Intermission – A Recap

In case you missed it, the Kickstarter for Bill Shakespeare is Dead happened. It was fascinating, fun, stressful, enlightening, stressful and…stressful? The game didn’t make it to the goal, but that doesn’t mean this is over. In fact, the game will be back up in just 5 days as I write these words. So this is just a brief intermission. And surely a few lessons were learned, right?

Some of the lessons I learned are really specific to this campaign and its relaunch. Some are more general and might apply to you as well. In any case…here goes!

 

1. Put the art front and center. This was just silly 0n my part. Seriously silly. The art is one of my favorite parts of the game. And while I think the page itself looked nice, I didn’t do nearly  a good enough job showcasing the art. Those characters needed to be front and center, where everyone could appreciate them. Otherwise, what’s the visual hook that keeps people on the page? The Google Analytics for the page tells me that people bounced away to another page pretty quickly, which means they just weren’t hooked.

I think the representative image I used looked nice, but didn’t do a great job of showing off the art. I’ll be ditching the “box” and just showing Shakespeare. Also, the characters will be all over the page.

 

2. Lower the goal. This should just be obvious, right? Just make it cheaper! But really, lowering the goal means raising the risk. I don’t kick myself for the $10k goal in the first campaign. At that number, it was getting everything I wanted plus a nice buffer. In the next campaign, it’s down to $8k. I think that will really help, but it means the buffer is smaller and the risk is higher. One hopes not to have to put their own money into the project after it funds (you invest your money before ideally), but if that’s what it comes to, that’s what it comes to and I am budgeting appropriately for it.

 

3. Lowering the pledge. Again, this is one of those obvious things that’s not quite so obvious. Lower the price and get more people, yeah? Frankly, this game is running on a much tighter margin than most games. The general principle in pricing games is to make the MSRP somewhere around 5 times the cost of manufacturing. And let me tell you…that’s not happening here. But the difference between $25 and $30 is vast, psychologically. So I’m prepared to place my bets and make the game less expensive, even if it makes me sweat a bit.

 

4. Make it family friendly. There are a lot of people who like adult games. And frankly, Bill Shakespeare is Dead has always been a rough PG-13 at its very worst. But the feedback I’ve gotten overwhelmingly tells me that the audience will be much broader if the base game is family friendly right out of the box. Now, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be a little bawdy (Hilariously Fake Breasts are staying in) or a little on the gross side (Trunk Full of Toenails). But some of the more extreme stuff? That’s going into…

 

5. Expansions. It seems that, at every demo, someone asks if there are going to be expansions. I think it’s a great idea, so why not start right off the bat? This next campaign will feature a deluxe model with your choice of 3 expansion packs of Nouns and Verbs. So those who want the NSFW experience will be able to pick that up. Those that want a really Shakesperean experience (like teachers!) can grab the Shakespeare pack. Along with those are a Family Friendlier pack and a Pop Culture pack. This means that people can really get the game they want, customizing the whole way.

 

6. Smarter Advertising. Let’s be completely real: advertising on BoardGameGeek is really expensive. It’s $500 just to get your foot in the door. Booking the front page (which is really just the top-most banner) is another $200 for a day. Now, I’m not saying it isn’t worth it. I have no doubt that the campaign brought in $700 in pledges from people who clicked on the ads. But A) it wasn’t a great return on investment because B) I don’t believe this is the right kind of game for those ads.

Ads on BGG are great for games that really  appeal to the  hardcore gamer crowd and/or games that have a big name behind them. If someone is already anticipating a game, then they see an ad for it, that can prompt them to jump on it right then. But frankly, the world of party games doesn’t always intersect with the world of who logs on to BGG. So while we may have gotten $700 worth of pledges from there, it isn’t necessarily the best use of money.

Instead, a better use of ad funds is likely Facebook. Facebook allows you to directly target certain demographics. So instead of just a wash of gamers, I can tailor my ads to those who like Cards Against Humanity. Or Shakespeare. Or people who indicate they are english teachers. There are a wide variety of people who might love Bill Shakespeare is Dead, but they don’t necessarily hang out on the same Venn diagrams. Plus, Facebook allows you to see the stats, so you can tweak things if need be. That kind of feedback is crucial.

