As you probably know, I have been working on the roleplaying game project “Gears” quite a while now. In the meantime I even released an early draft to the public, which looked pretty playable, if you ignore the fact that it still lacks magic rules and talents. The problem is that I basically keep rewriting the rules from scratch.
The gist is that I don’t “feel” that the current rules are as they should be. That’s a pretty fuzzy description on what’s currently going on in my head. When I write something, design a rule, etc. I want it to have the right feel to it. Much of what I do is more by intuition than an exact science. When something I work on, doesn’t feel right, I keep rewriting it as long as I am happy with it. And alas this just doesn’t work with Gears.
While I love a lot of the concepts I added to the game, it just doesn’t work out (for me) as a whole. The core mechanic is cool, but when combined with the skill ladder and other parts of the game, it feels awkward and unwieldy. I keep changing the combat rules and damage mechanics and fiddle around with the skill lists.
While I was working on Gears I had this idea for a smaller game which uses the classic fantasy archetypes to describe the capabilities of characters: Warrior, Rogue & Mage. And to my surprise the game works great and it’s very easy to adapt to other genres. Instead on working on Gears, which makes me want to tear my hair out, I would love to put more effort in WR&M or something derived from it.
That’s pretty much the reason why Gears isn’t done yet and why I think it’s probably best when I put it officially on the backburner for now. As long as Gears looms like Damocles’ sword above me, I can’t put some serious effort into anything else.
Ok, I just needed to get this off my chest. Now let’s return to our regular program.
I'd say release small and release often. Mark the rules as "alpha test" and do not worry about making big changes in the future. I think releasing small and often is important, which is why I've just started that with the alpha version of Icar.
For those of us who are interested in Gears, the final game is as important as the process you took to get there. We want to see the design choices, gaffs and good things so that we can learn from them. I liked it when you posted about it a lot at the start. Please keep doing that!
Thanks for the advice. That's what I actually planned when I started this, but I am currently at the point that I need to put Gears on the backburner. BUT that means I will put some more effort in other projects, which basically means: more free games on the horizon. And perhaps I will return to working on Gears after a few weeks/months.
Giving yourself a break from something works well too. Don't break for too long, though or it will be difficult to get the momentum back.
Are there any lessons you've learnt while designing Gears? Any wisdom to hand over, no matter how small?
There are definitely a lot of things I learned. The most important lesson was that I shouldn't have tried to do too many things at the same time. And I put too much pressure onto myself which didn't make things any easier.
Would you like me to send you some of my work up to this point? I've made a lot of progress on the Chrome stuff and although I'm doing quite a few more complex things than you, some of what I've done is simpler than you and could work. For example: I instituted a skillset similar to GUMSHOE that doesn't apply skills as modifiers to the die roll like stats. Instead the skill level just works to determine what the character is capable of attempting and if they don't have the required level they get penalties.
@Helmsman: That would be great!