How to Build a Game #7 Want to Kickstart Your Game, Marketing Starts Now!

And by now, I mean from the day you first think of the idea for your game.

Designing and building a game takes a very long time. The good news is that means you have a lot of time to talk about the development of your game. In the time you are designing your game, you can provide updates, ask for feedback, ask for gamer’s opinions on mechanics and themes you are thinking about using. Spending the time to talk about your game as you are designing it will build a following for your brand as a designer. Even if you go the route of finding a publisher, the brand you build for yourself and your games will help the publisher, your current game and the games you design in the future.

Designers should be on twitter(twitter mainly, but any social media outlet works), talking about their games and the games of others. What we have found is a community of gamers and designers who are in similar positions. We are all trying to weave our way through the game that is game design and production and we end up being each other’s cheerleaders. Designers should, IMHO, start a blog and expand on their thoughts they share on twitter. Use a blog to share a picture story of your games as you make them. I like the idea of having a finished product that our fans can say, “hey, I remember last year when this game was a one line idea on your notebook post.” Designers should also be on Board Game Geek.

In the interest of full disclosure, while we are signed up with BGG, I have yet to take the time to figure out the interface and navigation of BGG. I have next week off, so that will be on my to do list. Part of me is looking forward to being able to interact on the site and part of me dreads the process. (Update 9/1/15: This is no longer the case. While BGG comes with it’s frustrations, pick a small part of the site and get comfortable with it. Expand from there and over the course of time, you will learn how to use the site)

Designers should go to local cons and the FLGS. Make a physical appearance when you can and bring your prototypes. You never know who will be there that is willing to give your game a go. The benefits of the cult of the new is that they are always looking for the next awesome game and that means there is a growing openness to playing games in early development stages.

There are other ways to reach out and talk about your games but these are the easiest ways.

The time you spend talking about your game while it is being developed is the marketing you should be doing to make your future KS campaign successful. Seth Godin had a great line about a KS campaign he ran for a book. “People said wow, you funded your campaign in 3 hours and I said no, I funded my campaign over 8 years of blogging everyday.”

I am not saying that blogging is the only way to spread the word. I am saying that you need to find a way you are comfortable talking about your game and grow from there. I think there are two way to make a KS campaign successful. Pay lots of money for advertising and getting other people to quickly get the word out on your campaign, or take the time (which is free) and get your game into the long conversation that is design and development, You will make friends and fans along the way and ultimately give your KS campaigns the best chance at success.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Competitive Imbalance: The invisible board game group killer

This is some really good reading!

Formal Ferret Games

Board game groups are fragile things. There are lots of things that can cause a game group to fall apart: problems with the venue, people moving away, personality conflicts, romantic breakups, and so on.

But there’s one thing that destroys game groups, alienates new players, and causes people to ignore certain games for the wrong reasons. And I don’t think anyone’s really pinned it down now until now. It’s competitive imbalance.

Competitive imbalance happens when you mix casual players with intensely serious players. Casual players play for the social interaction. A casual player will joke with the other players, immerse himself in the game’s theme with some light roleplaying, and generally accept making a possibly suboptimal decision if it means not taking a long time on his turn. A serious player will calculate her options carefully, only focus on the mechanisms of the game relevant for her best possible…

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How to Build a Game #6 Watch Reviews and Walk Throughs

I know you want to think otherwise, but there are more games out there then most of us have time to play. I know, bummer huh? Between a day job, commuting to said job, life and the other things that make being an adult….um…..fun……who has time to play all these games!?

Solution!

Watch reviews and walk throughs! As our hobby grows there are more and more people creating great Youtube content for board games. There are loads of reviews and walk throughs for designers to watch. I can watch a walk through of a game, have a strong grasp of the rules, jump over and watch three or four reviewers give their thoughts about the game. The reviews will tell me what was good, what was bad and hopefully, give me some why as well. I can do all that in the space of 20-30 minutes. Over the course of a Saturday morning, I can learn about 4-5 new games. These are games that I may never get to play or may never want to play or very probably never even see a physical copy.

The point is, the amount of time designing demands, we need to find way to consume games as fast as possible. We are lucky enough to have content providers willing to give us an easy way to consume the mechanisms of many games and find out what people think about those games. There is nothing but benefits to watching reviews and walk throughs online and if you are a designer you should be watching as many as you can fit into your designing time.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

What has TGIK Games been up to? #4

Update of Current Games

No Preamble, just the update

Charge!

We played two more tests of Charge! and I think we have the game done, thats right done. Now that the game is basically done, we will turn our focus to the artwork. Here is an early logo design we have in the works (thanks to Talon Strikes Studios). We are also working with Tim Beard for Charge! art as well, when we have more previews from our artists we will show them off! We have also made the prototype live on The Game Crafter (4-Deck) (2-Deck). These are still in prototype form and changes will be made as we make updates.

ChargeProtoLogo

Dice Inc.

We were able to play test Dice Inc two times last week and it was great! The first test included 3 players who had never seen the game before and all three liked it. Everyone had suggestions for the game, and the most encouraging part of those suggestions was that none of them were major changes. We even went so far as to explain some of the advanced mechanics we were thinking about adding to the game and the comment was,”I think the game will really shine when you add that in.” That really made us feel good about where we are at and where we are going so far with Dice Inc. The second play test was the a group of seasoned gamers and they liked the game as well. None of them had seen the game and they tried extreme strategies to see where it would take them. The end result was that we need to question whether one of the cuts we made to the game needs to be brought back or added as an optional turn phase? We also started to build 10 prototypes this weekend. I spent a lot of Sunday making the game board hexes. It was a long day but the rest of the prototype building should be quicker. I am just glad the big hurdle at the start is done.

