Filming Commercial for Train of Thought

Today we filmed a commercial for Train of Thought.  How cool!

I learned something recently about the difference between writing a book and designing a game (besides a bunch of obvious differences!).  If you pitch a book to a publisher, then 30% of that pitch should be about the contents of the book and 70% of the pitch should be about what you, the author, is going to do to support and promote the book’s sales.  When a book publisher agrees to publish your book – they do just that: print it and publish it and get it into book stores – that’s about it.  It’s often up to the author to promote the book and make the sales happen by doing signing tours and whatnot.

In the board game industry it seems to be a bit different.  Once a publisher has agreed to publish a designer’s board game, it’s almost as if the designer’s job is done (it’s not – and we have many posts in the future about the work that a designer needs to do after getting a contract!) – but it’s nowhere near what a book author has to do.

Sen and I have taken it upon ourselves to do everything we can to promote our games.  I flew to Dallas to be at the convention where our game launched.  I signed copies of the game and helped demo it to anyone and everyone.  We’ve just finished a press release that we’re about to send out and now, we just finished filming a commercial!

Looking around on the web I haven’t been able to find too many commercials for board games.  The commercial was filmed with a ton of help from all our contacts and friends: professional videographers and equipment, professional actors (including me on the left below!), and Sen will be writing the music for the commercial!  The commercial will be used online in an effort to promote the game as it’s 30-45 seconds long and really helps to give people an idea of how the gameplay works.

The entire shoot took about 2 hours as we wanted to make sure we got every angle of every shot.  All our actors were great and the videographers had some better ideas on how to tell our story.  All in all – a great day’s work and I’m really excited to see the finished product.

Once the entire thing is edited and ready to go – I’ll be sure to post it here!  In the meantime – thanks to all my friends who helped make this happen today!!  It was a great shoot with a ton of laughs!

-Jay Cormier

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Step 24: Getting your game in front of a publisher at a convention: Showcasing your game to the publisher

This is one of the most exhilarating experiences a game designer will have – showing off your baby to a publisher.

Often the publisher will take you to an empty table so you can show your game to them privately.  When speaking with publishers I always try to be two things: professional and charming.  Professional comes from staying on topic, respecting their time and knowing the business (plus obvious things like attire and hygiene!). If you show them a game that has a million pieces and would cost a fortune to publish, then you had better have some reasons why you think this game would be worth it to a publisher.  One thing a publisher is thinking about as you’re taking pieces out your box to show them is how much it would cost to make the game.  I’m not saying that only games with minimal pieces will get published, but make sure you know who you’re pitching to and the potential costs for your game.

Charming comes from being honest, pleasant but not a sycophant!  Anyone can see right through praises showered over them right before a sales pitch – even if they are true.

Depending on the game, sometimes I’ll actually play the game with them, but most of the times I just walk them through the game.  For easy-to-learn-and-play games, like party games or dexterity games, I’ll explain the game just enough to start playing an actual round.  This worked well for us for games like Junkyard and But Wait There’s More.  In fact, for But Wait There’s More, I played a half of a round with Michael Mindes from Tasty Minstrel Games before he exclaimed that it was a game that he wanted to publish.

If it’s a more complicated game then I’ll set up enough of the game and walk them through the bigger actions that a player will do in the game.  There’s an important balance you have to find when showing off your game to a publisher: How much detail to give.

What is everyone’s least favourite part of playing a new board game?  That’s easy – learning the rules.  It’s often tedious and mind numbingly boring.  So be aware of how much detail you need to give a publisher so that they understand the concept and some key strategies on how to play.

When I showed Zev from Z-Man games our Akrotiri game, I showed him how laying the tiles worked, how resources are placed, how boats move around, how the market works and finally how the maps work to find the hidden temples.  In effect I gave him a 5 minute elevator pitch – with props!  I’m pretty comfortable pitching my games off the cuff because of my improv background and my sales training in my other life, but if you’re new to sales, then you’re going to want to practice your 5 minute pitch with your prototype beforehand.  Fortunately for me, this was enough for Zev to express enough interest in it to take it back with him after the convention.

