It’s easy to think about writing a book or think about creating a game – following through is where it can get tough.
Being stubborn and having perseverance are important but don’t mean the same thing.
Stubbornness is holding fast to an idea and perseverance is moving ahead, despite obstacles.
Once we invest effort into an idea, we tend to hold on to it. That’s good, to a point, because we’ll have thoughts of “how will I deal with x, y, and z?”
But is your idea a good one?
Time will tell. Maybe a little luck too. And certainly how you deal with stubbornness and perseverance.
- J.K. Rowling was turned down by several publishers.
- Madonna spent years working to be a dancer. One night she filled in for a singer.
If Rowling had accepted rejection or Madonna held fast to being a dancer, we might not know of either one.
I’m no Rowling and no Madonna (lol, on many, many fronts!) but I am inspired by them and hope that I can balance stubbornness and perseverance wisely.
My kid’s book series, ChuChu Chicken & Pedro the Goat, had been an idea for 7 years. Now the first two are being edited and the first is being illustrated. The InDesign templates and ISBN numbers are ready and they’ll be published in November. This project took a lot of perseverance. =
My games are a different story (oh no! no pun intended!). =p
I started with a “euro” game and, a few months and some playtesting later, the concept and components are defined. Looking at self-publishing, just like my books, I ran into reality! $26 in components plus a homemade game bag. =(
Do I rework the game to use fewer components and change die-cut tiles to something easier? Change the graphics I’ve spent hours on plus the Kickstarter page? Give up the dream of a maker movement, non-offshored, game?
The Rowling/Madonna moment!
My decision – move it to the back burner but create a new game that will be self-published. Mint Tin Pirates was born and, thanks to game design meetups, Mint Tin Knights came about too. Two games will make for a more interesting Kickstarter in August.
But . . . what I thought would be a genius reworking of Pirates to become Knights felt like an unimaginative reskinning of Pirates. It would feel like a ripoff as a Kickstarter reward.
Ugh, another Rowling/Madonna moment! o_O
Like the first one, this turned out to be good! o/
Mint Tin Villagers! A 2 person cooperative 10 minute filler game with a vastly different feel to Pirates.
Time will tell if I’ve dealt with stubbornness and perseverance wisely.
What about you? Any ideas you’d like to move to projects – why not this week? (^.^)
For Mint Tin Pirates and Mint Tin Knights, I’d like a late medieval woodcut printed style for the playing cards.
Woodcut printed cards probably came to Europe in the 1300s but had been in China and Japan since the 700s.
The medieval age ended in the 1400s but knights went beyond that and the earliest recorded piracy on the high seas was the 14th Century BC!
So far so good on the time period, but what about the weapons in these games?
Cannons, knives, crossbows, and maces were in existence before the 1400s. But I wondered about blackpowder pistols and grenades.
The first European handheld cannons were in the 1400s – essentially pistols (but not flintlock) – and the first cast iron hand bombs (grenades) appeared in Europe in 1467.
Why the historic fuss over a light casual filler game?
It’s purely a personal thing – I think being rooted in history adds a bit for some players.
Of course, having cards that can return a lost pirate as a Pirate Ghost or a dead knight as a Phantom Knight isn’t historically true, but it is accurate with people’s beliefs throughout time that ghosts and spirits may exist. =)
In this search of woodcut playing cards, I came across some historic trivia and it’s a wonder that we have card games at all!
- 1377 Paris – An ordinance forbids card games on work days.
- 1379 Switzerland – Card games prohibited.
- 1382 Lille (France) – Dice & card games are forbidden.
- 1395 Amsterdam – Playing cards are authorised (yay!) but forbidden 2 years later in Leyden (boo!).
- 1397 Ulm (Germany) – Prohibition against playing cards.
- 1397 Paris – Working people are once again forbidden to play dice & card games on work days.
- 1402 Ulm – Written reference to Kartenmaler & Kartenmacher (card painter & maker) means that playing cards are a thriving business.
- 1404 France – Cardinal Louis de Bar forbids the clergy from playing card games.
