Alright, so I haven't written anything here for a while, but I assure everyone that I'm still alive.
There are a couple reasons for this, the most obvious of which being my work on my master's program. Since it's in creative writing, it uses up most of my creative energy and I've just been left very drained. I'm working on a novel that's tied to Bioreaktor, but the consequence of that is that Bioreaktor itself is basically dead in the water while I finish that, and then I'll polish it off when I'm done.
What writing I do (and I still write about as much as I did on average in my heyday) is almost all focused on my academic work right now, but I'm going to be trying to do some small posts regularly.
I'm also hoping to diversify more of my writing away from Steem, as much as I love all of y'all around here.
So, basically, I'm going to lay out my big Loreshaper Games related plans in 2020, and explain some of the reasons. I'll start by talking about Steem, since that's where this is getting posted, but then I'll go into the generic "direction of the company" agenda.
Why Less Content on Steem?
Back in the day, I used to write quite prolifically for Steem, and I really enjoyed it. However, there are three things to consider that really went into this:
So, first and foremost, I love Steem, but I've just decided that it's not the platform with the best audience for Loreshaper Games. The tabletop RPG audience here is relatively small. That's not the end of the world, but it is something to consider: I don't like cross-posting content except from, say, a personal site to a public site.
The biggest issue with Steem, though, is the persistence of content. I know there are workaround solutions to this, but the fact that content basically expires after a week is a pretty big deal to someone who's actively pursuing expanding markets. Because the incentive of Steem is always to keep new stuff promoted, since it's what actually can reap rewards, it doesn't match a lot of what I do.
Last but not least, Steem simply has become an unprofitable place to produce content. I've been transitioning toward more freelance work. Steem as a currency has lost almost all its value, and I'm not sure it will ever go up. That's not a naysayer thing either; I hope it goes up, but I don't think that even a tripling or ten-fold increase in the value of Steem would really make it a profitable enterprise. I make products, products which could theoretically sell. I still plan to post some development blogs and whatnot here on Steem, but not only do I simply not write as many essays (that intellectual itch has been filled largely by my academic work) as I used to, I plan on posting the ones I do write either on my personal blog or in places where they can draw in an audience for my games.
What's Coming in 2020
Loreshaper Games has always operated at a loss, but this year I'm not going to be able to do that. I just don't have the cash on hand to fund my projects. I quit my day job to go back and do my master's, and while I'm not financially hurting (yet), I definitely have more of an emphasis on meeting my basic needs instead of funding passion projects.
With that said; I have some great art from @znkd that I hope to use for Genship Exiles. He's posted some of it over on his site, and I'm really looking forward to bringing that project to fruition. It's in rough shape, however. I've started, aborted, and restarted Genship Exiles probably five or six times now, and I'm not going to guarantee a 2020 release.
My big goal for 2020, because I don't have a lot of time to focus on big projects, is to work on Hammercalled where I get a chance to, and do occasional small projects to keep the company's name out there and to experiment with potential ideas for future games/projects.
One of these games will be Hyperspace Bleedout, which is going to be a small, free "spacepunk" game over on itch.io and probably also DriveThruRPG. It's based on the Hammercalled ruleset broadly, but with a very different core mechanic and hyper-streamlined rules. Since people know that I like to have Hammercalled play pretty quickly, you can imagine what that's like.
Traditionally, I've over-promised and under-delivered on projects, and that's because probably about 10% of the projects I've started wind up to my own standards. My goal for 2020 is to both stop making promises I can't keep and also to make it so that more of my projects wind up where I want them to.
PWYW versus traditional sales, DriveThruRPG versus itch.io
So, one thing that I've been thinking about recently is how to release products going forward.
I don't want to paygate my work. I'm a believer in free (as in speech) content, and I like sharing my work with the world. I also consider it my portfolio for freelancing, even though it's far from perfect.
I think it may be necessary to go to a traditional sales model if I wanted to take Loreshaper Games full-time. However, for now I will continue to release stuff under our hyper-free TAL and not do any premium editions that are pay-walled. I do hope to spin off some premium products from a free core set, but 2020 is probably not going to be the year for that.
One thing to consider is how freelancers and the like factor into this. Since traditionally people don't get royalties in this business (and if they did it would probably be a lot less than I'd pay them up front, but that's neither here nor there), it's not like they're losing anything by having their work released for free, but using the very open licensing terms that include art and stuff could be a problem for some people. This hasn't come up yet, but may be a deciding factor in taking that plunge if I ever do it.
We've got smaller, indie-style products that have traditionally not been a good fit for DriveThruRPG on the agenda, but the fact also remains that Waystation Deimos did pretty well there. DriveThruRPG takes a greater cut than itch.io and with pay-what-you-want releases that's a pretty big cut of not very much.
On itch.io, the distributor's cut is much smaller, and another significant upside is that they tend to do everything just a lot smoother than DriveThruRPG (it's basically a difference between mid-10s design language and mid-00s design language) and have more tools to engage with customers.
As a result, I'm leaning toward making itch.io distribution the first place for things up until they're in a fairly stable, unchanging state. Then I'll add them to DriveThruRPG, since updating products on DriveThruRPG is a process that I'm very much not a fan of and can have some significant issues.