Next up we’ll take a look at what you should do when actually playing a full game with a publisher.

-Jay Cormier

So here’s where all that background knowledge can pay off in spades. It’s important to show a prospective publisher that not only do you know the game design end of things, but the business end of things as well. This includes things like what games are hot right now, what games this publisher has put out, what separates your game from the others out there.

You can also benefit from being humble. Don’t be self-deprecating, but don’t be overly proud either.

Why does this seem to be more about you and your interpersonal skills than the game itself?

Remember, some publishers are looking not only at the design, but at the designer. Why? Because most games require a bit more development and input from the designers. The publisher wants to know that they can work with you as a designer – especially if you are unpublished. Someone with a few games under their belt has a lot more credibility when it comes to this, but still needs to mind their Ps and Qs when it comes to demo time.

You want to impress a publisher – and not a lot puts people off more than having to deal with someone who is so set on the idea that they are right that there’s no other way about it. In the 5 minutes you’ve got with the person who may publish your game, every second counts – so make them count towards the positive!

Sell your design first, but not at the expense of making an ass out of yourself!

Sen-Foong Lim

Step 23: Getting your game in front of a publisher at a convention: Approaching the publisher

For any publisher that you don’t already have a meeting set up in advance (see Step 20), it’s time to approach the publisher – or at least someone who’s working in the publisher’s booth!  My approach is always with a smile and sounds something like this:

“Hi, I’m a game designer and was wondering if you’re looking at submissions while you’re here?”

If you’re not speaking to the right person then you’ll be told who to speak to, but otherwise this approach has served me well.

At this point I usually get a vibe of disappointment from some publishers as I’m not a potential customer to them.  Imagine how many designs a publisher sees in a year/month/week.  How many of those are awesome?  So you can see why a publisher doesn’t always have high hopes when a designer approaches them at a convention.  That said, a lot of publishers have told me that they only look at new designs at conventions, so it’s not all doom and gloom!

The response you get from a publisher at this point will be one of the following:

a)     Sure, tell me/show me what you got

b)     Sure, why don’t you come back a X:XX time

c)     The person who looks at submissions isn’t here but here’s our submission guidelines/email this person

d)     We’re not accepting any outside submissions at this time

If you get ‘d’ then make a note and move on. If the convention lasts a few days and there are a ton of publishers at the convention then it’s quite possible you’ll forget which ones you’ve talked to by the end.

If you get ‘c’ then you’ve got a contact and it will give you an in when you do email them the week after the convention.  Make sure you get the name of the person you spoke to in person at the convention so you can say that you were talking to Susan at the convention and she referred me to you.  Makes it sound less like a cold call.

If you get ‘a’ or’b’ then you’re in luck.  The first thing I do is I let them know that I have many games but I have selected a couple that would really fit well with their company.  I said this to Atlas Games at a convention once and the rep at the booth was so thankful that I wasn’t about to show her 10 different games.  This made me think that a lot of designers had been showing her tons of games throughout this convention – and that some of them weren’t a good fit for her company.  Atlas Games had games like Beer Money and Gloom and we thought our game about collecting geeky things like comics, figures and movies would appeal to them. She appreciated that we knew her business.

As I’m saying this I bring out my sales sheets (see Step 14) and begin showing the ones that fit this publisher.  I have often noticed that the attitude of the publisher changes immediately once they see my sales sheets for my games.  It’s as if they realized they were speaking to a professional designer instead of some jimmy-jo-jo designer who’s invented a really cool monopoly clone.

Now it’s time for the elevator pitch (Step 16)!  This is it – this is what we’ve been leading up to.  Hopefully you’ve practiced saying this out loud quite a few times already so it will come naturally when you say it to a publisher.  While you’re saying your pitch you can use your sales sheet as a visual aid.  Point out the specific components and highlight what makes the game unique. The end of every pitch at a convention should be an invitation to try out the prototype – because you have it with you.

Check out the next blog post which will be about showcasing your prototype to a publisher – the Do’s and Do Not’s!

