An Interesting Conversation About Schedules

One of the reasons that I love writing the weekly Monday Meeting Notes blog http://theonyxpath.com/category/news/monday-meeting/ is the real dialogue that is possible in the comments. This week, there was a great comment expressing concern for the way some books are listed in the updates section of the blog with the same notation week after week. Here was my response to that:

If no new stage of progress is reported by the Dev to Rose, then we have only that info to give you. Different Devs have very different working methods- some have very tight first draft rounds, some dive in and work on the second drafts more. Others create incredibly in-depth outlines and then give the writers the freedom to exert their creativity. As the hub of all this, we at Onyx Central Command try and allow every Dev the room to create their approved projects in the way they need to in order to create the highest quality product. Sometimes we get projects that seem to drift along, and we need to adjust, but we always err on the side of the angels and allow creative room first.

 

This was basically a “here’s why” response which focuses on the specific logistics of one stage of a given book’s progress, because it was a single book stuck in a stage for awhile that sparked the comment, but talks a bit more about Onyx Path‘s overall philosophy of working with the Developers of all the various game lines we are engaged in publishing. What that sparked was an excellent dialogue between myself and the original poster, Hawthorn, about Onyx Path‘s priorities and goals:

 

Hawthorn

Its great that you let Devs have a lot of creative control and all and this allows them to create great books, but you have to admit that contrasting Dev process that result can be frustrating to the fans.

(The Mummy line in the 18 months its been out has released 2 books (general release) and a pdf pack. Demons been out 5/6 months and is pretty close to matching Mummy’s book output already. Demons been very past paced in its production, Mummy’s been nothing but delays it seems.)

I appreciate that you give us a Monday update each week. Really I do, I’m a huge fan of the WoD both classic and new and have been for more then 10 years.

As a huge fan I am frustrated that it seems whenever the fanbase raises points about delays and inconsistencies in development that we get mention of the fact you, Rich, are the only full time employee and that “siding with the angels” for the line Devs means allowing them creative space and abolishing even the concept of deadlines its seems.

I understand you want to avoid the deadline/scheduling nightmare that was White Wolf in the old days. Having books come out with incomplete sections, scrapped sections and lacking polish because of scheduling must have sucked for sure. Likewise, I acknowledge that the best (by which I mean most polished) books for WoD (both versions) seem to have come out since Onyx Path started up.

However, do you think that maybe the pendulum has swung a bit far the other way now? Schedules and deadlines can be counterproductive if they are too strenuous or unrealistic. However abolishing them all together for a “get it done in your own time” approach is arguably not much of a business model and can be damaging to the products in other ways.

After all, how many times have you had to sit and read through people’s messages complaining about exactly the sort of stuff I’ve mentioned above? I’ve consistently seen scheduling stuff been an issue for fans on and off since this blog started. How many times have you had to write about it and address it in these very blogs?

If something is coming up that regularly its obviously and issue and something that the fanbase is concerned of and engaged with. I know you guys at Onyx Path pride yourself on your transparency and fan-feedback/integration. So please look at the number of fans seeing various delays to various books and lines (I can spot Exalted and W20 related ones in the blog today) and see if that’s something that can’t be improved upon.

Just to be clear before any other posters bite my head off. This is not a “I want this book now!” post. Its not about me getting a thing I want faster and being annoyed because I don’t have a new shiny thing to read and play with. Its about the basic recurring point of the issue that involves the seeming abolishment of schedules and deadlines from a company that is in a market that engages with that concepts heavily.

My response:

 

richt

When did I bring up being the only employee in this conversation? When did I say that we have abolished schedules and deadlines?

The point is that when the Devs come to me and say “We realize we really can’t write the Charms for EX3 the way we planned because the whole game will not be up to the quality level it should be”- and they convince me of it- I’m going to say that we need to take the time to get it right. We plan on that and continue to have a flexible schedule based on quality decisions, not delivery dates. (And the current Deluxe W20 upset is based on a shipping partner not following through on their agreed upon duties as shipper, not because we gave them extra time for quality).

Writers, artists, developers, editors- all of them have deadlines. Some hit them and some need more time and we work that out- just like we did for 20 years with WW. We are constantly adjusting and working with all of our creative teams. The difference is- now you get to see those stops and starts right there in the Updates every week.

If I have to explain this every week to folks, then that’s what I’m going to do. We can not revitalize these game lines by prioritizing speed and shoveling out crap. And that’s not me going “Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to let them take all the time they want. They know best…” That’s me saying that we need to create art here if we want to return these lines to the greatness they deserve. And art takes time. So our policy is to give that time whenever possible.

Note that I said POLICY. It is a business decision. It is the way I desire to run Onyx Path. I could very well be wrong, and even though the books are cool and beautiful and innovative and truly fulfill the promise that was WW’s potential, the fan community gets frustrated and walks away and Onyx closes it’s doors and we’re done.

But we’ll have made some awesome books before we go.

So those were both pretty long posts. Hawthorn clearly had a series of concerns to express, and I wanted to cover the why’s and wherefore’s as fully as I could because Hawthorn’s comments deserved that attention. But I think we both exhausted ourselves, as you can see in the following exchanges:

 

Hawthorn

I don’t really have a reply to that, beyond saying you are damn lucky you have a dedicated fanbase. Myself included.

I don’t know many companies that could make the policy model of “this is art and takes time” actually work in a practical business market.

Hope it continues to work for you.

 

richt

@Hawthorn Fair enough, we can leave it here, then, with this one more thing. Taking a page from the awesome Peter Dinklage, I don’t think we’re lucky. Lucky implies out of the blue good fortune. No, we’ve worked hard, really hard, these past two+ years on the Onyx Path, and for more than two decades with White Wolf before that on building the worlds folk are fans of. We are blessed to have the greatest and most dedicated fans in the world. And that dedication deserves the highest quality projects we can create.

Also, do you mind if I cut and paste our discussion into another blog? I’m sure plenty of other fans would appreciate the conversation. Thanks!

 

Hawthorn

I’m replying here Rich because it won’t let me reply to your last post.

I agree with you that luck might be the wrong word.

I do have more to say on the topic, but I realized it was all basically just my opinion on how things are and how they could be. I realized it was kinda pointless to bring up the points I had in mind. Mainly because:

A) You obviously have infinitely more experience in running an RPG company then I do. So I can only talk theory at best. You can talk practical experience, and experience pretty much always trumps theory.

B) As you said, the business model for Onyx Path is a policy you’ve decided on and embraced. Your faith in that model and continuation of Onyx Path operating on that model are not really things that can be debated. That’s the way the company is. That’s not going to change. All I can do really is play devils advocate and vent frustrations. Which is not really a worthwhile discussion at the end of the day.

I’m happy with you posting our discussion in another blog. I’m a big believer that fans should question and prod the thing they love rather then just unquestioningly following it. So if other people in another blog can get a kick out of that sort of thing. That would be awesome.

Could you link me to the blog in question?

Thanks,
Hawthorn

 

So that’s pretty much it. The reason I thought this was really a good exchange of ideas that other folks might be into reading is that a) Hawthorn felt rightly that the Monday Meeting Notes blog was a place where critical concerns would be discussed seriously, b) because it gave everybody a chance to hear what are probably some common frustrations voiced, and c) folks could read some overall policy reasons Onyx Path does what we do in regards to the balance between timeliness and quality, rather than on a book by book basis (which is always different for every project). I don’t think either of us “won” anything- the exchange of our thoughts on the matter was enough. And it was an exchange- I don’t think we convinced each other to change our opinions, and we both clearly stepped back from an argument- it just enabled both of us to express where we were coming from and why.