- 1423 Italy – St. Bernadino of Siena preaches against games and playing cards – urges sinners to repent and burn them. Later, St. Bernie convinces an out-of-business playing card maker to print holy cards! *good grief*
- 1423 Nuremberg (Germany) – Woodcut printed card manufacturing is a regular trade. o/
And it wasn’t until the end of the 1700s that card backs were printed to reduce card marking on plain white card backs.
Have a great weekend! =)
More info can be found online and particularly at Early references to Playing Cards
An editor is a necessity when publishing a book. Or at least in publishing a book that one hopes has some level of success.
Two million new books are published every year (wiki by country).
One way not to stand out is to have typos, poor grammar, and a host of other issues that a good editor will help alleviate.
Yes, an editor does cost but what’s the cost of having mistakes and a poorly written sentence? Or worse, confusing structure!
And there are different types of editors too. (nooo! a coordinate conjunction starting a sentence!) =p
Developmental editors help shape entire story arcs, change or restructure entire books, even add or remove characters. These editors are rare, and the least used, but if you ever have a chance to use one – wow! Mine is a beast! =)
She does her developmental edits with pencil and writes copious notes everywhere from between lines, to the margins, to the backs of pages. Some edits are easy such as “you already said this” or “if this is set today, drop this onomatopoeia – cameras no longer make these sounds” and some are more robust and challenging such as “how about placing this content on page 24”.
I cherish her edits and, even though they can be daunting to execute, they certainly improve my writing.
Then there’s content editing – more of a page-by-page, paragraph-to-paragraph look. For this French-Canadian, I appreciate this greatly. I resist writing in proper English since I’m writing in America but I do dislike zeds used in the place of an “s” and the loss of “u”s from colourful prose. *rolls eyes & realises I’m full of it* =D
And, finally, copy editing – the last chance for true typos – a mundane task but ever so critical.
For books, the need for an editor is a clear and a long standing practice. For self-published indie authors, an editor is vital even if it’s in the form of friends (several). And here’s an idea if your budget is just too tight – put your book up in a Google Group!
Think that’s a nutty idea? It’s not mine, it’s what Guy Kawasaki did with his book titled APE.
So what about games?
Ah, that’s what prompted this blog post!
My fave online game reviewer Erin from The Geeky Gimp wrote a fair and detailed review Tabletop Game Review #5 – Paperback. She paints a full and detailed picture of the game – truly the next best thing to playing it first hand.
Her review was positive and she liked the game. However . . . one simple-to-correct thing stood out and it’s the kind of thing a good editor would have caught.
Is it a major thing?
That’s subjective and I’d be upset if I had this type of error in my filler mint tin games (filler is game-specific terminology and an example of “lingo” that should be defined, if used in instructions).
Terminology in Paperback’s instructions refer to something that isn’t a common phrase, even in the tabletop game world, or anything that can be found online. I also searched for the errant phrase, “length track”, and only came up with references to running! o_O
Your game instructions shouldn’t require the internet unless you purposely tell players to see rich storyline instructions on your website. This would be in addition to the included instructions, not in lieu of them. Having players resort to an internet search to try to understand your game is as bad as a typo or poor grammar in a novel, except that game rules are much shorter than a novel!
Game instructions aren’t particularly fun to write but they are vital. They shape your players initial opinion of your game once they sit down to play it.
Don’t let instructions be an afterthought – they’re probably the first thing your players really look at. A professional editor’s time is well worth the cost.
A possible alternative to an editor, or maybe something to do before using an editor, is to spend $25 on The Game Crafter’s very cool service – Sanity tests. =)
Can a light and casual game playable in 10 minutes have some “extra” components?
Our mint tin game has to be social – you have to be able to carry on a conversation in an environment that could have distractions (like family cooking at home or ordering burritos at lunch). *yum!* =p
To keep it around the 10 minute mark and easy to keep track of what’s going on, I’ve resisted having too many components (unlike my overly complex Zombalamba that will be years in the making!). =D
Driven by the pirate theme, I wanted a tad more complexity, something more than tokens (pirates), cards (attacks), and dice (randomness for attacks).
