Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Dime a Dozen

I have come up with another idea for yet another board game ( yet again ). Like my previous ventures, I find myself frequently wondering and day dreaming about the production schedule and other things that usually happen only when a project is nearing completion.

Keeping that in mind, it is strange for me to realize that this time when I day dream about the day this particular project will be completed, I have a few reasons to continue to day dream.

Before I go into those reasons, I would like to tell you about my experiences in the world of board gaming as it pertains to open - sourcing,  crowd sourcing and grass-roots efforts.

With the widely known features of the internet available to mostly all,  sharing files ( and therefore ideas and information ) as well as commenting on those files ( discussion ) are being done on digital hubs, and not necessarily physical ones. Though in-person communication would seem mandatory ( you would think so, the topic being board gaming ) replacements for that physical interaction are quickly arising. This could be a topic by itself, from embedded digital systems ( such as digital apps in games like XCOM: The Board Game, and Golem Arcana ) to simulators, to community driven websites and dedicated gaming sites. However, it is enough for this article if readers keep this in mind as I move on to the next point: players taking issues into their own hands.

I remember very well my dedication to the Warhammer: Fantasy, 8th edition, as well my obsession with it driving my family crazy. Later,  with the company that makes this game moving to a different fantasy system,  I sensed a lot of hate, anger and frustration from players who liked the previous game system. I am not sure if this is related, but I also came across a community of players who wanted to make the 8th edition great again. In fact, I think they went a step further and added their own content.

This community was not alone. I came across an 'open source board game project' by the name of 'Sovereign'. The idea of open-source gaming is interesting, especially when applied to board games. This way, any game could be tailored to any body's interests, while still staying true to the heart of the particular genre and game.

My impression is that open source models, especially in the context of role playing games, seem to be the norm now; whether it's more popular systems like Pathfinder or cult favorites. 

This applies to miniature war gaming as well. For example, while I don't think Kings of War is open source, the rules are free and proxies are allowed ( that is you don't have to buy miniatures from them to play their games; any miniatures will do as long as the proper format is followed )

Now, back to my idea.

Usually, when I start thinking about the  fame and riches pouring in from the latest board game I am working on, I realize what I am doing is pretty useless; in fact, I already said that this is not the case for the current one I am working on. The reason this board game is different is that decisions of when to go public about it may matter in the long run with regards to the game's content and quality.

My idea is unique, as they tend to be, and as they say, ideas are a dime a dozen. But how do I know when I should go public? If I go public soon, my idea might get copied or stolen, without attribution to me. At the same time, if I go public much later, and it works out I would feel stupid for not doing so earlier if that would have made my work easier and more accessible to different sub-audiences.

If I want to go the route of profit, then the obvious path would be to start my own company and sell my product, or go with an existing publisher. However, given the few and cheap components required for my current project, I feel the best path is to make it open source. Once I do that though, going back to a normal copyrighted commercial model with be a pain, if not impossible.

Maybe a pseudo - non profit / business model would be best, where the work I do is free for anyone to use as long as the work is again redistributed freely and attributed to me and my colleagues, but a little business-sy with people who use my work with the intention to sell it, having to give me and my colleagues a percentage of potential profits. I can distribute the game freely ( through print and play prototypes ) and charge for sets that I manufacture.

Or maybe I should go open source first, and without worrying about copyright and legal issues,  see if a natural non - profit  and / or business model arises from my / our work that hits the sweet spot between profit, community outreach and collaboration, individual customization, use by other projects as well as personal validation and attribution for / to me.

What do you think?