The Cog Wars

edited April 2006 in Story Games

Okay. I think I'm in this project far enough to actually say that it's a real, happening thing, now.

Basically, I inherited some money. Enough to do an old game idea I've wanted to do for many years, and do it right. I looked at all my various projects, old, new, and while I really like a lot of them, there's always been one that I've said "If I could only see one game fleshed out and finished, this would be the game."

It's called The Cog Wars. And I'm not writing it alone.

In fact, at least one of the writers, and possibly more than one, is a regular here. I'll leave this up for a bit, see if they want to say anything about it.

(Gentlemen? Anything you'd like to go on about, this is the place, I think.)


  • It's an interesting project. I don't envy Levi the task of tying together everyone's contributions into a cohesive whole, but he's got the structure up front, and the willingness to tell people to revise content, so I think that'll work out fine.

    Y'know ... I'm a system monkey. I want to see how the system is going to support the themes. Crazed mad science is pretty fertile ground. I want to see what he grows there.

  • Hey, Levi --

    Can you tell me more about the project in general?

  • Okay.

    The Cog Wars is a... huh. Genre is tricky. Cartoon superspy rebels in a 1920s steampunk world, I guess. There's so much incredibly cool stuff to talk about, but it's all so very tightly bundled together.

    Basically, you're a rebel, existing outside normal society, fighting to defeat the Masterminds that hold the giant city of Tiran in their thrall; rebels are kids, geezers and Cogs (clockwork people).

    The neatest thing is...

    ...Scratch that. Some of the neat things are:

    -The Cogs. Because robots are cool, clockwork robots are even cooler, and the art for these specific clockwork robots is utterly perfect.

    -The core systematic, which is basically paper-rock-scissors with extra symbols (for a total of five), in which the symbol you win with describes the stat you used, gives a look at the way the maneuver is described, and dictates the special effects of it's own victory. So if I won with "rock", that would mean I won by being patient, would describe accordingly, and specific things would happen as a result. It's a conflict system, with different types of conflicts.

    -Characters are dead simple - one type, five stats, a couple of traits. Go. Play.

    -The whole setting that the writers are putting together from the original concepts is just *neat*. They seem to be bent on stuffing as much cool stuff in the bag as possible; crazy organizations, hints about weird "urban rebel legends", physical set-pieces that scream things like "stick a robot in the back of the wind-up plane, and an old man in the tail-gunner position! There's EVIL to fight!"

    Uh... Basically, I'm frothing now.

  • Dude, frothing is cool.

    It sounds interesting.

    What's the prohibitively expensive part of it?

  • I couldn't make it work on my own. I wasn't willing to do it badly. I wasn't willing to share management of the project. Which means I needed help writing it - from people that I could, if needed, simply tell them how it had to be.

    ...And that means money, in my universe.
  • Levi, the "what symbol comes up indicates what skill you used" seems similar to the system in Adventures in Science. It's definitely worth checking out.

    (But also see my review of it on the same page for a group of people you'll be shutting out by this design decision.)
  • edited April 2006
    Hmm. Read review. Interesting.

    Let me go into this a little deeper; then you can tell me if you still think that.

    You decide whether to make a move that is Cunning, Daring, Graceful, Patient, or Zealous - and so does your opponent, revelaing simultaneously. Each kind of move blocks two others, is blocked by two others, and overlaps with itself (both happen).

    For myself, I think it maps onto what the character is thinking really well; if you want to hit hard, choose daring. If you want to outwit your foe, choose cunning. And so on. But if you're always the same thing, you get predictable, and opponents will take advantage of that - if they *know* you'll probably choose to be patient, they'll maneuver accordingly.

    The description of it is yours - you tell me what's "patient" for your character, or "daring". So you customize accordingly.

    I'm not everyone, of course, so I'm sure I'll shut out someone with this decision.
  • What is this "money" of which you speak? Is this your people's name for That Which Takes the Children at Night?

    Seriously - did you contract with professional authors? What's the deal? I admire your frank self-assessment and access to drachmas - please share as much as you are willing about both the business arrangement and your experience as "creative editor" for other RPG writers. Did you refine the system mechanics yourself, or are they part of that, too?
  • Sure. About money; I won't say everything.

