Category Archives: Publishing

State of Clay Crucible Games, Spring 2017

Over on Reddit, someone asked me about the status of a game they remember I was working on a couple of years ago, and that made me realize that it might be fun and informative for me to write a “state of the company” post, focused on where my various designs stand right now. Let’s dive in!

Chaos & Alchemy: Out of print, still available from some retailers

This was my first ever game design, and the game that inspired the name of my company (Clay Crucible was one of my favorite cards from the game). I published the first edition in 2012, and Game Salute published the second edition in 2014.

The rights to publish Chaos & Alchemy have now reverted to me, but I don’t have any plans to do anything with them. You can still typically find copies of the second edition on Amazon or the BGG marketplace for somewhere around MSRP.

Otters: Available via print-on-demand

Otters was my second published game, which was also the first Kickstarter campaign I ran on my own. This was quite a pleasant experience, start to finish! It’s a simple game, aimed at kids, with cute pictures of otters on the cards. The Kickstarter campaign exceeded the funding goal, and I delivered rewards ahead of the promised date.

Now the game lives on in a print-on-demand format from DriveThruCards. I’ve just added a printed tuck box to the game there, which should make for a much nicer overall product.

Alchemy Bazaar: Under development by Grey Fox Games

As I wrote back in 2014, Grey Fox Games signed Alchemy Bazaar for publication. The company went through some changes in the intervening years which led to Alchemy Bazaar being slower to see print than originally expected, but they are now actively developing it. I don’t know when to expect it to actually come out, but let’s say “someday.” Probably within the next year, I’m guessing.

Everest: Technically unsigned, maybe will be published by Grey Fox Games

Everest is in an odd little limbo. I wrote about this in that same 2014 blog post. Randy from Foxtrot Games put me in contact with Shane from Grey Fox Games due to Shane’s interest in Everest. I showed Shane both Everest and Alchemy Bazaar at Gen Con 2014, and Shane liked them both. He wanted to do Alchemy Bazaar first, and that’s the only game we have a contract for. But Everest might come from Grey Fox someday, I suppose. <shrug>

Fibercraft: Forthcoming in 2017 from Clay Crucible Games

As I wrote recently, Fibercraft is my newest game, and I’m planning to publish this one myself. Stay tuned!

 

And now for the really obscure games:

Gods & Champions: Shelved

This was my second game design attempt, started during NaGaDeMon 2012. I wanted to build a card game where you had a Champion that you were adding powers to, but each round the Champions could be swapped around,

Mansion Builder: Shelved

I put up three designer diary posts about this game, and I continued developing it for several months past the final diary post (my last version of the game is dated July 2014 and the last blog post was April 2014). I took it to a local convention for playtesting, and it went okay, but not well enough for me to get passionate about polishing it.

This was also about the time that I decided I needed to spend more time with my wife and less time developing and playtesting games, so I intentionally backed off for a while.

Robo Battle: Shelved, almost certainly forever

I never blogged about this game, but I demo it at a couple of local conventions. The funny story here is that it has been totally superseded by Mechs vs. Minions.

A little known fact about MvM is that it was based on an older, never widely published game called Weapons of Zombie Destruction. That game was designed by Stone Librande, who is a friend of a friend of mine. Our common friend had a copy of WZD that I played back when I lived in San Francisco.

I always though WZD was an interesting game, so I started designing Robo Battle as my own twist on it. I didn’t get especially far, but then last year Mechs vs. Minions came out. I’m definitely not going to be able to compete with that! So, Robo Battle is on the trash heap.

Corporate Rivalry: Shelved

This is one you would only know about if you closely followed my tweets in early 2016. I enjoy Twilight Struggle, but I would love to capture a similar experience in a shorter play-time. So, I started designing my own twist on it, where the two players are rival corporations trying to gain market share in a region. A game like this needs a strong theme in order to direct the development, I think, and I don’t have that theme yet. I could see coming back to this one someday.

