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A number of questions from an absolute beginner

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Anonymous

Hello, I've been reading these forums a lot and recently opened an account to try to ask for advice, so thanks in advance for all your help.

Background:
I've designed a board game. "produced" a full/complete prototype myself. Had 2 testing sessions with friends, which resulted in more changes and serious balancing, etc. Now its very near to full satisfaction by friends. To be tested again this weekend probably. + Have done a lot of reading and research on this whole subject.

Questions/Issues:

1) Lack of interest in board games within friends' circle makes it difficult to test it. There are no local game clubs that I can find which speak english. (Brussels). Any ideas? I read that a game needs to be testing MANY times. Where do you get so many people for testing?

2) Showing to people: Currently I just put a (C) mark and type stuff like property of, etc. When I will have chance to show the game to strangers/companies, do I really fall into risk? The trademark/design protection were quoted to me by lawyers above 500-1500 euro (say $1000) PER coutry. I am not in USA, so this is way too much money for me just for the protection, so I think I will stay with just the (C). Is this too risky? I was thinking companies would not need the trouble for stealing ideas?

3) Showing to people: Do I have to design a demo? Do I have to target X amount of players? 4? Is it ok that my prototype does not look fantastic? How much preparation time to I get to setup the game? or to show it?

4) Money: How much % to expect in royalties in the pocket if let's say the price is €50? I read that they subtract various costs from royalties? Do I set the price of the game or does the company? When they take over your game, do you have any contribution at all or they can do with it as they like? (I would like to participate if possible). On the other side, how much does it cost to produce 1 box of board game roughly (for example like Lord of the Rings) with figures and cards and scenery.

5) 3 rough idea cases: How much money can you make in a month from a not so much/ok/very successful board game? (1 game)

6) IT question: I use photoshop for graphics. If I write text there in small sizes, the printer does not print how it looks on screen. Graphics are great match to the screen, but the text is so hard to read. Anyone knows how to do it? I found that if I take the highest possible resolution then its much much better, but still not professional clear quality. Possible my printer is bad.

7) Cardlike feeling cards: When I print cards its ok, but paper is hard to play with. It bends, etc (I use thick expensive paper). How do you get this kind of a card smooth feeling. Is this a special paper or special printer or what? Never tried a laminating machine, quite expensive - €50 for the thing and then a lot more for the paper. Is this the answer though?

8) Game balancing. Is there a trick? There are so many elements in the game which have little to do with one another. How do you balance? I tried my best in excel giving points, weights to items, etc.

9) Male/female? Do you make the game for females, males? both? I am having a very hard time getting the females to love my game. The males seem to like it very much. What elements do females like in games? How to attract them? Last testing I did said female characters, seduction. I've implemented many, what I think, female items now, but advice would be helpful.

Ok, that's it I think.

Thank you very much for all and any help!

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: A number of questions from an absolute beginner

Welcome!

Quote:

1) Lack of interest in board games within friends' circle makes it difficult to test it. There are no local game clubs that I can find which speak english. (Brussels). Any ideas? I read that a game needs to be testing MANY times. Where do you get so many people for testing?

You're right, games need to be playtested extensively before they're ready for even considering publication. Having a local game club seems to be the best route for this, but it's not the only one. Using the "Designer Registry" on the left side menu can help you find designers in your region (there are at least two designers in Belgium). Using that, we've set up a quarterly playtest session here in upstate New York, US; you might be able to do something similar.

It's not playtesting, but we have a "rulebook swap" called the Game Design Workshop. Check out the discussion forum of the same name for info on how that works; the basic idea is that you review some other people's rulebooks, and they review yours in return. It's a great process both to get help on your game and to learn what common elements of good design look like.

Quote:
2) When I will have chance to show the game to strangers/companies, do I really fall into risk?

No. No one will steal your idea. Don't pay $1000 for copyright protection; it's a colossal waste of money.

Quote:

3) Showing to people: Do I have to design a demo? Do I have to target X amount of players? 4? Is it ok that my prototype does not look fantastic? How much preparation time to I get to setup the game? or to show it?

Make it as attractive as you can, but it doesn't have to be beautiful. Usually, you'll just submit your idea to a publisher, and if they're interested, they'll request a prototype, which they'll play and decide if they want to publish. For this reason, the most important element is a well-written rulebook. I don't think that there's a magic number of players, but games playable by 2, or 3-5 players are common. Usually if it's playable by a range of group sizes that's good, but make sure you test it with each player count that you say the game can be played with.

