I think this question is interesting because it calls out a problem I think the industry as a whole has — the need to make game books look like art books. (Tales From the Loop is essentially a game built around an art book, for @#$% sake!) By focusing on slick art and fancy designs, newer games often fall into the same trap as the CGI-heavy Hollywood blockbuster. The game looks great…but is a bitch and a half to find the rules you want, and sometimes those rules are badly explained. Sometimes the great complementary colors between text and page color mean you can’t bloody read the text. And like the latest iteration of a superhero movie, it’s too long. Page counts regularly top 350 now. There’s a lot of chaff, as well — fancy verbiage and tone-setting interstitial material (to be fair, that’s how I got my start in RPGs, writing exactly that stuff…) — that blows the book up to these page counts. Fancy full-color pages, and lots of them, also makes the product expensive to produce, and hence buy.

Jaw-dropping layouts, to be blunt, are a waste of your money.

Two of the nicest looking games out right now fall prey to all these issues — Mödiphiüs’ Star Trek Adventures and Conan. They’re gorgeous books, but they are expensive! (To be fair, their PDF prices are reasonable.) Reading them if you have tired, old eyes is hard — especially the Conan book. The explanations of momentum and threat are disastrous. They’re long and packed with loads of stuff — which makes it feel like you’re really getting you money’s worth. (It’s the same reason that movies are getting longer. Chinese audiences want most run time for their renminbi and this is pushing the run times up.) But just like Avengers didn’t need a 48 minute final fight sequence, most of these books would be better with a 200 page count on the corebook. Save the other crap for a splatbook book you can charge too much for. (Exhibit A: Do you really need a splatbook for every Doctor in Doctor Who. No, you do not…but they sell.)

I would like to see a lot less “jaw-dropping” and a lot more effective use of layouts and word count, not to impress the buyer, but to make the product more readable and useable.

Advertisements