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ravells
02-27-2008, 05:51 AM
I hope that everyone has now had time to take a look at the first issue of the zine. We would welcome feedback on what you thought about it and particularly areas which you think could be improved. The zine will almost certainly evolve over time, so nothing is set in stone. Here are some questions to consider:

1. Did you find zine interesting to read?
2. Do you think the zine is helpful in providing inspiration to adventure creation?
3. Are there any articles you would like to see in future issues? For example, we will be putting in a 'classifieds' page in future issues in which industry pros from all three guilds, and the illustrators who contribute to the making of the zine will be able to advertise. We are also considering a 'review' section where guild members will be able to post reviews of new games, books, software...anything of interest.
4. What do you think of the look and feel of the zine?
5. Any other thoughts?

Your feedback would be invaluable to use to create better future issues.

Cheers

Ravs

delgondahntelius
02-27-2008, 12:25 PM
I don't normally take something like a piece of fiction or art or a map and give criticism without someone first asking. I say this because I can sometimes be downright brutal. My wife cringes every time she hands me something to proof or edit, as do many of my friends and peers. The other reason for not actively spouting advice on artistic creations is that I really never considered myself qualified to do such things as editing, proofing and critiquing. Yet people keep coming to me for advice on these types of things. I thought a little for warning was in order to let you know that before you take anything I say to heart, I'm not an expert (on anything) or a professional and I most definitely do not follow common practices or orthodox methods for editing or reviewing.


1. Did you find zine interesting to read?
Yes, for the most part I did. But I find anything in the field of fantasy, mapping or gaming to be interesting. What made this even more interesting was the fact that it was taken from such a broad pool of creative input. Having most of it actually chosen from the public (the voting aspect of challenges) is one of the things I found most appealing. It means that anyone (members of the alliance, that is) has the potential to be featured. I hope that participation increases so much that an ezine would be possible on a bi-monthly or even monthly basis... we can hope, eh?


2. Do you think the zine is helpful in providing inspiration to adventure creation?
As with all published types of Creative Help (Dungeon Mag, Dragon, published adventures, etc.) that cater to the genre, it is always providing some type of inspiration; for me anyways. Even on its most basic level, it puts the mind into a process of creating for creation sake. Most people will always think of how they can input something into their current incarnation of gaming, even if for a split second to discard the thought of it not pertaining to their games.

For me personally, the campaign arcs, the maps and adventure nuggets are what inspire me the most. Works of Fiction are probably the least. I love a good story, don't get me wrong, and as a writer and writing enthusiast, I love the fact that short works are included, but as far as inspiring my games in anyway, I rarely consider it. This is why I have a subscription to both Dungeon and Realms of Fantasy, one for writing and one for adventures.

Personal Preferences aside, I think overall it provides quite a bit of inspirational work for gamers and writer's alike.


3. Are there any articles you would like to see in future issues?

I think in trying to keep true to the goal of providing a zine with tools for all your creative works that you do just that. The adventure is nice, the works of fiction are nice, but in the realm of 'tools' they are not. Put in articles for that actually provide tools to be creative, like a creative writing workshop that gives you ways to build your creative writing skills, for instance: How to create fantasy names or Do's and Dont's on Fantasy Names or Fantasy Names, the difference between Reading and Speaking. (I think fantasy names, terms and the like and how the impact a reader is something vastly overlooked by too many writers and gamers.)
For Campaign Building you could have articles on how to create a Story Arc or Creating Memorable NPCs or Villains or QADM: The Quick and Dirty Method for Adventure Creation (yes, a shameless plug on my part :) )
For mapping you could do articles like you did for the tutorial as well as something like: Cities: How to Plan, Create and Map a City or Symbols: How to find your style for a map or Labeling Maps: The art of good map labeling.
Those of course are all simple suggestions, but the options for these types of articles in all three aspects of the zine or near limitless.


4. What do you think of the look and feel of the zine?
Overall it was decent. I didn't like the general typesetting used for most of it. I think a softer font should be used and not such a 'blocky' font like Arial. It makes everything kinda bunch together, tiring the eyes over an extended period of reading. This coupled with no paragraph indention whatsoever made it even more difficult to read and follow. I was glad to see the double columns, this did somewhat save it from being totally unread. I would suggest finding a softer font that is easier and more pleasing to the eye as well as using paragraph indentions liberally. This also cuts down on the amount of line spacing you have to use to distinguish paragraph from paragraph.

