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Game Design: Step by Step

Miracle Under 34th Street

by Gareth-Michael Skarka

December 22, 1999


    Ho ho ho, and welcome to the special holiday edition of Game Design: Step by Step.

    What has any of this got to do with the Holidays?  Glad you asked.

    Truth is, nothing.  Not a damned thing.

    Last week, I put up a teaser at the end of my column, promising a special holiday installment.  Then, I set my mind to work on what part of UnderWorld I could cover under that theme.  I came up with a marginally witty title (see above).  Then, nada.  Nothing.  Bupkiss.  Zilch.

    I wracked my brain for the better part of a week, trying to come up with some aspect of UnderWorld that I could talk about that would have even the vaguest tie-in to a holiday theme.  Then it struck me--earlier today, in fact.  I was making a big mistake.

    I had let the column get in the way of the game design itself.  Why was I sweating over the holiday tie-in?  Why, because I needed it for the column, of course.  Would any of this have any real use in a game that won't be released until the Summer?  Do I really need to waste developmental energy on something that in all likelyhood wouldn't even make it into the final product?  The answer was a resounding "no."

    Which brings me to the topic of this weeks column:  where we stand, and where we're going.

    This is the 14th installment of GDSBS.  Including a couple weeks of hiatus during the switch-over from Gaming Outpost to RPGnet, I've been writing this column for about 4 months.  I've been engaged in the design work for UnderWorld  for about 5 or 6, all told.  So, where do we stand in the process?

    To recap: The setting, in general is established (although I haven't gone into much in the way of detail here in the column, largely out of an effort to keep some stuff for the main rulebook).  Character creation rules are complete, with the exception of ironing out the mechanics of some of the Breed abilities.  The basic mechanic (the Head Count) is firm, as are the interaction and Combat rules.  Magic works in principle, although I'm still tweaking the "feel" of it, which I'm not entirely satisfied with--too structured for my liking.  Salvage Tech still needs work--I've got lists of examples, but I'm still hashing out the creation process, so that Tech can be developed in play, rather than picked from a pre-created list (that's probably the biggest hole in the design right now, since a lot hinges on it).

    Playtest of the completed rules needs to begin in January, and will go on until March or April. Prodigal Publishing Group has been established, and will start assigning art duties in February and March.  Final tweaking of the rules, based on playtest, and general editing, etc. will occur in April and May, followed by graphic design and layout , in June.  The book then goes to the printer for the month of July, and is back from the printer in time for a advance debut (via mail-order and GenCon) in August, before being made available for sale via retail outlets in late August/early September.

    So, where do we go from here?

    Next week, in place of a regular column, we'll be running a survey--courtesy of the fine folks here at RPGnet.  The survey will ask you, the readers, where you'd like to see the column go next--what areas of the rules you'd like to see fleshed out more, or what things you think aren't clear enough.  It's your chance to tell me what areas of design you'd like to see more coverage of--keeping in mind of course, that this is going to be a commercial release.  Don't ask me to show all of the cards in my hand just yet--otherwise there's no reason for you to get the game when it comes out!  As long as it relates to the design process, though--feel free to ask for more detail.  Hell, if you think you've gotten enough information on UnderWorld, and you'd like to see what else I'm working on, say that.

    In the meantime, I'll be taking a break, going on vacation, and engaging in the usual holiday festivities--and I suggest you do the same.  After all, it's a remote possibility that all of this will go up in smoke when Y2K hits.  :)

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Blessed Solstice, Happy Kwanza, Joyous Ramadan and Happy New Year, Century, and Millenium. (Yeah, I know--it doesn't officially start until 2001, but still....)

    Thanks for sticking around so far, and see ya in 2K.

Gareth-Michael Skarka

Underworld, and all related terms and concepts contained herein are copyright 1999 by Gareth-Michael Skarka. All rights reserved.

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What do you think?

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All "Step by Step" design columns

  1. Inspiration to Perspiration October 26, 1999
  2. Comin' wit da Nifties October 27, 1999
  3. Concepts Continued October 28, 1999
  4. Character is what you are in the Dark October 29, 1999
  5. Forces of Occupation October 30, 1999
  6. Forces of Occupation, Part II October 31, 1999
  7. Head Count November 2, 1999
  8. Subterranean Ass-Kicking, 101 November 9, 1999
  9. Next Stop, Rune Station November 17, 1999
  10. It's All 'Bout Da Merlins November 23, 1999
  11. Miscellany December 1, 1999
  12. Lords of the UnderWorld December 8, 1999
  13. Lucky 13 December 15, 1999
  14. Miracle Under 34th Street December 22 1999
  15. Gareth's December 27th 'edition' is a survey, on what you want for future Underworld columns.
  16. Statistics and Junk January 5, 2000
  17. Reality Slap January 12, 2000
  18. Once More Into the Breach... January 20, 2000
  19. The Mechanics of Mechanics January 26, 2000
  20. Junkmen and Soundtracks February 2, 2000
  21. The Iron Forestries of Hell February 16, 2000
  22. And Now, For Something Completely Different... February 24, 2000
  23. Confessions of a Language Geek March 1, 2000
  24. Flood of Ideas March 15, 2000
  25. A New Direction? March 24, 2000
  26. The Envelope, Please... March 29, 2000
  27. Generic Systems, My Ass! April 5, 2000
  28. Big News, and Magic April 12, 2000
  29. Big Guns, Razor-sharp Swords, and a Bit with a Dog... April 19, 2000
  30. What's the Story, Morning Glory? April 26, 2000
  31. And now for something completely different, Survey time! May 3, 2000
  32. The Fever for the Flavor May 10, 2000
  33. Random Acts May 17, 2000
  34. A Run Through Dark Places May 25, 2000
  35. Service Interruption June 1, 2000
  36. Endings and Beginnings June 29, 2000
  37. A Brief Return to the Underworld July 13, 2000

Discussion of UnderWorld

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Earlier Comments (Issues 1-7)

(Editor's note: I'll consolidate these when I get a chance)

Other columns at RPGnet

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