Shirts and tanks

Earlier this year I spent some cash on getting some towels, keyrings and promo tanktops made and it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had outside of playing games in a long while.

From the time spent working out what designs to put onto merchandise, to then making the order, potentially going backwards and forwards with the printers about the files to finally having them arrive, I think it’s a pretty cool thing to have done.

Certainly I feel that this experience has prepared me a little for some of the printing challenges that lay ahead when it comes to printing games with the manufacturers. Getting used to generating print files in the right resolution with the right colour mode is something that you just need to go through to really understand what it’s all about.

The promotional tanktops I made previously were completely focused on the Kickstarter campaign, with QR codes and KS information printed clearly on them; but that meant that they weren’t really ok for the public.

Teaming up with Printify I’ve created a whole series of new Tshirts and Tanks featuring the original artwork we’re creating that will be on the visitor cards in the game. While doing print to order shirts is not quite as satisfying as getting shiploads delivered, it not only saves money in stock, but also saves me from having to find storage space in my apartment that ran out of storage space some time ago.

I really like how these look and I can’t wait to start looking at some of the other merch options available to see what else might look fantastic with a Wanna Play logo and a cheeky sauna visitor plastered all over it.

Check out the store on this site to see the full collection available!

Morning in public

You wake up with a huge smile on your face, despite the alarm clock buzzing at that hideous repetitive tone that seems to somehow touch your soul; or is it that you’ve just woken up and are still a bit sleepy? You ponder that for a second while scratching yourself. 

“Good morning me” you say to yourself, while searching around for a pair of shorts to cover your naked body. Finding a really comfortable blue pair of jogging shorts, you jump into them and descend the stairs to refuel. 

Your apartment is small, there’s no denying it. It’s not like you can’t afford a bigger place – not a huge amount bigger, but bigger nonetheless. There is just something about your place that makes you happy and content. It’s self-contained and has everything you need in it. You know someday you’ll need to move out. After all it’s not big enough for 2 people, but for now it’s home and you’re quite happy to keep it like that. 

Making your way through into the kitchen you pop the kettle on, drink a glass of water, eat a banana, pee (and wash your hands), turn your laptop on, check your phone messages – none, make a cup of tea, light a cigarette and read through your emails. 

“Perfect start to the day” you mutter after seeing only 9 new emails and spotting that none would contain anything resembling important information. That gave you the chance to delete them all, close the laptop and do some exercises. 

“One, one, two, two…” you count through bicep curls with two 10kg weights, in a really half-hearted attempt to attain the perfect physique. This is just one of the exercises you do on a regular basis – not every day, but regularly enough to keep you firm without being too defined. Due the continuous frustration of trying to get a six-pack, you don’t realise that this is actually the right body shape for you, if you had the body you wanted, you’d probably turn into a dick-head. 

After having a shower, including the mandatory shower gratitude, you get dressed and head out into the big wide world. Something about the day has given you a skip in your step, and you decide to walk to work today. It’s only about 30 minutes, you’re on time and the walk will give you a chance to get ready for the day and smoke a few cigarettes on the way. 

Knowing you were likely to be heading out drinking after work, you sported your favourite pair of jeans. There are 3 reasons why these are your favourite jeans. Firstly, they seem to match all of your shoes and t-shirts. Something to do with the fading in the colour and the in- between straight and boot-cut fit. Secondly they fitted perfectly. In fact they were the only pair of jeans you didn’t need to wear a belt with that didn’t also constrict your blood flow. Finally they had a zip rather than buttons. This particular zip, had a hidden added benefit: regardless of whether you are lying down, sitting, standing, walking or running, you look like you’ve got a huge cock. Luckily for you, there is 

something considerable behind the zip; otherwise you’d just be disappointing people. 

Completing the look with a casual white shirt, and a light black jacket, you’ve achieved that perfection between smart and looking like you really don’t give a shit. The only problem you’ll face with that look is if you get dirty at all, you will really look a mess. 

