Series Info...The Inevitable Questioning of Purpose

by Gareth-Michael Skarka
February 20, 2001

Hey folks. This week, for those few of you who have been paying attention, was to be devoted to part 2 of "These Are The People In Your Neighborhood": a discussion of the non-player characters who would inhabit the first stage of Arcana.

Well, surprise... that's not what this column is about.

There comes a time in every design process where you inevitably begin to wonder if what you're doing is worth continuing. This happens to every designer, on every project they work on. It's happened to me time and time again... some projects I continued, others I abandoned. It just happens. You question whether or not you've made the right choices, whether or not you've designed yourself into a corner, or whether or not YOU like what you've come up with.

To be completely honest, I've gotten to that point.

Part of the problem is that I'm not sure if I've even got an audience for what's going on here... the commentary on the forums has dropped considerably since I began, which leads me to the conclusion that I haven't been offering anything that is engaging to the reader. When you start questioning that, everything else starts to unravel.

You start to question the choices you've made. I wanted to tell a story of modern horror – does my current set-up allow me to do that? Does it work as an online game? Does it work as a game at all, online or not? Do I like what I'm looking at?

That's the question, isn't it?

It's a question for which, honestly, I don't have an answer. Certainly the enthusiasm is lacking. I've gotten to the point where I face the column with a certain amount of grudging duty, rather than any real enjoyment. That, largely, is due to the fact that I feel more and more like I'm designing in a vacuum. The few comments that I've been fortunate enough to receive are increasingly coming from a small number of regulars and forum moderators.

Now, I know that there are usually many more people who read, rather than post – and so gauging audience by forum response is a flawed model at best. However, it's the only model I've got, and lately it's starting to feel like I'm all alone in here.

The other problem is that the stuff that I'm doing doesn't hit me on all cylinders. The elements are there, sure... but I still have this nagging feeling like something is missing. I haven't hit the concept squarely enough. I haven't come upon the singular angle of approach that fills me with energy and enthusiasm and makes me jump up, yelling "THAT'S IT!!!" So far, nothing.

I realize that this comes off as whiny as hell. However, any designer who tells you that doubt never enters their minds during a project is full of it. This is very much a part of the process, warts and all. Like I said: Some projects you kill, and with others you continue. The question is: which one is this...

So, I now turn it over to you folks out there. Am I on the right track? Is there an audience for this, or are we just killing time between games of Marrach? I, for one, would love to hear your opinions.

Do I continue with the project as is? Do I approach it from another angle? Scrap and start over, or just walk away? These are the questions that I'm wrestling with, and I'm in the market for advice.

Until then.