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Links: Making a Fortune While Going Broke, Crowdfunding as Art, and the 2016 Dice Tower Award Nominees

W. Eric Martin
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• The old joke goes: How do you make a small fortune in the game industry? Start with a large fortune, then try to publish a game. Note that this same joke is told about the wine industry, real estate, book publishing, football clubs, and any number of other businesses in which people can burn through piles of money with little to show for it, which includes every business ever — but despite the joke's chestnutty woodiness, it still contains a nugget of truth, especially when you sabotage yourself on your way to that large fortune.

On Geek & Sundry, Ben Riggs catalogs the fortunes of Chaosium Inc., which collected more than a half-million dollars on a Kickstarter project for the seventh edition of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game — only to discover after the fact that the very success of that KS would lead to a disastrous outcome for the company. After all, when you lose money on each customer, runaway success only heightens those losses.

The problems started with an earlier KS for a new edition of the Call of Cthulhu campaign Horror on the Orient Express, which brought in ten times the $20k goal that Chaosium had established, but without covering the costs required to fulfill what was promised to backers. From the article: "The previous management only charged international backers $20 to ship a ten pound game. The actual cost of shipping was vastly higher, sometimes as much as $150 for backers in Japan. [Current Chaosium president Rick] Meints said that this Kickstarter alone likely lost Chaosium $170,000." What's more:

The Call of Cthulhu Kickstarter compounded these problems...

The magnitude of the error can be seen in a simple glance at the shipping. At the "Nictitating Nyarlathotep" level of pledge, backers would end up having eight books shipped to them. International backers had to pay a total of $355 for all their rewards plus shipping, which sounds like a lot, until you consider that's only $15 more than customers in the continental US were paying. The idea that shipping eight books to Japan would cost a mere $15 more is a madness not even Lovecraft could have conceived.
As described in the article, in June 2015 Chaosium founder Greg Stafford and Call of Cthulhu creator Sandy Petersen took over from the former owners and preceded to shell out a bunch of their own money in order to make things right.

Bottom line: If you plan to run a crowdfunding campaign, do your homework, figure out what shipping will cost you, and account for that cost in what you charge. Don't promise the moon and a ham sandwich when you've budgeted solely for the sandwich.

• For another perspective on crowdfunding, Byron Collins of Collins Epic Wargames invites you to consider "4 Reasons Why Every Kickstarter Project Is a Work of Art". To do this, Collins applies four statements about art to the crowdfunding projects themselves — that is, the presentation of the project, not the product itself. The statements in question:

—Art ignites emotion.
—"Good" art is well thought out.
—Any piece of art has a limited time to make an impression.
—Every piece of art invites judgment.

I've visited a lot of big name galleries — most recently The Met and The Guggenheim in NYC — and seen countless works of art by artists across many centuries in many different styles. But, I can honestly say I probably spent no more than 1 minute on each piece of art, if that... Some of these artists spent years creating whatever you're looking at for 1 minute.

The same is true with any Kickstarter project. Someone who clicks a link to your project page has no idea how much time went into that presentation, that work of art, but, they know within 30 seconds if they are interested enough to read more or watch your video.
• The Dice Tower has announced the nominees for its eponymous Dice Tower Gaming Awards in fourteen categories, including best game from a new designer, best artwork, best game reprint, best game theming, and best small publisher. Each category has five nominees, as chosen by a jury of Dice Tower staff and prominent bloggers and reviewers, except for the "game of the year" category, which features these ten nominees: 7 Wonders: Duel, Blood Rage, Codenames, Elysium, The Gallerist, Mysterium, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, Roll for the Galaxy, T.I.M.E Stories, and The Voyages of Marco Polo. The winners will be announced at the Dice Tower Convention in July 2016.

• In The New Yorker, Siobhan Roberts profiles "The Dice You Never Knew You Needed", i.e., the d120, which was created by Robert Fathauer and Henry Segerman of The Dice Lab and which debuted at the 2016 Gathering for Gardner. An excerpt: "The d120 is a polyhedron, more specifically a disdyakis triacontahedron, a geometric creature first described by the French-Belgian mathematician Eugène Catalan in 1865..." Ignoring the technical name, the d120 looks like a dodecahedron that has had each face replaced with an object created by ten skinny triangles that meet at a single point. A longer excerpt from The New Yorker article:

The die's most winning property lies in its being numerically balanced: the face numbers are spread out evenly, such that any two opposing sides sum to a hundred and twenty-one. Each of the die's sixty-two corners boasts equanimity, too. (A vertex at which ten triangles meet, for instance, sums to six hundred and five, which is ten times the average of all the numbers on the die.) All this fine-tuning was courtesy of Robert Bosch, a professor at Oberlin College who uses mathematical optimization techniques to create art. Bosch spent nearly two months running various accelerated brute-force computations (a process called integer programming), trying to get everything in sync. He almost abandoned two especially tricky vertices, which couldn't be made to coöperate, but past his deadline he made one last-ditch effort. He coded a script, let the program run, and came back a few hours later to discover that his computer had stopped. "It had either crashed or found a perfect solution," Bosch said. Lucky day, it was the latter. "It was a great feeling. And it was kind of ridiculous how good a feeling it was, because it's not practical. It's just a cool object, a beautiful object. I really love it, but it's not Earth-changing."

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