Booyah Buddha: The Ever-Changing Landscape of Kickstarter

If you’re reading this, you are probably familiar with Kickstarter in some way. As a small independent company, Kickstarter is the only way that Booyah Games is currently able to fund and produce our games. It is also an increasingly visible platform for the tabletop hobby, allowing many games to be produced which couldn’t have been made any other way; at least not with the same amount of content for the price.

However, Kickstarter as a platform has changed a lot over the last four years. It’s not just about a small group of people with big ideas and little resources “funding their dreams”; we also have big-name companies launching projects on Kickstarter that they could have easily funded themselves. While many independent games are lucky to get into the tens of thousands of dollars range, there is almost always at least one currently running tabletop campaign that’s broken the $100K funding mark or even into the millions of dollars. The market is rather saturated, with multiple new tabletop projects launching literally every single day.

So what can you do to properly traverse this ever-changing landscape of the crowdfunding world, both as a creator or a customer? I’ll be presenting three case studies relevant to Kickstarter as well as a few other general thoughts and observations.

Experimenting on a Small Scale (Somnium): As crowdfunding changes, there are some companies who are “experimenting” with the Kickstarter platform to try to keep ahead of the curve. One of the first times I’ve heard a company explicitly say they were experimenting on Kickstarter was with the campaign for Somnium: Rise of Laputa, a game that Davy did the art and graphic design for. They came out and said that they were purposely not posting any Updates during the run of the campaign as an “experiment”. Many people (including myself) were rather confused by the point of this experiment and what they actually hoped to learn from it.

Marketing on Kickstarter and interacting with backers can be tricky. While a level of transparency is always appreciated, if you come out and say that you are “experimenting” with how you are communicating with your backers that can cause breakdown of trust and make them feel like you don’t care about their contribution. Also, if you are changing how you run a campaign to try to find out what effect it will have there can always be other factors at work, so you always need to look at the whole picture.

This isn’t to suggest that there can’t be value in changing up your process and figuring out what works best for you, but you do need to be careful about all of the consequences, especially when it comes to how your choices look from the outside looking in.

Experimenting on a Large Scale (Monolith): While Somnium was a very small campaign, the board game company Monolith is anything but small. Monolith made a recent announcement talking about how they are changing their approach to running Kickstarter projects. Their previous Kickstarter campaign, the hugely successful Batman: Gotham City Chronicles, was a Kickstarter Exclusive game with no plans for a release via traditional distribution.  Monolith is now taking things a step further as their next game will not only be KS exclusive, but they are also pre-producing the game and will start the fulfilment process immediately after the campaign ends.

While many companies like CMON and AEG have been accused of using KS as a pre-order system since they have the means to produce games with their own funding, Monolith aims to turn KS into a straight-up store front. And according to Monolith’s post, the people behind Kickstarter are perfectly fine with this.

In addition to laying out their future plans for pre-producing games prior to a KS campaign, they also described a number of points as ways to “justify” this large-scale experiment. Two of these points in particular seemed a little odd to me.

First, Monolith talked about how stretch goals are “only a marketing gimmick”, but then went on to say that stretch goals “serve only as an adjustment variable” to financially plan out a campaign at each level.... That’s not the same thing. A “gimmick” is a trick, ploy, or stunt that is mainly used as a means of promotion. When you are measuring out and making financial plans for different levels of content through stretch goals based on economies of scale, then that is a marketing tool. Monolith’s statement feels like they’re smack-talking stretch goals as an extra justification for the absence of them in their future campaigns. Since Monolith is manufacturing their games beforehand, they can’t do stretch goals anymore. They should just let that be their answer and not feel the need to bad-mouth the value and validity of others using stretch goals.

Monolith then cited a significant need for creators to attract new pledgers to the Kicktsarter platform, claiming that the “rate of new pledgers is dropping to the extent of being ridiculously low today (often under 10%).” I assume they’re talking about the number of backers to a project for whom that project is their first time using Kickstarter. If this is the meaning behind their statistic, I wouldn’t call “often under 10%” of a campaign’s backers being brand new to KS “ridiculously low”. Imagine you have a storefront on Amazon or eBay. Would you be concerned that less than 1% of your customers were first-time purchasers on that platform?

Nearly everything that Monolith said comes through with the filter of a huge (“monolithic”?) board game company on Kickstarter. Pre-producing the game for your campaign? Most of us small guys wouldn’t even be on Kickstarter if we could do that! Seeing Stretch Goals as a “gimmick”? No, for Booyah and other small publishers, the stretch goal system is usually the only way we’re going be able to provide higher quality components and extra content. Wanting more than 10% of our backers to be brand new to Kickstarter? Unless we’re really hitting the pavement in non-board-game forums and harassing friends and family like crazy, that’s just an insane pipe dream.

I’m not saying that Monolith is out of touch with Kickstarter as a whole; I just feel that their view of Kickstarter is very different from those who truly, absolutely need to use crowdfunding in order to create their content.

