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First time designer. How should I proceed?

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 04/29/2016

Hi Everyone,

I am designing my first game. It's a semi-cooperative zombie survival game. I don't know anyone who has designed a game before, but I have advice from some experienced business people. Basically, I need help thoughts on where to take my game.

So far, I have a balanced game that I have play tested with mostly friends but will be blind play testing very soon with a few groups of people. Obviously, I am anxious for their feedback, but I am (cautiously) optimistic. I have a decent set of rules (still some work to be done), and I will be posting them soon for some feedback here.

What I am not sure about is how to proceed.

I know that I can try to self-publish, but I don't know what that process really looks like. I don't know what stage a game needs to be at before looking for investors (kickstarter, etc.). Do I need final artwork? Do I need to invest in a final product before showing it to investors?

I have also heard that people go straight to established publishers and try to get them to pick up the game based on the prototype. What quality of a prototype is needed to show to a publisher? Do I need to make a bunch of prototypes and send them out to different publishers or do I need to visit them in person?

I realize that ultimately it will be up to me to decide how to proceed, but knowing so little, I would love to get a better idea of the road ahead.

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out, and I look forward to getting your advice!

ElKobold's picture
Joined: 04/10/2015
In short:Self-publishing

In short:

Both options may work. And both may fail.

Self-publishing requires money, time and effort. And guarantees no result.
I.e. you may end up investing all those things and failing.

With Publishers, if you are going to fail, that will happen with less prior investment from your side. I.e. you don't have to make a "final-product-looking" prototype to pitch it.

But I wouldn't bother about either of the options before some serious blind testing.

Good luck!

I would change the theme if I were you. Zombies are done to death (pun intended)

Joined: 04/29/2016
Thanks! The game play and

Thanks! The game play and mechanics came before the theme, so I think I could change that if it is a problem.

radioactivemouse's picture
Joined: 07/08/2013
Publisher vs self-publishing

ElKobold wrote:
In short:

I would change the theme if I were you. Zombies are done to death (pun intended)

I agree with ElKobold. The success of games like Zombiecide and Dead of Winter should really be a warning that you'll be competing against that caliber of games if you keep with that zombie theme...that have far better production quality and know-how.

As far as your game, it's the blind play testing that will be crucial to the development of your game.

I'm going to be real honest here. Wannabe game designers have no clue about the production process. Even me, a guy that's worked at a game publisher, worked on video games, and teach game theory, had learned a lot of hard lessons getting my game out into the wild. I went through the publisher route, but I can only imagine the difficulty of self-publishing.

If you're going to self-publish, you're going to have to get a team to help you with the tasks not involved with game design; doing it all on your own is going to do more harm than good...especially if it's your first time. You'll pretty much need everything ready to go before you hit Kickstarter (production channels on lockdown, art finalized, distribution, marketing, even booth spaces at future conventions, etc.). You don't want to run the risk of waiting on something like art when your production schedule and audience are waiting for your game. You're literally making your own business if you self-publish. Going this route is a huge and monumental task; the fact you don't have much knowledge means you have a long road ahead of you.

On the other hand, if you go the publisher route, you'll have to first get their attention and that means catering to their game styles. If and when you pass their approval (which is difficult to say the least), then you have to go through their production process, which may mean newly assigned art, gameplay changes, theme changes, not to mention you will be giving up first print or game rights to the company. On the flip side, much of what you need will be taken care of by that publisher including production, distribution, advertising, and even valuable booth space at conventions to promote your game.

Hope this helps. Either way, both routes are particularly difficult with their own challenges, advantages and disadvantages.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Just wanted to add

I for one think it's very difficult to "SELL" a "Self-Published" game. The problem lies in this FACT:

A> How do people know your game is good (or great)?

Unless of course they have played it...! But not everyone can PLAY your game before knowing it's a game worthy of their attention.

You can have amazing artwork - I personally feel my game's artwork is very good - We scored a 94% on art from anonymous voters. So you can show what the game will look like... And people will like various pieces of artwork which shows the diversity in what people like and dislike.

The other option is making your rulebook available for download. But you cannot judge "Quality" from a rulebook. Sure you can "understand" the game but playing a game can give you a better appreciation for the game's subtleties. Experience is by far paramount when it comes to replayability and "game stories" or conversations is the stuff you want to hear from gamers who have PLAYED your game...

But how do you achieve credibility or even interest if people have not yet played your game?!

Perhaps because we are putting the Horse before the Cart. Maybe in the hopes of having sales, we are thinking way to "short-term". Perhaps the challenge lies somewhere between "self-publishing" the game and a time to get the word out about the game...

Have gamers express what they THINK about the game ... AFTER having played it.

So my conclusion is that even if INITIAL sales are not high, you have a time to get people to better know your game. And using that time to talk and convince people they should have a "serious" look at your game is what that time is all about.

My goal/strategy:

1. Have a Summer Sale.
2. Have a Christmas Sale.

Once the first sale is done. We can now start to MARKET the game on BGG. Will that help? I don't know. But BGG is a hub for gamers not only designers.

Free copies. Share it with people and see what they think. Maybe they can bring along other friends/families... Again only once the game is available for purchase. Word of mouth can be very important.

Demo-ing at stores. Again you need a finished product. Of course you could demo an unfinished game ... but then you can't say afterwards: "$20 and you can keep this copy!"

I'd say maybe you have 1 year. To develop, market and sell the game to as many people as possible. And this happens AFTER the game is made.

I'm NEW to this too... It will be my 2nd Self-Published game. And I already KNOW some of the challenges. But my first time around I invested way too much... And learned how to make a "leaner" game. But I'm still struggling to find an audience, make contact with real gamers, and connect with people who might enjoy my game.

For those who have some experience (or more experience), your words of wisdom would be much appreciated.


Update: If this is your "first-time" I would strongly RECOMMEND to TRY to have your game published by a Publisher. It removes all of the uncertainty when it comes to "Self-Publishing"... You may not have complete control - but at least your game will be "out there". Self-Publishing is like the road to "no where". Getting your game in gamers hands is the true challenge.

Joined: 04/29/2016
That you so much for you all

That you so much for you all of your advice. Definitely had some of my important questions answered and have a little more clarity on what is important. You're all awesome for giving me feedback.

I may have to rethink some things to make my game more desirable to companies. I've been focusing on game play and balance, but I don't know too much about the publishing process.

I like the idea of getting my game to a publisher. Should I just start contacting publishers? Do they all have a similar process for submission or is it mostly difference for different companies?

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