[Final Hour of a Storied Age] Help me improve my game's readability

edited November 2011 in Game Design Help
I've got a game I've been working on for a while called Final Hour of a Storied Age. My web stats are telling me that I've been getting a steady but very small amount of traffic to the game's page (I try to provide links to my game when I think it's relevant to a converation, such as in some recent Tolkien threads, and hopefully it's not coming across like spam) but I haven't seen the kind of buzz or interest that I would hope for. I know I have some issues with my pitch (I have a hard time figuring out how to get across what makes my game different from other games without sounding "negative"), but I'm also wondering if there are things I can do in terms of layout, presentation, or writing in the game itself that would help it better connect with people and maybe get them interested enough to playtest. Some things are currently beyond my budget or skillset, like getting art or having a super-slick layout, but I'd like to be able to do what I can to make the game easily consumable for potential players. Are there rules that are confusing? Page formatting that makes the reading experience unpleasant? Parts of the text that feel like slogs to read? Diagrams or examples that are more confusing than helpful? Things explained in the wrong order? Questions that you had while reading that you wish were answered by the text? I'd like feedback about all of that kind of stuff. What's most important to me are honest reactions to what people see, so don't worry about hurting my feelings by saying something negative or feel like you can only point out a problem if you can suggest a solution.

You can get the full PDF and my two paragraphs of marketing spiel at the game's download page, or here are direct links to the current version digest-size page PDF or the printer-friendly version which eliminates some blocks of color and puts pairs of pages side-by-side on a landscape oriented 8 1/2 by 11 page.

Comments

  • edited November 2011
    I first downloaded the game back around revision 50, and I just recently downloaded revision 70. I have yet to read the game at all though because whenever I start I run into pages that are almost entirely walls of text. Minimal margins, minimal space between paragraphs, minimal white space. If I printed the game out I might be able to push my way through it, but I doubt it. I don't know how serious those issues are for other people but if I find a game uncomfortable to read then I won't read it. Unless it's very, very short. Like five pages short.

    Is there a particular reason you went with the 5.5"x8.5" page size? If you really want to get that many words on a page a larger format that could allow for more breathing room might be something to consider. I'm sure there's a nice game in there but I'm having a hell of a time breaching the keep.
  • edited November 2011
    Yeah, I also just downloaded it and was like, "I'll give this a read." And then...70+ pages! That look like they were formatted in Word! Kinda yikes. I'm going to give it a shot, though, since you're reaching out.

    Also, not being able to communicate what the game is or why it's different very well does hurt my enthusiasm. I looked at it and was like, "Do I need another big fantasy game in my life? Probably not".

    EDIT: I mean 140 pages.
  • Posted By: Dan Maruschak(I have a hard time figuring out how to get across what makes my game different from other games without sounding "negative")
    For me personally, staying away from negative is great here but I still need to know what makes your game different, especially being in the crowded high fantasy category. With some re-contextualizing, I bet we can strip out the negative, still be 100% truthful, and still communicate exactly why your game might be the right fit for someone interested in a specific experience.

    Say I play a lot of D&D and dislike how character improvement works. You don't have to say (and I've heard people say this), "D&D sucks because you can't get better until you level up and how you level up in has nothing to do with what you did to level up in the first place. My game is better than D&D because it fixes this."

    Instead of telling me that D&D sucks, tell me what your game does well and let me decide if that matched my interests. You could easily say, "the more you use a skill in my game, the better you become at that skill." Now of course there are games that do that as well, so this may not be enough. Tell me why getting better at my skill as I use it is important. How does it relate to your game's overall goal? Maybe it's tied to the kind of stories, TV shows, or movies you are drawing inspiration from. Maybe it's because you are racing against time to become the best of the best before X crazy event happens.

    Start with:
    - Who is your game designed for?
    - If they already play games, why should they play your game instead?
    - How is your game different than what they already have?
    - What problems does your game solve?
    - Why did you make those choices? It's not enough to be different. Why is different important?

