[This will take a while. Go to the bathroom and get another soda now, before you start reading this.]1. Before the KickStarter Campaign
For the bulk of the story from Feb. 2012 through Feb. 2013 see my blog post: The Designer's Diary of Oz
My game is The Card Game of Oz
But there are a few details not covered in that post since I wanted to present a united front...
• The contract stated that I would be paid X% from the gross sales of the game. I was told X was a much higher percentage than other designers got because I had come to Game Salute with almost all the card card art completed. Lie #1 - Feb 2012
• I originally wanted the game to have magical cards printed with in-line cold foil. Dan said that would be fine. This a fairly new system and there are few presses in the U.S. equip for the new process. [Adhesive is printed as a spot color, then the foil is stripped onto the paper, not over the entire card as you see with the laminated used in MTG
.] Anyway, while I was looking into the process being used for the game, Dan subtly said that I should come up with a symbol for magical cards and sorcery since foil could sometimes could not be noticed by players. It didn't make sense, but I did. Once I found a solution, Dan said we were dropping the foil and that he never had any intention of doing the foil. Lie #2 - Fall 2012
Since I as yet didn't know about lie #1, lie #2 didn't seem as bad.
• There was also a period of wasted time looking into having character markers produced. I was told Panda GM said the sillouhettes I sent were too complicated. Even after really making them simpler they said wooden meeples just wouldn't work. I don't have any experience with 3-D software, so I did a sculpt of the Scarecrow and looked into 3-D scanning and printing. The University of Nevada in Reno makes their MakerBot printer and a NextEngine scanner available to the public for free. I spent days trying to get the scanner to model my scarecrow sculpt, but the scanner's actual abilities don't live up to the hype. The whole idea was dumped.2. Getting Ready for the Launch
Things started to get a little tense in the months leading up to the KickStarter Campaign. First the game was ready in the Fall of 2012, but delays kept pushing the KS launched date back. But employees'
being launched: David MacKenzie's Formula E
and Tom Vassel's Nothing Personal
GS did a lot of advanced marketing and public play tests for those games. Nothing was being done for mine.
It was finally in late Dec. 2012 that I was asked to put together a preview set for reviewers. I put together a set and was told it was to go through Game Crafter. I looked over what they had to offer and they simply didn't have the quality nor options needed to properly present the game. But Dan wouldn't consider anybody else and the previews were printed (and they looked like crap).
Now GS was supposed to handle the marketing of the game. Instead I was told I would need to set up advertising materials. I put together a banner that would be used at trade shows. I only know of one show where it was used. But that show was dedicated to Story Realms (later renamed Storm Hollow
) [BTW - KS ended Oct. 2012, due June 2013, still yet to be seen to date July 2014). Foreshadowing?] There was an ad apparently on BGG.
The previews were used at one show before the KickStarter campaign, but the previews didn't even go out to reviewers until just before the campaign began Feb. 17, 2013. So, when the campaign launched, we still didn't have any videos, blogs, reviews about the game.
Now, David MacKenzie was the KickStarter campaign manager at GS. He said he would handle the entire campaign, graphics and all. It would be under the GS Springboard banner. OK.
The first look of the KS looked, well, unprofessional. The graphics were weak and arbitrary. They didn't have any connection with the game. I offered and alternative set of icons and headers. David through a very vocal tizzy fit. I told him I would give the Pope a call and get him fast-tracked for martyrdom before he stepped down. I ended up doing all the graphics for the KS campaign. But I wasn't given direct access to the campaign itself.
This also meant I was able to post anything in the updates. Everything had to go through Dan Yarrington. OK.
Meanwhile I had posted an early PNP version of the game and rules on my own site: www.orionsbell.com
(Yes, I know the site needs a make-over.)3. The KickStarter Campaign
After months of delays, www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamesalute/the-card-game-of-oz?...
, campaign launched on Feb 17, 2013, scheduled only for 28 days, to end on March 15.
No reviews, no how-to-play video.
