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Subject: Which of these abstract games do you think is most publishable? Why? rss

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Nick Bentley
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rayr wrote:
You guys keep telling yourselves that abstracts don't sell, but your problem is you keep thinking like players of games instead of collectors of products.
I'm very aware of it (I work in board game publishing professionally), but it's hard to do the production design on an abstract game to make that happen. It's been done (Santorini), but it's hard.

So question: which of these games is most amenable to the kind of production design that someone would buy so it sits proudly on their shelf?
 
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rayr wrote:
... you keep thinking like players of games...
Well, I am The Player of Games! cool

Nick, have you considered Kickstarter strechgoals?
Could do Blooms with Catchup thrown in as an extra game later in the campaign. And modular board pieces. And addon for a wood/precious stones (glass stones) components. And a designer book with some additional games in the back. Tak did this. They included from cardboard to bloodwood in their range of products in their Kickstarter.
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Nick Bentley
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The Player of Games wrote:
rayr wrote:
... you keep thinking like players of games...
Well, I am The Player of Games! cool

Nick, have you considered Kickstarter strechgoals?
Could do Blooms with Catchup thrown in as an extra game later in the campaign. And modular board pieces. And addon for a wood/precious stones (glass stones) components. And a designer book with some additional games in the back. Tak did this. They included from cardboard to bloodwood in their range of products in their Kickstarter.
I'm open to stuff like this, for sure.
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Russ Williams
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milomilo122 wrote:
rayr wrote:
You guys keep telling yourselves that abstracts don't sell, but your problem is you keep thinking like players of games instead of collectors of products.
I'm very aware of it (I work in board game publishing professionally), but it's hard to do the production design on an abstract game to make that happen. It's been done (Santorini), but it's hard.

So question: which of these games is most amenable to the kind of production design that someone would buy so it sits proudly on their shelf?
In terms of Santorini-esque treatment (cute character art, playing pieces representing concrete characters who do stuff which you can imagine those characters doing, instead of just being abstract stones in hexes), Cat Herders: The Cat Herding Game of Herding Cats seems the obvious choice.
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My first reaction: I automatically ignored Catchup and Carnivores and thought "I was much more intrigued by the announcement of Bug than that of Blooms". Bug has the same quality that makes Chess more approachable than Go. It feels less generic. But after having read most of the comments (I have not read your spoiler yet, Nick) I'm thinking that maybe the most important thing is making a pretty game. The rules of Blooms do not make me want to play it, but it has the potential to be so pretty that seeing it in a store would make me buy it.
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christian freeling
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I find the discussion more than interesting and I feel the dividing line between Nick the inventor and Nick the publisher is getting more opaque. But, barring math or at least a lot of it, that's a general property of dividing lines if you zoom in on them, so maybe that's not so unusual.
But I'm happy, very happy, that I never did invest much time in commecialism.
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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I think Blooms is the kind of thing Gerhards would publish. Have you considered that? Would that count as a hit?
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Nathan James
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The games you design are games that don't want to be published.

They don't need to be published in order to be played. They do not require complicated components, and are more likely to be played online, whether seriously or casually.

Published versions will not do much to increase the attention they receive. These are not games for dabblers to play in 15 minutes at a coffee shop. They are not games to be played once or twice. They are games meant to be studied. This means, unlike Onitama or Hive, they will not take much advantage of the hobby games space.

And unlike Santorini, you have specifically designed these games to avoid novelty and interest in the components, which again suggests they will not much benefit from being published. I think it's fair to say that if you could think of a way to make Bug look like Santorini, you wouldn't do it. Santorini is not just beautiful it is distracting. Such a production is at odds with your design goals.

That said, some people might appreciate a physical set. I'd suggest looking at something that is made to order and on the expensive side, a deluxe version. I know you've worked at finding colors that are particularly suitable and have some other opinions on the details of the design. Assume the effort put into designing the physical version is a labor of love, but let the interested customer pay enough to make the sale of an individual set profitable. There's just no reason to make a $20 version to sell at Target. If someone wants to play with a cheap set, they can make one themselves.
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Nathan James
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mocko wrote:

Carnivores and Bug both seem to me (and I’ve never played either) a bit ‘busy’, a bit contrived.
I daresay the contrived feeling is why Carnivores crushed Catchup in the head to head challenge. There's enough going on in Carnivores to give people something to play with when they don't remotely understand the soul of the game.

