Behind the Monday Meeting Notes

One of the hardest things to accomplish with the start-up of Onyx Path has been getting the word out as to who we are and what we’re working on. This past year, we talked to you folks via forums, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit AMA. We shared various interviews with our gang, blog posts, and dove into your questions on Kickstarter. Obviously, when you take into consideration the volume of information shared on these venues — we’re all over the place. Of course, so are our fans and backers, so for now we go where there are folks we can talk to. As the year progresses, you’ll notice how we continue to avail ourselves of these venues, but with more directed and focused information about what we’re up to. That’s one of Onyx Path‘s goals for this year.

But that’s actually Where we’re sharing information, not How or Why. One of the guiding precepts of Onyx Path Publishing has been to be as transparent about production as we can possibly be. Having worked behind the wrought-iron, spear-topped, and black-rose draped walls of White Wolf for two decades, where we created and published our projects with very little community-focused discussion and feedback, I started Onyx Path with the idea that we could do something new. Part of the fun we’re having in this corner of publishing is that we now have so many ways to have a dialogue that we didn’t have before. Working with the Open Development Process where developers and art directors post what they’re working on (as they are working on it) is one aspect of this transparency. With our Kickstarter projects we’ve been giving the backers a chance to review and submit errata before we finalize the files. Another example would be my weekly Monday Lunch Meeting Notes blog which include a weekly progress report about current projects.

This is what actually brought me to the idea of this commentary today. I realized this past Monday that some of our fans were looking at the Monday Meeting updates as strict “announcements” rather than as honest and transparent progress reports. When I tell folks why a book is delayed, (which happened a lot in 2012 as our infrastructure was welded into place), some have been disappointed and frustrated that the project was being announced and then “pushed back.” This is totally understandable, and I feel their pain. Part of that pain, however, is based on the expectation that the Monday Meeting updates were to inform fans of firm publication dates. While they can serve that purpose, my intention has always been to keep the Monday Meeting notes more casual, but focused on development. And then, when we do announce a new release, folks’ll either see that in a separate announcement or shared through social media.

If the Monday Lunch Meeting Notes blog isn’t to announce books, then what’s it for? Well, this is a bit of a history lesson, but here goes. Back when I took over as Creative Director of White Wolf, I realized we needed to have more and continuing communication with our audience. So, I began posting to Live Journal with “RichT’s Ramblings”, “RichT’s Ruminations”, etc. Basically, I’d been talking about the various things we were up to, or which were concerning our community. And even before that, at least a decade earlier, I instituted a Monday Production Lunch to start the week with our team eating together. This was a really great chance to goof around as a group, but also to look at what we had accomplished the week before and to see what was ahead. Everybody got a chance to pick the lunch venue — Josh Timbrook’s was always “Subba-Wubba”– and we could share company and individual info as we ate. This Monday Lunch continued on for years and years, up to the time that Eddy Webb and I were telecommuting and putting together V20 as CCP Transmedia.

So combine the two ideas, and we now have a way for Eddy and I to touch base between Onyx (me) and CCP (Eddy), and I can lay out just where in the process of creation each project is. The community gets a window into the ups and downs and hurry ups and waits of what we’re doing, as well as mini-essays on the sorts of game design, pop culture, and personal issues Eddy and I talk about.  And, because it’s a blog, we often get some excellent comments and ideas posted from the community.

I think (and hope) that the blog is entertaining and informational, to fill a niche beyond what a press release, update, forum post, or tweet can do. What do you think? What are you getting out of the Monday Meeting Notes?

  27 comments for “Behind the Monday Meeting Notes

  1. Max
    March 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you very much for this post explaining and showing what you guys do!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Michael
    March 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I read this blog as the most up to date release information available. When I read, “Part of that pain, however, is based on the expectation that the Monday Meeting updates were to inform fans of firm publication dates,” when this blog is linked to on twitter and other sources for dates, I get very confused.

    • richt
      March 21, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      So I guess your confusion is why I wrote this blog post. Twitter is ongoing dialogues, some announcing, some other stuff we find interesting. FB is the same thing, but with graphics and a different audience. At least that’s the intention- so we use twitter and FB to let folks know that the Monday Meeting blog is up, but the blog itself is not an announcements venue. Even if part of the process I’m updating is “book is done” or “now the project is on sale” etc. Hope these explanations help.

