This week is the Board Game Design Virtual Summit 2020. This is a totally online summit on board game design and publishing and is hosted by Boardgamedesigncourse.com. All interviews are hosted by game designer Joe Slack. Day 5 interviews is about How to Find and Work With Others in the Industry.
You can join the Summit here.
Brittany & Mark Maia of Board Game Coffee
Board Game Coffee is a high energy fun-filled YouTube channel that brings you the inside scoop on the hottest board games in a fun and refreshing way. Check out the Board Game Coffee Youtube channel, as well their website. The interview was about how designers can work with video influencers for their board game they are working on.
Brittany and Mark started out when Mark wanted to design a board game and she wanted to start a board game Youtube channel. She won out and he now hosts the channel while she works behind the scenes.
They had to learn to do the channel with different backgrounds and they were planning a wedding. SO they learned to work together and to get motivated to stay on topic.
As influencers, they do many different things on their channels doing Reviews, Previews, How-to-plays, playthroughs, unboxing. He said many do a niche like Rodney Smith with his Watch It Played only do How to Play videos and some play throughs.
How to Plays videos are verbal instructions on the rules of game play. Many people like to read rulebooks, but many learn board games by watching videos of someone teaching you the rules.
Unboxing videos are fun sneak peak previews of a board game. They open the board game like it’s Christmas.They show you what are the components in the box. They show how beautiful they are and how beautiful the artwork is.
Reviews and Previews are similar. Reviews are a preview of the game and give their opinion of the game on whether it is good or not. They have to play a game at least 5 times before they make a review video. Preview is where they play the game a couple of times to get a feel of the game and to talk about it on their video with no personal opinion. Just an overview of what type of game it is.
Play throughs are fun where they play the board game live or prerecorded with a group of people. Some Youtube channels play solo as well. Many people like to learn to play a game by watching a Play through session.
Live videos are tough to do. You won’t get a big audience at first. They are live streamed online and when you make a mistake, you can’t undo that. At the same time, they are engaging since people can comment live and the influencer can engage in the conversation during the live stream.
When you have a game and want an influencer to do a review or a play through of your game, do your homework on which one is best for your game. Some may require payment or just a need a free copy of the game. You want your game to fit the personality of the influencer. Some may be scripted or others may be free from a script and just do it live.
Brittany and Mark adds humor to their videos. Jokes and being fun is part of their videos. They take what they do seriously and work hard. They take the game they do seriously but make the video light hearted.
They have day jobs and their videos are their side gig. It’s hard work and some influencers even stop doing it because it becomes a job. Mark sees it as a challenge and works hard. Brittany loves talking to publishers and those in the industry and that motivates her. They take a break once per month to just play board games for fun.
At times it can be hard and hard to motivate themselves to learn a game for a video. They work on other things like lighting or audio or editing so they can get back with a right mind. Mark cautions you can burn out if it becomes hard work and no fun.
They have to play specific games for their videos. But they have less time to play games they want just for fun. He scheduled time with a friend to play Claustrophobia 1643 even though he did video for it a while back. He only want so play to finish his campaign and for fun. No blogging for further videos.
Review videos are very important to them. There are so many board games out there and it is an investment. Reviews help people choose a game so they don’t end up wasting money on a game they don’t like. So they play the game several times before giving a review whether or not it is the game for you.
They also do videos of lists for specific demographic. They did video of best competitive game for 2 players and other videos for different categories. But do not just take the word of one reviewers. Check out other reviews of the game and form your own opinion.
They review games they want to review. They never do reviews on request. They say it is a conflict of interest as they met the person who sent them the game. They can do previews on games on request. It gets awkward to give a bad review when the designer sent them the game.
Advice for people that request a preview or play through or anything from them is to give them time. Don’t send them a game and say they want a preview video in a week for a Kickstarter. It won’t happen. They have to schedule time and they need to learn the game. Making a video takes a lot of time. A few months in advanced is advised.
Also designers need to send them high resolution files of the logo, box art, card designs and more so they can add those to the video and look good.