So thanks, Hawthorn!

 

 

  82 comments for “An Interesting Conversation About Schedules

  1. Steve
    May 21, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I feel that Hawthorn had a ton of valid points. The number of White Wolf fans I have spoken to that refuse to back the kickstarters, not because they don’t want to but because they are worried that the book will never show is huge. Same goes for fans that don’t want to pick up any of the new games because they don’t know if they will get any support.

    There is a fine balance between getting a book out when it is right and getting it out while the fans still care.

    From a totally biased, outsider look in POV, I have to say it does really seem like you are over reaching with the number of lines and books you are trying to work on simultaneously.

    • richt
      May 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Not sure what you’re saying here- first you indicate that fans aren’t backing the KSs because fear the books won’t get made, which hasn’t happened to a single KS project, or not purchasing games because they won’t get supported. But then you say we’re supporting too many games and are over-extended? What would you suggest?

    • Michael R.
      May 22, 2014 at 12:19 am

      “The number of White Wolf fans I have spoken to that refuse to back the kickstarters, not because they don’t want to but because they are worried that the book will never show is huge.”

      What books have never shown? There were (and still are) shipping issues with W20, but the books were printed and in the hands of most of the KS backers. As far as I can tell, OP has resolved to use a different shipper for future shipments. Of course, that doesn’t help the international backers who are still waiting for their books, and I don’t blame those folk for not backing future Kickstarters, but it was a problem that was unique to that particular Kickstarter.

      I’ve backed every single OP Kickstarter, and I have no qualms about backing any future ones. To suggest that books will never show paints me as an idiot who is throwing his money away. I think what OP needed to improve was setting the expectation that these books can be delayed, and I think they have done so. If people aren’t comfortable with any possible delays, they can wait for the PoD. Nothing wrong with that.

      • richt
        May 22, 2014 at 9:13 am

        To Michael R.’s last point, I’ve maintained from the beginning that Kickstarter is an evolving platform and we’re learning with every one of them. We’ve certainly learned the value of reliable shipping in about as hard a way as you can. But in the end, KSs are only as useful as the community thinks they are, and if the delays in our first handful prevent folks from backing future ones, then KS won’t be any good for us either.

      • Tarion
        May 22, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        Without trying to pick a fight, I’m guessing that people’s scepticism rests with Exalted, which is also the game that Hawthorn appears to be talking about.

        Originally estimated at October 2013, and still has a long way to go. See the conversation below with Jason to see that while the Charms section has been worked on, the rest of the book has essentially been in stasis (since it all ties into the Charms).

        Whether it’ll make it’s July 2014 release date is still to be seen, and personally (as an observer with very little interest in Exalted) I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being more than a full year late – The issue with the Charms has really slowed it down.

        I can certainly understand why people might be reluctant to putting money towards something when instead of arriving 4 months after you backed it, it arrives at least 13 months (and potentially far more) later.

        • richt
          May 22, 2014 at 5:44 pm

          No, that’s not true about Exalted 3rd’s work progress. While the Charm’s were being worked on, so were other chapters. We did parallel develop sections. Some of those chapters are finished and in editing. The thing is, they could and probably will get pulled back for tweaks based on both the playtesting and the final Charms getting finished. So, we really can’t announce Chapter 2 is done any more than we have to backers, and expect that there will be good feelings when that chapter gets pulled back for a revision. But, yes, some chapters couldn’t be finished at all, and do need the Devs’ attention after Charms.

  2. Odd_Canuck
    May 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Since this does seem to be a forum for discussion, I figured I’d raise my comment on something….

    From your message:
    “Writers, artists, developers, editors- all of them have deadlines. Some hit them and some need more time and we work that out- just like we did for 20 years with WW. We are constantly adjusting and working with all of our creative teams. The difference is- now you get to see those stops and starts right there in the Updates every week.

    If I have to explain this every week to folks, then that’s what I’m going to do. We can not revitalize these game lines by prioritizing speed and shoveling out crap. And that’s not me going “Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to let them take all the time they want. They know best…” That’s me saying that we need to create art here if we want to return these lines to the greatness they deserve. And art takes time. So our policy is to give that time whenever possible.”

    I am fully behind taking the time to revitalize everything properly. I am 100% behind taking time and doing it right. I am also only far too aware of how delays can happen and production events slip and can push the schedule back. I also don’t have problems with the starts and stops in the Monday meeting notes… more information would be better, or even just periodically restating something differently, but again that’s all fine.

    The overall schedule-estimating though… is still in need of improvement. From the outsider point of view it looks like the schedules are set to the most optimistic “nothing will go wrong at any stage” estimates and then infrequently updated… and when they are updated, only by a minimal amount. Again, this is just what it looks like to someone on the outside looking in, and very likely isn’t what is happening or the intent, but it is the impression from what gets set on the schedules.

    And I would far rather have a “Sorry guys a large thing happened and this game you were expecting 6 months from now is pushed out by another 6 months” than to wait 5 months and then have the release pushed back a month at a time for the next 6 months.

    • richt
      May 21, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      We are now having regular Schedule Adjustment meetings, which are definitely more involved than pushing a book back by a month at a time. That might not be obvious, but from the groans when somebody notices their fave was pushed back a quarter of a year, somebody out there is catching the changes.

      • Jason
        May 22, 2014 at 12:08 am

        Are you using any formal project management software, eg MS Project?

        Like it just seems to me that a lot of the problems you describe are basic project management problems. Like it’s understandable if certain sections of a book need more work, but as someone who does a lot of technical writing professionally, those problems should really only cause the delays you describe if you are scheduling things serially.

        E.g. say 2 of 6 sections basically need complete rewrites, but the others are basically ready at your initial deadline. In your process, does the whole project wait until the rewrites are done before proofreading, layout, and typesetting are done, or do those 4 sections go on to the post processing while the 2 that need rewrite go back to scratch?

        • May 22, 2014 at 1:13 am

          The approach you describe only works if the sections of the book are independent. Most RPG books are supposed to be some sort of unified whole, so integration of the various sections is important. In that case, those 4 sections have to wait so that they can be revised to match the completely rewritten 2 sections.

          For example, the other sections of Exalted 3 have to wait for Charms to be finished, because that is a central part of the system, and everything needs to be checked for consistency with the final version.

          • Jason
            May 22, 2014 at 9:15 am

            It is certainly the case that many game books suffer from this aproach, but I disagree with it from a technical writing perspective. A game book is, at it’s core, a functional document for assisting players in running a game.

            To be a useful document, structure really does assist; scattering systems and setting information and ST tips throughout the sections is actually unhelpful and is the very kind of disorganized approach many complain about in game books. Changeling the Dreaming 2nd ed is a notoriously bad example of this. Poor organization leads to poor indexing and has a lot of other knock – on effects that see a lot of traffic in critiques of games.

            For example, system and mechanics are one of those things that often get splattered throughout a game book like paint in a Jackson Pollock painting. But really there’s not a good case for system having an impact on game setting, history, or storytelling sections. A tightly written book would keep mechanics to a few related sections so that they are easily referenced, but this is also project management in that keeping a book/document tightly organized allows finished sections to go to post – processing so that a month or two delay in wrapping up the mechanics problems doesn’t result in a month or two delay to the whole book.

            Should there be a final revision once all material is completed? Absolutely, but that is a matter of polish, and with planning will take less time than putting the whole project on hold until all sections are complete.

