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Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:31 pm
by John Michael Crovis
Hello all...

I started a similar thread on the Forge, here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=31611.0

I've been thinking about crowd-sourced games even before I first signed into this site... I've been thinking about the logistics of how it would work and what would need to be done for a successful crowd-sourced game. I've also been thinking big...

Really big... Like "can a crowd-sourced open-sourced game topple D&D as the most popular game?" big. But of course, it is better to start small, so I'm starting with simple questions, such as, "have any of you tried this before?", and, "what are your experiences with collaborative design?"

Of course those are just example questions. I really want to ask if any of you have tried this before. OH! And what are your experiences with collaborative design?

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:28 pm
by Chainsaw Aardvark
Look for something called "Vote up a campaign setting". Admittedly, I don't know much of details, myself - I only know about it through this page on TV tropes, rather than the actual forum

I have thought about something like this for 1km1t, but was never really sure of how well it would work. The core of my idea was that the characters work for caravans, and are essentially not allowed to leave the service of them (indentured, union, magical gease, or just inability to get work again if they break a contract). Furthermore, the flow of the rivers, waterfalls, and canyons basically make the trip flow in one direction, around the circumference of the nation/continent. (Or of we could focus on boats and trade-winds) Thus by nature, the PCs are always traveling from one city of adventure to another and don't stay too long. It would be easy to have people suggesting new stops along the way, or different cultures you find along the various rivers.

In part, this was inspired by an anime called "Kino's Journey". (TV Tropes will consume all! Bow before the great and mighty Wiki... ahem)

However, games might work best when the author(s) have a clear vision of where to take it rather than polling everyone. Good games tend to have a running theme and a guiding purpose. D&D looks for heroism and rising to greater adventures. World of Darkness is the struggle of man vs beast in a nihilistic place, and when it got too sidetracked, they rebooted the series. I am designing the Anarchy Zones to be more than just raiding and survival in the wilderness, but at the time when people must begin rebuilding, and who guides that process. Overall, it is why most of us prefer story first on 1km1kt. It guides what kind of system you need, and what themes should be seen in the mechanics.

Despite those misgivings, sounds like a fun project. I could certainly use the experience with collaboration, rather than solo projects.

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:55 pm
by John Michael Crovis
Chainsaw Aardvark wrote:Look for something called "Vote up a campaign setting". Admittedly, I don't know much of details, myself - I only know about it through this page on TV tropes, rather than the actual forum


Cool... I didn't know that existed.

However, games might work best when the author(s) have a clear vision of where to take it rather than polling everyone. Good games tend to have a running theme and a guiding purpose. D&D looks for heroism and rising to greater adventures. World of Darkness is the struggle of man vs beast in a nihilistic place, and when it got too sidetracked, they rebooted the series. I am designing the Anarchy Zones to be more than just raiding and survival in the wilderness, but at the time when people must begin rebuilding, and who guides that process. Overall, it is why most of us prefer story first on 1km1kt. It guides what kind of system you need, and what themes should be seen in the mechanics.

Despite those misgivings, sounds like a fun project. I could certainly use the experience with collaboration, rather than solo projects.


I agree that it seem to work best when the administrators give a starting premise, but I'm of the mind to give more editorial control over to the crowd rather than less. My idea would be to start with structure (lots of multiple choice questions) and move towards open development (Wiki), slowly giving more control over to the crowd as development progresses.

For example, we could start by polling which genre the game should be in: Fantasy, Modern/Generic, or Science Fiction, then drill down from there. Once we have an idea what our Genre is, we then can open it up a little bit and ask for suggestions for a core mechanic. We choose the three, five, or seven best core mechanics and put it up to a vote. Then we ask the community to write, using a Wiki, their ideas of how the skill system would work, and allow them to change, up vote, and discuss for about a month, then put *that* up to a final vote... Eventually, we just back away completely, giving the crowd complete control over race/power design.

I think planning and timing of the project is probably the most important part. For that, there would need to be a small admin team to make final decisions and push the project forward.

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 4:52 am
by Rob Lang
I've seen lots of collaborative roleplay projects start but few come to fruition. Crowd sourced sounds like a wonderful way of getting other people to decide on content but I think it really means that one person needs to have a big vision to follow it through, to push it, market it, edit it and make it work.

The other worry I have with any collaborative projects is that the end result (if there is one) isn't very tightly put together. There tend to be mis-matched themes and ideas banged together that don't really make sense. In response to new, ill-fitting ideas, I've seen people say "That doesn't fit with what goes before..." but if you want to really be collaborative, you have to accept other people's ideas or they just leave.

Another place where difficulties lie is in the edit. People are precious of the ideas that they have and when they see the release article without their grand idea, they get upset. This kind of bad blood hangs around communities for ages.

