Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Doing Your Own Thing - and About Reviews

I have to tell you, I’m truly enjoying where things are at right now, and I think I’ve made an important self-discovery about doing my own thing.

Last summer, I went through a process that I’ve repeated many, many times. I worked for months on a game system, carefully composing it, worrying over each detail, testing various elements of it, hemming and hawing over minutiae. Then I release it to the wild. (FYI, I’m talking about Mythweaver: Legacy). I post to forums. I send copies for review. I cross my fingers. Then I sit back and watch other, similar games garner attention, reviews and sales. Last fall, it was Barebones Fantasy. The cover art was comparable (to my eye - maybe you'll disagree). The game philosophy was comparable. The total page count was comparable. My game was $1, and that game was $10. Barebones Fantasy easily hit the #1 ranking on RPGNow, and my game made it into the top 25 for a day or two and then moved into obscurity. That game immediately received a number of positive reviews and was talked up on the forums; my game has received one rating (and no reviews) to date. I couldn’t figure out why (I still don’t know for sure – maybe it’s just a superior game with a better marketing plan. That’s likely!). All I know is that I worked pretty hard on something for a good amount of time, and few people seemed to notice. All I know is that I spent my time after it came out looking at how ‘I was doing’ compared to another game that was, for all intents and purposes, quite a bit like it (only much more expensive).

I’ve done the same with my supers game. The second edition of Resolute came out within weeks of Icons. Icons gathered tons of acclaim and positive press, and Resolute got a small bump. Is Icons a superior game? Maybe. Probably. But Resolute is a great little supers game. It’s rock solid. It’s dirt cheap. It should be a big seller and have a ton of reviews. It’s not and it doesn’t. No idea why. All I know is, spending my time comparing it to Icons only made me feel bad about myself, for no good reason.

Enter the Army Ants, stage left. I tried to compare it to sales of other anthropomorphic military insect cross-genre games based on indy comic books, but I had trouble finding them. Thank goodness! It’s its own thing. I don’t have anything to compare it to, and for that I am exceptionally grateful. Now I can just get to work responding to the people who have been so generous in their kind words about it and working on the comic pages and game supplements that I want to keep producing. I can put all of my focus here, and not worry about what other people are doing in their own corners of the community.

I’ll tell you, though, I still don’t know why no one posts reviews of my game or comics. I’ve asked several times and have sent large numbers of review copies, and maybe I just have a readership that is not comfortable posting reviews. If that’s the case, then that’s the case. Maybe, however, my readers and players don’t know why reviews are important. Maybe I should at least explain it.

When people see no reviews, they often assume that no one likes the game, and that no one is playing it. When they see reviews, they often assume that the game must be up to something, because a lot of people have bought it. No reviews = no interest in this community.

So, I’ll ask one more time. If you have five minutes, please write a few sentences about the game and put it up somewhere – and put the review on RPG Now, or maybe do the same for the comics on Drivethrucomics. It will make a HUGE difference in how the larger community views the game and the comic series. By the way, a review doesn’t have to be thorough or insightful or powerful – it just has to be there. A few sentences go a long way.



  1. I feel your pain, I have had similar experiences.

  2. I expect that the vast majority of RPG small publishers have a similar story... as a matter of fact, this is probably the same story in all creative media. For every great musician, actor, writer, etc. there are probably hundreds (thousands?) who are almost just as good, or in some cases better, who somehow can't break through to the next level.

    I'd say that misery loves company, but it's not misery. It's genuine confusion, but I really am quite happy with where I am. Would I like to see my games and comic break out? Heck yeah! If they never get bigger than they are now, and I can sell a few dozen copies of each major thing I come out with, I will be a very fortunate guy.

  3. Noooo...this post makes me feel horrible. I've always enjoyed your Mythweaver/Resolute fantasy stuff, but I never left a review because I never actually got to run it. =(

    I'm sorry!

  4. No reason to feel bad! That wasn't my intention... No worries! I assume that some people never even think about writing a review, but would do it if you asked, so I figured I would ask.