I am deeply, incredibly pleased to report that Weather Wars has been funded on Kickstarter. We’ve raised the $6,000 that was our base goal, allowing us to make the game available for sale. We’ll ship to our wonderful Kickstarter backers first, and later sell the game via our website and other venues.
While this is fantastic news, we’ve got four days left before our Kickstarter ends at about midnight (California time) on Saturday, April 14th, and we’re still getting pledges - 9 and counting in the last 2 days. This really gives me hope that we could hit what Kickstarter calls “stretch goals” - improvements to the game that we will ship if we reach higher levels of funding.
We’ve got two promo cards we’d like to unlock for all our Kickstarter backers, the Blue-Nosed Reindeer and the Buffalo Chicken, which add a bit of variety (and quite a few chuckles) to the game.
What I’d really like to hit, though, is the $7,500 funding level. If that happens, we get to roll out the Safari expansion that we’ve been working on. I don’t mind the grunt work of game production - getting quotes, calculating shipping and customs, and registering with government safety agencies. I know it’s part of the process, and I accept it. The thing is, though, I got into game design because I like designing games. That’s where my talent and my passion is. It seems a waste to have hundreds (or thousands?) of people playing Weather Wars, but only Daniele and I getting to enjoy the expansion that makes it so much better.
I think one of our new one-power creatures, the Chicken-Chasing Jackal, makes playing with the Safari expansion seem like you’re playing a whole new game. His ability is simple - it “chases” each Rocket Chicken in play away from her owner, moving one player to the right. Early in the game, this is minor - it’s just a couple of power worth of Rocket Chickens moving around. But once someone has three or more Chickens, each time they move they trigger - blowing up five-power animals as they go. When it’s so important to control how many summer animals versus winter animals you have, what you choose to blow up majorly impacts the game. And of course, we as designers didn’t stop there - the Safari expansion has a 5-power animal that can’t be destroyed by Chickens, and another 5-power animal that actually WANTS to be destroyed. It adds a whole additional layer of strategy for the deep-thinking players, and quite a bit of random chaos for those just enjoying the ride.
As yummy as the mechanics are, I may like the flavor even better. A jackal chasing all the chickens in a circle, their rocket backpacks exploding everywhere? That’s just so “Weather Wars.”
I really hope we get to roll this out. We’ve got a few more days, and we need to hope that our backers convince enough of their friends to sign up so that we reach this stretch goal. It’s very possible - Kickstarters almost always get a boost in the last 48 hours.
Daniele and I will be playing the Safari expansion either way. I hope everybody else gets that chance too, because when it’s done, it’s going to ROCK.
10 months of work – the last few months of it, six days a week. Cutting back on living expenses. Needing to learn a new skill to complete every task. Worrying at night that everything you are working towards is a foolish dream, that the numbers don’t add up, that you’re wasting your time.
Over the next three weeks we will find out if it was all worth it.
The Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for our family card game, Weather Wars, launched on March 15th. We’ve got 30 days to hit our funding goal. We had a great start – 30% funding on the first day – but like most Kickstarter campaigns, things slowed down after that. We hit the halfway mark yesterday, which is great news, but we’ve got a long way to go.
After months of work with little real feedback (I love you, friends and family, but your opinions are biased), the tables have now turned. The product is finished, the campaign is live, and the marketing plan is final. We have laid the fruit of our labor at the feet of the world’s game players, and now we wait. It’s hard to imagine feeling more naked. Every pledge is a judgment, as is every minute that passes without a pledge. I should probably stop hitting “refresh”.
Isn’t it enough that this guy is incredibly cute?
Or that the response of players has been so consistently positive? Or just that we worked incredibly hard on this? How can you watch our Kickstarter video and not be deeply amused?
I have to keep reminding myself that things are actually going well. We’re on pace to fund, and we’ve still got a few tricks up our sleeve. We’ve got visibility, from the video preview at The Dice Tower, to a podcast mention at All Us Geeks, to our upcoming contest (and free game giveaway) at Board Game Geek. Everyone we know is blasting this out to their social networks, so it should be reaching thousands of people. But what if this really caught on? What if we had enough pledges that we could produce the Safari expansion we’ve designed for Weather Wars (that I think makes the game even better), or even so many that we could release another game, and another?
We really, really want this. Please, tumblrverse, tell your friends. Especially your benevolent billionaire friends. :)
WEATHER WARS KICKSTARTER LINK: http://kck.st/13ZGHuu
Weather Wars hit a milestone Friday on its march to reality. We’ve made a free print-and-play version of the game and posted it to the Weather Wars web site, under Downloads. Now we’ve moved to the “irrational fear” stage - let’s see how this goes.
