Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My RPG & Board Games Industry Wish List

RPGs can easily be altered to be played any way one wants, but we can wish for out-of-the-box simplicity, perfection, ease of use, etc.  Board Games are not as easy to alter any different way one wants and need some improvements too, going forward. Here is my wish list for Games/RPGs. And be aware that I don't know everything so if some or all of what I list exists, please enlighten me. I am willing to learn.

• Monster Manual Card Decks for each monster. Monsters need stats for small, medium, and large parties, so if a DM choses to play a monster they can easily chose what stats to use based on party size. These decks could come with the MMs or be sold separately. The S, M, L, XL stats are the crux of this idea. Even if card decks are not in your company's future, please put the varying stats for varying party size with each monster. Sometimes it's just me and my son playing, not a full party of 7.

Prefab Characters, lots of them. The complexity of creating a character is the biggest roadblock standing in the way of new and young players. Character creation is almost always the most complex initial hurdle, and requires much flipping back and forth through a user guide/players handbook all before any game is actually played. While a few prefab characters are available online for all or most systems, I wish there were dozens, or even hundreds of prefab characters to chose from, download, print, buy, etc. Imagine a prefab character box with 100-200 prefab characters to leaf through and hand out. This need not detract from personal play choices either as certain traits can be left to be filled in by the player. Alternatively, blank, 1/2-made, and 100% prefab character sheets can all be included.

• Online Character Creation Tool.  D&D kind of did this but in general RPGs are lagging far behind the rest of the world with new technology integration. If Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network can have loads of games and junk for kids to play, then RPGs can have online services too. Online character creation is a must for any RPG system going forward that hopes to include new young people, instead of just jaded older men playing their systems. Fees can easily be charged for such services. Fast character creation that uses online tools or tablet apps needs to happen now. You may be shaking your head and saying, "NO! RPGS are for pencil and paper only," but once someone comes along and does it right, you'll all be scrambling to catch up. Get ahead of the curve now before it's too late.

• DVD, Blu-Ray, YouTube, & Online Instruction Videos. Games are too complicated to play easily. If the rules were written better this might not be a problem but the fact of the matter is that the rules for many board games just flat out suck. Sure if you are a veteran gamer, already used to the way games tend to operate you might pick up on a new game fast. For kids, teens, and even adults who have not been at this for decades, more well-written rules are needed. Video examples of unboxings, setup, and game play solve this problem quickly. Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game has videos and they are a great example of how to do this the right way. Just do it! There are people out there doing this on their own to help new games and I applaud their efforts. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is one such game with instructions that were decent but not great and I needed online YouTube videos to get going.

• Clear Well Written Instructions. Instructions and rules need to be written by people who know how to write but not necessarily know how to play the game. If you are a seasoned gamer and you came into writing instructions as a adjunct of your job, I hate to break it to you, but you are doing it wrong. Tannhäuser, Eve Online, D&D 4e, Pathfinder (Pathfinder basic box is not bad), Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and more, all need better instructions.  The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is just my most recent boxed game that I found difficult to comprehend. Were it not for YouTube, I think I might have wasted my money. Even with a 70-80% grasp of the game I still needed to go back to YouTube to make sure I had it correct. I'm going to attempt to make a quick-start guide for this game to hopefully show what is lacking and how simplicity and clear writing needs to be a big part of games going forward. After all, who wants to produce a game that people find difficult to play? And who wants to buy a $50 board game or RPG book that is maddening to comprehend. Remember, if you've been playing games forever this suggestion is not for you. Better writing of rules is needed for new or casual players. I play and read game systems quite often and I still only consider myself a casual gaming enthusiast, or a mid-level gamer at best.

• Better Box Storage. If I pay $60+ for a board game and it comes with more than 200 bits for me to punch out, and I then have to get in my car and head over to Michaels Arts & Crafts Stores to buy plastic containers to hold all the bits, well, that is lame. The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is the first boxed game I've gotten that is actually constructed for real actual game play. Follow Paizo's lead here and design and construct your game boxes with actual game play in mind. And no, Ziploc bags do not count.

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game does storage correctly.
Slots are even there for future purchases! 
• No More Bits! I could, and may, write an entire blog entry just on this point. Good Lord there are so many freaking bits, scraps, custom dice, tiny minis, and pieces that come with the games I feel like I need to be stuck in the jail from The Walking Dead just to have enough time to punch em, organize em, learn em, set em up, and play em. They make my head want to explode! Solution? Make games with fewer bits. All the bits may make it seem like you are getting your money's worth, but I see through this nonsense and just see it as a clever way to fool people into thinking they are getting a lot when it's actually just a box of cardboard with some fast photoshop work that is die-cut over in China. If you feel your game needs a complex mechanic with tons of bits then put in the ability of the bits/counters to be tracked on paper, or at the very least add the option to the game with a paper counter sheet. Most bits are used as markers and counters so a player sheet to fill the stats in manually would help. Include a few in the box and make PDFs available online. Gamers all have home printers. Also, and this is important, tablet/smartphone apps could solve this all. Most people have smartphones and tablets now. Gamers who can buy expensive board games can, and usually do, have a smartphone. Even if you want to keep in the billion game bits, make smartphone or tablet apps as virtual solutions for keeping track of bits. A truly clever company would make one master app to rule all their board games and then have a tab/hierarchy in the app for navigating to the game being played and the virtual bits being used. If you are worried about games being played without being purchased, just put essential components to game play in the box. Or put download codes in the box. Or charge for the app. The solutions are there. Companies just need the will to make these ideas happen.

• No More Blind Box Minis! I wrote about this already but it's worth reiterating again here. Gambling style sealed minis for each and every game needs to end. Now! RPG gamers want to get either all the minis or just some minis. Heroclix, where it might be necessary to have a few rare miniatures, there are solutions. Randomly include only rare figures as blind. Or just make them rare like is the practice for action figures. People revisit stores more frequently to check for rare figures. If the nerds running the gaming stores will glom them all and sell them on Ebay, then make nothing rare--but alter the rules that require playing with powerful figures that everyone wants to use. Altering the game rules to make certain figures rare/infrequently-used is easier and nicer to your consumers then making buying your product a form of gambling. I already severely limit my son's buying of Heroclix because of the way they are sold.
Don't make us blind-buy your minis, because if we saw how many doubles you packed in them, we'd buy fewer of them. This practice is the most horrid, despicable way of doing business. If your company can't make money by selling us a product we can see, then you are making crappy minis. The Pokémon Trading Figure Game has one solution with only one figure coming blind. It's somewhat acceptable to have just one figure be blind to the consumer. Not all of them. We'd stop buying packs with 5 figures we already had. Only fools would risk $25 on 5 figures they already had and did not need, just to possibly get one rare figure they needed. I still suggest making nothing rare, nothing blind, and just changing game mechanics for powerful/rare figures. Dice rolling for use of a powerful figure will solve this problem and save all the companies from looking like vultures.

RPGs for little kids. A simple RPG system with prefab characters, cartoon images, and playful and fun adventures needs to be made by Wizards or Paizo. I've seen small efforts at this idea with Wizards free PDF of The Heroes of Hesiod A Monster Slayers Adventure. This is a good thing, but something people can buy for their kids as a gift needs to be the next step. Something with cool sturdy painted minis in the box. Something that is tame, simple, yet cool to play. Kids love rolling dice. And kids love, love, love being the Dungeon Master! Keep this in mind.

Take my advice.

Go forth and improve your products.