Monday, May 31, 2010

Cult in a bar

Played Cult at the bar with the Idiot Box folks - more geeky than Diggity, to be sure, but we managed not to totally geek up the place.  I haven't played with five people much, but it worked pretty well this time, even with three novice players.  I may have to modify the rules to allow for five officially, since it seems to work.  Huge triumphs and tragedies at the end - I went from triumph to tragedy pretty hard myself.  The final outcome was mostly luck-based, what with the cards that came up just at the right time, but I think people had fun and felt like they were affecting how it played out.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Game Review: Hacienda

I'd like to take a moment to comment on a game I've been enjoying for several years now: Hacienda, designed by Wolfgang Kramer.  The theme of the game is ranching in Argentina, and it's essentially a tile-laying, board management game with money as an additional resource.

It's a very clever, very flexible game design.  Players have a variety of different types of land and animal tiles to play and also a supply of money.  The tiles each come in a variety of types (different terrain types for land, different animal species for animals).  There are lots of ways to score - six different ways, all nicely balanced - so the game gets complicated and strategic nearly instantly.  You need to connect to markets, develop good board position, keep enough money to buy the high-scoring haciendas and water units later, and thwart your opponents' plans.

The game is played in turns, with each player getting three moves per turn.  This is a great mechanic - you can accomplish small goals easily on one turn, but if you want to set up long-term plans, you have to try to get them accomplished in pieces, and you may not have the resources to do so.

I haven't played the game in its tabletop cardboard form, only online at SpielByWeb.Com, but I've played enough that I can imagine how it would be to play it in person with cardboard bits.  The online version does a ton of work for the players, from the mundane (organizing tiles, recording moves, keeping track of money) to the more daunting (calculating scoring).  I think this is an interesting example of a game developed as a real boardgame that actually plays better online.  Not only are the construction and mechanics of the game better handled online (since it contains lots of fiddly little bits), the quantitative and rules elements are too.  Because you can actually make multiple moves in a turn, the online version works well - you have enough to do that a turn takes a bit of planning, and you're making a number of decisions in a turn rather than just one.

I think there's a fundamental distinction there between game types.  Games with fast-paced action and short turns are going to be bogged down by online play (e.g. checkers, stratego).  Games with lots of parts and time spent organizing are going to work better online (e.g. Risk, Scrabble).  For me, Hacienda is great online, and I don't know if it would be as fun in person (although you'd get to see the reactions to your moves on your foes' faces, which would be fun).

The online version at SpielByWeb also allows for custom board layouts, which makes this game (which holds up very well to a wide variety of layouts, evidence of its clever and robust design) even more fun.

Images above from Hacienda Entry at
Image at left from implementation.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rules for Mansion

Below please find my rules for Mansion, which I submitted to the BGDF monthly design showdown for May, which had a theme of "Home Improvement."  The contest rules and other entries are here.  These rules are expanded a bit from my entry - I didn't realize when making them that I was limited to 1000 words.


©2010 by Dave Dobson

For 2-4 players

Clayton McMansion, the wealthiest tycoon in town, needs a new home. He is offering a $10 million prize to the builder who constructs the most elaborate mansion, something in tasteful Italian marble.


The object of Mansion is to construct the most elaborate home. Players compete with each other for building materials and plans to construct new rooms in their mansions. They score points for adding rooms to their mansions, the more elaborate room the better. They must obey the building codes, and they earn bonuses for completing floors and creating taller mansions.

Game Components

  • 30 coin tokens
  • 30 wood tokens
  • 30 marble tokens
  • 30 plumbing tokens
  • Plans deck (80 cards, showing various rooms and staircases, the costs to build them, and the point value for completing the room or staircase)
  • 4 Bid boards
  • 4 Bid board covers
  • Turn indicator board and pawn

  • Shuffle the Plans deck and deal a hand of five cards to each player. These cards are kept secret from other players.
  • Flip the next four Plans cards face up and place them in the center of the table.
  • Place the rest of the cards in a pile face down in the center of the table.
  • Give each player 5 wood tokens, 5 marble tokens, 5 plumbing tokens. Place the remaining tokens in piles in the center of the table.
  • Place the coin tokens in a pile in the center of the table.
  • Give each player one bid board and one bid board cover.
  • Place the Turn Indicator board in the center of the table, and place the pawn on Turn 1.
  • Choose one player to go first. This player is the Starting Player.

Game Play

Game turns are broken down into two phases, the Bidding phase and the Building phase.

Bidding phase

Collect Income - At the start of the bidding phase, give each player five coins to use in the bidding. Players may also have additional coins remaining from previous turns.

Placing Bids - In the bidding phase, each player secretly places coins onto the four areas of his or her bid board (wood, marble, plumbing, and plans), with the following guidelines:
  • The player may allocate his or her coins in whatever way he or she wishes
  • The player may leave one or more areas empty
  • The player need not spend all of his or her coins; any unused coins are kept for future turns
  • When finished allocating their coins, players place their bid board covers over their bid boards to conceal their bids from the other players.
  • When all players are finished, they reveal their bids.
No Bid Means No Reward - If, in any of the four areas, players do not bid any coins, they do not take part in that area and receive no resources of that type.

Building Materials - The bids for the three building materials (wood, marble, and plumbing) are resolved as follows, depending on the number of players in the game:
  • 4 players: the top bidder gets 4 of the material, the 2nd bidder gets 3, the 3rd bidder gets 2, and the low bidder gets 1.
  • 3 players: the top bidder gets 4 of the material, the 2nd bidder gets 3, and the low bidder gets 1.
  • 2 players: the top bidder gets 4 of the material, and the low bidder gets 1.
If there is a tie, both players get the value for the tied rank, and the next lowest rank is skipped. For example, in a four player game, for marble, Alex bids 4 coins, Betty and Carlos bid 2, and Draco bids 1. Alex gets 4 marble for 1st place, Betty and Carlos each get 3 for 2nd place, and Draco gets 1 for last.

Plans - For the plans bidding, players get their pick of the four plan cards shown on the table. The highest bidder gets first choice, and the other players pick in order of their bids. In case of ties, whichever tied player is closest to the Starting Player (going clockwise around the table) picks first. These plans cards are added to the player’s hand and are now hidden from the other players.