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Side Projects 

Chris

Arrrrsteroid Miners has been put on hold and I have been reading here and there about marketing tactics. I think I will be experimenting more with marketing this week than reading about it because at some point, you have to try it rather than read about it! My focus for the week will be to polish up the rules for Charge! and start the rules for Dice Inc. Now that we have the tweaks ironed out for DI, we can start on a rule book.

Aidan

Aidan has been working on Soccer GM and a Roman mass audience game. He pitched them to me in their most recent form last week and we are going to sit down with our potential next projects this weekend and figure out what we want to do with these various designs.

What we have going on this week

Dice Inc. Prototypes

My goal is to finish the prototypes for Dice Inc so I can send some out and have others ready for local testing.

Rules Books

Honestly, this will and should take up most of my design time. Lots of rule writing to catch up on and because of that…

No Time for Anything else

….I will have little time for much else.

How to Build a Game #5 Play Other Games

This may seem a bit obvious but there is a different mindset you need to take into playing other games. When a designer plays other games, they need to be thinking about what works, what doesn’t work and pay attention to the other players are the table. A designer should be asking themselves (and make mental notes of the answers) while they are playing games. A few examples: How does the theme work with the mechanics? What parts of the games do other gamers enjoy the most? What kind of games make it to the table most often? These are just a few examples of the questions you should be asking yourself when you are playing games.

In addition to making various observations, you should be playing games to gain exposure to as many different themes and mechanics as possible. If you play a game that includes a mechanic you are thinking about using, pay attention to have the mechanic works and when it isn’t your turn, apply your theme to the mechanic. Use this opportunity to see how the mechanic moves pieces around the board or how the players interact with that mechanic. Playing games with other gamers is a as much an opportunity to learn about design as it is to have fun. The chance to see mechanics and themes used in way you never thought of before, and if gamers even like those themes or mechanics will go a long way to making your designs more successful and make your games more fun.

As an example, my Wednesday night game group has anywhere from 12-25 people show up every week. We have the same routine of starting the night with a game that supports a large number of people. The problem we run into it that we only have games that support up to 1o or 12 people. Normally, this is enough because most groups are not as lucky to have such a large regular showing every week. However, we have to split the group into two large games and while that works for us, I always feel like we are missing an opportunity to have a game with everyone in the game. Because of this, we have been working on a game that can support as many people as there are at the party.

Gaming with others is a great opportunity and designers should take advantage of these opportunities as much as possible.

How to Build a Game #4 Practice Practice Practice

ALWAYS be making games! Make bad ones, make worse ones, make better ones, make good ones, make great ones. Just keep making games. Sometimes making a game only takes an hour. That doesn’t mean you will finish the game, but you made enough of a game to know how far you want to take it. You can take it to prototype stage, play test phase, production, or you can junk it after 10 minutes. The important part is that designers are constant using different mechanics and themes in different way. Game design is an art form and we need to practice that art to make great games.

But Chris, what if I only want to focus on one design? Practice using different mechanics to do the same thing within the theme of your game. Certain mechanics can accomplish different goals you want your players to experience. When you practice using different mechanics you will teach yourself what mechanics work best for which parts of your game. If you are the kind of designer with lots of ideas, you will be able to use your practice to utilize various mechanics and themes in other games down the design road.

Mechanics and themes have sweet spots and we designers need to find those sweets spots so we can best utilize all the tools we have at our disposal. We need to learn what tools work in different situations and we can learn these things by the practice of making games.

How to Build a Game #3 Cost of Production!!!!!

I don’t normally use exclamation points in the title but this is really important. Always think about the cost of production for the game you are creating. Save yourself the agony of spending hours and hours over the course of month after month, making the greatest game you have ever known and then shop it to a publisher (or try to self publish) and find out that they game costs $120 to produce. That awesome custom dice set you made up, the 800 cards or the 200 miniatures are all awesome, but some components are expensive. And then, when you find out that the production is too expensive, you will have to cut up the game you love into a smaller game that may or may not work as well as the original, but the game will never feel the same.

We did this with Line of Scrimmage. We built the game to include 37 (ack, prime number) custom d12. We made them from blanks, permanent markers and spray sealer. This was great for the prototype, but when we looked at the cost of a custom d12, we were heartbroken. The game would have cost over $80 and while we are biased and believe there is $80 dollars worth of game in the box, we don’t expect people to pay that much for a game that doesn’t have a properly defined end user.

There are benefits to always think about the cost of a game. The primary benefit is that cost will force designers to be creative with the resources they have available. If you want to make a $10 game, you will have a very limited amount of things to work with. There are enough things to make a game, but it is up to the designer to exercise their creativity on how to use the components the have to work with.

There are many ways to estimate cost and the way we do it is by starting at The Game Crafter. We are able to enter the parts list of our games and TGC will spit out a basic cost to produce each game. While the numbers provided are not bulk production numbers, TGC does provide bulk prices so you can so a little math and at least have a general idea of what you are getting yourself into. Now, having never self published or published through a publisher, I don’t have an clue as to the cost of bulk orders, but the point of this exercise if to give yourself a ballpark figure to work with and streamline your games as much as possible so you can design the best possible game with the lowest cost possible.