        • richt
          May 22, 2014 at 9:19 am

          Agreeing with David’s reply- we’ve found just about every book is different in terms of what parts can be pulled out for parallel development, and we’ve had occasion to do so, but as a whole our methodology is set up to provide certain points in the process where the whole must be considered- the point where the developer passes the text to editing, for example, is not just for the next stage of cleaning up the text, it is also designed as the last chance the Dev has to make sure the whole text reads through as they want it to.

  3. Ascension
    May 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    In addition to the concerns that have already been raised, let me say that it’d also be nice if some of the little blurbs that get repeated Monday after Monday were a bit clearer. I’m quite excited about Scion getting a new edition, but the bulk of the discussion about the upcoming Scion/Trinity system has been on the Trinity side of things, while Scion gets “Both Scion and the TC above are now moving into active mode for 2014.”

    What in the heck is “active mode”? From the Trinity updates I take it you’re in preliminary systems work, and from your ever-optimistic schedule page I take it that you’re going to be trying to write a book or two this year (though I’m far past believing that anything will be released this year), but as a Scion fan who couldn’t give a fig about the new Trinity, it’d be nice to see to see some kind of specific statement on what’s going on on the divine side of the fence there.

    • richt
      May 21, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      First off, hi and feel free to ask these questions on the Monday blog any time you have them. “Active mode” was the best way I could express that work is being done because nothing that could legitimately be called first drafts as they are waiting to be reconfigured when the system is firmly in place. That’s been what has been holding up both lines, so until we get something and can review the system both internally and by getting feedback through the community, there’s just dribs and drabs of writing and intentions for more. Joe Carriker is both the Scion Dev and the guy leading the system team, so his updates are mostly that he’s compiling the system.

      • Crash
        May 22, 2014 at 9:35 am

        The author of Promethean is going to be heading up the Scion books? You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.

  4. Cardul
    May 21, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Personally, I still feel the hardest part about The Onyx Path’s business model is the leaving out the game stores. I understand the change, and, in many ways, agree that it is a sign of the times and a more efficient business model. But, that doesn’t mean I cannot wish there was a way I could support my local game store AND get these awesome books. I really dislike the “I can support my local game store OR I can buy your products” situation that it currently is.

    • richt
      May 21, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      I understand. There is nothing like a great game store. We’ve done what we can to help by including Retailer Tiers in all our Kickstarters, and have added a Retailer Discount for the PoDs beta-program that is continuing to grow, but that’s the best we can do right now. Even if it made sense economically, which it doesn’t, getting back into game stores requires us to have an infrastructure we just don’t have.

      But we do carefully consider new possibilities and options as they present themselves, so never say never.

    • IanW
      May 21, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      All our Kickstarters have retailer tiers, so you can try to get your local stores in on those. If you check out our FAQ page, you can also find a form for stores to sign up for our retailer beta program, where they get a discount on our PoD releases.

      It’s not optimal, but we are trying to offer support to brick-and-mortar stores.

  5. Brendan W
    May 21, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    <.< I'll start to worry when the releases begin to suffer. So far, so good!

    • Bill
      May 22, 2014 at 2:34 am

      My sentiments exactly.

      • richt
        May 22, 2014 at 9:21 am

        Most appreciated, guys!

      • Yiodan
        May 24, 2014 at 10:03 am

        +1

  6. May 21, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    I thought this was an interesting conversation as well, and I though about commenting yesterday.

    I’ve been the line editor for Ars Magica for about 12 years, and I’ve followed the same policy as Rich for books. While we do reach a point where I decide to stop revising and publish, the basic rule is that I let the authors take as long as it takes to get a book right. I think it is the right policy: we now have 30 or so books for the fifth edition, and a fan consensus that there are no turkeys. Every book is someone’s favorite, although obviously some are more popular than others. From what I can see, the policy is working just as well for producing good books at Onyx Path.

    Estimating schedules is really hard, even with years of experience working on one game with a given set of authors. I now build enough leeway into the schedule to cope with just about any crisis, although that means that two years can pass between the completion of a final draft and the book seeing print. The authors are told the projected publication date before the project starts, so they know that this is likely. On the other hand, some books are completed just in time — some books need an extra two years, so the ones that don’t sit on my hard drive for a long time. Building up to the point where we had this much leeway took a lot of hard work about ten years ago, however, and Onyx Path is too new to have got there.

    A big difference in policy, however, is that we say nothing publicly about upcoming books until they are in layout. This is because, many years ago, before I was the line editor, we did announce things in advance, and then they needed more work than expected and people got annoyed because they were “late”. Now, every book is released when we say, give or take a couple of weeks. (We are still vulnerable to the vagaries of the printers and distribution, because we still release to game stores.) It appears that the “say nothing” policy works, and the fans accept it. (Also, playtesters can keep secrets.) Thus, I’m watching Rich’s policy with great interest, to see how the opposite approach works out. It probably makes it impossible to build the leeway into the schedule, though, as I suspect that “Well, V20 Black Hand is finished, and will be released in two years’ time as planned” would raise howls of protest that could be heard around the world.

    What I can say is that, based on my experience, if this approach does not work out for Onyx Path (which would be a crying shame), it will be the open sharing of information that did for them, not the policy of letting books take as long as they need.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 9:29 am

      David, if I may say so, the hidden schedule approach is certainly one that would have saved us a lot of frustrated emails from fans. But I think it would also have cost us big time in public awareness.You have to remember that we had and still have an uphill struggle with the “White Wolf is dead!” meme because of the change in both publishing model (no books every month in stores), and the long period where we were struggling to find the place of tabletop RPGs in CCP. We ran into this prior to Onyx in fact, with the first couple of new books Eddy and I were working on as CCP Transmedia, where we heard quite a lot of disinterest because it was just a book or two. We needed and still need now a beefed up Schedule that gets out there early and makes a lot of noise just to inform the community. I think that upside, and the resulting transparency we decided to tie to it, is worth the downside of frustrated fans or those folks who clearly wish we’d stop telling them how the books are being made.

      • Phaolan
        May 22, 2014 at 4:20 pm

        Beyond Rich’s point of making sure that the fan-base (both existing and potential, at this point) need to get ‘whooped up’ for releases, remember too that the Onyx Path model of open development makes ‘secret schedule’ more difficult. For my money – literal and figurative – I’d prefer the current mode of Onyx Path offering us peeks and some chance for feedback, even with delays, to a secret creation process. I get more than just books and games out of that deal.

        …That said, I don’t mean to invalidate the model the Ars Magica’s publishing uses, nor do I want to come across as a ‘fangirl’ who thinks Onyx path can do no wrong. I know it’s all balancing acts between creativity and business practices, and I’m just a fan of the World(s) of Darkness who wants great stuff from the company making the books. Maybe someday I’ll be a writer or developer – yes, my writing samples are on the way! – but for now, from my outsider perspective, I think that the process works. Does it work PERFECTLY? Uh, no… But that’s why we constantly improve. Onyx Path does constantly improve, which is great!

        • richt
          May 22, 2014 at 5:34 pm

          I also hope I didn’t come off as negative towards ArMs creation process- my point was certainly always with the consideration that all game companies and most game lines can find working processes that are right for them. In fact, they have to. There is no perfect publishing model that works across every company in this business.

      • May 23, 2014 at 6:38 am

        I think you may be right; that is why I am watching what happens with great interest. We’ve changed the way we do things for ArM before, and we could do it again. It’s not only true that there is no one method that’s right for everyone, I don’t even think that there’s one method that’s always right for one game line.