When you’re doing a campaign for a Kickstarter, you can get an influencer to do a video of a quick play through so that people can look at the video when deciding to back a game. They can see how some of it is played.
With the pandemic, a designer can teach the reviewer how to play the game through TableTop Simulator or Tabletopia and record the session and show online. Technology has come a long way.
Before a designer chooses an influencer to do a video for a preview, they should look at many channels on YouTube and Board Game Geek to see if they are a good fit for your game.
When they do a video for your game, they will post on social media, on YouTube, and on Board Game Geek, they are releasing video they did on your game to get the word out. They have a following and the word will be passed quickly.
Tristam has been a professional designer and illustrator in the education sector for over 20 years. After being made redundant as head of Marketing and Design, Tristam decided to go freelance. Freelance worked fine but he struggled to find a niche, until he discovered the world of board games and he has never looked back.
After he was laid off, he freelanced in different places in different industries. His daughter was designing a board game and he was inspired since he played board games. So he decided to use his design and illustration skills for board games.
He takes his illustration skills to design a board game. He is very visual and need to create illustrations for a game he is designing. His career in education design helped him make his games more understandable and educational for children.
Graphic designers and artists are similar, but do different things. A graphic designer needs to know what is the audience he is working for (what their age range, what kind of person is this game for) and creates the designs to clearly communicate to the players of the audience he is designing for. While the artist create the illustrations and artwork that may work in any game.
At first he would do the illustrations first and shoehorn them into the graphic design of the cards and components. But after a while, he shifted to do the graphic design of the work first and then create the artwork to flow into the design. The graphic designer knows all the technical aspects of the work like printer specs, bleed, etc. Creating understandable icons and layouts that is easily readable for the player. It worked out better.
Good art and a good game sells. It is human nature for people to fall in love the aesthetics of a game. People will judge a game by its artwork, but if the game plays terribly, they will not like it no matter how good the art is.
He said about when one should look for designers and artist before they publish a game is different and hard to gauge. He has been asked to do sketches of layouts early for play testing a prototype. He said play testers may not mesh with the game if the prototype looks bad. It is not necessary to have designers and artists at the beginning, but it helps.
He said he prefers to start working on graphic design of a game after all the play testing is done and the game is developed and artists are chosen. That way he knows what game he is dealing with and what look the art will be when the artists are done. So he doesn’t have to change things completely when they do revisions.
He was asked how long are his projects. It varies. He worked on a massive project that had a Kickstarter and he worked on it for 6 months. Development of the game continued while worked on the design.
But another game called Herrlof, he worked on for 5-6 days. It had a quick turn around because it was a simple ow asset card game. He did the graphic design and simple illustrations.
He designed his own game called Mariana Trench and will self-publish it. He wanted it to be simple and low asset. He made it fit in a small box. Doing his best to bring the cost of design down.
If a designer wants to work with him, they need to be prepared with their brief. Because of his skill set and experience as a graphic designer and illustrator, they should recognize him as a creative partner. He will work closely with the game designer to make their vision of the game come true. He comes up with most of the creative work and they are always happy with his work.
When designing a game, make sure what your vision is matches the market you want to attract. He was asked to design a game and the game play was dark and serious, but they wanted cutesy art. He felt there was a mismatch in the tone with the cutesy art. He made the art line up with the tone of the game.
He doesn’t market his games on social media by being spammy. He is involved with his groups on social media and has asked for advice on his game designs or artwork. He engages with the community and it has helped create a market for his game. He has a genuine interest in the feedback from the community and he also comments on other people’s games.
With his game, Mariana Trench, he is taking another step forward from being a graphic designer and illustrator to a game publisher. He is self-publishing game with his company Bright Light Games. He now is at the helm and dealing with more in the process than just the creative. He shared his new company and said he is open to publishing other games. He was inundated with many people’s games from social media. He received some samples from the manufacturer for his game and is ready for his Kickstarter campaign in October.
Sarah Graybill & Kerry Rundle of Panda Game Manufacturing
Sarah is a project manager with Panda Game Manufacturing. She enjoys working with independent publishers and creators to help take their games from prototypes to published products. Kerry has been a Project Manager for Panda since 2017, working primarily with Kickstarter creators. She enjoys brainstorming components with game designers and publishers, and loves figuring out how to make unique ideas come to life.
