Archive for the ‘Project: Le Blob’ Category

I’m not dead yet!

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Hey everyone. You may have noticed, if you visit this site at all, that i’ve been rather quiet for the past…couple of months, it seems. Well, i’ve been hugely busy with the Kickstarter for Feed the Shoggoth, which i’m happy to say was very successful; i raised nearly double my initial goal of $8,000. I’d been meaning to post more about that here, but the KS consumed so much time, that i wasn’t able to write about it…until now. And while there’s still a ton of work to do on it (like, you know, getting the game actually made, printed, and shipped out to pledgers, for instance), i can share what i’ve learned in this wacky and wild world of Kicksteringness so far:

1) The video- like i posted previously, i’m so, so glad i ended up making the video. It was a lot of work, and took the help of a great number of people, but it was absolutely worth it in the end. According to the stats kept by Kickstarter, the video was played over 1,500 times! Now, i don’t have any conversion metrics; meaning, i don’t know how many people who watched the video ended up pledging (i may ask that in my survey). But i do know that there were people who did pledge largely because of what they saw in the video.

Do i think the video is why my KS succeeded? No, not in of itself. But i think it went a long way in helping. My advice for any budding KS creators out there- MAKE A VIDEO.

  •  Advertising- I spent…well, a significant amount of money on advertising. I targeted four websites:
  • Yog-sothoth.com, which is the premier and most popular Call of Cthulhu website
  • Rpg.net, one of the largest gaming sites on the interwebs
  • Lovecraft e-zine, a very well respected site for all things Lovecraftian
  • Kicktraq, a site that tracks trends of how well (or not) a KS is doing

There were a few other sites that i wanted to place ads in, but frankly, i was running out of money.

As i learned, different sites handle ads differently. Some will just constantly display your ad for a pre-determined amount of time. Others will charge by “impressions”, which is just a fancy way of saying how often your ad will appear when compared to the other ads in rotation. The more you pay, the more “impressions” you get, and thus the more often your ad will appear in comparison to other ads.

So, was it worth plunking down all that money for ad banners? I don’t have any numbers to prove it, but my gut says yes. I know (from what people told me) that they found out about the KS thanks to ads. However, i’m pretty sure that ads were secondary to…

3) Social media- As far as getting the word out, this was the obvious winner. Facebook, Twitter, and, yes, e-mail were huge factors in telling the world about the Kickstarter. Reposts on FB and Twitter were instrumental.

4) Hashtags on Kickstarter- this was something i didn’t know about until it was brought to my attention, and a function that Kickstarter doesn’t readily make known (i had to search through their blog posts to find one written in 2013 to find the instructions). On the main Discover page, on the right side, there’s a section called “#Tags”. Natrually, there’s one for Cthulhu. If you send Kickstarter a tweet, asking them to put a #tag on your Kickstarter, it will then appear in these Tag searches.

Why does this matter? Because there are folks out there who visit Kickstarter and look often to see what new games or Lovecraftiana or whatever have appeared on KS. I had one person tell me that they *only* buy games from Kickstarter.

5) Shipping- this will be a significant issue for any Kickstarter (unless all your stuff is in electronic form). Get your numbers figured out before you start. DON’T just guess. Go to the post office, or use their online shipping calculator, to get accurate numbers on how much shipping is going to run you.

And don’t forget packaging. I’d recommend using U-Line(http://www.uline.com); all they do is sell shipping materials, and it’s super cheap. Make sure to factor that into your costs.

Declare your shipping charges up front. I made a handy chart that anyone can consult, depending on which country they live in, to show how much they need to add to their pledge.

This still left to confusion. Some people expect that shipping charges are rolled into the pledge, if they live in the same country. Others don’t. I’m frankly undecided which method i would use in future KS projects, but be prepared for having to put in some extra work in corralling pledgers to get their shipping costs in.

6) Stay on top of communication- You’ll end up getting questions and comments from pledgers and prospective pledgers…possibly a lot. Be nice, be clear, and be respectful. Most of all, be honest.

7) Expect a few pledgers to bail- It just happens, for whatever reason, that some folks will need to either reduce their pledge amounts, or pull out entirely. Don’t take it personally. I remember being surprised when i first saw that happen, but i realized that it’s something that’s just going to happen. Unless you’ve done something to actively piss off your backers, don’t stress about it.