But not at the expense of adding time or adding something difficult to keep track of.
I added a pirate ghost to address the possibility of a “runaway leader” like a Eurogame might do. To help offset the time the ghost adds, you play with 3 cards instead of the normal 5.
A pirate ghost might be wicked cool, but probably not as robust as non-ghost pirates. =)
The game also needed something for rolling doubles, since those are somewhat rare, and snake eyes certainly has to be part of any pirate game using dice!
She suggested looking at the game budget and I found MeeepleSource cubes at 6 cents each, so adding one cube is possible (darn, it’s not real gold! maybe a Kickstarter stretch goal? a centimeter cube of gold would be about $800 – hmm, from a $12 game to $1200!). o_O
A roll of doubles claims the gold and gives that player an extra card.
The extra card means more chances to attack which then speeds up the game just enough to negate the added time of the Pirate Ghost!
Funny how stuff kind of works out. Thanks Erin! =)
Mint Tin Pirates is a light casual game with the goal of being short and social. It should be easy to carry on a conversation while waiting for lunch and passing the time.
It’s been good at achieving these goals, but inner nagging says it can be a better game.
By game, I mean that there’s some science behind what we, as humans, find appealing about games – specifically about decision making.
I read a research paper (pdf) about choices written by Sheena Iyengar. When customers were presented with 24 flavours of jam, 60% would check them out but less than 2% would buy. When 6 flavours were presented, 40% stopped and 12% bought. For 100 customers, the large selection results in selling to 1.8 customers and the small selection sells to 7.2 customers.
Four times more sales with one quarter of the choices! Less is more.
Too many choices result in fewer decisions – we get overwhelmed and, rather than make a poor decision, we put it off.
That also holds true for games. Except that for casual games, it means the difference between playing a game once and playing it many times.
For Mint Tin Pirates, the first version didn’t have enough choices and the next had too many. So what’s the “right” number?
Well, that’s the million dollar question! =)
How to go about finding that number?
Spreadsheets are not uncommon for game design and I’d like to apply that here. I’m not sure how and Googling it makes my head spin! =D
The game mechanics are simple – there are a specific number of cards that affect tokens (the meeple pirates on each player’s ship) and the success or failure of a pair of cards is determined by the roll of dice.
Most cards and rolls remove an opponent’s token. A few cards transfer a token and a few recover a lost token.
These are all definable outcomes.
I’m just not enough of a spreadsheet whiz to wrap my head around it. If you have suggestions, please let me know here or via Twitter.
When Steve and I decided to do a challenge of creating mint tin pirate games, the only guidelines were that they fit in a mint tin and be playable in 10 minutes or less.
We’ve both play tested the games and will be bringing them to a game design meetup tonight.
Both have mini cards and mini Meeples, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Steve’s is hand-to-hand combat (literally). Both players throw down an attack simultaneously. If they are tied, they can each add to their attack. Two swords against two swords can be won by throwing down another sword or adding a pair of cannons. It’s fun and fast paced.
His game makes it feel like you’re dueling and can defend yourself – it fits the pirate meme.
With my version, players take turns and attack only with pairs. You roll two dice to see if your attack is successful. In my mind, a cannon could miss the opponent when the ship rocks in a wave, a knife throw could also miss or the targeted pirate could duck, and a swinging swashbuckler on a rope could totally miss. The dice act as those random factors.
The game could be played with a single d6 dice and it would save on the cost of the game but here’s why I like a pair of dice:
A pair of dice seem more fair.
Here’s the probability for each number with a single six sided dice:
And here’s a pair of dice:
The single dice has the same probability for every number in every roll and the pair of dice has a classic bell curve for it’s probabilities – some outcomes are more likely than others – rolling a 7 has the highest probability.
In Mint Tin Pirates, the 5 minute game uses a roll of 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 as a successful attack. Statistically, that means you have a 66.7% chance of winning each throw.
But you can also have a 66.7% chance of winning with a single dice if you say that a roll of 3, 4, 5, or 6 is a successful attack.
