Mega Update - a summary of trials
This update is quite long. As I have been informing you guys of the delays, my hope was that we could get over the hurdles with the manufacturer sooner rather than later. I had a plan for what the updates were going to be like, and ever since Christmas I had been really pushing the manufacturer to produce the results I was looking for to fit into that plan. While I would have liked to continue handling the updates with kid gloves, I am going to enjoy your guys’ company down here in the trenches! Prepare to become battle-hardened update survivors!
Maybe those idioms are a bit extreme? Ha ha! Well, I’m going to like sharing all this information with you all anyway. As I said it may be a bit long so I organized it into sections that way if you are looking for something specific you may find the information quickly.
WARNING: This is essentially a compilation of all the troubles we have had up to this point, this update may not be enjoyable if you prefer not to hear about our struggles. Please know that even while some of this will sound like a bummer at times, all of these issues are being worked to make the final product into what we all expect in the end.
NOTICE: the purpose of releasing such a large amount of information at this point is to give you all an understanding of everything that led up to where we are now and demonstrate how the issues came to be and why they still exist if applicable.
That moment you realize the battle has begun.
After we completed the campaign at the beginning of August last year, we immediately were off to Gen Con 50. We had meticulously planned beforehand to make the surprise as awesome as possible. We were already working with the manufacturer since before the Kickstarter campaign had begun, and we were able to put in a small print run order specifically for our backers and supporters during the show. I was happy to tell you all that we were going to be able to give out the final games to our backers literally during the convention! I was super excited.
That excitement was tempered after we arrived in Indianapolis (Gen Con). The schedule was tight because the manufacturer was trying to work out some final issues. (Those issues will become more obvious later in the update, but the main issue that they were trying to resolve was the Gold Metallic Effects (Gold FX) on the printed materials. I will also explain more about what Gold FX are later).
Enter Jane. Jane is not her real name but this is what we will call her as I am not one to throw people under the bus. Jane was our point of contact for the company/manufacturer we are working with. She was going to meet with me to discuss the project and our shipment of games for the show.
As we were setting up our booth the day before the show, Jane calls me to announce that the shipment was stopped at customs. She regretfully informed me that she had forgotten to have us fill out certain paperwork that was required at the destination. Not off to a great start. She had me fill out the paperwork and she swore that the shipment would be there in time for the show in the morning.
Next day. Show starts. No games. Still stopped at customs. We weren’t pleased about this but we made the best of it. We had the prototypes there and all the tables at our booth were filled with people the whole day, we got a lot of praise from everyone that decided to play. This was very encouraging. Later that day during the show Jane informs me she had a final delivery time, 10 AM the next day. Any of our backers who visited us wanting to pick up their games were informed of the delay and asked to come back the next day.
Around 1 PM the next day we get the games. A large pallet that the people at Gen Con were kind enough to have set just outside one of the exit doors near our booth. I tear into the first case and see the first actual manufactured copies of my game. While this was a great feeling it was short lived as soon as I opened one of the game boxes.
That moment you realize this battle is a war.
I rip off the shrink wrap to the first game. "Disaster" strikes. Metaphorically now is when I also rip off the kid gloves for this update. There is no delicate way to put this. The pieces were everywhere. The really nice insert that was supposed to keep all the pieces in place might as well not even been in the box. Miniatures scattered everywhere, some were even severely misshapen because of the nature of when things are rattling around in a box. The golden rounds (crowns), bloodstones and Omega Stones were strewn about. Printed materials all staggered inside like papers scattered across the desk of an old detective movie. What was this I’m looking at?!
I open another game. This one was worse than the last. I open another, same problem. I rush out into the convention hall and back to our booth. After signaling to my business partner to come see, we go back to look and discuss the problem. Thanks to my business partner, cooler heads prevailed.
We bring out about 75 games to our booth and stack them up on our back table. It was decided that we do only what could be done given the situation. We had to inform everyone interested in picking up their pledge or people that wanted to purchase the game that there were some serious issues with the packaging of the product. We still did okay given the circumstance, and we took the name and address information from anyone that got a game in order to correct the problems for them at a later date. This would be a good time to mention that of all the Kickstarter backers that came to our booth to get their game, all of them elected to wait until the corrected versions were created to get their copy. In my opinion, this was the best option for any backer given the numerous problems.
The list of all the original problems.
Despite our best efforts, the optimistic possibility of fulfilling pledges only weeks after our campaign completed was out of the question given the number of problems with the games from the Gen Con shipment. These games were unworthy of the Incarnate Games standard, and as you can imagine I was more than somewhat disappointed.