The Cautionary Tale of Overturn - Rising Sands: A little over a month ago a campaign for a game called “Overturn Rising Sands” launched on Kickstarter. The term “dumpster fire” tends to get thrown around a lot, but this project definitely warranted the term. Overturn was a pile of red flags upon red flags. The minimum funding goal was far below what a project of its scale should have. They provided a rule book which was mostly copy-pasted from the rules for Massive Darkness. The creators even claimed to be based out of Canada when they were actually from Pakistan. There were many more red flag, but to keep this from becoming an Overturn hit piece, check out this article if you’re interested in learning more.

The Overturn debacle is equally important for both creators and customers on Kickstarter. At best, Overturn was one of the most poorly managed Kickstarter campaigns that I have ever witnessed on the platform. At worst, this was an absolute scam and the creators were primed to run off with everyone’s money and maybe even a ton of personal information.

After the rule book scandal came out, I watched as the project’s funding took a nose dive. While many people in the campaign’s comments were warning others about its “high risk” nature, they also wondered why Kickstarter hadn’t taken down the campaign as it was still projecting to reach its minimum funding goal. Thankfully, KS did finally step in with about 25 hours remaining in the campaign, just short of the 24 hour mark during which it becomes harder to cancel a pledge if it would drop a projects funding below the minimum goal. The funding for the campaign was suspended so that no one loses money on this disaster.

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Sadly, even though this project had a massive amount of issues, Kickstarter waited until the final hours of the campaign before finally shutting it down. If this were a scam, and if the people behind it were just a little more clever, they would have very likely gotten away with it. I would never want to scare anyone away from using Kickstarter since it is the primary vehicle through which our company functions, but you should always approach campaigns with a healthy amount of skepticism. Hopefully we can continue to do our best to fight against projects like this and keep people educated so the platform isn’t seen as being an easy target for scam artists.

Kickstarter is Just a Platform: One of the most important things to remember when you are exploring this world of crowdfunding is that Kickstarter is just a platform and a business in its own right. They push the image of “funding the dream”, but in reality Kickstarter isn’t very different from eBay or Amazon. Kickstarter is a company concerned first with profits. If a customer concern would potentially cut into making money, they will usually side with money. They won’t likely act unless something is turned into a no-joke legal issue or an absolute PR disaster. And can we really fault them for that? Despite what their priorities are, they have still created a great platform.

Personally, I have a firm stance that Kickstarter truly is just a tool that anyone is welcome to use however they want. It’s a free market; go for it! AEG wants to try out Kickstarter for a few of their games even though they can definitely release the game by traditional means? Sure! You want to have a ton of content that is only available through the KS campaign? Why not! The entire game is only available through Kickstarter? You do you, creators!

All of that said, although I’m not going to protest these tactics, I do think it’s important to discuss the impact that this can have on Kickstarter and the tabletop gaming hobby as a whole. As both customers and creators, we have a responsibility to ourselves and the community to share our views and stay educated on this ever-changing landscape if we choose to utilize it.

I believe that crowdfunding is a beautiful thing and worth all of the potential pitfalls. The capability for anyone with a great idea and the proper drive to create a wonderful game is something that should be valued and protected. While Kickstarter is just a platform, it is what has been created around it that is extraordinary and I am always looking forward to its future. What will you create next?

The Booyah Buddha has spoken!

Booyah Buddha: The “Spirit of the Game” Conundrum

While talking about rules in tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs), the concept of RAW vs RAI is a common point of contention. RAW stands for “Rules as Written”, doing your best to read the rules in a vacuum, not influenced by any assumptions of how things SHOULD work. RAI stands for “Rules as Intended”, not just taking the words on their own, but putting context to them and using the meaning behind those words that the writers were trying to convey. RAI almost always trumps RAW, especially when the designer steps in to clarify what the rule means.

Although this discussion usually comes up in RPGs, the RAW vs RAI factor can also have a place in boxed board and card games. However, in some theme-heavy games there is a related issue that can come about which is rather unique to board games: The Spirit of the Game.

The “spirit of the game” (or SotG so I don’t have to keep writing it out) is a set of assumptions of how a game should be played using a combination of RAI and theme. For example, if the goal of a game is to work together to eradicate horrible diseases from the world like in Pandemic, it would be against the SotG to do nothing during your turn just to let the diseases spread more. Why would you do that?!

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Tabletop RPGs don’t need a SotG because that’s something that’s already baked into the system; it’s flexible from campaign to campaign based on how the group wants to play. With boxed games, though, the story isn’t as flexible so agreeing to a set SotG can help enhance a rich theme and keep things on track.

With that in mind SotG, in my opinion, is not the same as following the Rules as Intended. RAI is a mix of Rules as Written, common sense, and clarifications from the designer. The SotG is going the extra mile, letting an interpretation of a theme dictate elements of how a game is played. It is much more abstract than RAI and can therefore get into some very contentious situations.

Sometimes I think that the assumed spirit of a game can go a little too far to the point of trying to dictate how people should play a game, even if the rules are being followed to the letter. Some people may even say that you’re playing the game “wrong” even if they don’t know you or know how exactly you’re playing. A personal example of this comes from a game that I’ve been playing a lot of since late last year:

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Gloomhaven is a game of epic scale when it comes to game design. The game is HUGE! If you haven’t played or heard of it, the game is a long campaign-style dungeon crawl with some “legacy” elements (changing, destroying and/or unlocking content as you play). It is a cooperative game with a number of rules in place for the sake of balance and to help cut down on “alpha gaming” (something which will likely be a subject for a future post).