So if you have the same percentage for success with one dice versus two dice, why use two?
It’s all about what feels more “right”.
That sense of feeling right is important for a game to be fun to play. You have to feel that you have a chance to win (thus Las Vegas – the casinos win more than they lose, but despite this being obvious with their fancy hotels, extravagant fountains, and cheap food and drinks, people still love to gamble).
The bell curve of a pair of dice makes it feels like you have more chances to win even though the probability can be the same with a single dice. The number of combinations, 36, makes it feel more exciting than just the 1 in 6 of a single dice.
So, that’s why I like two dice. =)
charts from AnyDice – an easy to use online dice probability calculator
I’m new to game design and that’s what some of these blog posts are – my journey in becoming a “publisher”.
What’s that mean anyway?
Publishing, in my simple terms, is about putting out something in a way that others can use.
Books are easy to understand – a book’s written, printed, and distributed. Today, many books are distributed digitally (with Amazon Kindle Express upload a Word or Open Office document and it’s available to the world within 48 hours).
Publishing also covers songs, software (like our Sim-on-a-Stick), online games, apps, and many non-printed forms of media.
If you blog, heck even if you tweet, you’re publishing your work to share with others.
Print on demand (POD) for paperback books is nearly identical to printing with a “real” publisher like Penguin or Bloomsbury. Lightning Source is the largest book printer in the US and they are the exact same quality as the majority of real books from real publishers (because they print their books too). o_O
And the cost is low – a 106 page book is $2.52.
You can set up a book title for about $79 with Lightning Source (file submission and proof fees) and it’s available to every brick and mortar store in the US plus Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Setting up a book in Amazon is even cheaper – about $35 – and it will be listed at Barnes & Noble too. Brick and mortar stores don’t like writing checks to their biggest competitor, so unless your book is a huge hit, you’ll never see it on a store bookshelf (that’s another post).
Game Publishing – is it as easy as books?
There are very few places that act in a similar way to Lightning Source and Amazon. The Game Crafter is one such example. You can publish your game via them and they can print single copies of it. The cost is reasonable considering their volume (they aren’t an Amazon.com nor do they print 2 million a month like Lightning Source).
However, games don’t have a set format. Books have standard sizes and use ink on paper. Games can be many sizes and have custom components. With The Game Crafter, you’re limited to what they have available. There’s nothing wrong with that but it means that your POD game has to be partially defined by that constraint. I want to publish a game called ZOMBALAMBA but it has hex tiles larger than The Game Crafter carries so that’s not an option (plus custom dice too).
There isn’t a true POD solution for custom games. Not for single copies. And this doesn’t even start to consider shipping a game internationally and meeting consumer safety laws with potentially huge fines . . . =(
There are groups like Panda Game Manufacturing to make your game or Game Salute that can publish your game.
As a little guy, I can’t afford to pay for a minimum print run of 3 or 5 thousand games with Panda. And Game Salute has to approve your game, they are a gatekeeper much like publishing houses are (don’t you know that the publishers who turned away J. K. Rowling kick themselves daily!).
For now, truly independent game creators are either constrained with what components are available or have to source it all themselves (or have a decent amount of money up front – Kickstarter? that’s yet anther post!). =D
Fortunately, Maker Culture, or Kitchen Table Industrialism, is starting to support the small independent game designer.
That’ll be another post, the lessons I’m learning from designing Min Tin Pirates as a self-published and US-sourced game. Thanks for reading and please add your insight – all comments are welcomed. =)
This is a light, quick-to-play, and simple game. Simple in that it’s cards and dice.
There’s minimal need to explain what a card or dice is and their mechanics have been explored in a zillion games for thousands of years.
In keeping this game as text-free as possible, for universal play, the cards could actually be normal playing cards – two decks of playing cards could be paired down to end up with similar game play.
The type and number of cards for Mint Tin Pirates determines the speed of play.
I like how fast Ticket to Ride is played; player turns can go quickly and create a rhythm like a train clanking down the tracks (when we play Ticket to Ride, we pull up long YouTube vids of train sounds for an ambient background).
