This Blog 2019, Goals and Grommets

Inspired by the 2019 goals post over at Charles's Dragons Never Forget Blog, I figured I would do the same thing. 2018 right around ...

Monday, September 19, 2016

A thought about "Invisible Sun" by Monte Cook Games.

Here's the  kickstarter page, for record.
if you are into games (and you must be if you landed in this tiny blog backwater) or if you are into
what can be done in the world of  game publishing at its upper limits, check out this kickstarter.
"1,846 backers pledged $664,274 to help bring this project to life."
I wrote thsi a few weeks ago and let it sit in my drafts folder. I waited to post this until the kickstarter campaign was over. Not that this wee little blog in the  corner of the  internet would be able to slow that supporter train down. Regardless I didn't want to confuse anyone into thinking that I was trying to slow that train down.

Now my disclaimer:
I like Monte Cook Games and their products very much. I feel they are an upstanding group  running an outstanding company. The quality of their products, and the obvious time and attention they give each project has been impressive. I own the Numenera book. It ranks among my top gamebooks when it comes to the quality of the physical thing and the overall presentation.
I think their latest project "Invisible Sun" looks amazing. I know it will be a success, the  kickstarter is funded, and as a company they have a great reputation for  fulfilling kickstarters above and beyond backer expectations.

Now my point:

It's a deluxe product to be sure.  There is A ton of cool stuff in that black box.
From the  kickstarter page:  Inside the specially designed cube you will find four books, a folding game board, a resin monolith, a metal medallion, four special dice, player handouts, tokens, and hundreds of cards to enhance your gameplay.

Even with all the above blandishments in mind when I look at the  Kickstarter, I know it's not a game I could play.
Again from the  kickstarterLet’s be upfront, though. Invisible Sun is not a game for everyone. Not because it’s difficult, but because it’s involved. It’s not really designed for casual, fire-and-forget sorts of play. It is character-focused the way a good novel or television series is character-focused, with individual story arcs, deep development, complex motivations, nonlinear narratives, and asymmetrical play. If you’re the kind of player who enjoys musing over your character between sessions, thinking deeply about the setting and events in the game, and making interesting choices, then Invisible Sun is the game you’ve been waiting for all this time.
I would love that kinds of game. I might have been able to play that kind of game 20 years ago. I just know it's not going to happen with everyone's current schedules and our attention spans. Our game hours are constantly being cut short by our real life concerns. On the surface it sounds almost too ambitious for a group of 40 (plus the double buffalo) something gamers to even think about tackling something as ambitious as The Invisible Sun.

We break out less stuff than is included in the black cube for most of the board games we play. It's an RPG, and I'm going to assume, (perhaps incorrectly) that not everything in the cube is necessary to play. I had the same feeling with Fantasy Flight's war-hammer RPG when it came out. I saw that war-hammer came with 30 custom dice and 300 cards, it just kind of left me cold to the whole thing.
Even if our group went in on the game together and all committed to playing. I'm not sure we could ever give this deluxe product the treatment it richly deserves.

The  kickstarter does address these concerns, though I would have to  see it all in action  to know  exactly what would work for the group I game with and what wouldn't.

Again from the kickstarter found here: We live in the modern world. We know what it’s like to try to get a group together on a regular basis—work, family, schedules, and other aspects of that nasty thing we call real life always get in the way. Invisible Sun, at its very core, is designed around overcoming that with gameplay options that deal with missing players, solo play integrated with group play, playing online, and more. 
Invisible Sun is a game that encourages players to think about the game away from the table—and rewards them for doing so. Not just on game night. This is a game for people who enjoy real investment in character and story. It’s not just a hack-and-slash, bash the bad guy sort of thing. Those kinds of games are fun, but this is something different.
Players (individually or in groups) can devise and stage side scenes or even flashback scenes to accomplish their goals. The rules of the game address these in a way that is separate from but compatible with the main narrative. In addition to the flexibility this gives in group storytelling, it means that there are many opportunities to play the game and advance the characters and the narrative even when the whole group can’t meet.

Here is where I am treading  a line, I don't want to write anything negative about a company and people who I feel are completely awesome. I respect the project, agree with the price point , and I know MCG will fulfill every darn thing shown on that page to every backer.

The  best way I can put my  thoughts is this kickstarter feels like a game designed by and for game designers or people who  have the luxury of playing games for a living. I'm not sure the average  table of gamers could ever really interact with this game the way it is intended to be interacted with. It almost has a feeling of,  "designed be cause we can," or "design because we are one of the only companies that could." It's like the Foie gras terrine of RPG's. Design for design's sake. Perhaps it's game design as art? which would leave the game itself up for interpretation. I don't think this means there is any lack of  integrity or lack of love  going into the game. to the contrary the designers are clearly putting tons of energy and love they have into the project. The question is what audience are they directing all that energy and love?

I don't know. I wonder if this is the  direction new RPG's are going to take for a while. Success breeds imitation, an I can image that after a kick starter raises more than 600k, there are bound to be some other companies that want to give the  "delux RPG" treatment a try.

The game, judging by the kick starter is already a success. MCG will fulfill the kick-starter and the product will be awesome. I sincerely wish them the best of luck.  I'm just not sure I can appreciate a deluxe RPG product in the manner of Invisible Sun. Perhaps that will change if I ever get a chance to play it and really see what it's all about underneath all the deluxe trappings.

Thanks for reading

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