Nick, have you considered designing an abstract to be published? If you're right that producing a hit game would be the best way to gain attention for your games, why not set yourself to design a game for mass publication? In that case, you would aim for widest possible appeal of an abstract. You'd also look for a game where interest ramps up quickly among non-abstract players, like Onitama, for example.

I feel like Bug has qualities that lean in that direction, and other qualities that ruin it for that purpose.
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milomilo122 wrote:
Interesting! I wonder what you'll think after reading my spoiler, where you'll see I have a different view about which is most themey.

I can buy that Blooms could be "themed" to that of flowers, but you might be better off with Cthulhu instead.

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rayr wrote:
Put your name on it. State that it comes with a nicely formatted "collection of highly regarded games by Nick Bentley"

Bentley Arcade!
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Nick Bentley
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NJames wrote:
mocko wrote:

Carnivores and Bug both seem to me (and I’ve never played either) a bit ‘busy’, a bit contrived.
I daresay the contrived feeling is why Carnivores crushed Catchup in the head to head challenge. There's enough going on in Carnivores to give people something to play with when they don't remotely understand the soul of the game.
Astute! This is exactly what I concluded based on how the players talked about the split-test. For more austere abstract games, there's a period after learning the rules but before learning much about strategy where players feel lost/dumb. A dead space (which happens on the first play, which is unfortunate because the first play is by far the most important play for driving sales). But if the rules take time to learn, that learning fills the dead space and makes players feel like they're progressing through it. In Carnivore's case, the players *liked* puzzling over the surface level stuff about how the critters interact with each other.

I now think this is a key insight about commercial design of strategy games.

Quote:
Nick, have you considered designing an abstract to be published? If you're right that producing a hit game would be the best way to gain attention for your games, why not set yourself to design a game for mass publication? In that case, you would aim for widest possible appeal of an abstract. You'd also look for a game where interest ramps up quickly among non-abstract players, like Onitama, for example.

I feel like Bug has qualities that lean in that direction, and other qualities that ruin it for that purpose.
I have. The aforementioned Cat Herders: The Cat Herding Game of Herding Cats was such an attempt. The problem is: with this project I'm trying to marry some of the things I love most in game design to commercial considerations, and I'm not sure Cat Herders hits that mark (though maybe it does? It's been a long time since I spent time with that game). I recognize the profound difficulty of this while not being able to shake the desire to puzzle over it and try. I mean, it has been done before: Blokus and a couple of GIPF games would have satisfied my desire had I invented and published them. And because I know it's doable, I feel like the only thing preventing me from getting there is knowledge.

Another consideration: each of these games scales up to 3-4 players better or worse:

Catchup: not at all
Blooms: probably can be done with 4, but not with 3
Bug and Carnivores: it looks like both will scale smoothly to 3 and 4 players.

I'll add this to the spoiler bit of my analysis.
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michamund wrote:
But after having read most of the comments (I have not read your spoiler yet, Nick) I'm thinking that maybe the most important thing is making a pretty game. The rules of Blooms do not make me want to play it, but it has the potential to be so pretty that seeing it in a store would make me buy it.
From a commercial point of view, I'm confident "pretty" is a huge factor, in fact larger than gameplay itself (as long as gameplay is "sufficiently good"). Consider Azul: It sold something like 350,000 copies in 2018. That's astounding for a game so abstract. Azul has the best production design I've seen in a long time. If Azul had been introduced to the world in the stripped down way that other abstract games are introduced, what would have happened to it? It would have gone nowhere. I'm sure of it.

Azul is a *great* signpost for those of us who want to publish abstract games commercially. If I do publish any of these games, I will have it at the forefront of my mind as I work through production design.

