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The Quick and the Dead

April 2, 1997

 

Hi folks,

We're hoping to fall into the "quick" category ourselves, and certainly other companies are trying the same. With the start of the big convention season, games are coming fast and furious. We're trying to match-- this month, we'll be unveiling a new front page (which you can preview), that is designed to let you get to information more quickly. And we're still Ad-free for our top pages (what our members do is, of course, their own business). We feel quick, with all the new stuff we're adding.

A player database/contact list, the IRPGL, joins (and compliments) Prince Etrigan's already-established Gamemasters database. We're adding several Forums this month, plus a page where you can just add your own game-related links. And we've put a Hidden Content on this site, with many prizes (and no, I won't tell you where it is, it is a hidden contest, after all!).

But, perhaps you didn't read this column to hear about us, but to hear about what's in the industry. Or you were lured by the title-- though note that this column isn't ostensibly about the new Deadlands supplement of the same name. It's a supplement worth mentioning, if only as an example of the "quick" model for games. To wit, "announce a product, let people know how it's going, and deliver it more or less on time." It would seem to be an easy rule to follow.

But role-playing is constantly pictured as an industry teetering on the line between death and success. [Editor's note-- later information reveals Wingnut Games is still alive, and hence this sentence from the original column is in error.] A naive look at this months' disruptions would include the death [not true!] of Wingnut Games, and the quick scramble by Chameleon Eclectic. In the former case, Wingnut [is rumored to but doesn't] shuts down because the owner has passed on to that greater plane-- a day job with more responsibility. In the latter case, the B-5 game had printing problems and CE quickly decided to provide replacements in a PR coup.

Let's get cynical here for a minute-- I mean, one company is rated as "dead" because the owner is successful, while another rates as "quick" because it loses money replacing books for free due to printing problems. Is this a backwards industry? Well, maybe it is. An interview with Greg Costikyan in the (rival!) game column "Out of the Box" tells us:

Obviously we're either insane or simply love the hobby. I vote on the latter, myself. Others agree. Other companies are trying new things within the hobby. Despite my disdain of most collectable card games, the Dragonstorm CCG really, really surprised me. It's basically an RPG, or "Role-playing Lite", and it works very well. You have the traditional RPG structure of a GM and players, but you use the cards to build characters and set up the scenes. It's almost like the rulebooks, modules, and other traditional products were encapsulated onto the cards for portability. It's fun, and it has a lot of potential. One hopes they end up in the "quick" category and don't get caught in the current post-CCG fad crash.

Another new idea coming up is Fractal Dimensions's "Gamelets", coming out this year. These are comic-book sized minigames, that will go for around $8. Between those, Deadland's dime novels, and the (rather silly) Pulp Dungeons, it seems there is a renaissance of the "buy on a whim" market. This is much wanted, now that most game books are going for a (well-earned) $40 and have production values similar to that of coffee table books. By adding choices (in product, price, or style), it can't help but strengthen the industry. The industry will always have its quick and its dead, that's the nature of business. Let's just hope the survivors are the ones we like!

To conclude with a non sequitur, if you're one of the people looking for a clue for the contest, here it is: "that there is no such thing as a 5-sided die?"

Cryptically,
Sandy

As a side note, the DreamLake folks are looking for volunteers to translate their gamer archives from French to English. Please contact them if you can help.

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What do you think?

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