  7. Derek
    May 22, 2014 at 12:27 am

    I think one of the things that confuses people, or at least me, is not understanding what publishing terms mean. Like, when a book is in redlines, I have no idea what that means and where in the process it is. Maybe somewhere you could post a flowchart or something which explains this? :)

    • Stew
      May 22, 2014 at 3:40 am

      These are the stages of a book as seen from a developer’s point of view:

      * Developer writes an outline
      * Developer hires freelancers to write
      * Freelancers turn in first drafts
      * Developer redlines drafts — going over the first draft, marking up corrections and alterations needed.
      * Freelancers turn in final drafts
      * Developer does another pass, making sure the book hangs together — if the fiction has a character doing X, can they do X? Also, compiles art notes.
      * Book goes to editing. Art notes go to Chaney.
      * Book comes back from editing. One last developer review to make sure ducks are in a row, then text goes to layout.
      * Layout circulates a proof, containing text and art (or art placeholders) for review and to fix things like “page XX”s.

      • Derek
        May 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm

        Thanks!

  8. Mark
    May 22, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Keep making great art. Keep making great books. Keep taking your time. It’s working :).

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Thanks!

  9. Hawthorn
    May 22, 2014 at 5:25 am

    To add something I mentioned in the above posts –

    One reason I decided not to string out the conversation with Rich was that I did not want to clog up the Monday Meeting blog with the conversation. Since their is now a dedicated blot post I feel better about expanding out some of my points and also linking some of the stuff that other posters here have talked about.

    1) I have a query regarding Rich’s comment of “We can not revitalize these game lines by prioritizing speed and shoveling out crap.”

    I agree with his sentiment completely here completely. I’d like to link it to another point I feel is tangentially related to this issue.

    I am curious about the contrast between the old WW way of publishing, which was very deadline restrictive and the new OP way of publishing, which is very deadline light.

    WW pushed a lot of books in a year to a pretty tight schedule and while we can talk about the rough edges of some of the books (and agree that OP’s approach has overall meant an increase in book quality) I would not call any book published under the old WW schedule model “crap”. I was mainly a Masquerade fan in the early 2000’s and some of the lines best books came out at that time – Guide to the Sabbat, Guide to the Camarilla, Chaining the Beast etc. All of these were produced under the old “deadline heavy” model and they were all great.

    Hence some of my cognitive dissidence on this issue. The old WW method produced some great books but had its flaws. The new OP method has produced some amazing books, but also has its flaws (from a consumer/fan point of view). Surely a middleground between the two could provide the theoretical best-of-both-worlds? Tighter dead-lining/scheduling to keep up a slightly faster pace of release and gain momentum in the marketplace, but enough wiggle room for the devs that an extra layer of polish on the product can occur?

    Basically, my original point was not to “flip the switch” and have OP change policy to a very sales aggressive, deadline heavy business model. It was that maybe a little more structure/focus on the business side of OP as well as the artists side of OP might help mitigate some of the issues being discussed here.

    Once again, I’m a complete novice when it comes to this area of business. So this is all just best-guess/observational theorizing.

    2) I’m curious about the actual deadlining process itself. Rich mentions that everyone involved in a project has deadlines to meet. If they need extension then they get them. Rich voices his support for letting these people have the time do practice their art be it writing, drawing or editing.

    How are deadlines worked out in regards to this? More importantly how seriously are deadlines taken by the creators? How seriously are they enforced? What sort of thing would actually cause a person to get called up on not meeting deadlines?

    We’ve heard about people having family or health issues and having to leave books. That’s understandable, reasonable and entirely human and I don’t think anyone with a scrap of empathy would take issue with these things. However, I’m curious about the other end of the spectrum here as well.

    Rich speaks about devs justifying delays to “get things right”. That’s also a good thing, as it means we get high quality products. However, I’m curious about if there is ever a point where something being “just right” is too far? We’ve all known perfectionists after all that sometimes go over the top, is their a mechanism in OP to cope with that?

    3) As a reply to Rich’s comment about “When did I bring up being the only employee in this conversation? When did I say that we have abolished schedules and deadlines?”

    I did not mean during the blog conversation in question. Simply that in the past the mainly freelance nature of OP’s employees has been brought up in regard to scheduling issues. I felt it sounded a bit like a “go to” answer for issue that are often repeated.

    As my previous point mentioned I’m curious about the second half of Rich’s response. As while OP obviously does have a schedule of a sort, I was unaware before Rich mentioned in that OP was using deadlines beyond their general scheduling.

    As an aside, I do believe that the “Schedule” page on website is kinda misnamed and may be the root of some of the fan frustration and issue that reoccur over delays and such. I think something like “Current Projects” or something would be better, as schedule inherently lends a temporal element of working towards a time/goal. This gives people a certain impression of release dates and such, rather then simply viewing the upcoming books as projects being worked on that will be released when they are finished.

    Obviously a temporally structured schedule makes sense from a basic structural point of view. Its a format people are used to, familiar with and find easy to grasp. I can’t, off the top of my head, think of a better layout style, but I’m sure something could be found.

    With those responses out of the way, I’d like to move on to some extra points –

    1) In regards to the Monday Meeting updates and transparency of process and such.

    As Ascension mentions a lot of the updates can be simple repeats. Which is fair, its unreasonable to expect huge movements on each project in a weeks time. Likewise, Rich is always great at replying to comments and such about various projects that people ask about.

    I think maybe furthering transparency more might help though alivate fan frustration though.

    I’ve asked about several projects over the last couple of months. I’ve noticed that sometimes Rich has to respond by explaining that he gets the update info of Rose and Rose gets it off the devs. So if the devs don’t give her anything really then that’s the end of the story. Which is a little frustrating, but once again an understandable occurrence. If he’s not got the info he can’t give us an answer. Likewise, its unreasonable to expect a dev to give a substantial update every week about project development. These people have real lives after all.

    Still, even backlogged info might be useful to provide a more zoomed in view on things. For example, Book of the Deceived for Mummy the Curse has been in the redline phase for about 6 months and is a book I’m eagerly awaiting. Two months ago a little extra description got added to its update for about 3 weeks (possibly more actually) about a writer having to drop out so a whole section needed to be written and redlined from scratch. This was frustrating news, but it made the delay understandable to me.

    The issue for me was that I’d seen other books of comparable type (splat book) and length (between 100 and 200 pages) come into and out of the Redline process in the 4 months period that predated the writer delay. So I’m wondering why some things seem to get “fast-tracked” while others sit in one section for months on end and no one seems to do anything about it. I wanted to know why the book was seemingly “delayed” even before the writer issue. Yet the same word stared out at me every Monday update from December onward –

    “Redlines”

    The issue with Rich not having the info to really expand on this when I asked only made me feel like the book was “not a priority” compared to other projects. I was thinking that maybe even giving slightly out of date info on the last update Rich received about how that redlining was going, even if it was just saying “he’s working on it” in long form would have helped. I think because at least then I would have known something was going on on a micro level even. Rather then the feeling of “its done when its done and be patient” I very much started to feel towards the whole issue. Which I might add was nothing to do with Rich or OP and largely my own faulty extrapolation born from frustration.

    Obviously since then I’ve been a bit more educated by the community here on what Redlines are, how different Devs work differently, how comparing line progression is pointless, how Rich and OP support the Dev 100% on issues like this. The thing is, I had to be told most of this stuff, I was not aware of it from just casually strolling around the site and forums. So maybe some sort of FAQ or something on this issue might help.

