Bumps in the BHAG Road

12 Kickstarters in 12 months. That should be 1 a month, but month 3 is close to over and the third campaign hasn’t started. What’s up?

Direction is Clear, but the Road is Bumpy

Direction is Clear, but the Road is Bumpy

I had a third campaign planned for this month, but hit a snag when I found out that it required more artwork than I thought. The game was designed by a friend of Dave and Kai, my Fun to 11 partners. It has some challenging production elements – basically printing on a substrate that I’ve never printed on before. We couldn’t launch the KS until we had that process totally locked down with very firm procedures and pricing. Getting that type of thing wrong is the type of mistake that can destroy a campaign; making it a financial and/or quality disaster.

We finally got the process down, but the cost ended up being higher than we think the audience will bear. So in the end, we had to go a different way with components. We also needed to get some 2D artwork done that I hadn’t planned for so that the product in the video will look more complete. That artwork is now working it’s way through the process. All-in-all, the delays are likely to push the campaign back at least 6 weeks.

Luckily, I’m always working on more than one project at a time, so I should have a live campaign up within two weeks. This will be the 1st expansion set to Fun to 11s best selling project – The Miskatonic School for Girls. This project is interesting to me for a lot of game design reasons as the expansion will really shake up the play environment. The playtesting is already done and the last piece of art came in last week, so I think we can be ready to go pretty quickly with this one.

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I decided to run the campaign with an abbreviated schedule length of 15-20 days. Campaign length is an interesting variable. 30 days seems to be a good length for a game campaign, but there have been some other campaigns that have experimented with shorter ones. There is some logic to a shorter campaign. Here is a “backer graph” of a typical campaign.

Note the "Dead Middle"

Note the “Dead Middle”

As you can see most of the money is made in the first 3-5 days and the last 3-5 days. You can see why just skipping the middle might be a fine idea. That said, some campaigns can do very well in the middle. A good middle can end up contributing 1/3rd of the total raise. Longer middles also give you time to build valuable awareness and hopefully the folks that learn about the campaign in the middle, back it at the end.

On the down side, longer campaigns suffer from a two important things. First, they are simply longer and you have to work the campaign whole time. That is a lot of time spent on hustle. Running KS is almost a full time job (and can absolutely be MORE than 40 hrs. a week of work). Long campaigns limit the amount of other stuff you can do during that time.

The other very real downside of long campaigns is that they can definitely hit your confidence and take an emotional toll. You hustle all day trying to keep up interest only to get a single $30 backer. It’s a rough day when you do the math and realize you would have done better spending the day working at Walgreens and throwing that money into your campaign… Some days you LOSE backers and money. For a close campaign, those days make you doubt the entire idea.

For the MSfG expansion, I feel the right way to go is a shorter campaign. Because it is an expansion for an existing game, I already have a good way to communicate to most of my most likely backers – I can contact them through the original MSfG Kickstarter. So the real value of the long middle – raising awareness – isn’t really that critical. I haven’t seen many expansions on Kickstarter before, so I’m not 100% sure what will happen, but I expect to find out quickly. I’ll be able to contact a lot of potential backers and either they will like the idea of an expansion or they won’t. I don’t think I need all 30 days to find that out.

Another Stark Realization

I’m starting to realize that the various trade-shows I go to every year are going to have an meaningful impact on the BHAG. I’m going to lose days. I already lost days at MagFest, Unpub, Toy Fair, Dexcon and GAMA. I’m going to lose more days at PAX East, GenCon, and many many more shows. I’ve also been asked to go overseas in the Fall to talk to some studio execs about games, I need to go to LA a few times to keep in touch with my toy industry clients, and I need to stay on top of the class I teach at Harrisburg University. All-in-all, those shows, work travel, and teaching are likely to take almost 3 months of work days out of my year. Not much I can do about it except plow forward and work harder!

Update on Current Campaigns

Meeple MSFG update

Meeple Deck: Contract signed, approved files at the printer. Expect to have decks in hand with plenty of time to ship and be on time. Yea!

HtH card on table

How to Human: Files at the POD printer. We’re running a test run on both the “standard” and “premium” paper to see which we like better. Premium playing card stock is sometimes thinner to the point of felling flimsy. I guess you could call it “elegant” but with such a large POD run, we thought it best to try out both. Price really won’t be an issue as it’s a small difference, we just want the best feeling paper.