The Table of Contents might have a short description of what that article is about (i.e.: Dancing in Place short fiction by Robin Webb)

Finding a way to highlight you headers and topics within articles will also help break the monotony of the text format, perhaps a backdrop graphic or line coloring that offsets the text and catches the eye. Also, find a good bullet to use instead of an asterisk (creating an original one would be even better) the generic look of the asterisk doesn't pop like a snazzy bullet will.

I did like the boxed insets used, these made me happy for some unknown reason. I hope to see more of them though, and in greater numbers.

I know you personally worked hard on this aspect of the zine Rav, and what I listed isn't me pointing at what you did wrong, I've no idea what the standards are for right and wrong in the world of PDF creation... I still have not mastered my Adobe Acrobat Professional in any way, shape or form... I'm just putting down what I personally thought it should look like.


5. Any other thoughts?
Keep up the hard work, ya'll did a great job. And if I can help at all, just let me know. I'll do what I can.

Del

ravells
02-27-2008, 03:22 PM
Thanks very much for the indepth feedback, Del. It's very much appreciated.

I'm a bit concerned you saw the body text font as arial as it was set in Times New Roman - could you check it again please? As far as I know, with .pdf files you don't need to have the font natively installed unless you want to edit the document itself. If you wouldn't mind doing me a quick screenie of a small section of bodytext, that would be appreciated.

My chief concern with the zine at the moment is that it seems to lack a centre (or it's just my imagination, but I really don't know). I'm hoping that it will evolve to fill a niche, but at the moment, I'm not sure what that is, but the fact that you found it an interesting read is a plus. I really didn't think that joe public would find the map competition entries all that interesting because they dealt with worlds which were the invention of others which could not be easily ported over into their campaigns.

I would love the zine to have more 'how to' articles - particularly with the mapping. After all people (as far as I know, but I'm a bit out of touch) want stuff which either supplements existing commercial products or which they can bolt onto their own campaigns - but that sort of material is everywhere (personally I think Johnn Four's newletter is the best example of it - that man deserves some sort of medal).

I really appreciate your thoughts on the layout. At the moment, it's bland, safe and boring, but as the zine evolves and I have a better idea as to what it's really about, I will change the layout - but there have to be good reasons behind it and hold together coherently, but until I know what the vibe is, it's hard to make a decision there on the look and feel.

Thanks again for all of your thoughts, I'm very grateful for them.

Ravs

Midgardsormr
02-28-2008, 12:32 AM
(personally I think Johnn Four's newletter is the best example of it - that man deserves some sort of medal).


Hear hear!

I agree that indented paragraphs would be easier for me to read, particularly in the fiction piece, where the leading between paragraphs was only slightly larger than that between lines.

As concerns giving the zine a "center:" I think if the Alliance does more collaborative challenges, those could be used to build some synergy between the articles. That might cause each issue to hang together a little better.

I don't know how much work the shared challenges are to set up, though.

I haven't actually finished the entire zine yet--I got distracted and haven't gone back to it yet. I may have further comments later.

delgondahntelius
02-28-2008, 02:21 AM
My apologies, I did say Arial... with this toothache I have, its been hard to do anything .. mainly sleep and concentrate... My text is NT Roman and when I went to look for the font, I tried to insert text instead of viewing properties.... Still, changing the font to something other than NTRoman would do well for the overall look (Verdana, or perhaps Georgia). But that's neither here nor there right now...

Lacking a Center.... you hit the nail on the head my friend, couldn't have said it better myself. That is also the way I felt about the overall aspect of the zine. As it evolves, the center should find itself... at least I hope it will.

I don't think the mapping challenges should be seen as articles themselves, but as a stepping stone to creating a working zine. I love maps, and I can't think of not being interested in them, so I can't fathom why anyone wouldn't be interested. However, any gamer, esp. GM's, worth their salt can take a map and implement it into their game in some form or fashion... at the very least... a concept or idea. So the mapping challenge shouldn't be a focus as much as the maps and the campaign arc behind them should be.

I'm sure I had a point when I started... but an idea occurred to me. Perhaps a challenge in reverse, for instance, suppose TM's map wins this month's challenge. take the map itself... forget the reasons it was made, and give it to stormers or CBG to build an adventure and/or story around it... present it that way. I really hope that hasn't been done before now, because then I'd feel like somewhat of an idiot... lol

I agree with you 110% about how the commercial plug and play stuff is everywhere. But I've never been a fan of this kind of style.. I've always had a homebrew and so little caters to those who have their own worlds. I think we should really stray away from that and concentrate on what CBG was founded on and that's the original creative individuals out there with their own stuff. I think a few how to articles that are themed right will stand out among other clones. (And yes, Johnn Four Rocks... he's a machine.)

