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Side by Side Comparison: Diaspora and Starblazer Adventures

Valandil

Loves Sci-fi RPGs
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Imagine Diaspora and Starblazer Adventures as two RPGnet users trying to create an analogy comparing Diaspora and Starblazer Adventures.

Diaspora would be the user who comes up with a short, succinct and sharp analogy that perfectly encapsulates the factual and structural differences. With only a few sentences, you know exactly what gameplay each supports and how each compares to your own style. With such clarity, you're already placing an order for one of the games. Everyone commends the guy's insight.

Starblazer Adventures would be the user who comes up with a long wildly hilarious analogy with absurd asides and inside jokes that entertains everyone. It may not give you any hard facts, but the vivid imagery lets you totally grok the mood, tone and general zeitgeist of the two. With such comedic imagination, you're already inspired with several adventure ideas for both of the games. Everyone gives the guy a laugh point.
 
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Brad J. Murray

VSCA
RPGnet Member
Validated User
If you were to walk into a hypothetical Ice Cream Shop which operated on the same principles that Diaspora works on, the attendant behind the counter would inquire as to your preferred flavors and textures, what toppings you enjoyed and disliked, what form of cone you like and the consistency you like it to be baked to, and collating this information, the attendant would serve you the most delicious frozen dairy treat you've ever been offered. The entire thing would be honed into some sort of weaponized ice cream, complete with a custom pinpoint delivery system, targeted specifically at your taste buds and food aesthetics, designed to destroy your sweet tooth and sate your hunger.
May I quote you on our web site? Ideally I'd like to use your real name and a link to other awesome writing you MUST do. PM if you'd like that.
 

iago

www.evilhat.com
Validated User
So, massive disclosure here, first, because I have to give a context for my Actual Opinion.

I did the layout on Starblazer Adventures. I got, along with paid for the layout, a free copy of the game. I also got given a free copy of Diaspora by its publishers. So I've paid for neither.

There's also some additional bias here. Because I did the layout on SBA, I had a chance to see the sausage get made. It wasn't pretty. The SBA team had a ton of exuberance and love for both the system (SOTC's brand of Fate) and the license (Starblazer), but I think that exuberance got the best of them. The initial text was pretty messy -- messy enough that when it was handed to me for layout, I handed it back to them within the first week or so saying that it was so messy that it was going to need lots of post-layout editing--which, for those of you who don't know that part of the trade, is a lot like meticulously stabbing every inch of your body with a crab fork. Edits were done, and the text came back to me, and I did some layout on some of it, and it still had problems, and I ended up doing a lot of impromptu, fix-the-errors-as-I-see-them-in-layout gratis editing along the way. Then it all got to be too much of a mess again, and I kicked the text back again.

The editorial oversight on the project wasn't strong at that time (the project had become 10x bigger than I think anyone expected at the outset, so a lot of what I'm talking about is a side-effect of the one editor realizing he had a live rabid tiger by the tail), and they had to reach out for help. That's when they brought in GMS to do the rest of the editing. He cleaned the text up a lot ... but honestly, there was a lot of mess to clean up, so I'm not surprised if he didn't catch it all. I'll even admit I still saw some errors as I took the final text into layout, but the project was months overdue at that point, and I had severely lowballed my fee for the job, so I was kind of hating things then, and just didn't care enough to kick anything back again.

So it's been a while since then and it's taken me that time to stop feeling bitter about it. Which SUCKS, because of that bit I said about exuberance and love and joy. Because SBA is chock full of it. SBA was written by fans, very very clearly. That's why it has so much energy and life to it, but also why I think it was a bit of a mess at its inception. I'll always see it through that lens, thus -- as a joyful fan project.