    Then rewrite the answers, strip out the negative, and focus on what your game is and why.

    I don't need to know D&D sucks for you because you don't like levels. Maybe that's why I like D&D. Maybe sometimes I like levels, sometimes I don't (not everyone is consistent in a way that makes them predictable). Tell me why not having levels in your specific game is awesome. Better yet, don't mention levels at all. Tell me what you use instead.
  • The other reason not to focus on D&D in the above example...

    If you game is say like D&D except you changed X & Y... even if I like those rule changes I then ask myself, "is it easier to buy your game, learn it, and then get my friends to play it OR is it easier for me to just make those changes to D&D."
  • It might also help to bring the central mechanic (or procedure) of the game to the forefront, or say what problems you solve in the GM-less space.
  • edited November 2011
    Posted By: C. EdwardsIs there a particular reason you went with the 5.5"x8.5" page size?
    Yes -- it's close to the digest size that a lot of other indie games use, and is exactly one half the size of the popular 8 1/2 x 11 size that most people use to print things so you can easily fit two game pages per printed page if you want to print it out instead of read the PDF on a screen. Now, why did I choose the particular margins I did within that page size? I don't recall any specific reasons, so they were probably arbitrary decisions made by someone without a lot of graphic design expertise.
    Posted By: C. EdwardsMinimal margins, minimal space between paragraphs, minimal white space.
    I think I see where you're coming from, especially on text heavy pages like page 11. So I can calibrate what you're saying, if more of the game looked like page 33/34 would the text still feel too cramped?
    Posted By: Hans c-oThat look like they were formatted in Word!
    I'm even more no-budget than that -- it's OpenOffice. I've considered investigating some low- or no-cost layout options (like Scribus) but it doesn't seem like any of them have a workflow that lets you revise the text once you've started working on the layout. Since the game is still in beta I haven't wanted to pull the trigger on getting myself so locked in to things.
    Posted By: Hans c-oAnd then...70+ pages!
    I feel like I'm kind of damned if I do and damned if I don't on this one. A lot of those pages are because I'm giving examples and trying to explain things. I know that people are turned off by the page count, but I worry that the contest culture and short game obsession has skewed perceptions a bit. Even Fiasco is 130 pages long. I don't know how I can make the game any shorter -- and if Chris is right about it needing bigger margins then that means it will be getting longer. I do appreciate people taking a look at it. I know it's a lot to ask. (And it really is only 72 pages in digest size, or 36 in the two-per-page layout).
    Posted By: Hans c-oAlso, not being able to communicate what the game is or why it's different very well does hurt my enthusiasm.
    My big problem with this is that I'm fighting a lot of preconceptions, such as the way many gamers interpret the word epic to mean "over the top" even though "epic fantasy" is a literary genre that has little to nothing to do with nonstop over-the-top action scenes. Some people read my description and think, "Oh, another generic fantasy game?" and I kind of want to scream that it's exactly the opposite of that. Most "generic fantasy games" feel generic because they copy the superficial details of something like Lord of the Rings and tack it on to a game system that has nothing particular to say about fantasy fiction. I'm trying to do the exact opposite with Storied Age -- create procedures that replicate the deeply compelling things about novels like LOTR and guiding players to contribute the details, build setting, etc., in a way that makes their story at the table interesting and unique. But every time I try to explain it I sound like I'm bashing a bunch of games. (It's probably not helping me that my mind is fixating on responding to a complainer, whether real or hypothetical).
  • edited November 2011
    That's funny, I almost used page 11 as an example in my previous post. Pages 33 and 34 are better, 33 because it has dead space at the bottom and 34 because the bullet points help break up the page, but there are still other factors going on that cause everything to sort of run together. Your section headings look like they're in the same font as your body text, only slightly larger, with the same indent, and with a single line space above and below separating them from the body text. The use of bold print is really the only thing working to your favor there, everything else seems to be working towards blending in and keeping the body text together.

