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Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2006 3:29 pm

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Yeah, The Publisher Guy

Joined: Mon Apr 26, 2004 5:18 pm
Posts: 1118
Why slot in a new game like Warpath: Urban Jungle when long awaited titles like Mechanoid® Space, Old Kingdom Mountains, Rifts® Australia 2 and others languish in limbo?

That’s a fair question, though I don’t know if the answer will do anything to satisfy those of you waiting for one of those books.

One reason is opportunity. Sometimes something else comes along that you just can’t ignore. Warpath: Urban Jungle is one such example. I’ve actually known Jeffry Scott Hanson for a few years now. He’s an up and coming novelist with two novels to his credit and working on two others, yet to be published.

Jeff’s hanging around me and Palladium has gotten him interested in role-playing games. Over the last year, we talked about spinning a number of his ideas into role-playing games, but nothing had come of it. Then, ironically, one day while talking about something that had nothing to do with role-playing games, a light bulb went off. Get him to co-author a game based off his first novel, Warpath; a gritty extrapolation of the urban war on crime that doesn’t make the papers. The inner workings of street gangs and the underworld, and the law enforcers (i.e., the player characters) who oppose it in the name of justice, liberty and order.

Of course, as a fictional role-playing game we’ll go beyond reality to make things even more wild than they really are, weaving espionage, national security, terrorism and special ops into the mix.

Jeff grew up in Detroit, has experience as a police officer in both Detroit and Taylor, Michigan, as well as experience as a Marine with duty in Somalia, Africa. With that background and his writing ability, we think we can kick out an RPG that is fun, gritty and action-packed. I like the “urban city” and “law enforcement” angles because nobody, to my knowledge, has ever done a role-playing game like that, and I think Jeff can make it work.

Reason two, excitement. The excitement of doing something different. The excitement of launching a new, edgy game that has never been done before, and that gamers should enjoy. The excitement of working with a new talent (Jeff Hansen) who is full of enthusiasm, ideas, and energy, in addition to being a great guy and fun to work with.

Reason Three: The challenge. The challenge of doing something different and new, and making it good. Making it work. Marketing it and seeing how it sells. It all adds to the excitement, but more importantly, it keeps us (especially, me) sharp, fresh, and thinking outside the box. As a writer/creator, you need projects that excite and challenge you. Otherwise, you slip into formula production, your mind numbs out and you end up producing a lot of the same old, same old. Now maybe it’s pretty good same old stuff, and maybe your fans love it and want it, but you still need to challenge yourself with “new and different.” Those who don’t, slowly become disenchanted, fade away or turn into hacks. That’s why I try to tackle every book I do, whether it’s Rifts, Heroes Unlimited, Beyond the Supernatural, Palladium Fantasy or something new, with an eye toward what pushes the envelope. What makes it more than, say, just a big book of dinosaurs or mutants or monsters. I LOVE to take something that seems mundane or done to death and put a spin on it that has people shouting in delight or looking at it like it’s something completely new and exciting. That’s part of the challenge. The other part is doing something that is good, and fun to play.

Reason Four: Economic factors. I think because Palladium is in the business of making games and creating entertainment, gamers forget that we are a business. That business has its challenges, excitement and fun, but it also has its downside. As any creative person who also runs a business can tell you, unless you become the “idea guy” who initiates and oversees projects executed entirely by others, it’s a tough juggling act to run the business and create your own products. I know Steve Jackson of SJG has often lamented about having his energy and ideas divided by the business.

The business end is also where some tough decisions get made, including what product lines see how many new releases, who writes what, etc. In my case, where I try to write 3-5 new products a year and oversee most EVERYTHING else creative, it’s tough, and often my own pet projects get put aside for the benefit of the company; sometimes for years at a time. My time is precious, and like it or not, I have to put my energies where they will best serve the company. Hey, I have a staff and a dozen or two dozen freelances who count on Palladium for their livelihood (or a good portion of it), and I have to keep the ideas and books flowing or else! It’s easy to say, “delegate,” “hire an assistant,” “don’t micro-manage” and all the other cliches, but that’s like saying, “you should do a videogame or have a movie made.” All much easier said than done. Trust me.