We did deliver “Level-Up!: the Elevator RPG” PDF to all the How to Human backers. That game is fun – we’ll probably guerrilla run it at PAX East and GenCon…

Next Up: Videos and how they have changed over the last 4 years of Kickstarter.

The Least Interesting, but Maybe the Most Important Post of the Year.

How did I spend last week? What great work did I do to keep the wheels churning on my creative-output-enhancing BHAG? I did taxes.

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To be clear, I didn’t DO the taxes, I use an accountant for that. What I did was untangle a more-complicated-than-it-should-be year of financial data so that what I turn over will be checked and double checked. If you think taxes take a long time, try getting audited.

In 2013 I did consulting for toy and computer game companies through Geek Dynasty (never simple when it comes to taxes). I also was a majority owner of Fun to 11 where we continued to do Kickstarter released games and sell those games through distribution and at trade shows.

My record keeping is very good, but due to a few missing statements, getting it all organized was a huge PITA. I also utilize cash based accounting which caused me confusion with regard to credit card expenses (“do they go in the year where I charged, or the year where I paid the credit card bill”).

Anyway, the long and short of the week was that I spent basically 1 day on Kickstarter related stuff, and 4+ days on taxes. I have one more tax day left, then probably a couple of meetings with the accountant before it will all be done.

When you engage in Kickstarter, there are many product related issues that can cause delays; customs, slow artists, printer issues, etc… But there are many – MANY – non-product related issues. Some of these are personal (“my kids soccer team is going to the state championships!”), and some are like taxes.

It is important to leave room for those non-product-related delays. They will happen. Some like taxes you’ll think “I should have known that was coming up” but others like the soccer example are pure life randomness. Also, understand that if you have a team working on your project, any one member of the team can cause delays with non-product-related issues. The larger the team, the MORE of a risk this is. With a large team, your risk of having folks quit mid-project is also much higher as some members of the team will not have the same sense of loyalty to the project/backers as the creator. Even if a team member is “loyal,” he/she might have an opportunity present itself that is so good that turning it down would be downright irresponsible for them and/or their family (“good” in this example might even be external to your team member, like a spouse who takes a job in another state).

Being late on a KS tends to snowball. Once you have to start dealing with angry backers, your lose even more control over the situation. Time spent stamping out fires grows, and your once loyal team members get itchy to move on. What should have been a 1 month delay turns into a 4 month delay.

This leads to the most relevant advice I can give this week, and perhaps the most important of the year…

Pad. Your. Schedule.

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Project Updates

Meeple Deck: Several rounds of back and forth with the printer. All moving ahead well.

How to Human: We hit the stretch goal for adding Level Up! AFTER the campaign closed (we let PayPal donations count towards the goal). Jordan has started turning the graphics into a PDF file, which I expect we’ll be delivering in 2-3 weeks. I still need to get the rules document done and edited which always takes longer than you think it should.

For the main deliverable we had an issue come up where our contact at the POD printer went on a long vacation, but our schedule can handle it.

Upcoming Project Prep Work: Fun to 11 has three KS campaigns planned for 2014. The first one up requires a good bit of pre-work with a printer. Basically, we’re doing a kind of printing we’ve never done before, so it’s taking more back and forth on quotes than I would consider standard. If all goes well, we should be up by the middle-end of March. I’m looking forward to this campaign as it’s a test of a very interesting theory IMO.

How to Human and the Thin Margin Stretch Goal Challenge

As I write this, How to Human is in it’s final few hours. It’s well past our very small goal of $500. We had a tough time with stretch goals on this one as we have so little financial room on the project. We have already made a set of digital downloads (screen desktops, phone lock screens, icons).

We did add a fairly unique stretch goal for this campaign already – we decided to open source the art if we hit $4K. What does this mean exactly? Well if any game developer out there wants to use any of the images from How to Human, they are free to do so. They don’t have to pay us even if their project is “for profit.” The only limitations are that they have to credit Ali who did the art and they can’t use the name Dr. Blobbleplop when referring to his image (names/characters are hard to open up like this). We hope that this is a good resource for other game designers both analog and digital who might not have access to art like we did.