Ambling down the street with a tediously repetitive dance tune playing in your ear, you start to notice the people swarming the land around you in every direction. Each one of them with their own lives, their own families, jobs, friends, birthdays, hobbies, interests and sexuality. The only thing connecting you with them is the fact you are in the street together. 

You can see him walking ahead of you on the other side of the street. He’s wearing blue jeans that are slightly too tight for him. A red sports jacket with cream writing and cuffs. His hair is dark, cropped to a couple of inches, styled in short spikes. His jacket is open but he’s ahead of you and you can’t see his t-shirt. 

From the side, his face looks lean and quite angular. His lower face covered in hair beyond stubble but hasn’t quite got to full beard yet. He’s got no piercings, at least none you can see… the thought stirs you a little. You feel the movement in your underwear and your heartbeat increases. 

Suddenly he looks round and catches your gaze. You make a slight stuttering movement in your walk as your mind urges your body not to stop still. But it was too noticeable; he glances to your crotch, back to your face and then smiles warmly before looking further behind his shoulder and crossing the street towards you. 

He’s not looking at your any more; he’s focused on the road in front of him and the traffic. You slow down instinctively to give him space in front of you while also moving over to the side of the pavement so he can walk next to you, should he choose to. 

He hops onto the pavement with a flamboyant yet graceful step-jump, that surely only a friend of Dorothy would expose to the public. Then he takes his place on the pavement in directly in front of you about 3 meters ahead. Despite being a little disappointed that he didn’t drop in next to you and start a conversation, you are reconciled by the fact that his butt is in perfect view, and you’re doubly happy that it’s a very nice butt indeed. 

Your trousers stir again, this time with a moment of forced pressure that you just couldn’t resist. Your tight underwear stretched but preventing too much growth, while your jeans are now doing a great job of hiding you. You smirk at the thought of being erect while in public, but then turn your attention to the guy. The guy in front. The guy who’s now like 6 meters in front! 

“Woah, what happened” it comes out at a little over a whisper; you shudder at having let that slip. It looks like you got away with it. You contemplate for a moment how bad it could have been if someone 

had heard and it had been another thought that slipped out. There were after all so many which weren’t really appropriate for public consumption. 

Returning your focus to him, he’s now about 9 meters in front of you. He stops. Turns round, looks at your face, glances down to your crotch, then back to your face before turning back. He bends forward, arse in the air and starts to tie his shoelaces. 

The distance between you is closing, you have no idea what you should do in this situation. The signs all seem to be there, he smiled at you, walked in front, and now he’s quite clearly offering himself to you in the middle of the street! 

You realise that he probably isn’t expecting you to come up behind him and penetrate him right there, but you seem to think there’s a relatively high level of indicators all pointing you in the same direction. 

You’re 2 meters away now, you’re starting to slow down, you are staring at his rear, seeing all the detail available beneath jeans. And now you’re getting closer, you notice his jacket riding up leaving his skin exposed, the small patch of hair growing at the base of his back gives you the last image you need to break free of the tight hold of your underwear. You feel yourself snap upwards beneath the waistband; grateful of the angle preventing visibility above your jeans. 

As you get closer, almost close enough to touch him, your arm reaches out. You imagine your hand making contact with his jeans. You get close, a few inches away before he stands suddenly. 

You manage to retract your hand in time, pulling yourself upright before reaching his vision alongside him. Peering out the corner of your eye you see he’s looking directly in front of him, not even a glance your way. You regress into internal panic and confusion, your pace slows while you try to weigh everything out and work out if this guy was really flirting with you or not. 

He’s back alongside you, jackets making contact, but not quite close enough for bodies to touch. His pace is faster than yours and he’s making headway in front of you. 

You left it too late to speed up now as he’s stepping out in front of you. He looks behind, you crumble, you’re desperate for him to gaze into your eyes and kiss you. But his eyes stare out into the empty street behind you. He looks forwards, causally drifts into the turning on the right, down the street and out of your life forever. 

