March: In like a Lion, out like a Dragon
I’ve been MIA for most of March, at least from the online world. I mean, I’ve been around a lot in the physical world. This is what my schedule looked like:
• March 1-4 StellarCon (Greensboro, North Carolina, with a surprise sleep-over in Charlotte on the night of the 1st.)
• March 6-7 Plumbing disaster at the house because of a 6 foot long root ball in the outgoing sewer pipe. (Thanks, Dane, for eliminating that.)
• March 8-11 Bob Vardeman comes for a visit, on the 10th we sign books at the AZ Renaissance Faire.
• March 12-16 Las Vegas for the Game Manufacturer’s Association Trade Show (GTS) (Sounds like fun, but I never left the hotel and worked really hard helping make the show work. I’m a GAMA board member (emeritus).)
• March 19-20 Quick run to Orange County, CA for meetings
• March 22-28 Midsouthcon (Memphis, TN) Had a stunning time at the show.
• March 29-April 5 Nasty cold, sinusitis, allergies…
• March 30-April 1 Worked the International Horror and Science Fiction Film Festival in Phoenix. (It’s part of the Phoenix Film Festival and I do the Science Fiction Film programming.)
Somewhere in there I managed to do laundry. I should also note that after Vegas, I was so tired, I never went out for St. Patrick’s Day. I really do enjoy traveling and getting to see new places and meet new people, but it can take a toll. I’m sure I picked up the cold in Vegas, and I could feel the onslaught coming as I returned from Memphis. As the plane was coming into Phoenix, my ears weren’t repressurizing.
Despite that, March was a fantastic, even life-changing, month. Brian Fargo started the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter project while I was in Las Vegas. First I knew of it was an early morning call from Brian. The project had been live for all of three hours at that point and had raised over $250,000! Within 36 hours it reached its goal of $900,000 and within 48 hours cracked $1 million. As I write this the total was $1.98 million, with 11 days to run.
At the GTS show I’d been talking up Kickstarter because a number of game companies had used it successfully to fund games. I’ve contributed to a number of those efforts. I was talking to folks to learn more about putting a program together (for a print edition of In Hero Years… I’m Dead), and then telling game retailers that they wanted to monitor Kickstarter as a place to see new game projects. Seeing what folks backed, and having “retailer friendly” pledge levels for games, is a great way for game stores to participate in these bootstrapping efforts.
Then Wasteland 2 kicks off, dwarfing any effort the game industry had tried. I suddenly went from being a guy who was interested in Kickstarter to being the Kickstarter Guru. (This meant I pointed people to the folks I’d talked to and learned so much from about Kickstarter.)
I am incredibly excited about the Wasteland 2 project. For those of you who don’t know, before I wrote books, I designed games. The original Wasteland was a fantastic experience. Alan Pavlish, Brian Fargo, Ken St. Andre and I got together and scoped out a computer roleplaying game the like of which had never been seen before. We did things in there which were groundbreaking and yet, in the intervening quarter century, have seldom been visited again. Because we were doing something entirely new, we had no boundaries, no limits, and we pushed the game for all we could, bearing in mind that we were limited to machines with 64K RAM.
I remember tons of phone conversations with Alan that began because Ken had called him, tried to get Alan to do something, and they just weren’t communicating well. Ken would call me to vent. I’d listen, figure out what it was he wanted to do, and mentally translate it into something a programmer could work with. Then I’d call Alan, we’d mull things over, and not only come away with something that would let Ken do what he wanted, but a whole bunch more. This is precisely why, in Wasteland, you see a door that won’t open and you don’t have the key, you can pick the lock, you can shoot it off, you can blow it up (and so much more). If I recall correctly, there were 14 different ways to open doors, and depending what you did to open a door, you’d find different things on the other side.
Wasteland’s strongest point was that actions had consequences. Radical concept, I know. Because of that, how a player approached the game would determine the result he’d get. It allowed us to provide a different gaming experience for different players. It required more than just a hack and slash mentality—sure, you could get to the end that way, but if you used skills and smarts, the path would be different, and often more rewarding.
This is what so excites me about Wasteland II. I remember all the things we wanted to do but couldn’t, simply because of the limits of machines back then. The game’s scope will be huge, and the things players can do, the strategies that will win the game, will likewise expand. Being able to add atmosphere through music and voice acting will make the game that more immersive. In the original game we could only supply a small slice of a world, but now we’ll be able to provide a vast landscape overflowing with adventure and discovery.
Needless to say, I am incredibly psyched about working on this project. I’ll certainly be posting more updates as things move along. This is going to be a blast.
And if that was the only project that came together in March, the month would have been one to remember. There’s more news, but it will have to wait. Just as much fun, different venue, and equally exciting.