I was then told to start writing a blog on BGG about the game. Wasn't GS supposed to handle this?
So I started a blog where I looked at one card a day 5days a week/4 weeks.
I also kept on Dan about the second series of cards: The Marvelous Land of Oz. They were also complete and I wanted to offer them for the KS as something backers could get months before it would be available to the public. Dan finally relented and said they would be done either in a plain box, or simply a shrink-wrapped brick. We would do a separate campaign for the second series once the first shipped.
Pledges trickled in then picked up once reviewers mentioned the game in their blogs and Grey Elephant and Tom Vassal finally did a few videos.
One of the add-ons I wanted to include was an art book of the card game with the first story in the Oz series. Dan had me (no one at GS) do all the research, found ArtsCow. They had a special deal for the entire year that would end up with the books costing about $42 each. Dan put a price of $95 on the book: 12 x 12", full-color, hard-bound, about 55-60 pages. Yes that's a steep price in a retail market, but this was only for backers to help raise money to printer the game. (This book would later be the last straw that ended it with GS for me.)
So the KickStarter campaign went trough and we barely made it with a little to spare. That was an experience I never want to repeat again, but I will have to if I ever want to get any more games published (by myself).
One other thing that upset me in the middle of the campaign, was GS's launching of a new KS campaign for The Emperor's New Clothes
. What about Oz? There was a lot of buzz created by GS for Emperor, overshadowing my game! I was never told a second campaign would be run overlapping Oz. GS hadn't done that before. Their efforts should have been focused on Oz alone.4. Dan's Got the Money!
This is when everything started to go to Hell in a fast car.
Item one - Black flocked vau-formed inserts? Gone. Why? No answer.
The delivery date on KS was Oct. 2013. Time for the crunch!
Jeremy, Dan's assistant who also helped with Oz, had left. He wanted to design cards games and thought working for GS would be a great opportunity to make connections and learn the industry. He left just before the KS ended. He had become a secretary. No connections. No learning. He packed up and moved back to California.
Whitney, was now Dan's assistant, She didn't have any game designer aspirations, so she would be a better fit for what Dan really wanted in a secretary/assistant.
Shortly after Dan got the money for the campaign from KS, he told me that all communications should now go through Whitney, not with him directly.
[Are you starting to see what's going to happen?]
First, there were a few more pieces of art needed to finish out the game:
[Hang on. I need to open my Oz database to remember the game cards...]
• 4 Game Cards (Added years after I had finished working with the original illustrators.)
• 3 Honored Citizen Cards (two of which were pledged for by my parents - Thanks Dad! Thanks Mom! - $500 each!!!).
• A new map of Oz for the back of the Location cards
• 2 illustrations for the two different tile cards for each series.
• 2 Box bottoms illustrations.
Dan had me work once again with GS's Art director Dann May in Australia. He gave me a handful of sample portfolios and told me to make assignments from those choices. This time, Dann would let me exclusively handle the art direction instead of sharing the responsibility as we did for the Series 1 box top illustration. (It didn't go so smoothly.)
Dann directly handled the box bottoms to be done by his brother, a 3-D artist. I eventually had to go back had change the cards used in the final Photoshop files. Nobody asked me what the main cards should be pictured. Oh, well.
So I started with assignments for my mother's grandmother for the first citizen, the series 1 Title card, and the Oz map.
The guy working on the Title card- great! Fast! Both were complete in no time.
I'm working on the book and have it ready for ArtsCow mid-May. Dan tells me to hold off.
It wasn't going so well with the other two artists. The guy assigned to the map, apparently didn't like doing a map and wasn't making much of an effort. The other artist took over a month to get a rough sketch to me, then a few more weeks to see any progress on the final, with only the head (copied from the provided photo and colorized) completed and the rest still in rough lines wasn't looking too good either. She got it into her mind that she was doing me a great favor of doing the illustration. I had to fire both.
This is about the end of May.
Meanwhile nothing else is progressing with the game. I haven't been told anything about the printer. Dice had been designed, but I was told Panda GM was holding up the process.
