I just got a prototype of the Dracula’s Revenge boardgame in. A few details need fixing, but that’s why you have a prototype made before you go to press. Otherwise, you end up with several thousand error-riddled copies of the game.
Still, it always seems like the first thing I find when I pick up the first copy of a book or game hot off the presses is a mistake. When it’s your product, it’s painful, but at that point there’s little you can do about it. Over the years, I’ve come up with a number of “explanations.”
Mystified: “I can’t believe the printer managed to put all those typos in there.”
Condescending: “That’s not a mistake. It’s a metaphor. You’re too dense to understand it.”
Humble: “Just paying respect to Allah.” (Among Persian rug makers, there’s a tradition of making a mistake on purpose as you reach the end of weaving a rug. This is because only God is perfect, and to aspire to such perfection is the height of arrogance. Some products seem to show a bit too much humility though.)
Most gamers can forgive mistakes, as long as the game shows a real passion for itself, accompanied by flashes of brilliance. The first printing of Deadlands is a perfect example. It was Pinnacle’s first product, and we pulled a dozen all-nighters in a row to get it to press in time for Gen Con 1996. We made a lot of fixes in bluelines (the equivalent of a prototype for a book), but the printer failed to include many of the corrections.
If you have a copy of the first printing, go flip through it. It’s awful.
We almost missed the show. Minutes before the exhibition hall opened, the semi with the books on it was still in line to unload. We walked down the line and had the trucker open his trailer’s doors. Then we pulled the boxes off the back of the truck and hustled them into the hall so we’d have them in time.
The moment I opened the first book, I knew it was all wrong. There was nothing to do but sell them, though, so we did.
Deadlands was the hit of the show. We sold hundreds of copies and gave away dozens to industry fans. The entire print run sold out in less than 90 days.
When we went back to press, we convinced the printer that they were responsible for scores of errors in the book. They agreed to rerun the films for the entire thing, so we spent the next week fixing all the mistakes before sending the book back to press. We made some new mistakes, of course, but the second printing is bright and shiny clean when compared to the first.
If it taught me anything, it’s that you should strive for perfection, but don’t be surprised if you fall short. Either way, it’s more important to be good than perfect.