Quote:
Money: How much % to expect in royalties in the pocket if let's say the price is €50?

Royalties are probably about 5% of wholesale cost, which is about 40% of the retail price. So, on a $50 game, the designer would get $1.

Quote:
Do I set the price of the game or does the company?

The company, but it's probably good to have an idea of what the price point will be as you develop the game. For example, if you have 200 cards and 1000 miniatures, you're developing a game that will be very expensive for them to produce, and should try to whittle it down if possible.

Quote:
On the other side, how much does it cost to produce 1 box of board game roughly (for example like Lord of the Rings) with figures and cards and scenery.

Impossible to answer generally; go to Web Resources, look up Professional Services, and contact printing companies directly for quotes, giving as specific a set of components as possible.

Quote:

5) 3 rough idea cases: How much money can you make in a month from a not so much/ok/very successful board game? (1 game)

A successful hobby game will sell 2000 copies over its lifetime. I beleive that companies pay out royalties once per year. Bottom line, you're not going to make much money even if your game does fairly well.

Quote:

7) Cardlike feeling cards: When I print cards its ok, but paper is hard to play with. It bends, etc (I use thick expensive paper). How do you get this kind of a card smooth feeling.

If you use cardstock (110 lb paper) and just handle the cards a lot, usually they become easy to handle and shuffle after a little handling. But it's still not as good as real playing cards, which are much more complicated to produce.

Quote:

8) Game balancing. Is there a trick? There are so many elements in the game which have little to do with one another. How do you balance? I tried my best in excel giving points, weights to items, etc.

Impossible to answer in the abstract, but a general rule is to integrate the mechanics as tightly as possible so that everything affects everything else. The crowning achievement of this concept is Puerto Rico. If you have lots of non-overlapping elements, chances are your game could still use some sharpening.

Good luck!

-Jeff

Anonymous
clarification

jwarrend, thank you immensely for your advice!

If I may ask about your reply:

a) If a popular game produces about $2-3000 a year for the designer, then why are the designers doing this? That's just enough for a few month's bills.

b) When you spoke about sending to publisher: I can prepare a good rulebook I suppose, but then, just to clarify, I have to send the entire prototype without my supervision? I must make good packaging then or sending in any box is just fine?

Thanks yet again.

Sebastian
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Re: clarification

GC wrote:
a) If a popular game produces about $2-3000 a year for the designer, then why are the designers doing this? That's just enough for a few month's bills.

The figure of 2000 is for a typical small scale print run. If a game is successful, or is published by a larger company, the size of the print run could be considerably larger. If this is the case, be happy, but in absence of any track record of producing games / publisher contacts / etc. then expecting a large print run, or even necessarily expecting to be published is unrealistic.

Why are the designers doing it? Typically, as a labour of love - they enjoy playing games, they enjoy designing games, and if a game gets published, then the reward is seeing their game out there rather than necessarily the money. A couple of designers do succeed in making a living only from games design, and they do so by producing a lot of games - and I suspect even they could earn a lot more by switching jobs.

Dralius
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A number of questions from an absolute beginner

jwarrend wrote:
A successful hobby game will sell 2000 copies over its lifetime. I beleive that companies pay out royalties once per year. Bottom line, you're not going to make much money even if your game does fairly well.

Although many games only sell their first print run and are never re-printed. I would not consider a game that only sells 2000 copies in its life time very successful. First of all if it’s popular it is likely to be reprinted. As we have seen in recent years a hot game can sell very large amount of copies in a very short time. Look at games like Ticket to Ride, now that is truly a successful game.

Here is a link to some sales figures. Don’t start drooling over the money yet these games are the exception not the rule.

http://www.spielboy.com/printrun.php

jwarrend
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Re: clarification

GC wrote:

a) If a popular game produces about $2-3000 a year for the designer, then why are the designers doing this? That's just enough for a few month's bills.

There are lots of possible answers to this question; Sebastian touched on a few. I think the more salient point is that you need to ask yourself whether you would be willing to do this for no money (because realistically, even getting published is a longshot). If you can't answer 'yes', better to quit before you start. Trying to make money designing games will be a frustrating, disappointing endeavor.

Quote:

b) When you spoke about sending to publisher: I can prepare a good rulebook I suppose, but then, just to clarify, I have to send the entire prototype without my supervision? I must make good packaging then or sending in any box is just fine?

Each publisher will probably have a different set of requirements. Even getting to the point where the publisher wants a prototype is an accomplishment. Should you reach that point, they'll tell you what they want.