We hit that $4K goal this morning. So with just 5 hours left, I wanted to make a new stretch goal. Which brings me to the story to how Jordan and I spent this last weekend. The two of us, along with JR Honeycutt of “DFW Nerdnight” fame went to Dreamation – a great smallish game convention in Morristown NJ. Somewhere along the way, and very unplanned, we had an idea for a “game jam” type of game. At about 5pm, we decided to jump in and actually design the game with the goal of running it at 10pm.

The idea was to design an RPG you could play in the elevator at cons. It ended up as an experimental RPG dragon slaying adventure. When players entered the elevator, they would see a large image of a Dragon, along with 4 character sheets on the wall. Your EM (Elevator Master) would then quickly tell you the story. “The Dragon will be eating the convention at 11pm and it’s up to all of us to deal enough damage to the dragon to defeat it before then.” The Riders/Adventurers would then pick one of the character classes, and choose which of the actions on the character sheet to take. A roll would be made which would result in some amount of damage to the dragon based on the choices of all of the party members. If all went well, the convention goers would defeat the dragon by 11pm.

Jordan took the reigns on the art – making 4 characters and a poster sized dragon that was just awesome. JR and I worked on the abilities and how to handle combat. We knew we had to both teach the game and play the game in the time that it takes to ride an elevator – which was limiting, but also a great challenge. We were done at 9pm with an hour to spare, so JR and I took the “Otis” dragon poster that Jordan had made around the con letting folks know that we would be running the game in the middle elevator from 10pm to 11.

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The end result was ridiculous and ridiculously fun. The players loved it at a level that far exceeded our hopes. Elevators are an odd place to play a game. Usually even talking in an elevator is uncomfortable, so to take folks from uncomfort to a team-based RPG adventure in such a short time really tickled our players. We had a line the whole time and players coming out of the elevators had great big smiles on their faces.

JR was the EM in the elevator and decided to give extra damage bonuses to the LARPers who had weapons. This resulted in one of the early parties returning like this for their second trip.

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It created this fantastic moment in time that I won’t soon forget and that I think those players will be talking about for years.

What does that have to do with the Year of Kickstarting Dangerously? Well, as our final stretch goal for How to Human, we’re going to include a free PDF download of “Level Up, the Elevator RPG con game” complete with all of Jordan’s awesome art. This project so “fits” the idea of what How to Human is, that I’m super happy to include it as a stretch goal.

I set the stretch goal at $5000 (about $800 will be needed in the last 4 hours to get there). I would have made it easier, but it will take Jordan a good bit of time to take the work we did at the show and turn it into something more polished. The goal is going to be challenging, and it will ONLY be achieved if there is actual demand for a crazy con elevator game.

If a campaign has very thin margins, you have to think outside the norm to create stretch goals. Don’t make the mistake of killing your margin by including lots of free stuff and hope to “make it up in volume” unless you really have your numbers down solid. For this campaign, we had to avoid free physical stuff at all costs, and in the end, I think we came up with some very thematic and appropriate stretch goals.

Other Campaign Updates

Meeple Playing Cards: First set of files off to the printer. We expect a good bit of back and forth here, but we’re right on time.

Next Up: Miskatonic and Meeple Action!

 

Fallout: Pushing Meeples Over the Line

Last weekend was a tough one here. The Meeple deck was well below it’s $6200 goal and my hopes were pretty low. I had a tough call to make – should I put in money to help it over the line?

As I discussed last week, this is called “Straw-Man” money as you have to coordinate it through someone else because you can’t use your own Amazon account. It gets done all the time, and while it does ring of dishonesty, under some circumstances I find it hard to blame folks who do it as long as they still have the capability to deliver the project. KS can still be about dream fulfillment, and the idea of getting close and not making it is a soul crusher.

If a person needs to spend a few weekend nights with Netflix and ramen instead of going out for dinner and a movie but gets to make a product, then who am I to call that sacrifice anything other than dedication to their idea?

This is the call I was having to make. I already have an underfund goal, so I didn’t expect the Meeple Deck to make money out of the gate, but was I willing to go deeper in pocket if I had to? I decided yes and no. I was willing to give up something to help make the project fund, but I was not willing for that to be cash. I looked around my office and found this..