8) Trolls- Yep, even in a wee little Kickstarter such as mine, i managed to attract a couple of trolls (one of which went so far as shelling out a buck just so they could drop in and “comment” and offer “advice” on my game).

9) Keep talking about it- This goes back to using social media and e-mail. Don’t stop talking about your Kickstarter. In person, through mail, on Facebork, whatever. Keep your KS on everyone’s mind. It’ll remind them to pledge, or spread the word…or both.

 

That’s it for now. If more topics come up (and i’m sure they will), i’ll post about them here. Cheers!

Video post mortem

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Wow. What a day. We spent all of the other Saturday filming, and it was a complete blast. It actually went faster than i thought it would (which is a good thing; last thing i wanted was for all of us to get burned out at some point with filming yet to do). My crew, actors, and everyone else involved made it a breeze; there’s no way in hell i could have done this without them.

Stuff i learned from the shoot:

1) Bring food and drinks: i didn’t think of this, but thankfully, a couple of my friends did, and brought snacks and such for people to nibble on whilst we were filming. It helped out a lot.

2) Get a professional: I was lucky in that i had not one, but two friends who do video production for a living. Their insight and experience was invaluable; knowing how to set up the equipment, staging the table and the actors, getting the lighting correct, properly recording the audio, how to film inserts (and where they’d be needed)…the list goes on. So…trust me. Find someone who knows their way around a shoot. Even if you have to pay. You won’t regret it.

3) Have people rehearse: This sounds like a no-brainer, so it’s easy to forget. And it’s an easy thing to do whilst the technical side of things is getting set up.

4) Get your post-production ducks in a row: As i’m finding out the hard way now, it’s really in your best interests to figure out how you’re going to get all the footage off the camera and on to your computer so that you can edit it. Or have someone lined up to do the post-production work for you. Right now, this is still a major blocker for me; i’m still dealing with trying to get to a place where i can just import the damn footage and start editing. It’s been a massive headache.

Kickstarter Ho (nearly)!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

With CoC 7th edition off my stove top, at least for now, i’ve been turning my attention full time to getting all of my ducks in a row for Feed the Shoggoth’s Kickstarter. Most of that lately has consisted of such un-fun but necessary activities as getting shipping prices for various countries sussed out (thank you, Angus at Chronicle City!), going through feedback for the KS preview, and putting a crew together for the video.

Oye…the video. Let me tell you this now, anyone out there who’s looking to get a Kickstarter going- PLAN YOUR VIDEO NOW. I didn’t mean for my video to be the last thing of my project. That’s just how things worked out. But for any future KS launchers, take heed and start scoping out your video as soon as you can. When you do, you’ll want to think about these little crumbs of advice:

1) Write a Script: i know it sounds kind of silly. I’m not really making some Hollywood epic, right? It’s just a little promo film for my Kickstarter. But that pesky little Baphomet is in the details. What do you want to say in the video? What are you going to show? Is there going to be game play demonstrated? If so, how much of the game will be shown?  If you have other people besides yourself appearing, what are they going to say and do?

If you plan none of these things before you shoot, you’ll end up being stuck trying to figure all that out while you’re shooting, and that’s only going to cost you time and money.

2) Keep it Short: Attention spans these days are short. Surprisingly so for online video (ask yourself how long you are typically ready to commit yourself to watching a Youtube vid. Probably only a few minutes, unless you’re really invested in the subject matter, right?). You should be able to give a good overview of your game (or whatever) and introduce yourself in 3-5 minutes, tops.

3) You Don’t Need to go into Super Detail: Just give the 30 second elevator pitch for your game. Save the in-depth examination of mechanics for the Kickstarter page itself. If people are interested, they’ll take the time to read up further.

4) Get as Much Help as you Can: At the absolute minimum, you’re going to need the following:

-Film equipment

-Location

-Editing software

-Sound of some sort (live or inserted post production

-Someone to film everything

Unless you plan on doing all of that yourself, you’ll want to start talking to your friends, co-workers, perhaps some college students who would be willing to film your video on the cheap…whoever you can scrounge up.