Another good route to consider is the annual Hippodice game author competition, for amateur designers. The top 10 entries are evaluated by representatives from major publishers, and a winner chosen -- this can be a great way to get a good game onto a publisher's radar screen. Do a forum search for "Hippodice" if interested.

Dralius wrote:
Although many games only sell their first print run and are never re-printed. I would not consider a game that only sells 2000 copies in its life time very successful...Look at games like Ticket to Ride, now that is truly a successful game.

Well, sure, but there are probably less than 5 German games that have sold as well as TtR. Maybe it's better to look at the situation from the perspective of "what should I expect?" If you can manage to sell 2000 copies of your game, that's a great accomplishment, and you're way ahead of the curve. Obviously some games sell better, but probably not that many. If TtR is one's benchmark for "success", then one is almost certainly destined to fail.

-Jeff

Dralius
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A number of questions from an absolute beginner

jwarrend wrote:
Well, sure, but there are probably less than 5 German games that have sold as well as TtR. Maybe it's better to look at the situation from the perspective of "what should I expect?" If you can manage to sell 2000 copies of your game, that's a great accomplishment, and you're way ahead of the curve. Obviously some games sell better, but probably not that many. If TtR is one's benchmark for "success", then one is almost certainly destined to fail.

Don't get me wrong Jeff i am not in it for the money and that is not how i measure success nor do I stack my games next to others to validate them. I would hope that what I create will be judged for what they are and that hopefully is a game you want to play.

GC – Very few people earn enough money designing games to make a living out of it. But if you love doing it making money is a bonus to something you would be doing even if no one would pay you. I have been making games since I was a child and as long as I can find people to play them I will continue weather or not it makes me any money.

gpetersz
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A number of questions from an absolute beginner

Dralius wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
Well, sure, but there are probably less than 5 German games that have sold as well as TtR. Maybe it's better to look at the situation from the perspective of "what should I expect?" If you can manage to sell 2000 copies of your game, that's a great accomplishment, and you're way ahead of the curve. Obviously some games sell better, but probably not that many. If TtR is one's benchmark for "success", then one is almost certainly destined to fail.

Don't get me wrong Jeff i am not in it for the money and that is not how i measure success nor do I stack my games next to others to validate them. I would hope that what I create will be judged for what they are and that hopefully is a game you want to play.

GC – Very few people earn enough money designing games to make a living out of it. But if you love doing it making money is a bonus to something you would be doing even if no one would pay you. I have been making games since I was a child and as long as I can find people to play them I will continue weather or not it makes me any money.

Should we really regard money as something filthy?

I am in for the fun AND the money. My satisfaction will be fully served if after we (my team members and me) produce a fine game and a fine profit. Profit shows success somehow, because that measures how people are ready to give their hard earned money for our game.

Money is money. If I would do it only for money, than I would stay as I am now (an ORACLE developer). That's good money, but 0 satisfaction.
I would like to do what I love to do AND earn as much money as I can.

Am I something hideous? ;)

Okay, the odds are against everybody, but if it can be done then it can be done. If I don't do it yet, or I can't do it that shows only that I do it the wrong way.

jwarrend
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A number of questions from an absolute beginner

gpetersz wrote:

Should we really regard money as something filthy?

For the purposes of the present conversation, the answer is no, but that isn't what was being argued. The question was "why does anyone design games if there's no money to be made off of it?" We're taking it as a given that in general, there's not much money to be made by designing games. Of course there are exceptions, but the point is simply that if your only metric of success in designing is how much money you make, you're overwhelmingly likely to end up disappointed. Most of us, including you, are doing this because it's fun. If we make some money, great, but we won't stop designing games even if we don't make money off our games.

-Jeff

gpetersz
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A number of questions from an absolute beginner

I don't want to disappoint you but I'd do stop it.

But I think it is a matter of what you are aimed for. If I'd do it for hobby than I wouldn't care about the financial side, but since I want it to replace my current stable income, and I want my hobby to replace my current boring job, I HAVE TO regard it seriously from the financial side as well. :)

I only asked that question becase everybody starting to tell the same "I am surely not in it for the money!". I don't think it is something one should be ashamed for.

Dralius
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A number of questions from an absolute beginner

gpetersz wrote:
I only asked that question becase everybody starting to tell the same "I am surely not in it for the money!". I don't think it is something one should be ashamed for.

