[Perfect, Unrevised] Finished, at long last!

edited January 2011 in Directed Promotion
I'm beyond pleased to announce that I have released Perfect, Unrevised.

Perfect, Unrevised is a game about criminals fighting for something precious in a steampunk dystopia. It's an intense and sometimes harrowing game, but it's a game full of beauty and humanity as well.

This is a second edition of the game which I originally released in early 2006. I took it off the market about a year later, because I wasn't satisfied with how rough it was around the edges. And so it's been over 3 years that I've been revising, playtesting, polishing, and working away.

And now, it's finally... well, erm, Perfect. It's seen over 100 playtests and over 100 playtesters.

The PDF is $10, and the book can be preordered for $22 (and comes with the PDF).
Once preorders close, the book price may increase.

I wrote up a blog post about the long road towards releasing the game. In that post, I link to several AP reports, design discussions/reflections, and reviews of the final product.



  • Congratulations, Joe! I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished book.
  • Congratulations on reaching this milestone! I eagerly awaited its completion since I first heard about it a couple (few?) years ago. I just submitted my pre-order for the book. I'm glad you went with a 8.5x5.5 format; it's my favorite book format by far.
  • When will it be printed, Joe?
  • Most excellent, I shall be certain to pre-order!
  • Posted By: GrahamWhen will it be printed, Joe?
    Good question, Graham.
    It depends on whether there are any issues to correct with the next proof.

    Either way, I envision sending copies out to customers at some point in February.
  • Congratulations, Joe!
  • Joe,
    Congrats! I remember long conversations talking about what this will look like. I am so glad to see it released!
    You rock in stereo!
    Dave M
  • I have been waiting to but this since slightly after it was out of print...so excited.
  • Congrats on doing the work for the long haul, Joe.

    This baby is born.
  • Hey all,

    Wilper posted a review of Perfect, Unrevised on his blog. It's a good overview of the game and the product, so if you're still making up your mind, give it a read.

    Preorder pricing will remain open until the end of January. After that point I'll be reassessing my actual shipping costs, and production costs, and adjusting accordingly.
  • What's the player range for a game of Perfect?
  • Posted By: Bret GillanWhat's the player range for a game of Perfect?
    The game is designed for 2-4 people.

    With 2, it is *very* intense and focused. That's not a bad thing, just a true thing.

    With 3-4, there's more breathing room, and the opportunity for the 3rd and 4th players to join scenes as contacts and extras, fleshing the world out beyond that core adversarial dynamic.

    The game can handle 5 or 6, but the game dynamics gain nothing for those extra players, and you end up with lots of waiting time. So, 2-4 is best.
  • edited January 2011
    Gah. Sold! Thanks Joe!

    ETA: Just ordered the pdf. Pretty excited.
  • Posted By: Mcdaldno
    Either way, I envision sending copies out to customers atsomepoint in February.
    Can't wait to get my hands on my copy :D
  • Having pre-ordered and read through the pdf, I am really impressed with this game-as-text. As someone who reads a lot of games (as I suspect most people here are) I find it relatively clear and well-organised (though there are some minor spelling/punctuation issues, to be nit-picky). With a single read, I feel like I would be comfortable facilitating a play-through.

    The game particularly struck me, however not as a gamer, but as a lawyer, particularly a criminal prosecutor. The subtext asks a lot of really brutal questions about what a society considers illegal, where the boundaries are drawn between illegal and simply immoral, and the lengths a society will go to in the enforcement of law and order.

    For what it's worth, I recommend Perfect (as a text, since I've not yet played it) both to gamers who want to add an element of social order vs rebellion to their games, AND to people interested in games as socially motivating tools.

  • Thanks, deadlytoque.

    I agree that Perfect is a good tool for exploring big issues about law and justice - what is the purpose of law, where are the boundaries of usefulness of law, is free will & choice important? When? To what limit? Does fighting these battles do more harm or good?

