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Just a few questions on potential cases for the poker-chip sized Gearchips, now rolling on Kickstarter thisaway:

Wood or Aluminum?

(Wood cases would be laser engraved, aluminum cases would be printed right on the metal.)

How Big?

Fancy U.S. Based or Bulk Chinese Order?

This one requires a little bit of explanation.  We could get custom cases here in the States (lower shipping to us, since we’re in the States, likely high quality, can order only as many as we need… but more costly per unit), or we can get a bulk order from a Chinese manufacturer (unknown quality, more costly shipping to us, must order 100 units minimum, but should be a lower price per unit… if we can get enough orders together).  Of course, we’re certainly open to other sources, if you happen to have a lead on a great deal.

I’m afraid that I don’t have hard numbers yet, we’re still researching… but as a guesstimate, for the U.S. Based cases (just the custom case, with a Tinker logo… though we’ll throw in a pair of decks and a pair of Tinker dice since there’s room for them), a 100 chip case should run around $100, 200 chips around $120, 300 chips around $140 and 500 chips around $160, end costs to you.  The Chinese numbers are up in the air a bit, but I’d hazard an estimate at $25 less in each case.  We’d also have to have enough orders to make it a sensible proposition, or else getting the minimum order quantity put together would probably put the project in the red.  Yes, we’re overfunded so far (thanks, everyone!), but there’s really not a big profit margin on the Gearchips, so it’s not like we’re dealing with a big slush fund to go crazy with.

For all cases, it would be an additional $30 to ship to Canada and an additional $50 to ship pretty much anywhere else (shipping in the U.S. is part of the base cost noted above).

So… it’s almost as if the cases should really be their own project, unless we’re going to go with the U.S. based ones, where we can just get as many as we need for those who are interested.  The prices are… high.  There’s no disguising that.  This is why we’re seriously considering just offering a graphic for you to use to put on your own case.

Anyway, thanks for your time, and we welcome your feedback!

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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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My family went down to Eureka, Utah this past weekend to see what sort of photos we could collect.  It’s an old mining town that still has a small population in it, so it hits a sweet spot between a ghost town and a place that people want to live in, which means some amenities and environmental cleanup (taking care of lead from mining, mostly), but relatively easy access to some excellent old mining machines and sites.

Machinery

So naturally, the weekend we planned to go there, Harley Davidson had an event there, with nearly 2000 bikers in town (more than double the town’s normal population).  I found this would be the case the morning before we went, and I was a little dismayed, since I was looking for a nice quiet photo expedition.  I don’t have anything particularly grievous against bikers (secondhand smoke is annoying, but the bikers I tend to run into here are decent folk), but I was hoping for, well… quiet.  As it happens, though, the event was exactly what we needed.

One, they were doing a poker event.  Heh.  I wound up handing out my whole deck of business card prototypes (really just my deck’s aces with a link to my website Project Khopesh on the back).  Funny how that works out.  (Incidentally, the Project Khopesh site mostly just points back here at the moment, but it’ll be more interesting when I get things rolling.)

Two, because the bikers were in town, Eureka was more open than it typically is, letting us explore their Union Pacific trolley and the Chief mining facility.  Those are almost never open according to the people I talked to, and we were able to get some great photos in both locations.  I also got to talk to an older biker guy (dude? gentleman? whatever) who was also taking photos of the machinery.  He was quite genial and told me about some of the machinery, since his wife’s family was a mining family.  He really knew his stuff, and was happy to share.  His story about the underground mule stables was most interesting; I had no idea they did that, but it makes some sense on reflection.  (They needed the mules to move ore carts, but if they ever brought the animals above ground, they wouldn’t go back down.  So, they lived their whole lives in the mine, complete with underground stables.)

IMG_8539-1024

I did record some video at the Chief mining site to make a promo video for the Kickstarter for the deck I’m now calling the Tinker Deck (still carrying the subtitle “Heroes of the 19th Century”), but there was an almost constant background chatter of Harley motorcycles.  So, once I get it cut together and presentable, just know that such isn’t the normal soundscape of Eureka.  Those bikers were our “angel facilitators” of a sort, though, so I think it’s wholly appropriate that they are part of the campaign, even if it doesn’t sound like a sleepy semi-ghost town.

Anyway, here are some of the photos from the trip over on my Google+ account.

Eureka, Utah

I also got a bunch of photos of the textures of the place, like a lot of really cool shots of rusty metal, and I’m weaving those into the card designs.  So yeah, when I said the art was done, I was right… at the time.  I tell you, it’s possible to tinker endlessly with art if you really let yourself.  At this point, though, I’m polishing it up to make it more appealing to Kickstarter denizens, some of whom have somewhat particular tastes.  It’s subtle things, like making the card back perfectly rotationally symmetrical and making the faces use the same edge; these are big things for magicians and some collectors, and pretty easy to make happen.

