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Archive for May, 2013

This is my 600th post.  Seems like it ought to be an occasion of some sort.  So let’s see… Dice, Rats and Dragons, Oh, My!

Dice!

I’m doing a Kickstarter campaign for my “Rusty Fudge” Tinker Dice and their siblings (I have the numbered designs, fudge designs and a lead on metal and plastic printers).  Yes, it’s not the BIG campaign for the playing card deck, but that’s still in the pipe, I’m just ramping up to it.  In the meantime, there are a handful of reasons I’m doing the dice first.  At least, once I get the last few bits of paperwork sorted out.

One, it’s smaller in scope ($3,000 primary goal), so I’m hoping it is fulfilled and then I can make sure I know how to make the whole process work, start to finish.  It seems relatively straightforward… but that’s why I want to take a run at it.  There’s always something unexpected, and I’d like to iron that out with less on the line.

Two, I’m trying to build a good KS reputation before launching the bigger card campaign.  I’ve backed a handful of things over the last year, but it seems important to branch out a little bit.

Three, the dice can be a part of the card campaign as extra spice to liven things up a little bit.  I’ve seen other deck Kickstarters included custom dice as part of the whole package, and it’s a nice little option… but I don’t want to roll the dice production into the card campaign.  I’d like to keep the card campaign a bit more focused, especially since I’d like to offer a sister deck with the alternate backs and face cards, and that seems like a big enough stretch goal to make dice a distraction.  If I have the dice already made, I can just add them in for flavor.

Four, well, I’d like to see my custom dice out in the wild and making people happy.  I think they are a good design and a unique offering.  No, the world technically doesn’t need more dice, or more pointedly, more steampunkish dice, but if I’ve learned anything about gamers, it’s that what we do and what we have fun with isn’t really necessary, but it makes life better.  This is art, and I do believe it has an important place in keeping us from going crazy.  It’s a luxury, really, but what’s life if you can’t take time to stop and do something whimsical once in a while?

Rats!

I’m still quite fond of Bret Airborne, as I enjoy puzzle games with RPG twists.  Lo and behold, Muckbeast and Frogdice have a new game in the works in their Tower of Elements vein.  Their Kickstarter campaign for Dungeon of Elements is running now, and it’s looking pretty good.  Instead of a “Match-3” core, it’s Dr. Mario flavored.  I’m a fan of that game and of Sailing in Puzzle Pirates, so Dungeon of Elements looks like it ought to be good fun.  I’ve backed it, and I’m really looking forward to playing the game.  The team is good about updating the project and showing off new wrinkles, so it’s fun to see what they keep offering, like the latest video showing a “boss” rat and his minions and how to defeat them with poison pills.  It’s not exactly “kill ten rats”, but hey, rats are traditional!

Dragons!

Another impending Kickstarter project, Havok and Hijinks, is on my radar as well.  I’ve been dabbling in board and card game design for years now, and I’ll make it more serious at some point (especially if the dice and card projects work out), so it’s interesting to see fellow bloggers have a go at it.  Ferrel of Epic Slant  is behind this one.  I’m a sucker for dragons and family friendly games, so this one hits a sweet spot for me and mine.  I’m even indulging in a bit of fan art, which I’ll show when it becomes relevant and presentable.  I’m a Fire Dragon in the Chinese zodiac, so how can I resist this sort of fun?

Oh, My!

I have a lot on my plate.  This Kickstarter stuff is kicking the stuffing out of my spare time.  In a couple of weeks, my wife will deliver our fourth child, right around when our oldest turns 7.  We’re finishing our basement.  We’re making an irrigation system for our garden.  Summer is here, and the kids want to go play.  We might go to Goblin Valley.  I will take photos… lots of photos.  Life is busy.  Good busy, but busy.

Apologies for not really diving into video game design as much as I’ve done in the past.  I still study it, snark about it and wax long in thought about it, but blogging about it has slipped down the priority list.  So has playing video games, for that matter, to my mild chagrin.  So it goes, this “life” thing.  I’m looking forward to more of it.

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I call these my Tinker Dice, largely because they are thematically related to the gear-and-screw design of my Tinker deck.

DiceMockupBolted135 DiceMockupBolted246 DiceMockupBoltedFudge

Because, well… I felt like tinkering.

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Punk Paperwork

The creative aspects of my playing card project are fun.  They tend to be fairly fast, too, mostly because I’m enjoying the tinkering.  So what’s holding things up for the Kickstarter launch?

Paperwork.

Y’see, I’ve spent more time digging into spreadsheets lately than anything else.  I’ve been getting shipping costs from the U.S. Post Office, plotting things out for domestic and foreign shipping.  There just isn’t a simple rule of thumb other than “it seems like it costs too much”, and “shipping out of country definitely costs too much”.  I think I’ve finally got things nicely plotted, at least for the general costs.  I bracketed costs around Canada, Mexico and China shipping (Mexico costs are closer to China costs, annoyingly), so there will almost certainly be oddball costs here and there.  Shipping materials shouldn’t be too much trouble, and I’m trying not to offer too many options to keep the workload down and the pledge system relatively simple.  Relatively… since shipping variables aren’t handled well by Kickstarter’s systems, and I’ll need to hack the presentation a little bit.

And then there’s the business side of things.  I’m in the middle of setting up an LLC for this and other projects I have in mind.  It seems simple enough, but jumping through all the little hoops to keep the damnable I.R.S. off my back is a time sink.  This is also where a significant slice of the overhead comes from, between Amazon, Kickstarter, the State and the Feds all wanting a piece of the action.  It’s where a fair chunk of the prep time goes, too, making sure all the proper forms and figures are entered, registered, verified and logged.  Heaven help you if you screw up and manage to only fund those entities with the Kickstarter proceeds.  Middlemen and the State are ravenous and remorseless.