We wanted to have similar pacing for Pirates, both to make sure it can be played in a short amount of time (5 to 10 minutes) and to “replicate” what a pirate scuffle should feel like – fast and action-packed (based on extensive, first hand experience with pirate movies). =p
The first set of cards only had three types of events – sword, cannon, and captain – but that played too fast and had zero strategy (plus it had too many wild cards and “filler” cards which were just junk cards).
The next set had too many events – sword, knife, cannon, pistolet, hand bomb, mutiny, and Davy Jones Locker – but this led to too many hands before you could launch an attack. Frustrating for sure. =(
While play testing, and keeping track in a notebook, we used past prototype decks (just paper cut outs) and started swapping out cards and playing with the number of each. Within a few hands, it was clear what was working and what was not.
This wasn’t any sign of game design knowledge but rather that what would normally have been tossed into recycling turned out to be helpful. =)
A few weeks back, I was at lunch with a friend and I had some meeples and dice in my pocket. I tossed them onto the table while we waited for our burritos.
We talk all the time about making games and in a few minutes we thought of making a fast playing and light game that could be played anywhere (lunch, airport, work breaks, outdoors, etc).
We came up with a theme – pirates – and decided to challenge each other in making games in a short amount of time. Fast forward and we’ve done play testing and I’ve sourced my components – mint tin, labels, dice, meeples, and mini cards – and even researched labeling requirements, shipping, and all that non-fun stuff involved in selling a game. =/
After a second game design meetup (June 19th), we’ll do any changes for review copies and then each do a 3 week Kickstarter in August. The Kickstarter funding will decide who wins this challenge. (bolded added May 12th).
But what about game reviews?
Dang, a short development time is a fun challenge, but without game reviews, it’ll be hard to have a good Kickstarter campaign. All the big shot reviewers are booked out for months and months . . .
But hey, I’m a fledgling game designer and figured there must be fledgling game reviewers too. *ding, ding* =)
So two days ago I did a shout out on twitter for game reviewers . . .
Wow, I was humbled at the number of people willing to look at my game. I don’t mean that they agreed to review it, but they’re interested.
It’s a real time commitment to test and review a game and then write, video, and/or podcast about it. It’s easily a few to several hours of time per review.
Thus this blog post and explaining the game a bit.
Mint Tin Pirates – what is it?
A 5 of 10 minute game, you decide by deciding what dice rolls are used to win.
The game fits in an Altoid-sized mint tin and has 54 mini cards, 6 mini Meeples, and 2 dice (so far – this can change with meetup input as well as yours).
The play is simple and goes like this:
- set up your ship and crew (mini Meeples!) =D
- shuffle and deal 5 cards each
- discard up to 3 cards and a pair launches an attack
- roll the dice to see if you succeed
- restock your hand and next player goes (avast!) =p
- next hand, discard and pull up to 3 new cards, attack if you can
- continue until triumphant!
A more in-depth look –
There are various attacks and various numbers of their cards, such as
- knife throw (dice determine if you hit or miss)
- swashbuckling swing (you could swing on a rope and miss all together)
- pistolet (easily could miss with this)
- cannon (could sail over your pirate enemy or even bounce off their galleon)
- mutiny! (a persuasive pirate captain lures over a traitor)
- Davy Jones locker (revive a fallen pirate from the watery depths! arr, why ye be so pruney matey?)
Then there are 4 gold doubloons which are wild cards. Should you save them to stretch out the mutiny or locker cards? Play them right away? o_O
And 2 dice means that the bell curve it creates allows for dialing in game play time and it also seems more fair. So far a dice roll of a 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 means about 5 minutes of play and a 6, 7, or 8 equals about 10 minutes.
Oh, and your crew!
Captain’s Spade and Heart have 3 mini Meeples per ship – a Captain, a cannoneer, and a swashbuckler.
It’s easy to learn, slightly gateway and slightly Euro-style, and certainly a light game (both in time and size!).
