As I mentioned earlier, this started out as a Daedalus game but, well, time makes fools of us all. If you haven’t played it and think you’d enjoy a game where an action like “my character dives through the plate glass window, kicks the pistol from the gunman’s hand while in midair, and insouciantly rolls to his feet without spilling any of his chicken nuggets” can be taken without any particular penalty, you’d probably like it. It’s by Robin Laws, and the setting is essentially “Every movie ever made in Hong Kong.” It involves time travel, but time travel with the “paradoxes from killing my own grandmother” dialed way down and the “excuses to have ancient demons and kung fu warriors duking it out with cyborgs from the future” pushed to a primary position. It also contains the essay, “The Map is Not Your Friend,” which was very influential in my own design work.
When Daedalus went belly up and Feng Shui went to Atlas, I had the job of line developer for a while. It’s the only time I’ve been a line developer, and I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that art direction is kind of neat. Another thing I learned is that being an editor is crappy, crappy, crappy.
From the writer’s side of the keyboard, being a line developer looks like all glory. You get to make all the decisions, you write the outlines and tell the writers what you want, at whatever level of detail you wish. If you know exactly what you desire, you give detailed instructions. If you just have a half-baked idea, be vague and let the author worry about deciphering what you mean. You get to decide which ideas are stupid and which are worthy and what direction the line is going to move.
When you actually get in that editor’s chair, it’s another story. For one thing, writers are flakes! Not all of us, obviously, but enough. I myself have never missed a deadline, and I could never understand why this was such a big deal to line developers… until I became one and had creatives casually detonate my schedule. One artist strung me along to the very last minute before bailing on me and didn’t even bother to apologize. Furthermore, while withholding payment or future work look like dire punishments when you’re the writer, they seem pretty impotent to an editor who needs his word count filled today.
I did have some fun, and I did get to work with some very skilled and talented writers. But I also had to work with some who weren’t terribly skilled, and then had the distasteful choice of (1) redoing all their work myself or (2) walking them through an edit, or several edits, in order to get something adequate.
Maybe I’m too much of a softy to be a good editor. I want to be liked. Editors like Justin Achilli and Geoff Grabowski don’t seem to care if anyone likes them or not. They want to get good results, and if they have to give scathing redlines that make you cry, then scathe they shall. It’s a different skill set, I suppose.