Adrian Smith Painting

It’s a really nice original painting done for a CCG I worked on years ago. It’s by a very well known Games Workshop artist named Adrian Smith and it’s killer. I own a fair bit of art from my time in the industry and this is one of the better pieces I have. Adrian’s drawings tend to go for $150-$200 and his paintings like this are easily in the $600-$800+ range (his big cover paintings are much much more expensive). I told myself that this is what I would give up to have the meeple deck fund. I figured I should be able to easily sell it for $500 on ebay if I had to sell it quickly, so that was the maximum I was willing to put in.

I was contacted by a reader of the blog who asked if I would swap funding with her. Each of us funding the other’s project at $22. After looking at her game, I did it right away. I really like the type of game she had made, so I was all good with this swap and don’t consider it anything other than supporting another creator.

Then I asked my friend to put in what I thought would be the first $100. I wasn’t proud of this, but I love this project.

Important to note here – I had not given up. In fact, my hustle increased to a ludicrous level that final weekend. Other than zipping out to see Frozen with my family, I don’t think I left my office for anything other than sleep and meals. I probably tried a dozen ideas. Some worked a little, some worked not at all. I was gaining momentum, but it still looked like I was going to be short – by more than $500. Then I tried one more idea – give stuff away.

High quality playing cards require a minimum printing of 2500 decks. The decks left over after fulfilling KS pledges is really where my profit lies. At my funding level I was going to have a LOT of decks left. Most of my work that last weekend had been to get new backers. For this tactic, I decided to used those decks as an incentive to get current backers to up their pledge – 1 free deck with order of six, 3 free decks with an order of 12. The only out-of-pocket cost to me would be shipping as the printing was a sunk cost. I would only notice those decks not being around when/if I was very close to selling out of the entire run – a point I don’t expect to get to for 18 months or more.

The result was strong and immediate. Pledges were very strong in the minutes after the update. I had my friend take out the $100 he put in (it was only in for about 4 hours or so I think). We funded with a few hours left and ended up a few hundred over what was needed with NO straw-man money.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 12.00.13 PM

In the final days, I noticed quite a few 1-deck backers becoming 2-deck backers. My assumption is a lot of folks really did want to help so they personally stretched themselves. After the campaign was a few hundred dollars over what was needed to fund, many of those backers lowered their pledge back to the lower amounts. I want to use this space to thank those folks – it means a lot that you were willing to help us make this project and I’m glad you got to back off your levels to something that more accurately reflects your wants.

Odd side-note. After the campaign was over, I looked at the painting and realized what it now represented to me – a thing that I am willing to sell so that I can make something else. I put it on Ebay this morning. I’ll use the money on whatever the next project is I do – either to lower the goal or just make it cooler.

How to Human Update:

244 backers, $2400 (goal: $500)

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If the Meeple Deck was an odd campaign, the How to Human one is from another galaxy. Due to the compressed time-line, we had no time to think about “stretch goals” or even put down a plan for updates where we leak out information over time. As it is, this campaign has no financial room for stretch goals unless we move from high quality Print on Demand (POD) to traditional printing. That would mean either lowering the quality, taking a HUGE inventory position, or printing overseas (which has it’s own complications).

We’ve also got some publisher interest in the game – so we’ll have to see how that plays out. As this is a game we have no intention of making available at retail, a publisher could be nice, but it would be one more complication for what was supposed to be a one-off “event” product.

Trying to keep with the larger event/purpose of the project, we’re using updates to interview other microgame creators and trying to pull back the veil a little as to what it takes to make a project like these. We also want to point out things that digital designers can learn from working on analog projects.

If I could change one thing about this campaign though, it would be to shorten it. I think small games feel more right with short campaigns. They are impulse purchase decisions at their core, not ones that should require 30 days of info for potential backers.

Next Up: The Fame Game

Final Push – Bailiff, break out the Right Guard

Final 28 hours of the Meeple Playing Card KS campaign. How does it look? 83% there, and I’m 90% towards a coronary.

Stress

There is sort of a general assumption with a Kickstarter project – you get a 1/3rd your backers in the first few days. 1/3rd in the slow middle, and `1/3rd in the final push. I can’t rely on this for the Meeple deck for two reasons.

