Sunday, June 7, 2015

Process Talk: We Are Super Chill All the Time

Since y'all can't actually see us when we're working, we sometimes worry that maybe you think we aren't working. After all, you haven't seen a final book yet, so it can feel like a yawning black hole of no information. What are we doing all day? Lounging around like Roman nobility eating grapes, probably. Those damn game designers.

Actually, we don't work all day every day; for one thing, we are running two different playtest games, which require a great deal of extra setup and note-comparing afterward (and shout-out to the playtesters, thank you for putting up with surprise changes to your Blessings and us occasionally saying things like, "So, um, there's a new rule to solve that weird problem from last week..."). John also has a part-time job to keep us in Hot Pockets and orange juice, and although we're in summer right now, I have night classes during the schoolyear proper to finish my current degree. Also, we sleep and eat like normal humans.

But, all other times, we are working. Here's what working looks like:

There are four different whiteboards in our house, which we installed ourselves, covered at all times with notes from whatever we're doing right now. John is very visual, so we draw a lot of spaghetti-like diagrams to connect things, build visual relationships to make sure different parts of the game are communicating right, make lists of things, and generally flail around with various colors of ink. I'd take pictures for you, but they're covered with too many spoilers; I actually went downstairs to try to find something I could photograph but ended up failing. There are also pieces of posterboard all over the walls, basically because we actually need full-wall whiteboards but can't afford them, so the whole place looks a little bit like A Beautiful Mind but with game mechanics.

We do also have possibly too many breaks because there are obviously literally thousands of dice on the tables at any given time for us to use, and John tends to drop them and then we have to search under the furniture. But that's a hazard of dice-based gaming.

We spend an average of eight hours a day in this den of math and arguments - sometimes less, if John has to go to a shift, sometimes more, if it's Saturday and we have the entire day open. We have previously discussed video-recording our workdays so you could see one in action, but we always decide not to for two reasons: first of all, because there would be a lot of editing for long silences where we both mutually try to solve a problem before talking again, and second of all, because we fight like angry wolverines.

It's not vicious personal fighting or anything; it's just that, as a two-person team, when we run into things we disagree about, it's hard to resolve those disagreements. In addition, because John is often the mechanics-minded person and I'm often the mythology and theme person, we have the problem of each thinking the other person's objections are less important than our own, so it can take a while to sort things out. We do get there, but once in a great while we get so serious about it that we have to take an hour or two break to remind ourselves that, yes, we do in fact like each other, and respect each other's work, and no one has to move out.

We also have several ridiculous posters listing the things we still have to get done, covered with heart and star stickers to show which things we've finished. There's a sticker system, it's all very serious and official.

Of course, this is just the writing/editing process, which is necessarily very detail-oriented and involves just the two of us; there are a million other process parts, such as the art department (I've heard it's a terrifying dungeon up there, but they keep telling me it's not an HR problem) with their drafting and approval process, the copy-editing process where finished material is passed up to Jess for analysis and the back-and-forths for updating things based on her suggestions, the layout process for making the final book look pretty, and the meetings with Cameron to make sure you're all updated.

So, that's what things look like here, on any given day. And we do get tired, but hey, we're getting to do what we love, so if you'll forgive us the process taking a while, we'll keep trucking!

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