Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Rivalry Begins

For quite a while now I've been tooling together the Elthos RPG and it's associated web application, now called The Mythos Machine.   As it happens, and I've rather expected such a thing all along, a competitor has appeared on the horizon.  My first genuine rival.

My rival is The City of Brass by Ember Studios.  While it is not in production yet, and the Kickstarter for it will not even start until March 6, they have put out some videos on their product.  I have to say, when I saw it I was a bit overwhelmed, and came close to panicking.  The reason being that it is almost an exact duplicate of what I've been working on for the past ... oh ... um ... well, dang, has it been thirty years already?  Ok, well don't rush me.  I'm a slow poke.

But the truth is, I'm actually kind of a perfectionist, and working on this by myself as a hobby project after my day job work hours, and ... well ... yeah, its taken a long time.  A very long time.  But coming up with the concept, rooting out it's details, and figuring out exactly how such a thing should work... it's taken a long time.   It's always easy after the fact to look at some new creation and say "Ok, well that's kind of obvious", but the reality is - figuring out what's obvious can take a really long time.

Still though, the fact is, City of Brass has arrived suddenly (after they say only one year of development!) and happens to be almost an exact duplication of the Elthos Mythos Machine, with a slightly better interface (annoying as that may be), and one key concept that I was loath to tackle - they are willing to incorporate any and all of  the other existing RPG systems out there, such as Pathfinder, D&D, and, well, whatever floats your boat.  From the videos it looks like you can add any rules systems to the thing, and they intend to add as many as are out there.   Wow. That's awesome.  I'm dwarfed by that. 

When I stumbled across this on Saturday I spent a few hours in semi-panic mode.  I was like ... "OMG... my life long dream ... being run over by the mack truck of a software development team that is better, faster, stronger than I am... wahhhh... wahhhhh... wahhhhh...."

Ok, I realized pretty fast that panicking is probably not the best possible response.  I stepped back, wrote a couple of emails to my close friends about it, and then went on my normal daily routines (Kung Fu Class and then dinner with my girlfriend) and in the background of my mind thought about the big picture.  That was probably the best thing I've done for myself in 20 years.  It gave me a chance to step back and reflect.

After all is said and done, I think there is plenty of room in our hobby for all kinds of applications to automate Gamemastering tasks in a way that helps propel the art forward.

Despite the fact that looking at City of Brass seemed a lot like looking at a reflection of the Mythos Machine with a somewhat different interface, and with the addition of  an interesting multi-system capability, and being rather daunted by the uncanny similarities between my project and theirs... I came away in the end feeling that this may actually turn out to be a good thing for Elthos, and for the hobby as a whole. After all, we need tools like these to advance the art of Gamemastering for the 21st Century.  I've been saying that for quite some time.  So in one sense, I'm grateful to see others working towards the same ends.

My friends who have been working with me on this project informally as play testers for quite some time now immediately rallied and insisted that I not lose hope.  They said there's plenty of room for competition, and there's no reason to be dismayed by City of Brass.  The main thing is to perfect Elthos RPG and the Mythos Machine to the best of our ability, and do our best to support a community of people who find it a valuable tool in their GMing utility belt.  I was touched and encouraged by my friend's responses.  They're great guys, and all I can say about that is that I'm incredibly grateful for their support and enthusiasm.

My girlfriend over dinner helped me to think about what this means for Elthos.  She came up with an encouraging point of view... "A rival is good for you.  It will spur you on to greater heights," she said.  I was happy to hear her say so.  It makes sense to me and gave me a new way of looking at my competition.   Rivals.  I like that. So I think she's absolutely right (and not just because she's my girlfriend).   Already I feel enthused and eager to engage the challenge!  I look forward to the competition, and feel that this engagement will benefit both of our companies by spurring us on to greater efforts and greater achievements.  And this in turn will help the hobby.  The more we compete, and the better tools we create, the more the hobby will benefit.

My hope, frankly, all along has been that I can help to advance and extend our wondrous hobby.  I've been working on Elthos since 1978 with the intention to do so, and I began working on the Elthos Gamemasters Toolbox in 1994 with the intention of automating GMing functions in a useful, coherent and compelling way.  In 2006 I created the "One Die System" which was a simplification of my original core rules system (Elthos Prime) in order to streamline play.  It's flexible, simple, and creativity-enabling.  I'm happy with it.  I think it's easy to use, fun to play and overall a wonderful RPG rules system.  And so, instead of being bowled over by the Mack Truck of Competition, my feeling is one of enthusiastic engagement.  Let the games begin!

And that's how it should be.  If you have hopes and dreams of being an entrepreneur in today's world, you have to maintain the high ground of your spiritual domain ... when challenges come, as they inevitably will, you have to immediately step back, relax, and look for the next way to go with the flow of the universe.   Don't let even devastating news daunt you for long.   There is always a way to turn negatives into positives, and it's your job to figure out how.

So I encourage everyone who has a dream, who has their heart set on achieving some great and seemingly impossible goal ... don't ever give up!   Remain calm.  Forge ahead.  And for those who persevere I believe there will be victory.  Embrace it.  Live it.  Breath it.  And keep pressing forward until you achieve it.

And if all else fails, and you find yourself overwhelmed by the astounding abilities of our rivals...  remember ... “Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


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