1)    Total number of backers is low at about 205. The final push 1/3rd assumption is based in a lot of ways on getting your current backers to get real “viral” and that requires a certain density of backers to create compelling social noise. 200-ish could too few for that.

2)    Because this is a re-launched campaign, it got an artificially fast start. I got most of the backers from the first launch to jump on very early in this campaign. Expecting an end with the same vigor is probably misplaced hope.

Most of the stats on Kickstarter programs say that if you get to 50% of the target, you almost always make it. This campaign might buck that trend, which in a lot of ways makes it more interesting to me. It brings up some interesting questions. The two I’ve been dealing with today are “Straw-Man money” and “what WON’T I do to make my campaign hit it’s goal?”

What I’m Not Willing to Do

When your campaign is close, it’s easy to get tempted to do things that you find annoying when other people do them. Because I knew marketing would suffer by trying to do 12 campaigns in a year, I really feel this pressure today. One of the things that normally bugs me is when other campaigns ask me to do a “cross-pitch.” In almost all of those offers, it’s someone I don’t know with a very small campaign asking for help from a very successful campaign. Often those small campaigns are for really inferior products.

I’ve been asked probably 100 times for a cross-promotion on previous campaigns, and I’ve done it exactly twice. In those two cases, I felt like the project I was asked to cross-promote was both really good (something I would/did back), and appropriate for the folks who likely backed whatever I was doing at the time. And both times, the person who asked didn’t do it with a form letter that was obviously spammed to every other project in the category.

Today I was tempted to be that guy and send out 50 form emails to anyone who has ever done a playing card release. I decided not to go that route (I just couldn’t be ‘that guy’). But I did cross promote to two previous groups that I had personally sold too: The backers of the Miskatonic School for Girls, and Castle Dice games. I owed both of those groups an update on expansions anyway and I felt like since it was me again, it wasn’t too spammy.

I also requested a shout out from one very well known playing card creator/group called Uusi. I not only backed their awesome Pagan cards when they came out, but after sharing it on Facebook, so did one of my sisters. Their campaign was a real motivator for us, and as our styles couldn’t be more different, I felt like they wouldn’t look at us as any sort of competitor. I have no idea if they’ve shared the link, but I didn’t feel bad asking.

Straw-Man Money?

The tougher question that comes up now though regards “Straw-Man” money. KS has a policy that you can’t contribute to your own campaign. But it is a very common practice for folks to do this through a friend or relative. Some folks put this Straw-Man money into their campaigns at the beginning in hopes of getting a big boost that feeds on itself, and later they take the money out. Check out this graph:

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This project had a $10K goal. And amazingly, on day 1 a single person dropped $10K into the campaign… odd that… Then after the campaign had reached a level of success that allowed it, and just 8 days before the end, that backer left and took the $10K with him/her. That at least LOOKS a lot like Straw-Man money.

The other main use of Straw-Man money is to get a campaign to “just fund.” This is very common in certain areas of KS – just look at how many 100% funded kids books there are on KS. This is a pretty logical thing to do because not everyone running a KS campaign needs every single dollar to make their project a reality. Some people use KS just as a way to get some pre-sales on a project they are going to release anyway. Some folks use KS as a way to raise “all the money they can’t afford to put in themselves” as well.

For the Meeple Deck, I have an Underfund Goal (a goal amount that won’t totally cover all of my expenses). I didn’t do that as a marketing trick, but because I fully expect to sell a lot of these decks at gaming conventions and I’m fortunate to be in a situation where I can invest a couple thousand dollars in inventory. So, should I put in a  few hundred more dollars to make it fund? eek…

In 27 hours, I may come face-to-face with the Straw-Man decision to get the project funded. Right now, I’m torn. I’ve got a lot on my plate and having one less thing to produce this year wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. This year isn’t about going 12-for-12 on my Kickstarters – it’s about trying hard. But over the course of trying hard on this one, I think I’m falling in love with the idea somewhat irrationatly. I really really like these cards.

I have two more tricks up my sleeve that I’m going to try out before the end of the campaign and hopefully, they will eliminate the need for me to even make the call. I did make a promise to myself to be totally honest on this blog, so whatever happens, you’ll find the truth here.