Clay Crucible Catan: Freely available!

This isn’t really a full-on design, but just a one-page printout to modify the rules of Catan (aka Settlers of Catan) to remove the luck of the dice. It’s basically a mash-up of Concordia and Catan. Honestly, I don’t think this one gets enough love, especially because I regularly see people complaining about how the dice can wreck a well-played game of Catan. Take out the dice!

 

So there you have it: The state of all of my games that have gotten at least as far as the prototype stage, as of spring 2017. Do any of the shelved games pique your interest? Have you seen any of these out in the wild? I’d love to hear about it!

Michael Iachini – @ClayCrucible on Twitter

Two of my games have been picked up for publication!

This post has been a long time coming, but I’m thrilled that things are settled to the point that I can talk about them publicly.

The big message: Two of my unpublished game designs, Everest and Alchemy Bazaar, have been picked up for publication by Grey Fox Games. Woo hoo!

Now, things are a long way from the end point right now, and there can be a lot of changes between today and the day that you can buy these games in a store. The contracts aren’t signed yet (though they’re pretty close to being done), and Grey Fox Games will be doing some development work on both games, which could mean different names, different themes, etc. But they have agreed that they want to publish both of these games in the next few years!

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m excited about this. Let me tell you how I got here.

From Foxtrot to Grey Fox

The story of my connection to Grey Fox Games goes back to Gen Con 2013 and a different publisher entirely, Foxtrot Games. Specifically, the man behind Foxtrot Games, Randy Hoyt.

Randy was one of the publishers who attended the first Publisher Speed Dating event at Gen Con 2013. I was there for two separate one-hour sessions: One of them showing off Everest and the other showing off Alchemy Bazaar. Randy had apparently seen me talking about Alchemy Bazaar online and was specifically interested in checking it out at Speed Dating.

I wrote in detail about this event on my old Online Dungeon Master blog last year. The part about Foxtrot Games is what I referred to in that post as “Meeting 3: Micro publisher follow-up.” Randy is a great guy, and he and I have become friends over the past year. He and his son had a lot of fun with Everest, and he was strongly considering publishing the game, even to the point of having some nice prototypes made up and sent out to playtesters. Ultimately, though, it wasn’t quite the right fit to be his company’s second game, so he decided to pass. Everest Board However, because Randy liked Everest so much, he decided to help me find a publisher. He was doing some demos of the game at BoardGameGeek Con 2013 (last November), and he got a couple of people from Grey Fox Games to sit down for a demo. They were really interested in the game, and Randy and I ultimately worked together to develop the game further for Grey Fox.

Gen Con 2014

By the time I was preparing for Gen Con this year, I had already had extensive discussions with Shane at Grey Fox, and he had already agreed that he wanted to publish Everest, though it would likely come a bit later in their production schedule. Since he and I were both going to be at Gen Con, I set up some time for us to meet Saturday afternoon to nail down the details about Everest.

First, though, I had some other publisher meetings.

Thursday morning of Gen Con I met with another publisher friend of mine who had expressed interest in Alchemy Bazaar at Gen Con 2013. We went through a demo with the updated rules, and while he liked the improvements from last year, he ultimately decided to pass on Alchemy Bazaar.

Friday evening at Gen Con I went to Publisher Speed Dating again. This time it was two hours on a single game, Alchemy Bazaar. I talked to about a dozen publishers about Alchemy Bazaar, four of whom seemed to be very interested in the game. None of them got back to me before my Saturday meeting with Grey Fox, though.

So, Saturday afternoon I met with Shane at the Grey Fox booth, and we found a table in a slightly quieter area to talk about Everest. I pulled out the prototype copy of Everest I had made for him, explained the rules, and we played through the game (which takes about 15-20 minutes). It’s a cooperative game, and we just barely lost, but it was a close call. Shane was happy with it, and we talked about further development plans (getting it in the hands of Grey Fox playtesters and such).