Finishing up - When all bids are resolved and players have collected all their rewards, collect all of the coins they bid and return them to the pile of coins at the center of the table. Replace any plans cards taken by players with cards from the Plans deck, up to a total of four cards displayed in the center of the table.

Building Phase

New Construction - Beginning with the Starting Player, each player may use their building materials to build the rooms or staircases for which he or she has plans. Each plan card lists the costs for building that particular room or staircase. If the player has the resources required, he or she may pay those resources (by placing them back in the piles in the center of the table) to add that room or staircase to his or her mansion. Rooms or staircases added to the mansion are played face up in front of the player, arranged in rows according to which floor the player is working on.

Building Codes - Mansions are divided into floors. As players construct their mansions, they start from the ground floor and may add additional floors as they continue. Players must follow the following rules in constructing their mansions, with no exceptions:
  1. Each floor of a mansion may contain from three to five rooms plus a staircase.
  2. Each floor of a mansion above the first floor must contain the same number of rooms as the floor below it, not counting staircases.
  3. Floors are built from the ground up. A player may not start a second floor until the first floor is complete. Once a player adds a room to the second floor, the first floor may not be expanded with additional rooms. The same pattern is followed for additional floors – once the size of the first floor is set, the other floors must contain the same number of rooms.
  4. Each floor must contain at least one bathroom.
  5. Each floor other than the top floor must contain exactly one staircase. The top floor need not contain a staircase, but it may.
Let’s Make a Deal! - Players may not always have the building materials or plans that they need. In that case, they may trade materials, coins, or plans with other players. The terms are up to the players and must be mutually agreed and honored. Trading is restricted to resources the player currently owns – for example, "I’ll give you the next bathroom plan I draw for four wood now" is an illegal trade and is not allowed. Trades can be made at any time during the Building phase between any combination of players. Trades involving more than two players are allowed.

Finishing up - when all players have had an opportunity to build a room or staircase, the Building phase is over. Advance the Turn Indicator pawn to the next space on the board. After 20 turns, the game is over; calculate scores and determine the winner. Otherwise, continue the game by starting a new Bidding phase.

End of the Game

The game ends after 20 turns. Scores are calculated as follows:
  • Players score the points indicated on each room card and staircase card they have added to their mansion.
  • Players get a bonus of 10 points for a two-bedroom house, a bonus of 30 points for a three-bedroom house, and a bonus of 60 points for a four-bedroom house.
  • Players get a bonus of 10 points for a complete 1st floor.
  • Players get an additional bonus of 20 points for a complete 2nd floor.
  • Players get an additional bonus of 30 points for a complete 3rd floor.
  • Players get an additional bonus of 40 points for a complete 4th floor.
  • Players get an additional bonus of 50 points for a complete 5th floor.
  • There is no bonus for a partially complete floor, but the player still gets the individual room scores.
The player with the highest total score wins the game (and Clayton’s $10 million prize).

Friday, May 28, 2010


Played a game of one of my other designs, Yoggity.  I really like this game (of course, I'm biased).  I'd go for production on it, too, except it has so many more pieces than Diggity, it would be far more expensive.  It's got a board, a bunch of cards, and 21 tokens.  I may try to get it priced out just to see, but I'm guessing it would be at least $5-$6 per game even in serious bulk.  I'm planning on entering it in the Rio Grande game contest this fall, so we'll see how that goes.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chess boxing

Via BoardGameNews comes this item on chess boxing, where rounds of chess alternate with rounds of boxing. What an odd concept - deep brain exercise alternating with brain damage, both of them involving a passionate contest of will and ego.  I've been struggling to think up a comparable combination sport like this, and I don't think there is one - both chess and boxing are terribly personal, visceral pastimes.

Two things I know, though.  First, if you had to win only one side of this competition, pick boxing - I imagine it would be deeply satisfying to thrash the guy beating you in chess. Second,  it would totally suck to get the pulp pounded out of you by a guy who can also beat you in chess.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

100th post

Looks like I've rolled the odometer here, so to speak - 100 posts - so maybe time to take stock.  The project (or quest) is to get Diggity published.  I designed the game while wandering around Munich and Bavaria last October, and tested it a bunch over there.  I did art for it in November. I got my first actual version from in December thanks to my mother-in-law.  I got my first production quotes in December. I looked at other print-on-demand options in January, and continued testing and development. I started blogging here about three months ago.  I've been interviewed, I've opined, I've done investigative journalism. Seems like this project is still moving along - I've got my art proposal out to my artist, I've got a good sense of what the game's going to cost to print up, and I'm learning about the marketplace.

Still no idea if I can actually make this work, but it's been a fun ride so far.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Online board gaming

If anybody's looking for a place to play Euro-style boardgames online, I heartily recommend - they have an assortment of seven different games, all of which are enjoyable, fun, and free.  The people are generally very nice, the registration is easy, and the interface is generally quite good.  I've gone a little nuts making Hacienda maps there - that's a very clever game, and having variable maps to play makes it always fresh and interesting.

Monday, May 24, 2010

May design showdown at BGDF

I've made an entry in the BGDF Design Showdown for May.  I won last month for Drunken Strippers Ahead; I think my entry this month is a better game, although the contest parameters felt more restrictive this time, and there are more entries this time (and I think more good ones, that are complete).  We'll see how I do - the entries are all listed here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rules - now with 50% more diagrams

I spent much of today editing the rules for Diggity. I incorporated all the feedback I've received from my playtesters, including a new rules change I mentioned a couple posts ago that Christina and I have tested out several times.

The rest of the edits included drafting new images and tweaking lots and lots of sentences to make sure my meaning is clear.  I've found that diagrms are a lot easier to understand than text; a number of my playtesters have gotten basic concepts wrong, concepts that were (I thought) clearly stated in the rules.  A couple of these, like legal card placement and connections, are very easy to address with images, and that's made me think that the more pictures and the less text I use, the better.

Also, crafting the text of rules documents is very, very tricky.  You have two goals which are diametrically opposed; on the one hand, you need to be a lawyer - totally complete, covering all possible questions, leaving no unlikely scenario uncovered, so players always know what to do.  On the other hand, you want to be a poet - you want it to be fun, clever, and easy to read, with simple, clear, engaging language.  That's tricky - there's a reason lawyers don't generally write poetry, and poets don't write contract boilerplate.

