Announcement Salutations from Shard! ...An Explanation...An Introduction...and Moving Forward...

      Salutations from Shard! ...An Explanation...An Introduction...and Moving Forward...

      Salutations from Shard! ...An Explanation...

      Hello Everyone!

      Scott Jones here, with greetings and salutations finally delivered after several years of relative silence. First, I'd like to reassure everyone that Shard Studios is still here, and has been quietly working on the next publication to be released within just a few months! Shard Studios had gone quiet over the recent few years as the result of major delays in the workflows of several primary products we had initially decided to create, namely the Magic and Martial Arts book, the World Guide, and most recently the Spiral Arena Card Game. Despite the delays in production, we are continuing with all of these products as planned, and have even expanded upon them in recent months to include more material than originally intended!

      For the sake of making a humble attempt at open communication, however, allow me to explain the nature of these delays, and the relative silence that followed on all of our online sites. The founder of the Shard IP, Aaron de Orive, had given me the limited rights to create a tabletop RPG game version of Shard way back in the late 80's, though he had declined to be directly involved due to other obligations and interests at that time.

      Over the next decade I slowly developed the game system and fiction even further, expanding upon the basis that Aaron had created while I simultaneously pursued a career in the computer-gaming industry. The progress could then only be counted in hours stolen every weekend or so from the kind of busy schedule for which the computer-gaming industry is infamous. Back then an incredible fountain of creative inspiration came from running several years-long gaming campaigns with local friends, and in the invaluable input from numerous different play-test groups here and abroad.

      It was only a few years after I left that industry, with a limited degree of financial independence, that I was able to work on Shard full time, and even bring in the help of talented friends. It was then that I created Shard's first official website and forum, and prepared each of our initial products for final production and publication, attended tradeshows and conferences to familiarize the public with our products, and courted publishers and distributors with the idea of carrying them once the products were manufactured.

      Around that time, Aaron expressed interest in joining with me as part of that process, and generously offered to make me half-owner of the IP (as opposed to merely licensing it to me) as a part of us expanding the company as an official LLC Partnership, instead of the sole proprietorship it had been before. It was also during this time that Aaron spearheaded the effort of a final re-write and editing pass on the Basic Compendium, which delayed the final printing process for nearly nine months, but resulted in a more refined product that made us both very proud. With the release of that first primary rulebook, along with a handful of other products such as a map, a GM screen, the Convenience Pack, a set of crystalline dice, and even an art book, the stage was set to begin touring the various conventions and tradeshows where our final product could be officially introduced.

      In the midst of the second year of conventions and sales, our initial goal of publishing the next two books began to falter as the nation's economy took an enormous recessional downturn in 2009 and 2010. My own limited financial independence, which had at first enabled me to cover the costs of printing and production, as well as my own living expenses, had taken a severe blow to the investments that supported it because of the recession, and both Aaron and I felt the pressures to seek other sources of primary income.

      Aaron, whose skills and interests had always tended more toward literary fiction and scripts for cinema, chose to pursue those interests right as we were beginning to ramp up into the full-scale re-write and production of the "Magic and Martial Arts" book. It's understandable that he needed to seek other opportunities, because of this being a somewhat niche market, but it came at a time when the production process really needed more than just my attention. The result was that I had to scale back on how much I could attend to Shard's needs while seeking supplemental employment. This meant that any Shard production had to go on an extreme backburner for awhile (with me literally working on it in my very limited spare time, much to my sadness).

      Without a partner who could share the workload, it became evident over the next several years that trying to maintain the company as a "partnership" made very little sense, and was simply leading to a great deal of frustration with practically no progress toward future publication. Seeing this, Aaron offered to sell me his half of the IP and LLC. After considerable thought I realized that (despite the expense) if Shard was to have a chance to continue, it would need to pass fully into my hands. I eventually took his offer, made the purchase, and continued moving forward at a snail's pace due to once again working in the time-consuming industry of computer-gaming.