    My views have ended up more muddied and fractured as a result of playing this game. That's one of the reasons I stuck with this design process for so many years: because those questions and those experiences are so important and engaging.

    Oh - and email me the typos list so I can fix them.
  • I don't have time to write a proper review at this point (aside from the fact that I haven't played the game yet), but after reading the text I have to say that anyone who likes story games really needs to throw down the measly $10 for the pdf of Perfect, especially if you have any love for Polaris or Shock: (two of my favorite games). The text itself is lovely, the themes are gripping, and the game is easy to learn (and easy to teach!).

    If I could only play Perfect, Apocalypse World, and Polaris for the rest of my life, I'd be pretty okay with that. I'd seriously miss Dogs in the Vineyard though. :D
  • The proof had been poured over. My friend Jackson (Tegu) and I went through it line by line, and caught a couple typos. Almost all the images printed great - the page borders on chapter five are too dark and muddy though, and need to be replaced or tweaked.

    But, the changes needing to occur are minor. The physical book looks great. I envision them being shipped to individual customers by late February.
  • edited January 2011
    We played it today! It was very fun, though we spent a little too much time worrying about whether or not our details warranted X number of Tension/Resource points. We shall listen to the advice given re: spending points and the use time suggestions for scenes to figure out what we really care about.

    It was no fault of the game, though; we had a ton of fun. Some sort of AP-type thing will appear soonish.

    Highlight of the game: roleplaying the grim, gaunt, two-meters-plus tall Chief Inspector Thrombly and his much shorter and rounder enforcer, Inspector Orr. They were a fun (and creepy!) pair to play with.

    ETA: Also this game taught me that it can be fun to play a fashion designer. I was a subversive fashion designer who secretly made unauthorized styles for the illegal masquerade balls he threw on the outskirts of town.
  • RE: Replacing and updating.

    Tonight, we witnessed the crash of The Indesign, Joe's intrepid vessel. Joe and i crawled from the wreckage, but there have been setbacks. Many hours have been undone; Story-games, i ask you to applaud Joe and his ongoing courageous battle with fatigue for to uplift his morale.

    Victory shall yet be ours, and a new, boldly unchanged Cadence shall still be our reward!
  • I saw Joe's tweet, this morning, about Indesign crashing and losing hours of work. My heart sank, understanding that feeling too well, both on personal projects and at work.

    Just gotta stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel; after such a long journey, daylight is finally so close at hand.
  • Thanks, Leo.

    Luckily I have a fairly recent back-up, I think. Still, a few hours of repeated work is such a bummer this close to the finish line. I plan to make it up by mid-week, and be ordering the print run by week's end.

    What happened, so you don't repeat my mistake on your projects: since Im on the road, Ive been relying on my USB drive to open my files and make tweaks. This time, I forgot to copy my inDesign file onto the hard drive before working on it - I was working directly off the USB drive. And the poor little stick couldn't handle the pressure, and corrupted the file when I tried to save it. Lesson learned: don't work directly off a little USB drive.
  • Framweard - A fashion designer? Awesome. I've played in a couple games where illegal design work & underground fashion shows featured (2 or 3), and they've never failed to be amazing.

    Inspectors are super fun when one of their primary roles is as fashion police.

    How'd it go for your character?
  • edited January 2011
    @Joe: it went decently, but due to time constraints I attempted to go out as a Hero before I had even remotely enough resources to bring to bear. My masquerade ball 'caused' a lot of deaths (as the Inspectors came out in full riot-response mode) and all revelry was canceled for the year following my misadventure, thus causing me to be remembered in infamy rather than as a Hero.

    He did make some rather fashionable masquerade masques/self-contained breathing systems to deal with the gases that Inspector Thrombly and his riot response team (Abagail's Angels; aerial riot response agents with ornithopters!) let loose. All in all, it was a load of fun and I can't wait to play again (maybe at one of our minicons in San Jose, California).