“Print and Play” games are board or card games that are released in .pdf format. The idea is that a person can download the file, print it out, assemble the pieces, and play the game without buying anything or leaving their house. The process can be tedious for board games because of all the pieces, but for card games you can just cut out the cards, put them in plastic sleeves with other cards behind them for stability, and go to town. The only cost is printer ink, and about 30 minutes putting it all together.
The goal for us is to get people we don’t know to try the game, both to get useful feedback and (if I may be allowed to dream) to develop a passionate fan base to evangelize our game when we launch on Kickstarter. We’ve already gotten some great feedback on the King of Gaming Websites, BoardGameGeek, offering praise (for the art, which Daniele did an AWESOME job on) and suggestions. Nothing yet from someone describing themselves playing the game.
Of course, I know it’s early, and all the people we know personally have already played the prototype so won’t be doing the PnP. So, that leaves strangers, who are really the people we want to try it. And here comes the paradox. We need strangers to tell their friends about it. So we make it available for free. But then we need them to know it’s available for free, so we need someone they know to tell them, so we need that person to have played it. And around and around we go.
This is where the fear and second guessing sets in. I know that if people find the game, they will like it - I’ve seen this again and again. And if lots of people like it, some will buy it, at least enough that I won’t feel we’ve wasted all these months. But what if they never find it? What if it’s my fault, because I didn’t buy a full-page ad in the New York Times? Should I have spent every day in Balboa Park, playing Weather Wars under a huge banner? Should I have posted the PnP on a Tuesday instead of a Friday? Should I be that guy that nags all his Facebook friends twice a day to get the word out? Should I become an email spammer? Put an enormous Ambassador Penguin on a billboard? Pay Judd Apatow to put Weather Wars in his next movie?
And so I panic. And then I research. And when I start to think I’m crazy, I listen to a bunch of They Might Be Giants, because it proves that at least I’m not the MOST crazy.
And then I write a blog post. And then I get back to work.
We’ve now been back in the United States for over three months - longer than we’re used to living anywhere. :) We’ve been catching up with friends, and resuming old hobbies like gardening, woodworking, and having guests over for NFL football. During the day, though, we’ve also been hard at work on the projects that we hope will be the economic engines of our new lives.
The most progressed, and most exciting, of these projects is Weather Wars. Weather Wars is a card game where you lead a team of clever animals in a race to control the weather. We designed the entire game in a single incredible flurry of creative energy over dinner at a Sizzler restaurant in Beijing - in fact, the original version of the rules is scrawled on the back of a Sizzler place mat.
We did most of our initial play-testing in Istanbul and Kisumu, but since getting back we’ve made a serious push to turn this from clever idea to published reality. I’ve done exhaustive research on the game industry, how to market games, professional printing, getting on retail shelves, and how to get start-up money. In the meantime, Daniele has taught herself to make graphics in Adobe Flash, and took on the task of creating artwork for the game. In an incredible six weeks, she went from “I wonder how to make computer graphics?” to having completed all 16 art pieces for the game. It was amazing to watch, and I think the results are deeply amusing:
We’ve printed a prototype - on cheap cardboard paper with a home laser printer - and had a few of our friends try it. It’s been a real hit - we’re thrilled. Both kids and adults seem to like it. Many people asked us if they could buy a copy as a gift for Christmas (won’t be ready - these things take a while). Even in this primitive printing, I just love the way the table looks mid-game.
For the first time in our lives we’re seeing the possibility of earning a living working for ourselves instead of for a company. I’m not sure if this project will make it - lots of good games never make a dime, and even the ones that do often don’t make enough to support someone. But even if we even sold 1,000 copies, and knew thousands of people were having fun because of us, how great would that be? And if we prove to ourselves that we can make just a little money doing this, I’ll be even more convinced that by sticking with it we’ll find just the right product (or products) to make our new lifestyle work. We’re sticking to our commitment to keep expenses low - one car, no cable TV, flip-phones instead of smartphones, store-brand groceries. We really don’t miss the luxuries, especially if it buys us time to make this new lifestyle sustainable. Because, I gotta tell ya, it’s pretty great.
The next step for Weather Wars is getting the word out. We’re getting ready to launch a funding campaign through Kickstarter.com in the next month or two, which is a way to crowd-fund creative projects by pre-selling copies of the game and giving special prizes for big donors. It’s been successful for many other games, and we’re hopeful. We’re also creating a web presence, with a web site prototype, a Facebook page (basically a placeholder for now), and even a blog to promote the game at weatherwars.tumblr.com. It will feel so nice when that blog gets a few followers.
We haven’t stopped working on our other projects - including the book that will detail how to follow in our footsteps and travel the globe, in style, on a budget - but it’s hard not to be excited about Weather Wars. We created it, and people want it, and that just feels amazing. With luck, this will graduate from “project” to “business” very soon.