One such rule is that money and items can never be exchanged between characters. As Gloomhaven is a very thematic game, the creator gave a thematic reason behind this rule: You are a band of mercenaries who are adventuring for their own individual gains and motivations. Related to this, each character receives a personal quest when the character is created. Once the personal quest is finished, the character is retired the next time the party goes to town and the player creates a new character.

Well, when the starting characters in my group’s party were nearing retirement at a similar rate, we decided that we wanted to retire all of our first characters at the same time. My character completed his quest and the other three characters were within one or two scenarios of completing theirs. So instead of breaking up the party member-by-member, we decided to just not go to town again until all of the characters in the party had finished their quests.

By the rules, this is 100% legitimate. You only retire when you go to town, so if you don’t go to town, you don’t retire. However, when I talked about this plan online, multiple people scoffed at the tactic, saying that it goes against the “spirit of the game.”

Since you’re playing mercenaries who are just in it for themselves, why would some of them choose to keep adventuring once their goal is complete? You’re not friends or anything!  

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And really, I felt that crossed the line a bit. There can be a heavy story/roleplay aspect to Gloomhaven. My group isn’t as heavy into that part of the game as some, but we still enjoy those aspects to an extent and had a perfectly logical reasons for what that initial party did. I mean, they were still on the road and just because they are all “in it for themselves” doesn’t mean that they can’t be friends to some degree.

The backstory of the game doesn’t say that you all hate each other and just begrudgingly work together. Honestly, that’d be kind of ridiculous. Why wouldn’t these people grow at least a little attached to each other after facing life and death situations together? Why wouldn’t they be willing to stay on the road a little longer to follow a thread of events and help out their comrades?

Now, I did gain some interesting insight when I talked about this online, but the people who pretty much just said “it’s against the spirit of the game so you’re playing wrong!” really boggled my mind. I feel that this adamant stance on the subject would have been even more offensive for a group that was really into the roleplay aspects of the game. Who are they to tell people how to roleplay and how their characters should act? Especially if it doesn’t go against the rules!

So where am I going with this? Well, when you’re playing a thematic game, it’s usually nice to keep the SotG in mind. It can help get you into the proper feel for the game as designed by the creators. However, SotG should not be set in stone. It should be flexible and warrant a more sensitive “common sense” check than simple RAI. Does the way you play still follow the rules? Does your play style still feel natural and appropriate to you? Does it feel like you’re not exploiting any major loopholes? Then go for it!

One of the great things about tabletop gaming, even in boxed games with mostly set rules, is that there is a great amount of flexibility in how exactly you play the game. You can be super serious about roleplaying, or you can let the theme be simple window dressing. You can be hyper competitive, or just enjoy the process of the game. If you’re following the rules as intended by the designer, you are still enjoying that designer’s vision when playing that game. Enjoy your games and don’t let others force you into a box; that’s just where the components get stored.

The Booyah Buddha has spoken!

Booyah Buddha: Musings of a Rules Lawyer

When I introduced myself in my first Booyah Buddha blog entry and also in the Booyah Games About page, I described myself as a rules lawyer. But what is a rules lawyer? And what does it mean to me?

In the gaming community, rules lawyers are most commonly seen as people who enforce strict readings of the rules with little regard to the actual intent behind them, usually as a way of getting some kind of advantage. They can be very disruptive, bringing a game to a grinding halt in order to argue their points, and generally just drain the fun out of a game.

I do feel that there had been times in the past that I’ve spoken up about the rules as a player in an RPG more than I should have, questioning how the game master was running the session. I never did it as a way to gain an advantage, but just as a way of trying to keep everyone on the same page. Most of these instances were with a long-time friend of mine as the game master.

While I do feel a little bad about the disruption that I may have caused in some of those games, it was comforting that my friend disagreed with me calling myself a rules lawyer after he read my previous post. He told me that in most cases, me speaking up was helpful, reminded him of rules that he had forgotten or had not realized had changed when we went from D&D 3.5 to the Pathfinder RPG.

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Still, I have no shame in owning the label because I don’t think rules lawyers have to be a detriment to a tabletop gaming group.

TV Tropes has a Rules Lawyer article with a surprisingly detailed and nuanced look at what a rules lawyer is and can be. While the article does talk about the typical negative view of these people, it also explores the existence of the helpful or “Lawful Good” rules lawyer. Instead of using the rules as a way to gain an advantage in a game, these individuals play by the rules as much as possible even some of their arguments puts themselves at a disadvantage.

This is where I like to think I usually fall in the “spectrum” of rules lawyers. I feel that most games are designed and playtested well enough that it is best to play as closely to the rules as possible. This should, in theory, put everyone on a level playing field and make for an overall fun experience. I also do this in part out of respect for the people who designed the games that I play.

Up to this point, I’ve primarily talked about rules lawyers in the context of tabletop roleplaying games (D&D, Pathfinder, etc.), but I think the concept can be applied to tabletop gaming in all forms, including board games.