 

And finally, there’s no replacement for the tribe. Gathering a following is a thing that takes time and effort. Over 100 people pledged for Bill Shakespeare is Dead this last time out. So now we’ve got supporters. People who are excited about the game. People who will champion it to others. You can’t buy that with ads.

 

So let’s get ready to raise the curtain for Act II on May 19th!

 

 

Kickstarter Log 8: The Campaign Page Part 1

For about a month now I have been putting together weekly breakdowns of Kickstarter campaigns over at All Us Geeks. The truth is, I have looked at every single tabletop Kickstarter campaign that has gone live in 2015. All of them. And for a great majority, I’ve studied those campaigns and those pages. Looked at the charts. Read all the comments and updates. This has been my homework, 5-7 days a week, for several hours a day. Now, I’m not saying that is something you have to do before launching your first Kickstarter campaign. But for me, I felt the need to do this level of research.

 

Now, what does this translate to? Hopefully, it translates to a campaign page that looks like I give a damn. Let’s take a look at some of the elements that make a quality campaign page.

Video It’s right at the top of the page. And while not everyone watches it, I’m of the belief that you absolutely should have one. There are campaigns out there that have funded without a video. But there are countless failed Kickstarters without one. So what makes a good video?

-Good Audio: I (and I’m not the only one) would argue that good audio is more important than good video. People will sit through a video with less quality camera work, but fuzzy, hissy audio will make people turn it off every time. Get a good microphone (even spending $60-70 will get you something suitable) and sit down with an audio editor (Audacity is free, though I haven’t used it. You can pay $30 for a month of Adobe Audition, which I swear by). This is a place where you need to make an investment. So do it!

-Time: It seems that the sweet spot for videos is right around 1:30. There are a lot of good videos shorter than that, but most videos over that feel too long. And just about everyone who has run a campaign will tell you that most people turn off the video long before it finishes. Make it short and sweet, then get out. If your video is  longer than 1:30, make sure the hook is early.

-Thematic/Personal: I think you should ideally have a short section that fits the world of your game, and a personal appeal from the designer. If the video is 1:30, then I would say 30 seconds or less should be devoted to the thematic part, then the rest should come directly from the designer (designer, not publisher). People like to invest in people. So show your passion. Make us feel it. Nobody loves the game better than you, right?

 

Pledge Levels There are a ton of different opinions on what you should put in your pledge levels. Some people will tell you about early birds. Retail levels. All kinds of things to add on to your levels. But the research that I have generally says that simpler is better. So here’s what good pledge levels look like:

$1

Base Level

Deluxe Level

 

That’s it.

-$1: Look at a $1 pledge as a welcome mat. This level tells people “Hey, I’m really glad you’re here. Come in and stay awhile.” Just about anyone can throw you a buck. And having that level tells people that you value their buck. Is their dollar really going to help you? No. But if they get in for a dollar, they get to comment, they get all your updates, and you have the opportunity to let them know why they should turn that dollar into a full pledge. It happens. A lot. So make sure to put the welcome mat out on the porch.

-Base level: There’s nothing between the $1 and this. Nothing. No early birds. No mugs. No posters. No t-shirts. Nothing. Not only does that help the page look more elegant, but it maintains the value of your product. “But wait,” you might say. “People love early birds, don’t they?” No, actually. People like deals. Many tolerate early birds. Some people actively hate them. And I don’t believe they really work. An early bird does not motivate a large swath of backers to a substandard product or page. People will snap up early birds to a game they would back anyway. If they find that they don’t actually want your game, they’ll dump the early bird level halfway through and make your pledge levels look even worse. Also, an early bird devalues your product. If the base level is $30 and you sell 100 copies at $25, people are going to wonder why you’re not just selling the game for $25. And why aren’t you? Is it because you want that 5 dollars as padding for your wallet? Or because you’re selling those 100 copies as loss leaders? I can virtually guarantee that no backer will assume you’re selling at a loss.

So to end the rant, find the lowest price you can and sell at that price. Don’t sell at a loss, but don’t do anything to devalue your product either. Pick a price and defend it. Say “It takes money to make a game, and this is the amount of money each copy needs to be so that we can not lose money.” Pick that price and make it stone. It’ll be the best deal for the most backers, and it will mean that people understand why they need to pay what they’re paying.

 

-Deluxe Level: What this is is going to change depending on what your project is. It might be the game plus an expansion, a nice box, another character, or something customized. It should be something that helps drive you to your funding goal without significant cost.

