e20 System: Good News & Bad News

Here’s a quick update on where we stand with the e20 System, since we obviously did not get it finished in time for Christmas.

Bad News: Just as I was finally able to work near full capacity again and I was plowing through material at a really high pace, the developer — senior patron Jack Hale — had an epic collapse almost as bad as mine after Gen Con. Like me, he has some significant mental health issues that can seriously impact his work, and he has even more serious physical problems on top of that.

I didn’t even realize how much trouble he was having until a couple of weeks ago (when more and more of my work was having to be put off because I needed the sections he was working on to do them), and it quickly became apparent that we couldn’t hit our current deadline. I put off announcing a new deadline, though, because for a while I thought we might be able to at least finish the PDF by Christmas; even that turned out to be wishful thinking.

Jack has actually been doing better for the past few days, but we agreed that it’s probably best to work from the assumption that any such productive periods will be the exception, not the rule. Jack is still going to help where he can, but I’m shifting his assignment to things that won’t slow down other pieces of the book if he falls behind again.

So, I’ve now taken stock of the work that needs to be done and figured out how long it will take me to do them completely on my own. Unfortunately, it looks like I can’t possibly finish the whole book myself before the end of February 2012. Patrons and pre-orders would receive their PDFs at this time, and the printed books wouldn’t be delivered until somewhere around mid-March 2012.

I hate seeing the deadline pushed out that far, but at this point I don’t see anything else as realistic. Since I have medication for the time being, I think my work output can be fairly reliable at least through the end of February, and recent history tells me that I have to assume that Jack won’t be able to contribute much. (As I said, he’s been better for the past few days and he might pleasantly surprise us, but it’s better to be happy to get something early than to be disappointed to get it late.)

Good News: Since things are taking so long, I’m trying to think of ways to make it up to everyone who graciously provided so much support so early on. One of the first things I thought of was re-integrating the last two chapters of the book, which detail the settings of Fallen Gods (dark fantasy) and The Hollow Sky (space opera with a horror twist). Given that I won’t be doing the final editing pass until the start of February or so, there’s now time for me to get in touch with those chapters’ authors and see if they’d be willing to do some revisions & expansions to flesh out the chapters a bit. With any luck, we’ll be able to have two working campaign settings in the Universal Rulebook, and these settings can be more fully fleshed out in a future e20 System product.

I have some other ideas to hook up my patrons with a little extra — some bonus PDFs, most likely — and I’m hoping to make an announcement about that in the next several days. At the very least, patrons will get an early look at some of the laid-out chapters of the Universal Rulebook before the final PDF is assembled.

Thanks again to everyone for being so understanding about this and for your kind words about my last post on the subject. Any game publisher would be blessed to have such a devoted and supportive fan base, and it means even more for a small indie publisher like GMSarli Games.

Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

e20 System Update, and Some Thoughts on Mental Health

I’m sorry for not posting another update sooner, but I wanted to have a more firm schedule figured out before I made any more predictions about when I will finish the e20 System Evolved RPG Universal Rulebook.

Short version: The Universal Rulebook will be published no later than mid-December. Book printing will take a couple of weeks longer once the PDF is sent out to patrons and all who have pre-ordered, and my goal is to get the physical books in your hands before Christmas.

Want more details, explanation, and a little too much personal information? Keep reading. I apologize in advance if anything I share is a bit uncomfortable to read, but I feel that all of you who have supported this project have a right to full disclosure; I’ve tried to put as much of this as possible at the end of this post. (You can skip it entirely if you wish.)

Read the rest of this entry »

e20 Post-GenCon Update

The last week has been amazingly hectic and soul-crushingly disappointing because, despite my very best efforts, I was unable to get the e20 Universal Rulebook ready in time to have it to sell at Gen Con.

The single biggest factor in this was me overestimating how quickly I could get through the layout process. I’ve done layout on smaller projects (such as the Revenge of the Sith Collection, some other Star Wars web enhancements, and e20 Lite), and I tried to extrapolate from that to figure out the time I’d need to complete the job. Unfortunately, it seems that the length-to-time relationship isn’t linear. For example, if something is twice as long, you not only have twice as many page references to insert but also twice as many distinct places those page references can point to; in other words, this particular task would probably be closer to four times as much work even though it’s only twice as many pages. (Since the e20 Universal Rulebook is over four times longer than anything I’d done layout on before, you can probably imagine how these things add up.)

Complicating this was the fact that a couple of sections of the book were still getting some final development and editing to reflect the final changes we’d made in response to playtesting. When you have first-time freelancers contributing to a project, they really have no way to anticipate what sorts of problems they might encounter; some did exceptionally well, but others needed a lot of extra help. I had thought I’d have enough extra time to pick up the slack and help them finish their assignments, but my error on estimating the time required for layout meant that I could help out far less than I thought I would be able to. The result is that these assignments took a lot longer to finish, and that in turn kept me from being able even to start their layout until much, much later than anticipated.

In the end, those sorts of things added up and required more time than I had. Right up until the very end, I thought I could still squeeze enough time out to manage it, but it just wasn’t possible. We worked really hard to try to finish before the end of Gen Con, but there was just too much going on at the convention to be able to achieve the level of production we really needed to tie up all the loose ends.

So, to everyone who had come to my booth at Gen Con wanting to pick up a copy of the e20 Universal Rulebook, I sincerely apologize for letting you down. I will have everything finished and sent to everyone who has pre-ordered a copy (including all patrons who contributed up front) as soon as possible, and I’ll post another update to let you know when I know the exact date that will happen.

e20 Printing Update

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook have already heard this, but I wanted to make sure everyone is up to speed.

