A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer


16Jul/13Off

Long Overdue Update

Gosh, has it really been over three months since my last post?

Well, suffice to say that things have been somewhat hectic. I started a new job on April 1st and my work schedule has changed radically, so I usually get home extremely tired and not thinking about blogging. But I will hopefully get back to posting stuff soon once I get a little more available time.

Holy s%#@!!! We're nominated!!!

Holy s%#@!!! We're nominated!!!

But there's a big reason to celebrate! Darklight Interactive's A Night In Seyvoth Manor has been nominated in the "Best Free Product" category of the 2013 ENnie Awards!!! I admit I was counting the days 'til the nominations were released and was worried that I was building myself up for disappointment but, alas, there it is. So fingers crossed and let's see if we can win the thing, eh?

As for my development efforts, it's been somewhat of a mixed bag. I'd been working on Return of the Crystal Scion but I've become slightly disillusioned by it. As it stands now it has some areas that I'm rather proud of, but there are some monumental plot holes that I've been having a hard time filling. As a result, I have suspended further development on it. My intention is to take the larger parts of it - the Tomb of Iryk-Tep, the Sarafi tribe and their Caves of Wonder, The Obsidian Tower, etc. - and release those in some sort of side trek format. I also intend to release some parts that are simply too small for publication, such as my Sky Kraken creature for Pathfinder, here on this blog. So stay tuned for all that.

But recently I've been drawn back to my original campaign, The Coming Dark. I had already created it for D&D 4th Edition and it clocked in at close to 200 pages, but I now had issues with its initial design. You see, it was the first thing I'd ever done with D&D 4E - or with high end campaign design, for that matter - and it was somewhat "railroady". In a nutshell, I didn't like it one bit; I had a story in my head, but in my efforts to translate it to the game it just wasn't working.

So I've started a full redesign of it for use in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system. I'm changing quite a lot of it, using the Pathfinder design style which allows me to be much more flexible in what I can do. I'm not bound by the 4E balance, or the 4E GSL for that matter. It will be distributed in three parts, each part containing three chapters (or acts... haven't decided). And I feel it's a lot, lot better now so we'll see how it goes.

I also have Revenge of the Kobolds still sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to do something with it. It still lacks art so I'm hesitant to publish it as is, but as days pass I'm getting tired of holding it back. One of these days I'll just say "the hell with it" and unleash it on the world... when that day comes, I hope you enjoy it.

Finally, I kinda said I wasn't going to do it but I'm creating another small adventure (5 encounters) for D&D 4th Edition called A Festival of Magic, which is a proposal I pitched to WotC but they apparently didn't like (they never answered me, but still). I'm going to do an experiment with this one: once I complete and release the 4E version my plan is to convert this to as many other systems as possible. Pathfinder... 13th Age... DCC... Dungeon World... AGE... etc... Figure it's worth a shot trying that once.

Anyway, I'm still around so hopefully I'll get back to posting often.

1Apr/13Off

DLI Acquires DnD Next Video Game License

DLIName_60

"Omne ignotum pro magnifico"

If you've been following this blog, you know that we have had our fair share of communication with the legal department over at Wizards of the Coast, and as a result we have not only learned a great deal of what we can and cannot do as far as licensing but we have been able to figure out exactly who the right person to talk to is in order to get the necessary licensing agreements in place

Several months ago, after a great deal of negotiations (most talks of which started with the words "now please don't sue us, but...") we have managed to talk to the right people and sign the proper agreements to do what we thought was impossible: secure a provisional license to use the Dungeons and Dragons brand name to create the next state of the art video game based on the "DnD Next" rule set. The official press release can be read below:

Official Press Release by Darklight Interactive (PDF)

Since we are not authorized to be direct competitors to the upcoming MMORPG Neverwinter by Cryptic Studios, our product is a single player campaign that will be a traditional delve through a dungeon. While we have had a group of professional, well known writers working on the story - most of which you are familiar with, but we are not allowed to disclose names yet due to Non-Disclosure Agreements - I and a group of experienced software developers have been working on the engine.

Since we do not want to take funding away from Wizards of the Coast and would rather they spend the resources they have to get "DnD Next" developed and released, in a few weeks we intend to launch a Kickstarter project to fund the development of the final product. We did not want to launch a Kickstarter before we had a "proof of concept", and unlike some other companies we do not want to launch a Kickstarter to fund said "proof of concept". So we have been developing the engine on our own, on our personal time and at our personal expense, in the hopes that it can show the world what we're capable of and more easily reach our goals once the Kickstarter launches.

