Tell us a bit about yourself and Unbroken.
I am a Canadian game designer who really enjoys fantasy games and creating memorable experiences through gaming. I am able to design games thanks to the endless patience and support of my wife and help from my two young boys.
Unbroken is the second game I am Kickstarting after the succesful release of Cauldron : the board game of competitive alchemy in 2015. Unbroken is a solo-only game of survival and revenge set in the world of dark fantasy. It is playable in a brief 20-30 minute slot and is currently up on Kickstarter where, amazingly, almost 10,000 people from all over the world chose to support it!
What did you do to build up a following before you launched Unbroken?
I went about this a few different ways. First, as I mentioned – Unbroken was my second project, so hopefully I had a bit of an audience from my original Kickstarter. That relates both to my outreach potential and the reputation I built as someone who is able to deliver on a project. I am also quite active on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter and hope people have a chance to get to know me just talking about games which I love doing.
One of the most important things I did was to release a Print and Play of Unbroken for public testing about a year ago – that really provided an opportunity to connect with people who were passionate about the game and who formed a core of those who helped make it happen.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
I launched March 27, 2018 at 10:00 AM. The date was determined about six months in advance and I planned my project schedule backwards from it, designing the game graphics, creating the prototypes and sending these to reviewers, spreading awareness of the game on the internet. I like launching on a Tuesday because hey, everyone hates Mondays and 10:00 AM is morning in most places in North America :).
Most of all though – that’s the moment that I planned for and all the little bits fell into place by that time.
Did you expect to get so many backers?
I had a little spreadsheet with my goals for the campaign. I think my boldest prediction went to about 3,000 backers. That was going to be success that I could scarcely dream of. As of this writing there are 6,500+ people backing Unbroken. It’s nuts!
How did you market a solo game compared to a multiplayer game?
It’s quite different actually. Whereas in a multiplayer game you can depend on players’ interaction to generate the tension and excitement – that reliable source is not there in a solo game. Instead you have uncertainty to work with. There are many ways to introduce this uncertainty through randomness – card draw, dice, actions that are not guaranteed to succeed. For Unbroken I used all of these in moderation to make sure the agency remained with the player first and foremost.
The way I introduced uncertainty was through incomplete information – the players don’t know in advance what kind of monsters they have to fight and can only find out this information one step at a time, so there is never the one winning strategy. Your awesome armor-breaking combo can fail spectacularly if you encounter a monster who doesn’t have armor and instead has a ton of hit points. This uncertainty, I found forces players to not only come up with a plan but to stay very flexible in changing that plan to account for changing circumstances.
To me this lack of information and the need for flexible planning are the defining features of Unbroken as a game and what makes it work as a true solo.
This is your second game. How did Cauldron, your previous game go on Kickstarter?
Cauldron was a very fun project and a great one to learn from. It collected about $32,000 from 962 backers, which I was very happy with. It took 13 days to reach its funding goal and my immediate circle of friends and family played a much bigger role in driving its success. It made me really appreciate the people in my life who gave the initial support to the project that ultimately helped it succeed with the wider audience.
I had a blast with running that project (at the end I had to brew a soup with ingredients suggested by the backers and eat it – was hilarious!). Most of all I am happy that I could deliver the project to backers 2 months ahead of the planned date.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched your first campaign?
Yeah, that was a pretty tough thing to do. My approach mostly focused on generating content that would be helpful to others. I did reviews, photo projects with games, participated in playtesting and community events and just generally got out there on social media and BoardGameGeek to start building up awareness of myself and my project. It’s a tough go to get noticed at first – there are so many colourful and well known personalities. But if you contribute, stay positive and have something to say – it’s only a matter of time. In the end though, your game must speak for itself.
If you could change one thing about Kickstarter. What would it be?
It would be changing the page design tool that they have to something that feels like it was created after 2005. Constant struggles with formatting, missing links, you can’t even center text. For such an important and successful platform the design tool is laughable.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Unbroken, what would it be?
How much interest and support it would generate. I would have planned a few things differently then. But I think we adjusted well and I hope people are having a good time with the campaign!
What is your best marketing tip during a campaign?
Stay active, stay engaged. It’s a marathon, not a sprint (unless you decided to be the first person to have a 4-day campaign to just totally eliminate the mid-way slump problem). The positive impression you make with backers will carry the likelihood of them willing to spread the word. Have a plan for how you are going to maintain exposure throughout the campaign and stand by your product.
You have a lot of content on your page. Are you afraid that people are going to miss out on things as they probably wont scroll all the way down?
I think of it as a foot in the door kind of a thing. My most relevant content goes first. If it draws people in – they will back and then may continue to scroll. If it’s totally not their cup of tea – they will leave and no matter how much stuff I have below the top won’t bring them back. If they are on the fence and diligent – they will scroll through the page and hopefully like what they see enough to back. I think having a long page is better than cramming too much information into a short one.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
Unsurprisingly it comes from Jamey Stegmaier and it comes down to the fact that success of your KS is determined prior to your campaign – through the promotion that you do and through the community that you build. So do the work up front and you can enjoy the fruits of you labour when the campaign goes.
What´s your thoughts regarding stretch goals? I see you do something unusual and unlock a new story at every 5K.
I have opinions on this! 🙂 First off – yes, I wanted to do something cool and for every $5k that we raise we unlocked a short story describing a background or an encounter with one of the game’s 24 monsters, fleshing out the world. (we blasted through these way too quick).
Mostly – I really dislike seeing stretch goals like “we’ll add a new character” or “we’ll add a new monster”! My question is – why was that character not in the base game to begin with? Were they ready to be included? If so – why weren’t they in the game to begin with? If they aren’t ready – how come you’re enticing people with incomplete material? I know it makes a KS campaign really exciting to feel that you’re unlocking new content, but often it feels contrived. There are genuine cases like when the cost of inclusion new characters wouldn’t be justified under a certain volume, but I don’t think that’s the prevalent way of thinking. I prefer stretch goals that include cool small add-ons or improve existing components.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Your art and graphic design. That’s what catches eyes and that’s why I think it’s super important to have a great sharp look going into the campaign.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Lots! My #1 role model is Jamey Stegmaier. Remember that Simpsons episode when Homer compares himself to Edison? He had like a little graph with their respective achievements and all? I should make one like that for myself with Jamey on it. I never get tired of saying how much his KS advice has inspired me and how his constant positive constructive contributions to the gaming community are a great example to strive for. I love seeing his success.
I also think that Ignacy Trzewiczek has a very authentic approach to making games and a great way to interact with the community.
Anything else you want to add?
Running a Kickstarter with a 4-month old in the house was a questionable idea! I have to run to change a diaper :). Thanks to everyone for reading and considering supporting Unbroken 🙂
Where can people reach you?