This FAQ is intended to be a one-stop-shop for any of the common questions that Kickstarter backers and pre-order buyers are asking regarding the development of the Elite Encounters RPG and its associated media.
You said this book would be released in April 2014! Why did you miss that deadline?
The main reason for missing that original deadline is that, as mentioned several times before, I had a nervous breakdown in June 2013. I couldn’t go near a computer for about five months without having a serious anxiety attack, one of which put me in hospital for fear of a heart attack. It took until November to get the anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication balanced so that I could function well enough to even look at a computer again. It took until late December to get into a place where I could actually do any work on a computer (and that includes my day job).
Being back at work and being in front of a computer these days doesn’t mean that I’m better. I’m still on anti-anxiety medication. I’m still struggling day to day with panic attacks and depression and I’m still getting counselling to try and manage these things. I battle every day to prevent these things affecting my day job, and do as much as I can to minimise the effect on the evening job as well. Some days are better than others, but if I have to mentally prioritise my day job, then that’s what happens.
The secondary reason I missed that deadline was that I seriously (and I mean SERIOUSLY) underestimated the amount of work that writing an RPG of this scale would involve. I’ve learned that writing an RPG for a bunch of mates to play (which I did at universty) does not prepare one for the task of writing a fully realised, publishable RPG on one’s own. Also, if I’m ill, there’s no-one to take over the work. If I have a bad day in some other way then there’s no-one to delegate the responsibility to either.
Why have you missed so many other deadlines you’ve set?
Primarily because I am/was still setting deadlines based on what I GUESSED I would be able to do in a particular time and was woefully wrong due to all of the factors that are being noted right now. In general terms deadlines have been missed because life happens, and real life for me changed significantly from the latter half of 2013. Although my personal priority list has the RPG pretty much at the top, real life tends not to care about that. Lets look at other things that life includes.
- My paid job comes first if I want to pay the bills and support my family. That can run into late hours on occasion. If I have to finish early to deal with emergencies or appointments, then I need to make up that time, and that burns the metaphorical candle at both ends – not only do I lose what time I may have had on the day of the emergency, but the additional time to make up hours at work is also lost.
- My family need me. The longer this RPG writing drags on, the more it becomes an issue with my family as well. I have several responsibilities there, not least of which is my wife’s healthcare needs since I am her primary carer in the evenings. When I thought this would take a year, I also told my family that, and they also believed me. Their patience is now worn much much thinner than any of yours, especially with my wife in particular having increasingly serious health problems and needing me to be around more often to help.
- My own health is an issue as well. In the same way that I don’t want to go into my wife’s healthcare needs, I don’t want to go into my own as they are not relevant other than the fact that they exist and need to be dealt with. The “mental health” issue is already out there, so I have no issue with that being on the record.
I set deadlines with the best of intentions to achieve them, then Things Happen. In relation to the game itself, a lack of feedback from people I relied on to provide feedback caused a long series of rewrites when the game was found to be “difficult to play” by groups that did not have me as the guiding force behind things like character generation. These are the things that kill deadlines, especially when I have no clue what mountains wait around the corner in terms of gameplay, testing, development and Real Life.
Why won’t you commit to a deadline now?
Because I’m sick of promising you guys something then not delivering. I can’t foresee how much time I will have during each working week to concentrate on the RPG. Real Life is just too random at the moment for one thing, and I can’t assume that things will go the way I want them to go every week, even in regards to RPG-related content.
I don’t want to give you guys a roller-coaster ride. The roller-coaster is bad enough for me – with a deadline I need to be able to consistently have x amount of hours in the day to work on the project and if I can’t guarantee that then I’d be foolish to put a deadline out there. If I work out a deadline by adding in sufficient breathing room to include so many unforeseen circumstances, then the deadline I provide will have you all tearing my head off about it “taking too long”.
And I’ll add a controversial statement here. Kickstarter requires a project initiator to set ESTIMATED timescales. They are not DEADLINES. As a conscientious Kickstarter I have attempted everything in my power to meet those estimates but have failed to do so. HOWEVER, I have been open and honest with each and every one of you on the reasons for each missed deadline and what the plan for the future is. The update where I initially stated that I would not be setting deadlines any more was LONG considered and not just some quick decision to make my life easier. It was a hard decision but one that I felt (and still feel) was the fairer option on the backers.
I have to consider my own “mental health” in this as well. Everything about my life right now is stress. I’ve been advised by some (I’m not mentioning which direction this comes from) that I should put work on the RPG to one side for now until other aspects of my life stabilise. I’m not prepared to do that. I promised you guys I would work on the RPG until it was done, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m NOT going to dangle a deadline carrot in front of you because it’s not fair.
But why are you so late and why can’t you just give us a deadline??
Repeating the same question over and over again won’t change the facts, I’m afraid.
Why are you wasting time playing games when you should be working on this RPG??
Because I need to switch off sometimes, just like anyone else has to. I’ve obviously made a critical error in judgement about doing it in public.