Another thing I did, which is really helpful, is read the rules aloud.  This sounds dorky, and believe me, if you'd walked by my basement office door and saw me orating my game rules, you'd know that it was.  But it's a great way to get deeper into your writing, to hear your sentences differently as they come to you verbally, and to catch any grammatical or construction issues that you'd miss on a quick silent reading.  I give this advice to my students in writing-intensive classes.  I don't know if they follow it, but I've been reading out loud any work that's really important since a writing instructor first suggested the technique to me back in college.

I'll get another crack at these rules in a few weeks when I get some more playtesting feedback, and hopefully I'll be able to continue replacing text with diagrams once the new artwork comes in.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

BGDF entries are up

The May BGDF design showdown entries are up, including mine, but I obviously won't say which that is yet. Some really creative ones there - looks like people put a lot of thought into it. The average quality and completeness seems a good bit higher than last month, too.  We'll see how it goes.

My two cents worth

Blogger reports that I've now officially earned . . . two cents. In two months of daily posting.  Hey, everybody, drinks are on me!

This makes me think that ads are not going to be a major source of revenue for the future.  I've considered releasing some flash games, like Scryptix (not officially released yet, but you should be able to check it out from the link if you're on Facebook), and trying to have them ad-supported, but this makes that look not so promising.

I'm not sure how this money gets delivered to me.  I'm sure they'll send a courier over soon with my two shiny Abe Lincolns.  I'll think I'll tip him 15%.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rules tweaks

I've been trying to incorporate the feedback I got from one helpful set of playtesters for Diggity.  They seemed to like the game, but they thought there were some balance issues with how the two-player game plays out. They suggested some pretty major changes to the rules to compensate - introducing a fundamentally different way to play for the two-player game compared to the "normal" way I had designed.

After playing some more, I agree with their criticisms - the two-player game can get pretty luck-intensive, and one person can get ahead pretty fast if things get out of balance.  But I don't agree with their fix. One thing I like about the game as it is now is how simple the rules are, and changing how gold is mined would change the whole balance of the cards.

So, I tried adding a simple fix - you need to play a few cards before mining gold.  This is in line with the simplicity of the rest of the rules, and isn't hard to understand.  Initially, I said you had to have four cards played before mining; playing with my wife, it became clear pretty fast that it would be better to have an odd number, three or five, so the first opportunity to mine for gold goes to the player who didn't get gold last.

What I wasn't expecting is how strongly this small change pulled at the two-player game in other ways.  With a guaranteed delay before gold can come out, it leaves you free to play less defensively and more strategically; you end up using different aspects of the cards (shapes, connections, location on the board, etc.) for different purposes during play, and you end up thinking harder.  Also, it's much easier to get carts, since people play more circle cards, which I wasn't expecting at all.

I need to play some more, to figure out if there are any other pitfalls to this rule change, and then I need to see if I want to add this rule to the 3-4 player game.  The problem of runaway advantage doesn't happen nearly so often with 3-4 players, so I don't think the fix is needed, but it might be nice both to have consistency in the rules for all player numbers and maybe to get some of the strategic benefits this new way of playing adds.  These effects wouldn't be as strong with multi-player games, because the players don't have as much control over how the game goes, but it might still be neat.  If it doesn't hurt anything, I think I'll leave it in for everybody.

It's remarkable how such a minor change in rules, meant to solve one problem, creates so many other possibilities. This is why I love messing with game design, and why testing is so important - I'm going to end up with a much better game because of my great initial testers forcing me to look at this problem, and because of the resulting tinkering.  Neat stuff.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Games with connecting cards

Here is the mockup card for Diggity I mentioned yesterday.  The green connections are the new ones; the red the old.  Just that little shift in layout has helped a lot.

I love games with connecting cards, but it's a bit hard to pull off graphically.  One of my other games in development (really long, like decade-long development) has this too.  This is Galapagos, where the cards are body parts for creatures that are interchangeable, kind of like those children's books where you can connect different animal heads on different animal bodies, or different people heads on different uniforms.  With six different body part types, that gets confusing, and very hard to draw, especially for someone of my limited artistic abilities.

That layout difficulty may be why more games don't do this.  I saw one new release, Hagoth, the other day which has this as a part of the rules, and my interest was immediately piqued.  I may have to give this one a try.  It's got a subtle Mormon theme - something I haven't seen before - but I don't think Mormonism is at all central to the game.  It comes from a pretty active game design group in Utah, and I guess everybody designs from what they think about a lot.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When geometry matters

I've spent parts of  the last few days trying to figure out exactly how to lay out my Diggity cards.  I've got an artist who's hopefully going to work on the game, so I need to give him some good guidelines, and the layout has been bugging me a bit during playtesting.

The card layout matters, because the cards act as tiles - players need to line them up to play them properly, and they're not allowed to overlap the cards - see the picture included in this post to see how it plays out.  There's one connection spot on the short side of the card, and there can be two on the long side.  In the initial design, I put the one connection in the middle of the short side (that was obvious).  For the two connections on the long side, I put them 1/3 of the way in from each side, which also seemed obvious.

But it turns out that position leads to occasional confusion.  One of the rules is that the cards aren't allowed to overlap when played, and given the 2.5"x3.5" size of the cards,  the one-third offset actually creates somewhat frequent questions about whether cards are overlapping or not.  The 1/3 offset looks nice; it's a natural ratio.  But shifting the connection points just a hair towards the outside seems to help a lot. It's a tiny shift - about 0.07 inches - but it makes a big difference in how the cards connect, and it doesn't change the look too much.

This seems crazily specific, but it's something that playtesting has really helped with.  Not blind playtesting, which is great for rules clarity but might miss this kind of thing.  What I needed here was to play my own game a bunch with other people and watch how they play and interact with the components.  Can't take any shortcuts, it seems.

UPDATE: It appears I'm not alone in sweating the small stuff

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Paper Money show

My interview on Paper Money over at Purple Pawn is up!  It was fun to do - a little nervewracking to re-listen to myself now.  I had a good time talking to Ben and Rett, and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Rio Grande game design contest

Here's another game design contest, sponsored by Rio Grande games.  The contest looks really neat; unlike many others, there's no entry fee.  The fees, which can sometimes be pretty high, are usually designed to weed out the clueless and uncommitted, but this contest gets around this problem by imposing a kind of  "regionals" aspect.  To get to the final round, which happens at the CHI-TAG (Chicago Toy and Game Fair) convention in November, you have to make it through an internal competition from a local game-design group, which they call a Hosting Committee.  They're limiting the input to ten hosting committees, which means at the finals, they won't have so many games to work through.  They've given pretty clear guidelines for judging for the regionals, too.

