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.

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.

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…

View original post 2,587 more words

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.

2014-08-16 19.32.302014-08-17 10.25.272014-08-17 11.19.212014-08-17 15.18.392014-08-17 21.20.05

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.

 

How to Build a Game #2 Know Your Audience

Part of being a designer is to think about who your target audience is going to be. As the designer, you need to have an idea, from day one, of who is going to buy your game. If you plan to make a game for your family and friends, marketing is not as important, in fact, it would be pointless for a small audience. If you have aspirations to get your game into the world, you need to talk about your game to as many people as possible. Between social media, conventions and local game stores, there are a lot of places for you to talk about your games.

Another important part of knowing your target market is to consider your market when making design decisions. If you have a small intended audience, you can give your game inside jokes, hidden meanings and specific themes that would be meaningless to a stranger. When making a game for a larger audience, there are design decisions that need to be made to make your game appeal to a lot of people.

As an example, TGIK Games has a Football game called Line of Scrimmage, probably the best game we have designed. However, the audience for the game is a MAJOR unknown at this point. The game has been designed to have deep strategic player interaction in a sports setting. Sports fans would pick up the game because it is a sports game that closely simulated football. Hobby gamers would pick up the game because there is deep one on one strategy involved. The problem is, who do we pick as the target audience? Do we try and figure out a way to market to both audiences? Do we pick one over the other and make the game more or less appealing to one audience or another? Do we make two versions of the game? These are the questions (along with production costs….but that is another post!) that have forced us to put Line of Scrimmage on the sidelines, see what I did there…HEYO!

If the game is meant for a larger audience, designers need to consider how the game is to be taught to people who will never meet you. This means that mechanics and rules need to be as clear as possible so that fans of the game have a chance to learn and love the game and be able to teach the game to others.

Don’t be afraid to challenge your intended audience, but always keep your intended audience in mind when you are making design decisions.

What has TGIK Games been up to? #3

Update of Current Games

We were able to get back on a normal sleep schedule, well mostly. We were able to work on new projects and move forward with our live projects. Overall a good week for us.

Charge!

We finished our walk through video for Charge! We plan to re-shoot it when we have art added to the cards. We wanted to have a basic video available for people to watch since Charge! will be at Gen Con this year. Art is in a bit of a holding pattern due to artist availability, so no news there.

Dice Inc.

We were able to get an informal play test of Dice Inc accomplished. We were able to play the game with 5 people for the first time and the dice movement and combat phase of the game was awesome! Time spent moving was a bit of a concern, but it may be a product of trying to learn a game and learn the strategy at the same time. I have to remind myself not to be afraid of the player learning curve. Gamers are not afraid to take the time to learn if they can see the great game underneath the learning process, and we think Dice Inc. is a great game….no bias! All the parts we have ordered are in and we can start making prototypes. We need one more play test to iron out a couple rules and then we will be full steam ahead on Dice Inc protos.

Side Projects 

Chris

I have been working on our space mining game. I really like where the project head headed. I think I have the basic frame for the game done. Now I need to flesh out more of the game and start working on a first simple proto type so I can test the movement of pieces. I have also taken a keen interest in learning about proper marketing. I have been helping out on an upcoming Kickstarter campaign and it has been a lot of fun. This has inspired me to look into helping more people with KS marketing, game marketing ideas and overall brand marketing.

Aidan

Since the video for Charge! is done for now, I think Aidan will be spending more time on the Soccer GM game. I have not seen his notes as of yet so I am not sure what progress he has made. We have talked about it briefly, but progress is slow due to the challenge and the demands on his time.

What we have going on this week

Arrrrsteroid Miners

With some help from our twitter friends, we gave the space mining game a working title, Arrrsteroid Miners. We will be working on fleshing out the game and making the first basic prototype so we can self test the game and wee if it works.

Marketing Research

I will be doing some research about marketing in general and specific to board games. For the longest time I have stayed away from a lot of the Kickstarter best practices content because we are so far away from launching out first campaign. But now that we are looking at helping others with their campaigns, I will be jumping into the deep end.

Dice Inc Test

We have another play test coming up on Wednesday. We are close to a final blind test version of the rules. We will give them a go and if we like it, we will write them up and send them out with the new protos. I feel confident that parts list is complete, we just need to finalize a starting set of rules.

How to Build a Game #1 Think Big, Start Small

I have this crazy idea that I can help people build the games they want to build. Coming up with ideas is easy, I think we all have tons of ideas for games we would like to see produced or think of changes to the make to current games we love and changes we would make to garbage games to make them better. House rules would not exist if it were not for the designer in all of us to make changes to games. My goal with this series is to help my fellow designers in the world to see the tools we use to make games and hopefully help make your ideas a reality. Even if that reality is a paper and pencil game you play with just your family and friends, or you are able to publish your game, we want you to at least give it a go because we love the process of design and we want others to experience the joy game creation can be.

Enough preamble, on to the good stuff…

Think Big and Start Small….Where do I start and How do I stay focused?

Over a number of conversations I’ve had with designers, I hear the same think over and over. “I have plenty of ideas but I don’t know where to start and I have too many ideas to focus on one of them.” I feel your pain regarding both of these problems. The best place to start is with a small mechanic or interaction with the goal of building out a frame or web of a game that starts with  something small and manageable. The premise of this approach is by picking something small and completing a basic mechanic, you have started! And that is the point, even if you need to start 10, 20, 40 different game ideas, the point is you have started. So go ahead, start every idea you have rolling around in your head. The hope is that one or two or three will stick and make it to the second step. Maybe you show your friend the game you started and they say, “well I like this idea you have here, tell me more about it?” The next thing you know, you are working on the next piece of this one idea that a friend said looked interesting. By taking this shotgun starting approach, you will see and talk about the ideas that are the most fun to you and your friends and this will help you focus on the ideas that are the best. Depending on the number of ideas you have, finding a final focus point will take an unknown amount of time, but I promise you the cream will rise and the garbage will get chucked.

This completes the lecture portion of our lesson today, now onto our hands on example portion of class.

Think Big

I started with an idea for a space mining game where the asteroids players were mining were falling into a black hole. That was the entire idea.

Start Small

Since I knew players would be mining from an asteroid, I figured I would start there. What makes the most sense? Players will need to find an asteroid they can mine and they will need to set up a mining operation on said asteroids. In order to find asteroids, players will have scout ships and they will be able to upgrade their scout ships to increase their chances of finding a minable asteroid. Once players had found a minable asteroid, they would need to set up a mining operation. Knowing very little about the mining industry and how it works, I picked two parts of mining I thought made sense and ran with them, Core Samples and Depth of Mining. I figured a mining operation would start with a core sample and based on that core sample, would decide if they wanted to build a mine in that location. The deeper a player mined the higher value minerals would be located, however, mining deeper takes longer and the asteroid is falling into the block hole! Get off this rock!!!!

And that is it. I was done with the start. I took a big idea about space mining and black holes and created a small piece of and connected it to the larger theme. Regardless if the mechanic is good, complete, or reasonable; I can come back to the idea days, weeks, years from now but there is a seed of a game that is waiting to be grown and it can be grown small pieces at a time.