I like SBA a lot -- but in large part due to my history with it, I don't *love* it. They brought together a lot of good ideas that have been banging around for a while. I talked with Chris at length about the Fate fractal (thus, Starblazer's scale idea). I talked about how stress tracks can be used for all sorts of things (thus, SBA's plot stress concept). I pointed them at Rob Donoghue's rules for organizations that he did up for Fate 2.0 back in the day, available on the FateRPG Yahoo Group (thus SBA's star empires). They brought in a lot of Starblazer-inspired weird powers and equipment and other "Wahoooo! It's SPAAAAACE!" elements. SBA is a wicked collage. But I do think it's a collage, compiling a lot of disparate ideas, pasting them down on the canvas of Fate, and making a mostly cohesive picture out of it. People on this thread have talked a lot about it being a vast toolbox, and that's exactly right. There's probably at least two or three tools in it that everyone could make some use out of.

So, yeah. I like SBA. But I *love* Diaspora. (I've read most of it at this point, and will be continuing my read into the platoon combat chapter tonight.)

SBA's a collage, like I said, but for me -- as a Fate developer -- I can't say I was surprised by it. All the ideas in the collage are, well, already familiar to me. Diaspora, by contrast, has made me feel like I'm learning my own damn system again, with fresh eyes. The authors of Diaspora have achieved a laser focus on what they're doing with the system. Diaspora surprises me. Diaspora innovates. One of its thinnest chapters -- the social combat section -- is just explosively impressive on its own, showing real insight into how to structure abstract and social conflict such that it feels as vital and tactical as a desperate firefight. The system for generating clusters of star-systems -- the setting in which you'll play your game -- is wall to wall elegance. And so on. But the real star of Diaspora is the clarity of writing and presentation. Sure, I might have dressed it up in a different font, maybe given the text more room to breathe. And it's not without its editing errors. But my gods, how wonderful they've managed to make hard sci fi sound as a RPG experience. I am not a hard sci fi nut, but Diaspora has me wanting to play or run hard sci fi DESPITE it not being in my sweet spot.

So there's my recommendation of which one to buy, biased heavily by my own experience. I required everyone at Evil Hat to buy a copy, and expense it to the company. I consider Diaspora to be mandatory reading for any Fate developer. Fans of Fate and gamers in general should buy it too, of course. :)

Analogies seem to be the rage in this thread, so I'll give you this one:

You know how the space battle scenes were in the new Star Trek movie? (I loved the movie, but that's beside the point.) Lots of SHAKY CAM and HOLY CRAP THE ENTERPRISE JUST BURST FORTH WITH TWENTEEN KINDS OF AWESOME WEAPON FIRE and ZOOOM WOW! And you know how the science was in the movie? (LA LA LA BLACK HOLE RED MATTER I CAN'T HEAR YOU ETC) Yeah. That's Starblazer Adventures all over. Chaotic, shaky-cam, falls apart in some places if you think about it too hard, exuberant, wonderful, and a little exhausting.

You know that episode in Firefly where Jayne gets this gleam in his eye and fondles his gun? Where he lovingly wraps the thing in a plastic bag of air so the thing can fire off a couple rounds in space before running out of oxygen? And then he goes out into space in a protective suit, takes careful aim with the thing, fires off a tightly controlled burst of rounds at the bad guys in their space station? And then with a whisper, just like that, the bad guys' window breaks and they silently drift out into space and freeze to death? Yeah. That's Diaspora. It's got a gleam in its eye, and its physics ducks all in a neat row. And it picks those fucking ducks off one by one like a goddamn sniper messiah.

Buy it.
 
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JoystickJunkies

Registered User
Validated User
Wow this has been busy - just shows the love going on with both games, i've still not got a copy of Diaspora so must remedy that soon!

I'll be the first one to say Fred had the most ridiculous job on his hands - not only was he doing layout but unofficially having to do rules checks as we went to point out some pretty basic errors and 'err were you on drugs when you wrote this?' moments.

Whilst the book took a good year to write, plus re-writes and editing over another year it was a tortuous process for all involved. Looking back it's easy to see all manner of things i'd fix, cut out or could have done better but it was my first RPG (having written a good many projects for fun prior and two game designs that went in to sampling but were never made when a company closed).

Poor Fred was stuck with a monster and I can see why it sucked the life out of him - imagine how I felt I was more drained than you know, something that's really really drained...lol, it had literally sucked every creative moment out of me for 18 months or so - i must say i don't regret it as we've moved on from there and it's given me a ton of experience.