Heck, it even has an airplane mode just like a tablet or phone! Just dump the mint tin contents into the included resealable bag and ta dah!
Ha! Digital games have nothing on analog games!
One last thing, this game is 100% sourced in the US and assembled in a basement in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. More power to the maker movement! =D
And more power to the awesome game people answering the tweet for help:
I don’t expect all of them to want to review this (but would be thrilled if they did) and I’m eager for anyone else who may be interested. You just need a couple of reviews posted online and be honest in your reviews (I don’t want any sugar coating because a basement filled with thousands of mini Meeples could spell trouble!). =p
Getting these tweets of interest is wonderful encouragement and speaks volumes to how awesome the online board game community is! w00t!
What’s in it for your time as a reviewer?
Well the game of course, but also another copy if you run reader contests. Plus credit for being part of the development of this game, you’ll be listed on my domain’s Kickstarter backer page as a reviewer along with the game’s backers (hmm, should be a special category – like Scourge of the Seas, hmm, maybe something a bit more flattering . . .). =)
UPDATE May 12th: thanks to Erin of The Geeky Gimp, a pirate ghost has been added to the prototype! Thanks Erin! =)
I wrote most of a children’s book about 8 years ago and by “write”, I mean in pencil in a sketchbook.
The book is geared toward 7 to 9 year olds and is a transition, or chapter, book. It sat in a box after a move 7 years ago. I’ve always wanted to publish it and decided last year to create a five book series with this one being the last in the set.
I embarked on quite the journey and have learned that writing a book is a small part of being a “published author”.
I started by creating a limited liability company because this is recommended to create a Lightning Source account. Creating an LLC is easy and I used Legal Zoom, however I could have saved $150 by doing it myself – it’s straightforward and there are many examples how to online.
Lightning Source is the printing arm of Ingram Content Group, the largest distributor of printed books in the US (38,000 bookstores, libraries, and schools). Local bookstores order from Ingram and this is the only realistic way that a brick-and-mortar shop might carry an indie book (and that’s a long shot and must be discounted at least 55%).
Then I created a CreateSpace account which is Amazon’s self-publishing business. This was easier than Lightning Source where I needed a collection of paperwork and real human approval.
Amazon will list your Lightning Source book once you register your ISBN and Library of Congress Control Number, but they might not show immediate availability. With a CreateSpace version, your book always shows in stock.
As an indie author, Amazon is the best bet for selling your book (I strongly recommend APE by Guy Kawasaki – had I read it a year ago, it would have saved loads of research).
I then started to learn InDesign so that I could lay out the books myself. It’s a fairly easy program but it does take time and perseverance to learn it (and lots of Googling). On top of that, even for the same-sized book, there’s a slight difference between Lightning Source and CreateSpace – mainly with the covers.
While doing that, I started writing the other four books. The first one’s been to the developmental editor and I’ve laid in those changes, passed it off to the illustrator, and it will go to the content editor shortly. The second book is with the dev editor and should be back in two weeks or so. The third book is nearly written, the fourth has been started, and the fifth still needs to be transcribed!
Despite this activity (and having a family and full-time job), it will be months before the files are uploaded to Lightning Source and CreateSpace. Maybe in time for the winter holidays, but that seems ambitious at times, plus I’m working on a Kickstarter page for it (the project won’t launch until all books are illustrated).
All of this is a lot to do but it isn’t all consuming and I do take time for distractions (and daily walking). These distractions give me a break from the books and a chance to recharge. My main distraction is board game design.
Will these games ever take off?
Well, it’s not unlike the process to print a book except that there aren’t any true game printing equals. By that I mean that Lightning Source and CreateSpace print the exact same quality books that Grisham or Rowling print (paperback wise). There are game companies that can print-on-demand (POD) for limited pieces and parts which is okay for creating prototypes, but their costs are too high for commercial production.
There are a few game publishers that can do “small” runs of 1,000 to 3,000. But that’s quite a monetary commitment compared to book POD that can print a single book.
That’s been the journey so far and it’s very much about becoming versus being an author.