Wednesday, April 22, 2015

GREAT GAME EXCHANGE - Feedback for Headspace

I talk a fair bit about THE GREAT GAME EXCHANGE because I think it's awesome, and I've gotten some great feedback on my projects and hopefully given out some feedback that people can use. Recently I was asked to read over Headspace which is a great cyberpunk RPG that uses the Apocalypse World engine. It's great, you should check it out because the quick start guide is available at the link. What's below is part of a review I sent, republished with permission. It's just missing some of the direct feedback that I had sent.

There is nothing more wonderful than a well written love letter. There’s a certain way the references work, they point but doing copy. There’s a certain turn of phrase that shows the care about the material, and design decisions that show nothing but the utmost consideration for what they mean. That’s Headspace.

You have to understand I come at gaming kind of sideways. I didn’t get the love of Dungeon World when it came out. I get it now, but I didn’t at the time because I didn’t start playing RPGs with Dungeons and Dragons. I started with CyberGenration, Cyberpunk 2020, and Shadowrun in varying degrees. I get nostalgic for those kind of games, and what you’ve done with Headspace is so great that I can’t wait to see more of what’s happening. Now I’ll have general comments, because that’s what I do, but I’m going to stick to the the two things you asked me to do which is clarity and impact.

For clarity, there is really only one thing. You need to drive the point home that baggage has an associated emotion with it. Currently, it’s just one line and when I printed out the game to read it on the subway I missed it because the paragraph started on one page and ended up on another. I know that in a book that’s probably not going to happen, but the fact that baggage is tied to an emotion is so important, and I’d argue the crux of the game, that it should be at least distinguished by its own paragraph. I say this because this was where I spent time going back and forth wondering what the hell I wasn’t getting when I started reading Professional Moves. I scrawled everything everywhere on that page and it wasn’t until I went back and re-read baggage that I came across the information I missed. The fact that baggage is associated to an emotion just needs to be a bit more obvious.

When it comes to impact, the one place where I felt it could use a little more oomph was in the emotional complication section. I read it the first time and was fine with it, but then I went back to what you were looking for and felt that there were sections that could be better. Maybe it was the case of going down the list and there was some exhaustion with having to come up with complications, but the ones for Fear, Grief and Fear were right one and wonderful. When it came time for Need and Ego I felt that there could be better complications. The main thing was that the complications that were great were the ones that impacted the situation, or put strain on the character’s relationships, while the ones that weren’t tended to kind of be self centered with no direction.

But those two spots were really the only things that I felt could use anything. I know how hard you’ve been working on this, and I know that it’s seen a lot of eyes and that kind of polish shows with everything in here. There are just so many things to love about this game, even the fact that it finally gives me a cyberpunk game where the “fighting the man” portion of it doens’t feel forced. I love Cyberpunk 2020 but boy does that part of the game really feel like it’s not even there. They talk about how Cyberpunks are fighting “the man” but in reality they’re not and it’s every person for themselves, which is a reason why I loved CyberGen a bit more. But here, you give us that moment of conscience, where someone has done something that they regret and are trying to deal with it. Out of all the things that this game does well, that little bit of motivation might be the best bit in there for me.

There are other things that are great in here too. The Corporate Fronts bit is just perfect for a Cyberpunk game, where you get the public and shadow motivations for corporations. Maybe even including public and shadow assets (because you currently only have assets) might be fun, but it might also be a needless bit of complication. Though I will admit I think I love the Initial project line, because that’s really what will drive the story along. You know what’s the current goal for the corporation and it will help the GM decide what they’re going to do.

That’s why this is a love letter. It takes all the great things that we’ve loved in other cyberpunk games and puts it to the forefront. It provides the feelings that we want in a sleeker, streamlined package. It makes things more interesting for the players, and the GM, to tell awesome cyberpunk filled stories.

Which is what we’ve always wanted chombatta.

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