As we were talking, I decided that I should at least mention Alchemy Bazaar. I described the game briefly, and Shane told me that he’d like to see it. I had a prototype with me (naturally), so I brought it out and went through things in a little more detail. Shane was very intrigued, so I offered to let him take the Alchemy Bazaar prototype (I still had another one), which he eagerly did. (I also gave him a copy of Otters, because he has kids in the right age range.) Alchemy Bazaar Formula Card Back

Decision!

Fast forward a few weeks to Labor Day weekend, when out of the blue I get an email from Shane saying that he and his friends had played Alchemy Bazaar, they really liked it, and Grey Fox Games wants to publish it!

As I mentioned above, there are still a lot of details to work out. It seems likely that Alchemy Bazaar will be published first and Everest second (which is fine with me). As publisher-level playtesting moves along, we will likely try out some changes to both games. It’s entirely possible the themes might change (which is also fine with me). But if all goes according to plan, you will eventually see two of my games published by Grey Fox!

By the way, for those of you who are not yet familiar with Grey Fox Games, they’re the publishing offshoot of CoolStuffInc. They are publishing two games that have already had success on Kickstarter, Draco Magi and Conquest of Speros, with Run, Fight or Die and other games coming in the future. I’m excited to have my games in their future lineup.

I’ll keep you posted when there’s news to report (Kickstarter campaign, etc.). It will probably be a while, so be patient! 🙂

Michael Iachini, Clay Crucible Games

@ClayCrucible on Twitter

Financial breakdown of the Otters Kickstarter project

I’m a big fan of transparency. When new game designers / publishers are just getting started, having detailed stories from people who’ve gone before them is a big help (it definitely was for me).

With that in mind, I wanted to share a detailed financial breakdown of my kid-friendly card game, Otters. This will cover everything from the initial concept of the game on November 1, 2013, up to the publication date of this article, April 28, 2014. It’s a six-month period during which I designed Otters, playtested it, got art and graphic design, found a manufacturer, built and ran a Kickstarter campaign and then fulfilled all of my Kickstarter pledges.Otters Cover HighRes v1.00

A few notes:

  • I’m proud to say that I delivered Kickstarter rewards ahead of schedule. My expected delivery date on the campaign page was May 2014, and here we are in April with the rewards already out the door! (I’m sure a few international backers won’t actually receive their packages until early May, but I shipped them all by April 26.)
  • There are still seven Kickstarter backers to whom I have not yet shipped rewards. One is local to Colorado, and she will be arranging an in-person pickup. Three haven’t filled out their surveys yet. Three indicated that they wanted to add something to their order but haven’t paid for the add-ons yet. The total amount of add-on payments I have yet to receive is pretty close to the total shipping costs I have not yet paid, so that’s going to be more or less a wash and won’t change these numbers dramatically.
  • If you want the quick summary, I ended up turning a very, very small profit on the game: About $250. This is on a Kickstarter that raised over $5,000. Call it a 5% profit margin (without getting anything for my labor, of course).

Income

The income side of the equation is pretty simple. I brought in money from the Kickstarter campaign, I had some post-Kickstarter add-ons to backer pledges, and I sold a few pre-order copies to non-Kickstarter backers.

  • Kickstarter pledges: $5,321.00
  • Post-Kickstarter add-ons from backers: $321.60
  • Pre-orders from non-KS backers: $35.32

Total income: $5,677.92

Public domain money bag icon

Expenses

I’m going to break expenses into several categories, because I think that will be most useful for other Kickstarter project creators.

Expense: Kickstarter / Amazon fees: $499.17

Once the Kickstarter campaign ended, backer credit cards were charged via Amazon payments. Each charge showed up in my Amazon payments account with some money coming to me and some money going to Amazon/Kickstarter.Kickstarter Logo

I ended up moving money from my Amazon payments account to my business bank account in three waves: One the day after the campaign ended (the bulk of the transfer), one a few days later after a few backers had updated their credit card information so that the payment would go through, and one three weeks later when the last backer’s payment finally went through correctly. I simply added up the total money I was able to transfer to my bank account and compared it to the total pledges to get the fees lost to Kickstarter and Amazon.