What should not be the deluxe level? The deluxe level should not be: multiple copies, retailer levels, anything that costs too much to make, or anything that renders the base level incomplete.

-Multiple copies: If people want to pledge for multiple copies, that’s fine. You should include something on the page (in the shipping section or in the FAQ) on how to pledge for multiple copies. But what people do here is, for example, have their base level be for $25 and the pledge for 2 copies be for $40. Do you see what happens here? People wonder why you can suddenly drop the price by $15 just because they ordered a second. You may have a great reason, but many of your backers will assume your product costs less than it actually does, and they will mentally devalue your product.

-Retailer levels: I love the FLGS. Don’t get me wrong. I love supporting the FLGS. But very very few game stores stock their shelves with stock they ordered on Kickstarter. It just doesn’t happen that often. Stores have connections with distributors. They pick up games at trade shows because they played them and maybe got free copies. For a game store to back your project to put in their store, they tie up money for 6 months or longer without a tangible product to put on their shelves. That is no way to run a business, and they know that. If someone wants to order multiple copies, refer them to that part of your page where they can do so. Don’t clutter your page with useless levels.

-High Cost: If your deluxe level is $10 more than the base level and it costs $7 to make, you’re cutting your margins too close. The deluxe model should be something that adds value to the product without adding a great amount of cost to manufacturing. Something simple and effective. A new game mode might just take 10 more cards. A new character might be a pawn and additional resources. It adds something to your game and it adds something to your buffer. It’s a win for everyone.

-Making Your Base Incomplete: Anyone who plays video games regularly knows that Day-1 DLC is not popular or fun. How it feels is that someone has shipped an incomplete game…but they’ll sell you the rest for a low, low price! Likewise, your base game should be complete. It should stand on its own. If you barely make the goal and nobody buys the deluxe level, everyone should be getting a fantastic, complete product. If people want a bonus, that’s great. But that’s really what the deluxe level should be. This is the same principle for stretch goals, which we will go over later.

 

So that’s part one! That was probably more detailed than I intended, but so it goes. While you’re waiting for part two, let me know what you think about my own campaign page: http://www.tinyurl.com/BillShakespeare   Make sure I practice what I preach!

Kickstarter Log 7: Print and Play

Why do people buy games? Actually, why do people buy anything?

We’re not talking about necessary things, but luxury items. Take a TV, for instance. Someone walks into a store, and how do they decide what TV they want? Sure, they can look at the box and see all the stats, see the size, the resolution, the features. They can read all that, but I bet you’ve never bought a TV like that. No, you walk through the electronics aisle, do your homework, then you look at the TVs on the shelf. You get to experience it before you buy it. The experience is just as important as the box, and it’s the same way for almost every other luxury item.

So let’s apply that to games. What influences people in buying games? Being a famous designer is great, if you are one. Then again, you probably aren’t (me either!). Having great features on the box and good reviews from others is also necessary. But nothing will excite people about your product as much as them being able to experience it for themselves. Of course, if your project is headed to Kickstarter, there likely isn’t a physical product they can buy. Instead, you need to put together a print and play.

Simply put, a print and play is a version of the game that people can download and print themselves. Note that I don’t say “the game” but “a version of the game”. Some games lend themselves perfectly to printing at home. Other games are way too large for anyone to logically print at home. But even if your game doesn’t lend itself well to home printing, you still need to put together some kind of version that can be downloaded.

There are 400 Nouns and Verbs in Bill Shakespeare is Dead. Very few, if any people are going to print out all of those cards. And frankly, you don’t need that many cards to get an idea of how the game plays. Instead, I cut that number to somewhere around half in the print and play version. It’s a simple version with simple art, and even so the whole thing comes out to about 50 pages. Do I really think someone is going to print out 50 pages and cut out all those cards? No. But I do not doubt my decision to put in the effort to make the game.

“But!” you might say, “I have a totally valid reason to not do a print and play!” Well, I already think you’re wrong, but let’s break down three common reasons that I hear.

1. People are going to steal my work.

No they are not. They’re not. There’s no “code” in board games that can be stripped and reskinned quickly. You can’t make “flappy catan” and throw it up on the app store real quick. Creating a tabletop game is a lot of work. You already know that because you’ve made one, right? So repeat after me: nobody is going to steal my idea. And so what if someone did? The best way to prove your copyright is to have the game out there on the internet with a time stamp and everything. And you know what does that? A print and play.

