Technical blog and writings by Micah Webner.

Blogrimage 2014 Day 14: The Creative Process

I listened to an interesting podcast today. It was a panel discussion on Developing Pathfinder from the 2013 Gen Con gaming convention. It wasn't what I expected, but it was an interesting look into how the team at Paizo, the makers of Pathfinder, produce their products.

As a producer of websites, I found this look into what is predominantly a print business to be very interesting. They use the words designer, developer, and editor differently than the web industry, and they specifically pointed out the differences in the introduction to their talk. I expected the rest of this session to be about how they generate products, and while a lot of that information was mixed in, it wasn't the main point of the it. I quickly discovered that the target audience for this panel was current and potential freelancers, and most of the talk was about avoiding common pitfalls when doing this sort of freelance work.

Some of the details were really interesting to me, because they got into things like how they handle layout. (If I mentioned before how beautiful the books in the Pathfinder Beginner Box are, I meant to.) One of my biggest challenges in building websites is that I almost never how how much content there will be, what it will contain, or how it will need to be formatted. At Paizo, they have layout standards based on two-page spreads, and they adjust the content to fit.

As a GM, I was able to appreciate some of the things the game developers and editors do to make sure that new elements added to the game are consistent with the existing rules.

But the real reason I decided to write about this was because about halfway through the session, during some talk about the importance of meeting deadlines, one of the speakers got very real and very honest. He said that everyone who works for the company has decided to make the effort and sacrifices necessary to work professionally and do their part to make it a successful business. He said if members of the audience want to write for their own games, that's great, and there are ways to put that kind of stuff out there for others. But to be really successful as a freelancer, you've got to step up and be professional about it, because you're working with people who are creating products so they can feed and house themselves, their spouses, and kids.

I really respect his decision to stand up there and say that. There were probably a bunch of people in that audience who were GMs or players who were all excited from the conference and thought it would be cool to be a freelance writer, but who'd not given a moment's consideration to the responsibility of accepting a writing assignment.

It's hard enough these days to see any company as people trying to make a living, and that's especially tough for businesses in the game and hobby business. "Awww, man, they got it so easy. They just sit around and think up games all day. I wish I had that job!" I've heard similar stories from a friend of mine who builds race cars. To most of his customers, it's just a hobby that's not to be taken too seriously, but for my friend, it's how he provides a living for his family and his employees.

I'm glad I took the time to listen to this podcast. I learned a few things, got some design insights, and gained a little more appreciation for the hard work that goes into creating games like this.