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Subject: Flippin' Fruit Production Journal #1 - Let's Get Juicy! rss

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Andrew Platt
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I'd like to introduce myself – My name’s Andrew Platt - friends, family, work colleagues and basically anyone I ever meet calls me Spin. I'm very new to table top game design but have developed many computer games and interactive teaching tools. I have been a Flash Artist and Animator for a leading Online Educational company for the past 5 and a half years, building games for learning and assessment. Since developing educational material has such strict guidelines, it’s been a breath of fresh air to step away from my day to day and design my own game, based purely on having good ol’ competitive fun – Flippin’ Fruit!

So I have decided to throw together a production journal and share it here with all you lovely people on BGG. I hope you find it interesting and possibly even helpful to all you budding games designers out there!


So where do I start? The idea for Flippin’ Fruit came about during a long car journey home from the seaside. My wife, Stephanie, and I had just spent an epic week up at Hunstanton, chilling by the sea in a rented caravan, and were on our way back home to Melton Mowbray (Go pork pies!). We’d talked before about making our own game, as we recently had become big fans of Settlers of Catan, Catan Dice, Arabian Nights and Ticket to Ride and felt we could also do something similar. Being into wargames and roleplaying, I was pushing for a fantasy Arabian Nights style game but Steph thought it a little ambitious and suggested something more simple, based around the fruit machines we had been playing all week. The idea of rolling the dice replaced the random 'draw' of the machines, and stealing the fruit machine scoring system, the mechanism of matching the fruit you roll to a set order of fruits to score points was born. I guess Yahtzee played a huge roll at this point, as we wanted to move away from it just being a Yahtzee clone, so had to come up with a mechanism to improve one of the most well known dice games ever. I guess we pulled ideas from other games, such as Ticket to Ride's mission cards and score track board, and a Magic the Gathering style 'instant' card deck to add diversity to the repetitive nature of dice rolling and make the game more exciting and different each time you play. Having a hand of cards in your turn seemed quite a nice tactical feature that wouldn't necessarily affect the premise of rolling the fruit dice to complete the lists of fruits.
So, we eventually pulled in back at home and I literally went into action planning the theme of the game - I guess the mechanics at this point seemed straight forwards - naive to say the least! Anyway, so we sat down with a notebook and began writing fruit themed puns for the game. These can be seen in the note pages below.


So now we had lots of funny phrases...but not much else! Next I guess we needed to sort the game. So, we had dice and cards but not much else. Choosing at this point to go with a 12 sided dice was the making of the game as it not only made us quite unique, but also allowed us to run with sufficient different fruit AND different numbers of fruit on each side of the dice creating rare and common roles. This played a huge part in spreading the PIPS (points) of the cards you will score. It also proved a huge problem come production - no-one creates custom 12 sided poly dice! And those that do, don't engrave and charge a fortune! So I guess we ran on the 12 sided dice before any production research was done - a mistake in retrospect! But one we eventually overcame!
So, dice decided at this point, we moved on to deciding how play would run with the fruit cards or Smoothies as we called them.


The original plan for the gameplay was based around the '3 action per turn' system that seemed common with a lot of these types of games. Here we introduced the idea of Rotten Tomatoes 'locking' the dice and not being able to be rerolled once rolled. Another system we have retained throughout.
Originally, Smoothie Cards were cards that players could draw and keep in their hands. They could only 'complete' their cards by rolling the matching fruits, scoring the PIPS (points) on the card and moving around a score track on a board. This was very Ticket to Ride and seemed to work well in the early stages. Problems occurred later as the scoring was open to all players and it became a bit of a 'chase your opponent around the board' kind of thing. We wanted to hide each players score as the game went on, so later introduced the communal card system, where players all compete for the same Smoothie cards. This increases the competitive edge and also allows the 'final score reveal' at the end of the game creating that sense of drama missing from the original concept. But I am getting ahead of myself.