2. It’s too much time to do and nobody will print it anyway.

Yes, putting together a whole other version of your game especially for 8.5×11 pages is a lot of work. It can be a huge pain. But are you making a game because it’s easy to do? And looking at it from another angle, would you want to buy a game from a creator that avoided hard work? Would that kind of attitude inspire faith that they are going to produce a great game?

Also, you might be right. You might post it and have nobody print it and play it. Just like you might do the video on your Kickstarter and few people might watch it. Or few people might read the reviews for your game. But I can tell you that people want to see that you’ve done it. You inspire faith in your backers by showing them that you’ve taken the time and put in the effort that is necessary. You are asking them to trust you with their money. You have to earn that trust.

3. My game doesn’t work well for print and play because (insert gameplay reason here). 

I will say, that there are cases where a print and play of the game really isn’t feasible. Take Trickerion, which had something like 600 pieces. Can’t really print that. However, let me offer a potential solution. Take an element from the game, a cool hook, and develop a smaller thing around that. Maybe it’s just a 5 minute mini preview that gives people a taste of the cool gameplay. Maybe it will play differently than your final version, but it gives backers someone to get excited about, and isn’t that the point?

 

Of course, I couldn’t do a post about a print and play without adding my own. Here you can find the print and play for Bill Shakespeare is Dead. Print it out if you like. Play it if you want. But even if you don’t, I’m glad I made it:

Rules

Character Cards and Script

Stage Manager Book

Nouns

Verbs

 

In the next post: The Campaign Page

Kickstarter Log 6 – Reviews

At the time of this writing, 5 of the 8 review editions of Bill Shakespeare is Dead have been printed and are already out there in the world. With a month and a half to go (that doesn’t sound like a very long time) the majority of reviewers already have the game, and all of them should have it with a month lead time before the launch of my Kickstarter campaign. Getting that edition together and having it printed 8 times was a very intense, expensive process. But I have no doubt that it’s going to be worth it.

 

So why do I think a review is so worth it? And is it worth it for you? Not including shipping, I paid about $250 dollars to manufacture my review prototypes. That’s a lot of money. And I didn’t calculate it until just this moment, so it seems like even more money. But in any case, I am happy to spend that money because, based on all the Kickstarter projects I have studied this year, reviews are a HUGE part of whether or not an independent game makes it.

-Reviews are important because we tend to trust reviewers more than creators: Nobody is going to put their project on Kickstarter and then say “I’m proud of it, but I’d give it a 7.5/10”. And we shouldn’t expect them to. If you are not unfailingly supportive of your own project, you need to find a different project. But the fact is, every project has flaws. Nothing is perfect. And we look to reviewers to be objective and tell us both what is great about a game and what doesn’t work.

-Reviews are a great opportunity for feedback: Unless you are Queen games, the game that you put up on Kickstarter shouldn’t be 100% complete. You should still be open for improvement and refining. Of course you should have had plenty of feedback already from playtesters, but reviewers are a great resource for this as well. Reviewers look at games all the time, and a good one will know what works and what doesn’t. Heed those words well.

-Having reviews shows that you know what you’re doing and how to play the game: If you haven’t already, look through this geeklist on BoardGameGeek and look through all of the games there. And I do mean all of them. If you haven’t done that kind of market research, you haven’t done enough. Take a look at what has funded and what has not. There are exceptions to this, but most of the games that fund solidly have a lot of similar features to their pages, and reviews are a part of that.

 

The bottom line: you should do everything you possibly can to get the word out there about your game and draw people to your project. Finding at least one reviewer (preferably 3 or more, but the more the better) that has favorably reviewed games like yours, contacting them, and getting them a good-looking prototype should be part of your larger strategy for making a professional page and getting the word out about the game. Can you do a campaign without all that? Sure. You can also fail to fund. So that’s up to you.

 

In the next log: Print and Play

Kickstarter Log 5 – Testing

There are a lot of different rounds of testing that your game is going to go through. Some will be very tedious, most will be nerve-wracking, and a few may be fun. All will be necessary.

 

So where do you get started?