Next Up: Fallout

Making History – Blank Paper to Funded Kickstarter in 44 hours

Last weekend, three of my good friends (Jordan, Rob, and Ali) and I took part in the “Global Game Jam.” A Game Jam is an event where the participants have a goal of creating a game in a limited amount of time. Most Game Jams come with a “prompt” – something that is supposed to be the core idea or inspiration for the game. You aren’t given the prompt until the clock starts, so you can’t cheat and design your game before you get there.

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is one of the biggest with more than 20,000 jammers in 600+ locations all over the world. We went to the Harrisburg University site (I do some teaching there). While the vast majority of participants are there to make digital games, we wanted to make an analog game AND get it on Kickstarter before the end of the 48 hour event.

Why do this? Well, I think that digital designers need to see the value of analog design first hand. In the time it took the rest of the jammers to make partial rough mock-ups of ideas, we were going to take our product all the way to the consumer market through Kickstarter. I felt like leading by example for these kids – many of whom I’ve taught in class – would be good for them.

But mostly, we did it because it was going to be really hard and no one had ever done it before. It was our chance, to make Game Jam and Kickstarter history.

So we prepared as best we could – put together our game design kits, art kits, supplies, and Jordan created some blank graphic design templates for various types of products we might make (cards, books, etc…). I talked with the folks at Kickstarter to clear the way for a super fast campaign, which they were very kind to allow.

At the beginning of the GGJ, we got our prompt:

GGJ prompt

We each then had 10 minutes to come up with a game concept. We agreed that we would limit ourselves to a game that could be done with high quality print on demand. Our group went with Robs idea – a game where monsters were trying to pass as human. Then we were off to the races. With very little sleep, some BBQ, and a few moments of real creative brilliance, We beat even our own internal goal.

We went from a blank sheet to a LIVE Kickstarter campaign – complete with a funny animated video, art, etc… in less than 24 hours with a game we really like. This tweet from the GGJ organizers had us cheering out loud.

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Our goal was just $500. We could keep the goal low as we were going to use Print on Demand. While the goal is low, so was the price to get the game – just $4. That meant we’d still need to get quite a few backers to fund, but we had also just committed probably the biggest error you can make in a KS campaign – we didn’t do any pre-marketing. Most Kickstarter campaigns don’t launch until the creators have worked hard to create a lot of excitement – ensuring that the launch of the campaign will be good. We had none of that due to the fact we didn’t know what we were even going to make 24 hours earlier.

So in addition to continuing to work on the game – we had to START marketing our newly launched campaign. We did what we could with social media to share our excitement for what we were doing and surprisingly, backers started to find us. 4 hours before the GGJ ended Rob got to tweet this (retweeted by the GGJ staff).

GGJ funded Tweets

Hard to fully express how awesome this felt. Literally a blank page to a funded Kickstarter in less than 48 hours. Are we going to make lots of money on this? Nope – If How to Human ever shows up at retail, it’ll probably have to cost at least DOUBLE what we’re charging. But we didn’t do this to make money, we did this because it was hard and we wanted a challenge. This might not make sense to everyone, but the 4 of us are gamers – people who expose themselves to challenges for fun – and we now get to file How to Human under the category “epic win.”

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Quick check on campaigns.

How to Human – Going well. 300% funded. Looking into seeing if we can do the first printing by a larger printer instead of a POD printer. If we reach those minimums, we can start adding physical stretch goals – but even if we can’t we have some unique stretch goal options available to us.

Meeple Deck – It’s in the stagnant period before the final push. I’m a little worried about this one. I hope we can get some momentum soon or it might end up just short. On the good side I just received an email from a wholesaler who is in interested in helping out.

