January 29th

Gossip is in stasis just now; it’s in beta and I need to recruit some playtesters, but so far none have responded to my emails. So today I can’t work on it, which means that I work on Siboot instead. Just now I am torn over strategic issues, such as:

Should I utilize crowd-funding for Siboot?

After my bad experience with Kickstarter I’m wary of that avenue, but this time there are major differences. Most important of these is that I can offer contributors real rewards. On top of the obvious one of offering a free copy of the game for a minimal price, I can offer the opportunity to have a restructured form of a name appear somewhere in the game. At a low level, your modified name will appear as one of the geographical locations appearing in the novel. For more money, it can be used for one of the minor characters appearing in an interstitial story. A whole lot of money makes your name one of the seven species, or maybe even one of the primary characters. For example, the name “Marilyn Monroe” might transliterate to “Romon” or “Lynromaron”. “Bill Clinton” could become “Tonclinble”.

That overcomes the worst problem that killed 
Balance of the Planet. But how can I sell the game to players? Should I wait for Gossip to have its impact and present Siboot as the next generation after Gossip? Should I wait until there’s something to show, either in graphical form or perhaps a new version of the novel. How much money should I ask for? And do I really want to dedicate a week to creating a new video?

Should I do the mind combat graphics myself?

That would require me to learn how to do texture-mapping in Java. I hate learning new technologies, because I end up wasting so much time trying to get them working the way they claim to work. This could easily gobble up two or three weeks of my time. Do I really want to dedicate that much time to it? Should I instead get enough funding to hire somebody else to do it on contract? That sounds like a more efficient use of my time, but would such a contract be flexible enough? How can I specify in advance exactly what I want when I won’t know whether I like it until I see it?

Am I satisfied with the combat model?

The obvious approach is to simply use the same system I used in Trust & Betrayal. That worked well enough, but it seems too simplistic to me. On the other hand, the combat is not supposed to be an important part of the game; it’s the interpersonal interaction that counts, and that’s another design problem entirely.

Should I start over with a new engine?

This game will use the same basic structures that Storytron used, but adapting that huge engine to this small game seems risky. Moreover, I’ll have to make modifications to code that I didn’t write, a very dangerous proposition. I suspect that it would better to remain instantial at this stage and abstract to an engine later. But how then to handle all the scripts required to control the engine? This is a huge can of worms.

Can I devise rich enough interpersonal interaction?

The only purpose of that interaction is the extraction of information by deal-making. Is this too narrow a purpose to permit effective drama? How can I intertwine other kinds of interpersonal interaction into this process? I don’t know.

Should I start by writing the novel and some of the interstitial stories?

That would be a simple task, it’s something that can be spread out over months, and it might help suggest new ideas for the game. The novel will be much larger than the one in Trust & Betrayal, although it will re-use many of those stories. 

Questions, questions.