Tell us a bit about yourself and Doomsday Bots!

DigiSprite itself is a team of 3 – Myself, Robyn (Managing Director); Elaine (Producer) and Sam (Lead Designer) – and we’re based in Dundee, Scotland. My background is in games, software and web development; Elaine has worked in a variety of roles in the games industry, including Production, for years; and Sam has been slinging cards and designing games for as long as he can remember.

Doomsday Bots started life as an idea I had for a PC Game I wanted to develop in a completely different setting. But, after a bunch of discussions with Elaine and Sam, we felt the game concept lent itself well to being a board game. Around the same time, the Steampunk and scrappy Bots theme was suggested and we decided to run with it.

The finished product as it is today is a 2-4 Player Competitive Board Game of Bot Building & Dungeon Running, set in a Steampunk Post-Apocalyptic World.

To begin, the players draft out a bunch of Bot Parts and Consumable Items. These cards are then used to construct a Bot. Heads, Cores, Legs, Arms and a variety of Consumables allow players to get very creative in their Bot building, and try to figure out interesting strategies and synergies. Once everyone has built their Bots, they get ready to enter the Clock Tower, atop which a Mad Genius who is trying to end the world waits! But you can’t let that happen, that’s your job!

The basic Clock Tower layout is made up of a 5 tall, 2 wide arrangement of random Room Cards. The player’s Bots must pass through these rooms, attempting to overcome the various challenges within, whilst making their way to the Boss Room. When the Boss Room has been reached, the Boss within it must be defeated and who ever manages to do that gets their Doomsday Device! But it doesn’t end there, oh no! Your Bot needs to get that Doomsday Device out of the Clock Tower and into your hands so you can make properuse of it.

The race back down and out of the Tower is where things really heat up. Player vs. Player (or rather, Bot vs. Bot) combat is an integral part of the game, but never more so than when someone gets the Doomsday Device! At this point everyone wants to get their hands on it so that theycan be the one to end the world, so a giant rolling Bot fight down the Tower ensues until one manages to escape with the Doomsday Device!

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What did you do to build up a following before you launched?

Cry about our lack of marketing budget? But seriously, we mostly used Twitter for posting progress updates, concept art, etc.This helped us gather a nice little following. However, being a small, unknown studio it was definitely difficult to get much reach. Thankfully we had a good little network of friends, family and followers who did an amazing job of getting the word out for us on launch day. The community really is outstanding – we had people asking us what they could do to help, posting about us in their local game groups, spreading the word on forums and pages we weren’t a part of. It was wonderful to see.

When did you launch Doomsday Bots! and why did you choose that exact moment?

Our launch date was Tuesday, May 29th 2018 at 09:00. We did a bunch of research around this topic, including one of the many useful Stonemaier Games articles (https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-9-timing-and-length/), and this informed a large part of our decision. Launching around the usual payday dates for most people (end/start of the month), mid-week and in the morning seemed to be the general consensus, and we agreed that this made sense.

We also had a booth at the UK Games Expo which started on May 31st, so we wanted to make sure the Kickstarter went live before this so that it was available to those who attended and would hopefully already have a reasonable backing. Things far surpassed our expectations though, and we were actually fully funded in 35 hours, the day before we left for the Expo, which was incredible. It was a big confidence boost for us and was also a great thing to be able to tell people who came by our booth.

Early bird pledging is a hot topic that a lot of people have different opinions on. Why did you choose to have that?

We have mixed feelings on it ourselves, because while it can help drive some early engagement, it can also seem unfair to people who back later in the campaign.

Our choice to have an early bird level was due to us being an unknown company with no previous tabletop games or following and zero marketing budget. We made sure to keep it reasonable though. 10% off the standard price, with no exclusive early bird content etc. We felt that would give a small reward to those people who put their trust in us early on, without dividing the community.

If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Doomsday Bots!, what would it be?

