8 March 2013 | 15 Comments
Today I have a special interview with one of the editors of Wired’s Geek Dad blog, Jonathan Liu. I “met” Jonathan back during the Viticulture campaign in one of those personalize thank-you notes I’ve been writing about in the Kickstarter Lessons. At first I embarrassingly confused his blog with the Father Geek blog, but Jonathan was understanding about the mistake.
Jonathan has written about numerous Kickstarter campaigns, and he finally launched one of his own earlier this week. You can read all about it in the interview below. I’d also recommend checking out Update #3 on his Kickstarter project page, which explains the type of “game” this is.
1. Can you describe your game in a few sentences?
My game is based on the classic tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and in the game you’ll get to take on the roles of characters from the story: the Emperor, the swindlers, the child, and various townsfolk and nobility in between. I’m really striving to make a game in which the mechanics and the theme really match each other.
Some of this may change based on whether we hit certain stretch goals, because there are some things that I’d love to include but it depends on if we can afford to have a larger game. But the core of the game, the part that’s in the base game, is a combination of press-your-luck and role selection. I love hidden roles and trying to figure out what other people are up to, and I love press-your-luck and rolling dice, so those are two elements that I definitely wanted to include.
3. What are three games that, if people really like those games, they’ll love your game?
That’s tricky, since my game is a mixture of some traditional mechanics but it also requires the players to use their imaginations, and deception is a key part of it as well. Maybe Balderdash, The Resistance, and Mao.
4. Whenever I design a game and playtest it, the reality is always very different than how it played out in my mind. What was the biggest disconnect between your vision and the reality of playtesting, and how did you solve it?
I know what you mean—I’ve got a couple other incomplete game designs where I’ve really felt that tension between what I want to happen in the game and what actually happens when you finally play it. With Emperor’s New Clothes, surprisingly, it really seemed like things fell into place, and for the most part the playtesting has been really fulfilling. However, I do think it’s one of those games that works well with certain gaming groups and just falls flat with others. While I’d love to make a game that’s universally beloved, I think for this one I’d rather make it incredibly fun for the particular audience that gets it.
Oh, there’s so much I could put here, and we’ll find out how well I’ve actually internalized the lessons. Having followed and backed over 150 projects so far, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the sorts of things that can go wrong, even when a campaign is successful, and I’m trying to avoid those things. For my first project, a lot of that is going to be relying on the expertise of Game Salute, which has run many successful campaigns and already has contacts for printing board games and distribution channels so I don’t have to figure that all out myself.
6. Because of your experience with Geek Dad, you know Kickstarter projects–games in particular–better than most. Now that you’re running your own campaign, what is the piece of your own advice that you found the most difficult to follow?
Well, I thought I’d given myself plenty of time to prepare, but at the last minute I was still sending out emails, frantically trying to get my ducks in a row. My timing is partly influenced by the fact that I’ve got a baby on the way; either I would run my campaign before her birthday, or I’d probably need to postpone for a long time. I ended up with a shorter window than I probably would recommend for project creators. If it doesn’t succeed, well, I guess I’ll have more time to prepare next time around!
Intrigued? You should go check out the Kickstarter campaign for The Emperor’s New Clothes.
UPDATE (from Jamey): A few people have asked me why I’m supporting this project. My answer is in the comments, but I’m going to paste my answer here as well.
There are two reasons why I’m backing Jonathan’s project and featuring him on this blog:
1. Jonathan backed Viticulture and became an extremely invaluable connection to Viticulture’s success. I’m committed to supporting my backers. It may not always mean that I back their projects or interview them on the blog, but that commitment to show some form of support to the dreams of those who made my dream a reality is really important to me.
2. There are projects that I consider sham projects on Kickstarter. Take the Death Star project. They’re not going to make a Death Star. Backers are literally getting nothing from that project. It’s cute and funny and they make it clear that it’s a sham, but it’s still a sham.
Jonathan’s project is different. Backers are going to get an tangible game if they back his project–rather, game components, but they will get something in their hands. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t have posted this blog entry. I’m not going to support imaginary projects. But this project will give me something tangible–in fact, I look forward to using these components for prototypes.
Now, to me the question is: Is Jonathan making it clear enough to backers that this is a joke? I think he toes a fine line there. And you’re right, it’s all about trust–Jonathan may lose all trust in him if some backers think that they’re getting an actual game (after all, not everyone is going to read the update that says “This is not a game”). That trust is for Jonathan to gain or lose.
What do you think?