Sam “King of the Hilltop”
Over the last year and a half it’s been an adventure working on Cult of the Deep. We have prototyped the game numerous times, and have playtested over and over again. We have been working with our artist, Liam Peters, since January to bring you what I believe is some of the best quality art in the board game market. Developing and quoting box layouts and game components with publishers. Added a graphic designer, David Li, to help frame the play experience on our physical components. We have been working on some side projects to better help our game launch that we haven’t discussed yet but hope to announce to you soon.
I guess the point of it all is, if you are going to launch your game, you need a team. People that you can trust to help bring out the best in your game. So, for those looking to venture into the world of board game publishing or maybe just looking to pick up an idea of how to improve your business, I hope this list helps.
Like any entrepreneur, many of these team member’s jobs will be done by the same person, the key is to know where you are weak and either learn a new skill set or find someone who can do the job justice.
Game Development Team
Game Designer – This is the person who designs the game ruleset and is ultimately in charge of bringing their idea to life on a board. When self-publishing, this job bleeds into the Game Developer as you create a theme for the game and seek to better the play experience.
Lead Playtester – The Lead Playtester takes charge of playtesting, coordinating play sessions, feedback, blind playtests, and game problem recognition. These people are constantly playing the game from different angles and getting a variety of people to do the same. The key is then taking all of that information and breaking it down to actionable information for the Game Designer.
Game Developer – Now for different companies, this job has some different responsibilities. In the case where companies buy designs from designers, they take the reins of cleaning the ruleset and bringing the game to life with art and theme. They also help to develop the game’s feel and look for manufacturing, including: box size, number of compartments to store components, set-up of the game inside the box, quality of components, etc. They should work with the shipping master to make sure the game can be shipped efficiently. The list is endless and just like any ruleset, it can be tweaked and played with forever if you are not careful.
Rules Editor – This job is very specific but has a major impact on a game. The rules make or break a game because you can’t always be there to explain the rules. People need to be able to pick up a game and understand how to play the game by just reading the rulebook. The better the rulebook is at getting people to play and understand the rules, the better the player experience with the game. It doesn’t make your game better than it is, but it’s more like allowing people to fully experience what your game has to offer. Very important job, especially with the rise of so many board games being available, the cream will rise to the top.
Art Director – This is the person overall responsible for finding the artists and graphic desginers, as well as the final look of the game. They work with artists on a regular basis to help shape and mold the game to its final form. This is a job that is frequently shared with other duties when you have a small team or are self-publishing. Many times he/she works with the Game Developer.
Concept Artist – This is the illustrator, sculptor, person with terrible art skills but has a vision for the game, who sets up the initial ideas for the art. Many times this is rolled into one person or as an extension of the hired artists for final pieces. This is actually a different skill set among artists and it is something that I don’t think is capitalized on very well in the board game industry. Part of that is the cost of hiring two artists but there are a lot of benefits of working through an art piece in different iterations before you even start laying down the final colors.
Artist – Hired to complete a piece for the final look of the game. They work with any concepts provided and with the Art Director to have completed pieces for the game.
Graphic Designer – Work to help sculpt the look and elements of a game outside of the illustration work. They help to make the art and the elements that are needed to play the game make sense and are usable to make gameplay functional. They work with the Art Director to make sure it is cohesive as many times the work being done on graphic design is at the same time artwork being completed for the game. Not always but happens that way quite a bit.
Final Production Team
Shipping Master – I name this job shipping master because there are a lot of elements in play when trying to ship things all over the world, let alone make sure they go to the right place. It takes a master to do it well and to do it efficiently. Ideally, this job is involved in the game making process so that when it comes time to ship, there are no cost surprises. As part of board game development, the shipping of that item should be considered.
Game Developer – This is one of two jobs that appears twice. There needs to be someone who walks the game from start to finish. They are the champion of a particular game. From prototyping to shipping, this is the patron saint of your board game.
Community Manager – This used to be the Social Media Manager but it better shows the purpose of this job, to help create and manage a community. Social media was developed to maintain connection and information and that creates communities around your products. This person helps to organize it and make sure you and the community stay in tune with each other.
Content Writer – Writing, writing, and more writing. There is so much writing. Blogs, articles, press kits, descriptions, contests, and more. The list never stops and neither does the writing. Important job though. If they can express themselves well in writing, it can make a huge difference to your board game and to your online presence.