    As for page count, it doesn't matter much if people aren't reading the game due to layout issues anyway. I understand wanting to keep page count down for printing hard copies but I feel that before that can even be relevant you need a working document that people want to read and are able to read comfortably. At least if you want feedback on the actual contents. Maybe one of the many Story Games layout gurus can throw a few pointers your way?
  • edited November 2011
    Posted By: Dan MaruschakPosted By: Hans c-oThat look like they were formatted in Word!
    I'm even more no-budget than that -- it's OpenOffice. I've considered investigating some low- or no-cost layout options (like Scribus) but it doesn't seem like any of them have a workflow that lets you revise the text once you've started working on the layout. Since the game is still in beta I haven't wanted to pull the trigger on getting myself so locked in to things.
    Posted By: Hans c-oAnd then...70+ pages!
    I feel like I'm kind of damned if I do and damned if I don't on this one. A lot of those pages are because I'm giving examples and trying to explain things. I know that people are turned off by the page count, but I worry that the contest culture and short game obsession has skewed perceptions a bit. Even Fiasco is 130 pages long. I don't know how I can make the game any shorter -- and if Chris is right about it needing bigger margins then that means it will be getting longer. I do appreciate people taking a look at it. I know it's a lot to ask. (And it really is only 72 pages in digest size, or 36 in the two-per-page layout).

    Keep in mind that I don't think these are bad things for the game, just bad for getting my enthusiasm in its beta form up. I mean, every game I've written has been formatted in Word crappily; I think you actually did a great job with the formatting, considering it's in OpenOffice. It's a beta, it's OK. Except when it needs that flash to bring people in. And the page count: well, if the game has to be that long, it has to be. There's nothing wrong with it, and it's not particularly long compared to a lot of stuff, but it's long for me to commit to it when it's a beta of a game I'm unsure about, y'know?
  • Also, you can totally format a game awesomely in Word. I kinda want to have a layout contest/tutorial about that at some point. It's all about breaking up the text into logical chunks and styling headers properly.
  • Posted By: C. EdwardsI understand wanting to keep page count down for printing hard copies
    I think the bigger problem I'm likely to run into as I try to work on the text density is keeping information logically grouped. For example, I've been trying to keep the examples in the same two-page spread with the rules that they demonstrate so that people will see while they're reading the rules that there's an example coming up, and can easily refer back to the rules while reading the example. With less information per page it will be harder to maintain that constraint. (I personally don't have a problem with increasing the page count, but Hans isn't the first person to be shocked by the number of pages.) Doing things like changing the margins has a pretty big impact on a lot of things, so the experimentation process I need to do to figure out how to address this issue is probably going to go slower than I'd like.
    Posted By: C. EdwardsMaybe one of the many Story Games layout gurus can throw a few pointers your way?
    I'm certainly willing to listen if they want to. From listening to podcasts with some of them, the general advice to beginners like me seems to be to find something that looks good and copy it, but that's hard advice to work with if I don't already have a good sense of which books are well laid out and which aren't.
    Posted By: Hans c-oIt's a beta, it's OK. Except when it needs that flash to bring people in.
    Yes, this is the catch-22 I've been wrestling with: In order to get to the point of having a finalized and polished game I need to get some attention from potential readers and playtesters, but it's hard to get that attention without a finalized and polished game. Your reaction is completely reasonable and justified, just not the one I'd hope for in a perfect world.
    Posted By: J. WaltonAlso, you can totally format a game awesomely in Word. I kinda want to have a layout contest/tutorial about that at some point. It's all about breaking up the text into logical chunks and styling headers properly.
    I agree that I could certainly do a lot more with the tools I have if I knew what things needed to change to make my document look good, although there are some weird quirks that make some things harder than I assume they would be in a dedicated layout program. I actually am using styles for most of my headings, etc., but I didn't do anything dramatic with them (yet?), mostly text size, bold, blank lines between paragraphs, and some hanging indent stuff.
  • @dan - how many pages are the core rules?
  • @ivan - I'm not really sure what you mean by core rules. Rules but no examples? Rules used during normal play without character / world setup or endgame? I don't think I have a core rules / peripheral rules split in my game, but maybe I'm not using the words the same way you are.
  • Dan, yes with no examples. If you had to forcibly reduce the text to the game mechanics only, how long would the text be?
  • Posted By: ivanDan, yes with no examples. If you had to forcibly reduce the text to the game mechanics only, how long would the text be?
    I did some rough visual scanning and tallying, and based on the 0.70 PDF:
    Cover, introduction, and some talk about Epic Fantasy fiction: 3 1/2 pages (about 5% if the content)
    Rules: 25 1/4 pages (about 38% of the content)
    Diagrams or summaries of rules: 5 1/2 pages (about 8% of the content)
    Some advice text that is useful but not essential: 3 pages (about 4% of the content)
    Examples: 26 pages (about 39% of the content)
    Quick reference charts and the equivalent of character sheets: 4 pages (about 6% of the content)
    (I didn't count the blank spaces at the end of sections, etc., so the page counts above don't add up to 72)
  • Most of the rules are about the world-building process, right? otherwise 25 pages of pure rules seems really long. I am now going to browse through it as well.
  • Posted By: Dan Maruschak
    Yes, this is the catch-22 I've been wrestling with: In order to get to the point of having a finalized and polished game I need to get some attention from potential readers and playtesters, but it's hard to get that attention without a finalized and polished game. Your reaction is completely reasonable and justified, just not the one I'd hope for in a perfect world.
    I should say, I read the first few pages and got kind of excited at what I saw. I'll keep reading.
  • Dan, could you write a one or two page nutshell of the mechanics and put it at the front? Thats what I have to do with my own game. The majority of potential players will be experienced gamers looking for something that:
    (a) has a situation/setting that interests them (you have this covered inyour intro already)
    (b) has mechanics which are similar to mechanics they allready like, or are new in a good way.

