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Emmett Plant Talks About the Paper-Based RPG Game Business (Video)

emmett Re:I like 'em, but... (64 comments)

This whole interview seems extremely premature. There is no website, no product, no details. And by no details, I mean, even the basic research needed for a business owner seems missing.

As mentioned earlier, I was only comfortable doing the interview before there were products available. I used to write for Slashdot, so I didn't want to create a scenario in which it looked like people were being encouraged to buy stuff from my company because I'm an old friend of the family. When the first products come online, you can rest assured that I won't agree to Slashdot coverage.

What about things like drivethrurpg.com? Fiasco? Fate? You sound like you aren't even aware of what is out there.. What do you play? What do your people play?

We intend to release through Drive-Thru RPG. I play d20 Modern, D&D 3.5, Paranoia, Star Wars d6 (West End Games). Our writers play way more systems (and considerably more often) than I do, but they have a lot more interest in D&D Next, Pathfinder, 13th Age... What I play and what I like isn't terribly relevant (and producing games for dead systems that I like would be the definition of a terrible business plan). I'm good at the business side of things -- Managing people, managing money, investing in products. I'm not a world-class RPG author or even a notable figure in that universe, but one of the consistent problems we've seen with great independent games is that fantastic RPG authors and writers aren't necessarily savvy when it comes to the boring side of building and maintaining a business. They're really good at helping you and your friends have a good time, so my job is to back them up with solid talent to help them do that, and take care of the boring stuff. In a lot of cases, these authors don't have time to focus on business as writing RPG stuff happens in their spare time and isn't their primary means of income. Some are simply insanely bored by the business side of things, so their interest in handling that stuff is roughly on par with cleaning the litterbox.

What kind of games do you want to make? Pet genre's? What important niche will you fill? What is the hole in the indie gaming industry that you are planning to fill?

These are just a few basic questions I expect you would have to have good answers for in order to seriously try to startup a gaming company.

Frankly, you may have great answers for all of these, but based on the video, there is no indication of it. It sounds like a lot of general conjecture and posturing.

Sorry if it isn't.. But you DID have a video posted to a public forum.

This was a quick-and-dirty interview that took place in my backyard -- It wasn't intended to serve as a line-by-line description of exactly what we're doing, our specific goals for products we intend to introduce, how we intend to market them and how we're going to pay for everything. I understand that this kind of information is craved by a certain percentage of people (and I'm happy to share), but this simply wasn't the best venue for that. I could probably spend a solid hour talking about royalties and how it's set up for products we intend to sell. Interesting to me? Sure. To our authors? Definitely. To everyone reading Slashdot? Extraordinarily unlikely.

The kind of games we produce has a little to do with me, but it has a lot to do with our authors. They're not just writing the games they want to write, they're also actively on the lookout for cool games written by other authors interested in having them produced. Realistically, a lot of our folks have been writing RPGs for a very long time, and while we do pay higher-than-average rates the average rates border on the laughable. For anyone to be writing this stuff in the first place, they have to be interested by it, they have to be excited by it. Enthusiasm matters.

For instance, Rob Alpizar was interested in writing an adventure that's tentatively-titled 'Burning Down The House.' I liked it, and I thought it was fun. He wrote it, I bought it. The backstory for the single adventure is something that Rob's been working on for years. 'Burning Down The House' is a classic D&D one-shot adventure, and there are a lot of interesting decisions that the players will encounter that direct the adventure's conclusion. These choices are not good-vs-evil stark decisions, they live in the grey between. I was so happy at how 'Burning Down The House' came out that I asked Rob if he could dial back to an earlier period in his world's history and write us another one-shot. This one is actually far less tragic than 'Burning Down The House,' and he's working on it now.

The 'type of game' is very difficult to answer with these two products. They're both D&D, they're both high fantasy. One is somewhat dark, and the other is lighter. Neither are full-scale dungeon crawls. They're neither hack-and-slash combat-heavy or puzzle-based brain-teasers. A lot of people absolutely hate Paranoia. Some people believe that the system itself is too dark, that the system is unforgiving. These things are true in some cases. I can tell you that I can distinctly remember laughing so hard during a Paranoia game that I saw spots in front of my eyes. If you try to dial down the question of 'niche' too hard, you're invariably going to run aground.

