Thematic Solitaires for the Spare Time Challenged

A blog about solitaire games and how to design them. I'm your host, Morten, co-designer of solo modes for games such as Scythe, Gaia Project and Viticulture.
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Designer by coincidence – how travelling and drinking wine can lead to being sort of published

Morten Monrad Pedersen
Denmark
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Do you know those events, those small coincidences in your life, which end up making a huge difference? To me a totally random coincidence meant that my name is now on a small corner of one of the most successful (non-mini) board game Kickstarters (and no, I’m not claiming credit for the success).

Be warned before reading on that this is not one of my usual blog posts. If you’re here to read about games, then skip my blog post today, because while it’s definitely related to board gaming there’ll be no discussions of game mechanics or anything like that, instead you’ll get a personal story of some of the baby steps I’ve taken on my quest to become a published game designer.

Travelling and wine drinking your way to becoming sort of published

Back in the summer of 2012 I traveled to Tuscany with my wife, son and some friends. On that trip we visited a small vineyard, where we had dinner and tasted the wine. Shortly after returning home I noticed the launch of the Kickstarter for Viticulture a game about running a vineyard in Tuscany.

The coincidence made me take notice of a game that I would probably not have paid any attention to, because I’m in a period of my gaming life, where I’m more into solitaire ameritrash than multiplayer Euros like Viticulture. I posted a question to the Kickstarter's comments page (the campaign’s first comment actually, but I forgot to shout “FIRST!!1!11”, so unfortunately I didn’t win an internets ).

I was pleasantly surprised by project creator Jamey Stegmaier’s quick responses, his willingness to listen to advice and adapt.

Nitpicking your way to becoming sort of published

I’m a nitpicker by nature and as a hobbypational hazard I can’t read a text without trying to improve it and spot typos, so two days later I emailed some corrections and suggestions for the rulebook of Viticulture (most of them quite nitpicky) to Jamey and again he was very receptive to the feedback.

We did a series of back and forths with Jamey updating and me nitpicking away at his work. It turned out that Jamey enjoys being nitpicked to death (and apparently I enjoy using the word “nitpick”), because we ended up chatting and one thing led to another and before we knew I had given birth to a small and vulnerable PnP’ed Viticulture.

My wife found the small thing adorable and we started playing with it and I ended up writing the second review ever of Viticulture – I was beaten to the punch by a measly 29 minutes, but then again being 29 minutes late with your punch is probably quite a lot .

The nitpick emails turned into discussions of game design and the number of mails we’ve exchanged passed a thousand a long time ago.

Advising your way to becoming sort of published

When Jamey set up an advisory board of volunteers to help out with his and partner Alan Stone’s game company Stonemaier Games I joined that and have helped out with discussions of game design when Stonemaier worked on new games, and advice when they launched Kickstarters, or had tough decisions to make.

Seeing some of the processes of running a small board game publisher has been great. Being faced with the decisions and tradeoffs they have to make, considering how to do marketing on a shoestring budget, and so on was a lot of fun, and helping out with them tied me closer to Stonemaier Games.

Blogging your way to becoming sort of published

While Stonemaier Games went from being completely unknown to running one of the most popular board game Kickstarters ever I went from being completely unknown to being a blogger a hair above completely unknown, because I started the solitaire blog you’re reading now.

No matter how little known I am, my roughly 100 posts shows that I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about solitaire games, and thus it was natural for Jamey to contact me when playtesting of the Tuscany expansion pack for Viticulture revealed interest in a solitaire version.

Two and a half months later I sent Jamey the last file (except proofreading) for Viticulture Automa. That was two and a half fun and intense months and the process is a topic for another post, but the important thing for me here is this:



I know it’s not like being a real game designer with a full published game, but I see it as a step on the way and hope that someday it’ll be my name on the box.
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