Aaron Watson
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A long time ago at a game conference far, far away, a great adventure took place...

(Okay, how many of you broke out into the Star Wars music? I did.)

A while back I promised to write a bit about my experience in getting my game published. I'd obviously never gotten around to it, but in replying to a fellow geeks email, I'd inadvertently done so. The following text is much of the content of my emailed reply.

The game I pitched in this tale is "Temple of the Monkey", the game that got published is "The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle". Read on...

About 5 years ago I lay in bed not being able to sleep, so I thought I'd go through a little game design exercise in my head. About 30 minutes later, I rolled out of bed and wrote down everything I'd just came up with. The next day I created the cards, printed it out, and played it. I really enjoyed it! IMHO, I'd come up with an inspired little gem of a game. Indeed, it went through VERY FEW changes from the original concept. I showed my wife, I played it with her. She enjoyed it a lot. But, simply smiled at me. Too many times I'd created something or had some fantastic idea for it to only disappear to some forgotten corner of my closet.

Not so this time! I'm gonna get this published, I declared! I'm going to go to the Gen Con in Anaheim and pitch it to publishers! My wife actually gave me permission to do so. So, I spent my remaining time doing art work for my prototype and writing the rules until Gen Con arrived.

When the time came, I hopped into my silver RX-8 (I had an internet biz that was doing rather well at the time. Not so anymore. I drive a cruddy little Sentra now.) and cruised from Utah to California.

It was very exciting for me, but the excitement has dwindled over the years. (I've noticed in past entries I claim that I've been waiting over 6 years for publication. That may not be entirely true, my memory is not so hot. I'm trying to measure time through Gen Con attendance and I THINK I missed one in between now and then. This story is saying I designed it 5 years ago, so we'll go with that. Needless to say, I've waited a LONG TIME to see my game published.)

(A word of advice, and I've heard others say it before, put a clause in any contract that the rights to the game will default back to you after a year (or 2) if the game is not published. It's been heartbreaking to see my game sit in limbo for so long.)

I actually pitched the game to Playroom Entertainment at the Anaheim Gen Con 2004 (or so). They were the only company I pitched it to, though several others were more than willing to meet with me. I just felt good about Playroom, and sure enough they liked it enough to pick it up.

They actually licensed my "gaming system" as I have several games in the works using the same basic system, but with different themes and game play twists. "Temple of the Monkey" was to be the first of my Race Cards racing games. Playroom has been game testing a 2nd one in the series called "The Black Hole Incident".

Well, finally "Temple of the Monkey" was about to be released. Hopefully to coincide with the release of the new Indiana Jones movie. The similar theme could have ridden the popularity of the genre quite nicely.

Playroom had announced it on their website with the logo, box art, release date, etc. I saw it pop up on Boardgamegeek. I was getting pumped. So, I uploaded my review, photos of the prototype, etc.

WELL, another company...Toy Vault, came a knocking at Playroom Entertainment's door. They'd been looking for a board game, or mechanic, or gaming system they could license for a game idea they had. The 20th Anniversary of "The Princess Bride" had just occurred, and they wanted to publish a Princess Bride game. (They own the license to Princess Bride, Monty Python, Godzilla, Cthullu...all kinds of stuff.)

So, Playroom pulls out "Temple of the Monkey" and let's them play it. They unanimously loved it. (Which they claim has never happened before.) It was exactly what they were looking for and felt like they wouldn't need to change a thing. Except the theme of course...

SO, my "Temple of the Monkey" has made it's debut as "The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle" , published by Toy Vault. I didn't even realize it HAD been published until I read a review on it here on the Geek and saw that several people already owned it! I still have yet to even SEE a copy of it with my own eyes. (Aside from photos of course.)

I don't know the details of how long Toy Vault is going to have the license to my Race Cards games. I've been VERY MUCH left out of the loop as far as this whole new arrangement goes.

I believe Playroom still plans to release "Temple of the Monkey" (as it is supposed to be part of a trilogy), but who knows when that will happen.

All in all, it's all good with me. I just wanted my name on the shelves, and to actually see my games published. (And it IS there. On the back of the box. You just have to look at that TEENY TINY writing below Playrooms logo. See!) Since, it was my "gaming system" that was licensed, I'll see royalties for ANY Race Cards game that is published regardless of who designs it and whether I had a hand in it's creation or not.

I do mourn my "Temple of the Monkey". Being re-themed can be disappointing, but hey, it happens to the best of designers. I also have to confess that the actualization of getting my game published has turned out to be rather anti-climactic. Waiting for so long, only to have my game kinda slip past me under the radar.

I'd actually pitched another game to Playroom the following year, which after much deliberation they turned down. They pleaded with me to take it to other publishers, because they were sure it would get picked up. But, despite everyone's protests, I think I am going to try self publishing. I just don't want to relinquish creative control. Who knows, perhaps if I can find a company that will let me keep my finger in it and can guarantee it to be published within the year, I'd consider it.