All of that has come up before i’ve shot one frame of video. No doubt more things will surface once we actually start rolling.

While i’ve got all that going on, there are a couple of smaller projects i’m plugging away at. One is a web banner for a friend’s site that will advertise  a Jules Verne-esque book he’s writing. The other is the cover design for an-as-yet-unannounced book for Golden Goblin Press. Woot, my first cover design!

CoC 7th edition is now in house

Monday, March 31st, 2014

As of yesterday afternoon, the last of my work for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition has been turned over; now the rest of the heavy lifting is in Charlie and co.’s hands. I had only about two weeks or so to do whatever work i could on the Investigator’s Handbook, which isn’t much. I was able to do the basic page decoration, and layout all the text, but there’s still plenty to do (tables and charts, inserting the art, etc.). Similarly, the core book has a lot left- inserting the rest of art and cleaning everything up).

The plan now is for the two books to finish getting assembled, and then they’ll be sent back to me for final clean up, look-and-feel wise. I’m assuming that at some point a final proofreading will happen, but that hasn’t been scheduled yet.

I have to say that it feels kinda weird not working on 7th ed anymore. I’d been plugging away at it in some fashion since last summer, and really ramped up work on it in October. I’ve spent most weekday nights and weekends on the core book and the IH for months…thus it was kind of anti-climactic to upload my files yesterday to Chaosium’s ftp server. No fanfare, no glass of champagne, just hitting Send and making sure the transfer worked.

In honour of that, i’ll share with you one more trick that i learned in InDesign that i wish i’d discovered years ago. Sure as shit would have saved me a ton of time and work…anyway. In addition to being able to search and replace text as one is used to, i found that you can also add formatting to the text.

Say, for example, you’re dealing with dozens of stat blocks. And you have “Damage Bonus:” repeated over and over. But you need to bold all of those. Whelp, in the past, i would do all of the bolding by hand. InDesign’s Find/Replace feature is way more powerful than i first suspected, though; you can use it to find all those instances of “Damage Bonus:”, and tell it to bold every instance. I can’t remember the exact steps to enable this, but it’s pretty easy.

So…what’s next for Squamous Studios? Whelp, the Kickstarter for Feed the Shoggoth will be going live in April some time, so i’m doing as much work as i can for that. I’ll be posting more about the KS soon; right now, i’m polishing up the KS page, and getting all my ducks in a row, so to speak.

Bookwise, i have a few projects upcoming that are floating about in the aether, but i’ll wait until i have something more concrete before yammering about ‘em.

Beeeeeeg frikkin’ news

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Oh man. Where to start.

I guess i’ll be blunt. I’ve just, as of last week, been given the honour and responsibility of creating the book design and layout for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.

*ulp*

Not only will i be doing the core rulebook, but i’ll also be designing the Investigator’s Handbook, as well as the Keeper’s Screen.

This, obviously, is a huge deal. And not something i take lightly. As someone who actively plays CoC, and knows about the….various opinions on how CoC 6th edition looks, and how i’m doing the book design for RPG i love the most, it’s a little daunting. Well, okay. A lot daunting. Kinda terrifying, but in a good way.

Anyway. I’ll be discussing my progress right here, at ol’ Squamous. Right now i’m in pre-production, going over the manuscript and getting ideas for the design. At this point, i’m pouring over fonts, how page elements might look, navigation, splash pages, and so on. One thing i’m keeping mind that, as pretty as this could be, it is still a /rule/ book, and needs to be easily referenced by people (one thing that people complained about with 6th ed. (me included) that it’s a bitch to find information in it sometimes). But i still want it to reflect a period look and feel, evocative of the Classic era. We’ll see how it goes.

 

Meanwhile, other stuff has been slithering around in the Squamous camp-

I’ve been pounding out a fiction anthology for Miskatonic River Press, called The Grimscribe’s Puppets:

GPCoverWebThumb.jpg

The first pass is already done; now i’m going back and making corrections and the usual lot. I still hate italics text.

Work continues on the card art for FtS!. I’ve kinda lost track of how many i’ve finished, but i’ve gotta be close to the 30 mark. I need to post more examples about that here. I’ll get on that.

