December 29, 2015 by crew
Massive Awesome is Simon Barlow and John Taylor, friends and business partners whose shared love of gaming and a desire to make something awesome prompted us to set out on our own. We are currently deep into preparation for the launch of the tabletop miniatures game Shattered Earth on Kickstarter.
In this ongoing series – the previous entry of which you can read here – our aim is to write about all the steps we’ve taken along the way, and to create an ongoing discussion with the community about what it takes to launch a brand new game into the marketplace.
Having an accurate budget is vitally important. In fact, your available budget will likely be the major factor in the majority of your decisions throughout your campaign. The reason a company like Games Workshop doesn’t need to crowd fund each new product is that they have large cash reserves to spend on art, sculpting, painting, graphic design, writing and advertising.
Like us, you probably don’t have $100k to spare, otherwise you wouldn’t need Kickstarter in the first place, so you’re going to need to prioritise.
Do you want an even split between art, graphic design, sculpting and painting? Do you want to have lots of nice art but no sculpts, or perhaps lots of sketches and many digital sculpts but nothing physically produced and painted up? All of these are legitimate strategies and there is no right or wrong way to go.
Look at some of your favourite campaigns – and you should absolutely go ahead and back some other projects if you haven’t done so already – and see what they produced and what it was about their campaigns that appealed to you the most.
I’d also suggest that you set aside 20% of your budget for unexpected costs and over-runs and then split the remaining 80% across the rest of your to-do list that we covered in step three. Remember, your aim is to stretch your budget as far as possible but be aware that sometimes a small amount of high quality output can be better than an abundance of low quality.
One thing I would absolutely recommend is to go through one complete production cycle so that you understand the process in its entirety before asking anyone for money.
5) Balance Of Minis, Story And Rules
All tabletop games are, to a certain extent, a balance of three major constituent parts: the physical miniatures or components for the game, the backstory and lore behind the universe, and the rules that enable you to play it.
Regardless of the importance you assign to each, you will need to put at least some thought into all three. Will your game sell itself on highly detailed miniatures that hobbyists will want to collect and paint, or will you provide simple plastic characters that can be shoved around a board?
While the costs and timescales will obviously differ between these approaches, you will still need to factor in initial art, design and physical production, so make sure you leave plenty of time as the logistics can be complicated, especially if you’re contracting out the work.
For backstory, you will likely be doing much or all of this yourself, so you are ultimately in control of whether you will be producing thousands of words of fluff or just a few pages to establish the theme. This decision will affect your schedule but either way, the process should be simple and transparent; do your writing and have a qualified person proofread it and offer you feedback.
The process for designing rules can vary wildly. You may be very close to what you consider your final ruleset or you may have only a vague idea of how your game should play. If you make your rules publicly available, you will get a lot of feedback from far and wide, and you will need to manage that feedback appropriately.
If you want to keep them private, you had better be prepared to put many, many hours of testing in with your playtest group. Whatever you do, do not underestimate the amount of time you need to do this properly. Of course playing the game should be fun but playtesting is, and should be, hard work.
6) Art And Sculpting
The process from imagining a character to holding its painted model in your hand is long and initially daunting. Firstly you’ll need to write a brief to give to your concept artist. We decided on about a page per character where we covered the basics of backstory and future motivations as well as describing their overall look, weaponry, armour, and anything else we thought important.
Your level of back and forth with your artist and the number of iterations that will need to be produced will depend on how well the artist understands the brief, how exacting you are, and how much artistic freedom you’re happy to give them.
Once you have an image you’re happy with, you’ll repeat the process with your sculptor. We use a full digital production pipeline for Shattered Earth, so all of our sculpting is done digitally. Even if you employ traditional hand-sculpting, the process is very similar.
We’ll cover the pros and cons of both in a future article but, for now, know that digital sculpting is more flexible but can be more expensive as you’ll need to take the additional step of having each miniature 3D printed. Either way, the output will be the same: a single master model ready for production.
At this point you can send it off to a caster to be produced; as noted in step four, I would recommend doing this for at least one miniature up front so that you know and understand the entire process from start to finish.
Finally, when you have your first production model in hand and assembled, you’ll probably want to paint it up to show people how good it will look on the tabletop. If you’re a talented painter you can save yourself a lot of money by doing it yourself; unfortunately neither myself nor Simon are at a professional level so we hired some folks much more capable to do the painting for us (check out our Facebook page for the results).
There’s a lot to take in with this week’s article – we could easily write a single entry for each of the points above. If there’s anything you would like to discuss in more detail, please post a comment below and we’ll answer you as best we can.
If you would like to write articles for Beasts Of War then please get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
"Having an accurate budget is vitally important. In fact, your available budget will likely be the major factor in the majority of your decisions throughout your campaign..."
"The process from imagining a character to holding its painted model in your hand is long and initially daunting..."