Beginning of June I'm told that GS will have the game ready for delivery at GenCon in August 2013. I ask for a deadline to get the card art finished, and am told just keep plugging away. But I now haven't any other artists to work on the game. The Title card illustrator was now working on other projects for other clients. I contacted the illustrator who goes by Hinroaito. She did a ton of cards for the the game back in 2008 and was willing to do the other 4 game cards. This time she'd be paid upon delivery by GS. Fast! Beautiful!! But that was all she could handle.
I had also heard back from a 2008-era illustrated I had worked with in Argentina. I assigned him the 3 Honored Citizen cards. He's good, but very slow. Things were getting tight.
In July Dan also asks me to handle the KS campaign for a new Game they will publish called Graduation
. I'm to be paid Y% of the KickStarter proceeds, and I push and get a minimum guaranteed amount if the campaign is unsuccessful.
The designer isn't interested in working with me (or anyone else) because he says he hates card games and he really don't care about what happens to his own game. He just came up with a rough idea one night when his buddies could't make it for D&D. I'm supposed to write everything on my own. Graphics (non existent). I'm told that the guy's original prototype was crap and without any graphics or illustrations) and tons of work, had been needed. The, during a rare phone conversation with the designer, he tells me his contract states he would be paid X% of sales. Huh. Remember that Lie #1 I mentioned at the beginning?
Finally Dan stops the the whole Graduation thing and says he'll give me another campaign. He never answers any inquiries about this subject ever again.
I decided to take on the map myself and was struggling. I'm not an illustrator. Graphics and sculpting are my thing. I kept asking Whitney when the cards needed to be finished. Mid-July she finally said she wouldn't need them until the end of July. (Only like 10 days before GenCon?)Then I called Whitney to ask about sending the files to Cody, I'm told it's too late for GenCon. The files would have been needed in mid-June for GenCon. I told her it would have been nice to tell me this, like in mid-May.
Now backers are getting mad that there haven't been many updates posted on KickStarter. I had been writing and signing most of the posts once the campaign was over and then Dan or David were supposed to post them. But none was asking me write anything. I was concentrating on trying to get all the last little details finished.
GenCon comes and goes.
Meanwhile I tell Dan/Whitney that someone needs to proof freed the cards. Whitney tells me she's hired someone to go through the cards, checking for spelling and naming convention consistency. Two weeks later, I finally get a half-finished report. This guy had gone through each card and re-written them. He didn't like the grammar. In many cases, he thought certain things shouldn't be allowed in the game. WTF! No help. Dwitney now tells me she has been assigned to proof the cards. Long time no hear.5. The Promised Delivery Date of October 2013 Fast Approaches
I now had extra time since the deadline for GenCon was long ago. So I reworked the map, and finally got Pedro Moran to get the Honored citizens finished.
I've done all my work. What's GS doing?
Aug - and still waiting for dice sample from China via Panda GM.
Then Whitney tells me that The Card Game of Oz will be Print-on-Demand from Game Crapper (Crafter). WTF!!! NO! I was promised this would be done by a proper off-set process! I'm told Dan says it must be Game Crapper.
I lost it! - I told Dwitney that (at Dan'd insistence) my name was on the lid of that box! The final product was going to be under my name. I wanted everything to be done properly!
**Sound of crickets chirping.**
So I try to find a better POD service and find Superior POD in New York. They have the correct card sizes, have just taken delivery on a new high-end laser printer, are willing to work with me on color matching, and even the paper stock I want to use, non of which was available from Game Crapper. They also give a better price for the printing. I'm told Dan's answer is "No - Only Game Crapper."
A few days later Whitney says Dan has found a U.S traditional printer that can handle the job in the time frame to get the game printed for the Oct. deadline.
I then get a call from Whitney. Crying. She's been fired.
Dan then starts talking and emailing with me directly again. He blames all the delays and problems to date on Whitney alone. He is blameless for all this mis-information and broken promises. Right. Jerk.
