Friday, June 22, 2012


I've submitted a few games to GameSalute, and they've given me some positive feedback.  I had a great talk with Dan Yarrington today; I'm really hoping I can work with them to get my games out to a wider audience.  They seem like a really great organization for independent designers; very much like a traditional publisher in some ways (very useful ways, like playtesting, manufacturing, distribution, graphic design, etc.) but also cognizant of the modern indie game realities of Kickstarter and group funding, and willing to let designers retain input and some design control through the design and production process.  Apparently growing like gangbusters, too.

Really exciting - I hope we can make it work for some of my designs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Books vs. games

I've just finished writing the first draft of a novel - a project I've been working on off and on for seven years. Now that it's done, I've been doing what I should be doing, namely having people read it and give me feedback, and of course, doing what I should not yet be wasting time doing, namely looking into publishing options. I was struck by the similarity between the process for books and the process for games.

 For both, you have two basic options - try to get a traditional publisher to put it out, or try publishing yourself.

 The big problems with the traditional route, for both books and games, are:

  • Only a tiny fraction of games/novels get published 
  • Whether you get published or not, the path there is fraught with rejection, expense, and heartache 
  • It takes forever 

The big problems with the self-publishing route are:

  • You have to invest in printing up your book/game up front
  • You may never, ever attract an audience, so your print run and the money that you put into it will be wasted
  • Your work will be perceived as (and may well be) lesser quality than the published route, which comes with editing, consultation, and revision built in.

In both industries, there are new, inexpensive options for print-on-demand, which is awesome.  With games, there's The Game Crafter, SuperiorPOD, and others.  With books, there's Lulu, CreateSpace, and many more.  These options offer a chance to sell your books or games one at a time, so there's no big investment up front - that's a huge sea change from even ten years ago.  Unfortunately, they're also somewhat expensive, so there's not much room for a profit margin going this way.

There are two big differences, though:

  1. With books, there are now e-readers like the Kindle and Nook.  The customer already has these things.  That's great for authors, because you can send them a digital file at essentially no cost to yourself, so even at a low price, you get a good return per book.  It's good for readers, because they can get books for very low prices (after they've shelled out for the reader, that is) if they're willing to buy from indie authors and risk the chance that the book is crappy.
  2. With games, there's Kickstarter, which has become a big new funding mechanism for games.  Actually, it's really more of a pre-sale mechanism, which gets the game designer or publisher the money they need up front.  That means there's no risk of financial ruin for the designer/publisher, because they already have the money.  The risk is distributed amongst many customers, who have less money at stake and risk only that the game will suck.
So, what's the lesson here?  Two things.

First, it would be awesome if there were some kind of widely-used standardized e-game platform (like the Kindle or Nook) that you could have people buy and then distribute games to.  I know, in a lot of ways this is just a software problem - almost everybody who buys games has a computer or iPad or xBox or something, and there are boardgame implementations for all of these.  But most of those platforms aren't ideal for boardgames, and the coding is nearly all one-off, customized.  If you had a standardized platform that could handle typical game-related mechanics (large board, cards, dice, tokens, etc.), you could design a game, implement it for the platform, and distribute it to everybody who has one, for a low cost.  There are attempts to do this online - boardgame simulators, places like SpielByWeb and - but these are still web-based, and not usually something a family would sit around and do together.  There have been some efforts to do something like this (e.g. but I'm not familiar with any that have succeeded to the point of having dedicated hardware and a real boardgame feel.

Second, it would be cool to use Kickstarter for novels. A number of book projects are in fact funded via Kickstarter, but the ones I've seen usually books with very high production costs, like books of photos, or comic books, or that kind of thing.  There is a fiction section on Kickstarter, too, though, and it has some novels listed.  As a novel writer, if you knew you had sales lined up for a book, and you had the money in hand from your Kickstarter campaign, you could use that funding to support yourself while you worked on the book, allowing you to dedicate more time to it and finish faster.  You'd also cut out the commissions you have to pay, either to a traditional publisher or to Amazon and Barnes and Noble for distributing e-books.  Given that e-books are on the rise, and that printing books is pretty cheap, I think  Kickstarter is probably far less important to getting a book published than it has been to getting a game published.

Just spitballing here, but it's been an interesting thing to consider.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kickstarter for retailers

An interesting post on Kickstarter from Tao, the guy (?) running the game store Starlit Citadel, a Canadian hobby game store in Vancouver.  He describes some of the difficulties game stores have in supporting Kickstarter campaigns.  Even though he'd like to carry some of the more popular or interesting Kickstarter projects, he can't make it work financially without a fairly generous retailer package.

The only way I think it might work is if he gets a pretty good bulk discount for retailers, and then is able to keep the game in stock for longer than the game is available via Kickstarter.  But that's tricky, and maybe not realistic; I bet most Kickstarter publishers produce more than they distribute via Kickstarter, and then he's competing with direct sales (and the much better margins) with the publisher, who's got more room to discount.

I don't think his doomsday scenario will happen (all games funded via preorders through Kickstarter, which would mean that game stores essentially die).  Kickstarter folks are generally not expert in distribution (although some are) and aren't in it to sustain a long-term business (Tasty Minstrel would be a counterexample, but they're not typical).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Diggity site update - new art!

I've got the Diggity site updated including the newer art for the game.  Woo.

Diggity Review

The web is ephemeral, and that isn't always great if you're trying to build a following for a game.  I've been trying to find a nice review of Diggity that came out a couple years ago.  It was by JT at  It's no longer at the address it used to be, so I'm posting it here to preserve it.  The original is still at the Wayback Machine (now Internet Archive) here:

Diggity Review by JT of
Rating: 5/5

Diggity is a ridiculously simple game about mining. It's good for 2 to 5 players, and each game takes about 30-45 minutes if you have 2 players, though you could easily add house rules to make it shorter or longer.

The premise of the game is that each player is a miner, and you're all working the same mine to see who finds the gold first. Along the way you're trying to make patterns out of the symbols on the cards, and those patterns let you build "tools" that allow you steal other people's gold. The tools start a bidding war, which allows each player to try to outbid another player for the gold that was just discovered. I might have a shovel, which allows me to steal the gold from the player who discovered it, but then someone else might have a pulley, and still someone else has a cart. You keep playing tools until someone comes up with the ultimate trump card, a shed, or until you get to the highest tool you have.

That's really all there is to playing the game. You build out a mine, you collect tools and gold. Then you build a new mine, collect more tools and gold. However, the interactions with getting the mine pieces to fit together, while still trying to make patterns to build tools puts this game right at the top of the list of games I want to play. Because it's so easy to steal gold, you really need to be strategic about putting out pieces that give you tools so that no one wants to bid against you. This dynamic really adds a lot of strategy and viscous fun.

The rules are well written, and just as importantly, well structured. The artwork is clean, simple, and pretty. And the game is fun. It's hard to ask for more than that.

Though we don't allow games for children under 12 on The Game Crafter for legal reasons, this could easily be played by children, and would probably be a good lesson for them in building patterns out of shapes. Don't let that pull you away from the game though, as this game is easily just as fun with only adults playing it.

UPDATE: JT pointed out that the review is still present at the bottom of the Diggity listing on their site, but he said it's OK to keep the review here too. Thanks JT!