However it was my baby, not Fred's baby and he deserves a great deal for putting up with something that was just based around his system that must have been doubly gruelling. Remember Fred and the guys don't actually financially benefit from us using the Fate rules - it's all open source, just the more games using Fate the more likely other designers will use Fate, the more people like the rules the more people will buy Fred's games using Fate and so on.

We're collating mistakes and errors for an errata for Starblazer, even having done a errata pass for the hardback - in a project this size with so many optional tool kits there were plenty but from what i see plenty of other books have similar problems and we were lucky not to have anything really broken in the book - in an industry driven by love and spare time and pay rates that really aren't worth it it's not surprising.

It's looking like it will be a commercial success though - sales have been good, every major reviewer who could review it has raved about Starblazer including the big three Sci-Fi magazines in the UK and shops that stock it sell out. Not bad for a first project i reckon, and what is in reality a niche rules system in a very crowded market. I think we managed to get a lot of people to take a look at Fate that might otherwise have passed it off as 'one of those weird story game systems'. Even RPG Pundit who professes to hate Spirit of the Century loves Starblazer...so we must have done something right lol.

Fred was actually doubly write in saying it was the product of enthusiastic fans - not just me but as he points out a lot of the tool kits came from the community - so many parts of the book had been written about, alluded to or posted about in the community and as a far as i know anyone who even remotely commented on the game in the early forum discussions in the Fate community and here on rpg.net got a credit in the book as thanks - it really was the product of the Fate community - all i did really was pull all the disparate ideas together, unify them under a galactic empire like guide book and fill in the gaps.

So where did it all get us? Well having been through the fire that was Starblazer I leaned a LOT of lessons. For Mindjammer we had the incredibly creative and experienced writer Sarah Newton construct a supplement and whole setting with a transhuman theme. Her writing is amazing and is delivered virtually edited. We love her!

Then for Legends of Anglerre we've not just added a +5 battleaxe to Starblazer but re-written it, edited down the verbose text, simplified things where possible (it's still the same system just easier to get to grips with), created a new tool kit for magic, empires, adventure creation, creating constructs like castles or dragons, and new truly epic 'exalted or video game hero' style play that' let's you do all those awesome combo moves from action movies and video games.

Learning from previous experience I brought in Sarah Newton to helm the core writing and overseeing the growing manuscript of Anglerre supported by myself and a larger writing team. The project has been edited and cut to meet the 328 (ish) page target - no going over budget and over size this time and I think you'll find a far leaner fantasy version of Starblazer with far more refined tools and systems to let you do any kind of awesome fantasy. Think of it as the purest adamantine lance glowing with holy fire designed to penetrate the most ruthless of god's armour or snarling dragonskin!
 

Calculon

Emergency Comedy Hologram
Validated User
Fred, Chris, Halfjack... I almost want to use this thread to make a "Hoop Dreams" documentary about the design of these two games. I have a camera. I have both books. Does anyone have a budget and some artistic talent? (Always in shortest supply.)
 

Matt Greenfelder

former armageddonsock
Validated User
Fred, Chris, Halfjack... I almost want to use this thread to make a "Hoop Dreams" documentary about the design of these two games. I have a camera. I have both books. Does anyone have a budget and some artistic talent? (Always in shortest supply.)
I have a metric crapton of lego minifigs and a plethora of silly voices. Screw the documentary, let's make a stop-motion epic of the trials, errors, failures and triumphs of desperate, disparate groups of RPG designers surmounting the terrifying challenges of modern publishing.

"The Road of FATE - An Epic Tale of RPG Design and Publishing. And Alcohol."
 

Brad J. Murray

VSCA
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I have a metric crapton of lego minifigs and a plethora of silly voices. Screw the documentary, let's make a stop-motion epic of the trials, errors, failures and triumphs of desperate, disparate groups of RPG designers surmounting the terrifying challenges of modern publishing.

"The Road of FATE - An Epic Tale of RPG Design and Publishing. And Alcohol."
You can just have our four legos on their backs amidst scattered empties shouting, "what if it's JUST AN ASPECT?!"

For three years.
 
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