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I see a rules lawyer during an RPG session to be akin to an actual lawyer (the player) arguing a case before a judge (the game master) and the jury (the rest of the group). The sheer massive number of rules in a roleplaying game system and the common practice of homebrew content and house rules causes a lot of room for debate. However, with their less open rules, how a rules lawyer fits into board games can be very different. This would be more like a real world lawyer reviewing a contract or other complicated legal documents for a client.

I’m not saying that a rules lawyer can’t still get into a heated debate and try to abuse the rules to their advantage in a boxed board or card game. If it’s a particularly cut-throat competitive game, this can very well be the case. But for the most part, I feel that “rules lawyer” behavior in board games is much more likely to take “Lawful Good” form. Not only is a single boxed game usually less complicated than the hundreds or thousands of pages worth of rules that can be found in an RPG, but it’s also usually much less of a time commitment involved, making it less of a “high stakes” situation.

In board games, the helpful rules lawyer mentality is usually best for the owner of the game being played, a position that I find myself in very often. When I bring a game to the table, I take it as my responsibility to know the rules inside and out. I do my best to understand as much about the game as I can and have any foggy areas cleared up before it sees play. Unfortunately this can increase my pile of unplayed games, but it does make for a smoother gaming experience when the game eventually does hit the table.

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Going back to the analogy of reviewing legal documents, my position as a board game rules lawyer usually has me teaching the rules to others. This is yet another motivation for me to know the rules as well as possible. I don’t want to teach other people the wrong way to play!

And as far as potentially putting myself at a disadvantage, if we’re playing a game for the first time or coming across gameplay elements that we’re seeing for the first time, I will commonly make suggestions of actions that a player can take even when it could make it more likely for them to beat me. But I do have to be cautious as to not take away too much of their fun or get to the point when it almost feels like I’m dictating their turn.

This brings us to rules lawyer edict. So you know the rules of the game better than anyone else at the table. Now what? If this is a teaching game, how in depth do you make your initial explanation? If you teach some of the rules as you go, how well can you insert the explanation? If you feel that someone has a better move available to them using a rule that they may not know or remember, do you speak up? If someone is doing something wrong, how do you handle it?

There are no hard-set answers to these questions, but I’d say 80% of how you should act comes down to frequency and delivery. Try to restrain yourself from interrupting the game constantly with rules talk and checking the rule book; don’t be afraid of making some mistakes in your first few games and try to learn from it for next time. Do your best to not sound full of yourself or condescending when you explain things, giving people suggestions, or correcting people on how the rules work. If you’re going to give people suggestions, make sure it sounds like a suggestion and not a command. Also, if you’re playing with more than one person, don’t favor one individual during play and give suggestions to all when appropriate.

These are just a few tips for any would-be “rules lawyers” out there, but in the end communication is key. Treat others how you’d like to be treated. Put yourself in their shoes as someone who may be coming into the game blind or doesn’t know the rules as well as you. The worst thing you can do is be a jerk and not have people to game with anymore.

The Booyah Buddha has spoken!

Booyah Buddha: What Is Your Geek Focus?

As the newest member of the Booyah team, I am the resident rules lawyer turned rules author/editor. I also tend to be a Zen-like center of calm and introspection. In this regard, as I take on the task of revitalizing our online presence, this is the first in a series of “Booyah Buddha” blog entries, taking on various subjects with an air of inner reflection. Hope you like it!


Pop culture has integrated into our society more than ever.

Based on a statistic that I made up, about 90% of the world’s population can be considered a “geek” or “nerd” about something. Maybe they’re really into fantasy stories or super obsessed with reality TV and celebrity culture. If I had to make a wild guess, I’d say that most people reading this (a blog entry on an indie board game publisher’s website) could probably be considered board game geeks to some degree.

But is that your only geek focus or even your primary geek focus?

Personally, I consider myself a dual-priority geek with tabletop gaming and anime/manga equally being my primary geek focuses. These interests are huge parts of my life and most of my free disposable income goes to supporting these hobbies (usually more on the tabletop side since a Crunchyroll subscription takes care of the bulk of my anime needs these days).

That said, I do try to keep a level head about myself when it comes to gauging the “geek level” of others. Just because someone may have never seen any anime beyond what has been on TV and notable movies like Akira and Miyazaki films doesn’t mean they can’t totally out-geek me as a hardcore computer gamer or knowing everything ever about Star Trek.

On that note, I watch Board Game Breakfast from The Dice Tower every Monday while I get ready for work. During a recent episode there was a segment about the use of board games in TV and movies.

While there were a number of interesting pieces of information during the segment, it started off on the wrong foot with me when talking about The Big Bang Theory. The Board Game Breakfast contributor said the games that the guys played in the show (things like Ticket to Ride and Catan) did not properly reflect the “level of nerd” that the characters are meant to be. She said that they should instead be playing heavier and more niche games and be shown opening up their latest Kickstarter shipments.

I have to fully disagree with this opinion.

While The Big Bang Theory can be a bit divisive, I did enjoy the show quite a bit as I watched the first eight seasons. During my time with the characters, I feel like I have gained a pretty good understanding of what they were going for in their creation. Talking again about Geek Focus, these guys are pretty much general sci-fi, fantasy, comic book nerds; your standard Comic Con types obsessed with DC, Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, and/or Tolkien works.