Bland, Safe and Boring is good because its.. well, safe... but sometimes change is brought on by the pebble atop the mountain... little changes in layout might just push the zine into what it needs to be....

:D

ravells
02-28-2008, 09:01 AM
Thanks Mid / Del,

I will definitely give the paragraph indents some thought, although the usual rule is that you either indent, or you use extra space between paragraphs - using both is considered overkill (or so I read) but these rules are often made to be broken.

We have had some shared challenges with the other guilds in the past, but they are on a bit of a hiatus at the moment. I'm thinking about a new challenge across all three guilds on the maritime theme of our next issue - more about which probably in the April Challenge.

The Cartographist
02-28-2008, 11:11 AM
I really like Del's idea about reversing a mapping challenge. Who knows? Maybe include two or three good stories/adventures instead of just one for the winner of a mapping challenge. Or even, start with a piece of fiction, and then use that as the basis for a mapping challenge, and then go from there (for inclusion into the zine).

I'm sure more will occur to me as I re-read the zine. . .

Overall, it was pretty good.

Gamerprinter
02-28-2008, 11:39 AM
I finally downloaded the Ezine yesterday and haven't read it through yet. As far as layout, fonts and graphics go - I plan on making a complete redesign using the existing issue to come up with optional ways to go.

I've spoken to Arcana somewhat regarding the need for paid-for advertising space in the 'zine to help pay for things. I see Ravs, touched on this regarding a "classifieds section", although regular ads placed throughout the zine could prove more "sellable" spaces.

Although I'd like to see a monthly ezine, I also see the problem of cross-site challenges, since each challenge is a month to complete if a map winner inspires a Plotstormers story or a CBG game arc - using all three sites require 3 months to complete challenges. Quarterly works with that. If each new month creates the start of the next cross-site challenge, then monthly can be eventually achieved.

As far as everyone's point on content goes - yes it needs to find a center. I'll see what I can do to become a part of the editing staff and help direct this...

ravells
02-28-2008, 12:12 PM
Thanks for the offer Gameprinter but I think we have sufficient input at the production end of the e-zine and won't be needing any more people, at least at the present time ....' too many cooks' etc, but we'll definitely bear your name in mind if we need to expand - Don't forget we have 3 guilds contributing not just the CG.

However if you'd like to contribue specific articles, maps etc which you think might appeal, or help with proof-reading the issue before it goes out then we'd be very grateful for help with this.

We'd be happy to look at any complete redesigns you may have in mind, why don't you post dummies of your options here?

Gamerprinter
02-28-2008, 12:52 PM
We'd be happy to look at any complete redesigns you may have in mind, why don't you post dummies of your options here?

This is what I planned to do. Once I give the Ezine a thorough looking over, I will see what design options might work best. I probably create a 2 or 3 page version selecting aspects of the total zine, looking at different layouts.

I will definitely post "dummies" here, for guild reveiw... 8)

Ishmayl
02-28-2008, 01:05 PM
Wow, great advice. Thanks everyone for all your well-thought criticisms and concerns.

I'm curious what you guys are speaking about when you mention "finding a center" for the zine. The main purpose is to put out a zine with well-written articles from each of the three sites that focus on these three creative aspects of fantasy role playing: Setting Design, Fiction and Plot Writing, and Cartography. Each quarterly will have a particular theme (such as the upcoming summer "Seafaring" issue), but other than that, what exactly do you mean by finding a "center" or "niche" for the zine?

Thanks!

Midgardsormr
03-01-2008, 12:36 AM
As I understood the matter, you hit it right on the head with setting a theme for an issue. Not everything needs to be related to the theme, but as long as that theme stands out in most of the work, it would feel unified.

I suspect there might be another meaning behind it, though: Finding an area of design space that is not already oversaturated by other products. Personally, I think that a guidebook to content creation is a very nice niche to fill. There are plenty of system-specific zines producing "crunchy bits," but good resources for world creation are a bit less common.

So it's my opinion that the zine is hitting a segment of the market that will welcome and value it. So long as word gets around that it's available, at any rate!

ravells
03-01-2008, 11:32 AM
Quick question to everyone: Do you print out the zine or read it online?