Ask Wayne Smith or any of my current freelancers, they’ll tell you I delegate plenty and I wish I could do a lot more. I also try to give my writers and artists a great deal of freedom, and right now I have a great group of writers in Carmen, Todd, Carl, Brandon, Taylor, Jason, Jeff, and a few other up and comers. (Ain’t that right, Josh? Mark?) There are also a handful of new artists who’ll be making their debut soon, with Jeff Russell being just the first. These guys have tremendous potential and enthusiasm, and together, we are going to produce some of the best flippin’ RPGs, sourcebooks, art and gaming experiences you’ve ever seen! But they need direction and guidance too. They need editing and rewrites, encouragement and feedback. And it all takes time and energy away from my other projects.

Someone recently compared me to WW II General Patton in the trenches with the troops doing the impossible (and in record time). I was flattered, but they weren’t off the mark much either. Most of the best Generals and creative minds are right there in the trenches with their team. Steve Jobs, George Lucas, Stan Lee, Walt Disney, Charlie Chaplin, and a host of others – all of whom I greatly admire or regard as heroes – all take (or took) that approach. Besides, it seems when I depart from having a strong influence on what’s produced, that’s when the power creep appears, quality slumps, focus disperses, and you guys and gals complain!

Reason Five: Then, of course, there are the fans. I don’t know if it seems like it or not, but the Palladium crew and I always try to listen to your likes and dislikes, dreams, wants and complaints. Ultimately, we try to please the majority of you while giving vent to our own creative energies. We like to know what you’d like to see, and what you think of our efforts. We may not always agree, but you, the fans, are the audience we aim to please. Sometimes that means changing our original plans, dropping old projects and tackling new ones.

Reason Six: Sometimes ideas go sour. The tide of creative juices comes and goes. A project you were fired up on six months or a year ago goes flat. You are at a loss for great ideas or the enthusiasm to write the project. Rather than just bang out garbage or a so-so product, I will put it on the shelf for a while. Sometimes a long while. BTS-2 is a great example of this. This was a book that was banging around in my head for years, but it just wasn’t right (the same was true of Rifts® Ultimate Edition). So I just let it percolate in my mind, firming up ideas here, changing ideas there, making notes, scrapping notes, listening to fans and fellow creators and, mostly, just thinking about it from time to time. I like to let ideas brew for a while in the back of my mind. Percolating, I call it. I like to brew and percolate while I mentally fidget with them, discarding old ideas, trying new ones, tweaking others, and then trying to fit all the pieces together in my head. Sometimes the percolating comes quick, other times it takes years (like BTS and Mechanoid Space) and even a decade or two (like one secret project I’ve let percolate for the last 17 years). Finally, it all comes together and BAM, it’s time to produce it.

In fact, brewing and percolating has been the case with Palladium Fantasy. I have all kinds of ideas and plans for the Fantasy line that have been percolating for years now. Pretty soon (I hope by the end of 2006 and into 2007), some of those ideas and plans will be hitting the shelves. All of a sudden, I think, you’ll be seeing a pile of Fantasy sourcebooks spitting out from us. I LOVE Palladium Fantasy. It’s my personal favorite game setting of all time. Not that you could tell from how quiet that line has been the last five years, but that will be changing.

Reason Seven: I never really wanted to do that in the first place. There have been a number of books and projects fumbled, dropped and abandoned by the original author. In my desire not to disappoint Palladium’s fans, I make the mistake of picking it up and announcing that I’ll do it myself. Only I can’t ever quiet drum up the enthusiasm and brilliant ideas I think they deserve, so they lay idle. That’s what happened with Rifts® Australia 2 & 3, Rifts® Lemuria, Rifts® Dragons & Gods, RECON Modern Combat, and a handful of others. We’re not machines (even though I’ve been called “The Machine”). We can’t just grind material out. Well, we could, but it wouldn’t be very good and wears away an author’s spirit and crushes his imagination, and we don’t want that.

All of these reasons add up to new books and projects sometimes appearing long before those promised ages ago. It’s all part of the creative process. I hope you understand and forgive me for promised books that are years late and may never come out. Ah, but the books that do . . . they should be epic and put a smile on your face. That’s our goal.

Those are my thoughts and murmurings on this subject. Hope you found them insightful.

– Kevin Siembieda
President, Publisher, Writer and Victim of an overactive imagination

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