Hello everyone! IN TODAY'S UPDATE:
- Custom cards photos! (A TEASE)
- Shipping update!
- Seattle in March – and other conventions in 2014!
- THIS IS RAD
CUSTOM CARDS PHOTOS
It's a great sign that so many people have been posting so many fun photos of their game that it's taken a little bit to go through them all!! I have chosen some new CUSTOM CARD WINNERS and queued them up to post at themachineofdeath.tumblr.com over the next week and beyond. One a day, or thereabouts, until we get through all 50!
(Which means that we have about 7 weeks left for the contest – and I'm certain that everyone still waiting for a game will have theirs by then. The reasons why are in the next section!)
I posted three custom card winners in a previous post, but here's a little tease of the next three winners! These are the new cards I created:
But who gets these cards? I won't reveal the winners now – you'll have to check in at themachineofdeath.tumblr.com over the next couple of days!!
To enter the contest yourself, post a creative picture (define that however you like) and tweet it with #machineofdeath! If you don't have Twitter, you can also email it to me (info at machineofdeath.net). If you don't have email, how are you even a part of this Kickstarter?
But I like Twitter because it lets everyone else see it too, just by searching the hashtag!
I'm very pleased that, as of my last count a few days ago, only 339 orders remained in our shipping company's "yet to ship" queue! (Not counting reships due to returned packages, of which there are about another 40.)
Unfortunately, the reason these had not yet been shipped is mostly because they included something special: a personalized certificate, a specific box number, cards in tins or German, things like that.
I hate that! I hate that the people who ordered the most special games are having to wait the longest. But I do think I have finally figured out the reason, and it may surprise you.
A few days ago, I made a video exploring some possible reasons why things are taking so long – seeking a unified theory of slowdown, as it were. Check it out:
That video was made the day we returned home from the shipping company warehouse, having found a huge pile of orders sitting stalled – and all the rest queued up, unprocessed, behind them – due to questions like "How many spacers are supposed to go in this wooden box?" and "Where is the perfectly unremarkable game that is supposed to go in this order?" and "I dunno, something about a book??"
My assistant Aimée and I spent six hours packing each order by hand while the warehouse staff looked at us in a completely uninterested (and occasionally condescending) manner. But at least I had confidence that the REMAINDER of the orders had nothing preventing them from shipping immediately, and I could go back to my 12-hours-a-day task of answering emails trying to correct all their prior mistakes.
CUT TO: Monday afternoon and no progress had been made with the shipments! Also I checked what they were charging me for freight and it's not too different than what I'd pay if I did it myself. Also there have been so many unanticipated issues with their work that I had this gnawing feeling in my gut just dreading what the next one would be.
So I fired them!
And told them to put everything on a truck and send it to me!
And rented the vacant office next door!
And hired some intelligent people!
And spent a very late night twisting the shipping company's spreadsheets into a packing list format!
And now we are shipping everything ourselves.
Which means this is happening:
There are still a handful of hiccups – in a hilarious twist, the request for them to send me everything on a truck took as long for them to process as the orders themselves were taking, which means I'm still waiting for a bunch more to arrive today and tomorrow – but they are now all passing through my (or my trusted minions') hands and thus I actually smiled and laughed a bunch yesterday which is a really nice feeling.
I don't want to throw the company under the bus too hard – except to clarify that it is not Make That Thing, run by my friends Holly and Sara and which would have done a better job, probably, but which the freight-from-China circumstances precluded us from using – because this company did do an excellent job at one thing: putting a super simple order into a super simple box and repeating that 9,000 times.
But when we presented them with customized orders, and inventory in low quantities that couldn't tolerate any being lost in the caverns of the warehouse, and similar-looking items that were in fact different inside – and then, furthermore, told them to stop all foreign shipments when I heard about the issues some international backers were having with FedEx deliveries – it was just an anchor dropped through their deck. They completely derailed. In the words of my favorite website, MaritimeIntel.com, you might even say the project became in grave danger of "splitting in two and sinking, as the crash left an eight-metre hole on one side and it is tilting at a 20-degree angle."
If you are interested in writing a business manual with "Lessons For CEOs" and "Management Tips" and "B2B Methodologies Easy To Digest While Browsing This Book At The Airport", here are a few strategies I would not recommend you include:
• Never have a single human being who understands all parts of a project. Always make sure that responsibilities are divvied between four or, ideally, more than six people so that no single person has a complete understanding of the thing from start to finish.