    Before its mentioned by other posters, yes I know Rich has posted about some of the stuff I mentioned above in Monday Meeting blogs in the past. However, not everyone is going to back-read blog posts nor can you rely on people really “getting” the point of an extensive blog post.

    2) Steve brings up the point of the schedule/delay issue causing frustration in fans and turning others off OP before they have the chance of becoming fans.

    I can’t speak for the kickstarter issue. In my own experience however, the idea that “Onyx Path can’t hit a release date to save their life.” is something I have run across.

    There is a large gaming club in my local area attached to the local university but having members from as far back as the 70’s. Out of this large club there are maybe 25 people who are World of Darkness/Scion fans. To my knowledge I’m the only one of this group that has a forum account and religiously follows OP updates and such. So I’m kinda this groups point of contact with the modern version of WW.

    Despite a lot of my arguments here I’ve been the poster boy for OP’s way of doing things in my local group. I’ve argued the merit of superior quality over rapid release. I’ve kept them interested by being interested myself. Still, half of them are regularly ready to write OP off due to what they view as a terrible business model that does not deliver its promises to the fans.

    At first this was just a general sense of disappointment with the lack of adherence to a schedule. Later it evolved into feeling that OP is being run like a “fourth tier studio that is six mates in a garage”. To explain this a little more –

    Some of these fans were around when Masquerade hit the scene in 91 and are old fashioned in their ideas about release schedules and rpg business models for sure. They remember when WW revolutionished the table-top RPG scene and was second only to Wizards and D&D for a while in media saturation, sales and popularity. So they are expecting what they see as “higher quality” business from OP. They are expecting hard schedules and a business model that while not something has huge and regular as D&D’s schedule at least ranks with the “second tier” studios like Fantasy Flight Games or the Savage World line from various studios (mainly great white games).

    Basically the whole operation looks unprofessional to them. I disagree, but I can bet they are not the only fans that hold this point of view. Its not only the diehard old guard either, guys who got into the World of Darkness in the last couple of years who are used to other mainly digital companies (like the ones I mentioned above) are also turned off by the delays.

    I know, as far as our group goes that without me, those other 25 people would not be paying attention to what OP is doing at the moment. Not because they dislike the settings, they love the worlds WW created, but because they have an apathy towards OP born out of the feeling that it can’t deliver on its promises.

    For example, they would have never even looked at Strix Chronicles without me pointing it out. God-Machine had enough crunch for them to get interested out of a system upgrade, but they had written of Strix as being “not worth the frustration and hassle of delays” basically from the moment it was announced.

    This might be a local phenomenon, but I’m kinda worried its not and that it will hurt OP over time as “frustration attrition” sets in. Obviously this is not the case at current, as Rich said OP made a profit last financial year and has the 1st and 2nd most funded table-top RPG Kickstarters in history, but even removing the monetary aspect its kinda disheartening in general.

    3) Jason in reference to independent section development.

    I’m kinda curious about this. OP books do want to fit together as a whole obviously, but is it always impossible to juggle multiple points of development for a project at once? Would it be something that might be worth experimenting with to speed up the dev process a little?

    For example, if something has an extensive redline period but the dev knows the sort of art he want for the most part could be request layout starts farming out those images to illustrators? Allowing the book to reach layout quicker?

    4) David Chart and “limited” transparency.

    Weird that Mr Chart should bring this up the idea of not announcing projects until the layout phase. As I was in my aborted second reply to Rich going to suggest that maybe a way of mitigating fan frustration was to alter the point at which projects are announced. So that instead of the fandom knowing about a projects before its even been planned out they become aware of it when its being put together and only a month away (or a couple with delays) from release.

    Obviously Kickstarter projects would, by the nature of being stretch goals, be an exception to this. Likewise, the trade off with transparency verses the mitigation of frustration is something to be debated.

    All in all, this is a fascinating conversation and I’m happy so many people are willing to discuss these issues with a mature and friendly viewpoint. As obviously its easy to view the issue as simply frustrating venting against the devs and demands by the fans.

    So endth the longest blog response post in history…

    • Unsilent Majority
      May 22, 2014 at 7:35 am

      Wow. Well said, man.

      A few things:

      1. I’d point your group out to Onyx Path on the various social media sites. That way, you don’t have to act as liason and/or the spokesperson and they other members of the group can get their own handle on things instead of just thinking: “blah blah Onyx Path never meets deadlines, they hate me, blah blah.

      2. I prefer quality over quantity. Every. Single. Time. And I will powerbomb anyone that thinks otherwise. Just kidding. Maybe. The books that Onyx Path has released over the past 2 years have been some of the best books in the history of the WOD. Kickstarter, or otherwise.

      It works for me.

      Of course, like Hawthorne, I would love to see a happy medium between meeting the deadline/schedule and having an amazing book. Most people I think, would. But quality is most important. And I’d rather have the artists and writers on a book that Rich WANTS on the book, rather than just find someone else because of some reason or another.

      3. I’m happy to see posts like this. Hawthorn presented his views in an intelligent manner, and Rich responded in the same. Onyx Path and its fans, rule.

      OP has a bright future ahead of it. It’s up to Rich and the stable of writers and artists to ensure it happens.

      • richt
        May 22, 2014 at 10:01 am

        Thanks- plus to your first point about checking out the social media sites, it’s worth noting that at least the ones we have access to have notices on every project that gets released- and there have been a lot of them- many on time.

    • reseru
      May 22, 2014 at 7:44 am

      Hawthorn, man, you’ve always been the poster with the longest posts I’ve ever seen but this? This is the longest. You’ve outdone yourself :p

      But, in regards to the OP generally, I just wanted to say two things: 1) thank you, Hawthorn, for saying what needed to be said; and 2) thank you, Rich, for taking the time to reply and also say what needed to be said.

      Real life happens, too. CAS is going through some stuff and I’m not even worried about Book of the Deceived still being in redlines lol If you, Onyx Path, can consistently say, and have fans agree, “We might take a little longer to put things out, but every single product has been a jaw-dropper” then I personally think it’s worth it

      • richt
        May 22, 2014 at 10:08 am

        Thanks- Real life not only happens, too- it happens one. Part of the reason why we have the philosophy we do is that I lived the “make the deadline at all costs!” life (or lack thereof) at WW for 20 years. I’m a deadline driven, kind of a dickhead about getting it done and out, kind of creator. But I saw the cost to creative and intelligent people who were told to produce and produce to that schedule regardless of home life or them reaching a point they no longer had fresh ideas. We at WW didn’t know any better then but to work hard and play hard, but we now see the multiple burn-outs, multiple back problems, many, many psychological issues that came out of that way of working. Not good.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 9:57 am

      So, obviously, I’m not going to reply at equal length, because I’m getting up there in years and I don’t think my fingers have it in them, but since you used a handy numbering system, let me briefly hit each one:

      1) A FAQ on these “How Do We Do Things” issues makes sense. Towards one of your underlying issues of why does one book or line get “fast tracked”? They don’t. I’d like them all fast tracked if quality could be kept up, but here we hit something you touch on…somewhere…in your missive: each dev and their team is different and their available freelance time is not the same from project to project. So, for example, Matt McFarland might have a break between his own projects and his day job and suddenly four Demon projects are rolling along this month, while Justin just got slammed by a huge deliverable at his computer game company day job and his time to work on Hunters Hunted 2 drops to nothing- the man is too exhausted to write this month. Demon suddenly gets all sorts of updates and posts, HH2 goes quiet and gets the same update for the whole month (and longer since it was and will be in the same stage on either side of Justin not working on it for a month). It looks like Demon now “gets all the love”, but no, it’s just that the Devs are in different situations.