I’ll note that this expense was 9.38% of the total pledged. So, all the advice you see about expecting these fees to be 10% – that’s pretty good advice.

One last note here: Every single backer paid me. When I read about other Kickstarter projects, I’ll usually hear about 5% of backer payments failing to go through and never getting fixed. I had a grand total of one backer who took longer than a day or two to have his payment go through, and while I was expecting to write that one off as lost even he came through in the end.

Expense: Card print runs: $2,038.55

Naturally, this is the biggest expense for a card game like Otters. I used DriveThruCards as my manufacturer for Otters, and I’m completely happy with them. The card quality was excellent, the communication was excellent, the speed of production was excellent… what more can I say? I hope they someday offer custom tuck boxes for card decks, but I can live without them.Otters print run photo 1

This expense is actually two separate expenses: $1,688.10 for the main print run, and $350.45 for the “Speedy Otters” print run that I had done before the campaign started. That Speedy run gave me decks to ship to Speedy Otters backers right after the campaign ended (those went out within a week) as well as review copies to send to bloggers and podcasters in advance of the campaign.

Expense: Quality Assurance: $65.60

This covers the cost of test decks from DriveThruCards, both prior to my initial print run and prior to my main print run. QA is important, folks!

The borders on all of the cards were supposed to be blue. For my first test deck, they weren't.
The borders on all of the cards were supposed to be blue. For my first test deck, they weren’t.

Expense: Art and graphic design: $886.12

Otters uses primarily Creative Commons licensed photographs for the “art” on the cards, which doesn’t generally cost money – but I ended up sharing some of my profits with a photographer who let me use a ton of his photos (not required, but he asked and I thought it would be nice).

This expense is mainly made up of the cost of graphic design – the Otters logo, the cover design, the card layout, rule sheet layout, creation of PDFs for DriveThruCards, etc.Otters Rule Sheet 05

It also includes the cost of a couple of illustrations that I commissioned before the campaign began, when I thought that a stretch goal would be for illustrations instead of photos. We hit that stretch goal, but my backers preferred photos over illustrations as it turned out, so those illustrations were unused.

Expense: Custom cloth bags: $374.00

This covers the cost of manufacturing and shipping for 50 custom Otters bags.photo 5

Expense: Supplies: $209.70

Most of this expense ($121.93) covers the cost of 500 blank brown cardboard flip-top boxes shipped to my door, each big enough to hold two Otters decks and a rule sheet comfortably.  I only went through about half of these for this campaign, but they come in 500 packs.

The other components are a box of 250 bubble mailers ($51.77) and a set of color printer ink that I went through in creating prototype decks ($36.00)

Expense: Printing labels and rule sheets: $168.41

I went to my local Staples office store for a whole bunch of printing over the course of this project.

For labels, I used some nice glossy sticker paper that I left over from my initial Chaos & Alchemy print run. I printed 9 labels per page, cut them apart with a paper cutter and stuck one to each box.

For rule sheets, I had Staples print on paper that was a step up from their normal quality; it just feels nicer.

Expense: Shipping: $1,065.61

Until I actually sat down and added this up, I didn’t know that I had crossed the thousand-dollar-mark in shipping expenses. Now, to be clear, $59.43 of this cost is for review copies of Otters that I sent out prior to the campaign. But that still means I spent over $1,000 in the cost of postage alone in getting Otters into the hands of my backers.

Shipping Update photo 1

Not included here is the cost of shipping labels; I already had plenty of them on hand.

Expense: Taxes: $124.77

This is a little bit of an estimate right now, and I know it’s not 100% correct, but we’ll go with it.Money 1

For sales tax, only a few backers are here in Colorado, so I’ll only owe a total of $5.62 in sales tax so far.