    Trouble is to find the answer to (b) they have to read a lot of pages of stuff.

    A one or two page nutshell, that will allow the reader to quickly grok the way the mechanics work will not only help them resolve (b) before they lose interest, but it will help those who do go on top read the detailed mechanics because they already have a summary of how they fit together in their heads.
  • I notice that many well known games within the SG community can be identified with a specific iconic mechanic or gimmick that makes them different.

    Polaris ritual conflict, IAWA has Forms and Oracles and Negotiating with a stick, Dogs' stakes and escalation, Fiasco playsets, Apocalipse World's Moves, Shock's shock/issue grid, Dread's Jenga tower, etc..

    Your enneagram-like world generator, for example, is an interesting one to work on.
  • I'm working on trying to address some of the margin and text density issues that Chris raised. Searching the web for advice about good margin sizes didn't give me a lot of clear guidance. Could people take a look at these sample pages from my experiments and tell me what they think about the margins? (I imagine I'll also need to do other stuff to make things less wall-of-text looking, but changing margins is having such far-reaching impact on how everything else flows that I'm finding it hard to experiment with multiple variables at once).
    Posted By: ivanMost of the rules are about the world-building process, right? otherwise 25 pages of pure rules seems really long. I am now going to browse through it as well.
    I think it's about 10 pages for world and character creation. I don't think I really have any expectations for how many pages of rules a game should have, so it doesn't seem long or short to me, but I might be weird.
    Posted By: stefoidDan, could you write a one or two page nutshell of the mechanics and put it at the front?
    I don't think so, but I also tend to dislike it when games give me sketchy, incomplete explanations of rules that explained fully later, so maybe my personal tastes and biases are clouding my judgment. I'll be interested to see what people who are reading the text for the first time have to say about the order I present information in, and whether they wish certain things had been mentioned earlier in the text. I suspect this game is enough of a departure from other games that there's no point in trying to think of it like an "it's just like d20, but you roll these different dice instead!" kind of game.
  • edited November 2011
    Those new margins definitely help, Dan.