Everyone has to have their own time: unplug from “work” and do something “fun”. I work a 40 hour paid job, plus a variable time as a carer, then an approximately 16 hour week as the RPG writer you love to hate. I have two nights off – Monday to play a game and just do something for me, and Tuesday evening to spend time with the family (and to remind my wife that her husband still does exist). Other than that I come in from work, organise the evening meal, ensure my wife’s care needs are seen to, then vanish into the office. Then I spend from about 9pm to anytime between 11pm and 2am working on the RPG. Saturdays and Sundays I spend from 9am til about noon working on the book, even though I’m not supposed to. The rest of the weekend I spend with the family, because that was the agreement we all made about the time I could spend on the book.
I spend two hours on a Monday night playing games. That’s IT. Two hours to unwind and relax. Is that too much to ask? If you think I’m taking the piss by doing that then I sincerely hope you never end up in the same situation as me, because the sort of work ethic that drives out any downtime is a recipe for both mental breakdown and a really crap product at the end of it.
And an additional thought for you. Playing Elite Dangerous for those two hours allows me to engage with the universe that I’m trying to write about. It’s also quite important to be able to see the elements of the game that I need to create rules and other things for in the RPG. Not only that but it allows me to engage with the game playing community. All these things are IMPORTANT when it comes to the creative process. I had a few weeks in the first quarter of 2015 where I struggled with writer’s block because I had taken myself out of the Elite community. No forum, only firing the game up when I needed to look something up or take screenshots for research. I lost the feel for the game and its universe. It may be a hard thing to understand (and it’s a very vague concept in my own head) but grounding myself in the Elite universe helps the creative process. I’m not sure if other creative types will relate to this or if it’s just my own weird head space.
Why aren’t you spending every waking minute getting this book done?
Because no-one can do that. That was the work ethic that led to the nervous breakdown. And I’m not the only one to have experienced that. As it is I’m spending every waking moment THAT I CAN working on the book. As noted above the gaming night is the ONLY time I take for myself. The rest of the time I’m not working on the book I am:
- Working my day job
- Looking after my family
- Running errands for the family (I’m the only one with a car)
- Dealing with household tasks (this is normally the weekend responsibility)
- Going to the doctor/hospital
- Recovering from being at the doctor/hospital
- Sleeping (only permissable between 3am and 7:30am)
If I can find any more space in there to work on the book, you can be assured that it happens.
Why are you doing video updates now? We preferred written updates!
Several comments were made about the text updates being too long. Monthly updates also involved trying to make a record of what got done each month, then spend time collating those notes into something worthwhile and readable. As things got more hectic in Real Life, the process of getting the monthly updates ready became more chaotic and unworkable. A monthly update was taking an entire evening or working to get written and posted – an evening that I felt would be much more wisely spent actually trying to progress with the book.
I now spend 15 mins each week presenting the update. I keep a notepad handy and make bullet points for each item worked on (pretty much the same way I did with the written updates) and instead of expanding that into a lot of prose, I copy that list into a Powerpoint file and spend about 20 mins making a page for each point. The important aspect of that is that I only need to remember one week’s worth of activity and it’s usually pretty fresh in my mind, which was never true about the written updates. 30-35 minutes of work each week instead of 3 hours at the end of a month. And at the end of the video update recording (and associated gaming stream) I STILL get an hour or so to work on the book before retiring.
Ultimately the video updates are easier for me to manage and are MUCH less stressful to put together. I also feel that the personal touch, with the voice and everything, makes the update more personal and immediate. Which was something that EVERY person involved with Kickstarters told me to go for in my updates, but I didn’t have the technology or time AT THAT POINT to put spanky videos together.
But videos are time-consuming to make! Why are you spending so much time on these videos?
Maybe that’s true for people who do professional video broadcasts, but the streaming technology used to put Twitch streams together actually takes ALL of the work out of the process. I tested the idea with a couple of video-based updates early this year. After the first official video update (which was during the first gaming stream) I realised that the “game and update” format was crap, so spent ten minutes making a dedicated EE stream setup. 10 mins. The stream collates all the media into the update broadcast – all I have to do it click buttons on the screen to get through the recording, then click STOP when it’s finished. Then in the Twitch console, click “Export” to put the thing on YouTube and fill in three text boxes. The whole “post processing” thing for the update takes a total of 2 minutes. Then maybe 30 seconds to check YouTube the next day and make sure it’s in the correct playlist.
I’ve spent four times as long writing out this FAQ than it takes me to do two weekly update videos.
So when will the RPG be finished?
That’s the same damn question again. Here’s a bullet point list:
- It’ll be done when it’s ready.
- I’m working on it as often and as fast as I can
- I prefer quality over meeting deadlines
- You’re getting regular updates and will continue to do so until the project is done
- I’m not prepared to compromise my health or the welfare of my family to get this done any quicker
- I do appreciate your patience and understanding and I do hear and carefully consider your concerns and complaints.
- Stop asking me the same question or making the same complaint – from now on I’ll be directing any such questions to this FAQ.
…and that’s it for the FAQ.
If I add anything to this FAQ it’ll be added to this (website) copy of the update rather than the Kickstarter update. Because Kickstarter won’t let me edit updates.
“A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”
– Shigeru Miyamoto