Graphic Designer – This is one of two jobs that appears twice. The graphic designer for marketing is working on ads, images for blog posts, Kickstarter campaigns, websites, and more. There is a lot of work to be done on the marketing side to make your company presentable. (Something we are in the process of working on.)
Marketing Manager – Marketing managers are usually reserved for larger companies, a company where one of the owners/executives has a strong skill set in marketing, or in more recent years, where you hire them for a particular job, like running a board game campaign on Kickstarter. They are similar to a Game Developer but run from start to finish a marketing campaign for a particular board game.
Marketing Director – This is the person who is overall in charge of the marketing for all games and in small companies does all of the other jobs as well. They also make sure that the marketing terminology, the look and feel of the ads, the box art, description, and campaign all work together. It would be unfortunate to take a complicated dark fantasy dungeon crawler and try and sell it to HABA or market it towards 6 year olds. There are exceptions to the rule but exactly that, exceptions.
Mentors – Finding those people who help you navigate a complicated process and help you do more than you thought possible. They are great to have and can help you navigate the dark waters of self-publishing.
Sidekicks – These people are always there, cheering you on and don’t want the glory for themselves. They want to help you out of the goodness of their souls and want your game to succeed. You know them and they are indispensable when times get tough, and they will.
Champions – These are the people who love your product and want to shout it from the rooftops. They make you feel like you are the next Reiner Knizia, Matt Leacock, Eric Lang, and it is a great feeling. Plus, they like to help out and, like any board game company, you are going to need all the help you can get.
Convention Helper – A lot of small time publishers do not have the personnel to run a moderate or even small sized booth effectively at a convention. In order to preserve your voice, your health, and sanity, you need to find help, convention helpers specifically. They can take shifts so that you can meet with other publishers, designers, go to the bathroom, and get some food. Conventions are tough and having a couple of people to help out, really makes the convention experience better for the exhibitors and for the attendees.
There are so many jobs to do and for those thinking of doing it alone, I applaud your efforts. If you do it, that is awesome but don’t be afraid to reach out to others. If you need help or are looking for like minded people willing to lend a hand, there are quite a few communities online for all of the different jobs listed above. You can check out Facebook, Board Game Atlas, Board Game Geek, Reddit, and your local game clubs.
There are also some groups that can help provide a good base to work from who are also active in the community. One group is Indie Game Alliance. If you are not sure where to turn, they have some resources and a guy who has always been nice to me, Matt Holden.
Until next time, keep it up. You are doing awesome.
Ed “Duke of BAzlandia”
This week we are taking the time to reflect on where we are at currently and what is happening at B.A. Games. We are about 8 or 9 months from when we decided this was going to be a thing and it was going to happen. Since then there have been several up and downs.
Looking back we have come a long way and still have a long way to go. We have accomplished a lot from becoming official with all the legal paperwork, starting a website, creating prototypes, playtesting, contracting artists & graphic designers, getting quotes from manufacturers, learning about production & funding, reaching out to find mentors, and a myriad of other tasks. Looking back on the body of work, it has been a mountain but we still have a mountain ahead to climb.
Looking forward and the mountain to be climbed. Art and graphic design is a mountain but is coming along nicely and in all honesty Liam Peters and David Li have made the mountain really just a small hill. Production, manufacturing, running a business, and funding are an ongoing process and are being tackled. This is a climb and from talking to several small business owners this is always a climb to some sort of plateau before you climb again over a new problem set or greater heights. The good news is that I seem to enjoy these problems and finding solutions.
The biggest down so far has been the physical distance between my brother and I. This has led to several communication problems. Which has varied with how often we talk, learning to communicate through VTC, text, and e-mail, as well as syncing schedules and prioritizing meetings. This has been good for both of us. This has just emphasized to us that eventually we would like to be co-located with an HQ. There have been several occasions of what our end goals are and where we would like to be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, and so on. Let’s just say the dream is big and we hope to accomplish it all.
On the flip side of the coin there have been some really awesome parts. I think the highlight of doing this is the amount of time I get to spend with my brother playing games and hanging out because hanging out is part of business meetings and playing games is just expanding my knowledge of the industry. All in all there is only a plus side.
In the end I’m excited for the future. Cult of the Deep is gonna be great and I can’t wait to share it, plus more!
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