      • chris
        March 22, 2013 at 2:26 pm

        If the blog isn’t a real announcements venue, then, if I might ask, where can we find “official” release dates, if those exist? Does the Schedule page of the have “official” release dates?

        Thank you!

  3. PrimalFlame aka @White_Wolf_Fan
    March 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Well done.

    If I can suggest anything, is to somehow echo (via Twitter, maybe) all the possible old stuff file updates. I don’t know how close are DriveThruRPG and Onyx Path folks (I guess you guys are in touch all the time, however), but yesterday, for example, Dark Ages: Europe was updated from a poorly scanned file to a gorgeous original electronic file. I (casually) commented on this with my Dark Ages players (I’m the storyteller) and after searching DriveThruRPG they asked about this “V20 Companion” and that “Children of the Revolution”. They know about the 20th Anniversary Edition, of course, but had no idea about those other books (or kickstarter/deluxe editions). Do you see where I’m going to? There’s a lot of old school guys that still prioritize recovering old long lost sourcebooks (like Dark Ages: Europe), acquiring the PDFs via DriveThru. Searching DriveThruRPG, they discover new things.

    After actually buying DA: Europe, they asked me about other book files, and I told them most of “revised” Dark Ages (the hard cover ones) are available as original electronic files. They own (most of) those books, however, and now want to buy Vampire: the Dark Ages sourcebooks (like Libellus Sanguinis), but only after the files are updated (to OEF or the highest quality scanned files). That’s the reason we mainly use DriveThruRPG (buying old stuff), but that’s how most of folks discover new releases, apparently. It’s not unlike visiting the boardgame/cardgame/RPG store, like in the old times: you see new things (while searching for your favorite game line), you ask about them (around the interweb) and finally you buy them.

    • richt
      March 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      I love the idea that DTRPG is like an old school game store. That’s very cool, and I think appropriate if the old store had infinite shelves. :)

      As for more communication- we’re working on it, please be assured. Specifically, I know Matt McElroy of DTRPG posts an updated list of what is now in PoD on a couple of forums and I think Ian has been keeping a list as well, but I don’t know how easy it would be for them to get info out when PDFs go from scanned to OEF. Certainly, for Onyx, we’re in the same situation as any fan of having to comb the WW files for updates.

      • PrimalFlame aka @White_Wolf_Fan
        March 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm

        Yeah, it must be a lot of things to get track of, but it’s already great that the old stuff is (hopefully, all of it, someday)going through update.

        As for The Onyx Path, just keep the good work, the flame alive and our hands full of dice!

    • Vecna
      March 22, 2013 at 7:23 am

      You can subscribe on DTRPG to updates by e-mail when specific publishers put up new books. I know I have WW on my subscription list.

  4. Sean Mattox
    March 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    I am a huge fan of transparency; I think it is offers major value to companies on the scale of OPP. Especially for a hobby that entails a lot of dedicated and passionate fans like RPGs do, people really like personal connections with their art creators, to be ‘in the loop’ and know what’s going on. The Monday Minutes have been valuable for this purpose. I also dig the random ruminations between you and Eddy. I still crack up every time I think of the “Screaming Cat” gag. :)

    If I were to offer any suggestions to reduce the fan objections, they would be these:

    1) Keeping people in the loop on state of things, including delays, is valuable, but I think that the revised estimates that you put out in response to these are often too optimistic. Witness the week-at-a-time slippage of the Exalted Kickstarter, for example; those rapid fire ‘delays’ cause a great deal of anguish, much more so than simply announcing a single one. I don’t know what your business process is like, but if there’s some way you can better pad these rather than provide continual slips, I think people would take them a lot better. Announcing them earlier, if possible, would probably also be better received.