    Have you looked for ideas in other games or books that have a similar form factor? I was just flipping through Chronica Feudalis, the Traveller Pocket Rulebook (Mongoose Publishing), and Apocalypse World. Chronica Feudalis has the closest resemblance to your text but avoids that claustrophobic feeling by using multiple fonts, play examples that use larger margins than the rest of the body text, and section headings that are much larger relative to the body text than what you have in Final Hour. CF also uses a smaller point size for the body text (which I believe is Times Roman) which seems to actually add to its readability rather than subtract.

    The Traveller Pocket Rulebook uses a two column layout, narrow margins, and a tiny body font. It uses liberal spacing between paragraphs and sections combined with a sans serif font to keep it all very legible and easy to read.

    Apocalypse World is actually a little smaller than the other two books. I also find it the easiest to read. It has a single column layout with nice margins. Centered section headers in a distinctly different font make things easier to find and help break up the body text. The body text is, I think, what contributes most to the book's readability. It's a fairly light, spacious serif font. Consolas I believe. The leading, the space between lines, plus the nice clean font really make the layout as far as I'm concerned.

    All three of those books also manage to fit as much if not more on the page than the Final Hour text. They also have larger page counts without very many of those pages going to art and other graphic layout elements. The Traveller Pocket Rulebook is 188 pages, Chronica Feudalis is 120 pages, and Apocalypse World is 300 pages. I don't know what the beta drafts of any of them looked like but I think you can manage both a reasonable page count and readability. Finding a less oppressive body font at a smaller point size would probably help quite a bit.
  • This may be a stupid gripe, but the lack of indentations bothers me.
  • Posted By: C. EdwardsHave you looked for ideas in other games or books that have a similar form factor?
    I have, but it's hard for me to draw conclusions since I haven't been able to detect any consistent patterns, and they seem to violate the guidelines from the various things I've read about how you're supposed to do it. To double-check I just pulled a few games off my shelf:

    Apocalypse World: 5 3/8" x 8 1/8" pages, 3/4" inner margin, 7/8" top margin, 3/4" outer margin, 3/8" bottom margin.
    Dogs in the Vineyard: 5 1/4" x 8 1/8" pages, 3/4" margins all around.
    Fiasco: 6" x 8 7/8" pages, 7/8" inner margin, 1/2" top margin, 3/8" outer margin, 1 1/4" bottom margin
    PTA 2nd edition: 5 3/8" x 8 1/2" pages, 3/4" inner margin, 5/8" top margin, 3/8" outer margin, 1 1/4" bottom margin.

    Since few people talk critically about which game layouts do or don't work for them it's hard for me to get a sense of audience expectations. Also, I have been assuming that a lot of layout decisions in games are about evoking tone (for example, I had assumed that Apocalypse World was intentionally breaking some layout rules in order to help with the slightly uncomfortable feeling of the game). Since my game is a fantasy game I also worry that I need to steer clear of things that would make it look modern or sci-fi.
    Posted By: C. EdwardsFinding a less oppressive body font at a smaller point size would probably help quite a bit.
    Can you give me some specific suggestions for fonts to look at to see what you mean? I'm not sure how I'd go about figuring out whether a font was more or less oppressive than what I've got, and I find the suggestion to go to a smaller point size kind of counter-intuitive, so I'm not sure how to follow up on this suggestion. In general, I find the idea of picking fonts kind of daunting, since there are so many to choose from, and I usually can't see great reasons to choose one over another (and part of me keeps saying that there has to be something worthwhile about Times New Roman for it to be such a widely used standard). Usually the only ones that stand out to me are the ones that seem really hokey or else evoke a specific aesthetic that I think is wrong for the game.
    Posted By: masqueradeballThis may be a stupid gripe, but the lack of indentations bothers me.
    That's interesting. Usually I dislike them, but maybe that's because I tend to favor a clean, modern, minimalist look for things.
  • Layout isn't about any one particular facet. Those guidelines are just that, guidelines. All the choices you make are tied together. Your choice of body font will effect what size margins look good and/or still allow good readability. Which in turn may effect how you can best leverage your headers. And so on. Which also is done under whatever other aesthetic restrictions you have, such as giving it a modern or archaic look. Sometimes you just need to make things look "good enough" within a certain page count. You need to determine your priorities then make layout choices that will get you there.

