I'm now in my third week of working for myself, and I'm really enjoying it. When it's your own money on the line, it really brings your time management decisions into focus! This week I'm starting the consultancy for my old company, today I had a meeting in London (an hour walking to and from the station, four hours on the train and two hours in a meeting). I can only bill for two of those hours, but at least the time on the train isn't a write off - I can work on there with my laptop, especially as there's now free WiFi. In fact, I write this very post in the vicinity of Peterborough on the way home :-). I'll be working several hours again on Friday, though thankfully that's in Yorkshire, so the travel time is less. Then next week I've a two day meeting on Monday and Tuesday. The extra money will come in handy, it's going to be a while before Reiver Games can support us.
So, what am I up to? I've posted the Dutch translation for the It's Alive! rules, which has generated some useful feedback on BoardGameGeek and I've announced Carpe Astra on my website, which has been tweaked a little to make it slightly more flash (what do you think Mal?). The Carpe Astra logo, banner and teaser image are just placeholders until I can get something official from the artist. I did the stars background myself from this tutorial which is pretty cool. I did mine in an hour, I didn't want to spend too long on it, as it's only temporary. I've also started getting pre-orders for Carpe Astra. I'm offering a discount for pre-orders which I hope will lure a few people in, but the lion's share of the sales will have to be to shops and distributors. I need to start contacting them soon, so I can build up a list of orders and get ready for the end of July when I hope to be shipping Carpe Astra to retailers.
Next up is the graphic design and artwork. R H Aidley, the artist who did It's Alive! is going to do Carpe Astra too, he's busy until the end of the month with a couple of children's books though, so the artwork will have to wait until then. The layout can be started now however, so it won't delay me. I was going to do the same thing as It's Alive!, and get him to do all the art, and then do the layout and text myself. I'm now thinking that I can get him (at extra cost!) to do the layout for the cards, scoreboard and player guides. It will look at lot more professional than the semi-transparent boxes I'd have done, should be really cool.
In business, people tend to ask you what your 'differentiators' are (or similar, they probably use a made-up word such as that!), what makes you different from your competitors. That's a question I need to answer. Why should people spend their money on a Reiver Games game, rather than one made by someone else? Obviously I need to make great games or I'm stuffed, but great games alone won't cut it, lots of companies make great games. I'm thinking that art will be one of my differentiators. Lots of German games have terrible art. Truly hideous. The big American companies have technically good art, but not very exciting, innovative or 'arty'. I think that's an area I can compete in successfully. Although I'm not a competent artist, I think I have a fairly good eye for these things, plus I've got The Wife (who's officially my Art Director :-D) and my Dad (a retired art teacher) who also give me really good feedback on the aesthetics of my games. Border Reivers was pretty weak in the art stakes (with the exception of the box art that my Dad did), but I love the art on It's Alive!
It's not perfect - I'm not 100% happy with the box art, a few of the cards get confused easily (legs & arms being the classic example), but it stands out. It's comic-like (which I wanted) while being different enough that it looks a little unusual. And the outside of the player shields are fantastic!
Last time round I was fairly easy going, I described to the artist what I wanted, got some sketches (including fantastic ideas I'd never have thought of), picked my favourite and that was it. The net result was a couple of things I wasn't completely happy with, but I didn't say anything. This time round I want to be a bit more pushy, if there's something I'm not happy with, I want to get it fixed, even if it costs more. As part of this I've arranged to meet the artist next Wednesday to discuss the art, I'll take prototypes and layout guides and spend a couple of hours discussing ideas with him. Hopefully it'll be a really good meeting, and lead to a great looking game.