In non-Lovecraftian news, i’ve been hired as book designer for Montag Press! I’ve already received my first assignment from them; more news on that as it happens.

Whew!

Tales of the Sleepless City is out!!

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Yes, it’s true! Miskatonic River Press’ latest release, Tales of the Sleepless City, is now starting to get into the hands of people as i type this. It should be winding its way to distributors (and then, your FLGS) any day now. Comprised of such acclaimed authors as Dan Harms, Scott David Aniolowski, Tom Lynch, and Oscar Rios, this book features adventures all taking place in New York City, during the Classic era. Get it! It’s damn good! You can order your copy by heading to MRP’s website here.

Now, you may be asking yourself, what the hell’s going on with this card game you keep babbling about from time to time? Well, i’m still neck deep in the art. After the clean up was done, i’ve had to go back and redo all the colouring, as well as do further clean up of the line work i originally did. It’s a long process, and one that i can get to in between other (i.e., paying) design work. To give you an example of what needs to be done, i essentially need to take scans of the original work i did, like this:

Dominate I

 

 

And turn it into something more like this:

Dominate II

 

 

It’s not terribly difficult, mind. It just takes a long time to do, and get right. And there’s a *lot* of art to get done. I think i’ve mentioned it before, but there’s about…80 pieces that need to be done in total. Some of which i need to go back and start over from scratch, as the original art is just too crappy for my tastes.

So…that’s where i’m at with Feed the Shoggoth!. Got a ways to go, but i’ll continue to post progress here as it happens.

 

 

 

 

It’s been a bit quiet around here…

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I hate it when real life gets in the way of work. Ugh. Sadly, it’s put a bit of a stall on projects, but things are ramping up again.

I’ve been working furiously lately to get Tales of the Sleepless City out the door; last night, i made a big push to get the page decoration done, and i think i’m there with it. Again, trying to be pretty without ruining the functionality, and working within an Art Deco style/framework. I think i pulled it off, but i need to see what Tom thinks. After that, i’ve got a round of corrections to comb through, which i’m hoping won’t be too long…

Happy to say that i’ve been given a new book to work on, a fiction anthology called “Undead and Unbound”. Given that it’s been shepherded by Brian Sammons and David Conyers, i’m sure it’s gonna rawk. :)

Feed the Shoggoth is, alas, something i haven’t been able to look at much, mostly because of time constraints, plus i’m still waiting for the art clean up to be done. But it’s still present in my mind.

Lastly, there are a couple of Gaslight-related projects that are in the works, but i can’t say more on that just yet. But don’t fear, that era is going to see some support. :)

Blind playtests are done!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

I spent Memorial Day weekend running play tests for Feed the Shoggoth!, all afternoon Saturday and Sunday at KublaCon in Burlingame (KubaCon being the biggest gaming convention in Northern California). This was the Big Test for the game, as far as i was concerned. The play tests i’d conducted in April were awesome, of course, and tremendously helpful. But they were in a controlled environment, with people i knew, who had been told in advance what to expect.

This time, it was me, sitting at a table in the Open Gaming area, waiting for people to wander by and hope they might want to try it out. I did put up a number of flyers around the Con, but didn’t put it in the official registration.

Kubla had a great new system that they introduced this year for the Open Gaming area; they put a big map up of all the tables, what games were being run at them, and, if you were looking for more players, you could borrow a bright orange flag to attach to your table.

Sadly, i didn’t pick up on this until an hour into my first play test slot. I ended up doing 3 sessions that day. All of which ended up being three player games, which was real interesting; all the other games had had at least four participants. With 3, there’s more card flinging and not that much strategy, so it played with more of a beer and pretzel vibe. One thing that was cool was that, in the last game, one player was all of 8 years old, and picked the game up in about five minutes.

Sunday was a lot busier. In fact, i didn’t stop demo’ing the game for the entire 5 hour time slot. The number of players varied between 3 and 6, with some sticking around for 2 or more games, because they were having so much fun with it.

Everyone also told me that they *like* the artwork…which is great on one hand, but on the other, if i decide to stick with what i’ve done art-wise, that means a ton more work on my part. Oye. 120+ pieces of card art to clean up…

I also feel compelled to mention that, during the entire weekend, i didn’t win ONE game. Hmmph.

