Thursday, 19 September 2013

Away Too Long...

I'm sitting here at the SoulJar Games corporate world headquarters, gazing out at my spectacular view of Central Park and contemplating the vicissitudes of life.... I've been away too long, and to be honest it's because I had no idea I hadn't posted an update in two weeks. You have my apologies. In this, the Wired World, I forget that often no information is seen as, well, no information; I forget that nowadays one has to remain in constant contact with people. Also, this new job is kicking my butt.

However, let me state categorically that just because you haven't heard from me in two weeks that somehow I've gone away, that SoulJar Games has gone away, or that the Cairn RPG has gone away. We're all still here. So, let's talk update.

First, the Cairn playing cards did not fund. While we're not discouraged, I must say I'm a tad confused about why this occurred. Either way, we're going to relaunch the Kickstarter in two weeks, with added pledge levels, new add-ons, and stretch goals. To be completely transparent, we figured that this Kickstarter would run itself; it's a deck of playing cards... What's not to love? But we got so much feedback from people who wanted to see specific things that we just never considered. So I thank you for your suggestions; we're going to incorporate them as soon as possible.

Second, what did the playing card Kickstarter get us (specifically, the RPG and the backers)? It got us new art from Jeff Laubenstein. When Jeff started drawing last year, most of the artwork as "proof of concept" work. There really was no world to which he could pin his images. They were concept sketches. Now, there's a world and things are more firmed up, and Jeff had more to work with. You'll notice that his later pieces are more detailed. Crisper. The Kickstarter re-energized him to turn out some really great images that are more directly connected to the Cairn world. Moreover, Jeff now wants to start drawing more scenes and character in situ, to give everyone a better sense of what the world looks like.

The Kickstarter also got us color art! Alberto Tavira Espinar has joined the team as a "valued friend" and he's been coloring our face cards for us. We love Alberto's work, and as a general principle SoulJar Games likes to throw work to people we want to work with. (There are actually several people on this list already. Maybe I should discuss our corporate culture with you some day....) Anyway, we're looking into the costs of including several color plates in the RPG now.

We're also going to be including some stuff in the next Kickstarter that will be unique only to backers of the next fundraiser. T-shirts, for example, featuring Jeff's artwork, which will only be available through Kickstarter. Maps, flash cards, dice.... we've got a bunch of ideas that will help you show your SoulJar Games loyalty. One of the other things that came out of this (in this vein) are a couple of new product ideas. Like "Golden Books" set in Cairn.

Third (getting back to the update portion of the blog), work continues on the RPG, albeit slowly. We've added an adventure path system that I have to develop. This game was originally marketed as a "beer & pretzels" game, something you could easily pick up and put down. What came out of the process is D&D Lite with animals. That's not what anyone really wanted, I think. The adventure path system works like this:

We described the town of Cairn. After all, that's the game's name, right? The town has places you can visit, and people (animals?) you can talk to. You can visit Professor Puddleglum, the town's scholar, and he has a list of adventures you can go on, like an ancient map hanging on his wall leading to who knows what? Everyone in Cairn has these adventure seeds. This plugs into the adventure path system by affecting the town's well-being. Cairn has several stats of its own, like Protection and Food. The adventures you go on affect the town's stats, which in turn affect later games. So, for example, you visit Mrs. Moonleaf, the town's baker, and she has an adventure for you; she hasn't heard from Farmer Cottonbottom for several weeks, and she's worried. This is a Food adventure. You go to his farm, and discover he's been taken by goblins (or whatever), and it's up to you to save him. If you succeed, Cairn's Food stat goes up, and you've helped the town get through the winter. Thus, your actions have a direct effect on the town's development. It also gives you the ability to pick up and put down the game more easily. (Did I mention there will be rules for creating your own towns in the Companion, so you can watch your own hamlet grow into a city?)

Which brings me to my fourth point. When this game was originally proposed, there was no outline or foundational document. This has come to hamper the project, as we figure out just what this game is and how it plays. There's been a lot of fumbling around in the dark. And as things have developed, they've just been added to the rules, making some earlier things obsolete. So I have to go through the rules and cut back on the kudzu and focus things better. I am sincerely sorry things are taking longer than I originally thought. Some of you have contacted me privately to say you'd rather a good, solid game that takes longer rather than some shovelware just to get the game out. Is this indeed the case? Let me know.

That's what's been going on for the last two weeks. New artwork. New ideas. More work on the RPG to make it do what it's supposed to do. Personally, the fault lies with me, since my new job takes me away from writing and development. I think I've finally worked things out whereby I can focus on Cairn 2-3 days a week. I want to thank you for your patience. I promise you that you'll get an RPG, and it'll kick ass.

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