“What happened there?” you say aloud. Not caring who heard you as you continued to walk straight on the way to your office. Walking on your own again, you immerse back into the music in your ears. Settling into the rhythm of the beats and your steps, all your movements in time. 

And then you see the blonde guy with the scarf. 

Is it your first time?

You step out into the dark street as the bartender locks the door. It’s a Summer’s night, but it’s a bit chilly. You curse yourself for not bringing a jacket with you and start the long stumble back home.

All of a sudden a glimmer catches your eye as you walk past a dim alleyway. Spluttering on and off erratically are the bright blue and pink neon letters signalling the entrance to the Gay Sauna…

A strong breeze gusts down the street forcing you to close your arms around yourself, in the hope of staving off the cold, and you struggle to make your next steps forward.

Glancing briefly backwards you catch the glimpse of bright welcoming light spilling from the Gay Sauna, as the door slowly closes behind the most recent entrant. In this light you’re also now able to see the pack of hungry men waiting impatiently, tapping their feet or pacing in excitement and nerves.

As you try to continue your journey the wind picks up again, even stronger than before, and nearly knocks you from your feet whilst the chill sneaks into your light shirt and sends goosebumps all over your body. Getting home was not going to be as easy as you had hoped.

“Well…” you mutter to yourself “…there’s a first time for everything”

Turning around, you slowly retrace your steps and take your place in the line, excited to see what wonders await you inside.

How I create my prototypes

This duo really does give me everything I need

While I don’t claim to be an artist or designer, there’s a lot of art and design work needed to create Gay Sauna the Board Game. For all of the “real artwork” and finalised designs, I’m working with two designers for, but in the meantime there’s a host of prototype versions that need to be created and in order to make this possible, I’ve had to learn how to do this myself.

Without anyone paying for my software, it’s not viable for me to be using Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign – the subscription models just don’t make sense for me. So I’ve had to find the right alternatives for me. To make everything I’m creating at the moment, I use a combination of GIMP and Graphic.

GIMP is a free, open source image editor that packs a real punch. I’ve been using GIMP for many years for basic things like creating transparent backgrounds on existing images, but now my needs have grown and it’s great that this free app has been able to cover a lot of my new found requirements. The only drawback to GIMP is the lack of native CYMK and Vector image capabilities. While there are some ways to resolve these using plugins and community contributions, I always found them cumbersome and a little lacking. So, as I started to print the things I was producing, it became necessary for me to find something to help me where GIMP couldn’t.

In walked Graphic. Native to Mac, Graphic is a vector editing program that seems to be designed for people creating publishing work – whether that’s digital or print, it’s got me covered. While it lacks the extensive functionality of both GIMP and the Adobe suite, Graphic more than makes up for it with its simplistic approach and easy to use GUI. There have only been a couple of times that Graphic has not been able to meet my needs and thankfully GIMP was fully capable of filling this gap. The biggest drawback is the lack of full layer masking capabilities – so specific edits I need to make to images I now do in GIMP and then move over the finalised edit to Graphic for layouts and finalisation. Graphic isn’t a free program, but the lifetime license only costs $30 and I feel it has been more than worth the investment at a fraction of the cost of even part of the Adobe suite.

I’d never thought I’d ever be spending so much of my time manipulating and creating images, but it truly is a rewarding activity with a tangible outcome at the end. It’s been a challenging learning process too, as it’s not just the methods I need to learn, the wider concepts of graphic design are pretty much entirely new for me. I didn’t even know what a layer mask was 12 months ago and now I’m finding out all the ways in which they can be useful within my creations as well as finding alternatives when the software is lacking.

I doubt I’ll ever work as a graphic designer professionally, but I’m sure having a lot of fun playing as one for the time being.