A big bonus- my friend Justin came through big time with the painted Shoggoth miniature that i used in place of the Shoggoth card. It looks *amazing*. I’ll post a picture of it here soon.

Besides all that, i ran a Call of Cthulhu scenario that i’d written, “The Mystery of Flight 101″, for the first time. It went well, but was a lot shorter than i’d anticipated. The players dug it, and again, had some really good feedback. I plan on expanding it a bit and see how that goes.

Playtests 3 and 4 are done!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

During the last two Saturdays of last month, i conducted the last two play test sessions with various gamer friends of mine. Everyone had a good time with the game, and i got yet more helpful suggestions and criticisms on the game. And i actually witnessed my first argument over the design of the game during day 3. Some players were all for the deeper strategy that could evolve through gameplay, and others wanted more of a beer and pretzel feel to it.

Thing is, i think within the game, you can have both. I think it’s constructed enough that, once you learn the rules after a game, the feel and mechanics feel pretty fluid. But for those players who want to sink their teeth into it, they’ll find there’s room to really develop some tactics. Especially when the game reaches a certain tipping point and the Minion cards are no longer in the main deck.  Then it’s more of a matter of survival and trying to kill the other players off with the Shoggoth, rather than trying to gain points to win.

At any rate, i’m now getting the game ready to take to a local convention in less than two weeks and have a bunch of total strangers tear it apart. Should be really interesting. Hell, i’m just hoping people will want to sit down and play it.

Through this process, i’ve definitely learned some valuable lessons when it comes to play testing:

1) Divorce yourself emotionally from your game. If you want your game to succeed, you’d damn well better learn quick to take harsh criticism of it. The best kind of feedback to get is the brutally honest kind- in the end, it will always benefit your game in the long run. And that’s ultimately what you want, right? Remember that an attack on your game is not an attack on you.

2) Take all the notes you can. Write down who’s playing, how many players, what modifications to your game you made prior to the session, how long it took, anything and everything you can think of. Things that your players talk about during play. If anyone looks bored.

3) Give the players a survey. Seriously, they don’t mind. The timing of when to give them the survey is important; i learned that people do much better when they’re handed the survey before the start of the game, so they know what to think about while they’re playing.

4) Shut up and let them play. What i did, from the first day on, was pick someone who “bought” the game, handed them the deck (pre-shuffled, just to be fair), gave them a copy of the rules, and told them to go for it. Because you aren’t going to be there to hold people’s hands when they buy your game for real; why do it during playtesting? I was always the ghost in the room, and only spoke up when the players pointed out something that was clearly broken, or had a rules question they couldn’t figure out on their own.

5) Record your sessions if possible. I really wish i’d done this more than once, because sometimes a lot of simultaneous discussions can go on, and it’s damn near impossible to keep track of them all.

6) Be ready to modify the hell out of your cards. I’ve got some cards with 4 Post-It notes on them, all from rules tweaks that were needed after each session. My Crown of the Yellow King card is almost unusable now.

7) Get card protectors! Even the cheap ass ones are better than nothing, especially if you’re dealing with #6 above.

Right, i think that’s it for now. There’s other news on the horizon, but i think i’ll save that for later….

Playtest session #2 is in the books

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Last Saturday, i ran more playtesting with a new batch of victims- uh, i mean, volunteers. With the new rules modifications (and tweaking of several of the cards), the games went a lot smoother than the first weekend. And even those games weren’t that bad. In fact, it went so well, we ended up having a third game played.

I had four players this last time, as compared to six on the first weekend. This was very desirable, as i needed to see if the game would play well with four as well as six. Later on in the evening, we gained a fifth, and it was interesting to see how the game dynamics changed. The Minions, those cards you need to sacrifice to the shoggoth, became an even rarer commodity as the third game developed. Some faction’s special abilities really got important at the later stages of the game.

The best compliment i got that day was a player telling me that she was surprised that it was that late, as she felt the time had flew by when playing the game…three times in a row!

I’m starting to feel really good about what i’ve got here. Now i’ve got to get the whole artist thing sorted out. When i get them together, i’ll post some pictures of the development process involved in making the prototype deck…