It’s not that i would be ashamed to make money at game design. It is that as a freelance designer you have no assurance of income, it’s all based on % of sales for those games that you can get published. The overall uncertainty makes it difficult to make your living entirely from it. On top of that if you work for your self you must take into account the loss of any benefits; Insurance, 401K, etc. that you would have to pay out of pocket. In my case I can’t depend on game design to give me all these things. It would require the licensing of an exceptionally successful game or a large number of average selling games to get me to leave the security of my present job. If by some chance this happens I would consider early retirement and spend my 40+ hours of work effort on games alone. Until then I have two jobs, one that makes me money and one that makes me happy.

Anonymous
A number of questions from an absolute beginner

Before I begin, thank you all for all of your opinions and views. I, also, am a working man and I would like to bring to attention few points.

1) As it is accepted in the auto making industry, one of the most important qualities of a great engineer is to design a great car while at the same time talking to all stakeholders, especially sales people, to make sure that this great car can be sold in the market. With this information, the chief engineer can fine-tune certain aspects of the design to even fit each country or to fix something s/he had not realized.
Conclusion: The designer needs to have a connection with the sales (think about the money as well as the design) to prepare the best design.
Assumption: The best design is the most wanted one for everyone including the designer. I like very much the point tha was made "that the people are willing to give their hard earned money for our game".

2) Bill Gates story if I know it correctly. Doing something that is fun for him one day he woke up as the CEO of a huge company. Never cared about the money when started and it came all by itself since when he was doing what he loved, he did it so well that everything followed.
Conclusion: The primary goal should never be money. However, money, for some people, is an amaizing motivator. This said, if one completely does not care about if the money will come or not, the money will most likely not come. You need to, at least, open the door.
Assumption: People will not rush to give you money, you need to do some PR, some marketing and some convincing, at least, to raise or create awareness.

So I think it is important to realize what numbers to expect and to work with. There are always exceptions, but if I know that I can make this much or lose this much money, it is not going to make a worse designer I think, only better for knowing. I also believe that the designer will not enjoy his/her design if nobody is enjoying it. We, humans, have the need to share to satisfy ourselves. We have the need to be told "this is great" or "this is fun" or "you are great". There are some exceptions, but generally this is the case, so by thinking about the "customer" you are only adding value. This is just my opinion, I respect anyone with a different one.

P.S. Does anyone else happen to have some more comments on the other questions in the 1st post? Thanks!

zaiga
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A number of questions from an absolute beginner

GC wrote:
Conclusion: The designer needs to have a connection with the sales (think about the money as well as the design) to prepare the best design.

I agree with this. If you want to get your design published, you need to know how to create a "sellable" game.

Quote:
Assumption: The best design is the most wanted one for everyone including the designer. I like very much the point tha was made "that the people are willing to give their hard earned money for our game".

I'm not sure I agree with this. I don't think you can really compare the car industry with the game industry in this regard. Monopoly is one of the best selling designs ever, but it hasn't really got much to do with the quality of the design. Hasbro sells tons of games which the general buyer buys, not because of the quality of the mechanics, but because it's the Simpson edition of Monopoly. They aren't buying a game to play it, but rather they are buying an item which they can give away, or put on the shelf, never to be played.

Puerto Rico is a great game, number one on the BoardGameGeek, but a lot of people won't buy it, even when they are interested in buying a good game to actually play, simply because it doesn't appear on the shelves of their local toy store. Even if it does, how will they know it is a good game? A lot of people just buy stuff they know, so they'll pick up the newest version of Risk or Monopoly, rather then take a risk and try out a new game.

Quote:
2) Bill Gates story if I know it correctly. Doing something that is fun for him one day he woke up as the CEO of a huge company. Never cared about the money when started and it came all by itself since when he was doing what he loved, he did it so well that everything followed.

The story I heard was that Gates was very good at selling a mediocre product. MS-DOS certainly wasn't the best operating system around, and he even bought most of it from another company (IBM, I believe).

Anyway...

Quote:
Conclusion: The primary goal should never be money. However, money, for some people, is an amaizing motivator. This said, if one completely does not care about if the money will come or not, the money will most likely not come. You need to, at least, open the door.

I don't think there's anything wrong with money being the primary motivator. Hasbro makes millions by selling the same crappy game over and over again. I'm fine with that, although I will never buy their crappy games (they also make some good games every now and then, btw ;). I do agree with the statement that, if you don't care about money at all, it will not come.

Quote:
Assumption: People will not rush to give you money, you need to do some PR, some marketing and some convincing, at least, to raise or create awareness.

Agreed.

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