Going through changes

For as long as the game isn’t being printed by the manufacturer, it’s in development and I’ll continue to be changing and improving where needed. This continuous cycle of modifications is a challenging process as so many of the elements are connected together and while some things seem to be very much in flux – such as the Action cards, others, like the dice results, have been consistent for a very long time.

One thing that has been in visual design flux for a long time is the board; however it’s been some time since I made any non-cosmetic changes to the board. I have a huge array of balancing formulas and calculations that I use to determine the impact of some changes on key aspects of gameplay, and the consistency of the board has been really useful in keeping this workload manageable.

Based on recent feedback though, I’ve been through a long process to look at the impact of reducing the overall size of the board and I am overjoyed with the result of this investigation and resulting design process. I present to you, the new Gay Sauna the Board Game playing board:

The latest game board is quite a bit smaller than previous incarnations, measuring in at 72x52cm.

This latest version has some dramatic changes applied. With the removal of the Bar area, and the reduction in the size of the Dark Room, not only has the board shrunken from a massive 90x60cm to still a large 72x52cm, but also now has dedicated space for the placement of the 3 card decks in the game and their respective discard piles.

The rules have been shuffled around a little as well as the removal of the barriers to entry for each of the rooms that goes hand-in-hand with a complete rewrite of the game rules as a whole that returns gameplay on a single player round and focuses attention on improving the action and pace of the game.

All of this will be wrapped up in the launch of the 9th full version of the game that I’m hoping will be finalised in the coming week or two, when the next playtesting sessions will be planned in and I’ll get to try this all out with a real audience of players.

It’s nerve wracking making such big changes to the game, but I really hope that this all is worth it. I guess I’ll find out real soon.

Feedback

After spending many years working in IT, I kind of got used to the fact that nobody, not even my nearest and dearest cared even the slightest about the content of my job. When answering the question about what I do for a living, I’d say I work in IT, then if pressed give my job title at the time. Even those that understood the industry cared little about the ins and outs of my day.

Now, venturing into the colourful world of game design, I’ve found that everybody suddenly has opinions about everything. This has been an incredible opportunity for me as I mostly work alone, so having others to discuss the specifics about the game rules, visuals and gameplay, as well as the other business aspects like marketing and promotion is stimulating and gives me a better perspective of the bigger picture I need to complete to be successful.

However, this also has its downsides – most specifically it’s answering the same questions and getting the same feedback all the time. I used to sigh when working as a product manager and would discuss the product with a new engineer or customer and they would highlight the biggest flaws or missing features that were well known and documented. Despite this, I knew that these were indeed the things that troubled new users and contributors the most, so of course they wanted to discuss them and find out my opinions and plans.

For Gay Sauna the Board Game, I cannot sigh when I hear these things (mostly). It’s tough, but I hope I have maintained the professional exterior when asked for the hundredth time why I’m not making a mobile app instead of a board game, or why my kickstarter goal was so high, why copyrighting my idea is the most important thing I should be thinking about, or why I don’t just get a few copies made now and see how they sell before making a big order.

All of this feedback comes from a good place and answering these same questions repeatedly also ensures that I don’t overlook some of the most important and potentially obvious opportunities in front of me. I also know from experience that these things will always come up, just like people cutting in front of you in traffic or someone chewing loudly next to you on the train. Some things are unavoidable and working out how to stay positive and open to feedback no matter how many times it has been discussed is all part and parcel of going through this journey.

I need to receive feedback and I truly welcome it! No matter how small or insignificant something might seem, or even if for the thousandth time I’m getting asked or told the same thing. It’s all useful to me and I can learn so much from hearing these things again and again. After all, while right now I have no intention to start building mobile apps, it doesn’t mean that in the future this might indeed be an opportunity that is too good to pass up. If I stop listening and answering these questions, I could just miss out on that moment.

So – if you’ve got anything you’d like to let me know about the game, the business or anything else that pops to mind, please get in touch using the contact form to the right (or below on mobile). It might just spark the next big change in my plans!