Anyway, progress is being made, it’s just all local and boring.  I don’t have much to show on the visual side, but it’s getting there.  With luck, I’ll have a new visual to show Monday or thereabouts.  Happy weekend, all!

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I’m still tinkering a little bit with the deck I’m calling the Tinker Deck, prepping the last few touches before I launch the Kickstarter.  We’re going to go ahead and roll with the Bicycle brand, though I have my reservations.  If it works, great, if it doesn’t, maybe I’ll try again with the lower price point.

In the meantime, though, I’m doing a video and lots of paperwork.  If you’re a CPA or tax prep indie, good on ya.  If you’re from the IRS, well… something different.

Anyway, just a little tease today.  I understand that many poker players like to have two decks ready to go, instead of just one.  I’ve made a pair of card backs to cater to this quirk, and if the Kickstarter gets traction, we’ll offer a second deck with that other back… and a new cast of face cards.  Specifically, I want to open it up to put backers on the alternate cards, giving us a Tinker deck with the historical figures I’ve already done, and another deck (“The Society”? “The Club”? “Grounders”?) sporting the faces (and costumes, maybe) of backers who are so interested.  I’m still sorting out the nuts and bolts of the whole setup, but it’s an idea I want to float, anyway.

Among other ideas, that is.  We’ll see how the campaign goes.  It might just be a fun little exercise in wheel gear spinning, but hey, learning opportunity.

EurekaBack_300 EurekaBackAlt_300

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I’m down to the biggest question for my steampunkish playing card Kickstarter:  Price or Prestige?

The prerelease version of the deck is live, and ready to go.  I’m really happy with how it turned out, and it’s really fun to see it come together and “go live” out there in the real world.

So… on to the last bits of planning for the Kickstarter.  I’ve done an updated design that’s a bit more polished, with things like a perfectly rotationally symmetrical back and a simplified and more unified color scheme.

Eureka Tinker Back

I tweaked the border a bit, too, adding some corner and side braces, since it was looking just a little boring in a spread.  (If you guys want to opine on that, please do so; I’m not quite sold on the braces.  More of them here.)

Chocolate Cornered Fan Chocolate Fan

But that’s just tinkering with art.  I can do that all day long.  I’m an artist.  The bigger question now is what price point to put on the deck when I offer it via Kickstarter.  This is where I want to air my thinking and ask for your opinion.  I’d love to hear from you all on this.

Simply, it’s a choice between printing with Bicycle, the “800 pound gorilla” of the industry, or printing with an unknown Chinese printer.

Printing with the former winds up with a price point of $10/deck (which includes U.S. shipping) for a top notch deck of cards.  (I could also print with USPCC without the Bicycle label, but that doesn’t change the calculus much.  It could save 30-60 cents per deck, which isn’t insignificant, but I’m not convinced that such a saving is enough to compensate for the lack of the brand name.)  It’s simple, straightforward and carries the heft of prestige and known quality.  It’s not a guarantee of Kickstarter success, but it’s a bit of a force multiplier, leveraging the brand.

Printing with the latter means a price point of $5/deck (also including U.S. shipping) for a deck of cards with unknown quality.  That’s a sweet price point.  It also means I can do a print run of plastic cards for the same $5/deck (which would be a stretch goal), and even a third run that allows 14 backers to guest star on the face cards.  I could also look ahead and do custom dice in China and save on shipping, getting all of them together.  (Those would wind up being an addon, $1 for 6 brown and silver custom pip dice.)

Beside those considerations, though, printing with Bicycle means a higher Kickstarter goal.  That’s not an insignificant mental barrier.  I’d have to start with a $9000 goal and hope for the Bicycle to carry the day.  Printing with a Chinese company means I can start with a $3000 goal and scale up as needed and add in stretch goals of similar size if things go well.  For the same $9000, we could be looking at three different decks (paper, plastic and “People of the 19th Century”) or some other mix of oddments like the dice or gear-themed poker chips.

I wish I could find hardcore reviews of those printing companies, but such have eluded me so far.  I do lean to the Chinese printer because I think it’s more flexible and I’m far more price sensitive than I am prestige sensitive.  I’m not sure how many potential customers are the opposite.

I also have this little rebellious marketer in me that wants to prove that Bicycle isn’t the One True Way.  I aced the marketing class I took at BYU, making over $200 million in our simulated computer company.  (I was one of the top 3 in the class of 100+ students; most made $20 million or less.)  I found success by offering a wider range of products at the lowest prices, my lower profit margins more than offset by higher sales counts.  It was a simple simulation, though, and I’m a gamer who loves math.  It didn’t stand a chance.

Still, it’s all just guesswork at this point.  I’ve done what research I can, and I do lean to the Chinese printers, considering the pros, cons and costs, but it’s not set in stone yet.

What do you think?

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The preparation work for my playing card Kickstarter proceeds apace.  (“Apace” being a fancy word I use here to mean “when I can make the time and when I can find the information I need”.  I just need a few more pieces of information to make properly informed decisions and a little bit more polish on the cards.)

In the meantime, I’ve decided to offer the “alpha” version of the deck over at TheGameCrafter.com, found thisaway:

Steampunk Playing Cards: Heroes of the 19th Century

I know, I know, this might undermine the Kickstarter.  I am using an updated version of the deck for the Kickstarter, though, so it’ll still be a good show.  And, well… if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.  This is all a wild experiment anyway.

Thanks for your interest, everyone, and for your input!

Oh, and I showed this on Twitter and Google+, but this is the near-final Ace of Diamonds (I’m making slight tweaks to the lettering and adding a bit of embellishment to the border for the final).

Diamond Ace

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