The only problem I see with it, is that it could be a bit tricky to get access to these regional groups.  There are a limited number of them, and they're not evenly geographically distributed or the same size, so you're not necessarily going to be able to get easy access to them.  If you do, you won't have the same odds at each one.

But that's a quibble. This is a neat contest with real results - Rio Grande actually published a couple of the finalists last year.  And they've made it as open as they can without going the route of charging fees, which I appreciate.

I've found a group in Tennessee that's accepting submissions - GameCon Memphis. They run October 1-3, and they're in Memphis, which is about as far as you can get from North Carolina and still be in Tennessee.  The event looks neat, and would probably be well worth my time even without the contest, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get out there during the school year (my teaching schedule is sometimes tight).  I'll happily send them a copy of one of my games to enter in the contest. If I somehow made it through to the finals, I'd have to get to Chicago in person in late November, but I can probably make that work.

Looks like a neat opportunity! I wish there were more of these kinds of things.

P.S. - I've written a few posts on various game design contests before - see here if you're interested.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The importance of theme, or how to choose an audience

Following up on yet another topic from my Paper Money discussion, it's interesting that the uber-gamers I've played with have usually been more excited about my game Cult than with what I think is my more mainstream game, Diggity. Whenever I bring both to my weekly Guilford game-playing group, among people who've tried neither, Cult usually gets people the most excited. That's always been interesting to me - I think of Diggity as an easier-to-learn, quicker-to-play, far-less-luck-intensive game, but among the gamer set, Cult is more appealing, at least for a first try.  I guess the premise of running your own cult and stealing followers from others is maybe a more gamer-y thing.  I've certainly built more humor into the cards, with silly stuff you can base your cult around, and cards that are called funny things and have quirky powers.

I enjoy both games a lot.  I think Diggity is the "better" one - more replay value, more strategic depth, less luck.  But the theme seems to be less of a draw to people who are dedicated gamers.  So, I'm left with several questions:

  • Would the theme of Cult also be more appealing to a non-gamer audience? I'm not sure. People are sometimes squishy about religious topics. The mechanics, with lots of cards with lots of words and a more complex system of turns, are harder to learn.
  • Would Diggity be more appealing if I re-themed it to something quirkier, or more geek-friendly? Maybe, but I don't think so. The mining theme actually fits the mechanics pretty well, which is why I picked it; I suppose I could come up with something else that tried to connect the card-linking and part-building aspects, but I don't know what that would be.
  • Which is the better one to market? This is a real toughie. If Diggity appeals more to non-gamers, then that's a bigger potential audience. But if Cult appeals more to gamers, I need to keep in mind they're proven game buyers. Then it becomes a numbers game - a bigger audience, or a more responsive one - and I don't really know enough to answer that. Maybe if I get to the point where I have both games in release, I'll be able to; at this point, I can't.
So, I'm betting on Diggity for now.  Part of that is that it's cheaper and easier to produce - fewer cards, shorter rules, and no tokens required. I'd love to see Cult with better art in general release, too. We'll see how I do.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

NDA? No way.

On the Paper Money broadcast, the topic of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) came up.  I think Ben brought it up in jest, and I responded to the topic.  The behavior in question here is the reluctance on the part of many newbie game designers to share what they've made with others.  In the most egregious cases, this manifests as something like expecting a game publisher to sign an NDA before even looking at a game design for potential publication. In less acute forms, it's refusing to post an idea, or to offer your game for playtesting, for fear of idea theft.

Are there individual cases where game designs have actually been stolen, submitted by the thieves, and published? Yeah, there are probably a few, although most of them are of the "I knew this guy who knew a guy..." unverifiable variety, and the others are often cases where somebody saw an idea, modified it, and came up with a better way to implement it. In my life, I know a guy whose mother (the story goes) invented Monopoly, and the idea was copied by a guest (Mr. Darrow) and sold to Parker Brothers. But even that story doesn't line up with other versions of history. My own uncle was convinced that his idea for a train game had been stolen by a company he submitted it to, but without knowing the details it's hard to evaluate.

But even if you're swayed by this kind of story, going into full paranoia mode isn't warranted, I think.  Here's why:
  • Your game idea isn't that good.  The odds that you have come up with a game even worth stealing are tiny.  It probably sucks, at least in its current form.  If you don't show it to anybody, it will continue to suck, alone, in the darkness.
  • Even if your game is good, your game idea isn't unique.  There are probably fifteen other people who've come up with a similar idea, so it can't really even be stolen from you. There aren't that many ways to get people to interact in a traditional game sense, so there aren't that many possible game designs.
  • Even if your idea is unique, your mechanics can't be protected. There's no way to copyright or trademark a game mechanic or theme.  I'm not a lawyer, but the rules are pretty simple to understand.  You can copyright text, artwork, and some elements of graphic design (these are easy to protect; it's nearly automatic as soon as you create it).  You can trademark words and artwork (these are significantly harder to protect). You can patent an actual physical invention or a method of doing something, but most boardgame patents are frivolous, over-broad, or end up being unpatentable.
  • Even if your game is good, your idea unique, and your concept somehow protectable, the odds that you'll get published are minuscule. And forcing somebody to sign an NDA before even looking at the thing almost guarantees that you'll not even get looked at.
So, there's no real benefit to being so paranoid. Your game will get better if you show it to other people. You'll get feedback; you'll see it in action; you'll get to make changes; you'll get it out there to be considered by the world. Smarter people than you will tell you what's wrong and how to fix it. You'll see people trip over obstacles that you never imagined were problems. And ideally, you'll have the joy of seeing your work appreciated by others.

So, I'm going for the full disclosure strategy.  I've had my game rules published on the web for six months now, so if anybody were to copy anything, it would be obvious where it came from. And because of this, and because of sharing the game with anybody who's willing to try it, I've had the benefit of feedback, commentary, and discussion. The world can be a nasty, backbiting place, but I haven't found the game design community to be so. I guess I'd rather take part in it and learn from it than hide behind the door with a shotgun.