He says that he'll proof-read the cards himself and in just a day points out a few errors.
But soon he gets a new assistant, Anthony. Direct communication stops again. It now becomes "Danthony".
So all the cards are drop-boxed to Cody for sheet set-up. I insist, and Dan promises me, that I will get the digital proofs from the printer, Delano Services, in the U.S.
Ah, but there's a delay on the dice samples. The Oct. Delivery date is gone.
In October, I'm told the Series 2 will be in a proper box, But the KS boxes will not have a rules and dice. Those will be added to the retail version of Series 2. Uh, ok?
Now to be honest, my mind's timeline gets a little jumbled because of all the upcoming crap. (Hey, I just turned 51 this June 2014.)
So nothing seems to be happening. I don't get satisfactory answers and a tons of excuses that Anthony passes on to me from Dan.
In October, I'm told the Series 2 will be in a proper box, But the KS boxes will not have a rules and dice. Uh, ok?
I'm also asked to design tuck boxes for the 4 Story Packs of Series 1, and 3 SPs of Series 2.
Cody now asks for the final card files. We aren't going to make October.
I send Cody a lasting of which card files are in each story pack and their duplicates, as well as how many of each location will be required.
Dan asks me to write up a KS Update for Nov. Says the files have gone to the printer. But that doesn't happen.
After going back-and-forth with Cody, the cards aren't finally ready to go to the printer until the beginning of December. I also drop-box the final files for the rules.
Mean while, KS Backers are getting upset and posting some nasty comments directed at me. Promises are made then broken. As I mentioned, I didn't have control over the updates. I try to post my comments in the comments section (I pledged $1 so I would at least have access to the comments).
Christmas comes and goes.
I get an email on Boxing Day (British and Canadian parents) stating that the hard proof is back from the printer and that a number of card errors were found. Also, that Dan wants me to add a copyright notice somewhere in the rules for the 15 illustrations done at GS's cost. So I upload a new rules file, and re-upload all the cards, since the previous errors caught somehow didn't make it to the printer.
I'm also emailed a photo of one of the proof sheets. I ask where are my copies of the proofs to sign off on. Dan says he won't. That the game and a bunch of other games would be delayed if they took the time to send the proofs to me. The photo I'm sent shows the cards way too dark. I tell Dan. He says they'll be fine. I was pissed!
"Sending hard proofs to you at this stage will add an additional 4-6 weeks to production cycle due to back and forth time and the production timeline. The rest of this batch is ready to print and will be proceeding as scheduled. This will push Oz to the next batch."
Oz is being gang-run with a bunch of other games? I've got enough cards being printed from both series that take up 4 full press sheets. I'm told that the rules booklets are gang-run and that's the reason. If there's anymore delay the cards won't get printed in February.
I was willing to write an update explaining exactly why they would be delayed an extra month because I wanted everything to look just right.
I tell Dan I want to send s et of print-outs from my home printer (Epson Artisan 1430 - extra wide with 6-color printing. When I call Delano, I'm told Dan has given them instructions not to speak to me at all if they expect to get anymore business from him. WTF!!!!!!!!????????
**Sounds of crickets chirping**
January 2014 - Crickets keep chirping.
I get a direct email from a KS backer. He was the grandson of L. Frank Baum I had met years ago when I did a presentation for my game at a big Oz convention in Fresno, CA. He had my direct email.
He had received a notice that the game had shipped, but had not received anything in the mail.
The game's shipped?! Why didn't anyone tell me?! Turns out GS's team input orders into the computer after the pledge manager responses came in and it was sending out pre-mature shipping notices. *Sigh*
February 2014 - More crickets.
Wait! I read here on BGG that a photo of the final Oz dice have just been posted as an update on KickStarter! Funny, I didn't receive an email from KS? That's because the photo is posted in the updates for Formula E, not Oz.
Can't get ahold of anyone in New Hampshire, so I call David MacKenzie. He doesn't care. But Formula E is your game. The once the KS campaign was finished it all became GS's problem, not his. But it's Mojo Games's logo on the box. So?
