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Hiring technical writers to go over your rulebook

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jpwrunyan
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Joined: 06/01/2013

I have a question for those who are either in the process or have finished the process of publishing a game.

How did you handle your rulebook? I have a rulebook that is about 24 pages long (think Battlestar Galactica or Eclipse). I really want this book to as easy to read and comprehend as possible. To that end I am considering going to a technical writer (or firm).

In others' experience is this worth the cost? Are there alternatives? I have one contact who is willing to work semi-pro-bono at $30/hour. But he doesn't know how much time it would take (he would radically fix things like sectional organization, etc.--not mere proofreading!). I could see spending up to $300 for this service and having it be worth it. But I would like to know what you think.

Thanks, and if I missed something somewhere that already covers this, please point me in the right direction.

laperen
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Joined: 04/30/2013
i never considered going to a

i never considered going to a firm to edit a rulebook before, maybe its my in-experience that makes me say that. the following are completely my own opinion with no basis on experience so correct me if im wrong

one of my main concerns if i let a firm edit my work, will some information be lost due to their lack of understanding of the game? because IMO the person who is best suited to organise the rulebook is the person who at least knows the experience of the game, knowing areas to focus on, areas to emphasize, areas to simplify and areas that you can assume the player will be smart enough to comprehend without explaination

another concern is, if one is spending a relatively large sum of money to merely test an idea. imagine now after testing, and you need to change several rules in several sections, are you now going back to the firm to re-write your rules and spend the same amount of money again?

from here on i am basing this information on my own experience in writing my own rulebook, for my card game, not so much for publication but just for my friends to understand them

there are online guides on how to write a concise ruleset, albiet abstract and general in scope, it is a real help to anyone just starting out. you will be surprised at how much you have to analyse and re-analyse the language you use outside of mere organisation of information, i was anyway. example
http://numberless.net/blog/2007/04/09/how-to-write-rules-without-confusi...

in the creation of my own rulebook, i organised my information in a content page first, and detailed in the information in the gaps, just like drawing you start with a sketch and fill in the details in finer and finer levels.

a general rule i used to adapt my language to a simpler style, is the if-then sentence structure. "if you *do this*, then *this happens*". it is direct and easily understood by most if not all people who use english

instead of proof reading for information organisation, i just let an average joe read it, and see if he/she can play the game with his/her friends with the rules alone

McTeddy
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Joined: 11/19/2012
Wow, that's pricier than I

Wow, that's pricier than I expected.

Anyways, because I've been going through publishers so the rules don't need to be perfect. I wouldn't even consider paying $300 because publishers will make changes and update the game anyways. Besides, designing board game's isn't good money and 300 is a chunk of my own pay.

The most effective method I've found so far is to simply use play-testers. Find some people who have never played the game and give them a copy of the rules. Fix the issues that these testers found and then invite more people to test the updated rules. You're rules are ready when new players can pick up the book and play the game without having to ask questions.

I'd consider using the service if I was self publishing, but even then I don't know if it'd be more effective than just using play-testers

jpwrunyan
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Joined: 06/01/2013
thanks

Thanks for the response, guys. I am self-publishing which is why this is particularly important. I have organized the book, but it is dense and procedural. A tech writer not only can understand it but can help organize the information once they finish. The rules are done. They won't change radically at this point. Presentation of the information is where I am at now.

laperen
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Joined: 04/30/2013
even if your rules are

even if your rules are concrete enough to not change anymore, i still think its a steep price. id go with organising the information myself first. only after ive tried till i feel "this will never work" will i resort to a paid solution.

if you choose to write the rulebook yourself, my advice is content page, and if-then statements for instructive sentences, these 2 things helped me alot

and there is not better proof reader than your consumer

im not sure if its your paranoia or laziness, but if you are still insistent on using a paid solution, you have my best wishes in recovering the money through profit

Corsaire
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Joined: 06/27/2013
I've seen amazing results

I've seen amazing results from skilled technical writers on software projects. I've also worked with technical writers who can't stop fiddling and burn way too much time. There is definitely a specialized skill to it.

I'd tap your contact's expertise in a different way by seeing if he can do an editorial read through and markup unclear language, rules, etc. first. That should be quickish and maybe he'd do it for free. That will let you establish if you trust his perspective and skill and value added. Then do your own rewrite/reorganization. You'd probably buy back quite a bit of time that way. Otherwise, a cycle of big rewrites and handovers could really chew through a budget.

Corsaire
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Joined: 06/27/2013
Double post

X

jpwrunyan
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Joined: 06/01/2013
Thanks again guys. Yes he

Thanks again guys. Yes he did offer to do a overall edit for free correcting just things like passive voice, etc. With the more involved solution, I would still be overviewing all the work as well and should avoid a situation where time is being burnt arbitrarily. He is also a gamer, which for me is a crucial selling point.

I have already revised these rules quite a bit which is why I need outside help. My current playtesters are just not going to do this (ie they haven't and I can't *make* them). I was planning on crowd-sourcing this on the Kickstarter and getting feedback from people who read the rules at that point. However, the drawback, as I see it, is that I will turn people away from the project by having poorly done rules. So there is a cost equation here. That is why I would rather have something rather polished before presenting it to the public--not that I don't expect or wish for further suggestions from the public. But first impressions really matter. This will be my first project on Kickstarter for my company. We have no track record.

One alternative is asking on BGG *before* the game comes out for people to look it over. But I just don't know what I will get from that quality-wise. There are a lot of knowns. Has anyone ever done this successfully?

Regarding price, I suppose I should ask, for the sake of putting things in context, whether people here would also consider $300 a decent price for the graphic design and complete artwork for a game board.

silasmolino
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Joined: 02/01/2013
Post it on BGG

You can post the rules here on BGDF and BGG in the design forum.

My experience has been priceless by posting the rules publicly and then asking others to review them. I am not self-publishing, but the rules I submitted are tight, organized, and readable.

Post your rules and ask specific questions such as:

Do you see any errors in spelling?
Is the rule book readable?
Does the rule book make sense?
Does the rule book make the game sound fun?
Does the rule book convey the theme of my game?

There are many questions you can ask.

Good Luck.

Shoe
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Joined: 12/21/2012
silasmolino wrote:You can

silasmolino wrote:
You can post the rules here on BGDF and BGG in the design forum.

My experience has been priceless by posting the rules publicly and then asking others to review them. I am not self-publishing, but the rules I submitted are tight, organized, and readable.

Post your rules and ask specific questions such as:

Do you see any errors in spelling?
Is the rule book readable?
Does the rule book make sense?
Does the rule book make the game sound fun?
Does the rule book convey the theme of my game?

There are many questions you can ask.

Good Luck.

Peer review is a great resource and often free, costing only a credit in the rulebook

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