    Since I'm not a layout guru and we've basically already exhausted my extremely meager knowledge, I don't know that I have anything else of use to offer. If this is something that you just don't have any natural feel for you might want to consider just outright copying the layout of another book for now. Put off worrying about that aspect until you're done with developing your game design and refining the text. It sort of sounds to me like the one is getting in the way of the other anyway.

    My only other suggestion is to pick up a copy of The Non-Designer's Design Book and The Non-Designer's Type Book, both by Robin Williams. Read those and examine the layouts you see in books, magazines, on the web. Use what you learn in the design books to understand why a particular layout works or doesn't work and why a page has been designed a certain way.
  • Posted By: C. EdwardsSometimes you just need to make things look "good enough" within a certain page count. You need to determine your priorities then make layout choices that will get you there.
    My priority is to have a layout that's good enough so that people will read the text long enough to see if the design of the game is interesting to them. My barrier to progress on the game is a lack of external playtesting. Diagnosing why a particular product doesn't work for a potential audience is not an easy thing in an information vacuum. Since people generally don't say what's keeping them from connecting with the game I am forced to guess. Is the layout a problem? I have no idea, but it might be, so I'm asking. I would rather not spend time and energy messing around with margins and fonts right now, I'd rather be observing data from actual playtests and revising the text to produce reliably fun experiences. Since I can't do that until people play, I'm willing to address other barriers that might be preventing people from getting to the stage of actually trying the game.

    I've tried experimenting with some other fonts, but I'm not crazy with any of the results so far. With smaller text areas and more spacious fonts I'm having a much harder time keeping the examples on the same spread as the rules. (here's my latest experiment, I decided I needed to take a break when I realized how much trouble I'd have with pages 13/14 since the diagram on page 15 is part of the example but there's not enough room on page 14 for it).
  • Well, I think you're sort of making my point, Dan. All your fiddling to get things just right is getting in the way of presenting a readable text to potential playtesters. Forget about making sure all the examples stay on the same spread. Nobody is going to care much about stuff like that at this point. Save it for the final version. This is also not the time to worry about finding the perfect font to evoke the feel of your game. If people are put off just doing the basic reading necessary to find out what the game is about then basic readability is the only problem you need to concentrate on right now.
    Posted By: Dan MaruschakWith smaller text areas and more spacious fonts...
    With a smaller, more spacious font you don't necessarily need smaller text areas. Go look at your copy of Apocalypse World again. Flip to page 192. Compare it to page 11 of the Final Hour text, before you started altering margins and such. That AW page has over seventy more words than your Final Hour page and has great readability. It also has decent margins.
  • I went through the text and found quite a few concepts that are pretty unique and interesting. I feel that putting them at the beginning and giving them a cool sounding name could help.

    Also, the grey areas somehow are telling me to skip them. I don't know why though.
  • Posted By: Dan MaruschakI know I have some issues with my pitch (I have a hard time figuring out how to get across what makes my game different from other games without sounding "negative"), but I'm also wondering if there are things I can do in terms of layout, presentation, or writing in the game itself that would help it better connect with people and maybe get them interested enough to playtest.
    Sorry to go lateral with this thread, Dan, but given this in your initial post, with some more thought my response is: layout & presentation & writing don't matter too much at this point. Working on getting people excited to playtest your game doesn't have much at all to do with those things (given that I'm excited about playtesting this and this right now, neither of which has incredible layout or presentation).