I also ask him why there hasn't been more than two pre-orders for the game through GS's web site. Had I seen any kind of advertising for Oz? No. Well, there you go. Wait. You're part of GS. What gives? That's Dan's job, not mine. *Click*
I write Jon (who has taken over KS campaigns) and told him about the dice error. Only 8 days later do I get a note that Jon had found an error with the dice being posted on Formula E and has corrected it. Uh huh.
Now, remember how I mentioned the book was ready back in May 2013? Well, it's now coming up on the end of March 2014. Dan? The book? Oh yeah. Send the files to Cody and give me your account info for ArtsCow so I can order the books. BTW - Extras were ordered from the pledge managers as well as more dice and extra copies of the game. Great huh? (Foreshadowing).
Well, the 2013 ArtsCow promo price is gone. The book is 66 pages and AC now only does 61 or 80 page books. We wold be forced to have 14 blank pages. The total price with the blank pages and no promo discount is $120.00!
I tell Dan that I'll look into other POD book printers. Lulu can do the number of pages I want and have a better customer service team to help me with color matching. With shipping they'll turn out to cost about $72 each. Since $95 was pledged on KS that was still a narrow profit.
April 3, and Dan comes back to me that I have three options:
"1) Refund all the backers who pledged for the book." - Bad Juju, Dan
"2) Trim the pages down to 60 and see if that gets the cost down through the original source you were planning to use." - Yeah, I'll just cut out that chapter about the cyclone, and oh, the Wicked Witch of the West.
"3) Print them as 8.5" x 8.5" softcovers through a local printer to get the cost down to where it needs to be. The upside of this is that we end up with 12 extra copies for you or to sell, at the same cost." - And don't give what was promised on the KS campaign.
Very unhappy with my choices, I go for door #3.
Fine, now I was supposed to write up an update for KickStarter and explain why the books were going to be crap. Signed by myself.
That was the final straw! Dan waited for almost an entire year to deal with the book and now, because he waited 'til the last minute, he wants me to take the punch?!!
I posted a viscous flame on BGG. Long, but not as long as this one. Dan gets really pissed. Wow! How did that come to pass? I take down my post and plead and cajole a couple of BGG posters that quoted it to take their posts down as well.
Too late. Dan has decided that I've been unprofessional these entire two years and will no longer have any communication with me. Talk to Anthony and see if he can get what you need done because I through with you!
Really? I've been unprofessional? Yes, this one time, but I had been pushed to it for a year!
Anthony tells me Dan has agreed to do the book through Lulu. He claims that he thought only $50 was pledge for the books. I told Anthony the guy should maybe pay more attention to his own KS campaigns.6. Oz Finally Ships (Just 6 months late.)
Games finally go out to KS backers. I read on BGG that there are card errors and many didn't get the correct dice. In fact, there's nothing in the rules stating what the dice break-down should be.
Yes there was.
I have to call Anthony to get the comp copies I was promised. I get fewer than Dan promised. Also, Anthony's not been given any instructions as to comp copies for the people who pre-viewed the game. He tells me to email a list. I do, never heard anything ever agin about that matter.
I look through the box I open for myself.
Yup, dice are wrong. Some dice even are so wrong they never should have been produced. Anthony says that GS will offer replacements to anyone who asks them.
But just a moment! The bloody rules booklet printed (POD laser, not gang-run offset as told) used an out of date working copy i had posted on my website. What the hell was GS doing with the file? It didn't have all the final bits and changes (including the copyright extras requested by Dan, which I had provided in the final-final version sent to Cody.) How are people supposed to know about the incorrect dice? Oh, they'll just have to figure it out on their own.
There are also 4 game cards that were printed with out-of-date files.
1) Post a message on the their web site explaining the mistakes especially about the dice.
2) Since the rules booklets were POD, print new booklets and replace them in the boxes.
3) Offer a free POD set of replacements for the mis-print cards.
So I take it upon myself to post a PDF of the proper rules booklet on my site: www.orionsbell.com
I also give a listing of what dice should be in the box.