      2) First a side point- we were accused of not being “professional” from every angle and for every cause during the WW days, including not keeping to schedules. If their primary reason to be interested in Onyx Path books is that they arrive at DTRPG in the month we said they would, and not the superlative quality of both the books and the games they can play with them, then they are going to continue to be disappointed. And Fantasy Flight is not “2nd Tier”, they are a lot bigger than their tabletop offerings. And we are not. Tell them Onyx is currently one mate in a pretty nice book-lined office, and dozens of creators from around the world contributing to a larger number of game lines than any active publisher in tabletop RPGs. (I think we can make that claim- somebody correct me if I’m wrong).

      3) See David and my comments to Jason above.

      4) And see my comments to David while you are up there. :)

      • Hawthorn
        May 22, 2014 at 10:15 am

        Thanks for the reply Rich. An FAQ would be great.

        I understand you have other things to do then to reply to my essay sized post. So no worries about about discussing every single little thing.

        In general, I don’t really have much else to say, the points I made here were the additional ones I felt were worth discussion.

        I’m happy that you decided to highlight our conversation and make encourage the dialogue between the fans and creators even on issue that can be a bit prickly.

        • richt
          May 23, 2014 at 7:50 am

          Note the change from Schedule to Current Projects on the front page- thanks!

          • Hawthorn
            May 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm

            Just come back from a long weekend with no internet access to see the change. Feel’s kinda strange to have one of my suggestions implemented so quickly. Thanks you for listening to my Feedback and taking the points I raise so seriously Rich.

  10. Gore17
    May 22, 2014 at 7:42 am

    I would like to echo Hawthorne’s comments about people doubting OP’s ability to deliver works. A great many of the backers of the Exalted Kickstarter were, and still are, frustrated by the continuous delays, and turned off by the whole thing.

    Indeed, many people I know in real-life have, when talked about it, outright wondered if Onyx Path are actually scammers, having just taken the money from the Exalted Kickstarter and left the backers out to dry.

    This problem is not helped by something that is rather contradictory to some of the above: a seemingly lack of information and feedback from the developers, and a lack of deadlines given.

    Part of this is that many of backers are not checking Onyx Paths site, forums, or any of the other places the developers have talked about the game. Instead, they receive some-what infrequent updates, which when combined with the lack of deadlines given, promotes bitterness, feeling that they’ve thrown their money away for something that won’t be coming.

    Of course, the other part of that feeling is the sense of being ignored by developers. Why are all these people being given updates and information on the game, how it’s developing, what it features and how it plays, when they’re the ones who have already paid money for it? Shouldn’t they be they be getting all this information as well, if not get it first?

    Truthfully, I myself found that I was losing enthusiasm and growing doubts about 3rd Edition, with the reasons given seemingly more and more like excuse. This was only offset by the relatively recent survey sent out, yet I suppose the question remains.

    Will going for quality over quickness prove profitable? Or will it just result in a slow death for Onyx Path?

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 10:13 am

      I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that I could give some backers an Update every single day, and they’d tell me that that’s not enough. I try and keep to at least twice a month to at least let backers know we are thinking about them, but very often, there isn’t anything worth saying during that phase of production- and EX3 backers have already been informed that we’re not pulling the Devs off of the finalizing of the text in order to put out an excerpt. We get those out when John and Holden come up for air, on their schedule, not me yelling for more stuff to appease the (rightfully) frustrated crowd.

    • Michael R.
      May 22, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      “Indeed, many people I know in real-life have, when talked about it, outright wondered if Onyx Path are actually scammers, having just taken the money from the Exalted Kickstarter and left the backers out to dry.”

      To believe that requires willful ignorance of what OP has delivered:

      I’ve backed 10 OP Kickstarters:
      – For five of them, I have a physical copy in hand.
      – Two of them, based on the updates, should be shipping relatively soon.
      – For eight of them, I possess a digital copy.

      The two I have nothing to show for are M20, which only just ended last month, and Ex3, which had some understandable delays.

      Hold them accountable for the shipping issues and criticize the delays, but to suggest that OP is never delivering is not even close to the truth.

      • Gore17
        May 24, 2014 at 6:32 am

        I would like to point out that the people making such claims have only had contact with Onyx Path in the form of Exalted 3rd Edition, and it’s associated Kickstarter.

        That does not reduce the problem, however. Impressions are important, and the impression they get, having not been exposed to anything other then the Exalted Kickstarter, is that either OP is incompetent, unwilling to work, or outright rip-off artists. Even when informed about Op’s other products, the impression remains, colouring their view from then on.

        Also, people with such impression pass this impression onto others, who pass it on to others. In this way, bad publicity is generated, and a negative reputation is acquired. And once such things occur, it is difficult to reverse.

  11. Ninjar
    May 22, 2014 at 8:08 am

    First time sending in a comment here.

    I think since I have not had a chance to back a KS project yet, I have a more relaxed view about schedules. But I have backed other RPG KS projects, and in my opinion those should have structured deadlines, since the fans/backers are the ones financing the whole thing.

    If that is the case here, (which I think some of the projects are stretch goals and such) then backers do have a right to be frustrated about projects they paid for not getting to them in the expected time frame.

    Other than that, keep putting out great work, and I am happy to see WoD being made in some fashion still. Always been my favorite game lines ever.

    PS- GMC updated Geist and Hunter Chronicle books please! (bought Mortal Remains, but need more)

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 10:19 am

      People have a right to feel how they feel, absolutely. Frustration with delays is not something I’m saying not to have- hell, I’m hugely pissed off at the situation with several of our projects right now- I’m just trying to show that there are reasons behind the delays.

  12. Dawngreeter
    May 22, 2014 at 8:19 am

    To be as brief as possible, I’ll just say that:

    1) I am happy with what and when Onyx Path produces currently.

    2) Where there is merit in expectation management, late announcements and everything else related to the subject of decreasing fandom frustration, I place higher value on knowing everything that I do about the goings on in the Onyx Path.

    And I’ll add just one example. Currently I do not know if the very excellent Netrunner LCG by Fantasy Flight will ever get its official online service/game/platform/thing. If Fantasy Flight was like the Onyx Path, I would either know that it is in the works or that it isn’t in the works. Sure, it might be very frustrating waiting and waiting and waiting for that product to be first properly started, then worked on, then finalized. But I’d still prefer knowing.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 10:20 am

      1&2) Thanks!

  13. Jay
    May 22, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Just my 2p worth (UK based, we don’t have cents here ….)

    I would much rather have quality over quantity or some enforced deadline. I am one of those slathering-at-the-mouth rabid EX3 backers – I would eat shards of glass to have my copy now – but I recognize that the writers, artists, Devs etc all need time to make this work from multiple angles and for many different reasons.

    Whilst I would dearly love to have it already I’m comfortable waiting – there’s a real-life and a career to be getting on with; my sole existence isn’t pivotal on getting some crowd-funded backer reward. The wait and anticipation somehow makes it all the more exciting though I do understand those who are getting frustrated (One friend has already vented about the EX3 KS to me in what they perceived as a “delay”. Duly re-educated and pointed to the MM blog here he’s now considerably calmer about things).

    Boils down to a) communication – something that OP and Rich do exceedingly well and b) expectation – something backers and fans sometimes have a hard time being flexible over or perceiving estimated finish dates as hard “ship by” dates and the like.