    Basically, what I have is a really simple package. Each of the writers got to pick a "cents per word", and a "percent of gross profit". The higher the cents, the lower the percent, and vice versa. They picked their numbers. Now, the specific numbers, I'm not going to go over - I think that they have a right to at least that much privacy. I will say that the cents per word average out just a little below the bigger RPG company standards, but the percentage ranges are higher.

    I contracted informally with people I knew could do the job I needed, and do it the way I needed it done - no open calls; I read buckets of RPG stuff and ideas, and I knew what I wanted. "Professional" and "experienced" weren't on my list of qualifications, but as it turns out, most of them do have some margin of experience.

    They got payment for their first 5000 words up-front, and I'll be 'topping it up' as we go along, until we hit a full book. The whole book is already "budgeted" by page - and every page is set to format, and is basically one point on topic. So, unless things come up where pages need reorganizing, they can write directly to format; about 500 words to a page.

    One of the writers has been helping out with system as we go along, so it's not all me.

    As for my own experience, uh - well, I've been making my own little games since forever. And I know what I want. Beyond that, I'm not as organised as I'd like, but I'm slowly inching towards it.
  • Thanks for that. I wasn't trying to pry so I appreciate whatever you want to share. With that in mind:

    How heavily are you editing what gets submitted?

    Are they writing flavor text exclusively? How are you ensuring consistency?

    In what way does compensation differ for the dude who is working on system with you?

    Do you control the rights to their finished work?

    What is your timeline and what are your publication plans?
  • Heya,

    Just as a word of warning... Levi, I have personally seen people lose their inheritance by spending it on producing a game. I encourage you to think long and hard about what you are conisidering. It's quite painful to see happen. I'll probably never be able to shake it from my memory. Just.... be careful, bro.


  • In order:

    -Thus far, I've been getting drafts, and giving input before getting a final version. After that, just a few sentences a page get heavy edits, thus far; we'll se if that changes, though.

    -So far, flavor only. That'll change as we go on. Consistency is ensured by a few means; the individual assignments are small, each is pretty clearly laid-out, and the writers do some talking to each other. On a few bits, they've decided to talk to each other more than I expected, but that's their call.

    -That's still kind being pinned down. Right now, it looks like each page of system that he and I put together, he gets credited as writing half of each page, and then treated like a regular writer; but his side of things is a bit more informal.

    -I and the artist share the rights; we came up with most of the starting material together, but he's been out of the loop for a bit. The artist, should you care, is J.L.Williams, who is currently running The Wraith Project (a big online fansite for Wraith).

    -I'm aiming for a PDF release in August, followed not long after by a perfect-bound softcover about a month later.

    (Also, as soon as the main release is done, I'll be working on play aids and the like; if I have a significant number of those, then I'm likely to jump the art up to full-color, print a hardcover version, and tag the play aids as a CD inside the back cover, shipping it as a "deluxe" version about six months or so later).
  • Troy:

    That's what it's for. I was told that the money was marked for me to use towards:

    1) Paying off debts. I have none.

    2) As a down-payment on a house. I'm an apartment building manager, on-site, and that's not likely to change.

    3) Start a business. This is the only one I'm interested in. If it flies, great. If not, I get the game I've wanted since forever, and likely enough other people that have read it that I can talk about it in gaming circles without looking like a total ass.

    That's enough for me, whether I succeed or fail at making money.
  • Cool, I wish you good luck and will keep an eye on your progress. You have a rare opportunity!
  • Levi, what you describe seems pretty different from what I got from the original description of the mechanic. Sounds like it's also different from the Adventures in Science mechanic that my wife found troublesome. I don't know exactly what it is yet of course, but it does sound different.
  • I keep getting that, actually - people find the mechanic to be totally counter-intuitive, until suddenly, they "get it". And then it's just totally simple for them.
  • Good luck with this, Levi.

    Have fun with the process and come out with the game you always wanted.
  • was this released as a printed product at all? Anyone?

  • Looks like it was, but it's no longer up on DriveThru:
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