Sorry that I’ve gone dark for so long and deprived you of updates! J. R. Blackwell returned the text to me with her editorial remarks and I’ve been making my way through, tweaking, adjusting, correcting, and polishing with her excellent guidance. This is the “how the sausage is made” part of the process, with lots of minutiae so there’s just not much to share. Nothing exciting at least. So while I continue to trawl my way through all these words, let’s enjoy some pleasant distractions.
Pilot Launch Suit Design
Jennifer Rodgers, our esteemed illustrator has been working on more designs for the illustrations of Tears and here’s her first draft of the pilot’s Launch Suits.
The astute viewer will notice a few references to religious iconography in the patterns. It will be more obvious once the pilots have their neural exchange halos attached. Continue Reading →
Preservation Forces Patch
As editing proceeds, we’re working on getting the other rewards prepared and ordered. Thanks to the generosity of our Angel, those of you donating at the $30 and higher level will receive a patch declaring your enrollment in the future forces that will save humanity from the Mayzor scourge.
When Jennifer Rodgers asked me what the patch should look like, I sent her this:
She, being an actual illustrator took a few hours to tinker with it and then sent me this rough draft:
How about I distract you from that embarrassing comparison by telling you more about Preservation Force tech? Continue Reading →
It feels very official to be getting contracts signed and payments underway for Tears of a Machine. The draft is in J. R. Blackwell’s care, Jennifer Rodgers and I are reviewing my notes on illustrations and planning the sketches. We’re also turning my crayon draft of the Preservation Force’s emblem into a patch, as per the Angel backer reward. I’ll be able to share more about that with you soon. But how about some background on the Preservation Force . . .
Defenders of Humanity
The Preservation Force was formed on the order of the Cloistered Research Council. When they revealed themselves as the authority on alien technology they insisted that it should not belong to any national power. The world was in dire straits already and their representative said it would be too easy for a still-powerful nation to abuse the new weapons, taking needed resources from a neighboring country or “walling” themselves in and leaving others to fend for themselves. If they would use this science, it would be a world-wide effort and the weapons would belong to no one group.
Beginning with UN forces, the CRC oversaw the organization of an international military force. Soldiers were uprooted and shuffled and their commanders complained about loss of combat effectiveness but the CRC were adamant. Organizing these armies into a collective was difficult but the need for a defense from the aliens drove the world to put aside differences and cooperate however they could. Meanwhile the CRC was pulling together resources to construct bases of operation for the new army. The Arx.
Jacob Wood has planned a presentation on accessible games for Virtuacon this October. He has invited me to join him and share my thoughts and plans on accessible text and audio books. If you’d like to see the presentation, you don’t have to go anywhere! Virtuacon is a weekend of gaming through Google Hangouts, organized by RPGGeek. You’ll be able to join and play or run games and attend panels all from the comfort of your internet connection. You can find the schedule of international time slots and a list of planned events on the RPG Geek site. And I’ll try to get some more Tears demos on that calendar too!
Thank you and May the SAInts preserve us.
August 16, 2013
Messages have slowed down, payments have been made, and we’re ready to proceed. Before the text goes to the editor, I will make one last solo pass to look for any omissions or typos and to pluck out a few more needless words. The less work J. R. has to do, the faster the book turns around and it’s just poor manners to ask a professional to deal with my misspellings.
J. R. taught me an editing trick that I think everyone should know. In truth, it’s something I already knew myself, but didn’t think to apply before J. R. pointed it out to me. Read it aloud. Out loud. Mutter if you want to but don’t just silently mouth the words. You will be more focused when you engage your ears as well as your eyes and your attention is less likely to wander. Once you start using your voice you’ll quickly find passages with awkward wording or misspellings. That one-two punch of visual and auditory learning is the reason that having an audio-book format to accompany the text makes it easier to read, process, and internalize.
Presentation at Metatopia
On that subject; because of the impact that the accessibility plans had on funding Tears of a Machine, I’m preparing a presentation on the importance of accessibility for other designers. I’m planning to make the presentation at Metatopia in October. Metatopia is gaming convention focused on the designer with panels and mini-seminars about games of all types and a schedule of demos and playtests designed to find players for your game in progress. I highly recommend attending!
Social Media Sorting
Many of you have added me to your social media groups and I’ve done the same but in a haphazard way. I’m sorting out the Facebook groups and Google circles now. If you’d rather only receive information about Gaming in general, or Tears specifically, please let me know through their messaging channels and I’ll spare you my posts about the “really great pizza I had.”
There will be more progress reports ahead and I’ll be organizing more online chats and demos soon too. I expect that they will be on Wednesday evenings and weekends to fit my schedule but I also hope to get more of you involved, perhaps as early GMs for your own groups.
Thank you and may the SAInts preserve us.