    Keep up the awesome work OP – A large number of us are thankful for your efforts and eye for quality material. :)

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Thank you, your understanding is greatly appreciated.

  14. Jen K
    May 22, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Speaking as one of those international W20 backers who still hasn’t gotten their book or any estimate of when I can expect to receive it, there’s no way I’m backing another Onyx Path Kick starter. It’s all well and good saying that you’ve learned from the shipping fiasco but you’ve been saying that since February, and I still don’t have my book. The ‘it’s the shippers problem, not ours’ attitude that IMO has been taken by Onyx Path has really put me off dealing with you again. I backed Changing Breeds and I was really excited about Rage Across The World and Book of the Wyrm. But now I’m just going to wait for Book of the Wyrm to hit DriveThru, since the copy of Rage Across The World that I ordered from them arrived within a week.

    As an aside, ‘Jen’s W20 Book’ has become a running joke in my weekly gaming group. People thought it was really funny at first, but now there’s several folk who were really excited for Wraith who’ve said that my experience means they’ll only be backing for the PDF, not the deluxe book, and will get a physical copy from DriveThru instead.

    • Jen K
      May 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      I should add that I had absolutely no problem with W20’s production delays because I was sure that the finished book would be so amazing that it would be more than worth the wait. My issue is that I’m still waiting for a book that my friends who backed the KS all got before Christmas, with no idea when or if it’ll ever arrive.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      I don’t blame you, you got caught in a bad situation with the shipper failing to finish deliveries and no amount of my telling you that we’re trying to work it out or that you really are one of the less than 10% of European backers still waiting really changes the fact that you ARE still waiting, and still do not have your book. I made a bad decision in working with them, it was a call I greatly regret, and now I’m trying to resolve it so that what must be our end result- you getting your rewards- is achieved.

  15. Tadanori Oyama
    May 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    There have been more than a few of these conversations in the comments and I have repeatedly find myself on the side of Onyx Path’s current policies. From my perspective they are currently working extremely well: every book I’ve purchased from Onyx has been of very high quality in writing and presentation, both ones acquired via Kickstarter campaigns and POD. And I’ve actually purchased them: they have come out as intended.

    I fully support Onyx Path and it’s policies as well as Mr. Thomas. With my luck this model will take root and become a beacon to other gaming companies.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks- we keep trying!

  16. F L S
    May 22, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I’m blessed to be a USA major city resident backer of two kickstarters so far (sorry, budget concerns just won’t let me back everything that comes down the pike), Werewolf 20 and Mage 20. The wait times for these works of art are torturous as they’re happening, of course, but I have yet to entertain any real doubt that these tomes will eventually take their proper place on shelf, and it will be worth the time and money.

    My only concern with the entirety of the Onyx Path business model is the absence of real print runs, particularly when I visit an outlet of the major book chains or surf to Amazon. I feel that Onyx Path is one of the few companies currently in existence with the capability to grow the RPG market, to bring new players into the hobby and to lure retired gamers back into the fold, just by putting your product where readers can stumble across it. I realize you’re just not set up to do it at this time, but neither is the potential gamer set up to be amazed by your products at gaming-only pdf websites or in hobby stores. You have the recognizable IP, you have the quality standards and production values. I can only hope that, sooner than later, an opportunity arises to give B&N or BAM! readers reason to pause and look at something that clearly is neither D&D nor Pathfinder.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      Thanks for supporting those two KSs, are you waiting on a Heavy Metal W20? I really am doubtful that we can rely on gamers stumbling across our stuff in bookstores as opposed to getting our projects into the venues that new, younger, gamers- who are really who we are talking about here if you want to grow RPGs- look to for their entertainment. There was a recent business section guess that Barnes and Noble will be shuttered in 1-2 years. So, Amazon, maybe, is someplace we should be looking.

      • Mark
        May 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm

        Amazon has a lot of print on demand t-shirts and other books listed on it. It should be possible to get them listed on Amazon as a front for the regular DriveThruRPG listing. At that point both Amazon and DriveThruRPG will want a cut of course, but even if you have to make the Amazon price slightly higher it will at least get a ton more visibility on a service that people are used to making impulse buys on with their 1 click ordering.

  17. Paul Gibbon
    May 22, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I’ve said this before, but I’m okay with delays (in this case, for Ex3). I’d much rather have a good book later than a flawed one now. I have no doubt that the delays all have good reasons, and some of the good reasons have been well-documented and are very sympathetic.

    But–what gets frustrating is the lack of any indication of how far out the book is from completion. Yes, we know that this, that and the other part is done, but there’s no idea of if the book is virtually ready to go once the last set of Charms are ready, or if there’s still months to go. Forum goers try to decode some picture of overall progress from scattered updates like they’re Tom Hanks in “The Da Vinci Code”, and still come up with estimates that range from July to March 2015. And some people in the KS are predicting it’ll be out next month.

    I would really, really be grateful for an official word on release date / quarter. Perhaps nobody wants to release a new deadline in case their heads get bitten off when it slips? Then an indication of how complete it is overall, or a statement on how complete it would need to be for a release date to be announced would also be good. Even hearing “We still don’t know how long it’ll take.” from an official source would be something at least. I for one don’t mind a long wait if I at least have an idea of how long I need to wait.

    Apologies if I come across as whiny or overly demanding. You’re all doing great work at OP, in any case. :)

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 5:38 pm

      No problem with your attitude that I can see. The simple fact is that I’m not releasing anything that approximates or estimates a release date, or moth, or quarter for EX3 until the text is done being written and developed and is in editing and we’re getting art. Then we can apply our experiential knowledge of the time the rest of the book creation might take, but until that happens any estimate is going to be wrong (or as likely as any other estimate). And we’ve sent out enough wrong estimates on this project already.

      • Paul Gibbon
        May 22, 2014 at 6:26 pm

        Fair enough. It’s good to know we’ll get more solid info down the line.

      • May 23, 2014 at 6:55 am

        I’d just like to back Rich up on this. It really is impossible to predict how long writing and development will take. It can vary by a factor of two or three for no readily apparent reason, and it only takes one author handling an important section to get sick, and all bets are off.

        Once the text is done, and editing and art are what is left, then you can give an estimate that will be right plus or minus a couple of weeks if you’ve been doing this for long enough — and Rich has.

  18. David M.
    May 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I have another point here for you, about the way you are doing things as a Company.

    I have been playing role games for more than 20 years, and i what i think about your games is that i really love them, but i cannot take them seriously. What do i mean with this?. Now i have two great “loves” in role-playing games. One is Pathfinder, and the other one is werewolf the forsaken. And i really like both of them, but when i can think in long term about Pathfinder, with the huge amount of material they always making, with Werewolf i just can only take it like a game for some days.

    You have a lot of very good people working in your Company, creating excellent books, like Paizo has, the main difference is that all their books and material are for only one game, wereas you have to create book for far too many games. Since my point of view you are too ambitius. It would be better to focus in only two, three, maybe even four games at the same time. In this conditions, at least for me, you will never could compare your production rythim with Pathfinder;

    Forsaken: one book each year, maybe one in two years long?
    Pathfinder: hundreds of books, material, comics, one PC game coming soon, novels, miniatures, etc… Thats a good comercial policy, and all of this is what is making them the first Company in the world of role-playing games.

    Thanks.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      Yes, we have very different publishing models. Out of curiosity, which games do you think Onyx should focus on and put out more supplements for?