For income tax, I’m estimating based on applying my marginal federal and state income tax rate to the nominal profits I’ve made on this game so far. That’s not going to be the actual number in the end, I’m sure, because it’s ignoring inventory for one thing. But it’s a reasonable guess for now.

Expenses: Total

  • Kickstarter / Amazon fees: $499.17
  • Card print runs: $2,038.55
  • Quality assurance: $65.60
  • Art and graphic design: $886.12
  • Custom cloth bags: $374.00
  • Supplies: $209.70
  • Labels and rule sheets: $168.41
  • Shipping: $1,065.61
  • Taxes: $124.77

Total expenses: $5,431.93

Bottom line

  • Total income: $5,677.92
  • Total expenses: $5,431.93
  • Profit: $245.99

The future

Now, I’ve simplified things a little bit here.

First, I’ll say that if all I had to show for this whole experience with Otters was 246 more dollars in the Clay Crucible Games bank account than I had beforehand, I would still call this a success. I’ve created a game out of nothing and gotten it into the hands of hundreds of gamers around the world, and I even made a little money doing it. That’s pretty good.

However, I’m also left with some inventory. I have plenty of leftover game boxes, several labels and rule sheets, a few custom bags, and importantly, some Otters decks. After setting aside the 11 decks and 1 bag that I owe to backers who have either not paid for their add-ons or not completed their surveys, I still have 53 Otters decks and 9 custom bags on hand. I also have 11 Speedy Otters decks, which I have no idea what to do with (probably give away to worthy causes of some sort).

If I end up selling those decks and clear $9 of profit on average for each of them, and call it about the same for the bags, that would be another $558 in future profits.

Furthermore, I plan to eventually put Otters up for sale directly on DriveThruCards, and the sky’s the limit… but I’m not expecting anything crazy, of course!

I hope this helps!

My goal with this sort of post is to help other Kickstarter project creators and game designers / publishers to understand the financial reality of putting a game out there via Kickstarter. This was a very humble campaign, and it worked out just fine in my book. But I’m certainly not quitting my day job! 🙂

If you want to say thanks for the information, you can get yourself a copy of Otters right here.

Thanks for reading!

Michael Iachini, Clay Crucible Games

@ClayCrucible on Twitter

Publishers: Pay your artists!

When you’re just starting out in game design, you probably don’t have a lot of money to spare on game-related stuff. You’re going to be taking money out of your own pocket to cover the cost of paper and printer ink and card sleeves and meeples and such, just to get your game prototypes to the stage where you can test them out.

I sympathize. Really, I do.

Later on, perhaps you’ll get to the point that you have a great, playtested game that you’re ready to put on Kickstarter so that you can afford a big print run (or a small print run, as in the case of Otters). If you’re going to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s going to have to look good. You’ll need some illustrations to show what your final game is going to look like. You’ll also need some great graphic design.

You don't want art like this. And I hereby release this into the public domain. Go nuts, guys!
You don’t want art like this. And I hereby release this into the public domain. Go nuts, guys!

You want backers to see you as a professional. And that’s going to cost money.

Now, you might be thinking, “Isn’t the whole point of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money that I obviously don’t have? How can I pay for art and graphic design before running a Kickstarter campaign?”

And here’s where you have to face a hard truth:

You’ll need to invest some of your own personal money into your game before you’re ready to take it to Kickstarter.

Lesson 1: Don’t ask professionals for free art

You might be tempted to ask talented people to work for free. Please don’t.

Palette icon by James Fenton
Palette icon by James Fenton

Now, if it’s a close friend or family member who just wants to help you, that’s fine. But please don’t work your network to find someone you’re vaguely connected to who has artistic ability and then ask them to donate their time and energy for nothing.