      During all that time, and due to the delicate nature of such corporate changes (even in a company as small as Shard Studios), a decision was made not to openly discuss these events until they were complete and legally finalized. This kind of transition is never quick, and the time it took to build up the funds to make the transaction, to haggle over final details, to engage the lawyers back and forth, and to finally get everything approved and signed, took nearly three years. Once done, though I certainly could have announced the change in company ownership, I had no good news to share concerning the hope for progress and printing of new products. Because of this I decided to give myself time to see if it was possible to ramp up production during my personal hours in the hopes that I could build creative momentum once again.

      (...continued below...)
      Salutations from Shard! ...An Introduction...

      Over a year of making very slow progress, along comes some great news and an even greater opportunity in the form of a long-time friend and creative colleague, Andrew Bowman. Many years ago, shortly after the creation of the ShardRPG website, I had met Andrew after introducing myself through the forums of an online comic. That first conversation opened up a world of shared interests in comics, art, creative writing, and gaming, and fueled a friendship that has continued to grow over the years.

      Early on, Andrew (Mulefoot on the forums) had shown interest and inspiration concerning Shard and the world of Dárdünah, and was one of the individuals who gladly play-tested Shard before the Basic Compendium was published. Being talented in a variety of creative disciplines, he began composing bits of Shard-inspired ambient music to accompany gaming sessions, brain-stormed ideas for short stories and modules, hosted me at his house in Ohio as he helped me prepare for conventions I was attending nearby, introduced me to artists who would later assist in Shard projects, created art of his own for future publications, helped play-test the developing card game, and has been the creative force behind all the new Animal Templates being offered in the next book.

      Within about a year of Aaron's departure from the company and my subsequent acquisition of ownership, Andrew recognized the vacuum that now existed in Shard Studios, witnessed my efforts as I once again began to ramp up production on the Magic and Martial Arts book, and reached out to me to offer his creative services to help the next book see the light of day. Over the last year Andrew stepped up to the plate in ways that further amazed and impressed me. In addition to finishing his work on the new Animal Templates, he continued to both produce art as well as bring in new talent to help fill the book's pages, and provided constant feedback and new content as I continued the re-writing and editing process for the next book. He did this while matching my own work-schedule, online and in person, working side-by-side with me and my treasured friend Yishai to bring the Magic and Martial Arts book back to life again.

      Andrew sacrificed vast amounts of his own personal time and resources in this endeavor, and he did so without the slightest promise of anything beyond the enjoyment of working on a project that has inspired us both for many years, and the creative satisfaction of seeing my efforts for Shard Studios come to fruition with the inclusion of his own significant efforts. His show of both support and willingness to meaningfully contribute to the many labors of content design and creation, merely because of the passion we share for keeping Shard alive and telling its stories, is what has rejuvenated this entire production process and given future products for Shard Studios the chance to see the light of day. It is this kind of precious sweat-equity that can't be bought or sold.

      It is for this reason that I have offered Andrew a place within the Shard Studios LLC as its new Partner and Co-Owner, of both the company as well as the intellectual property itself. As of February 17th of this year 2017, Andrew has accepted my offer of membership into this company, and has officially become my new business partner. It is my hope, moving forward with the remarkable degree of shoulder-to-shoulder effort he's willing to give, that the combination of both his and my creativity, passion, and perseverance will allow Shard Studios to blossom in all of its potential and thrive in the coming years.

      (...continued below...)
      Salutations from Shard! ...Moving Forward...

      So what does this mean to you? Allow me to say that it is difficult to put into words how pleased I am to finally begin making up for all this time the world of Dárdünah, and those who initially supported it, have had to wait in the shadows until all the issues above were settled. Though it was hard enough from the inside of it all to watch the wheels of the process slowly grind forward seemingly an inch at a time, at least those of us directly involved knew what was happening and why; tolerating what was going on in the hopes of seeing light at the other side. But for those of you who had been waiting in the wings for signs of progress and the next fun thing to emerge, there was only disappointed anticipation mixed with the frustrating sense that "something" had happened over there in the silent darkness that Shard had descended into, and yet nothing but echoes returned when folks called out to us (as Whill, a member on our Forums, astutely illustrated in one of his posts).

