May Update - Fragmentation, Forums and Fluff

The end of the month beckons and the latest in what has become the Monthly Kickstarter Update is beaming your way!

Hello, Elite RPG fans!

The end of the month beckons and the latest in what has become the Monthly Kickstarter Update is beaming your way!

Fan News: #LAVECON 1

The biggest news, and the definite headliner for this month is LAVECON! The splendid and gentlemanly chaps at Lave Radio (http://laveradio.com) have organised a convention to celebrate Elite Dangerous and the assorted media project around it. It's happening on Saturday 29th June from 6pm til late at the Thistle Hotel, Cheltenham.

Most of the writers have signed up to be in attendance (including yours truly) and there will be a SPECIAL GUEST! The identity of the guest is a closely guarded secret, but since I know far too much about the Lave Radio crew, I managed to blackmail it out of them and I can guarantee that if you are looking forward to the release of Elite Dangerous then you don't want to miss this guest.

There will be opportunities for Q&A sessions with the guests as well as mingling with them in the hall throughout the evening. Keep your eyes peeled on the LaveRadio.com website as well as the Frontier Forums, where we've been talking about it non-stop for weeks now.

I'll be there, and will be taking part in the Q&A. I'll be bringing a sneak preview of the RPG rulebook and will be happy to talk to you on and off stage. Get your FREE tickets NOW at http://lavecon.eventbrite.co.uk/ - there will be a reasonable fee payable towards the event once the final numbers have been worked out, but it won't be more than £10 per attendee.

It would be awesome if some RPGers could come too, and get a flavour of the brilliant community that Elite has built up and that you will be part of too once you get your teeth into Elite Encounters!


Forum Fettling: Trying to get relevant info from the forum

Elite Encounters is a unique project in the Writer's Pack "genre". Rather than being a set, linear storyline through a period of time in Elite history, it will touch on many different parts of Elite lore, from original Elite up to and including the "current" are of Elite: Dangerous. It will also touch on elements of the whole of the thousand or so years that let up to the games' environments, from mankind going into space for the first time, through the formation of the galactic powers to the present day of the latest instalment. It also will touch elements of technical specifications, a bit of science and a hint of sociology. It's a big task, and one that has been problematic to organise.

The biggest source of information at the moment is the Frontier Forum, since Michael Brookes, Ashley Barley, Sandro Sammarco and various other people are posting there. Michael is very active amongst the writers, answering every daft or obscure question we throw at him (and not all of them get "we're not sure yet" as an answer). Ashley has been brilliant at handling the other non writing questions that the community ask him, and he runs off to find out as much as he can. Sandro and the developers post up the DDF questions and runt he gauntlet of questions, answers, compromises and demands to hammer out some absolutely brilliant concepts for the computer game, many of which are relevant and important to the RPG as well.

The problem with this is that the process of getting information can be quite slow, because there's just so MUCH of it. Michael has been the biggest help, condensing pages of information into a couple of paragraphs that easily sum up the grand concepts into bite-size chunks that I can expand on for the RPG and its rules. One prime example of that is the weapons list - how do kinetic (projectile) and laser weapons work in Elite? How does armour work? What differences are there between grenades in Elite and in our world now? All these answers and more (including antigravity and hyperspace) come through every couple of days, and all of them impact the RPG rules in some way.

The development of the RPG will progress as quickly as these questions get answered, but one worry is that there will be certain elements that won't be ready until closer to the computer game's release. One big aspect there is the ships and their specifications. Ships will get designed, modified and finalised all the way up to the game's release. This means that potentially the RPG's ship stats and drawings will be party to the same restrictions. Each new release of a ship design will mean a revision to the book. Once all that has been finalised then I have to get it in the book, format it for all the different versions of the book then send it off for printing/publication. It could get quite close to the wire.

Worrying stuff. Can it be done? I know I can do the things that need to get done, but it's the timescales that worry me.


Dice: where are they??

They're in my house, as is the packaging. Postal boxes, envelopes and some bubble wrap are all there waiting to go. I just need to print off the labels from my big Nightmare Mail Merge From Hell document. Honestly, this mail merge achieved sentience on the 27th May 2013 and took over all the world's computers. Then a Terminator arrived and blew my laptop up and the world was saved. Luckily the mail merge doc was saved at a lower level of complexity on the memory stick so the contact details were saved. Yay!

There are still a few holdouts from the kickstarter surveys that I need to get back to me before finalising everything. They're holding everything up. I've emailed, nagged in these updates and sent them telepathic messages to no avail. This is the last warning. If you holdouts (all nine of you) don't get in touch before the end of the week the bus is leaving without you. I mean it this time. Even the spotty kids from the dodgy end of town are on the bus. Your choice.

This week I'll print off some groovy compliments cards then get everything ready to go. Everyone except Stabler will get their dice through the post, because Stabler wants his handed over to him in person at #LAVECON. :-)


Progress: Webby stuff, combat rules, space gameplay and equipment

All the above is fine, chewing the fat and everything, but in an update like this you want to know what's going on with the book writin'!

The system is coming along nicely. There are a few good things there now for the Game Development pledgers to chew over, and that will be going on their private forum bit soon. So if you're a Game Dev pledger then start checking the Daftworks forum for some questions. I have a couple of concepts that are mutually exclusive in the system and that both sound good but need a second opinion on which one will work better. The character generation concepts are pretty much done, and the stats give a nice definition of a "person" in nine values, which I am pretty happy with. Scores for reputation and innate abilities round out a basic personality without adding much of a layer of complexity.