Lesson 2: Don’t ask professionals to work now for post-Kickstarter payment

This is the one that inspired this post. A game designer was asking for referrals to professional artists who would work now and get paid if the designer’s Kickstarter campaign is successful.

That’s a big if. What happens if the campaign does not succeed? The artist gets nothing.

Public domain money bag icon
Public domain money bag icon

Now, if you have an artist who wants an equity stake in your project, that’s open to negotiation. Maybe they are interested in getting, say, 10% of the Kickstarter gross or an actual share in your game publication business or something. That way they share on the potential upside, too.

But if you have an artist who would charge, say, $500 for the work you want done, it’s not cool to ask them to do the work now and pay them if (and only if) your Kickstarter succeeds. You’re the one taking the business risk here – don’t ask the artist to take that risk for no upside.

Lesson 3: Don’t steal art

I hope that this one doesn’t need to be reiterated, but we live in the era of the internet, and it’s easy to use creative works that you don’t have the rights to. Do a Google image search, and you’ll find tons of awesome artwork that’s ready for downloading and dropping into your game.

Burglar icon by Joab Penalva
Burglar icon by Joab Penalva

If you’re putting together a first draft prototype that will only ever be seen by your close personal friends and family, then this is okay. But if you plan to show your prototype online, let alone print it for money, you can only use art that you own the rights to.

This means that you either pay to commission or license art from a professional, or you find art that you’re legitimately allowed to use without paying for it (such as public domain or Creative Commons commercial-use art). Don’t just use an awesome image because it’s there if it’s not yours to use.

Why should I care?

One of the criticisms I faced when I called out a designer who was trying to get artists to work for potential post-Kickstarter payment was that the question of work terms was between the project creator and the artist. If the creator could find artists willing to work for the hope of payment, that’s between the creator and the artist, right? Why was I butting in?

Well, I think that all of us in the (relatively small) game design community have a duty to make it a better place. I want a community where artists feel welcomed and respected, not one where they feel like they’re going to get screwed over at any moment. I want to foster a feeling of respect all around, and standing quietly while a fellow designer engages in business practices that I find unethical doesn’t build the community that I want to see.

Community icon by Wilson Joseph
Community icon by Wilson Joseph

We’re all in this together – designers, artists, gamers and everyone else. Let’s make the gaming community a better place.

Pay your artists.

Michael Iachini – Clay Crucible Games

@ClayCrucible on Twitter

P.S. You may have noticed that the illustrations accompanying this post are icons. These are from the excellent Noun Project, which has tons and tons of icons that are available either in the public domain or in a Creative Commons commercial-use license (hence the attributions in the captions). And if you want to use the CC-licensed icons without attribution, you can buy the rights for $1.99 per icon (or $1 per icon if you buy 10 at a time or 50 at a time or whatever). Great site – go check it out!

The board game gold rush

Some folks say that we’re in a golden age of board games. So many creative designers and bold publishers are creating so annoy new and innovative games every year that there’s something for everyone.

Furthermore, the existence of Kickstarter has made it possible for people to publish a game without having to mortgage their homes  or come up with a crazy amount of money some other way, taking a huge up front risk.

(Obligatory link to my ongoing Kickstarter campaign for Otters. Back to your regularly scheduled content now.)

With all of this interest in games out there, it’s a bit of a gold rush. So many designers see the chance to create the next Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride, and they put out their design pan and hope to find gold. If you’re in it for the love of designing games and the desire to just have your game played by people, then this is a great idea.

But what if you’re in it for money? If you want to make a profit in the board game business as an outsider, should you design and self-publish a game?

(Disclaimer: I, personally, am not in it for the money. Well, I wouldn’t complain if I made money. But you know what I mean.)

Let’s look at the real world gold rush. The conventional wisdom is that the people who really made money during the gold rush were the people who provided supplies and services to the miners – folks who sold tools, tents, clothing, whiskey, etc.

If the same logic were to hold true for the board game gold rush, what should you provide if you want to make money?