This might be hard for people to accept when your main geek love is board games, especially if you make a living off of the hobby like the Dice Tower contributors, but not all geeks are super geeky for the same things as you.

Hardcore niche board games by definition are not mainstream.

I wouldn’t expect the Big Bang guys to throw down on some Gloomhaven or Thunderstone Quest just like I wouldn’t expect them to have watched all of the Monogatari series (Bakemonogatari, etc.).

And you know what? That’s okay.

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For them, playing board games is mainly just something to do while hanging out with each other. The board games are secondary to being in the company of friends, not the other way around as the case may be for more serious board gamers. The popular, light/medium weight games they play on the show fulfill that purpose just fine.

They have also played Dungeons & Dragons on the show, and based on what we know about the characters, I get the impression that they’re not particularly hardcore in this area either. They seem much more interested in the social, roleplay, and storytelling aspects of the game with little focus on the mechanics. I doubt they ever took part in the Edition Wars, likely just playing D&D because it was D&D, being perfectly fine with going from 3.5 to 4th Edition to 5E without any real complaints.

To be honest, I couldn’t imagine most of them ever playing a non-D&D RPG other than maybe dabbling in Mutants & Masterminds or some version of a Star Wars RPG.

When looking at myself, I can see at least one similar casual-level division to my geekiness: I’ve been loving the crap out of all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies since the first Iron Man film. Before that, I had fun watching the Blade and X-Men movies. Batman Begins is still one of my favorite superhero origin movies. However, you could probably count the number of DC and Marvel comic issues that I’ve read on one hand.

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Some hardcore comic book nerds might call me a total poser for that, but whatever. American comics aren’t a major focus of mine, and once more: that’s okay. They can probably tell me every little difference between the MCU and the original comics, but do they know the three most prominent tsundere roles of Rie Kugimiya? Could they even tell me what a tsundere is without looking it up?

So what’s my point here?

I believe that taking a look within, knowing what being a geek means to you and recognizing the limits of yourself and others, can truly enhance the understanding between members of our universal community.

Just because someone might not be as into something as you think they need to be (those filthy casuals!), don’t look down on them. They could very well think the same about you on a different geek subject.

And if you seem to be the ultimate apex nerd who has no equal in any subject: Please, still be humble and considerate. Is showing your “prowess” really worth dragging other people down?

We can all get enough grief from the outside without having to deal with it from within.

The Booyah Buddha has spoken!

WHY ARTISTS SHOULD PLAY A BOARDGAME CALLED “GALAXY TRUCKER”

My buddy and I have been playing Galaxy Trucker 1-2 times a week for the last month. This is one of his all-time favorite board games. He’s got it down to a science. He always wins. With flying colors. In spades. He always wins…

Anyway, apart from the “Combat Zone” cards, which completely take a dump on the losing player and compel this player (me) to flip the table and kick it through the sliding glass window of the dining room and then dive onto the glassy remains and roll around in my own blood until I die – I have a lot of fun playing this game!

But I really suck at it.

But I love it.

I love sucking at it?

Dudes, I’m literally always last in the race, because I take the longest time to build my ship (and as I said, this game punishes the weak). During setup, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount of components available to me. Each one affects gameplay in various ways. Some can be combo’d, while others can’t be used unless you connect to this or that…

 It’s around now that I start to sweat. My eyes dart from my hole-ridden ship to the sand cascading to the bottom of the hourglass timer, then back to the hundreds of choices lying across the table.

It’s around now that I start to sweat. My eyes dart from my hole-ridden ship to the sand cascading to the bottom of the hourglass timer, then back to the hundreds of choices lying across the table.

 Analysis paralysis is real, man.

Analysis paralysis is real, man.

I ask myself: “Did I build enough cabins to pass crew checks in combat zones? Did I connect armories to defend them from Slavers and Commandos? What about aliens? Which ones do I want to bring aboard? Did I set up shields pointing in every direction? Do I have generators attached to them so I can block heavy cannon fire? Oh god, both of my friends are already done and they’re watching me with their judging eyes! Why am I so slow!? This is the ugliest ship I’ve ever seen… SHYTE! I FORGOT TO EVEN LOOK AT THE CARDS TO SEE WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN DURING THE RACE!”

I don’t think have ever felt Analysis Paralysis at this magnitude.

Yet, I think I love Galaxy Trucker just for that reason. It forces me to think with the left side of my brain.

You see, as an artist, I tend to work my compositions in a symmetrical fashion. I prefer “ordered chaos” (if that’s a thing) over asymmetry. My brush strokes may appear “wild” or “edgy” but lemme tell you: I planned all of it. I wasn’t “feeling the moment” or haphazardly throwing paint onto the screen in a fit of artistic euphoria. Nope, by then I’ve already outlined, thumb-nailed, silhouetted, and blocked in every ideas before I even started to add polish.

Plus, I'm OCD.

This is where Galaxy Trucker helps me out as an artist. I mean, unless I wanna trudge through the galaxy in an artfully-symmetrical ship the size of a punch bug, I better hurry and lay down more components. Since I began playing this game, I’ve noticed that my sketching ability has improved. I’m using the eraser less frequently. I don't even have my off-hand hovering over the macro for Undo.

I'm living with my mistakes.