The task resolution system and the combat system are tied together seamlessly as well as still being quite simple. Damage is something that is summarised in either a diagram or a table depending on what takes your fancy, but it's more realistic that most systems I've seen. There WILL be one-shot kills in the game, both for NPCs and player avatars. Medical tech is closely tied to the ultimate result of wounding and injury as well, and that's one of the things that I talked over at length with Frontier/Michael to make sure that my demands were "realistic" in terms of the game universe. Although you might get your chest blown out in the game and die, if your party is quick enough there are various ways that you might be brought back. It all adds to the tension!

At the moment I'm wrestling with how much actual damage the various weapon types can dole out and how efficently they can do it. I'm also working on describing and "numerising" the armour that can hopefully save your avatar's life. Michael has clarified the technology here and it's pretty cool. The only thing left to wrestle with there is how to quantify an explosion in a simple mechanic. Without stealing another system's method!

An interesting thing came out of this conversation actually. In terms of an RPG there is, I think, more of a need to describe the "how" and "why" of the world you're playing in than there is with a novel you're reading. A novel's linear narrative suffers greatly when a narrator breaks out of the plot with technobabble, but the same isn't necessarily true in an RPG sourcebook. The clue's in the name, I think - the book is the source of information about that universe and information like how armour works or how weapons work could be important to both GM and player. Rather than make it part of the main flow of the RPG's lists, however, I may include that description in a sidebar or callout box.  I'd be interested to know what you guys out there think about it. Either comment on this post here or comment on the Kickstarter update that points here.

I hit a block on two things in the last week and a half - the space-based systems and task resolution and the equipment lists. The task resolution was a quick distraction - my issue was how to differentiate space-based issues from planet-based issues. The solution was simple. Why bother? Tasks are tasks no matter what the environment. Why would attempting something be different just because it was in space? Once I made that bleedin' obvious realisation, the problem just went away. The real issue was that in my head the concept that a new avatar being taken into space would be a "fish out of water", but there was no reason to make that into a rule-based problem to solve. All that's needed for that (or even the reverse of the situation - a spaceborne character being taken planetside for the first time) is to add a difficulty modifier to represent the effects of a new environment! Woohoo!

The equipment lists are still proving to be a problem. Mainly it's down to the level of granularity needed for each type of equipment. I think I'm being too obsessive about it and that I should provide a general guide to equipment and leave the tight specifics up to the players and GM to sort out. So that's what I'm doing.

And I did some cosmetic stuff to my websites as well. The Daftworks main site is now revamped and a little more dynamic, which complements the shiny RPG site a little better. The Elite RPG site grew some custom made little RSS, Facebook and Twitter buttons. Which means it might be an idea to update Twitter and Facebook more often. Feel free to use the RSS feed on YOUR site if you have one. Note that the forum also has RSS feeds for each topic which might be nice for you to add to whatever RSS readers you use once I start using that in anger (soon, my precious).


More Progress: setting and submissions to Frontier

On the other side of the progress coin was the ever present work on the background and setting with Michael, Allen and the others. Technology, military and the Old Worlds were the subjects this month. Between Allen and I we blocked out the history and culture of nine of the original Elite worlds and submitted it to Frontier. Feedback was really positive, and the final details are being mulled over at the moment.

I submitted the "official Elite Encounters Setting" to Frontier for approval last week. The Morten-Marte system and its component world and station are being mused over by a team of auditors, administrators and UN investigators now, and hopefully we'll get away with our dastardly plan to hide our WMDs in a cruiser between the sun and the planet. Or not. I don't know. It's nail biting stuff.


Stuff: Other Kickstarters and so on

Well, that's about it. Other notable Kickstarters time. I'm sad to say that Dominium looks like it's not going to get anywhere near its target, with over £95,000 to go and less than a week on the clock. It's really sad, because it looks like an awesome concept. I'm hoping he'll try again.

One of my favourite webcomic artists, David Willis (or Damn You Willis as he's better known) has managed to sneak a Kickstarter campaign past my guard dogs and laser alarm system. He's looking for funding to publish the second book of his Dumbing Of Age collection. DoA is a college humour comic and a kind of reboot of his hugely popular "Walkyverse" canon. All his stuff is awesome, and I'd recommend it to all of you. He's met his targets already, and he has less than a week to go, but please pledge if only to get copies of his stuff. A $20 pledge gets you both the DoA books as PDFs. Check it out and pledge!

A good four or five days of my last week and a half were devoted full-time to updating, repairing then checking my other "big project". Butterflies Derbyshire is a charitable project that aims to provide a central resource for families touched by ADHD. My stepson has ADHD and autism and it was this that got us involved with this project. The site we run was being heavily spammed and an update of the software promised to provide more ways to combat it. So after lots of testing on a development copy, I updated the main site and broke it. It then killed the web server. So I had to fix it. Thankfully, after all that, it now works and the spam is GONE! Yay! So that was a few days of distraction from the project that I hope you will all forgive me for...

And that's all there is! I hope this update was long enough. If not, I'm sure I can try for a longer one next time. I always intend to do short updates through Twitter, Facebook and the Daftworks forum, but the month just seems to fly by with various "oh, I can do that tomorrow!" statements.

I'm going to try for an update sooner than in four weeks, but I'm not promising.


Category:  Elite Encounters

Daftworks

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