Ronin Round Table: Leaving Emerald City
By Steve Kenson
It can be strange, sometimes, living in "production side" time in the game business. As folks are increasingly becoming aware, via the transparency of the Internet and services like Kickstarter, the production of an RPG product (particularly a new game) can be quite a long time. Larger companies plan their production schedules a year or more in advance, and newly released products have been out of the hands of designers and developers for months once they have been printed and shipped out to stores and customers. By the time "the new hotness" hits the store shelves, it’s "old news" to the publisher’s staff, which has long since moved on to the projects intended for release six months (or more) down the road.
Take Emerald City, for example. Green Ronin has been working on the expansion to the Freedom City setting for Mutants & Masterminds since not long after we began planning for the third edition of the game. We wanted to kick off the new edition with a new setting and a new adventure series, the Emerald City Knights Heroes Journey. That meant at least sketching out the essential details of the setting: where it was, the major geographic and historic elements, and so forth. We started with my crude hand-drawn map, scanned and annotated with notes of what was what, along with a two-page outline describing things.
Over the course of the publication of those adventures, we’ve been hard at work designing and building Emerald City. We’ve gone from a two-page outline to hundreds of pages of material, from crude sketches to numerous maps, and rough descriptions to finished artwork, with the city growing in detail and focus in the process. We’ve been living in Emerald City in many ways (at least, on an extended "business trip") during the process, making it difficult to recall sometimes how relatively little of development has been revealed to M&M players, who have only seen the hints and glimpses found in the Emerald City Knights adventures and the background of characters in the Threat Report series.
As Emerald City comes together in the final stages of production, it may be a familiar locale to us—having spent considerable time there—but it remains largely unexplored new territory to everyone else. If we ever sound like we’re having difficulty talking or writing about a new product like this one, it’s probably because it’s difficult to remember what we know about it versus what the rest of the world knows, so we’re providing enough context without giving away too much and spoiling any surprises.
Although I’ll have left Emerald City by the time most of you arrive, scouting out new locales and new worlds for you to visit, forging ahead and blazing trails in production time, I look forward to hearing all about what it’s like to see the skyline of the City of Destiny for the very first time and to see all of its myriad opportunities unfold before you. I really hope you enjoy your visit!