Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Show and Tell

I was recently reminded of the old tale of "how I got into writing roleplaying games". The weird thing is, it wasn't anything to do with gaming, it was movies. Neill Blomkamp.

You've probably seen online the recent announcement that Neill Blomkamp, the genius of the high-tech, super-realistic sci-fi genre and director of District 9, and most recently Chappie, was going to direct a new Alien movie, starring Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn. This rather excellent news stemmed from conversations Blomkamp had had with Sigourney Weaver while filming Chappie, and his imagination was fired up. From what I could tell he just wanted to make an Alien sequel, did some designs, some concept artwork, and the project kinda stalled. So, he put it on his Instagram account, saying he was disappointed...

The internet went wild. The internet spoke.

The world wanted to see Blomkamp's Alien sequel, and Fox listened. They greenlit the project, everyone's happy. The fans get the Alien sequel they want. Fox are ensured the interest is there for an expensive movie.

This isn't the only time this has happened, and recently too. The awesome Gillian Anderson was on the Nerdist podcast being her usual hilarious and brilliant self. Naturally, the topic of The X-Files came up. In a jokey way, she asked "Do you think people want a new X-Files?" and listeners were encouraged to show their support by spreading the tag #XFiles2015. Again, the internet answered in their thousands, and Fox listened. Lo and behold, Fox announces the return of The X-Files for a six episode event series. Fantastic!

Though that was a little different, and maybe a little off topic. Any excuse to mention Gillian Anderson. I know... sorry...

Maybe it would be better to use the Deadpool movie as another example. A film the studio had very little faith in - but a short "sample" video to show off the tone and type of movie it would be ends up online, and the massive internet response means that the studio - oh, look... it's Fox again - can make a film that they have an audience for. Clever...

Other examples could be said to include the current spate of "fan videos" that populate Youtube - incredibly high quality short movies such as "Dirty Laundry" or "Judge Minty", that are made by filmmakers who want to prove to the  world that their vision, their creative ideal, is what the world wants. It's like they're making short "showreel" videos, hoping a studio takes note, and gives them the greenlight, or a job.

And that brings me back to Blomkamp again, with his short "Alive in Joburg" which really made everyone aware of his work and really lead to District 9.


What does this have to do with RPGs I hear you say?

I guess it's really just a case of being able to show (a) that you can do it, and (b) what you have in mind. Then you have hope that (c) someone likes it enough to have faith in you.

When I wanted to get into roleplaying game writing oh-so-many years ago, back in the late 80's, I wrote to West End Games, asked for guidelines and if it was okay if had a go at writing an adventure for their Ghostbusters game. You can read about how their positive feedback kept me trying here.

And then when I first talked to Eden Studios about writing for them, for their All Flesh Must Be Eaten line, they said "Sure, show us you can write!" - so I submitted a complete supplement to them. While it wasn't what they wanted there and then, I proved I knew the system and was willing to do the work - and they gave me the task of putting together Terra Primate... and the rest is history.


That said, my head is full of crazy ideas. Games and settings, licenses and designs that I'm convinced would be popular but I can't just publish. So, inspired by Blomkamp, instead of just leaving them in notebooks and as files on the computer, I thought I'd polish them up and put them out as an open letter - a pitch, of sorts - to show the world what I had in mind.

The many notebooks for WILD

If they're licensed properties, they're not designed to infringe on any copyright - they're just ideas for cool games I had in mind that I wanted to share. Who knows, maybe the IP owners will like what they see and think it's an idea worthy of pursuing.

So, if you see a post on here called "Blomkamping", pay it no mind. It's just me, airing the crazy creations that circle my mind. Who knows where it may lead...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Welcome to the (Creative) Desert of the Real...

From my trip to Australia, 2014

The above picture from the window of The Ghan train, travelling up the middle of Australia, summarises everything going on in my head at the moment. It's one big desert, with little glimpses of life in the distance that look exciting and interesting, but too far away to reach.