 

In the last log we talked about prototypes. Once you have a solid idea for a game, something you think might be at least somewhat playable, you need to put together a workable prototype and get it in the hands of players as soon as possible. That can be your friends, your family, or even strangers on the internet if you put together a print-and-play version. The bottom line: your game will never progress until you test it.

 

So to go through my own process: I got the idea for Bill Shakespeare is Dead on a Monday, I think? I knew my friends and I would be getting together for a game night that weekend, so I quickly got to work. A few days later, a lot of the cards were already set, and at least part of the format was complete. I was really excited. I thought I had a real game in my hands. We had our game night, and once everyone had a few (I wanted to ensure I had a receptive audience) I brought out the game. And it failed. It crashed. It burned. The Hindenburg looked at it and said “Dude, you’re a mess”. It’s a game in five acts, and after act 1 I packed it away and that was that.

 

So what happened? Was I terrible? Did I do something wrong? No. I didn’t do anything wrong. I simply tested an idea and it didn’t work. If I hadn’t tested it, I would never have known how bad it was. And more importantly, if I hadn’t tested it, I wouldn’t have known how easy it was to fix.

 

If you don’t know the structure of Bill Shakespeare is Dead, it goes kind of like this: As two performers are going through the scene, there are parts missing from the script. As they hit those missing parts, the Stage Manager calls for “noun” or “verb”, the other players contribute the card they think that works best, the Stage Manager picks the winning word, and the performer repeats the line with that new word. All in all, each of those interactions takes 5-10 seconds. The pace is super super fast, which makes it great. In comparison, my original test still had the missing words in the script, but I originally had the stage manager gathering the nouns and verbs before the scene even started, then had them do the scene with the words inserted. The same actions, but completely separated from one another. It was miserably slow.

 

After that first failed test I wracked my brain for a little bit, then realized I needed more chaos and fun in the game. Once I realized that the structure just needed to be mashed together, I got ready for my next test. A few weeks later we brought out the game at the Great Falls Gaming Rendesvous and it was an absolute smash. My switch from “broken” to “awesome” was pretty fast, and your testing phase might take a lot longer. Results may vary, but you’ll never get there without testing.

 

So now that the game works, what now? Now, I’m still testing. I test with friends. Strangers. Brikenbrak Games will be at several locations throughout the northwest in March, testing all the way. Everyone who plays the game has an experience, and some of them have great ideas. You need those experiences. You need those ideas. Test your game as many times as you possibly can.

 

And finally, nobody wants to buy a game that isn’t really tested. Would you?

 

In the next log – Reviews

Kickstarter Log 4 – Prototypes

This is a really good point to say that on just about all of these topics there will be wildly differing opinions on what to do depending on who you ask. This is really about my experience. And this is my first time out, so if I do something that completely fails, I’ll come back and let you know. But for now, let’s begin.

What kind of prototype do you need? Before I can answer that, I have to ask: where are you in the process?

You have an idea for a game. Just a germ of an idea. Just a little squiggly sperm of a concept, looking for an egg to fertilize. Cool. You don’t need anything fancy at the moment. Some people create initial prototypes with paper and pen, some print things out on computers, some do stuff with stickers. You’re going to throw all of these things away before too long, so if you spend more than 20 bucks total you’re probably spending too much. Your goal in the beginning is just to get items that you can use. Get it going as quickly as possible, because it is only in testing that you’ll realize how badly you screwed up.

But eventually you’re going to get out of the initial testing phase and you’ll want the rest of the world to start looking at your game. What do you do at that point?

Some will tell you that a prototype is a prototype and it doesn’t really matter what it looks like as long as it is legible. That’s cool. It’s fair. And I would probably play a game that looked rough and hand-made if the gameplay was engaging. But personally, when I bring my games out for the rest of the world to play, I want at least a step up from that.

There are a number of different services that you can use to create prototypes. Personally, I use The GameCrafter (www.thegamecrafter.com) because they have many different parts and pieces, and I’ve been very satisfied with the service. I find uploading and making games on there pretty simple, but you may find that a different service works better for you.

Now that Adobe Photoshop is 10 bucks a month, it’s a little tough to recommend any other service for creating files for games. If you want to really make this game, you’re going to have to make some investments. And for me, Photoshop is a no-brainer. (Others love inDesign, which I have not used. I am an old Photoshop vet, so that’s just me. Bottom line: you can probably afford better than free).

So now I’ve got my creation tool and the company that will create my prototype. What next?