Unfortunately, I realized several days ago that I had misunderstood one of the printing deadlines to have the book printed in time for Gen Con. I had thought the number they gave me was the total turnaround time, but it was actually just the printing time for the books themselves. It didn’t include their initial file approval time (1 to 2 business days), the time to print a proof copy of the book for me to evaluate (1 to 3 business days), the time to ship the proof copy (minimum 1 business day), and the time to ship the actual print run (minimum 1 business day).

Once I realized my error, I knew I had roughly 12 hours to try to finish all the layout if I still wanted it printed by Gen Con — and, frankly, 12 hours wasn’t enough time to do it right. (I had thought the cut-off point wasn’t for another 4 to 7 business days.)

Rather than compromise on the quality when it was so close to finished, I called an audible and decided that I’d just have PDF copies of the book for sale on CD ($10) at Gen Con. Anyone who isn’t a patron can also pre-order a copy of the book (softcover for $25 or hardcover for $40) at Gen Con to be shipped to you as soon as they come in; if you do, you’ll get the PDF on CD immediately (for free) and free shipping for the book itself.

This plan gives a few extra days to make sure the book is as good as it can possibly be, and I would receive the book’s print run very shortly after getting back from Gen Con. Once they arrive, I’ll start mailing them out to every patron who contributed at the $50+ level as well as anyone who pre-ordered a copy at Gen Con. (They’ll also be available for purchase on our website at that time.)

Also, all patrons will be able to download their copy of the PDF as soon as I have everything finished (before Gen Con starts).

To everyone who was looking forward to receiving their copy in person at Gen Con, I’m really sorry about this; I do hope you still drop by the GMSarli Games booth (#2242 in the exhibit hall) and the e20 System seminar (Thursday, 8/4 at 6 PM in Marriott: Indiana Ballroom D) to chat about the project.

Thanks again for all your patience!

My Gen Con Schedule and Industry Insider Guest of Honor Panels

As many of you who follow my Twitter feed (@GMSarli) are already aware, I’ve been asked to be an industry insider Guest of Honor at this year’s Gen Con. It’s an incredible honor, and I consider it a rare privilege to get to sit on the same stage with some of the most influential gaming professionals in the world.

The convention staff has finally posted the schedule for the Guest of Honor panels, and I wanted to highlight those that I will be attending.

A Guide to Game Design (SEM1128743)
Thursday, 8/4 from 5 PM to 6 PM
Indianapolis Convention Center room 212
Description: In this high-level overview of game design, our Industry panelists discuss the basic principles, from concept to playtesting. Is it art? science? mathematics? If you have a game idea but aren’t sure what you should do next, let the panelists give you some ins and outs to help guide you.
Panelists: Greg Stolze, Will Hindmarch, Gary M. Sarli, Matt Forbeck, Jeff Neil Bellinger, Stan!

Patronage & Kickstarter: How to Get Paid Up Front (SEM1128827)
Friday, 8/5 from 9 AM to 10 AM
Indianapolis Convention Center room 212
Description: Insights from Industry Insider Guests of Honor Wolfgang Baur, Gary M. Sarli, Daniel Solis, and Greg Stolze on how they funded projects by convincing patrons to donate early in exchange for exclusive access, rewards, and even input into the project.
Panelists: Gary M. Sarli, Wolfgang Baur, Daniel Solis, Greg Stolze

GMing: Techniques & Tips (SEM1128759)
Friday, 8/5 from 5 PM to 6 PM
Indianapolis Convention Center room 212
Description: GMing is a skill, it can be learned & with practice you can get better! Join our guests as they offer ideas on how to improve your existing campaigns, improvise a plot in response to the player’s action, talk about story-oriented roleplaying … “role” playing instead of “roll” playing, & how to bring new life to old campaigns. The best way is to learn & improve is to talk shop with fellow GMs & exchange solutions for common & uncommon problems.
Panelists: Jonathan Tweet, Will Hindmarch, Gary M. Sarli

Freelancing: A Challenging & Exciting Career Path (SEM1128725)
Saturday, 8/6 from 5 PM to 6 PM
Indianapolis Convention Center room 212
Description: Being a freelancer in today’s industry is challenging but rewarding! Join our Industry Insider guests as they share their know-how and discuss how to naviagate through the ins and outs of this exciting career path. These experts will pass along their knowledge to the next generation of freelancers.
Panelists: Will Hindmarch, Matt Forbeck, Greg Stolze, Gary M. Sarli

Given the above panels along with my own e20 System Evolved events and running the GMSarli Games booth in the exhibit hall, here’s what my Gen Con schedule looks like:

Thursday, 8/4

Friday, 8/5

Saturday, 8/6

Sunday, 8/7

  • 10 AM – 12 PM: GMSarli Games booth #2242 in exhibit hall
  • 2 PM – 4 PM: GMSarli Games booth #2242 in exhibit hall (closes at 4 PM)

On most days, I’m literally scheduled from the time I get up until I finally stagger back to the hotel room and collapse. Please excuse me if I seem a little fuzzy and bleary eyed when you run into me. :)

If you want to meet me and chat about games, get an autograph, or otherwise just hang out for a bit, your best times to do so are when I’m in the GMSarli Games booth (#2242) or immediately after a panel I’m attending. (In the latter case, we might need to “walk and talk” if I have another event immediately afterward.) I might briefly step out of the booth from time to time to grab a bite to eat or address other basic biological needs, but I should be there at least 90% of the time listed above.

I absolutely love attending Gen Con every year and getting to meet the fans, and I’m really looking forward to it this year as a reward for all the work we’re doing to finish the e20 System Evolved Core Rulebook on time to release it at the convention. I hope to see you all there!