      The most that I can truly offer for those who have endured the wait are my sincerest apologies and respect. Running a company like Shard Studios, as small as it is, comes with burdens that have no value to our fans when discussed openly, especially when they deal with internal legal matters and the personal concerns of the individuals involved. So the deafening silence you've experienced was both me and Aaron being cautious as these matters were settled, both to avoid creating unnecessary concerns and confusion, and to avoid creating expectations that were uncertain of being fulfilled in the arena of the public eye. Though our silence still contributed to some of these things we sought to avoid, I guarantee watching the process unfold moment-by-moment would have been much less helpful (if not painful to witness).

      However, the silence of the last six months or so has been for a far better reason! As I mentioned earlier, with the considerable efforts of Andrew and Yishai since Aaron's departure, the gears of progress have finally begun to grind to life once again. Though I didn't really want to publicly announce the excellent results of this momentum until I was also ready to officially offer Andrew a place in the company, I was none-the-less thrilled by the incredibly generous efforts and hard labor that helped get my own creative juices flowing once again.

      I never wanted to do this alone, which is why I've always appreciated the decades of help and enthusiasm given by fine folks like Yishai and many others, some of whom have been friends and fellow gamers since high school, if you can believe it. This is why I was excited to form the company with Aaron to begin with, and why I'm thrilled now that Andrew has demonstrated both the willingness and passion for partnering with me in the endeavors of Shard Studios moving forward.

      With all of that said, allow me to reveal what's currently on the agenda for us! Though I am still involved in the computer-gaming industry, I have recently limited my time in that arena to allow for the final push needed to get the Magic and Martial Arts book to print. I'm in the midst of the last read-through following exhaustive editing and re-writing, and am just about to hand the manuscript over for its indexing pass. After that, once the final art is implanted, it's off to the printer!

      While we wait for the printing to be complete, we'll be determining what tradeshows and conventions we can reasonably attend this year (and in what capacity, since it's a bit late to get booth-space and such) in the hopes of getting our feet wet again in that environment. We're also going to be breathing life back into all of our online sources of contact, which we've had to ignore for so long. We'll be revitalizing communications on both of the Facebook pages we've set up (for both Shard Studios and the Spiral Arena Card Game), and we'll be updating our primary website while preparing it for a transition from its current Flash format to a far more versatile HTML5 format, for the sake of mobile devices and better general functionality.

      As far as our next planned product goes, once we make sure that the Magic and Martial Arts book has a good send-off and support from our publisher Studio2, we'll begin the rewriting process for the long-awaited World Guide, which will contain new entries into the Dárdüni Bestiary, chapters such as Geography, Countries, and Cultures...Society, Politics, and Religion...as well as Commerce and the Medical Arts of Dárdünah. The book will additionally contain sections describing Flora...Poisons and Venoms...the Physiology of the Zoics...Crystals, Stones, and Minerals...and even an Appendix containing an enormous listing of NPC Characters that have been gracing our own play-test campaigns for decades!

      And assuming we've built up enough of a head of steam to keep creating more, we'll simultaneously get back into the production of the Spiral Arena Card Game (for which we still intend to run a Kickstarter campaign to help get it funded), a dice-rolling app that Andrew has been excited about, an application presenting a digital Map of Dárdünah that will allow players to add their own icons and location descriptions, and potentially a Character Generation app to make that process even more fun! For those of you who want additional fodder for creating adventures and campaigns for Shard, as periodical expansions to the World Guide, we also intend to write more modules and mini-adventures. Eventually we hope to supplement all this with soft-cover booklets called "Traveler's Guides", each of which will show-case a specific country of Dárdünah in much greater detail, with a host of maps and illustrations presented as if made by a fictional visitor to that land.

      As you can see, we have many plans, hopes, and goals. Knowing what you know now, we hope that you are willing to follow along with us as we strive to achieve them, and help support us with your own excitement, involvement, and generous patronage... From both Andrew and myself, we thank you so much for this chance to continue sharing Shard's world with you. May your crystal never shatter...

      Sincerely, Scott and Andrew...