The 2013 ENnies nominations have been announced and voting is now open. I caught up with Tracy Barnett at Sand & Steam to discuss School Daze, which one of the Judges’ Spotlight Awards. Voting begins on Monday, July 22 and runs to Wednesday, July 31. The ceremony itself will be on Friday, August 16, in the Union Station Grand Hall at 8 pm with the cocktail reception beginning at 6:30 pm. The Judges’ Spotlight Awards were announced early so the winners could plan to be at the ENnies ceremony.
Michael Tresca (MT): Congratulations on your win! Please tell us about your company.
Tracy Barnett (TB): Sand & Steam Productions was started because I needed a place to publish my RPG work. I’m the beginning and end of Sand & Steam. It’s a one man show. However, I know that I need people to make this work, so I do all of my design out in the open. When I get an idea, I float it on Twitter or on G+ and gauge reaction. I crowdsource ideas because I need other minds to bounce things off of. It’s how I work best. As well, when I publish, I publish openly, licensing my work under a Creative Commons license. In addition to the PDFs and print copies of my games, you’ll find the full text of them on my website.
MT: What sets School Daze apart from other role-playing games?
TB: School Daze is almost pure narrative. I believe very strongly that people get too caught up in mechanics. Most people now how a good story works. We see them in movies, we read them in books. We know where a story should rise and fall. School Daze mirrors that by having a very minimal system. You roll the dice when you need to figure out what happens, or when a chance of failure would be interesting. Otherwise, what the players and GMs say happens happens. It puts the focus on the roleplay, which is where my heart is when it comes to gaming.
MT: How do you feel about the state of the gaming industry today?
TB: I think that it has never been better. We’ve got the means for small companies (hi there!) to put out their work and get exposure for it like never before. Being able to collaborate with people across the world gives us access to resources we otherwise wouldn’t have. Crowdfunding opportunities make it possible for anyone to make their game and make it great.
MT: How has Kickstarter changed or influenced your business model?
TB: Heh. Kickstarter is my business model. Without crowdfunding, there’s no way I would have put together either School Daze or One Shot in the ways I did. Because I was able to take my vision and put it out there for everyone to see, because I was able to hire fantastic freelancers like Daniel Solis, Brian Patterson, Adam Jury, and Leah Huete for art and layout, because I had that platform, I was able to make my games and make them great. I have high standards when it comes to production quality. Without the ability to essentially get the money up front from a service like Kickstarter, I never would have been able to do that.
MT: How hard is it for a game publisher in this economy?
TB: Oddly enough, I feel like I can’t say. I’ve never been a game publisher outside of this economy. Both of my game projects were successfully funded on Kickstarter, so I’ve always been operating in the black. For a indie game company, that’s a win. I may not be making money hand over fist, but School Daze hasn’t even been out in print for a year yet. I’m just getting started.
MT: What’s next for your company?
TB: I’m in the process of wrapping up funding (one way or the other) on my first fiction project, Iron Edda: Sveidsdottir. I’m working on a small supplement for School Daze called Honor Roll which will do a super-quick funding run on IndieGoGo starting on July 23 and ending on July 28, mainly to fund the printing of more physical copies of School Daze. I’m working on small game projects and short fiction through my Patreon page. I’ve also got some bigger game ideas in mind. TerrorForm is a post-apocalyptic generational game. Iron Edda is Norse fantasy with big stompy dwarven automatons (also, it’s the same setting as Sveidsdottir). As well, I’ve always got other ideas floating around. Part of the beauty of being a one-man outfit is that I can change focus quickly to meet demand, or to work on a hot idea.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where?
TB: I’ll be splitting my time between the IGDN booth and Games on Demand. I’ll be running both School Daze and Iron Edda there. I’ll have my schedule up on the Sand & Steam website once it’s finalized.
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
TB: The website is www.sandandsteam.net. You can contact me directly by following me on Twitter @TheOtherTracy. You can find PDFs of my games on DriveThruRPG and print copies of School Daze at IPR.
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
TB: I’m thrilled to be going to GenCon this year with the ENnie win. Tweet me if you want to meet up and say hi!
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