I could send out an E-mail today telling our authors that I don't want to see any steampunk or pirates. Not long after they told me to get bent, I'd probably see an outline for a fun steampunk pirate adventure. I have zero doubts that they would collude to actively fuck with me. I could lay down the law and say, 'No. We're only doing a certain style of game on a certain platform. We have a specific niche to fill in this market, and that's what we're gonna do.' I pay the bills, so I get to say things like that and make them stick. But... why? To prove that I'm in charge? To satisfy my tremendous ego? Even if they stuck around to do exactly as I said, their work would no longer be inventive or exciting. It would become toil -- Soulless exertion to satisfy one person's idiotic need to be taken seriously. I'd quit!

Okay, this post is over-long, but I hope it answers some of what you're looking for. Let me know?

about 7 months ago
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Emmett Plant Talks About the Paper-Based RPG Game Business (Video)

emmett Re:Does anyone remember Star Fleet Battles? (64 comments)

We used to keep the ship sheets in a plastic cover, and mark up the plastic cover with a grease marker as the battles raged on. I really like what I'm seeing with Federation Commander, but to be fair I haven't played either SFB or Federation Commander recently. I made the mistake of picking up a 'battle box' of ships, and I enjoy painting and re-painting them. I don't do it as often as I'd like, but such is life. :)

about 7 months ago
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Emmett Plant Talks About the Paper-Based RPG Game Business (Video)

emmett Seriously! (64 comments)

Sometimes it's like watching a very old science fiction movie that has a fantastic story, but the effects are cringe-worthy. I hope that we're able to grab some more work by those authors, do a great job with it and really expand their vision by bringing in some of the other pieces of the puzzle.

Even at that, I still think that something like Drive-Thru RPG is a billion times better than waiting for an expensive 'module' at the local hobby shop. I just think we can add some juice, that's all.

about 7 months ago
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Emmett Plant Talks About the Paper-Based RPG Game Business (Video)

emmett I like 'em, but... (64 comments)

I like RPGs, and I've played a lot of them. Ultimately, I try to hire people smarter than I am. This means that part of my job is hiring those people, but another part of my job is keeping them interested and excited about doing stuff. If they feel like they're wasting their time, they're going to haul ass and work somewhere else.

Starting this company was a really weird way to connect a lot of them together. They like new things, they like games, they share an interest. They enjoy open-ended problems. We bounced the idea around, and here we are.

about 7 months ago
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Emmett Plant Talks About the Paper-Based RPG Game Business (Video)

emmett You'd be amazed... (64 comments)

...at how often people who work on 'Star Trek' take an extraordinarily dim view of some of the products that surround the franchise. You are not alone.

about 7 months ago
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Emmett Plant Talks About the Paper-Based RPG Game Business (Video)

emmett Strange to relate... (64 comments)

The first purchase we made was of Darklight Interactive's work which was on Drive-Thru RPG. I think we're going to do a great job with that, and I hope that the final products are good enough to get the authors of other well-written adventures to sign with us.

about 7 months ago
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Emmett Plant Talks About the Paper-Based RPG Game Business (Video)

emmett Not enough time! (64 comments)

I've done a lot of research in the market, and if I'd had a solid hour to talk about the industry (instead of about ten minutes in my backyard) I would have done so! We're planning to distribute via Drive-Thru RPG, and one of our authors (David Flor) is chomping at the bit to get something moving on a 13th Age adventure right now, because he's excited about that platform.

Tim Lord expressed an interest in talking about it, and I agreed to do it specifically *because* we don't have any games out at the moment -- Otherwise it would have been a goddamn commercial, and I wouldn't want to subject anyone to a hailstorm of 'former Slashdot and Linux.com guy wants you to buy his shit! Do it now!'

There are a lot of different systems that deserve attention beyond the d20 D&D stuff -- Hell, I'd love to go back and revisit d20 Modern at some point. I have an idea for a game that doesn't use any existing system, but we'll see how that goes. Ideas for games are a far cry from 'product.'

about 7 months ago
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Emmett Plant Talks About the Paper-Based RPG Game Business (Video)

emmett You're not wrong. (64 comments)

I run a profitable media production company called Clockwork Jetpack, and I've been on the business side of video games for more than the past decade. I understand your point-of-view completely, and I agree that working in a market is a hell of a lot different than *playing* in a market. For instance, working in video games makes it almost impossible for me to enjoy video games.

about 7 months ago
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World's Smallest Hard Drive

emmett Tiny Hard Drives (30 comments)

The more we get away from magnetic media, the better we'll all be. It's just too susceptible to shock/temperature/dirty looks.

--E. Charles Plant

more than 15 years ago

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