So I said I wanted to have a portfolio of at least a couple of "pitchable" games, and also that I would have at least one pitch meeting at UK Games Expo. The latter didn't happen at all, and the portfolio isn't really there yet, though I could probably start pitching Invaded if I found the right publisher, and I think Boogie Knights is pretty much locked in, so notwithstanding another edit of the rulebook, I have one in the portfolio! Grade E: some progress, but missed overall.
I was also planning to submit a game to the Wyvern's Lair at UKGE. This was looking like it was going to be Invaded, but development of that got thrown way off by a Crazy Project, of which I will write a little later, and as the submission deadline approached, I was so far off a stable game that I just backed out. This was definitely the right decision, as development of Invaded since then has made it a far better game (in my opinion) than it would have been if I'd rushed in a submission. Grade F: I'm totally OK with this, but it's still a stone cold fail.
|This is how I spent quite a lot of my year.|
Next up, collaborative designs, of which I planned to get involved in at least one... Well, I have started two of these, but neither have progressed very far yet. One is a cooperative game based on another designer's initial ideas; I got an initial prototype running (though it was very dull) and handed it over, where my partner has brought things along a bit further, but we haven't moved it on since then. The other collaboration was based on a series of jokey conversations at UK Games Expo, which resulted in a not-entirely-serious but sort of plausible idea for a dexterity-based worker placement game; in this case I have made a very basic prototype, but not enough to hand over yet. So, steps in the right direction here. Grade C: OK, but must try harder!
Rulebook assistance... I didn't do much of this in 2017, but I provided occasional comments on people's work in BGG forums, and did a couple of more thorough (though still informat) reviews of prototype rulebooks in the spring. I also had a request for assistance from someone (Plan Play Games) who I had helped in the last couple of years, who wanted a proof read of the English translation of their planned Essen Release. I was happy to help again, and as a result of this and my debut trip to Essen SPIEL (more on which later) I am now the proud possessor of a copy of this game (Photo Finish -- it's a speed puzzle-solving game) as well as their previous year's release (Peter and the Grown Ups -- a memory and bluffing game), both with my name credited in the rulebook. Always nice when that happens! Grade B: good, but still room for improvement.
That pretty much covers what I had planned, but plenty of other things happened. I've had a bit of an up and down year from a morale point of view, so I'm going to concentrate on positives here in case I need to remind myself in future that I did achieve quite a bit.
The highlight of the year has to be that I signed not one, but two games for publication, one of which has been available to buy in a very limited (30 copies!) edition at Essen. As you may recall from earlier posts, the first of these games is Giftmas at Dungeon Abbey, which is based on the print and play game I made as a party favour back in 2016, with totally awesome new art, and the other is Dungeon Abbey: The Shooting Party, which was effectively a commissioned design based on a thematic outline document that the publisher, Cubicle 7, showed me. I don't know the exact production status of these games, but excitingly, both games are starting to show up in online retailers (I've only seen US sites so far) for pre-order, so clearly information has been released to the distribution channels. I'll be shouting about this a lot when I have any more information.
I mentioned a Crazy Project earlier, and that was the Shooting Party game, which derailed everything else I was doing during the spring, trying to get it to a state where I could hand it over to Cubicle 7. In the second half of the year they were doing more development of the game in-house, and I have had the opportunity to give feedback and make suggestions. The last time I saw the game it was looking good and I really enjoyed playing it, so I'm really looking forward to seeing the final version.
Another huge highlight for me was my first trip the the SPIEL games fair in Essen, Germany. I first heard about this in the early 90's, and have always wanted to go, but time, finances, and insecurities always conspired to stop me. This year, however, I tagged along with Cubicle 7 to help on their stall, which resulted in me spending four days explaining assorted game to anyone who was interested, primary among these was the recently released Cthulhu Tales storytelling card game. This was actually really useful experience in explaining the salient points of a game and its main features rather than precisely how to play -- in other words, effectively making a pitch.
UK Games Expo was also a fantastic experience. I spent a lot of my time volunteering at the Playtest UK area, which earned me an exhibitor's pass, meaning the ability to enter the hall ahead of the throng each morning, which in turn meant that I could have early morning chats with assorted people before they had to turn to business. Aside from that it was fascinating to help out at the designer-publisher speed dating event, where I could see just how intense such an event could be -- it's a real trial by fire, running through a 5 minute pitch with a dozen or so different publishers in very quick succession.
Last year I also got back in the saddle regarding the 24 hour game design contest on Board Game Geek, submitting four games, and winning twice! The contest is far more about taking part than winning (and it has been seen in the past that, should you care, it is not hard to astroturf your way to victory) but getting a win from time to time is really good for morale -- and I have certainly had at least my fair share of wins. At Easter, I also gave a short talk about my experiences with the contest at the "BG Dev Con" event, and I know it inspired at least one other designer to have a go themselves, which is gratifying.
Another bonus for the year was that I found another game designer working for my employer, and we ended up regularly having lunch together and playing a game, testing one of our prototypes if it was available and suitable for a quick play, or doing a "show and tell", playing a short game that had some interesting feature that we could discuss afterwards. Unfortunately he has now moved on to a new job, but the experience was both fun and very useful. (Check out Woodstock Games if you want to see what Phil is working on.)
Finally the games themselves. I've worked on quite a few games over the last year, some of them quite intensely, and some hardly at all. As it stands though, I have Invaded, Boogie Knights, and My Name Is... all into a pretty stable condition, a bunch of older designs (like An Angel on Top, Treasures of Atlantis, and now Scurvy Crew) dusted off and developed a little more, and a heap of new designs that have some potential (Roll Move Race, Shenanigans Express, and Dirigible, to name but three). It's also pleasing to get two more games added to the Board Game Geek database: March Hares, and Giftmas at Dungeon Abbey.
There's all sorts of other stuff that I could talk about, and while I haven't achieved everything I wanted to do, and I did have dead time where I got nowhere, I think I can be happy with how things went last year. It's a good foundation which should set me up to really push forward in 2018. And that will be the subject of another post in the next few days or so...
2018-01-04 Edit to add...
I forgot to mention that I have been a bit better at arranging playtesting sessions at my house, and I owe a huge thank you to those fine people who turn up for the occasional-Monday and occasional-Tuesday sessions. You have all been awesome and helped so very much.