UPDATE: Since writing this, I've run across this fine article by Shannon Applecline which addresses many of the same issues, with case studies.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Getting printing quotes

In my interview(s) with the Paper Money guys, I mentioned (as I have on the blog here) that I've had some trouble getting quotes back from printers - slow responses, or no response, in many cases.  My memory is already fuzzy, but I think this was in the first interview, which didn't get recorded, so I'll share it here. Ben responded with some interesting information - he estimated that only 10% of requests for quotes actually turn into printing orders (I would have guessed a much lower percentage, by the way), and that doing a quote can take 3-5 days of work, including waiting for estimates from different parts of the production run. So, that confirms my suspicions - some of the slow response or non-response probably comes from the fact that most of their efforts are wasted anyway.

Heck, I've gotten ten quotes from seven different companies, so I'm already nearing that 10% response level.  No wonder they're not talking to me.  Except that I'm the guy who will send one of them a big check, so you'd think they'd at least give me the time of day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Game printing costs

So, I mentioned earlier that Imagigrafx is no longer printing games. I had sought bids from them to produce my game, Diggity. The final product here would consist of about 100 cards, a rule sheet, and a box.

My first instinct was to treat these as confidential, for two reasons. One is, it's kind of unfair to Imagigrafx to publish their bids, because they're a competitive business, and it would let all their competitors know immediately what they're charging and how to undercut them. The second one is similar, but for my business; publishing this information might let potential customers of mine (or distributors, or whatever) know what my costs of production are like, and then use that knowledge to shape their pricing and purchasing decisions.

But I've moved on to my second instinct. My first reservation above, preserving trust with the printer, is not important now. The bids I've received from Imagigrafx are never going to be honored, so it's not hurting them to share the info with the public here. Just to be sure, I asked permission from the source of the quotes, Ben Clark, formerly the games contact at Imagigrafx, now co-host of Paper Money, and he graciously approved. As for my second reservation, keeping my production info private, there's still some concern there, I guess, but the point of this blog is primarily to be useful to my fellow game designers, and I think what I'm learning would be pretty helpful.

So, here's a summary (not the nitty-gritty) of the bids I got from Imagigrafx. They were an American printing company; I found their prices mostly competitive with other printers I consulted, and I was strongly considering going with them to avoid the hassle and uncertainty of working overseas. As for the information here, Ben had some caveats about using these quotes as representative of U.S. printing costs. Prior to exiting the business, Imagigrafx had increased some prices on shorter print runs, and that may have pushed them above other competing printers. This is especially true for the card printing costs; apparently, there was a mandate from higher up in the company to increase card printing prices.

There are three columns here representing three different ways to produce the game. The first is the path I'd like to pursue - a larger two-piece box with a cardboard platform insert, with a cut-out hole where the deck of cards sits. The second and third columns are for one-piece tuckboxes. The second column would have the cards split into two stacks side by side. The third column is the cheapest, and has a single, thick, 100 card stack. For more discussion on these different box types, see here.

The top table shows the fixed setup costs (costs to make cutting dies and deliver proofs), marked in yellow, and then the per-game printing costs. The middle table shows the size of the actual check I'd be writing, or nearly so - there would be shipping costs too. The bottom table shows the final cost of goods - my cost per printed game. It's the first table with the setup costs worked into the per-game cost.

Here's that third table graphed up - you can see there's a huge price drop (about 40%) between 1000 and 2500 games, and another big drop (another 15% or so) between 2500 and 5000. Not so big a change between 5000 and 10000.

Remember that if you're relying on distributors, you're going to be getting only 35-40% of retail for your games, and you have a bunch of costs other than production costs. The wise sages of the industry recommend that your costs be 15%-25% of retail. So, a game you can produce for, say, $3.50 has to retail for $14-24 to fit the industry viability model, and a price at the upper end of that range would be hard for something like Diggity to bring in. I talked more on those economics in my earlier post here.

I hope this helps - the numbers are somewhat sobering, but you need to be informed to make good decisions.

UPDATE: To be clear, the prices above are for the whole game, including cards, rule sheet, box, and a cardboard insert in the case of the setup box.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MWGames on

Matt Worden has a post reviewing, where I have so far published my games. His thoughts run mostly where mine do (see here and here).  I have been less troubled by the lack of sturdy gameboards than other TGC users - I've printed up a couple of games that use boards (Galapagos and Yoggity, not released to the public yet), and the 10x16 boards they provide have been perfectly fine.  I agree about the boxes they use; if they could find a way to add some standard chipboard setup boxes, maybe with a sticker label or insert, then they'd pretty much have achieved everything you'd need for true print-on-demand game manufacturing.  As it stands now, all the components are great, but the box issue (petty and non-essential as that part of it seems) leaves a pretty big hole in terms of professional appearance.

However, it seems a little punky to get hung up on this, when the rest of the operation is so flexible, so complete, and so well-run.  I'd still recommend it to anybody.

Matt Drake doesn't seem so happy with TGC printing and components, speaking as a consumer rather than a publisher.  I haven't had the problems he describes with the cards not shuffling well (at least after they're broken in a little), so maybe he had a different experience or different standards.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Diggity - an official pub game?

I played Diggity with some friends in a moderately hipster bar (or what passes for one in Greensboro, NC) the other night.  I don't know if that makes Diggity more cool, or the bar less so. The bartender (a friend) said he'd have thrown us out if it were Magic: The Gathering, so that's something at least.  There was beer, but no pretzels, if that matters.

I learned that same night that the game had also been played in a marathon session at a local CiCi's Pizza, an all-you-can-eat chain pizza place frequented by families and kids.  That probably balances the coolness factor out, I'm guessing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Card games - addicting?

I had a chance to play Diggity with my long-time friend Jeff the other day.  We played a couple of games that I won pretty easily.  I got better cards than he did in at least one of the games, but I think my success was mostly due to having played before. This confirmed my opinion that it takes a few plays to figure out what good strategies are in Diggity, which is neat - the game seems fairly simple at first glance, but I think there's more to it once you've played a few games to see how it goes.

