Making Another RPG
There’s a regular conversation I have with one of two people. This is almost always how it ends:
Eventually, I will make another RPG, I suppose. I don’t know when.
I say this comment or one a lot like it after being asked if I’m going to make another Wizardry or another RPG in the same vein. Typically, I am asked at a conference when I am speaking on a completely unrelated matter. The answer to the Wizardry question is “no”. I don’t have the license or even access to it. Besides, it’s alive, well and doing its own thing in Japan. The answer to the latter question about making another RPG is more nebulous and is what starts the conversation with either my partner or my long-time co-designer. In that conversation, I talk about the initiating circumstance (talking to a Wizardry fan/RPG designer/playing a particular RPG), what type of RPG might be interesting to make and when, if ever, I’d consider starting one. The answer, as noted above, is nebulous.
For a long time, I had little desire to work on another RPG. Bear in mind that I worked on them for over 20 years, from 1982 until 2003. During that time, I saw the rise and fall of the hard-core RPG (Wizardry), the advent of the light and loved RPG (Diablo), the MMORPG (Ultima Online), the short-lived adventure RPG (Nemesis: A Wizardry Adventure) and RPG-ish spin offs that weren’t really RPG, but felt that way to me anyway (Magic: The Gathering). I recall being at Sir-tech in the 1990’s and being thrilled to work on the Jagged Alliance series because it had guns and modern settings, and the creative side of me wanted to work on something which contained no swords, or swords only in the form of daggers which one would use in the event that their primary, bullet-packing weapons ran out of bullets.
I recall interviewing with a company back in 2006. I was a contender for a lead design gig on [giant game 1] or [giant game 2], RPGs both. I ended up stopping the interviews in the 6th round and accepting a gig that let me teach and work on some independent and contract projects for a while. My new students, in hearing about the interviews, thought I was insane, but tried to understand my motivation. In their eyes, I had left the industry and turned my back on a company that they’d kill to work for. I didn’t so much turn my back on that company – in fact, I love their games – as I did accept my need to explore other genres.
Over the last couple of months, however, and in the absence of questions or comments, I’ve thought a ridiculous amount about RPG design. It’s probably because I am designing the leveling curves for a couple games, determining drop rates for things, and creating specs that could be RPG-ish if I wanted them to be. I am also setting up my game room at present and the first game on tap when it’s done will be the legendary Chrono Trigger. And so, though no one asked me about making another RPG, I decided that I would, and one night while lying in bed, I actually found myself playing with a full-on RPG spreadsheet in my head. Had I an idea of which direction I wanted to go in, I think I may have gotten up and actually started it right there.
RPGs have changed a lot over the last decade. The time for me to make another RPG is here, though. As I explore the space, I am curious what some of your required features might be and thank you in advance for sharing them with me.