Kickstarter Lessons – Part 5

The fifth and final instalment of this learning series is about the need for visibility within the wider board gaming community.

Visibility can come in a variety of forms, from descriptions and posts about the game, about game makers to reviews and play-through information provided by others – specifically those that are established and respected.

This has been something that’s been quite difficult for me to live up to – I’ve developed a bit of a perfectionist attitude when it comes to my game and so I’ve been very reluctant to share the current prototype version at any time with specialists or experts in the industry as I always thought the next version would be the one that they’ll love…clearly that never works.

It’s not that I believe all of these things are really necessary for a Kickstarter to be successful, but there needs to be a decent amount of online presence that puts the game into the public eye in order for those outside of my network to take the campaign seriously.

This area is my weakest still and there are a lot of activities on my to-do list related to getting publications discussing the game, reviewers to write about it and putting descriptions myself in all of the relevant places. I’ve still got a lot to do, but that’s fine. As long as these are done in time for my next KS project, I expect things to go much smoother.

This series has been a great way for me to process a lot of the information around the campaign. I hope it’s been interesting to read from your perspective too! While the series is over, I’ll be following this up soon with actionable details of what my plans are and how the development of the game is progressing – so stay tuned!

Kickstarter Lessons – Part 4

Next up for this series of documenting all the things I learned suffered greatly from me not being ready (part 1), and that is missing information on the pitch page.

In the run up to the campaign launch, I spent a lot of time trying to pull together a promotion video. This wasn’t focused at all on the gameplay, but was aimed at providing something really fun and enticing that would spark interest.

Things didn’t quite work out as planned and I dropped the idea less than a week before launch. I wasn’t too worried about losing the video, after all it would have been just a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. However, the time spent there did mean that there were quite a lot of other pieces of information and media missing from the pitch page.

While everything that potential backers told me was missing that would be necessary for the pitch was known to me and sat in a list on my notebook, I had (wrongly) assumed that adding information throughout the duration of the project would be sufficient for the community. Looking back now I can’t quite imagine what made me think that first impressions weren’t the most important…

The list is quite embarrassingly long and includes pretty fundamental things like gameplay footage and details about size of the box and comparisons to other games. I knew these things were needed, but I hadn’t quite understood how essential they were for many to even consider buying the game.

I put a lot of these things into the campaign page as I pulled them together, but it was all a little too late. For my next campaign these are clear deliverables that must be prepared before I can even think about pushing that big juicy go live button!

Kickstarter Lessons – Part 3

The most surprising thing to me about what happened during my campaign is how a lot of the things I was trying to generate initial pledges wasn’t working. In particular, many within my closest network – even those that have been playtesting the game with me for the past year – weren’t backing, it was difficult to go through.

I failed to effectively Activate My Network.

While I was sending out a whole host of individual and customised Whatsapp, Facebook and LinkedIn messages, somehow the core of what I was asking for was lost in the details and while many I have since spoken to have said they would have been willing to help, they didn’t really understand what it was I was asking of them and how important it was to me and this project that I had their support.

It was far too easy for me to assume that everyone around me had been reading everything I posted, listening to all the things I said when we’re talking and had grasped what I hoped for my Kickstarter campaign. It was also too easy for me to gloss over the fact that a huge majority of my network were simply not Kickstarter Friendly and so needed a little more TLC from me to understand how they can support me in a way they felt comfortable with.

This has been a hard pill to swallow, but I hold all the blame and ownership for this failure. It was up to me to convince those closest to me and I didn’t put enough effort into the right places to achieve this. Next time will of course be different 🙂

So we opened a Webshop!

I got a bit of merchandise printed in the run-up to the Kickstarter and I received a fair bit of interest in the towels during the campaign. Rather than save them all until the next Kickstarter, figured I’d open up web sales and let fans get their hands on them now.

I’m also working on designs for some other merchandise, but this is likely to take some time before it’s all finalised. In the meantime it’s Towels and Keyrings – Enjoy! 🙂