Check out Panda's amazing game design resources here.
Sarah had her start when she was playing board games and thought it would be a good idea for a board game cafe. Her cafe never materialized but she got involved in the industry as a designer and developer. She started working for Panda Game Manufacturing as a project manager.
Kerry was also a board game enthusiast when she played Forbidden Island on a date with her future husband. She started to look for career in board gaming before ending up at Panda Game Manufacturing.
When a designer has developed a game and is close to producing, they should seek them out to get quotes on cost and to discuss with them the components in the game. They would advice on how to go about it and make revisions when the designer makes changes to their games as well.
And help them with components of stretch goals for a Kickstarter campaign. Some designers even come to them earlier when the game is not done with development which does require revisions in the quotes as the game progresses.
They have a use friendly quote form on the website and the designer would need to have dimensions and quantities of their cards, boards, box, and other components. A designer can send images to them as well especially for miniatures and 3D components.
There is an economy of scale. The more quantities you are quoted, the less price per game it is. They have a 2,000 unit minimum for board games.
Once the contract is signed, they have a kick off call to discuss the game and for every components and their colors, quantities, and sizes. They will have the pre-press specialist meet with the designer or publisher who will discuss on how to get their digital files to them and what is involved.
They will get digital proofs after the files are submitted. Once approved, they create a physical proof of the game with all the colors and sizes being accurate. Then you authorize mass production.
You will get a final copy of the game that is the first copy off the assembly line that is all shrink wrapped and complete. That is where you finally do some quality check and approve it.
With complex components like miniatures or custom plastics, they advise to get the files to them early so that they can see if it is feasible in production and to make revisions. They ask for 3D files for their plastics team to make sure the components can be done easily and efficient. They discuss how to make changes so that it can make a mold easier. They will eventually send sculps to you to check and approve for production. This all happen concurrently with the production of the other components of the game. The project manager keeps the process in sync with everything and on schedule.
Production varies on the game and quantities. 2-4 weeks for producing physical proofs. For game that may be simple like Settlers of Catan (they don’t produce this) with its board, cards, and simple wooden pieces, mass production could be 8-10 weeks. More complex games would take longer. Final assembly can be 2-4 weeks. Shipping from the factories in China can be 4-6 weeks.
For a Kickstarter campaigns, backers will not know what is going on. Publishers should keep backers in the loop and you should add some time to the production schedule so backers won’t be disappointed if it takes longer since you gave yourself buffer time.
To note is with a Kickstarter, you will have the base game produced, but you may need to produce a deluxe game that many backers will get and even more add ons for backers with even more deluxe games. The deluxe game may be quoted at 1500 which is below their minimum but if their base game already hit their minimum, they would be fine with that.
They like wooden components since they are easy to produce and have alot of versatility.You can make more unique meeples and different colors. You can have art silk screened on the meeples which is a premium service but adds more uniqueness.
They talked about a few of their other premium items like black core cards which better card stock than the usual. Also another is a miniature that require more than one molds and that can be pre painted. Metal coins are beautiful but are very expensive as they add alot more weight to the game and thus affect shipping costs.
They talked about very unique components like for one game that has miniatures that are interlocking. The connect together smoothly but can be taken apart. They talked about another where interlocking punchboard pieces are connected together creating 3D components. They are always looking for creating more unique cool components and like the push the envelope on what they can achieve.
An advice for designers is to search their website to see all their resources and their capabilities. They have templates for different components. They have different guides for different things for components and designs and more. But also form a relationship with your project manager and always ask questions and what they can do.
They say to reach out to your community and connecting directly with people in the industry. Also create a prototype of your game that looks as close as you possible to finish with The Game Crafter so you can have a feel of how big your game is and how it looks and what is involved.
Find them at their website and reach out to a project manager to ask questions even if you’re not ready for manufacturing.
They will have an event called Pandamonium on October 15 which will be a symposium for publishing, manufacturing, and thriving in the games industry. Check it out at their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pandagm for more info.