Card Poker Back Eureka

Card Poker Back Eureka

The bigger question at this point is whether or not to print via Bicycle or just USPC… or just the best priced Chinese company… or something in between.  I’m still not sure on this, so any input you all might have would be appreciated.  I’m leaning to the cheaper cards because I want to peg the price per deck around $5 instead of $10+, but I’m really not sure how that will sort out.  I’m price sensitive, but the Kickstarter market seems… fickle.  Also, the alpha version of the deck (pre-Eureka upgrades) will be available at The Game Crafter for $9.99 without shipping.  I know, Bicycle makes better cards, so $10-12 for a deck with upgraded art isn’t a bad deal, but that $5 price point is still intriguing.  One of the biggest points of doing a Kickstarter in the first place is to get a better price thanks to the economy of a bulk order.

Anyway, plenty of numbers to grind and research to do yet.  It feels agonizingly slow sometimes, since I want to get the deck released into the wild and move on to other fun projects, but sometimes the gears of progress grind slowly… slowly…

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I’ve finished all of the art for my steampunk-gearpunk playing card deck.  That was the easy part.  The court cards took the most time, even though they are relatively simple compared to something you might see in this sort of deck (which is really cool, by the way).  The Jules Verne card is my favorite, but this Thomas Edison card will always be a bit special, in that he and I have the same initials.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

Anyway, you might note that he’s rusty red now, instead of the silver I’ve been showing thus far for the nonblack cards.  Y’see, part of making this into a Kickstarter project is doing market research.  It seems like most of the decks offered thus far on Kickstarter and the commentary threads I’ve read suggest that there is a strong desire for traditional playing card design.  The standard red/black color scheme is less relevant when talking about custom art on playing cards, but there’s still a strong traditionalist streak to appeal to, it seems.  Since I’m not doing the “one eyed Royals” or some of the other fine details of tradition, I figured I’d fall back to the red/black color scheme.  I miss the silver/steel Hearts and Diamonds, but rusty red works in the theme, too.  I took the opportunity to de-purple the edge too, make it a bit rustier, and spiffy up a few other little things.

10 of Hearts

10 of Hearts

Similarly, I’ve made a new set of cards that use the standard pip layout instead of  the custom one that I did earlier.  So… now I effectively have two decks of cards designed.  I’ll offer my original silver/black deck via The Game Crafter, and set this new one up as the Kickstarter deck.  It’s a bit of a compromise, but it seems like it might be the better choice for the venue.  (And, really, though I miss the silver, this new design is looking a bit sharper and more unified anyway.  Maybe I’ll do a silver variant sometime, just on principle.)

So yes, the art is done.  Doing a Kickstarter campaign requires a bit more than that, so I’m going to a semi-ghost town this weekend, among other things.  More on that later.

There’s more research to do, numbers to run, paperwork to file, people to email… plenty of stuff to do before this baby is ready to launch.  But it’s getting there, and I’m pretty excited to get it out there for public consumption.  Thanks for your interest, everyone!

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OK, I’m committed to doing a Kickstarter for my steampunk/gearpunk poker deck now.  Many thanks to those of you who weighed in on it last time!

So… now what?  Lots of things, it seems, most of which I’m already busy digging into.  Mostly, plenty of research on what it takes to make this happen, mad schemes to make it cool and appealing, and finding ways to spread the word far and wide.  Thanks to those of you who have chimed in and spread the word a bit already!

A few questions, then:

Scrusi suggested plastic cards instead of paper cards.  The one plastic card manufacturer that has returned my email has a minimum order of 1500 decks (750 sets of two), at $8/deck.  That adds up fast, to big, scary numbers for a freshman Kickstarter.  I’ll be looking around for more numbers, but that’s a starting point at least.  Paper decks will be cheaper, I assume, but they need to be a fair bit cheaper than the price I’d get at a Print on Demand place like TheGameCrafter.com (about $10/deck) or else there’s not a hugely compelling reason to try to leverage the economy of scale and bulk discounts.  Sure, a Kickstarter will probably bring more potential customers just via publicity, but I’d really like to get a better deal for everyone as part of the bargain.

So… I’m still looking at pricing.  I’d really love to hear what you all think, specifically about what vendors might be optimal in the ol’ cost/quality spectrum.  Paper or plastic?  (I know, plastic cards will be more durable, but are they worth triple the cost or more?  How many players care enough about quality to pay that much more?)  What about brands?  Bicycle has a well-oiled pipeline for Kickstarted decks, and the ability to license their brand name (extra cost, maybe extra perceived value), and a 56-card standard deck that would allow for two cards to be super special Kickstarter rewards.  They also offer custom tuck boxes, which seem like a Good Idea.  That’s certainly not the only route, though, but there are a lot of vendors out there.

