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After the Kickstarter: Steampunk Rally

The Inquisitive Meeple
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The Inquisitive Meeple
After the Kickstarter: Steampunk Rally

An after the Kickstarter follow up interview with Orin Bishop, on Steampunk Rally. Our original interview can be found here: Orin Bishop and his Steampunk Rally . In this brief interview we discuss Kickstarter success, stretch goals and Orin's designer goal for 2015.

Note by The Inquisitive Meeple: When Orin mention Gavan though this interview, he is speaking of Gavan Brown founder of Roxley.

Since the last time we spoke, you finished a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Over $237,000 (CAD) or something like 5 times the funding goal, blowing away all the Kickstarter stretch goals. Did you expect Steampunk Rally to be that wildly successful?

Orin: Absolutely not. We knew we had a solid product with a slick video, but we were honestly a little concerned that our goal was too high. Originally it was 47k, and we were like “I dunno, 1000 backers seems like a lot” and we fiddled with the numbers and scrounged up some additional funds and we were able to lower that to 42k. And we were like “that should be doable …right?” Even after the astounding first couple days where we made over half our goal, I still never imagined anything like our final total. I was just hoping we wouldn’t fizzle out before we hit the 75k mark since those metal cogs are rad

Lots of new things were added via Kickstarter Stretch Goals to the game. What kind of new stuff can we expect in the retail version thanks to the Kickstarter?

Orin: Aside from the metal cogs, the backer copies are also going to ship with translucent dice. For the longest time, those seemed totally infeasible cost-wise, but people really wanted them, and “infeasible” starts to mean different things when you overshoot by that much. We also added 10 extra inventors, support for 7-8 players, some extra boost cards, “challenge tiles” that add features like a glacier you have to melt your way through, and a whole extra track to race on, and all these will be in retail versions as well. Gavan doesn’t like withholding gameplay-related content, and I agree with this stance; “exclusives” should be frills like the metal cogs which are cool but don’t actually affect gameplay.

What was your favorite new thing added to the game?

Orin: Ada Lovelace and Elijah McCoy. Their art is just super awesome (even by the crazy standard David and Lina have set), and I look forward to playing as them in the final version. And at first I wasn’t particularly excited about adding Alexander Graham Bell since he’s another white dude and his general popularity agitated my hipster senses, but his bad@** art immediately changed my tune on that front.

Speaking of inventors, there were many new ones added to the game and in the final version each will have their own unique start power. What is the final total of inventors found in the game and do you have a personal favorite?

Orin: We’ve got a whopping 16 inventors now! Aside from each having unique powers (that I’m currently working on trying to balance!), a few of them will even start with special propulsion cards that represent their real-world creations (for example, the Wright Brothers will start out with the “Flyer IV”). But “currently” my favorite inventors are the old stalwarts Tesla and Edison (a shocking response, I know). Tesla provides “alternating current” (he can give you an electricity die or vent an electricity die) and Edison provides “direct current” (he gives you two electricity dice). I’m quite proud of these powers from an aesthetic standpoint since the game mechanics are reflecting the two characters’ personalities and providing a direct analog for their central narrative conflict, and better yet the abilities are actually interesting in practice and extremely useful for totally different purposes.

Sample machine being driven by Ada Lovelace

Do you find it hard to give each 16 inventors not only their own starting abilities, but at the same time making sure they are balanced compared to each other?

Orin: I think it will certainly take some effort, but the inventor abilities don't affect the game to the degree of something like the alien powers in Cosmic Encounter, ultimately they're just one card in your machine, so they sort of encourage you to pursue certain builds rather than totally changing the game (though some are more unique than others). They kind of give different 'vibes' and guide your strategy a bit if that makes sense. At this point the powers seem to be falling in line with each other easier than some of the more tricky-to-balance machine parts (and I'm really enjoying what they're adding to the game), plus I have lots of levers to play around with to try and get it right, but if your playgroup does feel that an inventor is overpowered, you could always let the loser of last game pick first.

Roxley ran contests for what new inventors should be added to the game. Were there any inventors you never heard of that made it into the game, but found very interesting when you learned about them?

Orin: I am ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of Elijah McCoy since I actually specifically went looking for African American inventors. I’m happy people suggested him because he totally fits the theme, the “Real McCoy” thing is awesome (whether or not it’s apocryphal), and George Washington Carver can be a cool and unique character in his own right rather than “the token black guy.” I also wasn’t familiar with Albert Santos-Dumont or the controversy surrounding him and the Wright Brothers. I’d like to reflect that in their powers as well, though I can’t promise I’ll come up with anything as inspired as Tesla/Edison.

I know you guys are still designing the new track. the Hoverdome, but what can we expect this track to be like? Will there be any new features not found on the Swiss Alps map?

Orin: We want every track (including any in possible expansions) to feel unique, so I’d like to replace the dice-purchase spaces with totally new features (as well as slightly tweaking the distribution of terrain, etc.). Hopefully my current plans work out in the playtest tomorrow!

Roxely gave an after the Kickstarter gift to backers, which was really cool of them. The bonus is a mini expansion that lets you change up the map, with positive and negative things (or both) that you add to random spaces on the board. What does add to the game and what's the deal with the pony?