In the last log I talked about art. Is art strictly necessary for your prototype. No, it is not. But is it nice? Is it helpful? Does it get people excited about your game? You bet your ass.

Let’s take the prototype for Bill Shakespeare is Dead.


Not the greatest pictures in the world, I know. But it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about in terms of completion in the prototype phase. It’s a solid-looking box. It’s filled with cards (see other pictures below) and small booklets. It’s got cover art and a blurb on the back. Is this what it’s going to look like at retail? No. But would it look ridiculous sitting on the shelf of a game store? Personally, I don’t think so.

For the purposes of clarity, this wasn’t free. Or even particularly cheap. I paid about 70 dollars for the piece of art to go on the cover. I paid about 50 dollars for the prototype itself. It’s not cheap. But when I do a demo at a game store or at a convention (or even with friends!) people compliment the cards. They take notice of the art. They know I’m serious, and with the large amount of crap that gets shoveled onto Kickstarter on a daily basis, having some credibility goes a long way.

As a note, I made a smaller version of the game to send to reviewers. I’m the first to acknowledge that my prototype is way too expensive to make en masse, so I made an edition that I can print a little more freely. It’s not the full version of the game, but it’s enough to play and review. And it is clearly indicated in those copies what isn’t there (just missing some white cards, so the game can be played fewer times before getting repeats). I’ll talk more about reviewers at a different time. You can check out a few pictures of the review copy below.

DSCN0643

DSCN0644

What do you think? Do you take games more seriously if the prototype looks quality? Do you care about quality prototypes for your own games?

In the next log – Testing.

Kickstarter Log 3 – Art

This is the log where I talk about art, artists, and all of that good stuff.

Here’s the first thing: if you are taking your game to market, you need art for it. And I’m not talking about placeholder art. Everyone has placeholder art. You need final art. You need professional, top-notch art.

Now that doesn’t mean you need all the final art. Far from it. Part of the reason we take games to Kickstarter is because we need to bridge the funding gap, so nobody really expects that 100% of the assets are going to be complete. So, you might ask, why bother to get art at all? Here are a couple reasons:

1. Kickstarter is as much a popularity contest as prom. When someone checks out your Kickstarter page, it is the visuals that are really going to hook them. Yes, you need to have your KS page well composed and free of spelling/grammar errors (you checked for that, right?). But if you lack images, or if your images don’t look very good, I can all but guarantee that you’re not going to get backers.

2. Quality art shows investment. Anyone can put something up on Kickstarter. Okay not anyone, but close to anyone. And what that means is that there is a lot of crap on Kickstarter. A lot. A ton. It’s not hard to spot, but it means that the waves of crap are so high and vigorous that mediocre, well-meaning projects can get lost. Don’t let that happen to you! Take your own time, take your own money, and make sure you have quality art for your project. If you can’t be bothered to spend money on your project, nobody else will either.

So what do you do? If you’re like me, and your artistic talent stops at stick figures, you’re going to need to hire an artist. Luckily, you’re reading this on the internet. And that means that you already have the ability to find an artist, and it’s just a click away.

Everyone you talk to is going to have a different opinion on where to go to find an artist. There’s no wrong answer, but I’ll tell you where I go. The website I go to is http://www.conceptart.org and it’s really fantastic. Artists of all styles and experience levels hang out there, and they’re always looking for jobs. Put up an ad there and you’re sure to get some quotes on your project.

Some tips:

–Be really clear about what you’re looking for. You want a spaceship? That’s great. What’s it doing? What’s in the background? Is it a big ship? Is it old or new? Do you want this in gritty colored pencils? Forlorn pastels?

–Have an awareness of your budget. Don’t be ashamed of what you can or can’t spend. If you’ve got a couple hundred bucks to kick around, that’s great. If you’ve got $35 bucks to spend, that’s fine. You’re going to get quotes that are way, way outside your price range. You’re going to get artists that are hungry for work and ready to deal. Don’t disrespect anyone, but don’t feel like you have to apologize for what you can spend.

–Be flexible. If you come into the project with one style in mind and someone blows you away with a different style, go for it! Trust your gut! When you hand this over to someone, they are your collaborator, not your slave. They are going to have their own take on the project, so if you get a good feeling about it, make the investment and see where it goes.

Okay, so you find a great artist and you’ve got a price point. Now what? Now, you get to put on your lawyer hat for a moment. You need a contract.