    2) Also relating to progress updates, I’ve heard some laments when it just says that a project is “in writing” or what have you for weeks on end. I’ve got an idea that could be cool but I’m not sure how viable it might be: provide weekly (or at least periodic) snippets about stuff that has been accomplished for projects to their updates. For example, name a chapter that got out of editing recently, or the name of a recently written Charm/NPC, what have you. This could serve as both as bite-size tantalizing teasers (hopefully sans any details that might make people whine if it cuts later), and help give people a better ‘sense of progress’, which helps attention and enthusiasm.

    That’s all for now. Thanks again for trying to keep us informed and entertained, OPP. :)

    • richt
      March 21, 2013 at 11:48 pm

      1) As projects slip, they slip every day. You’re just getting weekly snapshots. Hence the point about the blog not being an announcement but an ongoing look at where things are each week. What I will do is modify any expectation of an end date- but I’ll tell you, when I do that the very first post will be somebody asking for exactly when. It never fails. :)

      2) That’s a slippery slope. Done well, like via our Open Dev Process blogs, they can indeed be a really cool way to see what each phase means. But there is also the issue of revealing stuff in progress that is then cut, or modified for valid reasons but which disappoints the folks who like the first snippet, or when a small chunk is viewed out of context from the larger body of work. You’re not wrong about how it could work well, but I don’t think every phase of every project would benefit from releasing snippets.

      Good ideas- thanks!

      • Vecna
        March 22, 2013 at 9:58 am

        I think part of the issue that fans looking for updates have is that you say one Monday “Project X has slipped a week” (or sometimes just “Project Y isn’t ready yet”), and then the next week you say “Project X has slipped a week”.

        It makes it look as if you don’t know what you’re talking about with regards to estimating how long things are going to take. :/ If you’d said in the first set of notes “Project X has slipped a month”, then when it comes out only two weeks late people are going to be happy that it’s out – and not getting fed up of being strung along week to week, having the finish line always receeding.

        I hope that makes sense. I don’t say because I think you guys don’t know what you’re doing, but that’s the *impression* I get from the way the schedule *seems* to work.

        Keep up the good work though, and I’m looking forward so-so-so very much to GMC next month. :D

        • richt
          March 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

          So, the Schedule is a whole ‘nother beast if we’re talking about seeing things slip and why not change the schedule to accommodate these foreseeable slippages. I agree, and now that we have the bigger picture from 2013 through 2014 in front of us, we’re going to be aiming to be much more timely with keeping the Schedule up to date.

          For the question of why aren’t we just jumping ahead to say “another month” instead of week to week slippages on the Monday Meeting blog updates- well, that’s the point of this blog here. The Monday Meeting update is a weekly update that gives you the info as we are aware of it. It’s not designed to hide the chaos of creation that is how almost every book I’ve worked on in gaming was and is created. In fact, it is specifically about showing you all just how these things happen- for good or for crazy. There was always the chance of looking like we don’t know what we’re doing, and its why the transparency we are going for is intimidating to a lot of our creative professionals, to one degree or the other.

          But I’ll tell you, that when we had honed the development and production of our projects to a well-oiled machine edge in WW was when a lot of the heart and energy went out of a bunch of our individual projects and creators. We’ll tighten up as the year progresses, but as we do that, and grow in general, I don’t want to trade off the creative energy- so we’re gonna go forward with an eye towards tightening up the schedule…but not at the expense of awesome projects.

    • chris
      March 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      Yeah. Instead of overly optimistic deadlines, I’d rather have no definite deadlines at all.

      • richt
        March 26, 2013 at 11:10 am

        Again, the Release Schedule is on there to provide a look at what we’re working on and our expectations and intentions as to the release month. And we’ve been very up front about the probability that it’ll shift- and we’re going to keep up on reflecting those shifts on the Schedule as the year progresses. For various reasons it was hard to keep the release months up to date last year. But we must have a Release Schedule- even an overly optimistic one- or folks will start the whole “WW is dead!” thing again.

  5. March 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Having the meeting blogs around has kept me involved and interested in Onyx Path and the products being developed by the company for sometime now. I think that I would have wondered away sometime ago without that dependable communication and, especially, the knowledge that you come back and actually read what peoeple have posted as comments on the blog. That’s a level of interaction that I’ve never gotten from any other RPG company.

    • richt
      March 21, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      Well, have some more interaction- on me! :) Thanks, that’s really great to hear. Kind of single-handedly justifies the Monday Meeting blogs!