So, at this stage, the game was very different to how it is now. There was a board with a score track, 10 turns, a Smoothie deck and an ‘instant’ compost deck. I had come up with a full list of Smoothies to pick and choose from - split into common and rare cards - and scored them as I saw fit, really. The points per card, after play testing, turned out to be way off and had to be refined, but at this stage I was just working out all the possibilities.


There were many more Rotten and Juicy cards too, plus Harvest cards which affected all players. Most of these turned out to be game killers and really swung the scoring during the game - especially if played at the end. Despite this being nice sometimes, the random nature really broke the scoring Smoothie system that was the staple of the game. So we took those out after initial play testing and limited the swing of the other 'instant' cards.



Now the game was coming together, it was time to get some graphics done! To be honest, I was designing the fruit the day after we got back from holiday - I am an artist at heart so couldn’t resist getting stuck in!




So now, in my mind at least, I had a game. It was finished. I could get it made and that would be that! Simple eh? Well, I had just completed a Kickstarter project with my little bro, Stunty Dodge Dice, so was familiar with how I could fund the game. But that was about it really. So I got onto researching how exactly I could get Flippin' Fruit into production - checking out the BGG forums, and really just googling published articles and blogs. My options were simple - either sell the idea to an existing game manufacturer / publisher or get it printed myself. Being a bit of a control freak, I really wanted to do everything myself so I set to emailing every UK printer and producer of game pieces that I could find. This of course led to a lot of disappointment - Getting boxed games printed in this country is either very expensive for a short run (I was looking for 1000 copies initially) or they simply do not print what I needed. The box was a big stumbling point as no-one seemed to make what I need, and the boards were being quoted very expensive. As for the dice, as I have mentioned, custom 12 sided polys are very uncommon. I did, however, come across a few sites such as www.dice.co.uk who seemed eager to try and fulfill my needs. They sent samples that looked epic


and quoted me a bargain price per 1000 units! Dice sorted! Or were they? Unfortunately my bubble was quickly burst as they emailed me back increasing their quote exponentially - they made a mistake in the previous mail. So I had to look elsewhere - I thought I had struck gold when I came across an article suggesting not printing in the UK but getting the games printed in China. I emailed a few companies who were very responsive and helpful and quoted me very good prices for 1000 copy runs. Some even sent me samples of the dice they would use:


The problem then was that they could only print one colour per face instead of 4 colours per side which dice.co.uk used. So I had to go back redesign the dice. Here are some of my concepts:


Despite the dice, the quotes for everything sat around £4 per set which was perfect! And they printed boxes and dice and everything! Thanks to a suggestion from a work colleague, they even agreed to print the game board on the box reducing costs even further - Only 1 problem - I needed a £7000 Kickstarter to do it. International shipping from China meant paying Import tax and customs which I did on http://www.dutycalculator.com until my 10 free calculations ran out, meaning 1000 copies, even at £4 each, don't come cheap! So this was the plan. I would sell 450 copies of my game and make £7k and it would all work out fine. I guess I thought to myself "If I don’t make the money, I haven’t lost anything have I? I will only make it when the Kickstarter hits its goal." True, but probably unrealistic. So now I really ploughed into the design of the game. I did a box, all the cards and characters, not to mention began animating the fruits for fun.



So I had the printers quoted and eager to get to work, I had the designs - I was finished! Oh wait, play testing the rules! Right.
So printing all the cards and boards at work, Steph and I set to play test the game - aaand it kind of worked. It was fun, but lacked any kind of interaction. Like with Yahtzee, you were kind of playing your own personal game, trying to score your cards only you could see then passing on the turn if you didnt manage it. The Smoothies were the first thing to change. The PIPS were evened out, the ‘Crazy Fruit Round’ score (on the card next to the basic score) was removed and replaced with a common number of points for each card, then the formatting altered for the final style.


More playtesting with friends caused us to introduce Single Fruit Smoothies which was interesting - so you could score points even if you didnt match one of your cards - but this idea alone wasn't enough.