    Sorry to hear about the inDesign troubles!
  • Well thanks for selling me a game in 2006 which took 4 years to fix.

    I think, should I wish to buy another one of your games, that I'll wait for the 2nd edition.
  • edited January 2011
    Posted By: DeliriumWell thanks for selling me a game in 2006 which took 4 years to fix.

    I think, should I wish to buy another one of your games, that I'll wait for the 2nd edition.

    Sorry to have bummed you out. It turns out that the ethics of publishing is complicated stuff.

    When I realized that I'd rushed my game, and that it had suffered as a result... I faced some tough decisions. I could have kept selling it, despite it being an imperfect product. I could have released additional iterations of the game, as I slowly adapted it (see Shock: 1.1 & Shock: 1.2 for an example). I decided that what felt like the right thing with my game was to stop selling it, to break it down, and to build it back up better. It turns out, that process is one that takes years sometimes.

    It sounds like you wish I'd taken a different course of action, though I'm not sure what. If you want to take further discussion off thread, you can email me: my email is my forum username, at gmail.com

    One thing which you can do, when you feel bummed out by a publisher's decisions, is to contact them directly and explain your grievances. If you were to email me saying you feel upset at being sold a less-than-perfect product in 2006, I'd set you up with a PDF of the new version for free.
  • edited January 2011

    You ask what different course of action I think you should have taken - well, I suppose I wish you hadn't sold the game, unfinished, in the first instance. That's not ethically complicated.

    I read your blog entries you linked to and it struck me that there were a lot of personal learning outcomes for you from this process, but precious little acknowledgement that some customers were burned by the fact that you rushed a game to market which was very, very flawed. Sure, caveat emptor, but the self-congratulatory tone of the announcement that you've finished the game rankles a little, when in good faith I bought a copy of a poor game four years ago.
  • Ok, this kinda pisses me off. Joe, I don't want to step on your customer service toes (so to speak), but this is a public forum, so I don't feel too much need to hold back.

    I own the 2006 version of Perfect. I knew what I was getting when I purchased it. That Joe has since felt the desire to improve the game (I think "fix" is the wrong word in this instance) is no skin off my back. It hasn't stopped me from playing the 2006 version of Perfect, nor cramped my style as a consumer. It's not as if Joe thought he was releasing a bad game **five** years ago -- and I don't think it is a bad game. Where's the harm, Eoin? I think your complaining is silly. There is no ethical dilemma here. None. Publishers release new games and new editions all the time. No one is forcing you to buy anything, then or now.
  • edited January 2011
    Well, Tim, I'm sorry that my posts piss you off.

    I recall my decision to purchase Perfect - it was due to a podcast interview with Joe back in 2006 in which the game was discussed in glowing terms, as opposed to unfinished and insufficiently tested. Here's the difficulty - as a customer, when buying small press RPGs, I am going out on a limb. I can't tell the degree to which the game works, or does not work. Criticism, in the form of reviews, is awful - too often a game of mutual back-slapping.

    So, it irritates me a little to read Joe's announcements and blog entries which present the difficulty predominantly in terms of a betrayal of his artistic process,as opposed to regret for exploiting those customers who supported the game in good faith in 2006.

    Let's be clear - if you wish to sell a game, it is absolutely your responsibility to ensure that that game stands up, that it works. Not doing so is failure. And charging people money for an unfinished product has, I would think, obvious ethical considerations.
  • Breaking the silence because I feel exactly like Tim here.

    Eoin, have you ever created a game? How can you wish Joe had not sold his game back in 2006? The game design world has evolved, so it is natural that a game which seemed ok in 2006 now feels like it can be improved and refined. It's just like Tim says: it's not like in 2006 Joe was purposefully selling an unfinished game.

