Adventures in Essen, Part 4: The Publishers

While Sen shared with you the overview of which publishers expressed interest in which games – I thought I’d expand on it a bit and give you some more details about what exactly went down!

We pitched to many publishers and while no contracts were signed and no promises made, we have a lot of exciting prospects that we’re looking forward to in the next few months.

Kosmos: They liked Swashbucklers, EIEI-O and Train of Thought. Since I had an extra copy of rules, I gave them the rules to EIEI-O. I had no idea how big Kosmos was as I only knew them as the publisher of some great 2 player games. Apparently board games are only about a third of their business with books and science kits/toys making up the rest. It would certainly be a boon to be published by Kosmos!

Update: They have the rules to EIEI-O and have emailed us to let us know that they are reviewing it. We should know in a couple months whether they are interested or not. They also asked Tasty Minstrel Games for a copy of Train of Thought to review.

Pegasus Spiel: They really liked Swashbucklers and commented that their Roll Through the Ages was successful and they could see the same success for Swashbucklers! They also liked all our party games: Train of Thought, Clunatics and Lost for Words. Pegasus is new to the party game genre with Pictomania being released this year, so they might have to wait to see if it works out for them. If it does they said that Clunatics will be a bit challenging to localize (as that game involves common North American idioms) but it’s nothing that a quick Google search couldn’t help! Pegasus is huge in Europe and would be fantastic if we could get a game in with them.

Update: I’ve sent an email to them to see if they’re interested in Lost for Words and am awaiting a response.

Huch & Friends: They liked Clunatics and would like a prototype of it. For them, Swashbucklers was too in the middle as Huch prefers games that are either lighter or heavier! They were interested in taking a look at Belfort and I’ve introduced them to Tasty Minstrel. They also were interested in Bermuda Triangle and have asked for the rules to be emailed to them. Done and done. A prototype for Clunatics has being sent off to them as well.

Update: They have received Clunatics and told us that mid-November is when they are playtesting all the submitted prototypes. They let us know that we should expect some feedback by end of November!

Quined: Quined had our prototype of Akrotiri before Essen and had played it a couple times already. They said they were still fascinated by it but had a few concerns or questions about it. Sen and I agreed with their comments and so we spent a few weeks before Essen coming up with and playtesting ideas that could improve the game. We believe we came up with a winning solution and I now love the game even more than I did before (and it was already my favourite game of ours!). Not only did it fix the issues they expressed, but it also reduced the playtime down to 60 minutes for a 4 player game! That’s gold! So I had some time with Quined and got to take them through all the changes. We didn’t really get to play it, but they at least got a verbal explanation. I left them the new prototype and will follow up in a couple months.

Update: There has been email communication since Essen, but mostly just a confirmation that they have the prototype and plan on playing it soon. I imagine their plates are quite full with the release of Alba Longa!

Queen: I also was at Essen to pitch a game from fellow Game Artisan of Canada, Matt Musselman. I had played his wine-making game, Bordeaux many times and have always liked it, so I let him know that I’d be happy to pitch it to publishers since he wasn’t going to Essen this year. Normally this would mean I’d be entering Agent status, but since Matt is a friend I told him that if he sets up the meetings, then I’ll attend them and pitch his game without worrying about being an Agent. Matt set up a meeting with Queen and Alea and Queen was my first of the meetings.
I started with the Sales Sheet – as Matt followed our advice and made up a pretty swanky Sales Sheet. After a few moments he wanted to play it so I bust it out and set it up. After one round I recommended we play one more as that would really help showcase the other aspects of the game. Once we finished that round the publisher just kept playing, so we kept playing. We were joined by another rep from the publisher and we kept playing as we explained what was happening. We ended up playing the entire game! This seemed to be very atypical to me as I had never had more than 5-10 minutes for a game! They had some concerns but were interested in checking out the game further. As an FYI – the publisher and I tied at the end, and I couldn’t remember the tie-breaker. Regardless, that’s a great way to end the game since we both had different paths to victory.

