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May. 15th, 2006 @ 02:51 pm Ætherverse Revision Blog #1: Setting Goals
I've received news that the company managing Ætherverse at the printers is shutting down operations. Unfortunately, this means that the game will officially be out of print for some time (including through Amazon.com, etc). I was hoping to keep the game in print while I commenced Triskele's reorganization but sadly this won't be the case.By the end of the month, the game will be unavailable. There is however, as always, a silver lining. As I've been hinting, I'm going to be putting together a "1.1" edition of Ætherverse. Several months ago, this simply entailed doing some typo and "bug" fixes in the text and adding new abilities that had made itin though a newsletter. Now, however, I've decided that the revision is going to be a little bit bigger.

Ætherverse: Revised First Edition will be a fairly heavy attacking of the core of the game. I'm going to work on giving the entire system a nice tune-up, incorporating suggestions and feedback from the players, and filling in the various balance holes that became clear once a larger number of players got ahold of the game. This will include a new playtesting run, and more opportunities for player feedback. Ætherverse was already very much a game created "by gamers for gamers"; we're going to continue this philosophy during the revision.

We're also going to do something quite interesting during the process: blogging it. I'm going to provide weekly posts and updates on how it's going, starting with an overall "here's some ofwhat we're going to do" list for the first few posts.

One of the first things that needs to be done when starting the revision process is to set the goals that we'll be trying to achieve.The list will, of course, change over time, but this is a first initial stab at working out what will be focused on. Changes to the list will mainly come from discovering other issues during the revision as well as from customer feedback that comes in over time.

Tightening up the "Core": When I first wrote Ætherverse, I was very much flying by the seat of my pants. The project grew very organically, with related parts sometimes being written at very different times. This often resulted in things being somewhat distorted in places, as well as some game concepts that directly contradicted others. Not good. One of the first goals of the revision is going to be to get all of the core concepts of the game reorganized, and then to rewrite everything else to better fit in with them. This means closing down loopholes, getting wordings cleaned up and consistent, and getting charts all saying the same thing.

Tuning up the Balance: Along the same lines, I'll be looking to tune up the finer balance points inthe game. While the game is fairly well balanced at a core level, some large parts need a bit of a look. (We're not speaking of specific abilities at the moment, since these are easy to balance.) This mainly concerns the army construction system and the way costs are determined. The system was designed, originally, to be internally consistent moreso than inherently balanced. The fact that everything generally builds up costs in the same manner is fairly indicative of this.

While I want to keep this same overall consistency, some parts will probably get tuned out to be a litle different. The main focus here will be, yes, the Tech Level stat. It's clearly the most important stat in the game (as intended), but it's fairly easy to just take a high TEK and no abilities and still do quite well with an army. So, I'll be looking at it more in context with everything else and will work out a way to make armies more balanced across the various tech levels. This may end up being almost anything from an increase cost curve for the Tech stat (the easiest but least desirable) to a change in the weapon cost curves (more complex but probably nearly as easy for me to make) to simply adding more "Stuff" for low tech armies to use (most transparent to the player). Feedback from players will be fairly important here.

Preparing the Business: This time around, Triskele will be handling everything relating to the sales of the book on our own. Going with Eureka initially saved us some trouble (having them handle sales to distributors sort of worked) but I had far too little control and Eureka provided next to no actual support. In the end, contracting with Eureka to handle the trade sales and printing of the book was a failure. This part will change when itcomes time to "relaunch".

When it comes time to begin selling Ætherverse again, everything will be handled by Triskele. This includes distributor and store sales, which means a much more direct channel between me and the people selling the book. This should help availability of the book (Eureka did an extremely poor job of selling) and make it easier for players to get ahold of it.

One other change that is going to happen this time around: Ætherverse will be available in Digital Format. It may even be available in digital before the actual book is available. There are a few reasons for this: first, Upheaval has gone really well; it's made me feel better about the digital format forTriskele products. Second, Kristie has done some setting up of shopping carts for a few of her web clients, and the software she's been using handles digital sales VERY well. Third, and possibly the most important, digital sales can help fund the proper release of the printversion.

Going digital early will let us get some feedback on v1.1 (letting us make fine tuning to the print version), will bring in some cash to make sure we can afford to properly advertise the print release, will get the game into players' hands and let us get the game reviewed early. All are fairly good reasons for us to go digital with an early release. So, we'll see how that works out.

The "Goals" portion of the Revision Blog will continue next time; it's something that I'm going to spend quite a decent amount of timeworking on. I've resolved to be much more organized with the creation of 1.1, and doing this helps.

Discussion of this blog post will also take place at the Triskele forums.
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