Dead Drop is a fantastic game. It’s light, fast, and a blast to play. I (Jeff) had the opportunity to play it at Origins. Despite the stellar reviews, the campaign hit a slump up until a few days ago with the announcement of all stretch goals being unlocked. I was curious about what was going on. The following is a blog interview I had with both the designer Jason Kotarski and publisher Patrick Nickell.
Jeff: Hello gents! Thank you for taking time to talk. I know you’re
very busy making your final push for Dead Drop. Jason, for people just
hearing about your game and this campaign, please give us an elevator
pitch of what Dead Drop is all about.
Jason: Dead Drop is a micro deduction/memory game made of 13 numbered cards where players race to discover the “drop” which is one card that is kept secret and placed face down in the middle of the table. Players use some simple actions to manipulate the cards around and gather information so that once they think they can guess the “drop” by using two cards from their hand to add up to the value of the hidden card. It’s quick, it’s thinky, and it’s portable!
Jeff: Patrick, what were your initial hopes in the structuring of the campaign? With the different art options, it looks like you’ve taken a similar approach to games like Love Letter or Pairs. What specifically did you predict was going to happen?
Patrick: Dead Drop is by far the trickiest Kickstarter that I have ever run because it had real potential to be a nightmare on the logistics side due to the amount of art decks. I spent months thinking of the best way to structure the Kickstarter and came up with what I felt was the best idea at 5am on a plane from Grand Rapids to Ft. Worth (coming back from GrandCon) I believe it was Matt Loomis who came up with idea of doing something similar to Pairs by Cheapass Games. The Pairs idea got me super excited but I knew it would still be a tremendous logistical challenge because I didn’t have the advantage of the individual packaging like Pairs. I predicted that people would all respond differently to the different types of decks and that would in turn spur them to hit the funding goal so that we could get about the business of unlocking each individual deck. I was super anxious/worried about what giving people multiple copies of the game would do since someone could essentially just grab a deck from a friend, which is why I wanted to make sure the other components were already upgraded and that the magnet lid box was in play. I decided that the risk was worth it.
Jeff: Was offering different art versions of the game separately (instead of all of the versions in the deluxe backer level) ever an option? If so, why didn’t you structure your campaign that way? If not, why?
Patrick: No, simply because the logistics behind it would have been an absolute nightmare. at 13 cards (17 with the 4 player cards) I would have to put the game into a tuck-box which was not an option that I wanted to explore for Dead Drop since it is the 3rd installment in our “Pub Series” It is super important to me that all the Pub Series games come in the same sized box. I wrestled with having the different decks available after the campaign as an add-on but this was simply changing out one logistics nightmare for another. I really love Adam McIver’s Spies & Monsters and I wanted these two decks to be the heart of the game because Spies are the original theme and the Monsters to make a more Kid friendly version. I thought the contrast of these two decks would be a great option for retail moving forward.
Jeff: At what point did you begin to worry about the success of the campaign?
Patrick: I always worry from Day 1. Seriously I am an emotional train wreck each and every single Kickstarter Campaign. I was super stressed out about having Essen fall right in the middle of the campaign but Jason and I talked about that and he graciously filled in during my time in Essen since I was on an opposite schedule. I had considered delaying it until after Essen but that didn’t fit well at all in my production schedule. I began to get very worried when we were going into the last week and were just around 50%. The lull in the middle of the average Kickstarter is something that I’ve come to expect and get used to but I knew something was off as the pledge amounts during the lull were lower than usual. Moving forward I don’t know that I’ll be running anymore 30 day campaigns. I’d like to go to 14 days but I feel that may be too much at once so I think future campaigns will be a maximum of 21 days.
Jason: We had a great first couple days and then it took a big dip. And the dip felt like it was hanging around longer than is should have. So I was kinda worried after week one but I knew at the same time things can turn around really quickly. So I tried to remain hopeful and knew that once Patrick returned from Essen, we’d need to get serious about doing some problem solving and get things rolling again. And so far so good!
Jeff: Despite the games fantastic reviews, the campaign did not look
like it was going to fund a week ago. Why do you think that is?
Patrick: This is the $10,000 Question that has been keeping me up at night the last couple of weeks. I kept running through the list of the potential problems. Higher funding goal because I have a lot of funds tied up in other projects like the Yardmaster iOS App. Not as much in game content as I usually have for Stretch Goals. Three undelivered products that people haven’t had the chance to experience the high level of component quality and game play that Crash Games puts out. Having to sell those three games at Essen. A longer delivery time than usual because of the holidays and Chinese New Year and the fact that I had longer delays on my last three projects than I’m used to. Man, I kept thinking up every possible solution and none were the one thing that I could point to and so I couldn’t come up with a solution that would address the problem.
