Post-Playtest Editing

I am currently in the process of doing post-playtest editing on Ars Magica 5th Edition. This is probably my least-favourite part of the entire writing, editing, and production process. I really like layout, because the people in the office do all the work. I really like initial writing. I can even handle final edits and playtest co-ordination without too much trouble.

Post-playtest editing, though... Ugh.

Why? Well, because Ars Magica has the benefit of really, really good playtesters. They know the game inside out, have been playing it for years, and are very good at worrying away at rules to find the problems that only become apparent if you run 10,000 certamen contests at different relative stats. (Yes, some of them are tech geeks too.) They then write really good reports, noting the good points of the draft and explaining why they think the bad points are a problem.

This might not sound too bad. All that useful input must be good, right? It is. The current draft of ArM5 (the fourth) is much, much better than the first. The playtesters are also in near-unanimous agreement that it's much, much better than ArM4. (Unanimity from Ars Magica fans is not something to be expected.) We'd never have reached that point without their input.

But... The playtest reports on this round are about 120,000 words long, taken together. (No exaggeration.) It only takes one sentence to say that something is good. It takes a short paragraph to explain why you think something is a problem. So that's 120,000 words devoted almost entirely to perceived shortcomings in my work. Not exactly calculated to inspire enthusiasm.

Still, doing the tough bits is why John has to pay me for this job. Back to the grindstone. It all means a better product for all you Ars Magica fans out there, and all the people who aren't fans yet but will be.

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