Posts Tagged ‘game design’

Want to Get Your Game Published?

October 2, 2012 1 comment

Following on from the theme of the last post, I sometimes get emails out of the blue asking for my advice on getting a roleplaying game published – and sometimes for my help as well. It looks like John Kovalic gets similar emails.

John who? He’s the creator of the hilarious Dork Tower comics, the artist for Steve Jackson Games’ hilarious card game Munchkin, and the co-founder of Out of the Box Publishing. Go out and buy Apples to Apples. Right now. I’m serious. I’ll wait till you get back.

All of which means that John is a man who knows what he’s talking about. His blog yesterday contains a great deal of wisdom for anyone who is looking to get a game published. For added style points, he does it in a series of 17 tweets. Although he specifically refers to boardgames, this is good and valuable advice for any kind of game, including tabletop roleplaying games. So if you have a game that you’re looking to get published, read this. Read it all the way to the end. Print out the expanded section, and tape or thumbtack it up somewhere where you can see it every day.

And if you’re looking to publish a tabletop roleplaying game, you should also take a look at this. You need to be realistic about your chances of making money, even if you tell yourself now that you’re only doing it for fun.

Most people in the games industry get requests for free advice and free help from time to time. Most of us would love to be able to help, but most of us can’t because we’re too busy trying to make a living. No matter what you might think, none of us is sipping champagne on a yacht – not unless they’ve made it big in some other industry. So when someone else gives out good advice and saves me the work of doing so myself, it’s my duty to steal… ahem, pass it along.

Breaking In

September 12, 2012 6 comments

From time to time I get an email out of the blue from someone who wants to break into the games industry, usually as a writer or designer. I had another one this morning, and I thought it might be worth sharing my reply in case it can be useful to anyone else out there.

I haven’t worked as a game designer for some years, through choice. The discipline is becoming increasingly technical, requiring facility with scripting languages and 3D art packages that I don’t have. I’ve had more success as a writer, and I’d recommend these titles, written by members of the IGDA Writing Special Interest Group, as a starting point. They are a few years old, but most of the information they present is still useful:

The Writing SIG ( is a good thing to join. You’ll be able to ask questions of other game writers and listen in on their discussions, which can be enlightening. They also have a presence on LinkedIn ( Most of the members also have blogs, which are worth checking out for more information and insights. Find your local IGDA chapter, go to meetings, and get to know people: contacts are everything in this business.

I got into the industry a long time ago. I started in the 80s writing for tabletop roleplaying games, and along with a number of other writers from that industry I made the move into video games in the 90s. Back then there were very few writers and designers in the video games industry, so it was easy. Today, things are different.

These days, I would recommend focusing on one or two game genres that appeal to you strongly. Find the websites for their developers and get to know the companies. Take any beta testing opportunity you can, and try to train yourself to see a game with the skin off. Look through the graphics and the UI to see the underlying mechanics in action. If there are opportunities to create fan content – levels or whatever – make the most of them.

Keep track of advertised vacancies in design and writing: many can be found on the respective companies’ web sites, and the Gamasutra jobs page ( is also a valuable resource. Pay particular attention to the requirements for the kinds of vacancy that interest you: figure out how to acquire the required skills and experience, and also how to build a portfolio that shows them off. For design, create great maps, levels, etc, using the most popular tools. For writing, create storylines and dialogue samples. Start your own blog and use it as a showcase for your talents and experience. Create a LinkedIn profile, if you haven’t already, and link to your resume and samples.

Go to conferences if you can afford to (especially GDC) and follow the design and/or writing tracks. Learn as much as you can, present your skills and experience in the best possible light, and get to know as many people in the industry as you can. Contacts with other designers and writers are always useful, but also pay attention to producers: they tend to be the ones who hand out contracts and interview job applicants, and they have good information on the kind of skills and experience they are looking for.

That’s what I’ve got so far. If anyone has any follow-up questions, just ask and I’ll answer them as best I can whenever I get the chance. And if anyone from the industry wants to weigh in with a comment or more/better advice, feel free!

Good luck!