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The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

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Anonymous

Really, the question I am asking can only be answered by someone with practical experience.

Here it is: Once a company has a working prototype finished, what happens next? I know what happens in broad terms... but can anyone relay the most logical chronological steps?

Example Scenario That I Am Questioning:

1. Finished prototype.

2. Explore graphic designers to see who would be the best fit to illustrate the game, cards etc. Is this the correct "jumping off" point? What is a good way to explore designers... but even more importantly how do they work in hand with the physical publishers of the game?

3. I would imagine next is working with a publishing company to get price quotes to publish the game. (Who typically has the most experience in this field?) How do you find out a companies experience and qualifications for making boardgames?

4. What about accounting for special components such as dice, spinners, pawns, tokens etc.? This is handled by whom?

5. Let's say you are going to have production in China, Japan etc. How does one get started in that? What are the steps (or a checklist) that you have to go through to make sure things are efficient and cost productive? Are there intermediaries to meet or is it a matter of going to China directly (right from the get go) and meeting assigned representatives of a company?

6. How do you start your distribution network... with thought being given to ICC Incoterms? Is it typical for bulk warehousing facilities to be on the West Coast if production and shipping are from Asia? Thinking (just for a moment) on a large scale.... how is the distribution flow handled to the retailers once product clears customs and what percentage of the Operating Expenses on the Income Statement would you say the typical shipping cost entails? (ie. or even better...sample costing for 10,000 units 15,000 units etc.)

How could all of this be handled (theoretically) from an East Coast state?

There probably is a lot more but that is it for the moment. I have much business experience but I admit I have very little publishing experience. But as with everything, of course, if you are going to do something...get it done right....so even if it makes me look silly, I'm going to ask.

(By the way, the prototype is not finished yet... but I am thinking ahead...)

phpbbadmin
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!!!!

Dear God! You forgot the most important step, PLAYTESTING. I wouldn't even think about all that other stuff until you thoroughly, thoroughly playtest the heck out of the game. If you HAVE already playtested, then forgive my post.
-Darke

braincog
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The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

This is a pretty broad question, and one could write a book as an answer (actually many have - check them out if you haven't yet). In fact, after reviewing my response, this almost is a book itself. Gah! But sticking mainly to your steps:

1) Be sure "finishing prototype" includes lots and lots of testing with people you barely know (or better yet, don't know at all). Then when you think you're done play testing, test a bunch more.

2) If you have no artistic skill yourself, you are smart to seek it elsewhere rather than trying to fake it. There really isn't a "right" way to locate an artist, just as you might find a realtor, accountant, or babysitter by referral, advertisement, chance encounter at a party, etc. You're probably more likely to find just a "graphic artist" as opposed to a "graphic artist that specializes in games". As such, you should expect to provide the requirements such as size, color vs B&W, bleed, resolution and format of digital files, etc. If you want to keep costs low, seek out talented high school or college students. There have also been people who post to this site on occasion seeking graphic design work, so search for those. Look at other online forums geared toward illustrators and graphic artists and you may find some folks that way too. Depending on where you live, you might ask local newspapers or other publications who they work with for illustrations. The other route would be to work with an actual game designer (many game manufacturers provide graphic art services in house too) and they can basically design your game for you, if you have deep enough pockets.

3) I assume by "publisher" you mean "manufacturer" since you are also talking about price quotes. A publisher would (ideally) be paying you (via licencing and royalty) rather than you paying them. :-) So, when you are ready to locate a manufacturer, be sure to write up a detailed request for quotation (RFQ) with itemized components and get as specific about sizes, numbers, paper stocks, etc. as you can possibly be. Many manufacturers have their own forms that you fill out to receive a quote. What I did was to write my RFQ and post it on a website and then send an email to about a dozen companies with a link to my RFQ to save myself from filling out their forms. About nine responded with bids of varying quality. I narrowed those down to three and called them each and talked with the president or project manager. Some questions you ask is what they have done in the past and are doing now, how long they've been in the business, etc. They also usually have this stuff on their website. Some will send you packets in the mail with samples. The Web Resources of this site, discovergames.com and several other sites that you find when Googling keywords like game manufacturing, boardgame printing, etc. have references to firms you should consider requesting bids from.

