Each player is striving not only to resolve their main character’s issues satisfactorily but also control who gets the final word on that resolution. Equally, players are trying to resolve the premise of the show, as a group, and define its resolution, as individuals.

These may sound a bit lame, and that’s to be expected – the Big Three are harder to answer for a generic game than a specific one. (I’d love to read Matt Wilson’s answers for Primetime Adventures, the single biggest influence on Seiyuu.) However, I feel pretty good about the grasp I have of what I’m trying to accomplish, as will hopefully become apparent in upcoming posts.

Please feel free to criticize or deconstruct my answers or ask follow-up questions.

April 6, 2008 Posted by | Seiyuu | 10 Comments

It’s All About Me

Wow, Rich is a tough act to follow. Here goes!

The Basics

My name is Matthew Gandy. I’ve been watching the MM site on and off since shortly after GenCon, but I haven’t been in a position to jump in until now (more on that below).

I’m a 34-year-old software tester for a Yellow Pages publisher, and I currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I have a Master’s degree in LIberal Arts, which is really only useful for stuff outside of work, but all of my technical knowledge is self-taught. As I’m fond of telling my coworkers, I know just enough to be dangerous.

My Stress

At work, we are in the middle of a massive software release, and the company I work for has lost over 90% of its stock value in the last year, due to the economy and industry-wide problems. This translates less into worry for job security and more into realization that we have a lot of work to do in the next few months and no additional resources with which to do it.

Also, I am in the last few months of an amicable separation, leading to a divorce in July. I mention this not for sympathy, but because this and work are the two largest drains on my time and energy for the next few months. This is my stress.

Me and You

I’m a big fan of audio in general, and podcasts in particular. As such, I’ve listened to Have Games, Will Travel since GenCon ’06, the Sons of Kryos for slightly longer, and more recently Canon Puncture and Master Plan. Indie Insurgency is in my queue, but I haven’t gotten to it yet, and I’ve a long backlog of Theory from the Closet. I’m hoping to start my own podcast on anime in the coming months.

I got to meet both Paul and Jeff Lower at that GenCon, although I don’t think I’ve roleplayed with either. (I did play Bang! with Paul.) Also at GenCon ’06 I had one of the most painful dinner conversations I’ve ever experienced – with Clyde. (I am so sorry, Clyde; next time, let’s talk about games and not personal politics!) I think I’ve gamed with Rob at some point; I know we talked about early MY mechanics at Dreamation ’07. At GenCon ’07 Chris convinced me to let him playtest Seiyuu with Andy Kitkowski and Lenny Balsera, and it was the longest and most in-depth playtest of the game to date.

Chris and Ryan are also on my Gmail list. Since this is the only effective way for me to IM while at work, feel free to drop me a line or chat there – my handle on Gmail and LJ is semioticity.

My Gaming Pedigree

I started with D&D as a wee lad, before my parents forbade it, not for worries of demonic sacrifice, but because it was eating up too much of my time, even as a preteen. I came back to gaming a few years later via the Palladium line: TMNT, Beyond the Supernatural, and Robotech.

I’ve been gaming with Fred Hicks since junior high, and he got me started on Champions and later GURPS Supers. I wasn’t even a comic-book fan at that point – the game got me into comics, rather than the other way around. We lost touch during college and reconnected about five years ago.

In the meantime, I went the whole White Wolf route for most of the 90s, before I discovered I didn’t actually like vampires that much. My trad gaming culminated with Exalted, after which I broke up my dysfunctional gaming group and didn’t play anything consistently for about two years. During that time, I found indie games, and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve played two MMOs for the past few years – City of Heroes and World of Warcraft – and they’ve eaten a lot of my time. WoW is why I didn’t try to join MM earlier – I was in a raiding guild until last week and very busy for the past six months or so. I blame my lack of enthusiasm for trad games on WoW – when I sit down to play, I want a storytelling experience. If I want a tactical RPG experience, I can play WoW.

After GenCon ’06 I decided I wanted to be more involved in the local gaming scene, especially as the Durham 3 hail from the city next door. There are a lot of excellent gamers in the area, and I’ve had the opportunity to game with most of them now. My only regular tabletop group is run by Andy Kitkowski, but I’m about to start another one, as well as get in some Skype gaming with Ryan and Lenny.

My Play Style

What I look for in most games now is the chance to make interesting choices, usually through the medium of a character. I’ve spent so much of my life GMing that I’m trying to (re)learn how to be a decent player. (Ask Andy how I’m doing on that front.) I think gaming can be therapy as much as escapism, but I don’t tend to connect my personal life or ideology to my characters as much as I just try to play them as honestly as possible. I dislike just playing through an environment – I want to get straight to the juicy bits: character interaction and conflict. Everything doesn’t have to be conflict, but I don’t want to feel like I’m in a computer adventure game, exhausting the dialogue options with the NPCs or waiting for the next cutscene.

My Game: Seiyuu

I am a gigantic fan of anime, which is why my game is about just that. “Seiyuu” is the Japanese word for voice actor, and in the game, you create an anime show (movie, OAV, or series), create the characters, and play through the story.

I haven’t addressed the Big Three with this game in more than a year; I might do so again soon. I’m hoping to have a very rough playtest draft ready in a week or so. As soon as I do, expect to see it posted.

Most of what I am looking for from other Master Miners is help with mechanics and structural problems. I know what I want out of the game, but I am very weak on designing mechanics, so I will be looking for ideas and suggestions to solve those sorts of problems with my game.

Currently, the game uses one deck of regular playing cards for all resolution mechanics, and most other elements of the game are tracked on index cards.

I anticipate the final product will be half game mechanics, so you can play the game, and half discussion of all the various intricacies and conventions of anime, so players have a big box of tools to build any anime they might want.

My Contributions

What I tend to bring to the table in terms of comments are conceptual and linguistic concerns. I worry when folks don’t have a solid sense of what they want out of their game or seem to be unsure about what their game offers players, as well as nitpicky focus on the naming of things. I think it’s important; feel free to tell me I’m wrong.

I try to be careful about how I post (again, linguistic concerns), because I am always trying to present constructive criticism. I’m fairly tough-minded, so don’t pull your punches with me, but if I’m not pulling them with you and it’s an issue, just let me know.

See you in the Mines!

April 6, 2008 Posted by | Seiyuu | | 4 Comments