I (Jeff) had a chance to catch up with friend and designer, Matt Loomis. His current Kickstarter, Dragonflame, is wrapping up now. You can check it out here.
Jeff: First of all, congrats on funding! Describe the setting and feeling when you first saw it funded?
Matt: Thanks! I think I was at work when it crossed the line and stuck. I’m told it actually crossed over funding in the middle of the night, but someone cancelled afterwards, making it drop back under. With it being so early in the campaign, I wasn’t too concerned about it to be honest. I was excited that we were funded and I was really looking forward to seeing which stretch goals we could achieve.
Jeff: Let’s start with the positive- what do you feel like went well with your campaign? What things did you and Minion do well?
Matt: I think all of our work with getting the game out to reviewers prior to the campaign was fantastic. We provided a print and play for the game to anyone who wanted to download it starting a month prior to the campaign. The PnP to date has gotten over 800 downloads. We sent out 20 prototype copies to a large variety of reviewers. In the end, some didn’t play the game, but of all the ones who did, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Also I’m very happy with the art direction that we went with for the game, in spite of a little bit of feedback for looking “too Disney”, it’s still exactly what I wanted for the game.
Jeff: You and I had a few opportunities to talk earlier in your campaign and I know you made some changes early-on. What were those changes and why were they made?
Matt: The campaign had a good day 1, ending at 50%, and steady growth for the next 8 days until it funded, and then it got even slower. There were some comments in the first week from people who decided not to back the game because they thought it looked too simple or easy, and they confirmed their thoughts with some of the reviews saying that children around 7+ were able to play the game and have fun. There was also a goofy intro on the video which we thought would be humorous/amusing, but also got some feedback in regards to backers being turned off by it.
The changes that we made to the campaign were all cosmetic, to try and move some of the focus away from any perceived simplicity of the game, and try to highlight the depth in the decisions that are beneath the rules which are quite easy to learn. We changed the intro, updated some quotes, moved some things around on the page.
In addition to that, the initial stretch goals for the game were not structured properly. Based on previous campaigns for Minion Games, we assumed a different pace for this campaign and structured the stretch goals accordingly at very safe intervals. Once we realized that the campaign was not going to meet that pace, we had to crunch some numbers and see what the break-even points for cost of upgrades as well as add a few smaller ones along the way to meet the pace of the campaign.
Jeff: Who is the target audience of Dragonflame? Describe them.
Matt: The target audience would be anyone with the need for a “super-filler”, “gateway” or “casual” game that doesn’t fall flat after 1-2 plays. The game is easy enough for non-gamers to understand and be play, yet there is enough depth in the game for seasoned gamers to have some meaningful decisions to keep their interest for repeated plays.
Jeff: How do you begin a new design? Theme or mechanics? Do you have a certain kind of player in mind? Describe the process.
Matt: I’m almost exclusively a mechanics-first designer, for better or worse. I find a problem that I want to solve, or something that I don’t think is currently being filled in the industry and see what I can make of it. After I think I’ve got a clever mechanism that I want to put in game, I start brainstorming what theme would fit that mechanic the best, so I can then use that theme to mold the rest of the game with details that make sense. I try to make all of my games approachable to all players, which tends to be deemed “casual” games by most people. I don’t generally play games that benefit from spreadsheets to be able to optimize them, in spite of the fact that I use spreadsheets for the data and analysis of all of my games. I think complicated mechanics and balancing should be hidden within the game to keep it out of the way of the players. I try to focus more on the experience of playing the game and interacting with other players.
Jeff: I know the campaign isn’t over yet, but are your biggest takeaways? What surprised you?
Matt: Prior to the campaign, I mentally prepared myself for all possible outcomes. I knew the range of outcomes that could happen by the end of the campaign. What actually ended up catching me off guard was trying to deal with the emotions that come out during the campaign. That part has been a rollercoaster, but I think part of that was due to it being my first time as part of the project creation instead of just backing another project and watching it as it goes.
As for specific takeaways for a Kickstarter campaign in general, I think campaigns run during the last three months of the year are going to fund for less than if they had run the same exact campaign during the first 5 months of the year. I think looking at your project from the mindset of a kickstarter backer specifically, and not just a consumer, is an important thing to do. Realizing that these two people have different motivations, even though there are overlaps in the categories, is going to be very important for future campaigns.
Jeff: If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
Matt: I don’t have any regrets about the campaign, but that’s mainly because I don’t believe in them. Putting it into perspective — this campaign is such a small percentage of time in my overall life and potential game design career. Any lessons I learned by making mistakes during the campaign are likely going to be far more valuable to me in the long run than having not made them, and possibly funding for 25% more.
Jeff: How are you going to spend your millions in royalties?
Matt: So by the time I make that much, it’ll be the year 2079, and inflation will have made it so that is the price of a movie ticket, so I’ll probably go see the next movie by Michael Bay Jr.
Jeff: What’s next for Matt Loomis? What can we expect to see?
Matt: I have another game that will be hitting Kickstarter early next year, which is also being published by Minion Games. The game is Cosmic Kaboom, which is a dexterity flicking game where players flick spaceships around to different planets, collecting enough energy so they can power a giant space bomb to blow up the planets of the enemy races. The space bomb is thrown by the player from the edge of the table, trying to hit one or more planets they are trying to destroy. If that wasn’t enough, I also sprinkled some player powers in there that you accrue throughout the game to spice it up a little more.
Jeff: Finally, where can people learn more about you and about Dragonflame?
Matt: They can learn more about Dragonflame on the Kickstarter page, where they will see tons of glowing reviews from a variety of reviewers and some sweet illustrations for the game which were done by Rob Lundy. It’s even easy to get to, just use bit.ly/dragonflame and it will take you straight there.
If they want to hear more of what I’ve got to say, they can follow me on twitter Follow @mrtopdeck