After further negotiations, and painstaking work over the past few months to get it in running condition, I have been authorized to release our first "proof of concept" (which we refer to internally as an "alpha" build) for The Caverns of Mayhem: A Dungeons and Dragons Adventure (tentative title... we'll let the writers come up with something better) that you can download below!!!

Download The Caverns of Mayhem: A Dungeons and Dragons Adventure (ZIP)

The game engine is not exactly a direct port of the "DnD Next" ruleset simply because, as is the case in Neverwinter, a lot of the rules don't exactly port flawlessly from the tabletop to a video game. But it has everything you've come to love about D&D: it's got dungeons, it's got monsters, it's got treasure... and, heck, it's even got a dragon!

The "proof of concept" which you can download below has been developed for Microsoft Windows (we're investigating a Mac port, but none of us actually own a Mac so we'll probably have to wait for funding on that) and requires nothing more than the .NET Framework 2.0. It is not graphics intensive so it should run on pretty much any machine; in fact, for those of you with inferior machines our game will probably run significantly better than Neverwinter because the hardware requirements are much lower. And, thanks to proprietary compression technology, it uses a lot less drive space!

As we mention above, it is a very early "alpha" build and has some known issues. And, since it's an "alpha", I ask that you do not start reporting bugs in it; we pretty much know what most of them, and have tried to document them in the "readme" file included with the distribution. Please read that file prior to launching the game so you understand what to expect and are aware of the aspects of the game that have yet to be completed.

We here at Darklight Interactive are entering an interesting time, and we would like to thank everyone at Wizards of the Coast for giving us the opportunity to use your license. We hope that, after looking at our proof of concept below, you support us and await our upcoming Kickstarter launch.

Thank you all for your support.

Download The Caverns of Mayhem: A Dungeons and Dragons Adventure (ZIP)

Requires Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft .NET Framework v2.0
(c) 2013, Darklight Interactive - All Rights Reserved
Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, Neverwinter, Wizards of the Coast, and their respective logos are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries, and are used with permission. Hasbro and its logo are trademarks of HASBRO, Inc.
Please don't sue us.

1Jan/13Off

Through the Years

Starting off the new year on the right foot, this blog has been surprisingly selected as Stuffer Shack's "Favorite Site of the Month" for January! I'm not kidding about being surprised... I mean, as of late I've only been posting once or twice a month, and the posts that I have written aren't up for a Pulitzer (or whatever the RPG blog equvalent is... an ENnie, I guess?) any time soon.

But I was selected, so I thought it was time to post something.

This past year has been interesting to say the least. I didn't accomplish everything I intended to do, but it worked out overall. "The Heart of Fire" was released to what has become a dry market, so much so that I'm sure the six people that bought it really enjoy it. Other products went out here and there, but while D&D is in design limbo there has been somewhat of a market shift.

As a result, I'm looking at 2013 a little differently. Here's what's in store for you all:

  • "Revenge of the Kobolds" (D&D 4E) is being edited and reviewed by third parties. It will be released for free, without art (except for the map, anyway) on this site as soon as I feel comfortable. It might not be perfect, and it might not work very well mechanically, but it'll be released nonetheless. I predict that will be released by month's end, but don't hold me to that.
  • "A Night in Seyvoth Manor" (D&D 4E) is undergoing similar editing and review, and will probably be releadsed on or about the same time as RotK. Because of the nature of this adventure it's much easier to port to other game systems, so I'm looking to port it at least to Pathfinder and, if all goes well, other systems (AGE, 13th Age, Hackmaster, DCC, etc.). I may even use Kickstarter to fund the development for the other systems; don't know yet. The initial D&D 4th Edition version will be released for free asd well.
  • I'm imagining that my epic adventure "The Crystal Scion" will not have much public interest, so I have decided to convert what I have and finish development of it for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It's a fairly high level adventure - I'm predicting between 12th and 15tyh level - so I'm somewht worried since I've never done anything like that before. It'll be an interesting experience to say the least. I don't know if there's a market or demand for such a thing, but I imagine the market to be better than what 4th Edition is now...
  • My mega-campsign "The Coming Dark" has been going through some serious rework in my head; looking back on what is my first creation for 4th Edition I see a lot of things I did terribly, terribly wrong. So I'm reworking 99% of it and intend to release this for D&D Next as soon as it is possible (assuming it is possible... Licensing for Next is unknown at this time).
  • I have a lot of other small projects in the works. Not sure what I'm going to do with them right now, but until D&D Next is released it might be a toss up between 4th Edition and Pathfinder.
  • I have a couple of programs in the works, such as character and monster builders for D&D Next I've started on We'll see if they ever get to see the light of day.