-Jay Cormier

See how it all comes together? As I alluded to in our last post, there’s not a whole lot of luck about how we got published. It’s about setting a course of action and executing your plan.

You know how there’s that saying about first impressions? Well, it’s true. You need to make a good one with each and every publisher you meet, especially if you hope to be in this business for a long time – it’s a small community and you’ll end up seeing the same people over and over if you go to multiple conventions. So make sure that you present yourself well – professional, considerate, and well-groomed. A little bit of effort in this department can go a long way. Publishers need to have confidence in not only your game, but in you as a designer.

This means knowing your target audience so that you only pitch appropriate games to specific publisher. It means knowing how to take “no” or “not interested” for an answer. It also means having your act together – quite literally!

Jay and I will often role play pitching our games to a publisher to help Jay get his “patter” down. As a sales person, an actor and a street magician, Jay’s patter is strong, but even a vet like him gets nervous from time to time. He needs to prepare his responses to questions like “Why aren’t there more dice in this game?” or comments like “This looks like the same game as Knizia’s last one.” It sounds silly, but rehearsing helps immensely. It helps with flow, timing, and hitting all the key points. In fact, some of the times, we come up with things that we end up including on our sales sheets because they are excellent points to highlight!

Speaking of the sales sheets, what you’re actually aiming for is to be able to use a combination of everything we’ve talked about before – your pitches and your sale sheets – to interest a publisher so much in the idea that they want to see the prototype. You need to be able to tell a prospective publisher nearly everything about a game without even bringing the game out on the table. Why? Because in a crowded convention hall there may not be the opportunity to play the game right there and then. So use words and pictures to get the idea across strongly enough that a publisher will want to playtest the game. This can mean setting an appointment for a later date, giving the prototype to the publisher for them to take back with them, or mailing it to their head office in Germany.

Designing an awesome game is all well and good but if you can’t sell it to a publisher it’ll just sit on the shelf. You need to sell yourself as well as your product. So polish up that silver tongue and make some snappy sales sheets because no one wants to be a Jimmy-Jo-Jo (Not even Jimmy-Jo-Jo!)

-Sen-Foong Lim

 

Step 22: Getting your Game in front of a Publisher at a Convention: Now you’re at the convention

We’ve picked the best convention, we’ve set up some meetings with publishers beforehand and we’re packed properly – now we’re at the convention!

The first thing to do is to understand the schedule.  As Sen alluded to in Step 20, you might want to take in a few seminars (if there are any) or even – heaven forbid – play some games!  Sometimes the schedule is available before attending, so you could have this done before attending – but it’s always worth re-checking as schedules often change at the last minute. Try to attend as many seminars or workshops that are about game design or game manufacturing as possible.  Even if you never want to self-publish, it’s extremely important for a designer to understand the ins and outs of the entire business.

When you’ve determined it’s time to hit the trade show floor, make sure you have everything you need.  What do you need?  Come on, haven’t you been reading this blog from the beginning? Just kidding.  OK, you should be carrying around your sales sheets (Step 14)  in an easily accessible folder.  I get my sales sheets printed in colour on nice glossy or thicker matte paper.  I then put one sales sheet for each game in a folder.  The folder is one of those that open up, but the sales sheets are not bound or attached to the folder in any way.  This allows me to easily find the one I want and show somebody.

So rule #1 – always, always, always have your sales sheets on you.  Always.  If you go to dinner at a convention – bring your sales sheets.  If you’re playing someone else’s games – bring your sales sheets.  You just never know when you’re going to need to show them.

Case in point: I was at the GAMA trade show a few years ago and saw a couple people setting up a prototype of a game.  Seeing that I wasn’t too busy, I asked if they would like another playtester for the game.  They agreed and we started playing and chatting.  While chatting, the purpose of my visit to this convention came up and I showed them my sales sheets.  They expressed interest in a game called Belfort and wanted to play it after.  Sure, why not – I thought.