Not just that, but I'm also finding myself allowing the mistakes to blossom into new ideas - asymmetrical ideas.

 Of course, no one lives from their mistakes in Galaxy Trucker.

Of course, no one lives from their mistakes in Galaxy Trucker.

And that's why I love this punishing game that I will never win.

-Davy  

Spotlight on Success interview - NCR

Dave Holland of Indieboardgamedev.com invited me to participate in an interview for NCR. Check it out and please show some love to his Facebook page while you're at it! Thanks! Go HERE to read the interview on his blog. For those of us who are lazy (myself included), I'll just copy and paste the whole thing right here:

- N3on City Rumble is an impressive throw-back to a lot of 90's beat-em-up games. Just looking at it screams "Every Arcade Smash of the 90's!" Did you go into the development process knowing this was the right theme or did that come later?

From the very start, I wanted to create a fighting card game that nodded to the silver age of arcade gaming. The characters and setting came to mind first, followed by a question: Can I make this a tag team match between 10 fighters, each with their own unique move lists? Nintendo beat me to the punch on the videogame market with their latest installment of Super Smash Bros for the Wii U, where you can have 8 players on one giant map duking it out. It’s messy fun! But for a card game to emulate this, I knew that N30N City RUMBLE would be at constant war with accessibility vs complexity. It was gonna be a challenge to balance these two opposing forces.

And it was. It was a nightmare! (laughs) I’ll talk more on the struggle later, but yeah, I endeavored to make the “Super Smash Bros of tabletop gaming,” featuring parody cameos of some of our favorite and lesser-known mascots from videogames and cartoons from the 80s and 90s. It wasn’t an attempt to cash in, mind you. I envisioned this Captain N and the Game Masters kind of crossover universe, N30N City, where all these guys co-exist in a perpetual state of gang warfare! NCR is Wreck-it-Ralph meets Kung Fury!



- N3on City Rumble has dice, cards, a play mat, etc. What kinds of decisions did you have to go through to ensure the components were both appropriate for the game, but within the budget?

Ah, the playmat… fellow noobian game designers should learn from my mistake here: no playmat is better than a shitty playmat. It doesn’t matter if Pixel Tactics or Card Fight! Vanguard got away with it – you won’t. You’re not big time and the backer demographic has different tastes/expectations than the gents who shop retail or at FLGS. If you want include paper components in your game, you better have a low price.

Rudy and I intended for the playmat to be a “learning tool” and that one extra dose of player immersion with its sweet arcade schema. Plus, it fit neatly in our 5 x 8 in game box, a measurement that was deliberate so we could ship the units using USPS’s small priority mailer. But it was a mistake in the end. Players were unsatisfied with the quality of the playmat, and critics condemned its glossy surface because it made filming the review that much more difficult. Lastly, the game box itself, while being shipping friendly, also upset gamers because the cards do not fit inside when sleeved.

Lesson to be learned? You can’t please every critic, and you certainly can’t please every gamer (laughs), but what you can do is learn from other game designers/publishers to avoid as many errors as possible. Anyway, apart from the playmat, I’m pleased with the quality of the card stock and materials used in the manufacturing of our game. 

 

-Speaking of components, everything looks impressive. Who did you use for production and what was that like? Did you consider other vendors? How did you choose and what was/were the deciding factor(s)?

I’m a huge spammer when it comes to getting quotes. I sent out for quotes to literally every manufacturer on James Mathe’s list from his Minion Games website. I’ve posted the link to this and also his list of reviewers at the end of the interview. At first, Rudy and I were running with Ad Magic, however, due to their high MOQ and our low backer count from the Kickstarter, we were forced to wave goodbye and look elsewhere. I would happily work with Ad Magic again should we yield more than 1000 backers for the next game.

In the end, we joined forces with 521 Promo, who has undoubtedly the best customer service I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. Kelly, the founder of 521 Promo, was my correspondent, and over a span of 8 months we racked up over a hundred emails. NCR was the first analog game that Rudy and I had ever worked on, and Kelly was there as a guardian angel to help walk us through all the hurdles of getting our components printer-ready. I’m convinced that Kelly is the Bionic Woman – how does she make the time to work with so many designers on a personal level like that?

 


-What does starting a game (or at least, this game) look like to you? When did you begin testing the mechanics on other people? How much playtesting did you do?
 

NCR started as the character sketches above, but the actual mechanics for the game – and every game I sit down to work on – begins as a Game Design Document (GDD). I was an English major in my college days, with an emphasis on creative writing and screenwriting. I was taught the elevator pitch and different exercises in rhetoric courses to break down an idea into a nut shell. I now believe that if you can’t describe your game idea in one or two sentences, then you probably need to break out the carving knife and start cutting away at the fat.

To accomplish this, I start a GDD by filling in a bunch of blanks, such as:

  •         What is the genre? Is it a card game, a role-playing game, a miniatures warfare game, etc.
  •          Theme, Setting, Aesthetic? Where does the game take place? What year is it? More importantly, how will you present the mechanics and story of the game through art? Many game designers ask this after the fact, and I think they are missing out on some potentially amazing collaboration between themselves and the artists. College students ought to know that the secret to writing a good essay is to barf out all of your ideas in a Red Bull frenzy, and then after you have laid everything out, get to polishing it up for presentation. Once you have a skeleton (mechanics), then you can give it flesh (aesthetics) and bring that Frankenstein to life. This is what I was taught in nearly every writing course. 