“But wait!” I hear you say. “I don’t need a contract. We’re just doing this real quick thing. It’s just a little project. It’s just 20 bucks. It’s just blah blah blah blah blah.” No, shut up. Shut it. You need a contract. If you are paying a person for a thing that has to do with this game you’ve put your soul into, you need protection. And that artist needs protection from you, too. Everyone needs protection. So consider this a condom: it’s necessary, it’s helpful, and it takes almost no effort to make it work. Why no effort? Because I’m going to put the contract I use right here:

GAME COMPANY
Name:
Organization:
Address:
E-mail address:
Phone number:

ARTIST
Name:
Address:
E-mail address:
Phone number:

Project Information
Artwork shall be made on or uploaded to a digital medium and shall be transmitted to GAME COMPANY as files that are suitable for uploading to the website, preferably high-resolution JPEG. This is where you put a description of the artwork. Describe it precisely. Include links to reference photos if you have them available. If you are vague in your description here, you’re not allowed to be pissy about it later if it comes out differently. Make sure you’re on the same page.

Project Payment
The project price is based upon a negotiated package price for the entire project of $ dollars. This amount shall be paid before the work begins, and shall be transmitted via Paypal. If you don’t have Paypal, just do yourself a favor and get one. You don’t have to like it. I hate Paypal. Hate the company. But there’s currently widely-used alternative, so just do it.

Revisions
It is understood that the project price quoted does not include an unlimited number of revisions. Satisfaction is, of course, the final goal. But it is my experience that good communication throughout the project can help limit the number of revisions that are needed. Minor changes and tweaks are part of the process. Do-overs are a symptom of poor communication. Having said that, we should agree that if there are any questions during the creation of the artwork, these questions should be raised and sent via email, along with the current state of the artwork, so that we limit the amount of work that is needed at the end. This contract stipulates that two minor-to-moderate revisions are included with the quoted price. Anything beyond that will require further negotiations. Yes, this section does not favor the game creator. You could, in theory, delete this. But I promise you, your relationship with your artist will be much more fruitful if they know you’re not a slave-driver.

Ownership of Artwork/Files
Upon full payment and completion of the project, GAME COMPANY shall obtain ownership of the final artwork/files to use and distribute as they see fit. ARTIST retains the right to use the completed project and any preliminary designs for the purpose of design competitions, future publications on design, educational purposes, marketing materials and portfolio. Where the artwork appears, ARTIST shall be given credit on the same page. Do not delete this section. This is the absolute most important section of the contract. This IS the contract. What this means is that you get to use the work for what you need, and the artist gets to use it for what they need. It’s a beneficial relationship.

Production Schedule/Delivery of Project
ARTIST agrees that this artwork shall be completed within _____ days of agreement to this contract. If deviation to the schedule is necessary, prior notification is required. If ARTIST misses the deadline without prior notification, penalties may be assessed. GAME COMPANY agrees that any disagreements, questions, or claims against the artwork must be established within ten (10) days of delivery. Failure to make such claim within the stated period shall constitute irrevocable acceptance and an admission that they fully comply with terms, conditions and specifications. This is the part your artist fills in, not you. They will know how long they need, and any artist worth their salt will put a reasonable time frame here and beat it.

Cancellation
In the event of cancellation of the project, ownership of all copyrights and the original artwork and disks shall be retained by ARTIST, and a fee for work completed, based on the contract price and expenses already incurred, shall be paid by GAME COMPANY.

Acceptance of Agreement
The above prices, specifications and conditions are hereby accepted. ARTIST is authorized to execute the project as outlined in this agreement. Payment will be made as proposed above. This agreement is not valid until signed by ARTIST and returned to GAME COMPANY.
GAME COMPANY (Your name here) Please print your name here:
Date:

ARTIST () Please print your name here:
Date:

So there you go! Now you have no excuse for not having a contract. Because if you read this, and you still choose not to have a contract when you are getting art for your project, you deserve every bit of misery that might come from it. Don’t be stupid!

All that being said, here’s some art for my own project! Working with my awesome artist, she painted this beautiful piece that will be on the cover of Bill Shakespeare is Dead. Check it!

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Do you have great tips for finding artists? Are you an artist with some advice for designers? Do you have some horror stories? Share below!

In the next post: Prototypes