…and then there’s the art questions.  I’ve done 12 of the 14 portraits for the face cards, and they lend the suits themes, as well as highlighting important 19th century people.  I like the group I have… but it would be nice to open up the roster and let backers who want to be more involved get their portraits included.  I didn’t start this with Kickstarter in mind, so I didn’t leave room.  One thing I’ve considered strongly is to make the baseline historical figure deck available as a Print on Demand product, and point it out in the Kickstarter, but then open up all of the roster for people to buy into as a special limited edition of the deck.  What think you?

Secondly, and this is perhaps more esoteric… just as an artifact of my design, I’ve altered the layout of the suit pips on the number cards.  This is one example.

6 of Clubs

I chose to do this because of graphic design considerations (the large corner braces), and the desire to make the layout rotationally symmetrical on all cards.  (Pip orientation aside, of course.)  I like how it turned out, but it’s not traditional.  Does that matter to you?  Again, maybe this is where I offer the original elsewhere, and make the Limited Edition (gee, that term is starting to look official and all special-like) use the traditional form.

Offering the original as a paper Print on Demand deck opens up the option to make the Kickstarter a plastic deck project, too… but again, do enough players want plastic cards to make it worthwhile? Maybe this means two Kickstarters in the end, the first one in paper, the second one in plastic?  I’m really not sure on these things since they are largely based on predicting what people might want.  That’s why I’m asking now for as much feedback as I can get.  Will you please help me spread the word and get some opinions collected?

I do have some other stuff planned, some spiffy extras to sweeten the Limited Edition, one of which I’ll tease a bit here:  I work in 3D modeling programs most of my work day, so I’m adept at 3D work.  I spent some time at home the last two evenings and whipped this up, and put it in my Shapeways shop.  (The home of the Gearpunk dice, which dye and paint up pretty well.)

Spade Token (Shapeways render)

Spade Token

It’s derived from the Spade suit pip.  It’s as big as it is (almost 4×3 inches) to make the gears functional.  I can make a smaller version, certainly, but the gears would fuse.  It’s a costly beast, even in plastic.  I’m going to try to hollow it out a bit to save on cost, but it’ll still be biggish to make those gears work.  I’m not sure the gears would ever work if it’s printed in metal, though, so maybe smaller is the way to go anyway to give plastic vs. metal options.  I like that large version, but it’s a bit unwieldy and, well, expensive.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and reading, and I’d love to hear what you all think!

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My Steampunk/Gearpunk playing card deck proceeds apace.  I have only the Jokers to finish, and then a pass through everything to make sure it all works together visually.

A question, though, if anyone cares to opine:

Is this something you’d like to see on Kickstarter as a project done via Bicycle, to get some top notch cards at a decent price, since we’d be leveraging the “economy of scale” with a group order, or just offer them via TheGameCrafter.com, where it’s purely “print on demand”, no minimum order, but for cards of a slightly lesser caliber (TGC still does good work, it’s just not Bicycle Cards) at a slightly higher price.

I didn’t start this with Kickstarter in mind, but I’ve been poking around in the meantime, and it might be a viable option.  Any thoughts?  I’ll make them available for sale either way, and maybe both ways in the end, but if I’m going to do a Kickstarter, I’d lead with it.  It would just be a way to try to get a better deal and a bit more exposure.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the King of Diamonds (Jules Verne) and the Jack of Spades (Henri Giffard).  Thanks for stopping by!
ImageImage

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OK, so it’s not quite alliterative, or a proper tribute to Dorothy’s line, but it’ll do.

Just a few things of interest to note today.

One, some of my NinjaBee coworkers are out at PAX today, revealing our latest game, Nutjitsu!  I don’t have a lot to show for it just yet, but when we do the non-PAX announcement, I’ll be sure to point to it as well.  I didn’t get to work on this one, but it’s looking pretty good.

Two, one that I did work on, A World of Keflings, is now available for Windows 8, and we’ll have it out for the WiiU later this year!  It’s a little different, controlling the game via the touch screen of a tablet computer, but it’s still the great core game that I’ve had the privilege of working on for a few years now.

Three, there’s this gem from The Rampant Coyote (who worked at Wahoo before my time here, so hey, there’s the common thread), addressing the recent interview with Richard Garriott that has some game devs a bit… irked.  For good reason, as it happens.  He makes some good points, but man… the guy has an amazing ego.

Anywho, I had hoped to have my steampunk/gearpunk poker deck done by now, but tech issues and scheduling conflicts mean I still have 6 face cards to do.  It’s getting there, though, and it’s fun to see it come together.

Updated to add:

This is what the NinjaBee booth looks like out on the PAX floor.  Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood!

NinjaBeeBoothPAX

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