Crowdfunding platforms – okay, Kickstarter

The biggest one is a little bit obvious. In 2013, around $55 million dollars was pledged to successfully funded games in the tabletop category on Kickstarter. Sure, some of this went to role-playing games or miniatures games, but a lot of it went to traditional board games.

Kickstarter Logo

Kickstarter takes a 5% cut of all pledges to successful project. This means that Kickstarter pulled in close to $3 million in fees from tabletop game projects alone last year. Not too shabby!

Of course, that ship has largely sailed. Kickstarter has a powerful network effect, where project creators want to be on Kickstarter in particular because that’s where the backers are, and backers look for projects on Kickstarter because that’s where the projects are. It’s possible for a competitor to come along and eat Kickstarter’s lunch, but it’s probably not happening any time soon.

So where else can you look to make money on the gold rush?

Manufacturing

A big chunk of the money that board game project creators are getting is going into manufacturing the games themselves – printing cards, creating boards, crafting tokens and dice, etc.

Panda Games has done well for themselves in this area, establishing themselves as almost the default option for English-speaking game publishers who want to manufacture in China. They have English-speaking customer service staff based in Vancouver, and they’ve manufactured a ton of high-quality games with great components.

There are lots of other manufacturers out there as well, and this is an area that still has room for competition. If you’re more industrial than creative, you could explore becoming a game manufacturer. However, that’s a major undertaking.

Fulfillment / post-crowdfunding management / distribution

Most small game publishers aren’t thrilled about the prospect of having to actually ship out thousands of games to backers around the world, keeping straight all of the mailing addresses and add-ons and such.

This is where various fulfillment and other post-crowdfunding management services come into play. Companies like Game Salute and Impressions have various roles to play in getting games out there, whether to backers or to retailers. Again, another area where competition is possible.

Graphic design

If you design a game, sooner or later you’re going to need graphic design. A good graphic designer can help with:

  • Card layout
  • Board layout
  • Iconography
  • Logo design
  • Rules layout
  • Kickstarter page graphics
  • And so on

If I were a talented graphic designer, I’d be tempted to set myself up as the go-to person for independently published board games. There’s not likely to be a massive payout, but there’s good, steady work with so many games entering the pipeline.

Amateur (lousy) graphic design by me
Amateur (lousy) graphic design by me
Professional (good) graphic design by Dane Ault
Professional (good) graphic design by Dane Ault

The trick is to educate designers that you need to PAY for graphic design work up front. I keep seeing people designing their first game asking where they can find a graphic designer who’s willing to work up front and then get paid if a Kickstarter campaign funds.

Designers: Stop doing that! Paying your graphic designer is one of those investments you have to make out of pocket up front, putting some of your own money on the line.

Okay, off the soapbox… for a moment

Illustration

I only separate this out from graphic design because they’re very different skill sets. Yes, some people do both graphic design and illustration, but I’ve run into more people who specialize in one or the other.

Illustration, perhaps even more than graphic design, can make or break a game on Kickstarter. If backers see great-looking art, a lot of them sign up on the spot (as long as the rest of the campaign isn’t a complete mess).

The awesome first edition Chaos & Alchemy cover art by Chris Rallis
The awesome first edition Chaos & Alchemy cover art by Chris Rallis

And just as with graphic design, game designers / publishers need to pay for whatever pre-Kickstarter illustrations they need up front. Yes, I know it’s expensive. Too bad. Commission enough art to give your backers the idea of what the overall game will look like, and then commission the rest after the campaign funds.

Anyway, a talented illustrator can find steady work in the board game field. There’s a lot of competition here, but there are opportunities for illustrators to stake their ground as “specializing in board game illustration” for sure.

Other stuff

There are probably other game-related peripheral businesses that could be profitable: Marketing, Kickstarter management, accounting, legal, etc. I don’t know as much about those, but the general idea is that if money is in motion (as with Kickstarter and board games), then there are business opportunities for people who can add value.