Beyond that, stay tuned everybody... Lot more to come from us!

12Dec/12Off

Moving Forward

For the past two months, at least from a workload standpoint, I've been living through hell. So much so that I haven't had much a chance to get my two completed products - Revenge of the Kobolds and A Night in Seyvoth Manor - the needed attention to get them ready for publication. I haven't even been able to get my playtest going for Seyvoth.

But during that time I have released one tiny product, The Absent-Minded Alchemist... and even at its low price of $0.99 I've sold no more than six copies. The 4th Edition market is effectively dry, in no small part due to Wizards of the Coast's choice to seemingly pretend it doesn't exist. Heck, there isn't a single 4th Edition product in WotC's own gift guide.

So I have a bit of a dilemma... My intention was to use Kickstarter to fund the art for at least one of these products, but I can't help but think that creating a Kickstarter for a market that no longer exists seems like a waste. I can't in good conscience create a Kickstarter listing that I personally feel will inevitably fail. It makes no business sense.

Furthermore, I can't bring myself to publish and charge for a product that I personally feel is inferior or not the best that it can be. Sure, I might like the mechanics of the two modules, but to charge players any amount of money for a module with zero art in it just doesn't sit right. Yes, I've done that before... but it's always felt somewhat awkward.

So I've made some executive decisions:

  • The D&D 4th Edition versions of Revenge of the Kobolds and A Night in Seyvoth Manor will be released FOR FREE on this site and on Drive Thru RPG once I feel comfortable about the mechanics and have given it at least one editing run through by someone other than myself.
  • I am looking to convert Seyvoth Manor in to other game systems, most notably Pathfinder and a few others (13th Age, Hackmaster, earlier editions of D&D, etc...), and if I do these will probably have a small price to them (I'm not in it for the money, as you might be able to tell). Many have told me to create a "system neutral" product... the issue with that is that my thing is mechanics and "crunch", if you will, which goes contrary to making a neutral product.
  • I will not be creating any more large scale 4th Edition products. I will probably create small side-treks like The Absent-Minded Alchemist or an occasional snippet of content here and there, but don't expect any 100+ page 4th Edition modules any time soon.
  • Until "D&D Next" is closer to release and we have a better idea of what the licensing is going to be for it, I am going to keep myself busy somehow. Odds are that I may find myself doing some more Pathfinder work than I'm use to.

Revenge of the Kobolds will probably be released first because it's the smallest. It may not be perfect and I haven't playtested it as much as I would like, but I think releasing it is better than just having it sit on the virtual shelf without any exposure. I will also see if I can get the Seyvoth playtest off the ground one of these days.

I'm hoping that, with the release of "D&D Next", we'll have another D&D Renaissance and things will be much better. One can only hope...

1Nov/12Off

Feelings of Dread

So A Night at Seyvoth Manor is technically complete!

My original plan was to make it a release specifically for Halloween, but after a few minor setbacks (personal distractions, as well as one day losing the entire InDesign file to a corrupted drive) it seemed like it was highly unlikely t make it by then. But, amazingly enough, it did; I finished the last room at about 7PM on Halloween day. So it's ready to be released, right?

Not exactly, no.

You see, it hasn't gone through a lick of editing. And I've read through some parts of it, and it's quite a hurried mess as far as the writing is concerned. The mechanics might be all in place, but things like misspellings, contradictions between rooms, bad choice of words that make things hard to understand, simply wrong lore, etc... Things like describing the room have always been the hard part for me.

Plus, it hasn't been adequately playtested, which is something that's been a problem in anything I write. A module like this, one that defies the standard conventions of making balanced encounters, kind of requires a great deal of testing. I don't have an immediate means of testing this, so I'm up in the air as far as how many elements of it will play at the table. For example, putting a time limit on the adventure is virtually impossible without actually playing it.

Finally, I'm now faced with my own personal fears of releasing a product that is not perfect. I'm a perfectionist in that sense, and that's both a blessing and a curse most of the time. I become self-conscious of everything that I write, fearing that when I release it people are going to think it sucks and I'll be forced to crawl back in to my cave in humiliating defeat.

So now I'm torn on what to do. I can edit it some and release it, but for all I know it may be "broken". I can find playtesters, but that will delay release and no longer make the produce seasonal (which may or may not matter). I am also considering running it myself in a play-by-post format, but that's also a time consideration. And part of me wants to release for free just because I can, but the other part of me wants to put it up for sale for a small amount... like a buck (everyone tells me I suck at putting a price on my own stuff, so I might as well keep the tradition going).

So what would you do in my shoes? And anyone out there interested in participating in a play-by-post game of this?