    Give us a few pages to get us excited and enough knowledge about the game to hang a (small) hat on, and then redirect us to the whole text so we can play. Think hard about why someone would want to play your game and not another fantasy game, and shove that in our faces, minus the 70 page PDF.

    I don't mean to sound patronizing; I'm more than sure that you've thought about all this already, at length, but really, it's the only thing that matters at this point.
  • Posted By: Hans c-oGive us a few pages to get us excited and enough knowledge about the game to hang a (small) hat on, and then redirect us to the whole text so we can play. Think hard about why someone would want to play your game and not another fantasy game, and shove that in our faces, minus the 70 page PDF.
    It would help me do this if people would describe things that surprised them about the game and where it differed from their expectations based on my current pitch. I need data in order to calibrate what is happening. I have a hard time figuring out how to get you excited unless I understand what is or isn't getting you excited right now. It isn't like I intentionally crafted a lame and unappealing message and can simply turn down the suck.
    Posted By: ivanI went through the text and found quite a few concepts that are pretty unique and interesting. I feel that putting them at the beginning and giving them a cool sounding name could help.
    Could you give me some examples? In earlier drafts I think I had more explicit game terms, and called them out more aggressively, but it seemed to make the text sound really pretentious. I also feel like a lot of the mechanical bits are very tightly coupled so I'm not sure how successful it would be to try to present them out of context.
    Posted By: ivanAlso, the grey areas somehow are telling me to skip them. I don't know why though.
    Are you saying that you wish they weren't saying that? They're examples and therefore somewhat optional. Is the visual cue so strong that it's pushing past "optional" and all the way to "don't read this"?
    Posted By: C. EdwardsAll your fiddling to get things just right is getting in the way of presenting a readable text to potential playtesters.
    I appreciate your input, but I still have a hard time wrapping my head around what you're saying. To me, information organization is part of the functionality of a book. If people have to constantly flip back and forth between pages in order to process an example then the book isn't functioning properly. Things like margins and fonts seem to me to fall into the category of fiddly aesthetic stuff. I want to understand your POV, but to me it sounds like you're coming from opposite land: "stop worrying about silly things like what you say and how you say it, focus on the important stuff like whether the letters are pretty".
    Posted By: C. EdwardsNobody is going to care much about stuff like that at this point.
    I'm not comfortable saying nobody cares (I would care, if I was a reader rather than the author). I'd be more comfortable framing discussions in concrete terms, e.g. your particular reactions to this particular text, rather than in hypotheticals or generalities.
    Posted By: C. EdwardsWith a smaller, more spacious font you don't necessarily need smaller text areas. Go look at your copy of Apocalypse World again.
    Again I don't really understand what you're saying about fonts -- to me "more spacious" translates to less dense text, i.e. fewer words in the same amount of space (Garamond was the only one that seemed lighter than Times New Roman while actually putting more words on a page, but I found the italics difficult to read). I get that you really like AW, but I didn't find it particularly easy to read or pleasurable to look at, so I have a hard time extracting good layout lessons from it. I found it a little off-putting, like atonal music in a suspense movie that keeps you from getting too comfortable. I think it was successful in producing an emotional effect in me as a reader that's supportive of the mood and theme of the game, but I don't think it's something I want to copy. Again, I appreciate that you're trying to help me, but I feel like we're failing to successfully communicate with each other and I'm not sure how to fix that.
  • @dan

    I liked the star chart (which makes me think of an enneagram), I think that the alignment axis is also interesting and quite new. Dark Mirror is cool and it sounds cool. The little plot point boxes also seem interesting, but it is not easy to understand what they are about with a quick browse.