This design philosophy is well and good, but Rudy and I prefer to be in the same alchemy lab, working side by side on mechanics and aesthetics. We like to ping pong ideas back and forth and we don’t mind stepping into each other’s corners of the room. It takes a lot of trust and ego-checking to sustain this sort of teamwork on a project. He and I are both digital artists who’ve worked with an assortment of clients, including indie videogame studios. You’d think that artists have a lot of say in the way a game’s mechanics are visually represented. (Laughs). Sadly, we just create “content” for you gamers. There’s no real art involved – it’s simply work.

But the Top 10 videogames on everyone’s list are masterpieces because of the collaboration between artists, designers, coders, and the music composer! The classic SNES RPG videogame, Chrono Trigger, had the “Dream team” working on it: Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii, and Akira Toriyama. These are some heavy personalities, all hanging out in the same room, sharing a singular vision. CT is the perfect example of harmony between art and game design. Rudy and I want to capture the spirit of that in Booyah Games. Game design is an art, so there is no reason to divorce mechanics from the art department. Sorry for the rant, but I’m very passionate about this!

  •          Plays like? It’s always refreshing to hear “my project is unlike anything you’ve ever heard of,” but in reality, your idea has roots in your personal tastes as a human being. Share with playtesters and proofreaders what inspired you to create your novel game. Your peers will feel more comfortable knowing that the game is comparable to something they have already played, rather than feeling like they are entering a Lawnmower Man experiment. Plus, it will help you to stay consistent in your GDD and not copy too much, nor deviate from the game’s sources.
  •          Age group?  This helps you to set boundaries for yourself while writing the GDD and for the art team as they create components (assets) for the game. When Rudy took the reins for NCR’s theme, I changed the game rating from Teen to Mature to allow him to have an open canvas to express his unique reimagining of the game. He had this pulp fiction in mind: tons of muscles, sweat, and BOOOOOOWBS (laughs). I didn’t want to hold him back, worrying about “lost sales” due to offending someone over his artistic expression. If I was in it purely for money, I’d be teaching English in Tokyo, Japan. Do you know how many times I’ve heard the phrase “don’t quit your day job” attributed to the table top game industry? Or how many times have I heard the industry called a hobby? Well, if that’s the case, then Rudy and I are gonna do whatever we like and let backers on Kickstarter decide whether our products are cool or not.

There are plenty more blanks to fill out, and I could spend pages going over each bullet point. But to save you time (and space in this interview), I recommend reading the book “Game Design” by Lewis Pulsipher.


-How long did N3on City take to make from concept to sending final files to the vendor? Did you ever feel like giving up? Did you ever have to start from scratch all over again?


I started NCR on 12/31/13 and I shipped out the last copy of the game on 10/06/15. It’s impossible to calculate the total amount of man-hours put into NCR. I started working on the game literally one month and three days after my mom passed away from pancreatic cancer. I promised her the night before she died that I would stop being a loser and take life more seriously. Until then, I was a nobody, a part-time worker with a college education that drifted through life creating art for other people’s dreams.

I’ve personally, by myself, made a fully-functional NCR twice over. The latter was the version that appeared on Kickstarter on July 15, 2014. You can view the entire progression of the game on my deviantART account. Then I went and remade the game a third and fourth time with Rudy between August 15, 2014 – May 06, 2015. The reward was bitter sweet, but NCR was my first foray into board game design – I didn’t expect a parade and red carpet.

I was more than emotionally invested in NCR. My soul was committed. To me, there was no failing the Kickstarter.  There would be no relaunch, no reset button. When my mom died, I inherited $2000 from her estate. I invested all of it into Booyah Games, LLC. I could’ve easily pissed away this small fortune, but instead, I used $500 to pay for the cover art by GENZOMAN, $400 for the original animated project video, $130 for the Stretch Goal gif, and the rest on ads and legal fees to jump-start the company. I’m all in.

I realize that I’m the “ghetto” game designer; that I don’t have a family, a good job, two cars, a house, and a white picket fence. That’s OK, because for me, I’m here to create a lasting impression of myself. Same with Rudy. I’ve worked at a college library for six years now, but I still come home feeling unfulfilled. There, I have no outlet for creativity, no voice of my own, no investment whatsoever. I just clock in my hours, collect a paycheck, and then rinse and repeat. Like I said earlier, if I was in it for money, I’d be a teacher – and I’m 100% certain Rudy would continue to produce art for Konami and other AAA-list videogame studios. Yet, Booyah Games means more than money to us.

It’s our legacy.

Did I ever feel like giving up? Not until a couple weeks ago, when NCR was issued a 3/10 rating by Board to Death TV. Honestly, I fancied suicidal thoughts for a couple nights after watching their review. I was very spiteful, but I also felt like I let down Rudy and my mom. I gave NCR everything I had to give, and the end result is a chaotic game filled with diamonds in the ruff. It’s not the perfect first game by any means, but I didn’t – and still don’t – believe it’s a 3/10. Too much heart and soul was put into this game. There’s just no way it scores a God Hand rating.

