Today is a big day in the life of Navigator RPG, although it will barely cause a ripple in anyone elses lives.
There is a live playtest version of Navigator RPG up on DriveThruRPG.com.
It went live shortly after midnight, this morning.
There are two points to this post. The first is of course to tell you all that the game has reached this point. I have been teasing about the game for a while but have intentionally not posted any details.
The second point is that I am going to keep something of a development diary for the game on here. I am not being intentionally bitchy but I am going to couch it in terms of comparing Navigator RPG to RMu.
The posts could help anyone else thinking of publishing their own game.
I know I have told this joke before but I think of it every time I am tempted to criticise anyone else’s work.
There is a guy driving, lost, along some back roads. Up ahead he sees a farmer on a tractor parked in a gateway eating a sandwich. The driver stops and asks “What is the best way to get to Birmingham?”, after a moment’s consideration the farmer replies “The best way, you say? Well, I wouldn’t start from here.”
That is the point, we don’t know where anyone else started from, we don’t know what their needs are, how much they have invested into a project or their goals.
I see this as a four stage project, behind closed doors, this is the part I have finished and the time spent on RMu before Beta 1.
The second stage is the public playtest. This is where RMu and Navigator are right now, both in stage 2.
Stage 3 is putting the full game on sale. At that point I expect RMu to massively out perform my little Navigator RPG. Fantasy is a bigger genre, in fact the biggest, RMu and Rolemaster has an existing fan base, ICE is a recognised brand and ICE has a massive marketing budget.
ICE’s marketing budget is not in cash, although it may have a cash war chest as well, but in PPP. The total value of RM books and software sold each year is roughly $10,000. I know this because every company in the UK has to post their accounts online. The company doesn’t have massive expenses as no one is drawing a living wage and that sort of thing. Publishers receive 70% of the ticket price from a book sale on DTRPG. So from the declared earnings, you can multiply up to find the total revenue and then multiply up to take into account the £:$ exchange rate.
Publishers receive Publisher Promotion Points from OneBookShelf at a rate of 20+(revenue/10) each month. So $10,000 gives 1,000 PPP plus 12 months gives 1,240/year. I have not seen any evidence of these being spent so it looks like ICE have a stockpile of nearly 20,000 PPP.
To give you an idea of what they can be spent on, to be Deal of the Day costs about 400-500PPP, home page featured product costs about 70-80PPP and that will put an advert for your product on the home page of DTRPG which will be shown 2,500 times. To put a featured product advert at the top of a game section costs 30-40PPP for the same 2,500 impressions. The traffic to specific sections is lower so your impressions last longer and can be more specifically targeted.
The most cost effective spend is the Deal of the Day. ICE have the resources to be DotD once a week for 40 weeks and then of course that will generate sales which will earn more PPP and keep the wheels on the promotional wagon. If a full set of RMu books costs $100 they would only need to sell 50 a month to earn sufficient PPP to afford another DotD.
One can achieve a virtuous circle where your DotD spend puts you at the top of the Best Sellers list and then there are the metal best sellers lists. The more times you cover is shown on the best selling lists the more sales you are going to generate.
The nub is that RMu can buy its success and its way to the top. Its success is guaranteed.
I don’t have that luxury.
Starting today we are both in Stage 2, playtest. I am at the beginning and RMu is at the end.
RMu has to go through editing, layout and art commissioning. Nav doesn’t. Because I am doing everything in the open the editing, can be done by the community. Layout, well that isn’t going to fundamentally change from the public playtest. Every time a change is suggested and implemented the playtest document is going to be updated. So the layout and text will change many times over the playtest but everyone will always have access to the current state of the game. This is a difference between RMu and NavRPG.
At the end of the playtest everyone who downloaded the playtest will get the full game as a PDF. Even if they didn’t contribute. Even when the game goes on sale the PDF version will be free. It is the printed books I will charge for. I think GMs actually like to have physical books at the table.
I also don’t write games to then act as gatekeeper. The more people who play the game the better, even if they are using the free PDF.
The playtest game is listed on DTRPG as a PWYW title. This is what Kevin was complaining about this week. His adventure had 100 downloads and almost no one paid anything for it. He also got some middling star ratings.
That is the nature of the beast for PWYW. I am under no illusion that people are going to rush out and throw money at the game. The reason I have made it PWYW and not free is so that even £0.05 purchases will accumulate. When it comes to creating the print on demand books, these are going to cost me somewhere up to $200. I am perfectly happy to swallow that as I it is my business plan to make money on the physical books. On the other hand every single cent donated to the playtest will soften that upfront hit.
All of this is all ‘in theory’ only.
So far in the few hours since the game went live it has had 7 downloads. RMu had 145 downloads of the playtest documents. America has not woken up yet, at least not enough of it to think of downloading free games.
This is the first marketing objective. Get the playtest version downloaded and into the hands of gamers.
I have talked about stage 1, writing; stage 2 playtest and stage three release and marketing.
Stage 4 is the long term success of the game. I don’t think that RMu has much of a future, although I hope I am wrong. Most games get bought, played and then languish on shelves never to be played again.
One way of measuring the popularity of a game is in its community support. Only some of a games fans will ever write and publish something either under a fan license, a Community Content Programme, a Compatibility License or just create compatible products that don’t need any form of license.
ICE has shown itself to be resistant to open standards and community content. NavRPG on the other hand is at the other far extreme. It is a simple core designed to be extended by the players and GMs. It is released under the OGL, Open Gaming License, which gives anyone the right to modify, remix and republish the work. No barriers.
My negative forecast is based upon the idea that RMu has not addressed the most pressing negative opinions of the gaming community. The whole chartmaster, rulesmaster thing. They are already talking about dumping most of the stuff actively being discussed on the forum into the first companion.
This is, in my opinion, repeating the sins of the past.
Rolemaster was, I beleive, the 4th most popular game in the industry in the early 80s. Now it is a vestigial hangover played by maybe less than 1,000 people worldwide? The forums certainly have a very small population. Looking at all the places where communities gather the RM based ones are tiny and largely inactive.
I think there will be a flurry of activity, a mass of sales, and commercial success followed by a trailing off of interest and in two, three years we will be back to the same hard core of forum users that we have now but with a few few names in the mix.
The difference will be that we will now be discussing RM2, RMC, RMSS, RMFRP and RM. RM2 did not go away when RMC came along and RMFRP and RMSS is no different. I can see a lot of RM fans not moving to the new game simply because they love their old game. They have all the books they want, all the house rules to make it play the way they want and they know what they are doing.
The the die hards the new version will be missing 90% of what they want and need because all those companions just won’t work quite right.
That is a bit gloomy I know. I will definitely buy into RMu but my group of friends are definitely RM2 despite the fact that we are playing the core of RMC. They have imported all the RM2 stuff they miss into the game.
I think the total sales figures will take a long time to get in the same realm as RMu. No marketing budget doesn’t help. On the other hand I think the open attitude will help build an active community. That is where I am putting my efforts. Right from today onwards, actually I started about 8 weeks ago, everything is about building a community around NavRPG. Making people feel included, and welcome.
Well that is today’s update.