Tuesday, May 28

Hiatus Averted!

Last week was a particularly weird one as we didn't know until Wednesday whether or not we were moving house on the Friday! I was trying to hedge my games production so that I didn't have loads of half-made games kicking around the house that might get damaged during the move - my goal was to try to finish and ship as much as I could without starting more.

As it was, we found out on Wednesday afternoon that the move wasn't possible (it was a very last minute rush that had a fairly low chance of happening) so I was able to return to production over the weekend.

We've now made (and almost shipped!) all of the rewards except the Bombers (a copy of FlickFleet and a copy of Zombology) and the Fighters (a standard copy of FlickFleet). That sounds great, but there's nearly 100 Fighters to do, so there's still a chunk of work ahead of us.

With the Bombers at the top of the pile now I've gone back to making Zombology copies as we need to ship 20 of those over the next few weeks. I had four finished FlickFleet boxes left over from last week's crafting and five Zombology box blanks, so I've labelled them up and cut the cards so I could post those four rewards. On my way back from Manchester on Tuesday I met Paul again and gave him a couple of copies of FlickFleet for a friend of his and accepted from him the rest of the box blanks I needed for finishing the Bombers, plus the bagged bits for all twenty of the Bomber FlickFleets.

My plan was to dump all the stuff I got from Paul under my desk at work if we moved this week so it was safe from damage in transit during the move, but with that avoided, my new goal is to try and get as much of it in the post before the move (which is now up in the air again - hopefully some point in June!).

I'm really appreciating Paul taking on the box blank cutting, as that's saving me about five minutes per game, which doesn't sound like much but it's almost 25% of my construction time, so it makes a big difference! The other benefit is that all the box card is now at Paul's not stacked up under my spare bed, so that's one other thing I don't have to worry about the movers damaging!

Monday, May 20

Our Kickstarter Experience

If you've been reading this blog for years you'll know I was very wary/disparaging of Kickstarter in the past. Last November Paul and I ran a Kickstarter and we're now just over half-way through fulfilling 325 backers with lovingly hand-crafting board games.

So what changed? What was it like eating humble pie? Now that six months have passed how do I feel about it?

As I've said in the past there were a few things about Kickstarter that put me off:
  • It lowered the bar to publishing so low that games that possibly shouldn't have been made are being made,
  • As a publisher, you go into it not knowing what you're on the hook for until it closes, and
  • You owe people stuff for months (or maybe even years).

So how do those concerns tally with our experience?

I still maintain there are a lot of games being made that wouldn't have seen the light of day via a traditional publisher. Arguably FlickFleet is one of them. Some people will say that's a good thing, removing the gatekeepers and letting more projects see the light of day that would never have been picked up. Others will say that there are too many games being released and lots of those are weak. I don't really play enough new games to be able to make an informed decision on this, but probably lean towards the latter despite having benefited from the former!

My concerns about what you're getting into were mostly around stretch goals. You see loads of projects that have a vast range of rewards and various expansions or extra pieces or upgrades that become available as stretch goals. Had we run one of those campaigns (FlickFleet was a pretty vanilla campaign), I might have more opinion on this; but it's related to the biggest negative for me and Paul: will we/won't we. For all but the last 4 hours of a 720 hour campaign our project hadn't funded. Even for those last four hours we were still so close to the target that a couple of cancellations (of which we had loads including a couple after funding!) could have sunk us. The toll on our mental health was terrible. It was so stressful. I was checking the funding total on my phone at a very unhealthy frequency. We'd had to set quite a high target to fund the laser cutter and all the materials, plus leave enough in the pot after Kickstarter fees to cover shipping 275 games - it was a stretch, and one that we only just managed to reach.

All of that was very stressful. Even the green bit!

The final concern is something that is probably not a concern at all for most people, but I don't like owing people for things. On the day we funded we were suddenly indebted to 319 people to the tune of £11,891. I'm not comfortable with that. I've chosen to clearly spell out how much we owe in our bookkeeping so I can see what is hanging over me and watch it decrease by a few hundred pounds every week. This affects other decisions I make too - we've had numerous people ask to upgrade their pledges after the Kickstarter closed. We're not using a pledge manager, so I've just been making a note against their pledge. We could charge them at the point they requested it, but that would increase the debt, rather than reduce it - and I'm not fine with that. So instead I've been charging people at the point that I'm ready to ship their pledge. We'll probably lose a few upgrades that way, but I'd rather that than sit on people's cash for months and add to my mental burden about the debt.