    Secondly, do you really have to keep this discussion here? This does sound like public humiliation to me, and you might really want to spare us of this show and communicate this via a normal customer care channel, i.e. email. That's not ethically complicated.
  • edited January 2011

    No, I've never created a game, but that's hardly relevant. Nor is the issue that design has moved on since 2006 (has it substantially?). The 2006 Perfect wasn't a good game when it was released, regardless of the state of the art at that time. I contend that Joe purposely sold an unfinished game. He chose not to adequately playtest it, to review and critically refine the design prior to publication. That's a failing, and a large one.

    And, yes, I am very happy to have this discussion here. Frankly, I found the discussion upthread to be somewhat surreal, a host of posters congratulating Joe and ignoring the elephant in the room - if it took 4 years to make the game ready, why did Joe charge money for the game in the first place? This conversation may or may not be comfortable for Joe, or you, but I'm comfortable having it.
  • I think Joe has done a cool thing. I pre-ordered the book, I've looked at the PDF, it looks good.

    However, I don't get why people want Eoin to shut up. He bought something he's not satisfied with, why shouldn't he be allowed to say so in public? Why on earth should he have to take it to e-mail?

    I agree it sort of clutters up _this_ thread, though. And it's sort of late to complain four years after buying it.
  • You basically answered your own questions, Matthijs, at least for what concerns me.
  • I think Matthijs is mostly just suggesting that, that particular discussion float itself into a new thread at least.
  • Eoin, I can see you digging your heels in. Fine. I think we've both said what we wanted to say. I suggest that we both leave this thread alone now.
  • Tim,

    Why? I don't think I'm off topic, as the subject of the thread is Perfect. I don't think I've been unreasonable in registering my disappointment at an opportune moment.

    For a site about rpg games and their development, a fair number of respondents to this thread seem altogether allergic to discussion which goes beyond cheerleading.
  • edited January 2011

    It's not about cheerleading. And I do think you've been unreasonable in your attacks on Joe's character. But honestly, I just don't know what more you hope to accomplish. Joe has offered you a free PDF upgrade. You've voiced your displeasure. If you have more general points about the way in which publishers release games, I'd suggest a new thread. No need to continue a general discussion in a thread specifically about the new edition of Perfect. But I'm not a moderator. So take that as you will.
  • Hey, free advertising I guess.
  • Posted By: Delirium
    And, yes, I am very happy to have this discussion here. Frankly, I found the discussion upthread to be somewhat surreal, a host of posters congratulating Joe and ignoring the elephant in the room - if it took 4 years to make the game ready, why did Joe charge money for the game in the first place? This conversation may or may not be comfortable for Joe, or you, but I'm comfortable having it.

    Could you clarify what you're looking for, from this discussion?
    I'm happy to keep talking, but I'm not sure what you're striving for, other than to express a disappointment.
    If all your looking for is to express a disappointment, that's cool too, just let me know. Your disappointment registers heavily upon my heart, for what its worth.

    I was very proud of the game I sold in 2006, when I was selling it. It produced fun gaming experiences that broke the mold of existing play. You are the first person I've heard express such displeasure with the game! Mostly, I heard about people playing the game and having lots of fun with it, but uncovering some niggling concerns.

    Perfect was my first foray as a designer, and I published it when I was barely 18. It follows that a year later, I'd be seeing it with new perspective. People often look back on past projects and regard them in a new light, often a judgmental and dismissive one. This is a facet of human nature.

    It was at THAT POINT that I realized I was no longer happy with the game I was publishing. And it was at THAT POINT that I faced a decision about what the "right" thing to do would be. I did what I thought was the right thing: immediately took the game off the market; promised myself that I'd improve the game and then re-release it. Given the situation I'd backed myself into (having already published a game that I was no longer proud of), I made the best decision I knew how to.

    The reason that the podcast in 2006 was glowing was that many of the people who bought the game had glowing things to say about it. You're the first person to express feeling cheated or ripped off or exploited. That's a big part of why those stories aren't included in my chronicles of Perfect's development - because they didn't exist. It's only just now that I'm learning that you've spent the past 4+ years resenting that purchase.

