Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Community Created Content for Tabletop Games

Over a year ago, I posted about the coming revolution in card games (and board games) based upon the ability to print any content on any single card. I laid out some possible ways that OneBookShelf through our site hoped to aid that revolution. One of those ways was by empowering a game's community to create content for their favorite game.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Community Card Creator

Today we release the first iteration of our community card creator. We've partnered with Paizo Publishing to give Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (PACG) fans the ability to create, print, and share their own cards for PACG. You can check it out here:

PACG fans can:
  • create their own cards;
  • purchase their created cards in print for $0.50/card;
  • choose to keep their card private (it's truly a one-of-a-kind card!);
  • choose to list their card publicly on DriveThruCards allowing other fans to see the card, comment on it, and purchase it.

While the rest of this post is about Community Card Creators in general, I will beg your pardon while I do a quick shout-out to Vic, Sonja, Mike, Tanis, Jeff, Lisa, Erik, and Brian at Paizo who were super-supportive of this project. They were also bold enough and trusted their community enough to put a design tool like this in the hands of their community.

Concerns about Community Card Creation

"If you let players help design the game it's likely to be a worse game than it was before" [Lewis Pulsipher, BoardGameGeek].

A year ago, my post received comments similar to Mr. Pulsipher's. Collectively, game designer comments expressed concerns about unbalanced cards, quantity-over-quality, and copyright-violating (or offensive) content. The seeming consensus: community created cards would be a wreck.

I'm obviously optimistic about the possibilities of these card creators, but it would be foolish to ignore the possible validity of these concerns.

With the release of the PACG card creator, Pandora has opened her box and we'll see which of these evils emerge. I know that we are in the early stages of this process. Like any web-based service, what we've released today with the PACG card creator is an initial, minimally-viable-product kind of launch. We have work ahead of us to refine the process of creating, commenting, browsing, and buying cards.

Much of that work will get prioritized based upon which of the evils soars (or roars) out of Pandora's box. However, we have planned for mitigating some of these concerns:

Copyrighted Images Concerns: We knew the importance of providing players with easy access to artwork they can legally use on their created cards. Without easy access to legal art, many players would default to copying images off the web regardless of copyright, or get stumped by the lack of legal art and not create cards at all.

We assembled a collection of stock art images from Fiery Dragon and Fat Goblin that players can purchase for $0.40 an image and get the rights to use the image on cards they create. The hope is that this begins to create a viable marketplace where community members who have artistic talent might also submit art to be used on cards and get some amount of royalties as other community members use the art.

Unbalanced or Poor Quality Cards Concerns: Two things will keep these from being major issues. First, all community created cards are clearly marked as such. Like most ongoing card games, PACG cards include expansion icons, and in the case of community cards that icon is replaced with a Community Created Card logo.

This clearly segregates for players the official cards designed by Mike Selinker and team from the unofficial cards designed by the community.

Second, our hope is that fans will take an active role in discussing and rating cards created by other community members. These ratings will allow us to automatically curate the better community cards, to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Onward Revolutionaries!

For Players: I see a gaming landscape where players have the ability to design their own add-ons to any popular board or card game. I'm playing Flash Point or Pandemic and want to create my own custom role card? I'm playing Guillotine and want a prank card to put in the game and watch my friend lose his head? I've got a cool idea for variant draw card for Settlers or Ascension or Dominion. Done, done, and done.

For Game Publishers: The benefits are numerous.

  • Community created cards increase and prolong your community's involvement with your game.
  • Community created cards provide more "Wow!" fun moments playing your game. Already Matt Kimmel, one of the testers for the Pathfinder Card Creator, surprised his fiancee Sandra with an engagement card he created:

Matt's custom card pays homage to Richard Garfield's Magic card proposal
  • Community created cards could become a reasonable source of extra revenue.
  • Community created cards could produce game design contributions that deserve to become official extensions of the game.

We've begun to have conversations with a few publishers about producing community card creators for their games, and several of those publishers (Atlas Games, Cheapass Games and Stone Blade Entertainment among them) have agreed. We invite other publishers to work with us to foment this revolution.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Steve Wieck