So was there anything good about Kickstarter? There were definitely benefits! Kickstarter allowed us to make 400 copies of FlickFleet for a personal outlay of £480, rather than a £10,000 one. Which made it a possibility. In addition, about 35% of the backers found us through Kickstarter - we went into the Kickstarter with a mailing list of 136 people: way, way too small to be successful. Plus the Kickstarter timeline encouraged our supporters to help us raise the money in time, focusing their (and our) efforts to get us the backers we needed to be successful during the funding window.

In hindsight, it was an awful experience (due to the stress) and a lot of my fears were realised, but FlickFleet wouldn't exist without it, so on balance it's a good thing!

Monday, May 13

Take Two!

Paul and I are currently working on plans for our second Kickstarter later this year. We're working under a few constraints:
  • We have very limited time for playtesting whatever comes next due to FlickFleet construction,
  • We have very little cash due to FlickFleet shipping,
  • We don't want to run it until we've shipped all the 2018 Kickstarter rewards.
By the end of August (hopefully!) there should be about 300 people in the world who have a copy of FlickFleet. Which is a lot considering every single one of those will have been loving hand-crafted by Paul and me. But it's not many as a proportion of the 7.4 billion people who live on the planet (or even the gamers among them).

FlickFleet has been getting excellent feedback and Paul and I would love to see more people get the chance to enjoy it. Now there's a number of reasons why we only got 325 backers for our first Kickstarter (not least of which was that our advertising spend was less than £100). Lots of people will avoid Kickstarters from first time creators because they are wary of getting stung by people who don't know what their doing and have no track record. It's one of the reasons that we spent so much of our first Kickstarter page and video talking about our credentials and experience.

If we come back to Kickstarter in September then we can do things a bit differently. We will hopefully have a completed Kickstarter under our belts with fulfilment having been completed early, rather than late. We have a community of FlickFleet owners 300 strong, many of whom (assuming the same level of excitement among backers who have yet to receive their rewards as we've had from those backers who've already got their copies) really love the game. Some of those are already clamouring for extra FlickFleet content, others will hopefully help us by reaching out to their friends, games clubs, families and random strangers in the supermarket to espouse the game.

This time there's a few things we’re hoping to do differently, with this in mind:
  • Focus the video and the page more on the game than on us,
  • Be more upbeat (and less knackered!) in the video,
  • Use stretch goals more effectively,
  • Set a lower target because we don't need a(nother!) laser cutter,
  • Reduce the amount of crafting required for the standard edition.

I've started this process by scripting a new video on the train this week, focussed on playing the game. Which gave me an idea for a scenario - so once I've tested it I'll be adding that to the Scenarios page too!

Tuesday, May 7

Deluxe Pledges Complete!

Yesterday I finished off the last of the Rise Up deluxe pledges, which were due in September. I’ll be shipping them over the next couple of weeks. 

Last week was a good one with a chance to make it along to Tabletop Manchester where we played Zombology four times and a visit from Paul and his family on Sunday afternoon.

Seeing as Paul has more free time than me, he’s taken the greyboard for the box blanks and will be cutting those for me. He’s way ahead of schedule on the laser cutting, so I’m the weakest link at the moment - this will help out quite a lot (making a box blank takes me seven minutes and 39 seconds, so when Paul gives me the cut and scored blanks back all I’ll have to do is fold them and tape them - maybe two minutes' work. A five or six minute saving doesn’t sound like much until you realise we still have 270 boxes to make!

I’ve kept enough greyboard to make the boxes for the Commodore pledges which are up next. After those (two weeks’ work) it’s the Bomber pledges which also require me to make 20 copies of Zombology, so I’ll crack on with those afterwards.

Tonight I’m off to Bedford on the train for my friend Andrew’s funeral. I’ll be spending eight hours on the train over the next two days getting there and back again, so rather than spending that time dwelling on our fleeting time on this planet, I’ve taken my laptop so I can distract myself with some Eurydice Games work.