Orin: The mini expansion is basically Gavan and I compromising on how to do new maps. Originally I was heavily in favor of doing the art for all map tiles in a way that would let players connect Hoverdrome to Alps (to hypothetical future tile sets) in a way that wasn’t aesthetically jarring. Gavan convinced me that this would be too limiting on artistic possibility and verisimilitude, and we decided that with the tokens players could put Alps features in the Hoverdrome or vice versa. We figured this would let us have our cake and eat it since it would let players explore different setup possibilities while also allowing us to maintain a coherent art and mechanics aesthetic for each map. The pony is because I wasn’t sure what a good thematic choice was for a feature that allows cog-purchase, and you people were all hellbent on getting a pony for some reason, so why not? Why not, I say?! Do you have something against ponies??

What was the first thing you did when the Kickstarter ended? Did you celebrate at all?

Orin: We want to stay on schedule and get the PnP out to people by January, and there’s still a lot to do to make that happen. We’re hoping to have a little celebration/breather once that’s done.

Greatest lesson learned from the Kickstarter?

Orin: Gavan did a ton of research and our one big blind spot was how many people apparently want a premium board game. We assumed the initial ten TESLA editions ($320) would last for most of the campaign and they were gone before noon the first day! Then the next batch was snapped up before noon! Then we started to freak out that we might have over promised, which is why it took a while for Gavan to work out add-ons and pricing for the new TESLAs. We wanted to make sure we weren’t being jerks to the people who bought the initial ten who likely assumed ten were all there would ever be, so Gavan came up with the idea of making all the TESLAs better every time we added more, which was clever but also made budgeting tricky. In the end, I think the margin we’re making on the TESLAs isn’t that great, but from what he’s told me, these things are going to be amazing! (I guess the lesson would be, if you’re going to do premium reward levels, assume that a lot of people might be interested, and fully work out the details beforehand.)

Margaret E Knight, one of the winners of the Steampunk Rally inventor contest.

What was your favorite part of the Kickstarter campaign?

Orin: Interacting with the backers was incredibly energizing. Seeing people be so enthusiastic about something I’d been quietly working on in relative solitude for a good chunk of my life has been extremely exciting, and a lot of legitimately good ideas have come out of it. There’s this perception that everyone on the internet is a jerk, and it might be partly that tabletop gamers are generally friendly since we tend to enjoy other people's company but the broad response has been incredibly gracious and welcoming. The amount of support and goodwill this campaign has received is truly humbling, and we’re looking forward to bringing our A-game so we can prove it was warranted!

What was your least favorite?

Orin: I have almost nothing negative to say about the campaign, though I am a bit relieved that it’s over and I don’t need to check it constantly or scramble to do a tiny percentage of all the myriad possible things that might help in some way. Advertising myself always feels a bit skeezy to me too, so I’m glad I can go back to doing work that doesn’t involve selling myself. (Although I do need to start putting up flyers for my MRU game design course again. February 2015, Tuesday nights!)

Christmas is around the corner – do you have any board games on your Christmas list this year?

Orin: I just ordered Steam Park on Amazon, it looks really cool, that will be sort of an early Christmas present to myself. The people prone to buying me gifts mostly don’t know much about my taste in board games unfortunately, and I feel a bit self-serving writing up a list (plus most games I’d put on a wish-list I’ve already run out and bought). At least they know enough not to buy me any version of Monopoly!

What are your designer goals for 2015?

Orin: I wrote an undergrad thesis on game design in UW’s Independent Studies program, and I wasn’t overly impressed with the selection of game design books available (a lot of them tend to focus on tangential things like cultural context, art design or coding, which are surely interesting but not especially useful for “game design”), so currently I’m working on writing a textbook I could eventually use for my course, and I’d like to finish it next year (though at this point I have no idea how one goes about trying to actually publish something like that).

As we wrap this up do you have anything you would like to add?

Orin: The response to Steampunk Rally (starting with the award from Barcelona) has really revitalized my passion for and commitment to game design. If nobody ever said anything nice about my games or gave me a dime, I’d probably still be designing them in a gutter somewhere, working out auction mechanics with little bits of discarded newspapers, because it’s a field I’ve fallen deeply in love with. But the fact that people are apparently very excited by my scraps of newspaper and are willing to heap piles of money and dedication on me to give this project a life beyond anything I dreamt of, that makes it all feel a whole lot more worthwhile. Without you, I would be playing FarmVille: having not very much fun but feeling compelled to continue. With you, I’m playing Steampunk Rally: always surging forward, sometimes misstepping and having stuff blow up here or there but always finding the means to pick myself up and continue, ultimately not caring so much whether I win or lose because at the end of the day at least I got to build something awesome with my friends. That’s better than any Christmas present I could ask for.

Thanks, Orin for taking time up for an after the Kickstarter follow up!

What's that you say? Inquiring meeples want to know more?
You may want to check out these links:

Roxely's Official Website

Orin Bishop's Game Blog

Steampunk Rally inventor stretch-goal geeklist!

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