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Game Design: Step by Step

Once More Into the Breach...

by Gareth-Michael Skarka

January 20, 2000


I received some very kind words of support over the past week.  Thank you all.

I'm sure that some of you out there (are ya listening, Raoul?) (Whoops, sorry.  Not professional.  *whap* Bad Gareth.  No biscuit.) probably think that in some way, I was fishing for that encouragement when I wrote last week's column.  As such, you won't believe me when I say that was not my intention.  Therefore, I will not bother.

This is one of the lessons that I learned.

Some people are just going to be negative, no matter what you do.  If you go ahead with your work, they'll say that you're full of yourself and looking to feed your ego.  If you say "fuck it" and cash in your chips, they'll say that you're a coward.  Basically, they'll say anything.  Nothing you do will please them, and so (and here's the big lesson, pay attention) YOU SHOULDN'T TRY.

So that is the boat I find myself in--I like this project.  A lot.  I know that there are folks who don't.  Fine.  No problem--they don't have to read this, nor do they have to get the game when it is released.  I know that there is a great deal of work for very little reward in this industry--but I'm not a rookie.  I've been doing this for about 6-7 years.  I know the score.  As one of my peers said to me via email recently, you either "take solace in the work", or you go home.

I don't want to go home just yet.

(...and to let you in on an unprofessional little secret:  part of this decision, in all honestly, is a need on my part to "not let the bastards win." Regardless of my actual reasons, if I stopped now, certain folks would think that they had succeeded in cowing me through personal attacks and vitriol.  Egotistical as it may be, I will not and can not allow that.)

For the record, I would like to thank everyone who offered me words of support.  Special thanks especially to Lou Prosperi, T.S. Luikart, Ross Isaacs, Aaron Rosenberg, Sandy Antunes and Laura Hanson.

Right, then.  Enough of this self-indulgent garbage.  There's a game to be written.

*        *        *

Briefly, on the subject of inspiration, I have to mention a book that I'm currently reading.  It's not available yet--it's doesn't yet have an American release date, and won't be published in England until March...but I got my hands on an uncorrected proof copy, and I have to share.  The author, China Miéville, wrote King Rat, which was suggested to me by a reader on the forums some time back.  I managed to get ahold of him via email, and told him how much I enjoyed the book.  We got to talking about current projects--I talked about UnderWorld, and he told me about his latest book:  Perdido Street Station. (that is a link to the Amazon.co.uk page)  Eventually, he asked his editor to send me a galley copy--which I recently received.


This thing is an Urban Fantasy in every sense of the word.  The setting is a fictional city called New Crobuzon--a vast, sprawling carcass of urban decay.  It's denizens range from rogue scientists to Vodyanoi to Khepri (beings with the bodies of human women and scarab beetles for heads), as well as thaumaturically-altered genetic experiments called the Remade (some of which can be mechanical--similar to my concept of the Junkmen in UnderWorld), and the usual assortment of drug dealers, whores, junkies, thieves and politicians.

This thing is epic.  It's fantasy, horror, steampunk, and mystery all at the same time.  It's a perfect example of the feel that I'm going for in this game.  When it is released, get it.  No questions--just get it.

(China also managed to get me a copy of The Borribles, also suggested in the forums, and long out of print--for which I am also thankful)

*        *        *

Alright.  You're getting a short column this week, I'm afraid.  It's already late, and honestly, I want to go over my notes and see where I want to explore next.  Next week, we're back on track and back on schedule--most likely tackling the subject of Salvage Tech, Artificers, and Junkmen.

See ya in 7.  I promise.

Gareth-Michael Skarka

Underworld, and all related terms and concepts contained herein are copyright 2000 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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