Keep your eyes open here on the geek for MAD LABS. I'll be making posts soon for feedback and to start generating a buzz for it!!

---

SO NOW, based on my very limited (yet successful) experience, I have a few suggestions for those of you about to set forth on their quest for publication and who may wish to attempt to do so at a gaming convention.

1. Make sure the publisher is not busy when you approach them at their booth. They're there to sell games, so we need to respect that. But if you can catch them at a lull, many of them are very willing to meet with you and see your design.

Of course, they likely won't be able to do it right then and there. What I did was first approach and ask if there was anyone there that looks at new game submissions and if there was a time I could set up a meeting to demo it with them.

Be prepared if they miraculously say, "Sure. Whip it out. Let me see what ya got!"

2. Be personable and friendly. I'm sure none of you would have a problem with this, but there are some people out there who are not "people persons". If you are one of those, you might be better off having an amiable friend present the game for you.

3. A decent prototype. It probably doesn't make a huge difference, but when I pulled out my prototype, the publisher did a little "ooh and ah" and said that I'd be surprised how often someone comes up with a napkin and some sketches on it, or some scribbled on pieces of paper.

Mine wasn't all super fantastic, like some I've seen out there. But, I think a nice prototype says you've put some work into this game, along with some TLC. Plus it will likely give them a stronger desire to actually play the game with you.

4. Don't worry about protecting your game idea in any legal way. No one will sign any kind of contract and it will lead to a quick dismissal of your attempt. Many of these companies are BURIED with game submissions and games they are already trying to publish. They don't have time to STEAL an idea and then do all the work for it. It's much easier and cost effective to have YOU do all the work for them.

In addition, if by chance they were already working on something similar to your idea, that little contract they just signed could make it so they can no longer proceed with their game without the potential threat of your retaliation.

5. Now, I didn't have to deal with this, but it's something to consider. I had several publishers wanting to meet with me, but once I met Playroom I felt confident they were the ones. My game would fit perfectly within their collection of games. So, I didn't return to any of the other publishers.

I'm assuming it's not kosher to have your game in the hands of multiple publishers at the same time. They likely think the ball is in their court for consideration, and don't have to worry about any other company taking away this opportunity from them.

So, if you've got several lined up to demo it, and one says they're interested and would like to take a copy for play testing and to get other opinions. You can either hand it over, and your journey is done for the time being. Or you can be candid with them and let them know you've got other appointments to demo the game, and you'll get back with them before the end of the con.

These guys are mostly very cool, so I'm sure you can say "Is that okay with you?" and they'll be like "Sure, no prob!"

6. If you hadn't considered it, be sure you bring a prototype that you can give to them for consideration and play testing. Be it the only prototype you own or a copy. I prefer to hand out a copy so I can continue demoing, playing, and game testing my copy.

Well, that's pretty much my journey of getting published. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask. And best of luck in your own endeavors!
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Lexingtonian
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Interesting post. Thanks for the story. It's great to see someone's design picked up, even in a roundabout and surreptitious way.

I think Cthulhu is in the public domain, by the way.
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Davide Banchini
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Some days ago, I was making an order from http://gameslore.com/
put a couple of games in the shopping cart and found that I was short of some UK pounds to get a discount. So I browsed on the small games (card games mostly) to find a not expensive game to add.

It came up this strange new game, I never heard of
"The Princess Bride: Storming The Castle Card Game". I'm not a super fan of that movie (I've watched it only once) but in friends discussions it comes up often, due to the funny and hilarious lines.

Immediately I searched the entry here on BGG, read the description, I liked the pictures and decided to buy it. (Impulse buy anyone?)

Honestly if the game was named The temple of the Monkey I'm not sure I would got hooked so after all it could have been a good publishing move.

Thanks for sharing your story.
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Poltergeist_2000 wrote:

Be prepared if they miraculously say, "Sure. Whip it out. Let me see what ya got!"


They might get a little more than they bargained for... devil
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Mo Verdigast
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Hey, I was reading this story of your game and all of a sudden I noticed there was an ad in the panel on the right. The link led to: http://www.princessbridegame.com/

This looks like a computer game. Is your board game something else or did they adapt your board game to a computer game.


 
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Mark Jackson
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verdigast wrote:
Hey, I was reading this story of your game and all of a sudden I noticed there was an ad in the panel on the right. The link led to: http://www.princessbridegame.com/

This looks like a computer game. Is your board game something else or did they adapt your board game to a computer game.




The computer game is separate... and, sadly, from the previews, pretty old school.
 
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Bobby Doran
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Congrats! I just picked it up the other day at Borders. I used a 30% off coupon.
It's one of my wife's favorite movies. I think I've only played one 2 player game so far. I enjoyed it. A fun little filler card game. My only complaints have nothing to do with you or your game system. The little foot that gets put on the figures is cut wrong and I can't move them without them falling apart. And the box art is pretty bad. I need to submit some artwork to Toyvault. The composition is terrible. There's a big blank blue sky area above Westley and Buttercup. I know this seems trivial but since that's what I do all day it bothers me when it's done wrong.

