Communication is the key

Open D6 I usually don’t rant on my blog and I although don’t post my thought on the industry that often either, but there’s something that got my blood boiling. Perhaps you remember the Open D6 project, I’ve been posting about. Eric Gibson, current owner of West End Games, had a great idea: releasing the D6 System under an open license and creating a website where people not only can upload their custom rules but where you also can download a ruleset based on your wishes. You want a D6 ruleset suited for Fantasy, using Body Points and the D6 Legends dice mechanics? Just click a few buttons and you can download your customized rulebook or send it to Lulu for printing. That still is a great idea, alas the website is still a placeholder site.

Over a year ago, Eric Gibson updated the WEG website for the last time and announced that the D6 System was going to be released under an open license. In the following months he repeatedly posted about his plans and ideas on various forums (mainly on then WEG Fan Forums). During last GenCon the first Open D6 publication by WEG was finally released: Bill Coffin’s Septimus (which had been cancelled once already and was considered vaporware at some point). And then Eric stopped communicating: No more updates anywhere. So, after several months, people assumed the project was dead, that something must have been happened to Eric or that the company must have gone bankrupt.

Luckily, Eric had already made the D6 rulesets available under the OGL some time ago (with the help of the fans I have to add) but the lack of a trademark license forbids the use of either the Open D6 or D6 System trademarks. So people invented new names to release their version of the D6 rules under the OGL: Six-Sided Fantasy and Mini Six were just two of the projects that were started while Eric was “incommunicado”. The latest project was the Open D6 Resurrection wiki, which I posted about just a few days ago.

And guess what, now Eric Gibson suddenly returns, announces that Open D6 is far from dead as a project and that he’s unhappy about D6 “fragmenting”. He also tells people that it was their fault if he seemed MIA since they didn’t try to contact him hard enough. When I (and other people) tried to explain to him that communication is key for any company, I was accused of “preaching” to him. Ok, perhaps I was preaching, but I am just concerned that Eric Gibson’s lack of communication with the dwindling WEG fan base will probably hurt not only the Open D6 project but his company West End Games in the long run. Communication with the fans is very important in this day and age, especially if you are an indie publisher. Sometimes even a short news post letting people know that a project is still alive is all what is needed. But nothing kills the relationship between a RPG company and its fans faster than being out of touch for too long. And I am pretty sure that I am not the only fan who feels alienated by Mr. Gibson. But perhaps he just knows best what’s good for his company.

Just my two cents.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

13 thoughts on “Communication is the key”

  1. First of all, let me say that I agree with the fans on this one. You can't just vanish for a long stretch of time with no communication, then get annoyed when people try to fill the void. What was he thinking?

    BUT, from early on in the thread, there were some fans (I don't think I've gotten to your post yet, so I'm not referring to you specifically) that were attacking him. Yes, what he did was wrong. Yes, he's going on and on about this alleged site that's going to be better than sliced bread and is offended that anyone would use sliced bread in the meantime. But that doesn't mean you have to attack him. Ignore what he says, because in the big picture, you're getting something accomplished. He… might be.

    I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    EDIT: Also, if those pictures that came out of the site a while back are really what it's going to look like? It's NOT better than sliced bread.

  2. OK, I live under a rock and have never heard of D6 as a system name before. But I have heard of D20. I was intrigued by your story about the vanishing/returning Mr Gibson as this seems to mirror the performance of a Mr Gordon who was heavily involved with a D20 version of Traveller. The story arc both gentlemen have scribed across the RPG community are so similar that I really had to do a double-take while reading your post.

    Ain't life funny.

  3. I think I have lived under a rock for some time, since I never heard of Scott Agnew or Hunter Gordon. Who are those guys and what exactly have they done?

  4. I'd be very curious to know the whole story of what has been going on with Mr. Gibson over the last couple of years. It's very clear that he has gone through a couple of serious meltdowns on the business side. It's also pretty clear that his reaction to crisis is to retreat and regroup until he can come up with a solution (a tactic I can sympathize with, as that's what I do, too). But, there are other bits going on that are less clear. I can't tell if there are pressures on him that we are not privy to, or he is getting really bad advice from someone he trusts, or if he just hit some kind of wall with his ability to deal and refuses to admit it.

    It is kind of a shame. If he'd handled things with a bit more open communication and a bit less desperation, WEG could have been laid to rest with honors (like, say, Guardians of Order). He even could have deliberately worked to reinvent the company as a tiny indie outfit, opening up all of his IP and strongly encouraging community involvement to keep the name alive. Sure, both of those options smack of "giving up," and neither would provide one red cent to ease his financial woes. But, I don't think his current actions are doing much better.

    I really do feel for Mr. Gibson, because I can't honestly say I would do much better in his shoes. It's very easy to sit here and armchair quarterback. But, really, he does need to at least recognize that he has done a lot of damage to his own brand.
    .-= Lugh´s last blog ..Reverence and awe =-.

  5. I'm afraid that Eric's messages sound like someone who thinks he deserves respect, like he's doing us a favour and we should thank him for it. His attitude does not sound like a man trying to impress his fan/customer base and his final post – 'This horse is f***ing dead' – is atrocious behaviour and just sounds like some random internet joe mouthing off.

    This is why I gave up on the D6 system a while ago.

  6. The d6 System itself is worthy of our continued attention, but Eric Gibson is not. He's not the guy who came up with the system, he's just the one holding the license right now. And he has a pretty poor job as owner of WEG so far.

    As I see it, aside from making promises he can't keep he hasn't achieved much in the recent years. And I don't think he deserves much respect for sitting on a great game and not putting it to use. It's a shame that he didn't even manage to promote Bill Coffin's Septimus properly. *sigh*

  7. Hunter Gordon is the guy who held (holds?) the Traveller licence for d20.

    When some family issue struck he managed to go offline leaving everything dangling, behaving very unprofessional by not communicating.

    Scott Agnew is the man behind Morrigan Press (Omnisystem, Talislanta, Arcanum). He also went missing and left things dangling.

    Lesson for one-man-companies:

    have a back up plan, and a trusty lieutenant among the fan base as a second in command to help you run the forum and issue clarifications.
    .-= Andreas Davour´s last blog ..A summary of the Outlaw Press scandal =-.

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