Jeff (who's incidentally running for congress in Virgina) also fell pretty hard for my computer game, Snood, a number of years ago, and he commented that he found Diggity, like Snood, addicting.  I know people got addicted to Snood - they wrote to tell me about it, and I've been there myself, playing game after game past 2:00 a.m., either because I have something else I'm supposed to be doing, or because going to sleep seems so mundane.  I hadn't thought about card or board games in that way, though.  For one thing, you need a partner to play, so you can't be addicted the same way.  But I've had games I've played over and over - e.g. Lord of the Rings, and Egyptian Ratscrew - that I certainly was essentially addicted to.

If Diggity can do that for more folks than just Jeff, I'll be pretty happy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Paper Money interview

I just finished recording an interview about independent game publishing with Rett Kipp and Ben Clark for their Paper Money podcast hosted on the Purple Pawn.  Actually, I did it twice - the first one didn't get recorded, so it goes down as a fun discussion lost to history.  The second new-and-improved (and more importantly, recorded) interview should show up on their site late this week.

Nontraditional (to say the least) game startup funding

I've been talking about how people deal with what I've been calling the Big Bet - that big initial investment required to get a game printed, before you know whether it will sell or how it will do.

Here's an example of somebody running into this issue, and then responding with a . . . lottery of some sort?  Delivered as some kind of chain-letter spam?  I wouldn't have thought this was legal, and it doesn't come with all of the usual legalese that comes with contests, like family members of employees aren't allowed to participate, odds of winning are XXX, etc.

This thing seems kind of off to me somehow, although the website has pretty complex flash design, and the whois record points to somebody with a matching name on a e-mail address, which lends an air of professionalism and sincerity, if nothing else. There's no detailed description of what the game's like, but it sounds pretty basic and potentially fun.

If this is legitimate, I doubt they'll raise much money, probably not enough to cover the $1,000 they offer in prizes.  But what do I know?  I guess people hold raffles at churches and school carnivals all the time without worrying about the legal aspects.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Starting a game company with multiple products

Listening to the last Paper Money podcast, where Ben and Rett talked about Jackson Pope closing up Reiver Games, I noticed they'd said one of the things he'd done right was starting up with multiple titles. They said this gives the company a bump in status over other startups. Specifically, they indicated that having more than one product will make distributors take you more seriously. Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel Games has mentioned that as part of his strategy too, at his blog.

This seems on the surface like good advice. In the six months or so that I've been exploring this in detail, and in the years that I've been observing from more of a distance, I've seen that there are lots of individuals who pay to produce a single game - they'll make the big bet, invest a pile of money, print up some games, and see what happens. A few of these games are great; of the great ones, some go on to sell well, and a fraction lead to the best possible outcome, the jackpot - they serve to launch a new game company, or they get picked up by a major company and distributed widely. But that's just a fraction of a tiny few. Most of these self-published games are pretty crappy - essentially vanity projects that nobody is going to buy, put out on the market with no research and no real understanding of what makes a good game or how the industry works.

The Purple Pawn even has an acronym for this kind of venture, the SGGC, or single-game game company. On their Terminology page, they define it thusly:
sggc: Single-game game company. Most companies never get beyond this stage, even if they have grandiose plans to do so.
So, starting a company as a SGGC puts you in a pretty questionable category - you're in there with all those hopeless naifs who have more money than sense and have deluded themselves into thinking they have what it takes to make a game, and that their product doesn't suck, and that people will actually like it.

Let's suppose (and this is a pretty big supposition) that I'm actually not one of these naifs. Whether that's true is yet to be determined, but let's suppose anyway. In that case, if I start as a SGGC, anything I try to do in marketing my game could well be hindered by the fact that everybody else like me is an idiot with nothing but a crappy product and dollar signs in their eyes. Distributors and retailers (and even customers) are faced with lots of products from companies indistinguishable from mine, and most of them are useless, a complete waste of time.

What Ben and Rett and Michael say is that having a second product (or a third, or fourth), like Jackson did, lifts you out of this cesspool of incompetence and false hope, and demonstrates to distributors and retailers that you're serious. I can see the logic here. With multiple products, you can demonstrate that you've actually got a commitment and a plan, and that you're not in that category of one-shot losers. You gain real stature. Also, you can leverage your products - if somebody likes one of them, they're far more likely to try another game from your company; you can market all your games at the same time in the same ads; you can do package deals - you actually have the beginnings of a real product line.

But what are the challenges and costs to this approach, especially as a start-up? Well, for one thing, you have to have a second great game. That's harder than it sounds. And you have to go through all the production hurdles to get that second game designed, with art, printed, shipped, and manufactured, before you've even tried getting your first game sold.

Most importantly, this approach requires you to make the big bet - the giant initial investment in manufacturing - twice before seeing if you have a prayer at making it work. I've talked about the high costs and terrible margins of game manufacturing here, and the difficulties of making it work as a start-up here. Doing a start-up with two or more games means you're doubling all that risk, for a venture in which you have little experience, with a small hope of paying off anyway.

My gut feeling is that even if you've got multiple good designs and (more importantly) enough money to print a couple games at once, starting as a SGGC is probably a better bet. The increase in stature you get from having a second game out is not lost forever; you can always publish a second game, and you're free to capitalize on the benefits of that later. If, on the other hand, it turns out you're horrible at this, or your games suck, or you've been completely self-delusional about the whole thing, then you've saved yourself half the money you would have blown.

It's a tough question, though, and it hinges on some unknowables - how big a benefit is the increase in stature compared to the costs - and some big variables - how marketable your game actually is. From what I've seen, though, launching a game company start-up is a low-return, high-risk bet, so doubling down at the outset seems foolhardy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Imagigrafx bites the dust as a game manufacturer, ctd.

At Paper Money, Ben and Rett comment on the downfall of Imagigrafx game manufacturing and on Reiver games, giving some of the backstory to Imagigrafx and their game printing group. Interesting stuff - apparently Imagigrafx also printed many other products (e.g. soup labels), but had a group that was dedicated to and excited about game manufacturing.  Ben indicates there are 5-6 other companies that manufacture games in small runs in the U.S., but doesn't list them - I wish he had.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Luck vs. Fun

Carrying on from my previous discussion here and here, I thought I'd try for a rudimentary analysis of the luck factor in games.  So, I chose a bunch of popular games, estimated (roughly) the percent of a game's outcome determined by luck rather than skill, then looked up the game's rating on  I graphed these up, and found some things I expected to, namely:

  • There's a distinct drop in rating at the high-luck end of the scale, indicating that players don't much like games they don't have control over.
  • The ratings are split for games at the low-luck end of things; complex games are rated relatively high, while simple games (checkers in this case) are rated low.
  • It looks like there's a sweet spot somewhere around 25-50% luck-determined where you could maximize enjoyment, but there are few games which fall in this neighborhood
Is this a cheesy exercise?  Yes.  Are my ratings arbitrary?  Pretty much.  Do I need more data?  Yes, particularly at the lower luck levels.  Is there a sampling bias among BGG raters? Totally; my guess is they are looking for less luck in a game than the average person.