[edit] it's also worth pointing out, as another reminder of the big differences between the prevailing tastes in this forum and out in the world at large, a lot of abstract game purists don't like playing Azul at all. It doesn't work for many abstract game fans as a game. It's all forward calculation centered on algebra/accounting.
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luigi87 wrote:
I think Blooms is the kind of thing Gerhards would publish. Have you considered that? Would that count as a hit?
Gerhards has never had an at-least-Onitama-sized hit, so it's not a consideration for now (though I personally love their production design).
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
luigi87 wrote:
I think Blooms is the kind of thing Gerhards would publish. Have you considered that? Would that count as a hit?
Gerhards has never had an at-least-Onitama-sized hit, so it's not a consideration for now (though I personally love their production design).

They did have a Tintas sized hit, which is pretty respectable in the world of abstracts. I think that's the one and only (implementation of an) abstract I've had someone offer to buy off of me for more than I paid for it.

A Gerhards version is kind of what I was hoping for too. I picked up the wooden edition of Rukuni so I could play all these fantastic games on a nice portable wooden board. When I get the time, I plan to make wooden pegs in four colors so I can play Blooms on this board.
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fogus wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
Interesting! I wonder what you'll think after reading my spoiler, where you'll see I have a different view about which is most themey.

I can buy that Blooms could be "themed" to that of flowers, but you might be better off with Cthulhu instead.


That is true, but if Nick can do something similar to that, I bet a lot of people would like it.



Edited to add that those ones are made out of ceramic.
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PSchulman wrote:
fogus wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
Interesting! I wonder what you'll think after reading my spoiler, where you'll see I have a different view about which is most themey.

I can buy that Blooms could be "themed" to that of flowers, but you might be better off with Cthulhu instead.


That is true, but if Nick can do something similar to that, I bet a lot of people would like it.



Edited to add that those ones are made out of ceramic.
I'm thinking along nearly identical lines, for Blooms.
 
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Pablo Schulman
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Quote:
I'm thinking along nearly identical lines, for Blooms.

Since we're exploring some on those lines, I can see you going this route for Bug.

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What about publishing your games as a book? You could even put a hexhex5 board on the back (kind of like what Tak did with the companion book) and sell it with a bag of glass beads.

The big selling point would be the strategy guides, back stories, example playthroughs, etc. And none of this austere black-and-white crap.

One of the things that kept me away from abstracts for so long was the feeling that I had no idea how to proceed; that's also why I asked for example annotated games in your other thread.
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PSchulman wrote:
Quote:
I'm thinking along nearly identical lines, for Blooms.

Since we're exploring some on those lines, I can see you going this route for Bug.

I'm not sure, but is this thematically odd? It would be about formations of bugs attacking each other then?
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rayr wrote:
What about publishing your games as a book? You could even put a hexhex5 board on the back (kind of like what Tak did with the companion book) and sell it with a bag of glass beads.

The big selling point would be the strategy guides, back stories, example playthroughs, etc. And none of this austere black-and-white crap.

One of the things that kept me away from abstracts for so long was the feeling that I had no idea how to proceed; that's also why I asked for example annotated games in your other thread.
Oh, I'm DEFINITELY going to put together a book some day, years hence, since I relish writing so much. But that's a different project from this one.
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milomilo122 wrote:
I'm not sure, but is this thematically odd? It would be about formations of bugs attacking each other then?
Seems thematically wrong to me indeed. In the game, bugs grow and eat other bugs. So the groups of stones are each a single bug, not a group of single-stone bugs.
 
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I'm not sure, but is this thematically odd? It would be about formations of bugs attacking each other then?
Seems thematically wrong to me indeed. In the game, bugs grow and eat other bugs. So the groups of stones are each a single bug, not a group of single-stone bugs.
Groups of ants tend to act like a single organism.
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christianF wrote:
russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I'm not sure, but is this thematically odd? It would be about formations of bugs attacking each other then?
Seems thematically wrong to me indeed. In the game, bugs grow and eat other bugs. So the groups of stones are each a single bug, not a group of single-stone bugs.
Groups of ants tend to act like a single organism.
Perhaps, but I've never heard anyone call a group of ants a "bug".
 
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I'm not sure, but is this thematically odd? It would be about formations of bugs attacking each other then?
Seems thematically wrong to me indeed. In the game, bugs grow and eat other bugs. So the groups of stones are each a single bug, not a group of single-stone bugs.
Not that the original theme makes much sense. Works better with some kind of cannibal theme. This is in sharp contrast to Carnivores, where the theme makes sense in a bunch of different ways.
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