Finally I've also taken it upon myself to get the replacements printed by Superior POD at mown cost, which I can ill afford right now, not mentioning the postage.
I then ask what sort of promotion is going to be done to get game store to order copies.
Great, just what the hell is GS actually doing for their A% of the money? Looks like the minimum.
I now am having to send out individually-printed flyers from my Epson printer on really nice letterhead and mail them to as many stores I can find in the U.S. The street date for the Game was May 9th. The only stores carrying the game are those already signed up with GS and learned about it here thru my postings on BGG.
Well, what about Series 2?
What about it?
When does it hit the streets? We agree on a date of Aug. 25, 2014. The 75h anniversary of the 1939 Judy Garland film. OK, so we need new rules booklets printed and more dice need to be ordered. The current rules are completely the wrong file and list story packs for the first series.
How about the new rules booklets and are the dice being ordered from China?
Now, back in April, I got my X% from the KS campaign. - One month's rent, caught up on utilities, a cheap Blu-Ray player from Wal-Mart, and low end model HD TV on sale at Best Buy. The money has left the building.
My first payment and sales report were due June 10th. Nothing. I call Anthony and I'm not all that happy. I finally get a general report on June 20th. No payment. I'm told another 30 days after the report. - That's not what my contract says. **Chirp**
After many calls, I finally get a detailed report for May and pre-May sales. But where are the items added through the pledge manager? I know for a fact people had added things in January. Dan says that I'm going to get all I will from the KS campaign. I'm not due anything from the add-ons done through KS. Again, contract! **Chirp**
July 10th is fast approaching and I'd like my payments done as direct-deposits. I'm told that's fine, so I send by banking info. July 10 comes and goes. Get a report, but no payments.
I get an email from Dan that his new bank doesn't offer direct deposits (BS!) and that he's to send me a check for June & July, to arrive on Monday the 14th. He includes a 'confirmation" number. Monday the 14th, nothing. The "confirmation" number doesn't work with USPS, UPS, FedEx, nor DHL.
Oh, that was the bank's number given when he requested an on-line bill payment to go out to me. "The check [still] is in the mail."
Also for the 2 past weeks, I've been trying to call and email about the rules and dice for series 2. Game Salute is no longer answering any emails, nor phones. All voicemails and emails have gone unanswered.
So as it stands today July 16th, 2014, evening...
No payments still received due June 10th and July 10th. No one willing to discuss the fate of series 2. 50 copies left in the warehouse for series 1. With no advertising being done. (Except for my fliers, when I can afford the postage. I've got 75 waiting to go out for the last month.)
I've also read that Game Salute got sucker punched when they finally offered KS Backers refunds for their undelivered games (Fortunately, not until Oz had already shipped.) Response was greater than expected and half of the staff has been let go. Including Dan, it's only 5 people left in New Hampshire; David MacKenzie; James Tanaka (sales and finances); Dann May (Art Direction) in Australia; Cody Jones (Graphics) in Chicago[?]; Michael Fox (KickStarter and public relations) in England.
Lies. Manipulation. Broken promises. Silence. Incompetence. Blame-shifting. Poor quality (I still suspect the cards were laser printed and not off-set). Trying to get me to take the blame for his own lack of timely action.That's why I'll never work with Game Salute and Dan Yarrington ever again!Yup! I'm taking a flame-thrower to this f****ing bridge!
And this time, I'm not checking with friends and family to see if this is what I should do. Burn baby! Burn!
Something tells me you're going to see anything of The Card Game of Oz
at GenCon this year. I certainly can't afford to travel to Indiana.
Please be on the look-out for info on my next game Six Degrees of Separtation. A card game of making a chain using actors and the films they' been in. More infer coming soon. (I need the GS payment so I can order one demo set off the game [can't afford more than one] and I'm trying to put together a Vassal module for testing.) All further games from Orion's Bell [me] will also be published by Orion's Bell [me].
Well, here goes nothing... **Click**