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 πŸ™‚

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! πŸ™‚

Kickstarter Lessons – Part 2

I still stand by Part 1 of this series: I launched my Kickstarter too early. Yet one thing I have discovered during my campaign, and specifically during my offline promotional activities is: Not everyone is “Kickstarter friendly”.

I don’t believe this is an existing term, but I’ve deemed it very real that many people are just unwilling to participate on this platform due to a variety of reasons, not all of which are easily surmountable.

Firstly, most folks have never heard of Kickstarter and don’t really understand what it does, what running a Kickstarter campaign means or what even crowdfunding is. Common misconceptions include it being a charity request, a way to steal money, borrowing from friends or free cash for entrepreneurs. While I have tried to fix some of these (I even wrote about it), it’s very difficult to educate about the huge concept of crowdfunding whilst maintaining the request for backing my own project.

Secondly, if there is a long time to market, as with my campaign for Gay Sauna the Board Game, then trying to convince people to buy something now and then wait for 9 months to get it is a pretty tough sell. In fact, it’s proven almost impossible. While I have managed to achieve a few backers and pledges through in-person promotions and sales, the high value of being stood in front of them driving their enthusiasm is then very diluted by requiring them to support a project online that then may not produce a game they can play until Spring 2020.

In the run up to my campaign launch, I had set aside a considerable amount of time for in-person appearances and events that ultimately had very little return to them. Combined with a targeted online campaign that really was focused on the more general gay market meant while my product and brand reach was considerable, this wasn’t converting into pledges.

What’s clear to me now is that trying specifically to find those that might be familiar with crowdfunding and Kickstarter is a much better way to get new pledges. And while in person promotion is great for the brand, game sales in this format will be much easier to realise when I’ve got the games in stock to be able to fulfil orders quickly and not exposing customers to the lengthy crowdfunding wait times.

Kickstarter Lessons – part 1

There are a lot of factors that contributed towards me not reaching my Kickstarter goal, but for sure there is one of them that tops all the rest and was by far the single most important thing that prevented bigger success – I wasn’t ready!

Not being ready means to me that I just didn’t have so many things in place at the moment that I pushed the Go Live button that meant every thing I did from that moment on was just way more difficult and much less effective than it should have been.

It wasn’t just that I had not done some things, but I also failed to apply a lot of the things I had learned and was continuously learning as I went. I set the date when I would go live quite some weeks before and rather than continuously evaluate whether it was still viable to continue, I got caught up in so many of the details. I made a lot of concessions in order to reach this date that lowered the overall quality and quantity of the deliverables that when I look back should have been big warning signs to me that things were not at all going to plan.

Many of my discussions with those close to me at the time were focused around the benefits of the timing of the launch (which took place just prior to Gay Pride in Amsterdam) and I completely forgot about all of the checklists and preparation I had done to ensure I would know when I was ready.

My experience especially during the first few days of the campaign clearly showed me that the readiness of a project creator is by far more important than the specific timing of when a project is launched, and while things like time and day of the week play a part, if there are things missing from a campaign, you lose potential backers. They won’t come back later even if you manage to get the message to them that you’ve covered the gaps that were there before – you get one chance to make a first impression. When it’s a Kickstarter campaign, you can’t underestimate how important that first impression is.

The Library is Open!

With the launch of the Kickstarter Campaign in mere days, it was about time to fully update the website and start including more of the exciting content from the game.

I’ve created the Library on the site to give everyone a little bit more insight into the game setting, especially for those new to Gay Saunas.

There’s now a brand new Visitors section that lists all of the characters that are ready to start playing in Gay Sauna the Board Game, with each character getting its own details page.

There’s also a new rules section that gives an introduction to how the game is played at a high level – of course there will be more detailed rules included in the game.

I’ve also given the whole site a bit of a facelift and fixed a huge number of outstanding issues. Overall I’m very happy with it and hope I’m able to provide all the information folks need to want to back my project.

Printing and Playing

In this past month I’ve seen lots of changes, with a brand new updated logo I’ve started the busy work of getting offline materials printed, starting with these awesome new business cards!

Coming next week are the first promotional flyers, simple A5 pages with a page of text briefly explaining some of the things to expect in the game. I’ve even been able to add some of the fantastic new artwork to these, so I can’t wait till they arrive.

Next up I’m looking at Keyrings and Towels – and there’s a possibility I’ll be able to put up some of this merchandise for sale on this site, so keep your eyes peeled!

With the next Playtesting sessions already planned, I’m also pulling together an update for the game materials including a new set of visitor cards. Unfortunately they’ll not yet have new updated artwork, but with a revised set of balanced metadata and a slightly new and improved visual design they should make all the difference for new and existing players.

I’ve still got some really interesting new mechanics to try out, so if you want to get in on the action, check out the Events Page and sign up!