So aside from the scattered components everywhere inside the box, what made the game unworthy of our standard? I met with Jane on the 3rd day of Gen Con to thoroughly go through those issues. Following is the master list of problems/issues which were discussed with Jane:
1. There are 2 card/gem trays. Both were missing the logo debossing. Also, the one on the right was missing the card dividers completely. The manufacturer decided to make it different because they felt that the bag of gems needed to occupy that space. I will avoid going on a rant here, it was not only incorrect but also unnecessary (the bag of gems fits fine inside the tray with card dividers).
2. The insert for the miniatures wasn’t molded correctly to accommodate the shapes of all of the miniatures (this is called the T shaped insert; you will see it later in the update).
3. The manufacturer made the box much larger. Although I pushed back hard on this, the fact was it had to be bigger to accommodate the presentation of the Limited Collector’s Edition. Well, given that the box was larger, the T shaped insert was now no longer flush with the inside top of the box lid. This directly resulted in all components scattering inside the box. This had to be addressed and corrected (solution shown later).
4. There were no Gold Metallic Effects (Gold FX) on anything. The Gold FX are essentially one of the most distinguishing features of the Limited Edition. Gold FX are metallic ink that makes gold on the printed materials look like actual gold that shines and reflects light and looks really cool. Gold FX continues to be a point of confusion for some reason with the manufacturer. The issue is being corrected.
5. The Fire Walls graphics were printed transparently! (You could see through the fire, which was incorrect) This was disappointing as it made it very hard to see the fire on the board which is a major feature of the game. The manufacturer misunderstood despite very clear instructions, images, and even VIDEOS of me showing them exactly what it was supposed to be based on existing prototypes we had made. This is being corrected.
6. Again on the Fire Walls, there was an issue with some of them where the plastic protective film that can be peeled away from the Fire Walls was the actual surface that was printed on (quality control issue). What this meant is that some of the Fire Walls graphics could just be peeled right off. This is being corrected.
7. Furthermore, on quality control, they need to be sure they are accurately counting all the dice, gems, and ensuring that the pieces are not irregular. We noticed that there was a slight shortage of Dire Gems on one of the games.
8. They printed the game board as a quad-fold board. This was a mistake. The board was expressly specified to be a bifold board, the graphics on the outside of the board are designed for it to be this way. This was a bewildering mistake that they made. It has since been corrected.
9. Finally, an aesthetic defect was color matching on the character mats. I clearly noticed this as I am a very detail oriented person, although the color would be less noticeable to other people who haven’t seen the proper way the character mats were supposed to look. However, everyone did seem to notice that it appeared too dark. I stand by my artists on this one; this was not an art, or psd/ai file issue. The reason I know this is because we had 2 different places create prototypes for us before going to manufacture. It just so happens that both of these places that we had the prototypes made (Virtual Packaging and BGM) printed the character mats perfectly. So this was a manufacturer mistake.
I sent Jane home with 2 more sets of prototypes to send to China seeing as they needed to physically be clarified on the issues.
Why updates were delayed.
I had thought that the manufacturer would have been able to get to and address these issues more rapidly. However, as of today, we still have not gotten any physical production samples since the time of Gen Con 50. I wanted to reveal that the box size was being increased with the cool solution that is still underway for the box inserts.
Well, the manufacturer has delayed far too long at this point for me to justify presenting things to you in that way. SO here is an image showing you guys what the inside of the box looks like from the Gen Con edition printing. Please realize that the final solution to fixing the issue of all the components flying around in the box is currently underway and will be discussed further in the 'new addition to the box' section.
An unexpected contact replacement.
After returning from Gen Con, emails were sent to Jane. She told me she sent the prototypes to China. Weeks pass. More emails sent. Nothing. Then I get a message about mid-September (nearly a month after Gen Con) from a new person named Lisa (this is the new person’s real name). She tells me that Jane is no longer with the company.
Lisa was Jane’s supervisor. She apologized for the many mistakes that resulted during the time Jane was my point of contact for this project. She informed me that Jane had been let go.
Now, I am not going to assume that Jane was fired because of our ordeal; she deserves the benefit of the doubt, but it wouldn’t be a far stretch to imagine that the mistakes which were made under her watch were a major contributing factor.
OK, so Lisa is my new point of contact. Great, a much more experienced person that will get us the results we all are hoping and paying for. However, this also meant that everything that I had to go over with Jane up to this point and beyond would have to be related again now to Lisa. Many compilations of emails and phone conversations later, and we were on the same page.
The new addition to the box.