I asked if they had time to look at a game or two from me and they said they had another 15 minutes or so. I first showed them Belfort and they expressed interest in checking it out and I’ve introduced them to Tasty Minstrel Games to figure out the next steps. We played a couple rounds of Swashbucklers and they seemed to really like it with the publisher stating that it was “great.” It was funny because on the first round I rolled Cannons and attacked one of the publishers and stole his treasure, then later in the round, the other publisher rolled Swords and attacked him and stole a treasure too. I was worried that he would feel ganged up on, but he realized that he failed to defend himself and left himself open to the attacks! They were really quite enthusiastic about it! I still had some more meetings with other publishers so I said I’d be back near the end of the Fair and they said that was cool.

After evaluating all the publishers that wanted Swashbucklers, Sen and I felt that Queen would be the best fit, and it helped that they were the most enthusiastic about it as well.
When I returned to their booth on Saturday, I asked a random Queen staff member if my contact was around and he asked if I had an appointment. I said that I did yesterday and that I was here to drop off a prototype. This random rep asked me, “Is it Swashbucklers?” Imagine my surprise! How the heck did he know about Swashbucklers? He said that the guys I met told him all about it. Wow – that’s a good sign! I met up with my contacts and let them know that many publishers expressed interest in Swashbucklers but that we thought that Queen was the best fit and that we really appreciated the enthusiasm they had. They both seemed genuinely thankful that I chose to bring the game to them. I’m really excited about Queen publishing Swachbucklers! Here’s hoping that their playtest sessions go well in the next few months!

Update: We received an email from Queen stating that Swashbucklers has made it through one round of playtesting! If it makes it through the next round, then they said they will publish it!! Exciting!

Alea: Started with a Bordeaux demo as it was Matt who set up the meeting. Started with the Sales Sheet and then reviewed the gameplay by giving an overview of the mechanics with pieces I pulled out of the baggie. He was interested in checking it out further!
We had some time so I asked if he would be interested in seeing some games from Sen and I, and he said he was. I showed him Train of Thought and played a couple rounds with him. He was intrigued and he took 10 cards or so to show his colleagues. He also liked Lost for Words, Clunatics and EIEI-O and took the Sales Sheets for each with him.
After confirming which publisher Matt would prefer to hand over the prototype of Bordeaux to, he said Alea and so I returned the following day to drop it off (Tip: Always give it directly to the person you had your pitch session with and not with a random rep from the publisher. I waited 15 minutes outside the ‘office/room’ to make contact with this specific person).

Update: Got a message from Alea that said they will be testing Bordeaux further, but they weren’t interested in our other games at this time.

Jolly Thinkers: This is a new publisher in China with an interesting back story. They started as a board game café and then grew and grew. They became so popular that 4 other board game cafés opened nearby. These competitors actually used Jolly Thinkers as a distributor for the games they wanted. Now Jolly Thinkers wants to get into publishing games! Gavan Brown and I met with them as I pitched Train of Thought and Gavan pitched Jab. They were really nice people and seemed to really dig both games. We played a round of Train of Thought and then we let them play a round of Jab. After playing Jab they asked us to play it so they could watch how it’s supposed to go. I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t played in a long time. Regardless, we played and I actually beat Gavan at his own game! Wee! It was fun and I think it really showcased the game well as I was focused on combos and Gavan was focused more on haymakers. They took a copy of each with them.

Update: No real update. Waiting for email response.

Hans Im Gluck: One of the publishers that I didn’t have a specific time slot scheduled for was with Hans Im Gluck. They said in their email that they were pretty booked up but I should stop by and see if they can squeeze me in. I did stop by and we found a time to meet up. This entire pitch session was done just with Sales Sheets as the publisher preferred it that way. He liked Bordeaux, Bermuda Triangle and Swashbucklers. We would love to partner with Hans Im Gluck and so I handed over Bermuda Triangle right away and gave them sales sheets for the other two.

Update: No real update on this one yet.