4) Some game manufacturers will also either be able to make or will procure and assemble specialty components like dice, pencils, timers, vacuum trays, etc. Include these in your RFQ and some firms will say they can take care of it, others won't. I chose the ones that could do everything since I didn't want to be bothered having to hunt down various things myself. It's a time/cost tradeoff, but IMO the little extra cost is worth not having to deal with the extra logistics hassle of multiple vendors.

5) Indeed, the least expensive quotes you will get back from manufacturers will be from those manufacturers who either have manufacturing in Asia, or outsource manufacturing to an Asian company. For the most part, the fact that the manufacturing is done in China will be transparent to you. The company headquartered here in the US or Canada or wherever that you will be writing a check out to will deal with the folks in the Chinese factory to ensure your requirements are met and quality is good. You will review proofs and provide your approval. Other than that, you don't really care too much about where the stuff is made other than you need to factor in the few thousand dollars you'll have to spend on shipping by sea and the time that your inventory will take to make the journey (6-10 weeks). Actually going to China is definitely not necessary unless you wish to be far more involved in the details than I would want to be.

6) Distribution is big and complex. If you have no connections or experience in the game industry, try to find people who do and let them get you started. Some of the game manufacturers also handle order fulfillment and warehousing for you if you want. Fewer even offer some level of sales representation on a commission basis. Otherwise, going it your own requires going to the major game conventions, contacting retailers on your own (not likely to be very effective on anything other than a very small scale), and contacting distributors on your own. Look up the dimensions of 20' and 40' seatainers (cargo shipping containers), and figure out how many units can fit in those (add a bit of extra space for master shipping boxes that hold your game boxes in sets of 6 or 12 or whatever). Each 20' seatainer from China to US coast is ~$3000, 40' is maybe $5000 ballpark.

All that said, I am still just in the process of manufacturing my first batch of games (in China) and have not yet gotten as far as distribution and retail, so take that in to account when deciding how much credibility to give my ramblings.

Fun stuff.

Anonymous
The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Darkehorse,

Did you see the bottom note? I'm not done with the games yet. But anyway, I think I can multi-task on this one.

Its a very organized effort... but if you are going to do a start up and you have your product in place and no business plan.... well, you're in a load of hooey anyway. So I prefer to know what I need to account for outside my area of expertise (which is publishing) and to leverage my core strengths (business) to get a handle on the situation. And there needs to be synergy there between game design and business planning for me to be efficient and productive.

Besides...for me, design is what I can get revved up about one day, business planning maybe another day... but I prefer to focus on where my energy is at the time. And I have time to playtest all the games till kingdom come right now... it is a planned 2006 launch.

Ryan35

Anonymous
The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Braincog,

Wow. It is late now. But rest assured, I will be reading what you have taken considerable lengths to write about tomorrow. Thank you.

I think this is a useful topic for discussion...for as many people who are designing games here...this surely has to be a subject that is in the back of everyone's mind. Probably not too many want to admit they don't knowabout it... as it seems counterproductive to thier purpose for being here. But count me amoung the "dumb"... I am happy to absorb whatever people are willing to give me on this topic. Its important.

So thank you again and I will definitely read this tomorrow.

jwarrend
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The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

ryan35 wrote:

Did you see the bottom note? I'm not done with the games yet. But anyway, I think I can multi-task on this one.

And I have time to playtest all the games till kingdom come right now... it is a planned 2006 launch.

Welcome to the site, and best of luck with your projects!

I think the point that Darke was making, and with which I concur, is that many folks seem to assume that a playable, sellable game is just going to pop out of the air for them to sell, and experience suggests that it doesn't work this way. There's a very real possibility with any game project that it's going to lead to a dead end, either because the game ends up not being that fun to play, or because it wouldn't sell well. The games market is very competitive, and games have to be exceptional to rise to the top.

This in no way invalidates your approach to do some of your homework in advance. Just make sure you devote the vast majority of your efforts on developing the game itself, lest all your homework be for a class that you don't end up taking...

Good luck,

Jeff

Johan
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Re: !!!!

