So What Goes Into A Firefly Game Anyway?

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Fans are excited and I’ve had non-stop questions about when the game is coming out. I mentioned this earlier, but I tend to err on the conservative side of announcing releases because, in my experiences, there IS such a thing as marketing/publicizing too early. This is also why we’ve been more transparent about what’s happening and when. Fan expectations are high and that means better (more) communication as this process continues. See also: talk is cheap and doesn’t get the words down or the game/album/story/novel/comic/etc. out the door!

Or, to put it a little more blunt: you really don’t want us to rush and put out a crappy game — do you?

Still, I realize there’s probably a ton of folks who have no idea what goes into game design and production. Hence, the reason for my post today. I thought I’d take a minute and show you what goes into this process. Mind you, these are very common components that relate to a lot of games and this one happens to be a little more complex because we have to get approval from our friends at Fox television studios. (This doesn’t include any of the other business-related elements like marketing, putting the game into distribution, convention planning, etc.) We’re not creating the game in a bubble, you see. They’re very much involved in what we’re doing.

Oh! Almost forgot! If any of my friends out there in RPG-land on the publishing side spot a missing piece or want to chime in to offer links or more visibility, feel free. Without further adieu…

  • Personnel – Who’s working on the game? What talents do they have? When will they be available?
  • Time And Resources – How much time do folks have to work on this? What’s the budget? How do different roles overlap/complement each other?
  • Scheduling – Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. So far, we’ve coordinated them for almost a dozen people. Without them, nothing for this the game would ever come out in a reasonable timeframe.
  • Brainstorming – What is the definition of a Firefly Role-Playing Game? What do players do at the table? What’s the mechanic going to be? What characters will they play? What releases do we want to make?
  • Setting Bible – Where the heck is this game being played? What’s the timeframe? What can we/can’t we do?
  • Development/Management – A developer works with the writers and knows the system to shape the game according to the overall vision of what we’re trying to do. We have a developer on Echoes of War and, in many ways, multiple developmental roles for the Firefly RPG. That’s partly what a Brand Manager (e.g. me) does in addition to people wrangling, outlines, etc. This is a step-up from brainstorming, because once the vision is clear, it has to be honed and sharpened for multiple people.
  • Writing – There are layers to writing the Firefly RPG because of the voice we use. First, we need good content. Then, it needs to be spruced up. Content here comes in multiple pieces and it all needs to fit together seamlessly. Now, here’s the thing. Right now, the estimated word count of the Firefly RPG is likely going to be 150 to 200K words. The Echoes of War adventures we announced will likely be between 20 to 30K a piece. The corebook may change pending game development; right now all we have are estimates. This does not include revisions; for every draft, there will likely be changes to fit the larger context.
  • Designing – Game mechanics don’t just grow on trees. The rules are important and that’s where the design team comes in. Even with a base system, everything has to tie together and that’s why we have a systems team in place. Remember, we’re making a Firefly Role-Playing Game. While there will be worldbuilding for fans to draw from, everything we do is in the context of a game — even the episodes.
  • Playtesting – The best games have been playtested and played a number of times before they’re released. We’re doing the same thing, but with closed groups. Playtesters have to be managed for feedback and the larger the number of groups, the more time it takes to wrangle the communication.
  • Editing – Our editors are QC – Quality Control. If something isn’t written clearly, they’ll revise it. If a paragraph has typos, they’ll fix it. But, they need a reasonable amount of time to review existing text. Yes, even text that is perfectly acceptable needs to be edited. A good editor (and we have two) is crucial to production. You can see how important it is to ensure the writing is sharp — especially for a game like this!
  • Art/Layout – Art can take anywhere from a month to three months to receive, or longer depending. There are layers to that process, too, and I think folks sometimes forget that art doesn’t just pop out of nowhere. After the final text and art is done, the layout artist needs to put together the book for whatever formats (e.g. print versus digital) it’ll be available in. This does not count time spent for revisions. And I didn’t even mention the indexing!
  • Approvals – Whether you work for your own company or not, the game has to be approved before it gets released. In our case, we have internal approvals and our friends at Fox. So, even when the game is finished, it still has to go to Fox before we can release it. If there’s changes, then the release is delayed.

I’m pretty sure I forgot something in this list… Hopefully, even with what I have written here, you can see why games are a lot more complex and time-consuming to create than you might have thought. Back to it then!

    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Too many!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: There was a hill. And I beated it.
    In My Ears: The screaming cries of my thoughts.
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy IX
    Movie Last Viewed: Ted
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* need to take pictures…
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

The Plants That Never Were And May One Day Be

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Today, I tell you a sad, short tale of living things destroyed by creatures furry and cute. To say that it’s difficult for us to have plants is an understatement. Plagued by spring fever and seeds that have yet to be planted, I vow to try again. This is an impossible task, for we live with two plant destroyers. Don’t be fooled by the innocuous appearance of this pair.


They have decimated every type of plant imaginable, from cacti to lettuce, and have made it difficult to have greenery around the house. BUT NO LONGER! We shall not submit to the cuteness of Zakar, so named after a Mesopotamian god of dreams, who can open doors and likes to complain loudly.


NOR, shall we bow to the demands of this particularly mischievous dastardly foe. Rimmon, the god of storms, lives up to his reputation daily.


So, to get around said terrifying beasts of fuzziness — terrariums and plant confinement. We shall overcome! Let us hope this works. And, if it does, then pictures aplenty for there shall be greenery!