Once again... Congratulations and hopefully this leads to many published game for you in the future!
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Aaron Watson
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Runehardt wrote:
And the box art is pretty bad. I need to submit some artwork to Toyvault. The composition is terrible. There's a big blank blue sky area above Westley and Buttercup. I know this seems trivial but since that's what I do all day it bothers me when it's done wrong.


Yikes! I noticed the exact same thing when I first saw the box art online. (I'm a graphic designer by trade as well.) I was praying that this was just a quick mock up for publicity purposes and that the final product would be much nicer. Alas, not so.

Also I was really confused about the standy tokens I saw. The bases look really bizarre!! And are the tokens really OVAL?? That just seems totally out of place. Everything else is rectangular in the game. Why oval playing pieces?
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Poltergeist_2000 wrote:
And are the tokens really OVAL?? That just seems totally out of place. Everything else is rectangular in the game. Why oval playing pieces?

The playing pieces are oval with the little standee part to slide into it on the bottom. The problem is with the cut. They are too loose and fall out as soon as you try to move the markers. One of them works fine but the other 3 are too loose. They will need some tape or something to hold them in.
 
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tim Tim TIm TIM TIMMY!!
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Amazing story if you ask me, very very cool. It sure sounds strange that Playroom never let you know they had given the game to another company and your game got published?

To me it doesn't sound like a company I would want to work with ( well if I ever finally get a game design and try to get it published ) - how could they not tell you they had given the right to another company and it was being published as a different game? I hope you do get royalties from it and them.
I can see wanting to self publish your next once from the experience though. I would guess it will be easier to sell since you can refer to a game you designed that is already published though - so that is a big plus.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Oh yea, can't you write the company and tell them you would like a copy of the game - I guess I am a dreamer since I figure they should send you 5 of them or something, or at least one?

HAve they ever mentioned when you would receive your first royalties? I am guessing not since they never even told you it was published?
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Chaosium own the rights to the Cthulhu Mythos (at least in game form). They've had it since they released the rpg.
 
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Aaron Watson
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Hendal wrote:
Amazing story if you ask me, very very cool. It sure sounds strange that Playroom never let you know they had given the game to another company and your game got published?

To me it doesn't sound like a company I would want to work with ( well if I ever finally get a game design and try to get it published ) - how could they not tell you they had given the right to another company and it was being published as a different game? I hope you do get royalties from it and them.
I can see wanting to self publish your next once from the experience though. I would guess it will be easier to sell since you can refer to a game you designed that is already published though - so that is a big plus.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Oh yea, can't you write the company and tell them you would like a copy of the game - I guess I am a dreamer since I figure they should send you 5 of them or something, or at least one?

HAve they ever mentioned when you would receive your first royalties? I am guessing not since they never even told you it was published?


Thanks for the comments and questions, Tom! It's brought up some things I would like to say but would be way too long for a simple reply here. I will shortly post a PART TWO to my Anti-Climactic Adventure. Please check that out for some answers to your questions.

Edit: Its been posted here: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/329242
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nyhotep wrote:
Chaosium own the rights to the Cthulhu Mythos (at least in game form). They've had it since they released the rpg.


Yeah. I take back that comment about Toy Vault owning any rights to Cthullu. I popped it in the list knowing they sell a lot of Cthullu products. But, in retrospect, EVERYONE has a Cthullu game nowadays. Heck, even Playroom Entertainment does.
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Mike Holyoak
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Wow, I just saw this on the shelf at my FLGS, and thought, "cool concept, I'll have to check in out on the geek." Now my interest is really piqued.
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Aaron Watson
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Harv wrote:
If anything, The Princess Bride needs more monkey.

Any chance of submitting your original Temple of the Monkey components as a 'fan-made variant'? Let's outflank those corporate suits.


I'm not sure Playroom Entertainment would appreciate that as they still plan on releasing "Temple of the Monkey"... eventually.

And oddly enough, there are absolutely no monkeys in "Temple of the Monkey".

(You have to wait for the sequels for the simians to appear!)
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Alain Xalabarde
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That is definitely not an anti-climatic adventure. You got your game published, twice! I actually have been seeing the Princess Bride game in Borders (New York) and I'm going to get it for my ex on her birthday in two weeks (she loves the movie).
It's really great to hear all the little things, since I have designed over 4 games and still haven't had the time (or will) to get them out there.
Though one thing I wanted to know was how the payment method works. I obviously don't need to know the amount, but just wanted to know if you get paid lump sum or some kind of percentage.
Thanks again for the inspiring story.
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Dan Norder
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nyhotep wrote:
Chaosium own the rights to the Cthulhu Mythos (at least in game form). They've had it since they released the rpg.



No they don't. They have a trademark on the term "Call of Cthulhu" for use in gaming that's it. Other companies can and do have games using the Cthulhu Mythos characters without any license or approval from Chaosium. Most if not all of H.P. Lovecraft's creations are in the public domain.
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