Saturday, March 8, 2014

Can Daring Comics Pull off a Fate Supers Game?

This morning, I awoke at an odd time and I did what I always do shortly after I wake up. I checked my email. Sitting there, in all its glory, was an announcement from +Rich Knight  that the Kickstarter campaign for the Daring Comics Role-Playing Game had begun. Those who know me know that I have a certain love for supers, RPGs, and the Fate system by Evil Hat Games. I was excited and decided to hop on over to the Kickstarter and have a look.

Now, those who have read my blog before know that I have a tendency to be a bit stingy with my money and harsh on those who ask for it. At the same time, I am the first to sing the praises of those who impress me. It saddens me to say that this particular project failed to do just that. I mean, there were some solid ideas presented along with the project, but there were also several concerns raised.

First, in the very beginning, there is an explanation for why the Kickstarter campaign page lacked the video that many of us have come to expect. It is understandable, really. Apparently, the artist had been paid to put the video together, but delayed and eventually pretty much vanished. It happens. If I had to count the number of artists—particularly comic book and RPG artists—I have seen flake out over the years, I’d be here all night. Okay, but why not have a backup plan? You’re a publisher, you’ve almost assuredly dealt with this before or at least know it’s a risk. You could’ve planned ahead. You could’ve come up with a plan B. You could have put together a video using a slideshow application and a microphone. But, that wasn’t done here. The project needed to get out the door so money could be made. So, what other excuses will we see during production and what other shortcuts will we take in the name of a product getting out the door.

As a writer, I know I am far from perfect. I often say that, as a writer, I’d have a fool for a client if I were to also serve as my own editor. However, there were some editorial issues with the Kickstarter. As a writer, I also hate being told “it could have been better” without anyone offering any specifics. And yes, this blog post could have probably been better, but I’m doing it for free, in my spare time, and not asking for any money. Take, for example, a line right from the announcement on G+: “But we didn't stop there, just as you can expect to see rules for building your own Stunts, we also provide you with the rules for building your own powers, special effects, and limits using the same basic Fate rules.” Why wasn’t “But we didn’t stop there” its own sentence. Okay, maybe I’m being picky and confusion grammar for stylistic choices, but things like that leave an annoying ring in my brain, like most people experience with nails on a chalkboard. “Heroes like you!” is great, but it lacks build up and connection. And, there are certainly more I could point out, but it probably is better to just say “it could have been better.” The Daring team didn’t ask for me to critique or edit every last word, and I’m not trying to pick on them here. Hopefully, they and others will understand I’m really just offering up some constructive criticism here.

And, let’s face it, when you read what they plan on doing, this is a massive project. They’ve spent two years working on it so far and have made adjustments to make it more compatible with the most recent version of Fate. Boasted features of the product include:

  • 100 pre-built powers
  • More than 100 special effects and limitations
  • Full color artwork
  • Series and settings creation
  • Sample archetypes to enable fast play
  • And more

It sure seems to be a massive undertaking. And, it seems to have everything I would expect and/or want from such a project. I’m actually a bit excited about it. But, these initial problems have me a bit concerned. The fact that this project was posted about 7 hours ago and already has more than 30 backers and $2000 under its belt says something to me. And, like Kickstarter advises, I do a little internet sleuthing. Their domain has been around since 2009, although the posts go back as far as late 2011 and refer to the previously successful Kickstarter project World of the Dead for Savage Worlds and this game here. The blog updates have been sporadic—mostly a week or two, but sometimes a month or two between. The Google Plus community had 88 members (now 89, because I do want to follow this). I’m hoping to see more activity here as there are a few earlier posts, but the ones related to the Kickstarter release talk about pricing or the video. The video isn’t considered a big deal. Then why open the Kickstarter page with it?!? And, it can’t be compared to the Fate Core pricing model, but why? I’m absolutely basing the value of this project off of related projects.

That being said, it is a bit pricey. For all they plan on adding, it might be a fair price. Let’s have a look at that. They have gone through the process before and learned at least one or two lessons the ahrd way, but they group seemed to keep people updated throughout the way—something we know not all Kickstarter projects do. There delays from that previous product didn’t seem too bad either. These are both good things.

They were apparently Arbor Productions which apparently made a name for itself, but since changed names. From a business perspective, this sets off warning bells—if the business was doing well, why change it? They boast of publishing close to 70 products, although it seems a number of these were part of the adventure series related to their last Kickstarter. That’s good, because they support stuff instead of run off roughshod from project to project and I can’t speak to the quality of those products because they’re in a line that simply doesn’t interest me or as to whether they should be considered 70 or so different products or really just mostly one big project that was released over time.

Looking over the provided artwork, it is decent. It isn’t anything stellar that reaches out and grabs me, though. For a supers RPG, I think it needs to do just that. And, once money comes in and artists can afford to dedicate more time, I would be hopeful that we’d see the work get better. But, it leads back to the part about the video—why not put the best foot forward right off the bat?

They also provided a brief into by gathering dev notes and putting them into a PDF. This was an interesting read. I seem some of the same stylistic and editorial choices that leave me a bit luke warm. They talk about the campaign scope and creating the setting. I was a bit let down that they didn’t deviate more from standard aspect creation for the super heroes, but that’s a personal choice, really. I dig the rogue gallery overview, but is that going to be too much work and turn off people that love the fast and easy way of Fate? They start using points to do skills and stunts and powers, which takes away the pyramid a bit. I don’t have a problem with this, although I’ve seen a number of people stomp their feet at the mere suggestion of such a thing. Powers definitely get a bit more complex as the discussion goes on, leaving me feeling less like I am looking at a Fate book and more like something from other systems, or at least a cross between the two. I get it, but am not totally sure I like it. To me, it fails to encapsulate Fate.

That was actually the deal breaker for me. I could possibly look past everything else. But, when I realized I was seeing something that was less and less Fate, I realized I have tons of supers RPGs that are not Fate already at my disposal.  It may end up being an awesome game, but I’ll have to wait and see once it is out rather than jumping on the Kickstarter bandwagon. I wish the team all the luck in the world. Not everything is for everyone, though, and I think we can all understand and agree on that.