    Did you play the original game? Did it fail to deliver upon its premise? If so, why didn't I hear about that?
  • edited January 2011

    My agenda is limited to voicing my displeasure.

    In a time in which the barriers to entry to the RPG market are very, very low, in which any pretender can claim to be a games designer and whack out a pdf, I think it's important that there's some comeback when poor product is released.
    I think it's a reasonable expectation that the games offered to the market, whether by an 18 year old, or an 80 year old, have been adequately playtested, that the mechanics have been stress tested, that a somewhat robust process of quality control has been adhered to. Judging from your blogs on this issue, that was not the case in respect of the first iteration of Perfect.

    That's it - that's the extent of my input. Hardly an incisive analysis, buit I think it's worth stating.
  • edited January 2011
    Posted By: DeliriumIn a time in which the barriers to entry to the RPG market are very, very low, in which any pretender can claim to be a games designer and whack out a pdf, I think it's important that there's some comeback when poor product is released.
    To this, I would agree (even if I would prefer more substantial actual play reports of a game's problem than "judging from your blog" - did you even play the game?), but what I did saw in in this thread was Joe attacked because he wasn't afraid to talk in public about his game's (perceived) problems, because he did do something about it (he removed it from circulation) and improved it (working for years).

    I can't judge his results, because I never played any version of Perfect. But I have played my share of poor games or games that could have been great with more playtesting. It's very rare that a game creator is willing to admit these kind of mistakes.

    And I fear that, by attacking the few who do, you are in effect dissuading the others, who now will have one more motive to try to hide their mistakes.

    What we need is not the crucification of a single scapegoat whose "error" was to be sincere and honest, what we need is a more open gaming culture where problems and mistakes (by designers and players alike, because many players really don't read their games...) are talked about in a more open and honest way, in concrete terms, without all this "fear" of losing status.

    So, really, even if I had brought Perfect and playing it (not simply reading about it) had found it "broken", it would have been only one of many broken games I had brought in my life (and most of them did cost a lot more, being a set of three hardcover volumes or more...). Having the designer removing the game from sale after finding out that the text had problem, is much more uncommon.
  • Joel Shempert just put up a really great blog post detailing his 4 session game of Perfect Unrevised, and does a good job of breaking down the structure of the game and exploring how that structure supports what the game is about.

    It's here.
  • Hey, Joe, I see your files the press' FTP server! Mazal tov!

    Eoin, congratulations on finally finding a place on the Internet to voice your displeasure. The quest must have taken ages and intense commitment.

  • Joshua,

    The sarcasm's a little sophomoric, isn't it?

    But hey, if you think my criticism's unfounded, fair enough.
  • That's a great blog post.
    Thanks for linking, Joe.
    Thanks for writing, Joel.
  • I'm nothing if not sophomoric. But you're just a guy complaining on the Internet and claiming it's a public service.

    You ask what different course of action I think you should have taken - well, I suppose I wish you hadn't sold the game, unfinished, in the first instance. That's not ethically complicated.

    We make mistakes, dude. "We" being "humans". Your critique of Joe is that he's making up for a mistake.

  • edited February 2011
    No, Joshua. My critique of Joe is that he sold me a game which wasn't adequately playtested.

    I have no difficulty with Joe redesigning and publishing what is effectively a new game.

    And sure, we're all human. But let's remember that Joe entered into an economic transaction with the purchasers of the first iteration of the game. That transaction carries with it a set of responsibilities. In my view, those responsibilites were breached by Joe. But hey, I'm not asking for Joe's head on a platter. I am, in fact, asking for nothing. I am merely making it known that there are people out there, even if it's just me, raging alone in the wilderness, who don't dig being sold a ringer.

    I'm not a fan of Joe. I'm not his friend. I'm a customer, and I don't like it when I feel like I've been taken advantage of.
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