About ¾ of the way through playtesting this game, I realized I wasn’t playing with other game designers – but I was playing with a publisher.  Tasty Minstrel, in fact.  Astute readers will see where this is going.  After playing their prototype – called Homesteaders (now published by Tasty Minstrel Games), they played Belfort and enjoyed it.  So much so that they wanted to play it again the following day.  After that second playtest they offered to publish the game.

So you really never know when you’ll need your sales sheets – so have them handy at all times!

Second ‘rule’ for conventions – have all your prototypes with you when you are walking the convention floor.  I try to have my prototypes with me almost all the time when I’m at a convention – but for sure you need to have them when you’re walking the floor.  The best case scenario when approaching a publisher at a convention is that they will want to take a look at your game – right now – so you better have an easily accessible prototype at the ready.

When I first get into a convention floor – where there are dozens of booths, I like to do a walk around before talking to anyone about publishing my games.  I like to see what they are showcasing and how they’re doing it.  I like to see if I can tell who the person is that I should speak to when I return.  I also like seeing all the new games that they have out!  Once I get a good lay of the land, I refer to my preparations and see which publishers I wanted to speak with first.

Now timing is key at a convention.  You never want to approach a publisher right at the beginning of a convention because they are really focused on the purpose of why they’re there (see Step 19).  If you’re not a potential customer, then you could rub them the wrong way right off the bat.  Also you want to time your approach to when their booth is empty – or at least one person at the booth is not occupied.  If the publisher is there to talk to customers or retailers, then you are preventing them from doing that – so respect their purpose!  The best timing is, of course by setting up a meeting in advance (Step 20).

In the next post we’ll get into details about approaching a publisher and what happens next!

-Jay Cormier

Again, my comments are pretty short and sweet on this section as Jay’s the point man for our two-man strike team when it comes to conventions.

When you consider that out of all the prototypes a publisher sees in a given year, only a very small percentage get published, you might attribute some of our success to luck. But if you think of the equation:

Luck = Opportunity + Planning

then you might be more apt to see how Jay and I work. Nothing came to us by luck. Did we go to GAMA 2009 knowing that we’d get signed or that we’d even have a meeting with Tasty Minstrel Games? No. We didn’t have the benefit of a nifty blog like this one telling us to get an appointment first!

But Jay’s willingness to help playtest (Opportunity) plus us having prepared well laid-out and thoughtful sell sheets at the ready (Planning) ended up in Tasty Minstrel Games being interested in our product and reciprocate by playtesting our prototype.

Even more than that, sometimes, is this often overlooked fact – we are not trying to sell the publisher on just a single game. We view the designer/developer/publisher relationship as one that needs to be developed and nurtured. We want to make sure that the publishers are a good fit for us and vice versa. We want to let prospective publishers know that we are a good team to work with – we are selling ourselves as designers as much (if not more) than we are selling our designs.

And this is how you turn one bit of “luck” into even more good fortune.

-Sen-Foong Lim

 

2 Days Left to help Belfort!

Thanks to all those that helped already – but we need a lot of help to get Belfort up in the ranks for the Most Anticipated Games of 2011.

THERE’S ONLY TWO DAYS LEFT!

So if you are anticipating this game, then please vote for it by going to BGG.com and clicking the check box beside Belfort.  Belfort is located in 4 categories:

Overall, Original Game, Economic and Fantasy.

If we can get into the top 10 for some of these lists then that will go a long way in getting the gamers interested in this game.  I understand that it’s frustrating to register for the site to be able to vote – but just remember that I love each and everyone of you… 🙂  Thanks for your efforts!

-Jay Cormier

Step 21: Getting your game in front of a publisher at a convention: Packing!

Now packing your luggage might seem like such a trivial step to getting your game published, but there are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

1)     If you’re flying to the convention then you need to do whatever you can to ensure your prototypes are in your carry-on!  The first convention I went to – guess what happened?  They lost my luggage.  Fortunately I had most of my prototypes in my carry-on.  The luggage came the next day but it could have been a lot worse!