And there are many more variables to consider - complexity, theme, ease and enjoyment of play mechanics, fun, etc.  But I think it gets at something fundamental in game design, too.  People want their decisions to matter, probably the most, but they enjoy a bit of chance in determining the outcome.

I may try to set this up as a survey-style thing, to let people add more games and to rate them themselves. That would help to remove my particular bias from the data.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Small World for iPad

Brett over at BrettSpiel has a detailed review of the game Small World implemented for iPad.  I'd discussed the iPad as a game platform earlier here and here.  I haven't played this game yet, either in its traditional cardboard form or on the iPad, although it's been highly recommended by my brother and others.  It sounds like they've done a pretty good job of implementing it, and that it's a good match for a computer-based platform (e.g. little hidden info, not much luck, benefits from the graphics, animations, sounds, and computational power).  I'd be curious to have a look for myself.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More on luck

I recently posted on the idea of randomness in games, and I confessed to being one who likes a little luck in the mix.  I think serious game hobbyists tend to frown on such things - the term "Ameritrash" in reference to luck-heavy games is inherently pejorative - but I think that's silly.

A game with no luck involved isn't really a game.  It's difficult to think of anything (other than a direct physical contest) that would even qualify as a game with no luck - you're reduced to something like arm wrestling, the 100 meter dash, or weightlifting.  But even those activities have some luck - the fastest runner might trip, or the strongest lifter's pants might rip at an inopportune moment.  OK, but suppose we have a game that's entirely devoid of luck - is it any fun at all?  Only if the activity itself is fun, and even then, it can be a stretch.

Chess is often cited as the end-member of luckless games.  Of course, there's still technically luck - the chance that an opponent might not see a move, or fail to predict a board setting seven moves ahead.  I suppose at the lofty heights of the grandmasters, this becomes less common, but a human mind can only contain and foretell so much, so there's still the element of luck - you need your opponent to fail before you do, and when that happens is not all under your control.  But there's no built-in randomness, so the luck factor is minimized.

Tic Tac Toe is actually parallel to chess in this regard; it's just simplified.  Unlike chess, where the variety of moves and outcomes complicates gameplay, there's always a best move in Tic Tac Toe, and it's trivial to figure out what that is.  So, there's no luck at all.  Except that the only way to win is when somebody screws up and doesn't make that best move, and you have to be lucky for that to happen.  But nobody wants to play Tic Tac Toe once they've mastered it. I'd argue that's because the element of chance is gone from it.  Imagine a Tic Tac Toe variant where you flip a coin before moving, and you only get to make a move if you flip heads - a much more interesting game, with more replay value, although largely luck-based at that point.

Let's look at the other end member - 100% random luck.  The coin flip, or high card cut, or a slot machine, or a lottery ticket.  There's no element of skill at all (although like the luck in arm wrestling, I suppose there could be a tiny bit of skill at the margins, if you're a good card shark or die roller or coin flipper).  All of these pure luck games are totally boring, and not really games at all.  They're not worth playing, because they're pointless.  They only work if there's something else interesting going on - money riding on the outcome, or perhaps another kind of stakes - spin the bottle, anyone?

So, if luck in games is a spectrum from none to all, where none is Tic Tac Toe and all is a coin flip, then both end-members are trivial and uninteresting, and the only fun place lies in between.  Contests like arm wrestling, chess, and darts may be out on another dimension entirely - where skill is involved, and the fun comes in proving yourself more skillful than the other players.

In boardgame design, then, there's a sweet spot, although exactly where it is will vary for different folks. Enough skill that skill determines the outcome most of the time, but enough luck that a less skilled player has a shot at winning.  It's tricky to find that spot, but the best games leverage luck against skill to create something better than either alone.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Kickstarter info

I got a response back from another Kickstarter-funded project, the game Inevitable designed by Jeremy Bushnell and Jonathan A. Leistiko. Like my earlier post on Jim Taylor's Gentlemen of the South Sandwiche Islands project, I asked Jeremy what his results had been, and what percentage of his donors were known to him. My guess was that most of the Kickstarter donors were going to be friends and family or other folks connected to the project authors. In the case of Jeremy's Inevitable Kickstarter project, it looks like it's more like 50-50. Here's what Jeremy said:
In terms of the percentile mix that you're asking about: I have a pretty supportive social network, and a number of the contributions were from that group. We have one $500 backer who is a friend, and another $150 backer who is also a friend.   But our largest contributor -- offering $700 -- was a stranger to me.
A lot of the continued support we've been getting has been from strangers-- people who I assume found us through the Kickstarter page. The site has a good buzz on it right now, and a lot of people really are visiting it just because they want to find good projects. I haven't crunched the numbers on this, but I'd say that around 50% of the contributors are people who neither Jon nor I know personally, and when all is said and done we will definitely have gotten more money from strangers than from friends (the $700 donation from our mystery donor certainly helps to tip the scale that way).
Our $75 price point is far and away the most popular among strangers. It effectively works as a pre-order for people, with a few extras. (People are open to paying $50 for a game, and so getting your name in the credits and a feeling of good will for an extra $25 seems attractive to people.)
Like other projects, they've structured the Kickstarter project in tiers. The lower tiers provide low-cost rewards, like buttons and PDF versions of the game. To get a copy of the actual printed game, you have to put in $75. Roughly half of their funding is from that level, with the other half from three big donors (one at $350+, two at $500+).

They're doing a very small print run (100 games), so the relatively high donation level to get a game probably reflects the higher printing costs to make such a small print run. Their game is complex and has a lot of components, so I'd bet the printing and parts costs take up the majority of the $75 donation, depending on the quality of the board and packaging they use.

This makes Kickstarter look more promising as a way to whittle away at the huge start-up cost for printing games.  It's more suited to small production runs, like this one and Gentlemen, than to something larger, like starting a business, but most indie designs probably won't sell that many.  The PDF version of Inevitable also offers a low-cost, high profit-margin alternative for marketing the game, and the Kickstarter funds probably allow them more latitude when funding artwork and design.