And yet, I’m remarkably satisfied with that IGN-style rating for our beat-em-up dream game. It kinda fits the bill for our niche title, don’t you think? God Hand and Double Dragon NEON are two of the most recent brawler games that I can think of, and both have lousy ratings. (Laughs). But this won’t be the case for Pocket N30N City RUMBLE. We learned from our mistakes and will be back with a vengeance in January 2016!

 

-What was the most frustrating thing about making this game? What was the most rewarding?

Shipping was SNAFU. Get this: I initially printed the shipping labels from the USPS website, only to be told they were the wrong ones (say no to Express!), so my local post office gave me 190 customs forms to fill out all over again...
Guess what? Turns out the postmaster gave me the wrong ones! I had to go back and manually rewrite all of them for a third effin time! I woke up at 3:00 am on Thursday, August 14, 2015, and rewrote the labels till 8:30 and then spent six hours at the post office, waiting for them to get their shit together. The saddest part about this tale is that I could have printed the labels online and had USPS pick up the games from my doorstep… at a discounted rate. The more you know.
Needless to say, I will be using a fulfillment center from now on.
The most rewarding experience, for me, has been reading the comments of praise by our backers. This is our game. They dedicated as much time as Rudy and I did while getting the game ready for print. They were patient, offered suggestions, and were there to keep my eyes open during the entire roller coaster ride. I don’t consider NCR a solo venture by Booyah Games, though it sounds swanky to say that. It’s a group project, spear-headed by Rudy and myself, but without our crew, the ship never would have left port. The backers didn’t just give us funds to get NCR created – they gave us their unconditional support. And for that, they have our utmost respect and devotion. We will continue to produce games that we hope will live up to their satisfaction and the expectations they have mustered from the NCR Kickstarter experience.


-Was this your first game you've released on your own? If you had one piece of advice to give someone else that might be trying to start in game development, what would it be?

Yes, NCR was our first title and my first leap into board game design.

If I could offer one piece of advice it would be to stop taking so much advice. Stop hovering around board game Facebook and Google+ groups. Don’t subscribe to every piece of advice your online designer friends give you. Many of the board game designers I have encountered online have been very stuck-up and unfriendly. They give the board game industry a bad first impression to up-and-coming game designers. I have witnessed them berate a Senior high school student with a great idea for a board game due to his inexperience (i.e. age). I’ve seen them spit on the avatar of a passionate designer with an adult-themed card game. I’ve also taken advice from many game designers who have no published games under their belt and zero real-life experience on Kickstarter. Some of which, cost Rudy and I money out of pocket for our Kickstarter.

Make your game. Too many inventors have given up on their ideas just before they discovered the light bulb. Remember, those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. I recall a fat kid that used to laugh and snort at skaters when they biffed it while practicing at the skate park close to my high school. He couldn’t kick flip for the flub of him, and I’m pretty sure that he didn’t own a board. For the love of all that is holy, don’t be the snorting fat kid. Be the happy fat kid who creates badass games! If you have the next big idea, you should go for it. Seriously. No matter how old you are - whether you are 15 or 85 – or how much experience you have (or don’t have), you should be on Kickstarter pitching your creation to the world! What do you have to lose? No, what do you have to gain?

You already have one backer. Just hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. I’m known as “Davy Wagnarok” across all social media platforms.

Links:

List of Card/Board Game Manufacturers: http://www.jamesmathe.com/hitchhikers-guide-to-game-manufacturers/

List of Table Top Game Reviewers: http://www.jamesmathe.com/o-reviewer-reviewer-wherefore-art-thou/

Lewis Pulsipher’s Author Page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lewis-Pulsipher/e/B008LLFRV2

Check out this short "making of N30N City RUMBLE" + comic book!

The first issue of the N30N City RUMBLE comic book ("War and a Piece of Pizza") is ready for your eyes to devour. The 34-page one-shot was written and produced by our Mayor super-backer, Andrew Jensen, and was illustrated by the accomplished indie artist, Wade Vazecha (credited as Edward Echavez). It features a cover by yours truly, along with an updated NCR character bios section, and a really cool "Making of NCR" article with pics and never-before-seen art by myself and Rudy Wilde. Be sure to check it out! 

 Click on the image to download the full PDF for free.

Click on the image to download the full PDF for free.

Not gonna lie, I had a little bit of dirt in my eye a couple times while creating the "Making of NCR" section. It's not just nostalgic; it shows just how far we've come over the past 1 1/2 year since I started the project, before I met Rudy. It's crazy to see NCR's humble beginnings to the Rudy-Reduxed box of epicness sitting on my shelf. *_*

Anyway, we hope you like the comic as much as we do! Rudy and I were pleasantly surprised to learn that Mayor Jensen had commissioned Wade to put this one-shot together for NCR. Seeing our characters come to life across the panels was surreal, to say the least. We are truly grateful to Andrew and Wade for their work, and we want to thank everyone else who made this game possible!

After we ship off the games, I plan to write a detailed postmortem for NCR and publish it to BGG and here on this blog. Stay tuned!

--Davy

 

©2015 Booyah Games LLC. Games are property of their respective owners. Booyah Games, LLC. is located in Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA.