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Going it alone

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Anonymous

Guys

Any advice about going it alone and producing my own game?

I have a good idea and I want to try a small production run

Any "veterans" in a position to advise?

Many thanks

TGJ

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
Well

Let me ask some quick questions...

Do you only have an idea or do you have an actual working prototype that you have extensively playtested (including blind tests) and have done adequate market research to know that it should sell enough copies?

If not, then you're wasting our, and more importantly, your time. I hate to sound harsh but we get this question all the time.

Having an idea is simply not enough. You need to turn that idea into a working ruleset, then you need to further develop it into a working prototype. From there you need to play test it with your friends, then fix what's broken and retest it with your friends. Once your friends like it (and they always will, face it, they're your friends!), you need to have some strangers play it, possibly gamers in your area. From then you need to send prototypes and rules to people and have them play it (without you being there to explain it, hence the name 'blind playtest', the game has to stand on its own legs). Get their feedback and revise it more. Then once that's done you need to see who your target audience is (in my opinion, you should decide this from day one), then you need to see if there is a market for your game in that target audience. Will your target audience like your game? Will they have the funds to buy your game? Will they have the time to play it? Is the market already saturated? These are all things that you need to answer. After you have answered these things, come back and talk to us! =)

-Darke

Anonymous
Going it alone

Darkehorse wrote:
Having an idea is simply not enough. You need to turn that idea into a working ruleset, then you need to further develop it into a working prototype.

Take a look at the Game Design Workshop forum. There are a lot of designers (myself included) with what they feel are good designs. As you can see, there are always a lot of areas that the designer never considered for making their game more playable. The truth is, you never want to put the time and $$$ into self production until you have had as many people from as many different backgrounds (from non-gamers to hard-core gamers) as you can find look over your working rules and prototype. They need to play it and let you know how much fun it is and how they would like to see it done better/different.

You have probably already done all of this, but it is always good to be sure that you know what you're getting into before you jump in. Read over the GDW Forum Protocols, help out some other designers and then get yourself a slot and submit your game. It will help you either confirm that your game is finished and ready to go, or find some ways to make it better. I was amazed at the great and useful feedback that I have received.

It is possible to self-produce in one way or another, many here have done so and commented on their successes/difficulties. Scour the Game Production forum threads. There's a TON of useful information that will help you make the decision or help you with suggestions. Use the search feature, it's a great tool!

Either way, there's no harm in taking the time to ensure that your game is the best it can be. It's well worth avoiding some of the mistakes that other self-producers have made!!

Best of luck, keep posting your progress!!

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Going it alone

Welcome to the group, and congrats on your idea. I apologize that, like Darke and Steve, I'm not a self-publisher either, so you're not exactly getting the feedback you requested, though I hope you will, or will be able to find the "success stories" you're looking for by searching the forums.

The one thing I would think about, were I looking to self-publish, is the essential difference between playtesting feedback and marketing feedback. It may be that you (or I, or whoever) has designed a game that works brilliantly well, and is fun to play, and everything, and if I playtested it, maybe I could attest to it, but, ask me whether I'd shell out X dollars to buy it, and that's a *very* different question. Speaking only for myself, my games budget is limited, and no matter how good a game is, there has to be something "extra" about it that makes me want to actually own it as part of my own collection. Now, of course, there are the "collectors" out there who will buy almost every game that exists and give it a try (and trade it if they don't like it). But the bottom line is, keep in mind that you don't just want to know whether your game is liked, but whether it's sellable.

Not sure how to answer that question, having no background in marketing or sales, but then, that's also why I'm not looking to self-publish; I'm not a businessman, and don't want to learn how to be.

One piece of "advice" I read somewhere, I think on this forum, from Anye Sellers, a designer, and owner of Dancing Eggplant games, a small company, is that she prefers to produce games designed by other people because it gives her a level of objectivity that she doesn't have with regard to her own games. Of course, the counter to that is that by selling your own design, you have the belief in the product to make you go the extra mile to make it a success.

Either way, best of luck, and looking forward to hearing more about your project!

-Jeff

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
A little advice

I don't think I qualify as an expert, but I do have some relevant experience. I started Live Oak Games a couple years ago, and have since released one game a year (Ice Lake in 2003, SiegeStones in 2004).

I have a couple of suggestions if you're going to "go it alone":
1) Decide on your goals. Is this a second business or your new way of supporting yourself? Are you in it for "fun" or for "money"?

2) Decide who your market is going to be. Are you selling to the specialty game industry, the general public, or maybe just a niche (like RPGs or miniatures)? Are they adult games or kids games?

The answer to these two questions will sculpt your strategies for creating, manufacturing, and marketing the games. The different niches of this business are very different from each other. If you're in a specialty niche market, your looking at relatively low sales at relatively high prices (and good margins). If you're in the mass market, you're looking to ship large quantities at low margins.

Since I've started, the biggest surprise for me has been on the marketing end of things. If you're targeting the general public, as we do, you have to market to customers, retailers, and distributors.

Anonymous
Going it alone

OrlandoPat wrote:
I don't think I qualify as an expert, but I do have some relevant experience. I started Live Oak Games a couple years ago, and have since released one game a year (Ice Lake in 2003, SiegeStones in 2004).

I think you definitely qualify as an expert! Great website, by the way (especially the free online games and the Flash games, very cool!!)