• Never empower lower-level employees to solve problems on their own, or institute a system where they can flag them and have them addressed up the chain. Instead, allow problems to sit around unaddressed until someone with power notices and asks about them (or ideally, until the end of the universe, so that way nobody has to deal with it, ever!).
• Always promise whatever the customer wants to hear so he will stop bugging you, regardless of whether what you have promised is feasible or will actually happen.
And you know what? I would much rather if there be mistakes, they be my honest mistakes and not dumb mistakes I have to take responsibility for.
I am super privileged to be (and somewhat spoiled by being!) a self-employed person who can just do things, who can turn on a dime, who can follow my enthusiasm, and who can make decisions based on what is intuitively best for the project.
Interacting with a monolithic organization where none of those things are true has been a tough process! Because for those people, if something goes wrong, it's bad and you have to hear from me yelling at you all day long, but if something goes well, who cares – you don't care about the product or the campaign, you're just a hired hand.
The result over time, I think, is that you become a human whose work is a source of net negative experiences. So I think what I saw was people who have learned to stifle their reactions to things going wrong, in order to avoid that average skewing even more negative. Thus, they don't care; thus, your orders were sitting around moldering while I pulled my hair out every day.
TWO MORE POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS FOR ALL THIS GOING WRONG are:
• The wizard's curse stretched back in time to YEARS AGO, before I ever CONCEIVED of this game, to when this shipping company was first founded and its hiring and training practices were codified;
• Or, much more likely, everyone there read this book by Ryan North:
I think they must have given this out in bulk at that place.
ANYWAY. Everything is solved now forever. Hooray!!
In about a month I'll be in Seattle for the Emerald City Comicon, March 28-30! One of my favorite shows of the year. I'll have the game and the expansions for sale (of course); I will be offering custom cards on demand; and I'll also be involved in the following events:
Machine of Death Draw-and-Guess: "Join cartoonists playing a non-trademarked version of Pictionary, using clues issued from a Machine of Death. The Machine, of course, can tell you exactly how you are going to die in just a few cryptic words!" This panel will be hosted by me and Ryan North, and feature FAMOUS ARTISTS Aaron Diaz, Dylan Meconis, Becky Dreistadt, and Kris Straub! Always a hilarious time. • Friday, March 28, 4:10pm, Hall B
How To Sell Merchandise Without Feeling Like You're Selling Out: "As a creator you might be or be thinking about selling merch online but you don't feel like t-shirts are really your 'thing'. Join TopatoCo creators David Malki, Chris Yates, & Dante Shepherd for our talk about creative merch & beyond the ubiquitous T-shirt." I hope by the time the panel rolls around, I will have formulated a clever answer to the question in the panel's title. • Saturday, March 29, 3:00pm, Room TCC 302
Urban Dictionary – The Game Show: "What do those terms in Urban Dictionary even mean? Has anybody ever used them before, for realsies?? In this GAME SHOW, our group of panelists attempts to define the weirdest, grossest terms the website has to offer. Mostly they will get it wrong!!" This DEFINITELY 18+ panel will be hosted by me and feature contestants Ryan North, Chip Zdarsky, Erika Moen, and Kate Leth! • Saturday, March 29, 6:10pm, Hall B
Professional Tools for Self-Publishers: "Join a pair of independent publishing professionals for a discussion of avenues to self-publishing and tools for bridging the gap between D.I.Y. and traditional publishing models; followed by a Q&A and troubleshooting session for self-publishers." Hosted by Rachel Edidin of Wired, and featuring me as well! I'm the other half of the pair!! • Sunday, March 30, 11:00am, ROOM 2B
Later this year I'll also be at:
- Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 10-11
- Maker Faire Bay Area, May 17-18 (San Mateo) (tentative)
- San Diego Comic-Con, July 18-21
- Gen Con, August 14-17 (Indianapolis)
But more details on those as they approach!
FINALLY: THIS IS SUPER RAD
MOD backer David Cole tweeted this picture a while back:
I retweeted it today and THE OFFICIAL MEETUP ACCOUNT RESPONDED:
Also, hats off to you, social media person at Meetup who is also a Machine of Death fan and who has the power to do things like this within your corporate environment! If you ever write a business book, I know a few people who could stand to read it.