      • reseru
        May 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm

        That was kind of the point of the call-out for more freelancers, though, right? OP has a lot of projects lined up and they need more people to write them because the writers right now already have their hands full.

        And, looking at Pathfinder, how much of it is relevant to one’s game? If I’m not interested in either of that year’s adventure path then there goes that product line. I’m not interested in mythic campaigns, I don’t run my games in Golarion, etc. etc. then a lot of products suddenly become meaningless

        • David M.
          May 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

          Maybe, but at least you have a lot of books to say no. Now, with Werewolf The Forsaken, I don’t have that posibility. And very likely, in five years, I will be able to choose between five or six books.

      • David M.
        May 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

        I could tell you which game i’d like to see with more supplements, but i think that this is not the important issue, the think is to focus on something, or at least, to focus a bit more. Maybe you should forget those games that are less profitable for you, in number of clients, and give more efforts to that games that have more fans.

        I think that in this kind of market, there are very few potencial clients, but we are very local. For example, i have all the books of Werewolf the Forsaken, and several books about Vampire (VtM and VtR). But i don’t have any book of hunter, demon, changeling, mummy, etc, etc. People cannot play 5 or 6 games at the same time. The normal thing is that you can play one, or two games in your group. And usually people like to play long term campaigns. And of course, people like to play, read, watch, etc thing about their favourite role play game. That is motivation for fans to go on been fans of your game.

        Without material, people will get bored of the game, and could choose another game.

        Grasp all, loose all

        At least this is the way i see it.

  19. Nicias
    May 22, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    I never understand complaints about books coming slow and not being in stores because I’m young, I guess. Ninety percent of my gaming is online and with PDFs. I like reading the update blogs. All that stuff.

    On a marketing level though it doesn’t really matter how shallow I think it is when people get worked up over the schedule and feeling like OP is letting them down. Since we’re all putting on amateur business strategist hats, I’ll grab mine for a few seconds.

    1) It was buried in the middle of his essay, but I think Hawthorn’s suggestion of renaming the public page ‘Current Projects’ instead of ‘Schedule’ is an excellent idea.

    2) Good explanations are just never going to reach everyone. Every first point of contact has to leave the impression you want customers to have, because some of them will never dig deeper. Right now it seems like there’s a lot of false impressions left with people when they see a schedule with specific dates and months on it. There’s always going to be lots of questions and frustrations about those unless you make them come off differently at a glance. Thus ‘Current Projects.’

    3) The Exalted buzz is just going to leave you all massively vindicated or crushed based on the end product, so, no pressure on the developers there.

    4) This all does probably matter less than how good the books are, and you’re all making fantastic books. So I’m not that worried. I think I’ve literally been reading “White Wolf is dead” threads my entire adult life.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Re: #1&2, we’re discussing it.
      #3: Oh, they know. They are just that confident in the changes and new work for EX3.
      #4: Thanks and yup.

  20. Christian
    May 22, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Just wanted to say “Thank you all” for this great discussion and the comments made, it was a pleasure to read all of it.

    • richt
      May 22, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      From me at least: you’re welcome.

  21. icarr
    May 23, 2014 at 1:33 am

    Another question from someone that knows nothing about books or book production. If the stars alligned and and the world worked the way it should, what is the “average” amount of time it takes for a book to be made and sent to shipping after the master file has been sent to the printer, the master proof comes back and Rich gives the “ok?”

    I know many things can go wrong in that process, re Demon is currently having some troubles with colors not matching, but it still amazes me how it is cheaper to have a book printed, assembled and shipped all the way from Asia than here in the States (yes I am biased =P).

    • richt
      May 23, 2014 at 7:52 am

      We once had it down, in a stars aligned way, to a month during our eight projects a month at WW. And in case you thought otherwise, none of our current projects are printed in Asia.

  22. Discobutcher
    May 23, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Hi !
    I am a very long time fan of nearly all the (n)WoD game lines (I really like crossovers).
    So for me there is no single game line that should be preferred over the others.

    One additional idea to handle the customer expectations might be to get a trainee, student or other part-time employee that helps with the community communication and tries to flesh out the project updates with minor details.
    Example: the case with the EX3 charms would just have felt better if every week just tiny changes would have been visible, like (rough example) “of the 15 open charms there are 5 done, 3 in work and 7 still open”.
    And next week: “Due to a change in the craft charms the 5 charms that were thought of being done must be revisited”
    Stuff like this help to give the impression to us customers that there is progress – how small it may be.
    I was suggesting to use external work force for this to take pressure from Rich.

    Just my 2 cents (we do have cents here in Germany ;-)

    • richt
      May 23, 2014 at 7:56 am

      If we went through the additional effort (and it would be effort to bring in a newbie, get them up to speed, and have the Devs get that level of reportage to them), there would still be some folks who felt it wasn’t enough. Right now, there is as much granularity to our Updates as we can pull without detracting from the projects- on a per project basis, some get more than others.

  23. Ephraim
    May 26, 2014 at 4:54 am

    I think Onyx Path is doing an awesome job. i have bought WW books since 1993 and I think OP is carrying on a flame that is getting better with each book you release.

    This is a hard business nowadays, and anyone who can still deliver the quality and effort you guys put into your books deserve a wholehearted applause.

    Take your time with each book, let the developers do their job and keep rocking.

    • CHILL
      May 26, 2014 at 9:17 am

      Couldn’t agree more :)

      • richt
        May 26, 2014 at 9:27 am

        Big thanks to both of you!

  24. May 27, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    As a retailer I was surprised to get my free RPG box and find a White Wolf Mage piece in it. We have sold games since 1980 including the first issue of white wolf magazine, the one photo copied and stapled in the corner. Our shelf space was 8 feet of spine out books and I took 4 18″ milk crates to as many as 20 conventions a year. We have introduced your product to hundreds of gamers thru the years. It was a blow to us when you stopped supporting retail brick and mortar stores. That is where your start came from. Games running in my store and at the conventions I attended. if any of the old crew are still around ask them if they remember Harry and Susan from The Dragon’s Hoard.
    Why should I support you when you abandoned us? people that we introduced to your games still play, but now have to get print on demand books..

    • richt
      May 28, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      Harry- White Wolf did not get out of the traditional distribution system in order to spite retailers such as yourself. We got out because it was broken in ways we, from our end, could not fix. Sales numbers kept dropping, even though we knew there were fans and stores out there who wanted our books. Eventually, the cost of the smaller print runs we ran based on those numbers became prohibitive- would you have had us fulfill your, let’s say generously, 20 book order, by printing three thousand books? It didn’t make sense, but at the same time electronic sales were rising dramatically. It made sense to move our efforts in a growing direction.

      Now let’s fast forward to the now, and because we have always appreciated and loved game stores, Onyx Path continues to try and find ways to reconnect and get some of our books into retailers’ hands. We have Retailer Tiers in all of our Kickstarters, and we have a beta program to give discounts on our PoDs to Retailers. Are the margins as good as back in the day- no, nether of these methods of physical book creation are inexpensive, so we can’t give as large a discount. But we are trying to reach out as far as we can go without toppling over.

      Similarly, it’s our thinking that the Mage20 Free RPG Day Quickstart will help Retailers in the program by letting the fan base from the M20 Kickstarter know that these printed QSs are only in your stores for several weeks. Hopefully they will pop in for that and stay for your other wares. They already know how to get our products online.

      How we integrate stores into what we are doing is still a work in progress, and I’d love to hear more ideas of how we can do more.

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