2)     Since you’re going to want to have your prototypes with you as you walk the floor, you’ll have to think about how you want to carry them around.  A wheeled carry-on works well, while a backpack makes you look unprofessional.  It’s also possible that you  could just carry a box around – but you’ll find that to be too cumbersome when trying to show your sales sheets and not drop your box.

3)     Give some thought to how you want to package each game.  The best case scenario would be to have a separate container/box for each game you have.  That way when you sit down with a publisher to showcase your game you will have everything you need in one box.  Alternatively, if you have too many games and they won’t fit in your carry-on luggage, then you’ll have to opt for a larger box.  Take all of your games out of their boxes and squeeze them into one larger box (that still has to fit in your carry-on!).

I always have to pack my games into a larger box since I’m always taking 6-10 games with me to each convention.  This does cause some frustration though as you open your large box and have to dig around to find all the baggies/cards/pieces to the game you want to show.  If you can separate the games in the large box somehow, then that will make it easier to get everything ready.

When you are pitching your game to a publisher, every second counts – quite literally.  You don’t want to waste time fiddling around with your baggies and pieces looking for the right components.  This looks very unprofessional.

4)     If you opt for the larger box scenario, then you need to consider how you would give your game to a publisher if they do want to take a closer look at it back in their offices.  The best solution for this is to pack many smaller boxes that will fit each game separately into your main luggage.  At the last convention I was at, I showed Z-Man games our Akrotiri game and when he said he’d like to take it back with him to play after the convention, I had to fumble around for a box that fit everything.  I found one – but the rules didn’t fit neatly in the box, so I gave that to him separately – which was not a good idea in hindsight as they could easily be separated and lost from each other.  I tried to rectify this by emailing him a new set of rules when I got home.

5)     If you are crossing a border to get to a convention, make sure you indicate that you are truthful about your reasons for your visit, but beware of complications if you’re ‘too’ truthful.  I decided to check off that the reason for my travel was Business and Personal.  When they asked what the business was, I told them that I was a game designer and was going down to pitch my games to publishers.  They said that I couldn’t take my prototypes into the country with me.  What?!  They said that since I’m planning on selling products in the states I would have had to go through the proper channels to get them into the country.  I had to explain to him that I wasn’t selling anything at all and that I would retain the prototypes and that I wasn’t ‘taking orders’ for products at all.  It took a while, but he eventually let me through.  Needless to say, on future trips I say that I’m going for Personal reasons only!

With your bags packed and ready to go, now it really is time to hit the convention!  In the next post we’ll talk about what to do when you’re at a convention!

-Jay Cormier

 

Top 50 – new directions

Ah – I should read more before asking you all to act! 🙂  If you’d like to see Belfort or Train of Thought make the finalists for most anticipated game (like Sen and I do!) then instead of clicking on the thumb, all you have to do is go to this site and click on the box beside each game you’d like to vote for.

Belfort can be found in these categories (so please vote for each if you like!):

-Overal

-Original Game

-Economic

-Fantasy

While Train of Thought can be found in these categories:

-Overall

-Family, Party, Word & Abstract

Sorry for the confusion – but here’s hoping you’re anticipating these games as much as we are!

The Most Anticipated Games of 2011 – Top 50!

This just in – Belfort and Train of Thought both made the Top 50 games that people are most looking forward to in 2011!  But we need your help to make it to the top of the list as we are only nominated currently.

If you are anticipating either game then go to this site and click the Thumbs Up button below each game.

Belfort is at # 27

Train of Thought is at #44

While we don’t get anything specifically for being the most anticipated, it will definitely help sales as this is the main site gamers go to see which games are hot.

Thanks for your support and help!

Status update on all our games

Taking a little time out to give you all a status update on all of our games that are in active development.

Board games go through a few phases when they are being developed.  The most common phases you’ll hear people talking about are: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Published.  There are more if you want to sub-categorize them, but these are the main categories.

Alpha usually means that the game is mostly an idea or a concept.  There’s still a prototype, but the core rule-set is constantly changing.

Beta games have been playtested numerous times and are generally working but are being endlessly tweaked.  A game will spend most of its time in this phase.