Neat stuff to consider. My thanks to Jeremy for responding to my questions.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Imagigrafx no longer making games

I have it from an informed source that Imagigrafx, a game printer in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was recently purchased by GH Packaging, and this parent company is not interested in printing and manufacturing games.  This is a bummer; prior to the purchase, they were one of the few printers in the US who were able to give competitive pricing for small-print-run (1000-10,000) game production.  I was strongly considering them for my first project.  Now I'll have to look elsewhere.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My financial future is secure!

Well, that's a relief:

Gentlemen of the South Sandwiche Islands and Kickstarter funding

I've discussed James Taylor's game, Gentlemen of the South Sandwiche Islands, and his funding model, via, in previous posts here and here. The quick summary is that James has used Kickstarter to amass nearly $9,000 toward production costs for his game, mostly in the form of pre-orders. He's pledged to print 500 copies, so he's raised just under $18 per copy - a reasonable price-per-copy for a small production run of a game without too many parts. You have to pledge at least $26 to get a copy of the game, so there's probably at least a small profit margin in there at that price point. Furthermore, he's raised the money via 141 pre-orders, so he'll have the opportunity to try to sell the remaining 359 copies he prints entirely for profit. With those numbers, this looks like a viable way to take the huge personal financial risk out of self-publishing a small print run of a game.

This is a model that I've now seen used on Kickstarter a couple more times, although most successfully with this game. In looking at this, my guess, stated in my last post, was that Kickstarter isn't a magical source of startup capital from strangers - instead, most of the funds raised are actually from relatives or friends of the authors.  But I didn't know.  So, I figured instead of just guessing, I'd ask, and James was gracious enough to reply. (Holy cow, I suddenly become an actual journalist!) He says:
"I would say I knew about 70% of the people who bought a copy of my game through Kickstarter. Some people think they can put a game on kickstarter and just wait for the masses of strangers on the internet to fund it, but that's not the way it works. Kickstarter even describes itself as a way to pool your own social network in order to raise funds."
So, there you have it. You're not going to magically produce money from places like Kickstarter - in some ways, it's kind of like a Tupperware-party hit-up-your-friends model, although more techno and less guilt-laden. What it does provide is a place to organize and raise startup capital, mostly from sympathetic friends and acquaintances (some of whom will probably get their copy of the game, play it once, and then put it on a shelf). Because you specify a minimum amount to reach before actually charging anybody, you actually place a bet on your game and gauge interest (and simultaneously find out how many friends you have).

If you're interested in the Gentleman game, there's an interview with Jim about the game here, and a commentary by one of his professors, Henry Jenkins, here. It looks pretty clever - a simple concept, but a really fun theme.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Four Principles of Independent Game Publishing

Jackson Pope over at Reiver Games has a sad post here where he says he's going to have to shut down his company for economic reasons. He's been hinting at this for a couple months; I looked at what I could figure out about the economics of his venture here.

He's in a situation I imagine myself being in in a couple years. He's got piles of games in storage, and they're not selling very quickly. He's got another game in the works, and was at the point of making the big bet - the big initial investment to get it printed, in this case £15,000, or $23,000. He's made that bet three times, and from his earlier posts, it sounds like the bets have actually paid off, albeit barely. But (a big but, I cannot lie) he's not making any money to support himself, and he's got ongoing expenses (storage, loan payments) that have to be paid. So, he's not willing to ante up a fourth time - a reasonable decision. You have to know when to fold 'em.

In this recent post, he says the value of his stock (games on hand) is actually equal to the amount of money he's invested in the company so far. The value he uses here is the printing cost, so even if he sells at a deep discount, he gets his initial money back, assuming he can sell out at a discounted cost-of-goods price. That's breaking even - actually an acceptable place to be for most independent game designers/publishers who aren't trying to make a career of it, as Jackson has, but it's a place they're not likely to reach, since Jackson's already done a bunch of this right - good designs, reasonable production costs, a network of distributors, going to the trade shows. Any one of those things is easy for an indie publisher to mess up, and then they wouldn't even be where Jackson is, barely breaking even.

What's the lesson here? There are several; take your pick. I've ordered them on a scale of diminishing practicality (and increasing insanity):
  1. Don't ever get into this loser of a business - find another job. Resign yourself to crushed dreams.
  2. Try only to get your designs published by an existing company - that way, somebody else is placing the big bet, on you, with their money. Resign yourself to hours of work in pursuit of almost-guaranteed disappointment. Often functionally equivalent to #1, but with a bunch of futile labor and postage.
  3. Publish through a print-on-demand service. Resign yourself to obscurity, tiny profits, and single-digit sales.
  4. Go it alone, as Jackson did, and resign yourself to hours of work, losing money, obscurity and tiny profits, and then crushed dreams - all the above on one easy package.
I'm considering doing #4, which probably certifies me for institutionalization, but I'm going in with several major caveats learned from Jackson's experience and from the rest of my life. Let's be grandiose here and call these The Four Principles of Independent Game Publishing:
  • Don't borrow money - this is probably going to be a really bad investment; only do it with the part of your own money you can afford to set on fire.
  • Have another job - you're not going to support yourself with this; destroy any hope of doing so before going in. You won't make rational decisions otherwise.
  • Minimize ongoing expenses - these are things like web hosting, storage, salary - you can't get these to zero, but a web site can be $50 a year, and you can store stuff in your kitchen, closet, or basement and do the work in your spare time.
  • Be willing to give up - that's where Jackson is; and he's clear-eyed enough to get out while he's avoiding a loss - and realize that you will need to give up at some point.
Depressing, eh? But if you can do all four of those things, I think you can still have a good experience with it. My goal is less to make money and more to get my designs in print, which isn't likely to happen any other way. The business end of it will either work or it won't; I'll learn from that while not counting on it for food and rent. I used the same approach to my shareware company, which had, at least initially, the advantage of nearly no overhead costs.  But at the start, I got it going by following all four of the principles above. Luckily, it succeeded; if it had failed, I'd still have been employed and living a good life.

We'll see if I can make this work too.  Best wishes to Jackson Pope - he's at least been able to live the dream for a while, which is more than most of us can say.