Howdy everybody! Today we have a guest post from the team at 4Hogs. This post is very special, though, because this is the first time I’ve been able to chat with a designer whose project, Vaults, failed to fund. While some people may be inclined to look down on a “failed” project, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to learn from a developer in the middle of analyzing what they could have done better. The guys were excited for the chance to share and generous with their candid insight. Here’s their story:
TABLE TOP DESIGN – A WANNABE DESIGNER’S TALE BY 4HOGS
We have never met a passionate table top gamer who didn’t have an idea for a new, groundbreaking game. House rules for various games are common thing these days and that’s usually how it all starts (at least that was our case). Game design is fun, creative, challenging but also exhausting and frustrating. Don’t get us wrong, WE LOVE it and we feel that there should be more game developers out there. Unfortunately a lot of “soon-to-be-great-designers” quit their projects somewhere along the way.
When we were approached by Lagniappe Games to write about our experiences we felt a bit inadequate since our Kickstarter campaign didn’t reach its goal, nevertheless we decided to share our experience and maybe throw couple of “wannabe” tips along the way.
FIRST STEP IS NOT ALWAYS THE HARDEST
This is one of the best steps in game design as far as we are concern. Fresh idea emerged, hopes are high and the image of the perfect game is so clear you can almost play the damn thing. The same was with our game, Vaults. The towers, mutants, mercenaries, attack and defense of the troops…no, no, wait, there is none of all that in Vaults? Well, here is our little secret: Vaults, steampunk themed card game was originally supposed to be a cyberpunk tower defense game. Somewhere along the way it all changed.
BRAINSTORM ALL THE WAY
We won’t burden you with entire development process because it would take far too long. We simply wanted to show you how drastically our game changed. Why? Well, it’s quite simple actually. We always had production costs in mind and also we wanted something simple. Tower defense game was simply too expensive to produce (and the whole mechanic was broken but that’s beside the point ) We were lucky to have the four of us working together since we could brainstorm in order to fix sine nasty bugs in the game.
CHANGE IS ALWAYS GOOD
Since Vaults isn’t first game we developed, we can safely say that original idea and final product almost never meet. And that’s OK. While we struggled with Mercs (that was supposed to be the tower defense game title) one of us decided to strip the game and rearrange a couple of components. When that rogue designer within our midst returned with his idea we felt it had potential. Once we made the mechanic stable enough we simply gave it a new skin, shiny steampunk skin. Of course that wasn’t even close to our final product.
PLAYTEST – REWORK – PLATEST – REWORK…
Yup. First we played until we couldn’t bare our own game anymore and then we decided that we are ready for public test. Boy, were we wrong…Naturally, game testers found all kinds of loopholes in the game and tanks to them we had more things to take care of. But the good part of the story was that they loved it and that was the necessary boost we needed.
The whole design process lasted over one year and when everything was finished we needed funds to finally publish Vaults. Of course there was only one place where we wanted to present our game.
There are tons of really good Kickstarter guides out there. Of course we read most and we thought we had it all covered. We had a good game, reviews were very good and design and artwork were gorgeous. Anybody who ever made a game knows how we felt. We were very proud with our work and we were ready to take the world with our game. And like many others before us we stumbled.
If you plan to do a Kickstarter project for your game don’t hasten it. Forget about deadlines and focus on your soon to be backers. Remember to visit table top forums as often as possible and show them you share their passion for games. Be honest and if possible include them in your development process. To be honest we feel that this game would be even better if we did that.
We made few mistakes along the way and maybe those mistakes are the reason why we are not producing Vaults as you read this. Of course we are working on relaunch right now and we hope that things will go better next time.
All in all it was a great journey! Yes, it was long, grueling and resulted in a failure but we don’t regret a minute of it. Like we said in the beginning, game design is fun but frustrating. With every fixed thing, ten broken things emerge from the shadows. The only question is how much you love it and how bad you want to succeed. When the Kickstarter campaign ended some of us felt like it was the end of the road, but our backers showed us that we are just at the beginning and we thank them for that.
We thank Lagniappe Games for this opportunity and, even though we told only small part of the story, it felt good to take a trip down memory lane.
And to finish, we promised a couple of advices so here they are:
- Be creative
- Become involved in the gaming community
- Don’t be scared to change your game
- Always listen to your players (game testers)
- Don’t be too proud when you receive bad critic – remember those are the best for development process
- Think ahead
- Prepare your crowdfund project and when you think you are done double check everything
- Never ever neglect your fellow gamers
Thank you so much for sharing, Four Hogs! Please, keep your eyes peeled for the relaunch of Vaults. It’s a beautiful little game with a neat little mechanic. You can download the FREE Print and Play version here and here. Thanks for stopping by!