Next Post: Final Push

Benefits of Getting More Social

First, a quick check in on the current campaign…

Meeple Poker Deck – 18 days left, raised $3270 of the goal of $6200

meeple 18 day

It’s gonna be a nail biter…

Social Issues

I know I need to get more social with my media. Because I spent 7 years (yikes!) with a focus on kids products, I couldn’t really be that “out there” on social media. During those years, my public persona needed to be very kid-friendly. This meant I had to be careful with how I communicated on-line and I knew I couldn’t hide anything I posted from kids. Kids are smart. I also don’t believe in hiding behind a fake name on-line ever. It’s not a moral thing, it’s just my way of making sure that the dreaded “virtual spine” never takes hold of me. Anything I say on-line, I would say to someone’s face. And because I was spending some weekends signing 1000 autographs for 8 year olds who called me “Master Luke”, I figured I should just limit my on-line interactions. The last thing I wanted was a kid and/or parent to yell at me at an event for taking a position on an adult topic on-line – better to be all positive, zero controversy, and focus on making the best product experience I could for those kids!

But being out of the social circle for that long has left me with few Twitter followers, few Facebook friends, and a mouthpiece that speaks well to companies, but not nearly as well to individuals – which is the bread and butter of Kickstarter. This year, I know I need to fix that. So in addition to being active on relevant Facebook groups and community groups, and tweeting about relevant issues, I also want to meet more folks face-to-face in an environment where I can speak on the topic of the day freely.

I had a couple of projects that needed outside playtesting, so I went to Unpub4 last weekend. It’s a consumer convention in reverse. Game Designers pay to get a “table” and playtesters show up to test your UNPUBlished games for free.

The first day of the show I dedicated to interacting with other game designers, playtesting their games. I played tons of games. Some were fantastic, others a little rough around the edges, but all of the designers were wonderful people. The quality of the playtesting was stunning – fantastic feedback was given in good spirit AND received in the same spirit by the designers. It was very energizing to be around that much creative energy. One game caught my eye in particular as I passed by it on day 1 – it looked like a design I’ve been kicking around, but I didn’t have time to check it out that day.

Day two I had a table where I tested the expansion for a game I designed and published through Kickstarter called “Castle Dice” (I’ll be Kickstarting this expansion later this year). That went very well. After playtesters try a game, they fill out a short report on the game anonymously. After the show, designers can see what folks said so that the designers can take action. Various parts of the game are rated on a 1-to-5 scale. Here was how the Castle Dice expansion faired with the very tough playtesters that were there…

unpub feedback score

BAM!

As I closed up my table, I had a chance to get a quick overview of the game that I thought looked like something I had been working on. The game wasn’t as far along as mine, but damn, this guys theme was 1000 times better than mine. Basically, I had focused on sort of a mean/funny angle (I seem to be doing that a lot much lately) where he focused on a fun/competitive angle. As my game is further along, I’m hoping to work with him on the project this year and he seems interested in the idea. I think the two of us as a team would knock it out of the park.

Unpub4 reminded me that being “more social” isn’t just so you can market your goods. It’s to give and receive support and encouragement and to remind yourself why you do what you do. I’m going to keep the pedal down on being more social, it’s awesome.

Back to the current campaign…

The Meeple deck is on cruise control, which is not a good thing. I’ve only done 3 updates in the first 12 days – mostly because with a poker deck like this, there isn’t all that much to say and I have a hard time writing pointless updates just to do them (although that often works to get backers to spread the word). I’ve also been hitting the other projects in the queue hard as well. But there was an interesting Meeple-related development. Jordan, my good friend and graphic designer on the deck, bought some new gear which allows him to create custom heavy duty vinyl stickers. He made me a set for my laptop…

Meeple on Computer

I posted the pic above to the Meeple Deck Kickstarter and got positive responses from a few folks. I think we’re going to add this to the campaign. It might only bring in $50 total, but it’s something both Jordan and I like and as he can create them from beginning to end, logistics should be simple. If we get too many orders, we can get them made out of house, but I think there is little chance of that. What I’m really excited about though is that this skill could translate well to other Kickstarters I might run this year. Once again proving that every Kickstarter creator benefits from having friends with skills – be they photography, marketing, or making vinyl stickers! Working out the kinks in the creation and delivery of these custom add-ons with the Meeple campaign could pay nice dividends later.

Next week, I’ll probably do two updates to the campaign, one about the stickers once we get the pricing and visuals done. The second showing the updated Ace of Spaces – which is a card that always deserves special treatment in a playing card deck.

The other news of the week was that the USPS just raised their postal rates for 2014. This happens every year, but it makes a fine argument to get your products out the door before the rates go up again!

Next Blog: Game Jam to Kickstarter