Gamma games are generally done and are ready to be shown to a publisher.  Some small tweaks could occur – or a publisher could develop the game even further with more tweaks – but the game is working very well after a ton of playtesting.

Here are the games that Sen and I have at each of these phases along with a brief write up on each.  If you’re a publisher and are interested in learning more about any of these – just let us know.

Published

Train of Thought – a party/word game in which one player tries to get other players to say a hidden word using connected three-word phrases.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in January 2011.

Belfort – a resource management strategy game that has players competing to build the most buildings in each district of a new castle as well as employ the most elves, dwarves and gnomes.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in Q2-Q3 2011.

But Wait, There’s More! – a laugh-out-loud party game that has players pitching the most ridiculous products to each other in an effort to have their product chosen more than anyone else.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in Q4 2011.

Gamma

Akrotiri – a tile laying strategy game that has 2-5 players sailing their boats around the Mediterranean in an effort to make money by shipping resources so they can fund their expeditions to find hidden temples.  A unique system allows for players to have a specific map to a hidden temple – but will also be 100% different every time it’s played.  Currently being reviewed by Z-Man games.

Jam Slam – a quick reaction game in which 3-6 players listen to one player call out a specific ingredient and then try to be the first to slap a card with what was requested before the others.  A hilarious game that has ear-eye-hand coordination! Was a semi-finalist in the Great Canadian Game Design Competition.  Currently being sent to Gamewright for review.

Junkyard – Players place oddly shaped wooden blocks on their own tower of junk in an effort to score more points without knocking anything over.  A unique system that uses cards to help players strategize while keeping some randomness makes this balancing game different than any other on the market.  Currently being sent to Asmodee for review.

Lost for Words – 2-6 players try to find the longest word in a straight line by adding a tile with letters in a 3×3 grid to a growing board of other tiles.  The player to shout out the longest word in the time limit places the tile and scores points.  Currently being sent to Asmodee for review.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  This game has 2-4 players placing tiles and trying to get more of their cowboys in an enclosed town than opponents.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Hot Property – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  Hot Property involves 2 competing real estate agents placing tiles and creating neighbourhoods in an effort to have more of their coloured houses in as many neighbourhoods as possible.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

EI-EI-O – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  EI-EI-O is a quick reaction game that has 2-6 players acting and sounding like animals quicker than their opponents.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Top Shelf – 2-4 players place various candy products on a shelf in a convenience store in an effort to grab the attention of potential shoppers.  Get 4 of the same type or colour in a row to score – but make sure some of those are from your brand!  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Beta

RuneMasters – a non-collectible card combat game that uses a never before seen mechanic of placing rune-sticks in specific configurations to ‘cast’ creatures into combat.  Still in early beta but has been through about 8 iterations so far.  It has come a long way already as we’ve simplified it a lot while retaining everything that makes it unique.

Clunatics – a party game that has one person trying to get the others to say a specific phrase out loud – but they only can give the smallest of clues.  There are 15 different ways a person can give a clue and they only get to use 5 of them on their turn.  Lots of hilarity with this one – and it’s almost in Gamma.

Lion’s Share – a card game for 2-5 (maybe 6?) players in which they play animal cards on one of the two tables at a restaurant.  Players have to follow colour, number or animal type.  One animal is deemed to be the Alpha animal and if it’s played on a table – that player collects all the cards into their score pile – but before they do, they must share 1 card with an opponent.  This one is almost Gamma.

Scene of the Crime – One of the players is guilty of the crime and the other players try to determine who did it by placing small tiles that contain different evidence types on the board.  The evidence is played in sets on the board – and looks like Scrabble except instead of letters, there are various evidence tiles on the board.  If a player can find evidence of an opponent in an area on the board that matches a clue – then it leads players to believe they are guilty.  This one used to be Gamma, but we brought it back to Beta to figure out some issues.

Hog the Remote – a party game that has one player using a set of picture cards to get other players to guess the name of a TV show.  It’s kind of like charades but using pictures instead of acting.  This one was coming along great and then we saw that ??? came out with a game that shared some similarities.  This one has been shelved indefinitely for now.