The Tears of a Machine kickstarter campaign has been a success! We’re fully funded to get the game through editing, art, layout, and printing. Here’s the last update of the funding drive.
Offering the book in accessible format did a lot to help me find the support I needed. I’m going to make every effort to keep the level of quality just as high in creating the synchronized audio version of the text.
Thank you once more, to all my backers and supporters.
Some more world-building today. Get to know the most mysterious super-geniuses of the world of Tears of a Machine.
A shadowy organization of cutting-edge researchers and scientists, the Cloistered Research Council are responsible for the robotic SAInts, the floating Citadels of Earth’s Preservation Forces and the MetaTron telepathic communications system that ties them all together. Their knowledge demands respect because it is the best chance humanity has to survive the alien attacks and strike back. Continue Reading →
You’ve seen it in the Tears of a Machine kickstarter project write-up and in the stretch goals, but I’m going to say a little more about the subject of an accessible game manual.
For 13 years I’ve worked at Learning Ally, a non-profit organization that serves students with print disabilities. I’ve gone through dyslexia simulation exercises and teaching sessions about the way that the brain develops to handle written language, all so that I could better understand the challenges that a student with learning differences must face. The simplest way for me to explain it is to imagine that you’re learning algebra but your book is written in a foreign language. You can understand the concepts and the symbols but have to puzzle them out from among the surrounding words, slowly. Bit by bit.
Now, go to your bookshelf or the folder of PDFs on your computer and open up an RPG manual (preferably one of those big 200+ page ones that cost you 50 bucks) and drink in the wall of text. That’s what it is for many people. A wall. Mild dyslexia is almost commonplace; as many as 1 in 5 students could benefit from having access to their school books in alternative formats. There are imaginative and intelligent people who are held back by how information is delivered and by the stigma of “disability.” With the same information presented in a different format they are just as quick to learn as many others. I want to give them the opportunity to enjoy my game without barriers.
How will I make Tears of a Machine accessible? The DAISY Consortium is an international organization devoted to the same goals of Learning Ally, to remove the barriers of print comprehension from information. They provide an assortment of free and open source tools for the creation of accessible books and audio. Because I have access to the raw text I can use many of these tools to convert it into these formats: Continue Reading →
Today I launch the Kickstarter funding drive for the Tears of a Machine role playing game. Here!
Tears of a Machine is about the teenage pilots of giant robots and how the ups and downs of their lives give them the strength to fight off an alien assault. The pilot’s hopes, fears, friends, and rivals will help or harm her self-esteem. Getting a love note to the cute guy or girl on the other side of the classroom or winning the volleyball match might save her life when a brutal alien robot falls from the sky to crush a city and she flies to defend the people.
Game mechanics that are speedy and accessible are important to me, so Tears uses 6-sided dice and some simple addition to work out the results of challenges. The outcome of most situations are decided by a single roll but when things get especially tense or dangerous then the rules “zoom in” to cover the back and forth of winning and losing but without sacrificing the opportunity for a dramatic narrative.
Do you want to know more? Check out the kickstarter page. Review the rewards; read about my excellent creative team; look at the beautiful art; download the sample adventure; watch a video in which I try and fail to maintain eye contact with the camera!
Tears of a Machine on Kickstarter.com: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/robotclaw/tears-of-a-machine
This writing project has been my labor of love over the past two years. It’s undergone multiple full drafts, 50+ hours of play-test sessions, and dozens revisions and rewrites! I’m already happy with what I’ve created already in writing the complete draft of Tears, but seeing it made into a physical artifact will make the accomplishment “real” to me.
Thank you for your attention and for your support!
I’m Russell Collins, the designer and author of Tears of a Machine; A story game (or RPG) about teenagers piloting giant robots against an attacking alien force and all the triumph and loss of their dangerous lives.
I’ve built the game around the pilot’s own strength of will and self-confidence, so that a good day in school or at the mall or on the basketball court will help a pilot beat the odds when the alarms sound and the alien assault force strikes. But on the other side, a pilot’s fears and frustrations may leave him or her drained and apathetic and a weak-willed pilot could be just as dangerous as the enemy. The SAInts, the giant robots built by Earth’s defenders, are made from the same tech as the alien’s war machines and if a pilot loses control, the SAInt becomes a raging monster!
The rules are quick to resolve and focus in on what is most important to a pilot’s success or failure and how those situations relate to his or her outlooks and attitudes. They also scale, zooming in to add more detail when the pilot’s life is on the line as insect-like robots storm the city, but staying light enough so that combat scenarios can still be high-speed, high-energy dramatic events.
As production of the game progresses I’ll be adding more details about the world of Tears of a Machine through stage setting fiction and rules examples. There will also be some supplemental writing and behind-the-scenes information too.
Thank you, and May the SAInts Preserve Us.