I think you have mentioned some excellent goals! I was in the same position a year ago or so. I had some ideas that were developing into good games that were welcomed and enjoyed by playtesters. I immediately thought I could self produce and get them out there. Hey, who doesn't! I looked long and hard into getting my game produced, which is what led me here to this (invaluable) forum. The more I read the more I realized that I didn't want to start (and more importantly--run) a business. I want to be a hobby designer that makes games that are fun and that I may someday submit to people like OrlandoPat or Dancing Eggplant or any number of great companies.

TheGoodJack, you may really want to put your business acumen to work and get your game out there, but you need to decide on your goals as both a designer and a small business. Is this a one-off to get your game out there? You may want to submit it to an already established company and focus on your other designs (no one designs just one game : )).

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Going it alone

I have been involved with self producing games for 6+years now and the first thing I can tell you is it takes time, a lot of time.

Dont rush devleopment of your game(s), and as many have said to you already, playtest, playtest somemore and then do your best to get people to break your game. Get as many friend and family members playing your game. If they like it, take a version or so to the local game store and play with strangers there and if they like it......

you need to switch hats and start thinking like a marketing/business person (ugh!).

First think I would try to figure out, what amount of money can you put into the product. This will impact the method/way you get your product out into the market. And other thread talk about, it is not cheap to produce a game, just the min run required by most printers can crush the startup dreams of many.

So assuming that you dont have money trees, I would say,

think BIG, but start off small

What I mean by that, if you really think you have a game worth selling, come up with a plan to sell you game locally or in small target markets. Maybe see if local game/hobby stores will carry your game on consignment. Maybe figure out a plan to attend a few small convention to promote/market your game. Think about setting up an online web store to sell you game that way.

Anonymous
Brilliant!

Guys

This is just the kind of feedback I had been hoping for.

The message that seems to be common to all the replies so far is not to start off without extensively testing the game.

I have carried out some basic testing but I think it will benefit from critical feedback to tighten up the rule structure and the supporting literature.

Do any of you have any comments on the need to the protect intellectual property before disclosing the details to a third party?

Many thanks

The Good Jack

Anonymous
Going it alone

TheGoodJack wrote:
The message that seems to be common to all the replies so far is not to start off without extensively testing the game.

Yes, 100%!!

Quote:
Do any of you have any comments on the need to the protect intellectual property before disclosing the details to a third party?

There have been many threads devoted to this topic, which should answer most of your questions. The essence is to not worry too much about it. I'm not sure how the laws work in the UK, but in the US a game designer (especially a cash-poor one) may apply for a copyright on the rule booklet, the game boards/pieces and that's about it.

You will notice that many of the games submitted to the Game Design Workshop here (a highly rewarding experience for me personally!!(/shamelessplug)) have affixed any number of copyright disclaimers to their rules and components (myself included).

Zzzzz
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Joined: 06/20/2008
Going it alone

Quote:
Do any of you have any comments on the need to the protect intellectual property before disclosing the details to a third party?

Another option(though I dont know how it works in the UK), would be to send yourself a copy of the rules/game as registered mail. In the US it is a poor mans copyright. Since the registered mail is sealed and dated by the gov(post office), it can be used in court as a date reference for ideas, etc.

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
Protecting yourself

When I first got started, I heard/read all sorts of warnings about protecting your ideas and games from all the evil people out there.

This doesn't apply nearly as much if you're "going it alone". If you're producing your own games, you should be at market by the time anyone else is in position to rip you off. They still can, of course, but at that point, you can point to sales of your games.

You still have to protect yourself with your playtesters, but that's what NDAs are for.

I've heard about "the mail yourself a copy" idea. I don't know if it's valid or not. What I do is simple: I keep all (and I mean all) of my development notes. Every iteration of the rules is printed and dated, and all early revisions are kept. Even playtest reports are dated and kept in a box somewhere. Hopefully, if I'm ever in a "I invented that!" legal battle, these notes should go a long way towards proving my case.

Yekrats
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Joined: 08/11/2008
Going it alone

Zzzzz wrote:

Another option(though I dont know how it works in the UK), would be to send yourself a copy of the rules/game as registered mail. In the US it is a poor mans copyright. Since the registered mail is sealed and dated by the gov(post office), it can be used in court as a date reference for ideas, etc.

It's my understanding that a "poor man's copyright" wastes a perfectly good stamp and an envelope. A work is copyrighted once it's put into a fixed form (written down, or even typed into a computer document!) According to the Wikipedia article about copyright you probably don't even need the copyright symbol circle-c, which is only necessary in places outside of the Berne convention. Once a work is written down (even in emails or a web page), copyright is established.

As I understand it, envelopes can be opened and resealed, (it's difficult, but possible!) so sending something in an envelope to yourself doesn't add anything in court.

You might be interested in seeing "They stole my game!" by Tom Jolly. A good read about the biz of game design, and the chances of someone else having the same idea at the same time. All of the game companies I know are in the business of producing games, and not ripping off game designers, and dealing with that mess. Game ideas are a dime a dozen, and stealing someone else's is more trouble than it would be worth for a game company, I think.

Of course, always find out a company's outside submission policy before sending anything, and make sure you follow it to the letter. Sometimes, they will ask that you send them the initial idea or theme, and that's when they might say, "We are already producing something like that..." No hard feelings, but it happens.

Best wishes, and good luck...
-- Scott S.

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