Jason: It’s tough to point to any one thing but from my experience with running a Kickstarter for my company Green Couch Games I learned that timing and incentives can really make or break a campaign. So maybe part of it was that the stretch goals seemed so far away that there wasn’t hope for folks that wanted a specific higher level deck to unlock so they lose interest or don’t want to take the gamble. But that’s just a guess. Kickstarter can be a fickle thing with project I think are going to fund amazingly that don’t and unexpected campaigns go crazy. The one thing I do know for sure it that there is something to learn from every campaign you are a part of. So I guess I’ll just keep learning.
Jeff: Patrick, making the decision to unlock all the stretch goals is
a big deal. What made you decide that was the best solution?
Patrick: Really it was just an educated guess. I knew that a lot of people wanted the Kids Deck (my favorite deck) and I also knew that there had to be individual backers that wanted that one specific deck that was out of reach. I tried to have the Stretch Goals all very reachable but they required the project to fund in order to start having them unlocked. The psyche of a backer is an interesting thing. It’s almost as if they want to give up because they don’t feel like the Stretch Goals will be met so they stop sharing the project or they stop telling other people about it. I knew that unlocking all the Stretch Goals would do two things. One, it would make Dead Drop a very good deal and people (myself included) have a hard time passing up on a bargain and two, it would put some “blood in the water” and get people talking about the project. I tend to shy away from doing things just to get buzz going but in this instance unlocking the Stretch Goals was a good side effect that created some organic and buzz worthy marketing. In the end I am overwhelmed by the positive response and more importantly by the amount of backers that seemed to be lying in wait for the right time to jump in and back Dead Drop.
Jeff: From the perspective of a backer, I love the variety of art that
you made available. From the perspective of a publisher, I understand
the increased costs you’re taking on. Do you think the campaign
would have performed better with a single art option and a lower
Patrick: Perhaps it would of. It’s so easy to second guess yourself and look back and see what you would do different. I know that I try a lot of different things with my various projects and I have run each project differently than the last in hopes of finding the best way to run a project. I’d like to think that I learn a tremendous amount from each project that I’ve run. I knew that I had paid for all of the art and it is fantastic art from a group of extremely talented artists so I wanted to show case that art. I also completely fell in love with the idea of players being able to “mash-up” the decks and create their own unique deck of 13 cards. I wish that I could jump into a time machine and see how different a single art campaign, with a lower funding goal would have went. Every single campaign I run is the best that I can possibly do with the information I have at that moment. Second guessing yourself can create a very slippery slope.
Jeff: If you were going to start over with what you know now, what
would you do differently?
Patrick: I really can’t allow myself to think this too much because it can foster an ideology of perpetual second guessing but if I had to do it again I would run a bare bones campaign and have everything unlocked via Stretch Goal. I hate doing because I would much rather give everyone everything upfront and offer a basic & a deluxe version so they can decided what’s more important to them. Get in and get out for the less expensive option or pay a bit more for the extras.
Jeff: What final things do you want our audience to know about Dead
Patrick: I love making games, I love meeting people and I would like to make the world a better place by connecting people via games. If I am able to create a living and support my family by doing this then I am the luckiest man alive. Everything that I do is based off of these three simple, yet powerful desires.
Jeff: Jason, do you have anything you’d like to add?
Jason: I’m kinda blown away by the whole experience. I tried to make a little game that used as few components as possible, inspired by the likes of Love Letter and Council of Verona, and chose mechanics that were a bit out of my comfort zone and ended up with a game that people are loving. Some folks are saying it replaces Love Letter as a favorite in the microgame category. Totally humbling. Then, Patrick and Adam McIver who was the art director and illustrator on two of these decks got together and presented the game beautifully. So much about this experience has been amazing it would have been a huge disappointment if things didn’t turn around. So right now, I’m just grateful that things can turn around and that people are willing to pay attention to and support creatives in helping make cool things happen!
Jeff: Last, where can people find out more about Dead Drop and you?
Patrick: You can always learn more about Crash Games via our YouTube Channel “Crash Games AZ” where we put out a weekly vlog of all things Crash Games. Our website, on Twitter, on Facebook and of course on Kickstarter.
Jason: You can find me on Twitter @jasonkotarski. I have a little game company called Green Couch Games that you can find at www.facebook.com/greencouchtabletop. And I have a little podcast about filler games called 20 Minutes of Filler and you can find that at dicetowernetwork.com. Thanks for chatting with us, Jeff!