    About the grey areas: I believe it is something about the visuals, or maybe the length, that makes me wish to skip them.
  • edited November 2011
    My advice has nothing to do with liking AW. It has to do with AW being more text dense than Final Hour, easy to read, and both of us having a copy for comparison. Every example I talked about (AW, CF, Traveller) is equal to or greater in text density than your Final Hour draft and easier to read. AW is so much easier on the eyes that I'm having a hard time fathoming how you don't see it. There's nothing about the layout of AW (sans art) that is doing anything special to support the mood of the game except for the font of the headers.
    Posted By: Dan Maruschak"stop worrying about silly things like what you say and how you say it, focus on the important stuff like whether the letters are pretty".
    At this point I have no idea what you're saying or how you're saying it as I refuse to read your game because of how bad of an experience that would be for me due to the layout. Specifically your choice of font which contributes to and is combined with a lack of white space. Considering what you've said about the lack of feedback on the game and some other posters mentioning the layout being a barrier for them as well, I think tackling that initial barrier is pretty important.
    Posted By: Dan MaruschakAgain I don't really understand what you're saying about fonts -- to me "more spacious" translates to less dense text, i.e. fewer words in the same amount of space...
    If you had compared AW's page 192 to Final Hour's page 11 you would have seen that this is just not true.

    I'm not trying to shove any of this down your throat. If what I'm saying doesn't make any sense to you or you think I'm wrong, that's cool. I have to say though that I'm thinking that you don't have a very good eye for what makes a text easy to read. If you did, the Final Hour layout wouldn't be so intimidatingly dense. Sometimes we reach a point where we have to decide to either put in the work on our own to educate ourselves on what we're trying to do or to have someone else just do the job for us instead. If you find yourself in that middle ground where you're asking for advice that you don't have the knowledge to leverage then that's probably a good indicator that it may be time to consider making that decision.
  • Honestly, only two things really need to change for me. 1) wider margins, and 2) indentations... or wider space between the paragraphs. It just gives the text more space to breath, if you're worried about keeping certain bits of text together, go for making it roomier, not denser, like, put the examples on the reverse page so that there's a page of rules and then a mirrored page of examples, something like that. Also, bigger, bolder headers and more of them.
  • Posted By: masqueradeballAlso, bigger, bolder headers and more of them.
    I'm looking into this (along with other things) but I suspect that adding more intermediate headers will require some minor rewriting to account for the different paragraph flow (plus my section headers tend to be wordy, so they'll require editing themselves when I increase their size, especially with bigger margins) so I probably won't start experimenting along these lines until I decide on a course for the margins and font stuff.
  • edited November 2011
    (meant to be a whisper)
  • I've been doing a few experiments with fonts and margins.

    First, it was suggested to me that keeping a lot of things the same but switching to a smaller Times New Roman font with increased leading would make everything much more readable. Here's what that looks like. (I suspect that still has issues: the pages as a whole look prettier to my eye but the font reads pretty small at the default magnification of my PDF reader).

    I've been contemplating some higher-impact changes, like using a sans-serif body font, bigger headers, etc. Here's a potential preview of that direction (I haven't worked through all the page breaks and whatnot yet in that example, so some of the later pages will probably seem oddly laid out).

    I'll appreciate reactions to those, more thoughts about aesthetic stuff, or about any of the other issues I raised in my opening post like confusing explanations, diagrams that don't help, examples that are hard to follow, etc.
  • I think you're winning, Dan. The latest version with the sans body text plus serifed headers, plus decent leading and margins, is a big improvement to my eye. I think I would prefer your headers to be ranged left (if in doubt, don't centre stuff), but it's definitely going the right way.
  • Your introduction and those quotes you're using are fantastic, Dan. They really set my expectations for what I'm about to read and why I'd want to play.

    At the start of Part 1: Creating The Plot, I'd love a summary of the process that the chart is referring to. That would help me understand what I'm about read about.
  • I finished up the initial round of experimenting with fonts, etc., that I posted about a few weeks ago. Here's a link to the PDF (or the two digest-sized pages per letter-sized page version). Other than changing some headings to prevent line wraps and altering some text to prevent widows and orphans the content is mostly unchanged. Do people think the readability improvement in this draft is good enough for me to lock it in as an official release, or are there some other tweaks I should try first?
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