Darkehorse wrote:
Dear God! You forgot the most important step, PLAYTESTING. I wouldn't even think about all that other stuff until you thoroughly, thoroughly playtest the heck out of the game.

I totally agree with Darkehorse in this.
When you are ready with the prototype, have the prototyped reviewed and tested (and blind tested). When you are satisfied with the game and know that all possible flaws are removed, then you still have test to do and should plan for them.
After the game has the new graphics and the right components you should do a new test of the game. When you now test the game (try to use a blind test group and play it yourself), you will check that:
- The look and feel is what you expected.
- No parts are misunderstood because of the new graphics.
- You still have a good overview of the game.
It is better to change the coloring, fonts and sizes now then after the game is printed and distributed.

// Johan

Anonymous
The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Time. Time. Time. Gentlemen. Time out!

We've gone off topic because the assumption out there seems to be that I have just shown up on this website, with no experience, slapped a game together with no thought to playtesting... have decided its perfect and so now it is time to sell.

Is that a good recap? Not that it is any big deal but I write about boardgames for an online game website. I only say that to provide illustrative value in that I have covered the topic of the value of playtesting many times... with noted game authors even. So I feel I have a little knowledge about the design process. And yes, I am a little versed in the subject of playtesting too.

And I have been a member of this great website since 2004... I just have seen fit to post for the first time yesterday, that's all.

Anyway, to help fill in the gaps.... I already have a graphics team picked out and mostly locked down. Mike Doyle will have a hand in these projects... I interviewed him for The Games Journal earlier this year and he is a great artist. He is well versed council for me and he now has experience with the graphic art for the Marvel Heroes game that is coming out this fall. Mike and I have had many long discussions about game art, box art etc.

And yes, I plan to playtest the heck out of the games, and playtest again and again and all of that. And this is after running a mathematical/statistical simulation to nail down cause and effect outcomes in the games. So is everyone a little more confident now that I haven't forgotten the most important step, playtesting?

I could fill in even more gaps.... but it starts to get boring and repetitive to you guys after a while, I'm sure. And to me, it is pointless to defend what I am doing... I am confident in the progress I am making. I have worked on this project for well over a year. Let's just leave it at that.

So getting back on track...briancog.... you definitely some useful suggestions. If anyone can add to briancog's ideas, we have a chance to make this a very useful topic for the forum.

Anonymous
The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Braincog,

That is awesome and VERY useful stuff. Very well-written. It clears up a number of things in my mind and helps me to proceed on that point. I have actually had conversation with other people on some of these points... but I put in those topics as a reference point for everyone.

Even with past conversation considered, you shed new insights on the subject.... the whole thing was very, very informative. Thank you.

jwarrend
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The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

ryan35 wrote:

We've gone off topic because the assumption out there seems to be that I have just shown up on this website, with no experience, slapped a game together with no thought to playtesting... have decided its perfect and so now it is time to sell.

If you've been here for a year, then you know how accurate that assumption is in general. I'm sorry if you feel that we've wasted your time by making suggestions that you had already been heeding, but what you have to understand is that in general, our suggestions would save tremendous time and expense for someone who was failing to take into consideration that little detail of actually designing a world class game, and that people who post questions like the ones you posted overwhelmingly tend to be in that situation. If that's not you, then great!

-Jeff

Anonymous
The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Well, you have a great resource for the aspiring game designer. And I agree with you about the accuracy of that assumption (regarding playtesting) for new game designers. Let's hope that anyone designing a game pays heed to the other sections of the discussion forums here, which duly cover the importance of playtesting.

Anonymous
Re: !!!!

Darkehorse wrote:
Dear God! You forgot the most important step, PLAYTESTING. I wouldn't even think about all that other stuff until you thoroughly, thoroughly playtest the heck out of the game. If you HAVE already playtested, then forgive my post.
-Darke

Thanks for this. I have one patented game some what on the market. A simple game but need production for my more complicated board games
'jenstan'

phpbbadmin
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The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

ryan35 wrote:
Well, you have a great resource for the aspiring game designer. And I agree with you about the accuracy of that assumption (regarding playtesting) for new game designers. Let's hope that anyone designing a game pays heed to the other sections of the discussion forums here, which duly cover the importance of playtesting.