Needless to say, we had an amazing Fair with regards to our publisher meetings. Each publisher we met expressed some interest in at least one of our games and that’s a good feeling. We still have a long road ahead for each of these games, but at the very least, putting a face to the name, and having a name to follow up with is a huge, huge benefit! Stay tuned to this blog for updates as we get them about any of our upcoming games.

Coming up next: Part 5 of the Adventures in Essen series in which I review all the best practices for a designer at Essen. If you’re a designer and planning to go next year – then bookmark the page so you can come back to it next year!

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 2: Attending as a Designer

If you’re a Designer and you’re at Essen, it’s for one of two reasons: You’re there to promote a game that’s launching or you’re there to pitch new games to publishers.

Matt Tolman (a fellow Game Artisan of Canada) had his game Undermining, published by Z-Man Games, launch at Essen. He had a few obligations throughout the fair, like demoing the game at the Z-Man booth multiple times and filming a video interview for BGG explaining the game. Even though Belfort just launched as well, our publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games, was not attending the Fair, so my goal at Essen was to pitch new games to publishers and make as many contacts as possible!

Planning for my trip to Essen started a few weeks before going to the actual Fair.  Sen, following our own advice as indicated in Step 17, used the Spiel ’11 GeekList on Boardgamegeek to create a database of all the publishers that might be interested in one or more of our new games.  He found out the contact information for each of them (sometimes much harder than it would seem, especially in foreign languages), prioritized which ones to contact and determined which of our prototypes should be shown to each based on their current product line or their submission guideline.

I then followed Step 18 and proceeded to email each of them explaining who I was and that I’d like to set up a meeting with them at Essen. Since this blog is all about being transparent and letting you see the entire process, here’s an example of an email I sent off to a prospective publisher:

Dear <Publisher>,

I’m going to be attending Essen this year and would like to arrange a time  to show you some of our new prototypes as noted below. Please respond with your preference.

Sen-Foong Lim and I are members of the Game Artisans of Canada and have designed Train of Thought and Belfort which have both been released this year from Tasty Minstrel Games.

We have a few games that we think would fit well with <Publisher>, and a sales sheet for each one is attached:

Bermuda Triangle: A time-travelling, pick-up and deliver, medium weight, strategy game for 2-4 players. Players program their boat’s movement using a unique mechanic in an effort to rescue more trapped explorers than the other players.


Swashbucklers
: A dice allocation game for 2-5 players. Players play pirates, rolling and assigning their dice to one of the 5 actions. Once all dice are rolled, players resolve the actions in an effort to get more boats or crew or attack each other with cannons in the sea, or with swords on land. We classify this as a medium-weight filler game.


Clunatics
: A party game for 3 or more people. Players must get any other player to guess a common phrase by providing the smallest of clues. On their own, the clues do not offer enough information, but add a couple more clues and it becomes more clear! A new twist on party games that keeps everyone involved at all times.


Lost for Words
: A word creation game that keeps everyone involved at all times with its unique 3×3 tile of letters. As one tile is flipped face up, players race to find the longest word possible in a straight line. Score is determined by subtracting the value of your word with that of the lowest valued word – so players are motivated to find any word to reduce other players’ scores! Fast and fun word finding game that can be played with 2-8 players in under 25 minutes.

We are also looking for international partners that are interested in publishing Train of Thought or Belfort outside of America. I’ll be bringing Train of Thought with me and if I receive my copy of Belfort in time then I’ll be bringing that along as well.

Thanks for your time.

I sent out about 15 emails or so to the publishers that we thought would be a good fit for the prototypes that we had to show. I got responses from most of them and we scheduled our meetings. I’d get a specific contact name, time slot and location (usually the publisher’s booth) and, after juggling a few conflicting, I had a pretty decent schedule with 4 meetings on Thursday, 4 on the Friday and 4 with publishers who said I should just stop by during the Fair at any time.