From mid-September to mid-October: Of the list of issues, one which required more design work was the insert revisions. My idea was to raise the height of the miniature portion of the inserts to become flush with the top of the box lid. This was actually already part of the original design (that China didn’t do) only modified further (it’s a long story).
Enter Andrew Martin! This is our miniature sculptor artist. Thank God for Andrew! He had the genius idea of creating a clear lid that went over the top of the already existing tray designs. I was so happy with this idea that I decided to have him design the clear lid and we discussed with Lisa who also agreed this was a good solution.
Here are some images of that.
At the end of October, I learn that the manufacturer had already printed and manufactured all the components for the entire print run. All that had to be done was finish, assemble, and package everything. This meant everything that was wrong with our small print run now already preexisted at the factory for the full order! I was floored, hospitalized actually (although that might be a bit dramatic to say, I believe it was just a coincidence my appendix ruptured around this time).
This is where we come to a full and complete stop. This was astonishing news. This level of complete failure is impossible to fully explain without sharing all correspondence between Lisa, their graphic designers, the factory themselves, and me. Suffice it to say that it all came down to a major failure of their chain of communication which was easy enough for me to point out by going through previous emails and showing them their huge mistake.
Here was the mistake they made explained in a very general way: They never sent us a final production sample before sending the small print run for Gen Con, which they said would instead serve as our production samples, however, they in actuality printed all the components for the full print run anyway.
Needless to say, this was a time for a reckoning. I sent back to Lisa an email fully proving to them how this was in no way Incarnate Games doing. I was in the hospital for a week. Another week or two later after that, Lisa confirmed that they were going to reprint everything due to the mistakes.
Holidays to the present.
I had received a new sample of the character mats in November, which still had color matching and printing issues which they are currently correcting. They also sent me samples of the colors of the Gold FX which I approved.
Seeing that we were still having printing issues at this point, I knew there was no way they were going to get the final production sample to me before Chinese New Year.
At the beginning of December, they sent images of the corrected card/gem trays which I have approved. Here are some images of that. Very nice!
They also sent an image of a plastic lid that they made for the trays, which was nothing like our design. While it would function to keep all the components inside, it would not accommodate the printed materials on the top as our design intended. So I did not approve these as they need to make the lid correctly. Here is an image of that.
From mid-December to mid-January was a quiet time, holidays slowed things down. Then, of course, this means we start to approach Chinese New Year which factories close for about three working weeks, which also contributed to a lack of updates during that time.
The China manufacturer returned on or around February 27th, where I spoke with Lisa who informed me updates were incoming.
On March 8th I finally got confirmation that the manufacturer was running tests on the new lid to ensure that it will function as we intend while keeping a good thick quality.
On March 19th another update from Lisa informed that China was working on the matte finishing of the boards which was detracting from our vibrant artwork.
APRIL 2018 & CURRENT STATUS
From then into April, there has been some slight frustration because I feel that there has been a lack of progress actually seen. I had not received anything physical from them or any new images since December, so I sent them an email reiterating everything and asking 3 very straightforward questions to them on April 10th .
1) Are there any updates regarding the lid and/or any updates regarding all other production issues?
Their reply was that:
- They fixed the plastic card/gem trays (which I knew already).
- They addressed the misprinting of the firewall component and is being fixed.
- The gold metallics are being added to the components
- They are still seeing what we can be done to make sure the character mats match our prototypes, and
- They are still working on the plastic lid.
2) What is the estimated time to complete and send out the new production sample? All of our Kickstarter backers sure would like to know.
Their reply was that:
- The factory still seems to be stuck on the plastic lid and successfully putting raises in the lids, and
- Until they get that component figured out, they won’t have a timeline of when they can produce the production samples.
3) What is it that you (the manufacturer) propose is going to be done about the games that we cannot sell that are just sitting in our warehouse?
There reply was that:
- They will replace them when final production takes place.
Currently, there still seems to be some confusion about Gold FX going on the boxes (the game boxes and the tuck boxes). During the time things were being clarified, back at Gen Con with Jane, this was an issue that was assured to us would be included in the final production.
Finally, I would like to say that perhaps the main reason that all of these issues haven’t been expressed in prior updates, or up to this point I should say, frankly is because the manufacturer’s performance does not reflect the methods or workflow of Incarnate Games or its contractors. You all deserve to know this information though, of course! It's just that… at the end of all this information, I wanted to be able to say that none of the problems mattered because we were currently getting your games ready to ship. Unfortunately, we have to wait a bit longer to be able to say that.
I will keep everyone apprised of any and all information as it becomes available; hopefully, from now on we only get good news!
Thank you all for your patience and understanding as the manufacturer gets this sorted out.
Jason M. Allen