The board game industry is all about community. We’ve been fortunate enough to make many friendships in the short year of Happy Mitten’s existence. One of those friendships is with Chevee Dodd. The following is a guest post from Chevee on his personal journey from concept to Kickstarter with Pull!. Also, Chevee offers some of his talents to a member of our audience. Read on to find out more.
Over the past year I’ve become quite familiar with the folks at Happy Mitten. Jeff and I chat quite frequently and share information about our projects and goals. When I began sharing my Kickstarter goals with him he immediately volunteered to help me promote the project. We discussed various options: interviews, previews, reviews… but Jeff didn’t want to just churn the same old thing. He asked me to do something different: tell my story. If you aren’t yet familiar with Happy Mitten, one thing you will learn about them is that they are very passionate about story. They don’t want to make just a game… they want to make an experience.
The inspiration and design of PULL! began last fall, November I think, but that’s not the beginning of the story. The initial development of PULL! took place in a few short hours… but the knowledge and skill it took to create this game was honed over years. Maybe even decades. Game design is a skill like any other and practice hones that skill and keeps it sharp. There have been periods of my life where I designed games non-stop for years and other periods where I only thought about designing games and did nothing meaningful.
Last year was one of those years.
I was in a state of flux the entire year. Depression, family troubles, sickness, money… you name it, I had all sorts of issues to deal with which led to a nearly complete collapse of my creativity. I escaped into video games and books for a while and just let life be. In the past, this has worked wonders for me creatively. Letting myself just go allowed me to come back to things with a new found fervor. Last year was different though, that didn’t happen. By November I was frustrated and tired of video games. It was time to do something about it.
I started looking at my catalog of games on The Game Crafter. I’ve got some pretty darn cool titles on there but they don’t really sell. I wanted to explore the “why” behind that and I thought I would try to put something together that I could sell for less than $15. A small card game would be perfect. It needed to be compact (read: inexpensive) and the theme had to be something I could work with artistically. I’m not a great artist, so whatever art needed to be done, it had to be something I could handle. Being a print on demand game, I simply couldn’t afford to hire any outside help. This project would be 100% my work.
I thought about it for a few days and tried to force a few things out but nothing inspired me. During a particularly frustrating day at work, I had enough. I tweeted to the world:
“I want to design a card-only game. Something smallish. Shoot some themes at me. I’ll pick one and attempt it.”
Over the next hour or so, people tweeted dozens of ideas at me. The idea that sparked PULL! was one of the early ideas and it never left my mind: a trick taking game about clay pigeon shooting. Even as I tried thinking about some of the other ideas (bugs caught in a spider web), I kept coming back to the idea of clay pigeon shooting. Not really as a theme, but what the theme sparked: the idea of having two tricks each round. Here, the theme drove the development… even with a trick taking game.
I absolutely love trick taking games. I’ve always wanted to design one but I never felt confident enough to try it. When you love something so completely, comparing yourself to the successes that already exist is extremely difficult. I feel (for me at least) it’s the reason that I try to design new things so often. Why would I design a new deck building game when there’s already deck building games I love? What happens if I work on it and it’s not as good? Maybe that’s the depression in me talking, but sometimes those thoughts hold me back. Sometimes those thoughts propel me forward also… and I think that’s what happened here.
My love of trick taking games challenged me to make my own. I’ve played a ton of them, so I knew that if I hit snags, I had a large collection of games and experiences to Pull! from. 😉
Continually through development and testing, I compared this game to some of my favorites to help me understand why things were or were not working. It allowed me to look at my game through the lens of many to spot the game’s strengths. I relied on that information to build on those strengths and make the game a more complete experience.
More importantly, I relied on my playtesters.
This project began as a crowd-sourced idea and was developed throughout with the help of the same crowd. I hosted each iteration of the game on my website and allowed anyone and everyone to help me test the game and make it better. I received feedback from over a dozen test groups including my own and all that information helped me make the game what it is. I also relied on the community to help me with the graphic design. I tweeted each iteration of the card layout. I tweeted each version of the animals. I tweeted design concepts. I took all the feedback in and let the community that was built around the game help me make it as universally attractive as possible.
And so I brought it to Kickstarter.
After putting months of work into development and art, I didn’t simply want to cast the game aside. I knew the challenges of finding a publisher for a trick taking game. I knew that my quirky theme made that challenge even more difficult… but I wasn’t ready to just let the game die a slow death on a print on demand site. I wanted something more for it and sometime in January, I decided that crowd-funding was the perfect fit. A crowd-sourced idea with crowd-approved design deserved to be crowd-funded by the same people that believed in it from the start. The community already believed in what I was doing enough to help me test through many iterations of a rather boring game… it was time to see if a larger community would believe in the game and help me bring it to a larger market.
The campaign has been coasting along quite nicely. The backers have been very supportive and much of my funding has come as a direct result of their willingness to share the project with their friends and families. As I was once inspired by the community to create, I am now humbled by that same community. When all is said and done, many people will have a great game in their hands that was crafted by not just me, but a large group of talented people. I thank each and every one of those people from testers to backers that has helped this project become what it is today and I can’t wait to be able to tell more stories like this one in the future.
As mentioned, Chevee Dodd, LLC is about more than board games. It provides quality game and graphic design at affordable prices. To that end, Chevee will design one 300 x 300 logo or avatar in a format or your choice (jpg, png, svg) for one of our readers! To enter as a contestant, tell us one thing you really hope to accomplish within the next year in the comments below. We will randomly select a winner on May 9th! Good luck!