My take

As for me, I’m not in game design for the money. I have a good day job, and I want game design to be profitable but I don’t expect it to support my family. If I were looking for an income related to games, I would be considering one of these peripheral businesses.

You can make a steady income doing the less-celebrated work around the edges of the board game field, or you can try to dig for that rare gold nugget. Even though it’s less profitable, I’m going to keep on digging because I love game design.

Michael Iachini – Clay Crucible Games

@ClayCrucible on Twitter

What’s up with Otters?

Editor’s note: This is my first blog post to originate on the Clay Crucible Games site directly instead of on my old site, Online Dungeon Master. I intend to ultimately bring my board game related posts from Online Dungeon Master over here, but I’m starting with this one.

Those of you who may have been eagerly following my blog posts about my National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon) 2013 project, Otters, might be wondering what the heck ever happened with that game. Wasn’t I just about done with it in late November?

Well, yes, I was! And I was actually planning to put it up on DriveThruCards as a print-on-demand item. But then something came up:

Kickstarter.

After asking for opinions on some game- and Kickstarter-related Facebook groups, I decided that I might as well run a Kickstarter project for Otters rather than just tossing it on DriveThru and calling it a day.

Otters Kickstarter Image 03

There are a few reasons I decided to go this direction.

First, there’s the exposure. Lots of gamers are looking for games on Kickstarter, and they may well discover Otters if it’s there when they might not discover it if it were only on DriveThru. Now, that by itself isn’t much of a reason to run a Kickstarter project for a game, but it is a reason to consider.

Second, there’s packaging. While I love the quality of the cards from DriveThru, the only box they offer is a clear plastic box to drop your cards in. I’ve ordered some of these boxes, and I just don’t love them. If I order the cards shipped to me from DriveThru, I can put them in a box that I like a bit better, one with an actual Otters label on it.

Finally, there’s the potential for enhancement. Otters is ready to go right now, even before the Kickstarter launches. I ordered a small print run from DriveThru so that I would have copies to send to reviewers, and I even have some extras left over from that print run that I’ll offer to Kickstarter backers who want a game ASAP.

But I don’t have to leave Otters in its current state.

  • If the Kickstarter does well, it opens the possibility that I could hire an illustrator for cute custom otter images rather than sticking with the (also cute) photos that the cards have right now.
  • If the Kickstarter does REALLY well, I could even consider a much bigger print run from a more traditional manufacturing company, which could let me have Otters packaged in a real board game box (as opposed to the very humble flip-top cardboard boxes that I’ve been packaging review copies in).

Now, I’m keeping my expectations for the Otters Kickstarter campaign firmly in check. I’m only planning on trying to raise $500. But if it gets to the several thousand dollars level, well, I can improve the quality of the product. And that’s worth going to Kickstarter for.

Finally, the other reason I’m interested in Kickstarting Otters is that I want to get the experience of running a Kickstarter campaign. While I expect to mainly be a designer who designs game for others to publish, I want to know what it’s like to be a publisher, specifically one who uses Kickstarter. I did publish the first edition of Chaos & Alchemy myself, but I paid for that out of pocket. Could Clay Crucible Games be a full-on publisher one day? Probably not, but Otters is the perfect project for me to explore that possibility.

So there you have it: Otters will be coming soon to Kickstarter! I’m targeting a late January / early February launch, so keep your eyes peeled!

And if you want a sneak preview of what the Kickstarter page is going to look like, check it out here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1125132758/1664206759?token=b3fc11c9. As of this writing (January 15) the page isn’t 100% complete; I still need to add the main video, the learn-to-play video and some photos of the review copies (plus more reviews as they come in). But everything else is there. Let me know what you think as far as improvements go, either here on the blog, over on the Kickstarter preview page itself, or via email at ClayCrucible@gmail.com.

Michael Iachini – Clay Crucible Games

@ClayCrucible on Twitter