Our questions will be preceded by HM and David’s answers with DC.
HM: David, Lagoon: Land of Druids looks incredible. Can you share with us the history of how this game got made?
DC: Thank you for the kind words! I decided to get serious about game design a few years ago, and started working regularly and actively on various projects. I focused on getting prototypes to the table instead of spending months writing and tweaking rules like I used to. This dramatically accelerated my growth as a designer and tester. My intention to self publish meant I needed a game with enough promise in my judgement to potentially launch a successful publishing business. In the short run that led me to discard one design after another, which was tough at first. But it helped me be more honest with myself about my games, and pushed me in new directions. This yielded the idea for an unconventional scoring paradigm, which is now a core part of Lagoon. I tried variations on this concept in several games, but it never quite worked. Then I had a brainstorm to combine the idea with two older design concepts that had always excited me, and that gave birth to Lagoon. As hard as I worked as a designer, I absolutely got lucky too. Game design is part alchemy. You never know when a certain combination of game mechanics will yield an experience that feels almost like magic, but you keep trying different combinations and eventually, hopefully, you get lucky.
HM: Lagoon is your first board game Kickstarter project and was very well received. How did you contribute to the project’s success?
DC: I believe several ingredients contributed to the project’s success. Bringing Lagoon to five board game conventions put the game in front of dozens and dozens of fellow gamers, designers and publishers whose feedback was critical to improving the game. Obviously, that’s a lot of good exposure too, which helps a lot. I also met many Kickstarter veterans at the cons, whose invaluable advice and guidance helped me avoid many mistakes. Another huge piece is the phenomenal art in the game, created by Eduardo Garcia, Peter Wocken and Chase Velarde. Compelling art raises the profile of a game, and draws a larger audience for a project to potentially convert into backers. One more key thing was offering a free print and play version of the game. I lost track of how many backers wrote me to say they had fun playing the PnP, which helped them make their decision to back. But many of them also talked publicly about their positive impressions from having played the PnP, which is more valuable than anything I could say about the game.
HM: Besides having a high quality game that looks fun, is there anything you did to help spread the word for this project that you feel aided in the tremendous response from backers?
DC: I was hugely taken aback by the response to Lagoon! You do your best to get the word out and build buzz, but it is hard to know your reach and what the response will actually be when you click that “launch” button. I began sharing art for the game weeks before launching, and some of it went viral on Twitter with way more retweets than I could believe. I was also extraordinarily lucky to have a handful of very vocal Lagoon fans tweeting about how much they enjoyed the game leading up to the campaign. During the campaign I made a point of sending an individual thank you message to every backer, and whenever possible I would personalize it. This led to a lot of wonderful exchanges with backers, which was very gratifying for me personally. Backers really appreciate a personal touch, and I think this helped the campaign. It’s wildly time consuming, but was worth it to me.
HM: We love your Kickstarter video. Can you detail some of the planning that went into this video and what you used to achieve the effects of the subtle motion of your games art?
DC: Sometimes fate smiles on us. I had no plan for my Kickstarter video. Then from out of nowhere my good friend Elliot approached me about helping with the video, and volunteered his video skills and equipment that I didn’t even know he had. A few days later, my friend Matt, just an acquaintance really at that point, also volunteered his video skills out of the blue. I invited them both over for dinner, and then learned that Elliot had lots of photography experience and professional video gear while Matt had serious video editing expertise. I had the perfect team just volunteer themselves to me, which still blows me away. With just 3 weeks until launch, we brainstormed a video plan. Elliot spent three nights with me patiently shooting and reshooting video while ensuring the lighting and audio were dialed in. Then Matt spent untold hours masterfully editing it, and reediting it to perfection. Peter Wocken, my graphic designer, suggested months earlier that having the art done in layers would make it possible to do the cool visual effects we used in the video. I’m grateful to my primary artist Eduardo for agreeing to do this, which required him to paint additional detail in the background layers. The last piece was the outstanding musical track my old college friend and talented musician Joey Fehrenbach agreed to let me use for the video’s background music. It all came together remarkably, stunningly well. I’m indebted to all involved, but especially to Matt and Elliot for being the kind of people who will rock somebody’s world just because they can. I’m inspired by their example, and eager now to do the same for some other unsuspecting person!
HM: You said in the risks/challenges section that most of your art was completed prior to the project launching on Kickstarter. What are the factors that came into play when deciding that this was a risk worth taking?
DC: It comes down to scheduling. My hope is to ship out Lagoon: Land of Druids to backers before GenCon, so the game can have its retail debut there. Lagoon has 55 unique illustrations, which take a long time to produce. This meant the art production had to start well in advance of the Kickstarter campaign. It’s also important to have a lot of good art to showcase in your video, as well as over the course of the campaign.
HM: Do you have any plans for future projects? If so, what would you do differently on a second project?
DC: I certainly do! Expansions for Lagoon: Land of Druids are already in the works. I’m excited to introduce some new mechanics, and hopefully a few new ways for people to play Lagoon. I’m also planning a card game that is set in the Lagoon world. For my next project, I plan to build a bigger team. This last time I had Mike Mullins’ invaluable help developing the solo play mode and creating all the puzzles shared with backers during the campaign. Both of those were huge for me. But the day to day planning and running of the campaign fell entirely on my shoulders in an unsustainable way. I’m still recovering from that, and don’t intend to do things that way again!
HM: What do you admire most about Lagoon?
DC: I might be most proud of the emergent variety in Lagoon’s game play. After untold numbers of games both played and observed, I continue to see interesting new situations and opportunities arise for players almost every game.
HM: Thanks so much for the time David. Where can our audience find out more about you?
DC: Thanks guys, the Three Hares Games website at www.3haresgames.com is a good place to start, particularly my blog. I hope to start writing new blog posts again soon. Also, an interview I did with Grant Rodiek has more info: http://hyperbolegames.