Whoever is powering the project needs to be thick skinned and see it through to the end. Even when no-one else is posting, they must keep adding, updating and changing. Quite often, you'll be shouting into the void but you must do so anyway. If the central person leaves then a successor must already be in place and working in the community.

The biggest thing that kills these project is that every community has an ebb and flow. New members arrive, are passionate about posting and contributing but then the novelty wanes and they post rarely. This churn of people means that it can be difficult to keep momentum up. That's ok for communities because you can recharge them from almost-nothing but for collaborative games, it's lethal. No-one wants to pick up a half-finished edit for which the passion has died. Communities need 4 regular posters to keep going, games need far more.

I also worry about the polling idea because gamers have opinions that are not easily encapsulated into multiple choice.

I'd still say give it a shot but keep all this in mind and definitely put yourself down as the powerhouse behind it. Have a team of admin but use a single leader to take control of it.

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 4:55 am
by Rob Lang
The other thing I forgot to mention is that people on the internet tend not to magically materialise to create content for what they see as other people's game.

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:50 am
by John Michael Crovis
Hey Rob? Nothing worth doing is ever easy...

You are right that a project like this needs strong leadership - I'm not denying that. And the best means of making sure that ideas fit together is to structure each stage of development and make sure that the order in which the development takes place, makes sense. A crowd-sourced RPG project would require a large number of passionate participants at the very beginning - about 25 or more - to be successful and to be "recession proof" against the regular ebb-flow of people.

All of these things are important in ANY crowd-sourced project. If we accept that crowd sourced projects are essentially the same in their needs, I have to ask why are other crowd sourced projects more successful than RPG crowd sourced projects? Are RPGs really that much more complicated that Linux and other software programs? I don't think it is - if anything it is simpler.

Why, in your opinion, are programming crowd sourced projects are more successful than RPG crowd sourced projects?

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:32 pm
by Rob Lang
Being a programmer, I can answer this with reasonable conviction. Programming in most cases is solving a problem. For most programmers, the end result of the software is not nearly as interesting as the process of building it. Once built, many programmers go off the project altogether. Other contributing factors are that there are way more coders than RPG designers, doing an open source project looks good on a coders' CV and useful open source projects have a massive user base, RPGs do not. So, if you're coding something cool, chances are lots of people are going to play it. This is not the case with RPGs.

It's not about complexity, either. The end result of good software development is SOLID (as in the OOP principles) code. Clean code can be picked up and modified by anyone, that's pretty much the point. An RPG has the fingerpints of its creators all over it, it's a massively personal project and it often needs to be to make it worthwhile.

RPGs and code are not a good comparison. Perhaps collaborative novels or fiction might be a better parallel. Sadly, I can't advise on those.

If you can get the 25 passionate RPG designers together to start your project, you'll be off to a good start but I realistically don't think it's feasible.

I know I'm coming across like a miserable old bastard - nay-saying big ideas and thrilling projects with my gruff this-is-how-it-is fatalism. What I'm trying to do is redirect your enthusiasm and energy to a project that is less likely to disappoint. I've seen many good authors get disillusioned by the process of collaborative creation and rather than continue with their own games, they retreat to other forms of writing. I don't want that, I want creative writers to keep writing.

If you begin, you will have my full support but it is important you know what has gone before so that you can avoid the pitfalls.

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 3:18 pm
by Onix
These were/are my thoughts on Crowd-Sourcing. Like Rob said, working on a Linux module is good for a programmer because he gets to put it on his resume and hopefully get a better job. Working on someone else's RPG might get you mention in a book but you're not likely to get a job from it (putting it on your resume might loose you a job if the employer thinks RPGs are "weird"). The main difference I see in RPGs and coding is that there is usually a reasonably concrete "this works" for a programming project. The first person to get there wins. With an RPG almost everything is subjective.

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:29 pm
by John Michael Crovis
Well... I've thought about crowd-sourced games a great deal this week. I still think it could be successful, but I've realized that I'm not the guy to do it. The problem is that it would be a LOT of work, and take a great deal of focus on the ultimate goal of generating interest, extracting information from the interested parties, and then interpreting that information. I'm just too damn lazy for all of that! That, and my wife would divorce me.

Instead, I think I will formulate an outline of how someone might put a Crowd-Sourced RPG together... It would make a pretty good article for my blog. :-)

Re: Crowd-Sourced Game Design; Anyone here try it?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:31 am
by trodgers
I'm with Rob on this one. I've seen many collab efforts spawned from communities (I think that RPG Writers Club on Yahoo! tried several times...). I've seen none get to the playtesting stage. I don't think that dooms the idea, but it should put things in perspective.