Sunday, 2 November 2014

Collaboration

Work/Life has taken its toll of late and Mesh Dream keeps expanding in scope. The project was originally something to do while Bandit Country percolates through my subconscious and finds traction. It has become so much more than that.
Mesh Dream is very ambitious. On a scale that I can't really reveal because that would ruin the whole point. The game is a playable mystery and the reveal is... a revelation.
This requires some intricate design and writing. For it to be anything more than a game with a plot-point campaign or a playable story- arc there are obstacles that must be considered and resolved.
Mesh Dream is a traditional game in that it has a GM (called the Architect), Players, dice and characters. The role of the Architect transforms as the game proceeds. Initially it is that of a GM like in most RPGs. As the players gain a sense of what the game is and begin to learn and use the strengths and weaknesses of their Characters, the GM becomes more of a Curator. They hold the mystery of the game and the ideas that it represents and decide how to give them form as a gallery for the Players to observe and interact with. In the final stages of the game the Curator becomes the Architect, the game has become a plan, a composition, and at the very end, the Players are faced by a decision.
The obstacles that I face to complete Mesh Dream are mostly in the form of successfully translating the concepts of the game into a format that empowers utility for the Architect. In many ways, the art of writing a successful pen and paper RPG is all about recruiting the GM. The GM is the first customer and if drawn to the game, will sell it to the Players. (I am talking here about the exchange of ideas). All games need this buy-in because they are a group activity. Mesh Dream needs it even more because the game is intended to arrive at an ultimate moment and will only get there if the GM is an actively enthusiastic guide who wants to prepare and present this moment for the Players to discover.
To bring it all together (and to get to the point of this post!) I have been searching outside my own head for solutions. Three things that I am quite proud of and excited by have all come together recently. They are all the result of collaboration; being an active participant in, but not an owner, of a creative endeavor.

 Firstly, my work on Cubicle 7's Trail of the Scorpion for Rocket Age is soon to be released. I am the minnow in the pool of talent involved and I am looking forward to seeing the completed book. Rocket Age is a young property but thanks to the tireless work of Ken Spencer (and everyone else involved) has a very strong sense of self. Professionally writing for a property that you don't own is a great way to grow your talents because you have to bring your A game and you don't get to choose the narrative limits. 
Secondly, I discovered the Golden Cobra Challenge. I started working on a game and realized that my time is just too limited at the moment. Then on rpg.net I came across Rickard Elimää's entry: Imagine (Click Here for final version). We started chatting and I drew a flowchart (as is my wont) and before I knew it I was immersed in the Kishōtenketsu narrative structure.
Thirdly, I got in touch with Jeff Moore, prolific game creator who wrote 5x5, a game that I have admired in previous posts whilst bemoaning the jargon and complexity of roleplaying games and the barrier to entry that they offer new participants. Jeff is one of those rare creatives who not only create and innovate but can then iterate and refine. He is working on a version of this game for Super Heroes and it is absolute genius. Fortunately for me he was open to my ideas and I am attempting to hammer two disparate mechanics into a consolidated flip state mechanic (that I will then have to sell him on!)
My creative stream has always benefited from harvesting insights from multiple simultaneous projects. On one hand Rickard's game is minimalist to the point that it slaughters many of the cows sacred to gaming, nearly the entire herd. It eschews a GM, random challenge resolution, character reward/ challenge loops, character acting and even conflict. I told him that some people would (wrongly) argue that it isn't even a game. Jeff's game is all about character acting, challenges and in comics, everything is conflict. The games are poles apart and it has been a fantastic experience collaborating on them.
I expect that this will change Mesh Dream which, considering what it is, is entirely to be expected. I now have a flowchart for the core gameplay loop and that goes a long way towards implementing the methods by which the later stages of the game will subvert it. I will post this soon along with a glimpse of the Mesh Dream palette.