I think there were 3 main things that we didn’t prepare enough for/didn’t know enough about beforehand:

  1. Prep Time required prior to launch – We had a tonne of very late nights on the lead up to the campaign because we underestimated just how long all of the prep and content creation for the page would take. Videos, promotional images, banners and everything in between. It all takes a lot of time to put together!
  2. Stretch Goals – We had a set of Stretch Goals in mind, and these ended up becoming the final ones, but we set the targets for each of them badly initially. I think this may have put some people off in the beginning, because it meant that unlocking the first of the Stretch Goals was a long way off, even after fully funding. People let us know how they felt (and we’re glad they did), but we were in the midst of the UK Games Expo when this happened. Finding time to revise your Stretch Goals while also staffing a stall for 12+ hours a day was not an easy task! This meant that as soon as we got back we had to get straight to revising and updating them and let people know.
  3. Reviews – These are very important and allow people to get an unbiased view of a game before they decide to back or not. Unfortunately we started looking for these much later than we should have which meant we had none at launch. Thankfully we picked up a bunch throughout the campaign thanks to the Expo, but it would have been better to have these at launch.

How do you structure your days during the campaign?

All three of us work other jobs full time at the moment, so things have been crazy busy for during the campaign. A ton of late nights after work and full weekends making sure everything gets done and the project continues to run smoothly.

In general our days consist of:

  • Checking Kickstarter constantly! Replying to comments/questions, sending out thank you messages to new backers, etc. It’s almost second nature now to flick open the Kickstarter app on our phones the instant we have a spare second or two.
  • New art pieces from the Art Studio tend to arrive around midday, so I receive these, review them and pass them on to the rest of the team for their review. Then we collect our feedback for the Artists so they can plan their next day of work.
  • After our day jobs wrap up, our plans can vary depending on current priorities. Sometimes we’re playtesting the game, reviewing the cardpool/making changes discussed in previous playtests, having design or all sorts of other conversations, mocking up box plans/examples. It really varies a lot which keeps it fun and interesting.
  • At the end of the evenings we post our update for the day (we try to post one every day).
  • In amongst all of this is a lot of e-mails and general planning between everyone involved: us, manufacturers, prototypers, reviewers, publishers, artists, biz dev contacts, and a whole bunch of other people!

Running a campaign certainly keeps your days interesting.

If you could change one thing with Kickstarter. What would it be?

Tell us why people cancel their pledges! Really though, every campaign has backers cancel for one reason or another, that’s to be expected. But it can be concerning if a handful cancel around the same time/day – did we do something wrong? Did people not like our latest update? Has a review or article appeared somewhere that didn’t like the game? We don’t know!

Kickstarter automatically collects this information from Backers if they cancel a pledge, but not many Backers know that the Creators never see this feedback. If we know someone cancelled because it’s not in their budget anymore, great, nothing for us to worry about. But if we know someone cancelled because of something wedid or something that has come to light about the game (e.g. a recent update) it gives us the power to look into that and potentially course correct.

When you’re on your first Kickstarter, worried about making a misstep at every turn, not knowing why people cancel is torturous.

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What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?

It’s not necessarily advice that I directly received, more something that I picked up during the course of our project, but: Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Creating a product, running a Kickstarter and getting the finished thing to market is a huge undertaking and there is so much to it that you might never have considered.

Firstly, Kickstarter doesn’t start or end with Kickstarter. There’s the whole process beforehand where you need to take your concept from just that, a concept, to something complete enough that you can sell other people on it (it took us 6 months to get Doomsday Bots to that stage). Then after your campaign you’re responsible for ensuring you deliver. Kickstarter isn’t something you can or should just do on a whim.

Finances and numbers! You’ve got to really nail down this down for everything. You’re asking people to give you their money in good faith and on the understanding that you can actually deliver what you’ve promised, so you absolutely cannot half-ass this. Art costs, materials, prototyping, marketing, manufacturing, shipping, taxes, import duty, fees, expos/conventions, promotional material and smaller expenses. Do you have/need an accountant to deal with all of this? If you are not careful, or you miscalculate your costs, you could even end up taking a loss!