The game needed something extra. And then during one evenings play testing with my brother, the idea came to us - communal cards. The problem we were having was each player was trying to complete their own private hand of cards and not interacting with the other players. We decided that to improve the competitive nature of the game, players should be able to 'pip' each other to the post by take the best / most expensive cards in play before the next player could. Communal Smoothie cards worked perfect! This also solved the scoreboard issues we were having - being able to see how many points each player was on was tiresome and led to a rather anticlimactic finish. By claiming cards and keeping their points hidden, you get the reveal at the end to see who won. Much better. Also with no board, it opened up our thinking as to packaging. No board means no box. No box, means less costs AND we don’t HAVE to get it printed in China. No China, means back to 200 copies - but this left one new issue -how do we package it?

Dice cups. This was a concept we had considered since the start of the project. Plastic dice cups were going to be a stretch goal, with printed imagery another goal on the Kickstarter. Then my bro directed me to Zombie Dice and problem solved. Not only could I get an innovative packaging out of this, but I could solve the issue of needing a dice cup for the game! Perfection. So back on google, I found a number of companies willing to print custom cut card tubes for me....but at £5 a printed tube it was way too expensive. Hmm... another stumbling block. This was until one of the tubing companies emailed me with the idea to buy plain tubes from them at cost and get another printer to produce sticker labels to fix to them. Genius. This was a very cost effective solution and definitely the way forward. So after a few enquiring emails, I had samples almost literally flying through my door - stickers, tubes, papers, cards...


So as of now I have a play tested game, chosen my manufacturers for the pieces, have quotes for print and my artwork had been designed. I'm ready to go to production! Ah, perhaps not quite. Kickstarter and promotion!


So, I've started a Kickstarter account and set up the basics of the page - http://kck.st/1fh7k3J Animated gifs seemed nice, using the animations I did early on, and put some basic stretch goals down. Facebook came next - www.facebook.com/flippinfruit, and twitter - http://twitter.com/flippinfruit. Followed shortly by the website www.flippinfruit.co.uk - the name I bought in advance just in case and redirected from free web space. I learned some basic HTML for the site and made it as fruity as I could!

The next step was making some really sweet prototypes! Now a lot of the quotes I gathered were for 200 copies and many wouldn’t consider just printing 3 of each, so I had a little more investigating to do. www.diginate.com have been very handy as they have no minimum order run and print on vinyl and clear for relatively cheap! The tubes I acquired easily, asking every company I contacted for samples so gathered plenty of useful pieces. The dice from dice.co.uk were reasonably priced but minimum of 25 order (Ill save those for dice pledges I think). The rules sheet I have decided to print myself (shhh! Don’t tell my boss…) and the tokens for the turn card I bought in bulk on ebay and their stickers ordered from Diginate again. Finally the cards. Now I went through a lot of different companies for these, but finally came across three that quoted me similar prices and their samples were sweet – www.Ivory.co.uk and www.spingold.co.uk and www.taylorandclifton.co.uk . Now Ivory have a deal whereby they give you the full cost of the first deck you get printed with them off and large orders! Perfect! So I formatted all the artwork and sent those for print. The results are below:


And that takes us to where we are now. Prototypes are half compiled and the rest are on their way – heres the first draft of stickers from Diginate (A second is on its way as I wasn’t pleased with the colours)


I submitted Flippin' Fruit on BGG and am starting the production blog. I've contacted a few games reviewers to get some promotional previews done and I am storyboarding a short 'How to Play' video for the KS and website. I hope to go into production this weekend. I’ll keep you all posted on any updates, but please ‘like’ and ‘share’ my facebook page, follow my Twitter and keep an eye on BGG for all the up to date goings-on with Flippin’ Fruit. The current rules can be found on the website and Facebook (links below) so go check them out for yourselves. All comments and feedback is appreciated!

Thank you for reading – I hope I didn’t just drone on too much – and I hope to see you on the backing page of the Kickstarter! Any questions, feel free to comment below as they’re probably common ones and I’ll try and answer them as best I can!

WEBSITE: www.flippinfruit.co.uk

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/flippinfruit

TWITTER: www.twitter.com/flippinfruit / #flippinfruit / @flippinfruit

KICKSTARTER (preview): http://kck.st/1fh7k3J
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