I have this problem where I get very excited about a project, and it dominates my thoughts. When the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG was in playtest I was incredibly excited, and devoured the TV series again (I mean, any excuse to rewatch Buffy? Right?), and ended up writing parts of the Slayer's Handbook, and helping to edit that and Monster Smackdown. 

When I thought about Conspiracy X (fantastic game!) and how it didn't have the same system as other Eden games (Unisystem), I became obsessed with the idea of converting ConX to Unisystem, and pitched to Eden to do it. I signed the contract to do the new incarnation of Conspiracy X just a couple of weeks before my father died, and I immersed myself in game. Maybe it was my way of dealing with it all. It took a couple of years of rewriting, updating and editing, but eventually Conspiracy X 2.0 was released with the new system. 

Talking to a Conspiracy X fan online who turned out to be Chris Birch, founder of Modiphius Games (publisher of some awesome titles, and the new Kickstarter for the ultra-cool Thunderbirds co-operative boardgame), we discussed properties that could introduce roleplaying games to a new generation of players. The discussion continued, and it evolved into a crazy pitch to the BBC with Dominic McDowall-Thomas, Angus Abranson and Fred Hicks to do the Doctor Who roleplaying game. None of us thought we'd have a chance, but it lead to producing the award winning Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG for 

Doctor Who became the be-all-end-all of my working existence. Unfortunately, my day-job when I wasn't working on the game was very focused on Doctor Who as well - selling Doctor Who merchandise and DVDs. I think I saturated my head too much in all things Time Lord and burned out. 

Then I made a mistake. Another one, of many...

I thought I'd do something else. I turned my back on the RPG writing, and thought I'd try something completely different. Needless to say it didn't pan out. I was stupid, foolish and deluded.

Thankfully, Conspiracy X came to the rescue again. Kickstarters saw the last of these published which meant I was called back to a game I hadn't looked at for a while, and again I immersed myself in the that world at a time when I needed it again, just as I lost my mother.

I was having a tough time, and after Conspiracy X my head wasn't really in the "game" (so to speak) for anything too depressing, and then...

I made another mistake. Or rather, series of mistakes...

I started turning RPG work down. 

I had WILD starting, an incredibly personal project for me about dreamshare, and the more I thought about it the more "into" it I got. So much so, that when I did NaNoWriMo I started writing the backstory of the game as a novel - or rather a trilogy of novels. 

But I've been working on WILD for over two years now, and I'm floundering. The first novel is in the middle of rewrite, and I'm convinced no one will ever want to read it. The game's system has had some rewrites and may be moving away from the "Rapid Die Movement" I'd planned to being purely card-based. I look at the game and wonder if anyone would ever want to play it. And again, I'm feeling burned out.

I want enthusiasm again.

In the back of my head I have that nagging doubt - imposter syndrome - telling me I shouldn't bother. I'm nothing important, past game development successes were a fluke. Hell, I work 5-6 days a week in a shop.

In the back of my head I have that goading chatter - telling me that after Doctor Who I should be trying something else, like Harry Potter, James Bond, Sherlock, or Star Trek. A couple of those have lead to phonecalls, and emails with property owners, despite it just being me... a little nobody without a publisher...

These voices argue with each other, like past characters from games I've played (one probably has hair). In the middle of it all, I just want to be writing. To continue on WILD. To write something different - I had ideas for a more kid-friendly RPG like Adventure Time called "Awesonomicon" ((c)2015 David F. Chapman - just in case), and for a Twin Peaks-like setting for multiple game systems for a town full of secrets that could be used with anything, inspired by Peaks, Fortitude, Under the Dome, and so on...

But nothing will probably come of it.

I tried doing videos, I saw it as a means of showing off the cool of the gaming world, but when each video only gets about 30 views I have to wonder if I'm wasting my time.

So that's where I am at the moment. The real world is being hard on those I hold dear, making it hard to concentrate. But I wanted to get it all down, to state where I am, and apologise. 

Maybe I should just dig out the cards and try to tell my future...

Thanks for listening.