Archive for October 23rd, 2008

In Other Banjo News…

2008 Oct 23

Travis Stever, the guitarist of Coheed & Cambria, has an album out with his new band Davenport Cabinet and, while the vocals aren’t very exciting (that’s why he’s the guitarist), there’s a lot of banjo all over the place, which surprised me. I’m dropping in my “emo folk” folder, to join — the only other entry — Bright Eyes’ Lifted Or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. Not bad company, really. If you just wanna pick up one Davenport Cabinet track, I suggest the first track, “Square One,” which is an instrumental that opens with that unmistakable twang.

Danger Mouse Does Banjo Funk

2008 Oct 23

Yeah, I wouldn’t have imagined it either, until I heard The Black Keys’ track “Psychotic Girl” while watching (coincidentally enough) Gossip Girl. So I looked it up and, yeah, produced by Danger Mouse. That’s a good way to earn my 99 cents, right there.

Here’s an iTunes link.

Outside Playtesting

2008 Oct 23

Cross-posted from Story Games, where lately I’ve been trying to “post less, but post better,” which this is a good example of.

Outside playtesting is a tough egg to crack, in all honesty. You can have a really great game (Thou Art But a Warrior, How We Came to Live Here) and still have almost nobody playtest it, aside from groups your organize yourself. However, once you get a few people playtesting and posting about your game, you can usually get a few more, and then a few more. It’ll sometimes peter out, though. For example, when the GoPlayNW folks started playing Geiger Counter, there were a few weeks where I got 60% of all the outside play AP the game has ever had. Since then, I’ve gotten a few one-line notes that people have played and enjoyed it (which is awesome, don’t get me wrong), but only a few isolated AP posts. Those are still super useful and I’ll read over them like a hawk when I get around to writing the final version of the game, but it just goes to show that playtesting is a seesaw.

From my perspective, anything a creator can do to make it more likely that people will playtest their game is a good choice. And this means releasing it in as many different formats as they have the time and energy to do. PDFs are great, but if they don’t get people to sit down and actually play your game, you may have to try something else. Sometimes selling or giving away free print copies, even ones made on a photocopier like the Geiger Betas I gave away at GenCon, might help you with that… but, then again, they might not. I’m not sure if I’ve received ANY posts from people who picked up one of those hardcopies. That doesn’t mean they were a bad idea, necessarily, but that I’m not sure they worked in this particular case, at that particular venue, without me running the game and helping get folks excited about it (since I had to bail on actually going to GenCon at the last minute).

Another issue is that… who is your playtesting audience really? People have to be fairly committed to helping you with your game in order to playtest something, which usually means they have to be so excited about playing your game that they want to play it even when it isn’t complete. Honestly, folks who are really into indie games — especially other indie game creator-publishers, the folks whose attention you might think you need to get for your game to be vetted / successful / etc. — are probably less likely to do independent playtesting for you. They already have a bunch of games they’ve been wanting to play for a while, in addition to their own game projects that they need to playtest. If you can sit down with them at a housecon (frex. JiffyCon) or a larger convention (Dreamation, GenCon), you’ll probably find they’re more than happy to play your game and offer feedback, but getting folks to independently commit their own time is harder.

All that of which is to say: finding independent playtesters is hard. You want really smart, thoughtful people who aren’t already strongly committed to other projects and games, so they can take the time and attention to get excited about yours and actually play it, ideally more than once. Honestly, you may be more likely to find those 1) locally, among people you’ve talked to in person about your game, 2) on a general site like RPGnet, or 3) from among the lurkers on SG more than from among the people who post a lot or have published one or more games. How do you find those people? Really, it’s anybody’s guess.