I have definitely learned a great deal during this open beta process so far. I want to explain the evolution of the game before I point you at the last version of the open beta text.
The extensive feedback and the original AP from The Walking Eye podcast led me to restructure the text, to provide extensive example text and generally refine the game. Version 1 showed me that the world-building component of the game is one of its strengths. It also pointed out that some of the mechanics encouraged the wrong kinds of adversarial behaviours in players. This led to some major revisions to the text, which I managed to get out a few days before GenCon.
Version 2 was a more solid version of the game. I reorganized the text and integrated much of the advice directly into the procedures of play. I also wrote a running example of play in the the setting creation, character creation and gameplay chapters. This version had slightly cleaner formatting, but time pressures kept me from tinkering with it too much.
My GenCon 2012 experience was a real eye-opener. I was able to get 3-4 playtests of version 2 at Games on Demand rules with mixed results. All of the tests of the Setting creation process went amazingly well, even with players who had little exposure to story games. I ran into some challenges with the gameplay sections though. The mechanics _worked_, but there were far too many moving parts for me to effectively teach the game in that context. I realized that in a 2-hour time-slot, I spent a major portion of that time teaching the rules rather than actually playing the game.
In the last of these game sessions, I was fortunate enough to have Timo of the Jankcast playing in my game on the Saturday afternoon. His excellent comments forced me to give an honest and critical look at the game. The core mechanics, which I originally designed several years ago, were showing their age. While playtesting helped me refine the system and I had many excellent mechanics in there, the overall structure wasn’t serving my design goal for Spark. That is when I came to the decision to rip out the core resolution system and restart it from first principles.
Saturday night I sat down with my text, crossed out the Collaboration and Conflict sections of the text, and got to work. The new system that I wrote up is much more elegant and does actually reinforce the desired behaviour of challenging your Beliefs. I chatted at length with Timo, where he looked over my proposed version of the text and gave me his thoughts.
I brought this version of the rules with me the next day when I ran a 4-hour playtest of the game for the crew of The Walking Eye. That game session, which you can find as a bonus episode of The Walking Eye , was a blast. It gave me much needed confidence that I was on the right path. You can find that episode here!
Over the last month, I have used all of the GenCon feedback to create a new revision of the open beta of the game. Version 3.5 is now freely available right Here. This will be the last version of the text that I will post as part of the Open Beta, but I will extend the beta until November 1st 2012.
I would really appreciate any feedback and playtesting that you can provide on this last version. I want to make sure that this revamped version of the game is as solid as possible.
Thank you all.