Can you get any external funding? I was able to secure a grant from the Scottish government that allowed us to cover our costs up to the Prototype (Kickstarter-ready) Stage. This significantly reduced our overall budget needs and meant we could go to Kickstarter with a lower goal to cover the manufacturing and shipping of an initial print run of Doomsday Bots.

Who are you going to work with at each stage? What manufacturer? What artist? Where is best to target with your marketing budget? Who can you get to review or signal boost your product/campaign?

How does importing/exporting to and from different countries work? Do you need to do anything to facilitate this beforehand?

Where are you storing your product once it arrives? Can it all fit in your garage? Do you have a distributor/publisher who will deal with it?

Who will be fulfilling all of the shipments for your backers (and beyond)? Can you manage it yourself via your local mail service? Do you need a fulfilment partner, and if so, who, why, and how much will that cost (and how will that factor into your pledge levels?)

When are you going to launch and why? Who can you get the word out to beforehand? Who can help with that? Are you/have you connected with the relevant people/networks?

What do you need for your Kickstarter page? Art? 3D Renders/Mock-ups? Content? Photographs? Videos? Prototypes? Where will all of these come from? Can you do it yourself? Can someone do it for you cheaply? Do you need to hire a professional, and how will it affect your budget if you do?

What is your price point/MSRP? What are your pledge levels/what can you offer your backers for their pledge? Will you be offering the product cheaper on Kickstarter than MSRP? Will you be offering special deals to retailers?

I could go on and on, and probably already have a little too much, so I’ll stop there!

The whole experience of doing this for Doomsday Bots has been a wild ride. It has taught us about so many seemingly disconnected and random things, taken up a lot of time, left us very tired after some verylong days/nights, got us all frustrated/worried at times, nearly given us heart attacks when certain things haven’t gone the way we needed them to, but ultimately it has been so rewarding. So don’t let any of the above scare you away from doing this if it’s something you want to do, just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, research everything thoroughly, plan things out in detail and give yourself plentyof time.

What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?

The game/product. While it’s important to make sure your page is readable, contains the relevant content about your product and looks eye-catching/clean/professional, if your product simply isn’t good or hasn’t been well thought out, you’re very unlikely to succeed.

I’ve seen a number of excellent products with pretty standard pages do very well because the product is enough to sell itself. Conversely, I’ve seen bad products with impressive pages fail because the page can’t cover up the fact that the product itself is bad.

Make sure you take your product to people who will tell you what they reallythink about it. Friends and family can be very useful (ours did a bunch of playtesting for us), but not always entirely unbiased – they want to make you happy, which is lovely, but not very helpful.

Give it to people who like to break things, people who nitpick or heck, complete strangers! Listen to their feedback and decide what/if you need to change anything about the product before you set foot on Kickstarter.

Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?

I don’t think we have any specific role models as such, but we have a great admiration for all of the other indie studios/creators who are constantly coming up with awesome and fun concepts and making them a reality. It’s definitely inspiring, and it’s been great to start joining that community ourselves and meeting lots of great people over the last 6 months.

I should also give another shoutout to Stonemaier Games. They’ve put together a huge collection of Kickstarter-specific posts and resources which have been invaluable to us during our research. I’d 100% recommend reading through their stuff if you’re considering a Kickstarter (whether for a game or not).

Where can people reach you?

Our Twitter is @DigiSpriteDev. Our website is www.digisprite.co.uk. My e-mail is robyn@digisprite.co.uk

Anything else you want to add?

We do have a pledge manager online now, so if anyone reading is interested in picking up a copy of the game, they can pre-order your copy from: https://digisprite.pledgemanager.com/projects/doomsday-bots/participate/?ref=tompet

Other than that, thanks for your time.

Seize the Doomsday!

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