Collectibles – a card game in which players trade rare collectibles in an effort to score the most points with the best collection at the end.  This one seemed to play well, and has been in Gamma, but we’re both kind of dis-enchanted with this one right now.  We like the mechanics and might use them in another game down the road.

Up in the Air – a 4 player partner card game that has players juggling various objects in an effort to keep everything … up in the air the longest.  This was in Gamma and after some feedback we changed the game until it turned into an entirely different game called Junkyard.  We still like the mechanics of this one and might revisit it.

Alpha

Bermuda Triangle – a re-themed version of our Gamma game Night of the Dragon.  While Night of the Dragon was a fun game for families, it never got picked up by a publisher.  Recently we were motivated to re-theme it to the Bermuda Triangle and it’s really working – though it’s making it almost an entirely different game that uses the same core mechanic.  I’m looking forward to making this one work as it involves time travel!

Dice Fu – a game that uses dice in a new way as players assign dice to combos on their various fighters in an effort to defeat their opponents.  Needs a lot of work – but it’s very interesting so far.

Box Office – A game about scheduling when your movies should be released in an effort to make the most money.  I really like the concept but we need to work a lot on the mechanics to make it more fun and less simulation.

Time Management – Players play managers of a store and they try to attract more customers than opponents by hiring the right staff, training them and delegating tasks.  This one was way too simulation – so we thought we might turn it into a game for the office crowd to be used to teach various skills.

City Planning – this one’s so much an Alpha game that we haven’t bothered coming up with a better name for it at all!  This started as a party game and then it seemed like it would fit better as a strategy game.

-Jay Cormier

We have a few other games have been sitting on the back burner after we tinkered with them in Alpha / Beta. For interest’s sake, here’s a look at some of our shelved ones and the reason for stopping the specific project:

Xtaxatax (pronounced “Stacks Attacks”) – was a 2-player game where there were stacks of discs that had stickers on either side of the disc, depicting unit type/strength/etc. The cool idea was that the stacks could be flipped over in the midst of battle to really change up the game and that as you stacked units on top/on bottom, the complexion of that battalion changed. We stopped this one mainly because we couldn’t figure out how to make a good proto for the discs such that they’d stay linked. I was thinking magnets, but didn’t know how to do it. Also, Jay’s not the biggest fan of games that involve ranged combat or too much in the way of math or memory. I am a fan of ranged combat, math and memory games, so just writing this makes me want to pull out the prototype to see if there’s something salvagable in this game.

WerkQwerks – A party game concept we came up with that never really came to fruition. It revolves around one player being the project manager and the rest of their team having to perform some mundane tasks, but with some limitations (i.e. their quirks). I think we put this on the shelf due to lack of interest – not that it’s a bad idea, but that we were focused on making a more “gamer game”. Again, just writing this makes me think – FUN! Of course, I also thought The Dig would pan out…

Sexxxy Game – HA! This couples game was a social, real-time, kind of game where players would have trigger words and responses based on double entendres and sexual innuendos. Reason for shelfing – we could never find girls to playtest with us. And I’m married! Honestly, though, it was the prototyping that was difficult as the game was supposed to be played in the real world while on a date, not around a table. Still a cool concept. It’s a bit too niche, though. A game for couples? Would that sell?

FlickWars – Jay and I both get a kick (or maybe that’s a flick) out of skillful dexterity games. We wanted to make a crazy flicking game where you’d use carroms to break down castle walls, etc. We started to prototype, but it just got difficult as neither he nor I are woodworkers. We’d have to borrow tools, ask a lot of people to help, etc. In the end, we shelved it because of the difficulty in making the physical game and now that we’ve got our dexterity fill through Junkyard, I don’t think this will see the light of day anytime soon. Besides, companies likehttp://www.uncleskunkletoys.com do a much better job at this type of game than we could ever really hope for! Seriously – take a look at that site. Those games look AWESOME!