As indicated in Step 21, I packed my prototypes in individual Ziploc baggies and ensured they were clearly labeled with the game name and our contact information. I carried them in a backpack along with a folder full of 10 sales sheets for each game, as per Step 14, and an extra copy of rules for each game.  The amount of preparation we put into our pitches definitely helps make us look even more professional in the eyes of the publishers.  Many of them commented on how much they appreciated things like the Sales Sheets or how clearly everything was labeled.

I made sure to arrive before each meeting with time to spare because some publishers have multiple booths – if you go to the wrong one a few minutes before your meeting only to find that the meeting is supposed to be in another Hall, you might be out of breath for your meeting from all the running! I went up to the counter and asked a staff member if my contact was available as I had an appointment scheduled. I never had to wait more than 5 minutes and was soon escorted to a small room at the back of the booth – private and away from all of the hustle and bustle.

The publishers (or at least my contacts at the publisher – usually editors) were very nice and considerate – all of them! They all offered me something to drink and made sure I was comfortable. This was really nice as it made me feel more like an equal partner rather than someone who is begging them to publish my games. After a few pleasantries we got down to business.

Up Next: How I pitched games to publishers!

-Jay Cormier

Essen 2011 Roundup

Sorry I didn’t do up-to-the-minute updates as Jay sent me frantic encrypted e-mails letting me know what was going on at Spiel ’11.  I was pretty sick over the last few days, so it was all I could do to decode them, read them, cheer weakly, eat the paper I transcribed the message on to, and then go back to bed!

We had several prototypes to show and are also looking for European partners for co-publication of Belfort and Train of Thought.  Here’s a recap of what happened at Essen for the Bamboozle Brothers:

Jay met with:

Kosmos, who liked Swashbucklers, were interested in co-publishing ToT and took the rules for EIEIO
Pegasus, who expressed strong interest in Swashbucklers and were also interested in Clunatics, ToT, and Lost For Words (depending on how their initial venture into party games goes with Pictomania).
Huch & Friends, who want to check out Clunatics, would like the rules for Bermuda Triangle, and copies of Belfort and ToT to evaluate as European releases.
Quined, who are evaluating Akrotiri – Jay gave them the updates they requested in terms of “spicing it up” so now they are going to playtest with the new additions we’ve made
PSI, who told Jay that Belfort has been sold in Europe (English copies, of course – but it’s a start!)
Queen, who Jay met with on behalf of our friend and fellow Game Artisan, Matt Musselman, to pitch Matt’s Bordeaux to them. They enjoyed Bordeaux and then Jay had time to show them our games – they loved Belfort and requested a copy for evaluation. Jay also showed them Swashbucklers and they were very excited by it. They requested a prototype of it as soon as possible. Jay gave them the prototype immediately after the convention.
Alea liked Bordeaux as well, and this company is Matt’s first choice. There wasn’t a ton of time, so Jay was only able to show our party games to Alea. Now, you might be thinking, “Alea doesn’t do party games!” and you’d be right. But what they can do is link us up with other publishers that do! They liked ToT, Clunatics and Lost For Words and took several sell sheets for these and EIEIO as well, saying that they’d show them to their colleagues. Nothing like getting a plug from one of the most respected publishers in the biz…
Hans im Gluck, who liked Swashbucklers and Bermuda Triangle. As Swashbucklers was slated for Queen, Bermuda Triangle went home with HiG – spread the love! HiG also really liked Bordeaux – go, Matt, go! Also of note: HiG was very positive about our sell sheets, so that’s a sign that it’s something we should all have on our “to do” lists. It’s one of the last things Jay and I do, but one that we spend a lot of time on, despite it seeming so simple.
Jolly Thinkers, who are a Chinese publisher – they were interested in Train of Thought prior to Essen so we took this opportunity to meet face to face and hand over a copy for evaluation.
Jay also had a meeting with Gamewright, who currently have Jam Slam, but I’m not sure what transpired in the meeting. Jay’s probably so burnt out on games that he’s sleeping right now. 😀

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?