  6. Naz
    March 22, 2013 at 12:42 am

    At the moment I just want to thank you guys for putting forth the massive effort in communicating the goings-on and for the behind-the-scenes look. Especially for taking the time to clarify the purpose of the Monday Meeting notes and other areas – at length – here.

    My previous assumptions (notably surrounding the EX3 KS) were not accurate and this is just great that you made the effort to clear the air and get us on the same page. Truly appreciate it.

  7. Lostkith
    March 22, 2013 at 2:48 am

    I’m getting out of it exactly what your putting into it Rich. I may not post much, but i still feel very conected due to your Monday Meetings. Whenever you miss one, i do feel quite empty until your back. Please continue what your doing and i know I at least will continue to be quite pleased with the way your running things. I’m also very excited for the future of the publishing companies such as yourself, it seems that people are getting more of what they always wanted out of these games than ever before… and that just can’t be a bad thing!
    Keep strong… your on the… right path? heh.

    • richt
      March 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks! I really appreciate your thoughts here- and support!

  8. chris
    March 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Updates on as of yet unreleased books I’m interested in are pretty much the reason as for why I read the Monday Meeting notes. The weekly updates are appreciated.

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  10. 8t88
    March 26, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I am Missing one thing on this Website, that, I think should be here:

    Character Sheet Downloads.
    Whats up with that?
    You have been bought by CCP… a MMO-Computer Firm… and after that happened, your old Website looked horrible and was counterintuitive, unaccessible… and featured no more Downloads or a Productrelease Schedule…

    So, I Beg you: more Official Downloads.
    MrGone is nice… but I fear once that private Website is Down, the will be no source for such simple things.
    Except Sharing sites… and I feel dirty to go there to download something legal… because everything there is illegal except charactersheets…

    Do my soul a favor and have you downloads back on.
    Thank you!

    • 8t88
      March 26, 2013 at 10:52 am

      I am not a native speaker, and beg for apologies, for grammar and spelling mistakes. nWoD-Loyal greetings from Germany.
      (I am still trying to buy anything and my girlfriend too… before there is just PoD left :-( )

      • richt
        March 26, 2013 at 11:15 am

        Hell, you write English better than I do. No worries. So just a few things to clarify from your post: Onyx Path is not White Wolf or CCP. We are licensed to create and carry on the WW tabletop RPG games, but can’t control what goes on the WW website. We’ll see what we can do to have downloads and such here on the Onyx Path site, but for now Mr.Gone is really the best choice for your sheets- I ask him for one when I need one myself! And Gone is working with us at Onyx Path as we make new games that require sheets, so the connection is pretty strong. Hope that helps! Thanks!

        • 8t88
          March 27, 2013 at 8:37 pm

          Thank you for your clarification and support.
          Now I also understand better what OnyxPP is all about.
          Keep up the good work, and I will keep buying and trying to convert people here in germany to buy the nWoD Products (The german support got cancelled, but who am I telling this ;))

          Keep ‘em dice rollin’!

  11. Yiodan
    March 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Sorry for the delays. But, I really wanted to post since this seems to be something really dear to Richt’s heart.

    I absolutely think you did the right thing. You are pioneering a new way of looking at things, so and its normal for people’s default assumption to be what was done before. But, I firmly beleive in what you are doing and that it is far superior to what came before. As with any change, especially in the way things are viewed, time and patience will be required until everyone is on the same page.

    I come here every week for the latest news. Not only is it fresh, it’s also honest. And both combine into something that is priceless.

  12. Darryl Green
    March 27, 2013 at 1:31 am

    I’m another person who mostly checks the Monday Meeting Notes to see how things are going with the books I want to buy. When I do read the rest, though, I tend to be glad that I’ve done so. I like when game designers and publishers communicate with their audience in a more conversational tone, rather than like a company that is providing a customer with a service (I know that’s what you’re doing, but perception and reality are two different things). That kind of sense that who I am and that my play experience matters not just to the company but to you, also, has been the difference between me being loyal to a company through, say, a complete reworking of its very being instead of simply buying the books that they publish.

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