Castle of Dr. Knizia – Another game that we actually playtested with real human beings other than ourselves or significant others (poor dears). It involved exploring a castle and going through doorways, always worried about what was on the other side – did you sneak through like a mouse, or burst through, sword drawn and ready for combat? The niftiest mechanic was how the monsters got placed in the castle. I even made these card holder things out of balsa wood to indicate which monster was represented by which chip on the board. It was one of our earliest attempts at a “gamer game” so it was clunky at best – so it got abandoned in favour of other games that we could build from the ground up, instead of having to try to strip things away and see if it still worked out. We were focused mostly on Scene of the Crime in an effort to get that in front of a publisher, so adieu, Dr. Knizia. Maybe some of your cool mechanics will be used in other games.

Contract Game – Based on the theory of lowballing to get awarded contract and then trying to fulfill it under budget, this was set in a fantasy realm where there were Giants used as cranes, Mermaids used as plumbers, etc. I still love this concept and it may be revived for an expansion to Belfort or a game set in the same world.

MMA Card Game – As a martial artist and BJJ competitor, I love mixed martial arts (MMA). As a game designer, I love card games. So I figured, I could combine the two together! It never really came of anything, because Jay wasn’t interested much, so it kind of just sat there. We generally focus our energy on games that we’re both keen on. I am currently talking to my training partner and video game designer, Tim Fields, about doing an online Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game that’s turn-based, so concepts from here could get used in that game.

Pants on Fire – A case of a title coming before a game. Honestly, that’s happened a fair bit with us! We get enthralled by a title that is evokative. And quicker than you can say “Train of Thought!”, a new game is born. Not so with Pants on Fire, however. We just never figured this one out – we wanted to make a trick taking game, but this didn’t flow. And now that there is another game with the same title, this one will probably never be completed.

Heroes – This one has kind of gone through a few conceptual changes between spies and superheroes and organized crime and zombies and other things. We have a really, really interesting concept of how to do a map-based game with no real movement. We have a “patrol zone” concept that we really like. Jay was leery of doing a superhero-based game without having access to existing licensed characters and we were investing more time into Belfort at the time. There are definitely concepts and mechanics from this game that will get another look.

And last, and definitely least…

The Dig – Ah, our albatross. This one just didn’t work. Too mathematical/procedural. It just didn’t play like it did in our heads. We wanted a game that rewarded co-operation and sharing and pooling of resources, that still had a single winner in the end. Let’s just say that this isn’t that game. This isn’t even a game – it is an exercise in frustration. We still like the theme of digging for treasures, but this will take a lot of work to get a game out of it.

Wow.

Just reviewing them makes me think very fondly of a few of them in particular and makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just make some of the ones that Jay and I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on to get them to Beta Stage and then involve Jay to do the refinement.

Essentially, that’s what happened with Akrotiri – though it was not through disinterest. Jay had the idea and it intrigued him so much that he started to work on it solo in BC and had a quick proto done in a day or two. In his making of the proto, it not only allowed me to play it and become more interested in it, it progressed the game faster and faster until it reached a solid Gamma format in very little time.

There are many times where one of us fail to be super-interested in a game until the prototype is made – and that is often the most difficult part of the process. To invest all that time, effort, and sometimes money into making a prototype that you’re not hyped about can be tough, especially when there’s all sorts of other cool ideas floating around in your head. But if one person on the team believes strongly that there’s a good game in there somewhere, maybe that person should go solo and make the proto. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, if one makes it, the other will play! And if the other plays, he may actually like it enough for both of us to invest more time and effort into developing it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years of designing games, it’s this: when in doubt, make a proto. You will find out if there’s a game to be had quicker than you will bandying ideas about in your head or online. Making the prototype is DEFINITELY the key phase in taking a game from concept to reality.

Concepts are good because they’re fluid – nothing’s written in stone. But a prototype is more hands on, more engaging, more understandable. There are visual and tactile components that, like a rug, tie everything together. People can’t play a game that only exists in your head, even if it’s the best game ever!

So, if you’ve got an idea for a game, just get to work and make a proto. What have you got to lose?