With regard to the zine 'finding a centre' I know what I mean, but would prefer to hear others explain their thoughts first lest I unintentionally influence points of view.

pyrandon
03-01-2008, 11:58 AM
I read it online. Printing would cost $$$$$... Although if ever I liked a certain article I would probably save it to my computer, or perhaps print it out (but still doubtful).

ravells
03-01-2008, 03:47 PM
I meant just printing it out on your home printer...it's only 30 pages and they are mostly black and white.

Midgardsormr
03-01-2008, 09:35 PM
I'm reading it on my screen for now. If I decide to use something in a game I'll print it out; I hate bringing a computer to the game table.

Carnifex
03-05-2008, 08:37 AM
1. Did you find zine interesting to read?

Many interesting articles. Personally I never read short stories in magazines. Don't know why.


2. Do you think the zine is helpful in providing inspiration to adventure creation?

Absolutely - and I'd like more of articles that directly inspire/help adventure creation.


3. Are there any articles you would like to see in future issues? For example, we will be putting in a 'classifieds' page in future issues in which industry pros from all three guilds, and the illustrators who contribute to the making of the zine will be able to advertise. We are also considering a 'review' section where guild members will be able to post reviews of new games, books, software...anything of interest.

Classifieds is a great idea. Review section is also a great idea.
Maybe an encounter site with each issue - put together by the different sites/forums.


4. What do you think of the look and feel of the zine?

The large amount of stuff in the zine is impressive. I know how much work it takes to write all that stuff, proof read and layout. The front page looks good and this is important IMO.

BUT - I do have some constructive critique. Maybe they are too harsh for a zine but I still wanted to comment as I have made countless magazines and broschures as a graphic designer/layout artist.

1. The front page looks nice but the layout could use a major rework (basic layout, typography etc). It's straightforward and clean but somewhat hard to read and also quite boring. I have lots of ideas/critique on this matter for anyone interested. (I do think, however, that the layout may be sufficient for a zine)
2. Some of the articles are too long. Cut text and fill out with interesting illustrations (maps, drawings etc). I think most people read the magazine on screen so long articles with lots of text is hard to read. The cramped typography doesn't help.
3. New logo would help greatly.
4. Who are the readers? In all media it's important to know who your recipient (spelling?) is. This should govern the style and content of the articles. Is it for members of the Alliance or the average role-player/DM? I'd guess that it's meant for the members (us) but that's just a guess.
5. This one is not a major issue but the order of the articles in the zine seems a little bit random (although they appear in a democratic mixed order from each field). I would not have started with two pages filled with text - no matter how good the short story or adventure is.


5. Any other thoughts?
Nothing right now....

Carnifex
03-05-2008, 10:58 AM
Suggestion for logotype:

Robbie
03-05-2008, 08:04 PM
Dood, I LOVE that font...whats it called??? I want it to have my babies.

Carnifex
03-06-2008, 04:24 AM
Dood, I LOVE that font...whats it called??? I want it to have my babies.

It's not a font so it can't have your babies. I have written the text by hand... on white stuff (called paper) with a thing (called pen).

No comments for my ideas regarding Fantaseum?

NeonKnight
03-06-2008, 05:04 AM
I like yer ideas ;)

ravells
03-06-2008, 05:07 AM
I like them too! Carnifex, I'm going to be away for a couple of weeks but I'll catch up with you when I get back.
Cheers
Ravs

delgondahntelius
03-06-2008, 06:23 PM
I have written the text by hand... on white stuff (called paper) with a thing (called pen).


LoL ... too funny. Its easy to forget in the cyber world that we can still do stuff with good old fashioned pen and paper, eh? .. :D

delgondahntelius
03-09-2008, 06:48 PM
I'm curious what you guys are speaking about when you mention "finding a center" for the zine.

To me, when I first went through it, and then later on as well, something kept nagging at me but I couldn't figure out exactly what it was. The zine has three seperate websites/forums that contribute to it. Each one deals with fantasy aspects of the genre that are interrelated and married because of that genre. But each of them can stand alone as a hobby/career/interest or whatever. Aside from the guilds collaboration of the challenge, nothing else was tied into the other.

So what I mean when I say 'finding a center' -- its just that, a central hub from which the three can mesh together on common ground. If the author of a story took a seed from CBG world and used a CG map to set the story in, well... that is a meshed and collaborated center to build from. And the idea of Theme for the zine was something that really fit into finding a center (for me anyway) and is a good springboard from which to build upon in further issues.

Anyway... that's my idea of finding a center... or, I could be totally off the subject and rav might have meant finding the actual middle page of the zine because he lost it somwhere... in that case... I was WAY off... :D

Del