The development of the first official game setting for the Singularity System, Setting Module 00: Systems Malfunction (based on my long-running LARP of the same name) has been pretty much a goddamn nightmare. A nightmare of the endlessly recurring kind. The reason for this is no mystery: this is the first time that End Transmission has sought to publish a work of which I was not the sole primary author, and I am far better at producing my own content than I am at managing the content ouput of others. The fact of the delays was no surprise either, but the scale of them is staggering.
Some history: in January of last year, I began developing the Sol Invictus setting for the Singularity System. I realized that I could not possibly develop BOTH the Sol Invictus setting and the Systems Malfunction setting for tabletop and meet a reasonable production schedule (i.e. a GenCon ’13 release), so I decided that I would outsource the development of the Systems Malfunction setting book to an independent contractor familiar with the universe and subject matter. It soon became clear that no matter what, the Sol Invictus setting would take years for me to bring to fruition (which should have clued me in to something), but the choice to put the Systems setting book in someone else’s hands had been made, and there was nothing to be done about it. (As of now, only 110 .doc pages and 36,000 words of Sol Invictus exist, meaning that the first draft is nowhere near complete.)
The project was assigned by February of 2013, but we did not issue a contract until May of that year due to general inexperience at business, and more importantly, we were working our butts off making games.
Our plan was for a GenCon 2013 release of the Systems setting book, following hot on the heels of the Singularity System which we managed to release at Origins 2013 to modest sales (we’d initially been planning on releasing THAT at Lunacon to substantially modester sales, but that’s another story and a far less outrageous one). Contracted deadlines were missed again and again throughout July, and things became increasingly quite tense. By the time we got anything resembling a completed manuscript, it was mid-September, two months behind schedule, and GenCon had come and gone. At that point we were dealing with the stress of moving, and neither of us was looking forward to rush-processing the draft for a Con on the Cob October release. We wound up calling in sick from Con on the Cob entirely last year.
It’s a good thing we didn’t try to go to print with that manuscript, because it wasn’t actually complete at all. It took me entirely too long to realize this, as I spent three months going and carefully editing (for content and format) the rules section, before I could take a month to carefully review the setting chapter (editing again for content and format) and realize that some of it in fact was missing. At this point, it was January of this year. I had gotten over the extreme rage at all the missed deadlines between July and September, and was feeling a bit live-and-let-live. So never one to realize that a fire tends to burn rather consistently so you shouldn’t thrust your hand in it twice, I reached out to the original author. Could he deliver all of the missing and incomplete content by February 8th, so that we could get the book to print for a March Lunacon release? Of course he could, he assured me, no problem.
As of this writing it is February 25th and I still do not have a complete manuscript for layout: it is completely impractical, if not impossible, to publish this book for a Lunacon release, since Lunacon is in less than three weeks and the layout-to-publishing-to-shipping process involves several proofing stages and is rather time consuming. The complete draft is, as of this writing, 225 days late, also equivalent to seven months and 10 days, also equivalent to 32 weeks and one day. Oh well, there is always Origins. Maybe we will have a book by then. Anything is possible. This cannot all be blamed on the contractor. The truth is that the sheer scale and enormity of the project, the book, and the content it contains has expanded and expanded with seemingly every other revision and addition that we’ve done recently. Even culling everything not absolutely necessary, which I have been doing for months now, this project has lost weeks and weeks to the phenomenon software developers identify as scope creep.
In all seriousness, I can’t say that I have only myself to blame for this. But I also can’t say I don’t blame myself.
And all of this is…OK. I’ll repeat that, all of this is OK, just growing pains (even if some are more painful than others), mistakes we can afford to make, and learn from, and not make again, like the shipping thing last year. The truth is, we are (fortunately) on steady enough financial footing that this doesn’t knock us out of business as a company, and (fortunately or unfortunately) at this point we’re still very much under the radar. This is a book almost no one has heard of being talked about in a blog post that almost no one is reading. There are no legions of fans crashing our gates with rage that this book is seven months late (something that, I understand, happens even to the biggest in the business) and I am, perversely enough, almost grateful for that at this stage. It is bad enough dealing with my own frustrated expectations.
One lives, and one learns, and one continues to make games.