Author Topic: Pingo! and other weird indie tabletop games  (Read 4018 times)

catty_big

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Pingo! and other weird indie tabletop games
« on: October 14, 2016, 11:14:00 PM »
Hey all

Board, card and roleplaying game designer here, with two RPGs published (one First Ed, the other in beta form), and several more in the works, and one card game published and, again, several more in the pipeline, including various expansions of the existing one.

I plan to bring 2-3 very raw prototype versions of board games that I hope to publish in the next couple of years, and a light, mass market abstract game I've been working on over the last week or so called Pingo! Here's the latter in its current form.

I also look forward go seeing other folks' games and sharing ideas about designing, publishing and marketing.

See y'all next week.
c_b
« Last Edit: October 22, 2016, 12:21:09 AM by catty_big »

Jubal

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Re: Pingo! and other wierd indie tabletop games
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2016, 12:59:05 AM »
The pingo cards look interesting, looking forward to hearing more about how it's played!

How did you go about starting on publishing? It's something I want to look at for some of my WIP projects but I've never managed to make myself get something beyond prototyping stages.

You can find various of my projects by nosing around this part of the forum, my main current project is a whimsical collaborative card game, current working title "The Mysteries of Botolph Lane" or "Mr Pickles of Botolph Lane" after one of the main characters, which has a lot of very British humour, surrealism and silliness. :)
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

catty_big

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Re: Pingo! and other weird indie tabletop games
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2016, 11:55:24 PM »
How did you go about starting on publishing?

Publishing is a long, hard, rocky road, paved with disappointment and heartache, unless you're traveling in a saloon car with leather seats, ABS, Tom Tom and powerful shock absorbers, AKA a Big Name. Failing finding a BN to take the load off, if you're an indie (especially if, like me, you're a one man band), it's definitely tough. Tough but not impossible, and not without its rewards, and of course if you do make it the feeling is very satisfying indeed. And there's more help out there for small press publishers than ever before, what with POD websites and social media etc., although obviously you have to know about all these sites, and be in the right people's circles. Being aware of all this, and having been down the road myself, I always try to help other indie publishers I come across find outlets for their products, and point them in the direction of places where they can share ideas and resources and solicit help and advice.

Here are what I think are the five stages in the development of a game, with difficulty ratings from 1-5:

1. Coming up with an idea for a game. DR: 0-1
Most game designers I know have game ideas coming out of their nostrils. The only problem is knowing when to take them further, and when to file them away for later. Writing down ideas is important, even if only a sentence or two, lest your overworked brain, already struggling under the weight of its other commitments (such as finding your keys and remembering to take the cat to the vet) decides to chuck them in the neural recycling bin along with all the other rubbish it simply doesn't have time to deal with.

2. Writing a game. DR: 2
It's not as hard as it sounds. You mainly need to decide how you want the game to work and what you to happen in it, and then come up with mechanics to do that. This process varies from game to game of course - if you're writing a storygame it's a (relatively) simple matter, whereas if you're writing a D&D style fantasy adventure game there are things like spell lists and combat mechanics involved, but I see that as more of a slog than anything else, requiring time, energy and patience, and industrial amounts of coffee.

3. Honing your game. DR: 3.5
This is definitely where the hard yards begin. Say you've decided on a combat system that uses a bunch of dice derived from some algorithm or other, Stat X + Stat Y or whatever. What's the basic resolution mechanic, opposed roll or target number? How lethal do you want the system to be? What dice mods will come into play, and when? Are you going to allow assists and, if so, how will they work? Will you have separate rolls for success and damage? And so on. These days there are online probability calculators, and if you've got a maths brain (or a friend or family member who does) that will help of course, but ultimately you will have to work out most of this stuff for yourself. Then, when you've got the semblance of a workable system in place...

4. Finding playtesters. DR: 5
This, IMO, is the single most difficult part of the whole process. There should be a version of bullsh*t bingo where you keep a record over a period of a year or so of all the times you hear 'Sorry dude, but I don't have a regular group anymore'; 'I'd love to playtest your game but I'm very busy right now'; 'I'm washing my hair every day for the next six months' etc. etc. Trouble is, early playtesters are absolutely essential to the development of your game. There will be hidden bugs, areas where the rules are opaque - even if to you they're patently obvious, to others they may not be - things you will simply not have thought of, and so on. And you ideally need people who know you well and who can therefore give you honest criticism, because - and I say this to every budding game designer with heavy underlining and in bold type - by the time your game reaches what I call gamma (i.e. when it's published and on the shelves but not widely known, hence my thinking of it as still being at a kind of playtest stage) it's too late. If there are bugs at that point, or unclear rules or unworkable mechanics, boy will folks let you know about it, on Internet forums and in chat rooms, in FLGSs and at games clubs and cons and on social media, and you'll be sunk. I exaggerate of course, it probably wouldn't be nearly as bad as that, but IMO there's no good reason not to extensively playtest if you possibly can.

But yes, it's hard. I have a game that I wrote out over a period of a couple of weeks in August 2012, and by some miracle managed to get three playtests that Autumn but have had none since. I mention it from time to time on forums and social media etc., and the free PDF has been downloaded from DTRPG about 80 times, but apart from that, nada. No reviews, no AP reports, no pitching at cons, no nothing. So yes, it's tough.

5. Getting published. DR: 1-3   
Very easy to put it up yourself on sites such as DriveTHRU RPG, lulu and Amazon etc. (that accounts for the DR of 1), slightly more complicated if you have files that cause problems for the printing company they use (that gives you the 2), and a lot harder to get a Big Name interested (there's the 3).

Post-publication:
Marketing your game. DR: 4.5

Composing and e-mailing out press releases; trying to get influential people (and then eventually anyone at all - your granny, next door's cat) to review it; spamming the forums etc. All this takes time and effort which, if you have a day job, are resources you're unlikely to have in abundance.

Should all the above put you off? NO!! A hundred times no! If you've got it in you to design and publish a game, do it. If you don't, it's something you'll regret later on (I'm sure you know the Humphrey Bogart quote from Casablanca). If it works out, fantastic! If it doesn't, well at least you tried.

Hope this helps put things into perspective, and I look forward to meeting you tomorrow.
c_b
« Last Edit: October 22, 2016, 12:38:18 AM by catty_big »

Jubal

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Re: Pingo! and other weird indie tabletop games
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2016, 01:26:35 PM »
Oddly enough, playesters haven't been too much of a problem for me - I often manage to inflict my games on people by hosting games nights (students + free food is a good combination for this). And there's a Birmingham Playtesters' Group which has monthly meetings (do you know/are you in touch with the Cambridge Playtesters?)

It's the publishing stage that I haven't really thought about yet and whether kickstarter or a print & play setup or whatever would be the best plan... what we could do with for this forum would be a few guides on some of these stages for designers, perhaps.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...