Sorry, I hope I didn't jump the gun. I should have recognized the Gamefest avatar immediately. My apologies.

-Darke

Anonymous
The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Darkehorse,

Stop. Are you kidding me? You don't have to apologize to me in the least. You're out there trying to help someone out and you have to apologize for it?

I think not! (grin)

All I wanted to do was refocus the conversation back to the questions I was asking about. No harm, no foul. And trust me, the Gamefest avatar isn't a "know everything about games" badge or anything else along those lines. Simply put, you guys know mine is just one more opinion... to be weighed solely on the merit of what I am communicating... nothing more. Besides, what you guys are doing here is far more impressive than anything I could write about. Right?

This is a great website, a great resource and you guys should be very proud of your efforts.

Brykovian
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The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

This is a good topic, Ryan ... thanks for starting it, and I can see why/where you want to track it -- I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye on it. BrainCog's post was very good info for me to put into the back of my head for a later date.

One question I have for you, Ryan ... what took you to want to start up your own game publishing company instead of just pitch your game to an existing publisher?

-Bryk

Anonymous
The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Bryk

Raw, unmitigated greed??? No just kidding. : )

One of the games was pitched to a well known company. It actually made it to the prototype stage before I myself, became stuck on some things that I just wasn't happy about. But being realistic, the company would have seen those same exact things, so I doubt it was really viewed by them as a loss, I'm sure. They were very, very gracious, however in letting me do what I wanted to do and take it back in house.

In the meantime, I felt myself more drawn to the business side of boardgames more so than the design. Design for me is a necessary evil, so to speak, but needed to get the company up and running. I know I would rather play games than design them! Some of my designs I really like...but I think I need a co-creator to bring the flavor some of the games to their full capabilities.

Anyway, as you all know, nothing happens unless you have a good product. So it is essential to continue to develop the ideas, so that they translate well with the end consumer.

FastLearner
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The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Assuming you're looking at the hobby market (or other small retail market, as opposed to the mass market), I highly recommend the Game Manufacturers Association, aka GAMA, at http://www.gama.org

If you join as a publisher, they've got all kinds of excellent info for you: who the big distributors are, what kinds of terms to expect, how to find the right manufacturer, what to know from a tax standpoint, etc. IIRC they have a whole packet like that, which you receive when joining. Also IIRC, it wasn't very expensive or anything.

And then at the GAMA Trade Show -- GTS -- you can show your finished game or solid prototype to retailers (to get them interested) and have a great chance to talk with those distributors face-to-face, even work out terms right there (a lot of business gets done at GTS).

To sum, you're probably aware of GAMA and the GTS, but perhaps not the plethora of information that they can provide to you.

-- Matthew

Anonymous
The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

Thank you for the information, Matthew. That was a great resource lead and I was not fully aware that GAMA offered some of the things you mentioned. So it sounds like a major plus. I will definitely check it out a lot deeper on your recommendation.

By the way, thank you to everyone who has posted here on this topic. You guys were all very helpful to point the way in various avenues of suggestion and they were ALL useful. That everyone whould be so helpful is a distinct credit to what you are trying to accomplish on this website.

As for me, even if I know some things, I have a lot to learn in others and you guys all are making it easier for me or any other aspiring game designer to do that.

seo
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The Production Process: Prototype is complete: Now what?

ryan35 wrote:
In the meantime, I felt myself more drawn to the business side of boardgames more so than the design. Design for me is a necessary evil, so to speak, but needed to get the company up and running. I know I would rather play games than design them! Some of my designs I really like...but I think I need a co-creator to bring the flavor some of the games to their full capabilities.

Maybe you can become a publisher rather than a game designer. There are lots of people in the forum who will love to have someone taking care of the business and pay royalties to them for publishing their games. Maybe something like Z-man's monster game contest can suit your interests. You can have a clear idea of what kind of game you want to publish, and set a contest based on that. I bet you'll get lots of proposals, many of them from very good game designers. You'll just have to playtest, decide and make business.

That would cost you nothing (just the proposal reviewing and game playtesting) and would free you from the burden of designing the game(s).

Just a thought.

Seo

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