Pots and Light

P.S. Those white spots you see in the soil are fertilizer. Not cat litter. That container happens to be empty, because cat litter plus planty, greeny, growy things is a full on yuck. I just figured that the hydroponic garden is so bright the seeds may benefit. We shall see, for my thumbs are as black as my soul.

    Mood: WRITE OR DIE
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: There was ice in my tea.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Oddly enough, I breathed fresh air. WTF?
    In My Ears: The soothing noise of the computer fan.
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy IX
    Movie Last Viewed: Ted
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* need to take pictures…
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

Inside Voices

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People ask me why I’m not aggressive with self-promotion and why I walk my own path. This has been on my mind lately, and after posting this to places like my Tumblr account and Google+, thought I’d expand the topic here. I’d also like to say that I’m having problems with my RSS feed, so alerting you in advance.

  • If everybody’s shouting different things, then no one is heard.
  • If everybody’s demanding a unique reaction, then no one will give them the one they want.
  • If everybody’s screaming “Help me!” “Fix this!” “You owe me that!” — then no one gives.
  • If you get bombarded with “Buy me!” “Review me!” “Share me!” from multiple people at the same time, then those acts turn into a chore and an obligation.
  • If you’re fully vested in what people do for you, especially in a social media context, then you get upset by the actions other people take online, jumping to the worst sorts of conclusions.
  • If everybody’s shouting, then they’re all competing. And that, my friends, can be very bad for the craft of writing and reading in general.
  • To me, this is a cacophony of conflicting sounds that hurt the work and the intent therein.

    All the shouting and screaming and yelling in the world doesn’t get people to pay attention to what you’re doing or “validate” you. In many cases, it’s starting to have the opposite effect — right now popularity is influencing what people read, but it’s not always satisfying to them and attention spans wane. The space is changing rapidly and, if you’ve viewed similar trends in the history of publishing, you’ll see that this can’t last. Eventually, the market will get so saturated it’ll tip back in favor of gatekeepers or forever remain fractured in micro-communities. (I believe the former rather than the latter is true.) Remember, everybody thinks they have a book in them. This is not like dentistry. This is writing. If you can type on your keyboard, then you’re physically performing the act of a writer. While it’s not the same thing as the craft of writing, it’s still something anyone “can” do on a basic level.

    The same is true for so-called book publicity. Anyone can own a Twitter or Facebook account. Anyone can say: “BUY MY BOOK!” Combined, it’s making it that much harder for writers, indie or “pro”, to do any sort of publicity because you have to turn up the volume even more.

    Or do you?

    I don’t shout or yell or scream “PAY ATTENTION TO ME NOW!” because I have work to do. I inform, yes, but I’d rather ask than demand. When I have something to promote, I put together a plan. For bigger projects, it’s a larger plan. But it doesn’t happen before the work is done or as an afterthought. I’m careful with it, and there’s a very, very, very important reason why. This work, my friends, is for you. It’s the core of my growing business, but it’s built on relationships. The trust with the reader. The unspoken social contract with my followers. Relationships with editors and publishers and agents.

    This is what I have to give. Not a shout, but a whisper through the pages of every game and story I work on. I will keep whispering. Sometimes, those are soft and barely audible. Other times, they’re loud. But, they’re never silent. I am always whispering.

    Come and listen.

    Come and play.

    Come and wonder.

      Mood: Fifty degrees? It’s a heat wave!
      Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Blargh-ness.
      Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Well, there’s this thing called “sore muscles.”
      In My Ears: Hoodoo by Muse.
      Game Last Played: Ascension
      Movie Last Viewed: Ted
      Latest Artistic Project: Need to take pictures…
      Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

    Author Copies from Stone Skin Press

    The Grinch Avatar

    Received these in the mail from Stone Skin Press last Friday. I love getting contributor copies. The smell of fresh ink… The other stories lurking in these anthologies… Mmmmm… Like Christmas only better.

    Stone Skin Press

      Mood: Blargh due to weather-related conditions.
      Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I’m on my first cup.
      Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Point and click and point and click.
      In My Ears: Nothing
      Game Last Played: Eternal Sonata
      Movie Last Viewed: Ted (It was very wrong.)
      Latest Artistic Project: Need to take pictures…
      Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

    Presenting… Scion: Extras (Supplemental Yet Can Be Somewhat Useful On Occasion Scions)

    Scion Extras

    While it is well-known that not every God is as potent as Zeus (and not every Goddess as brave as Isis), even the Gods themselves tend to“forget” their long-lost cousins and great-aunts twice-removed on the other side of the family. Among the immortals, the uber-powerful feel there are some deities best left off Junior’s wedding invitation, ignored at holidays, or obscured deep in a poorly updated Wikipedia page.

    In Extras (Supplemental Yet Can Be Useful On Occasion Scions), a select number of these rare Gods, Goddesses, and their Scions have been thrown under the spotlight. From the oft-overlooked Queen of the Porcelain Throne to a brave-but-curious Scion who loves the outdoors, discover how the pantheons feel about these add-ons and their place in the War against the Titans.

    This book is compatible with Scion: Hero. It includes:

  • 10 playable Scion extras from 6 pantheons
  • Deadpan humor. Because RPGs are dead, ya know?
  • Song lyrics for Sci, Scion Style. We expect to see a fan video.
  • Easter eggs! Not the literal kind. That’d be too messy. The “Oooo…Fans might want to…” kind.
  • …and more!


    Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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