Zoo-ography : A Tile Laying Zoo Builder Game for 1-4 Players
Create custom habitats, populate them with a variety of animals, and strategically build attractions to earn the highest rated zoo!
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Wed, November 28 2018 8:00 PM UTC +00:00.
In Zoo-ography, you've been asked to design a new city zoo. Build custom habitats, draft animals for exhibits, and strategically place attractions. Meet the city's unique objectives, and you'll earn the highest rated zoo! Featuring:
🐘 Animal Drafting - over 40 animals to choose from!
🦒 Tile Laying - build and manage your zoo's habitats and attractions.
🦏 Variable Objectives - Over 200 objective combinations means endless replay-ability!
💵 Awesome Value - 1-4 player Zoo-mongous game play and a great price!
First Livestream Playthrough and Q&A (3 players)
Our goal is to make money from our games - not from shipping.
As such we intend to minimize shipping costs as much as possible and never charge you more than we are expected to pay. By charging shipping after the campaign, we can properly assess the final weights and measures of our games, as well as group backers in such a way to maximize utility and ensure you get the lowest shipping cost. We will cover all customs and duties, but our low pledge tiers and small margins prevent us from providing free shipping.
The following table includes estimated shipping costs provided by stamps.com (for US backers) and Spiral Galaxy Games for our European and international backers. These are not final costs, but rather estimates. The true and final shipping cost will be charged after the campaign.
Canadian backers. Starlit Citadel Games will ship orders that are larger than the retail game if we get sufficient Canadian orders. Spiral Galaxy Games will currently handle delivery of the retail game.
EU backers. We are EU friendly. Products ship to EU backers from within the EU and we handle all customs and administrative fees.
Each backer is responsible for paying their share of the sales taxes for their pledge. Since we are based out of Texas, we are required by law to collect sales tax from any Texas backers. Some European countries also require that we collect VAT. All taxes and shipping costs will be assessed and collected after the campaign via Pledge Manager.
It’s our goal to be as transparent and fair as possible with regard to shipping. No one likes to pay shipping, and we are committed to doing our best to minimize its impact on everyone.
We'd like to thank the following people and organizations for all they've done to help bring Zoo-ography together.
- Eric Jones, Marco Cervone, and Brian Edger for the hours of playtesting.
- Marc Hampson for his incredible artistic talents.
- Paul Olson for his superb work on our opening video.
- Jennica Schwartzman for lending her beautiful voice to our video.
- Stephen Selego with Panda Game Manufacturing for all the help and guidance preparing for manufacturing our games.
- Kristi Weyland with Peace, Love, & Games for the incredible preview video.
- For the timely and inspirational reviews thank you, Dianne N. with Women Like Board Games, Eric Yurko with What's Eric Playing?, George Jaros with GJJ Games, and Steph Elizondo with Settler of the Boards
- Tabletop Artisan's Workshop, Dallas Games Marathon, DFW Nerd Night, and Dallas Designer Group got hosting us over these last few months while we demoed endlessly.
- Derek Funkhouser with The Board Game Spotlight for giving us a platform to promote our game.
- Gerald King III for the opportunity to be on your Kickstarter interview!
- Members of the Zoo-ography Community Page for their contributions to the game's direction.
- Our Bridges to Nowhere backers for taking a chance on our little game.
- Our Families for their endless patience and support for our dream.
- ...and Joshua Geimer whose efforts put us on the map and shaped our fledgling company.
And of course, ALL OF YOU, our backers!!!!
The story of Zoo-ography starts when John and I were meeting one late afternoon in June. John’s house was full of boxes and other packing materials - the type of mess you only get when trying to ship nearly 1,000 board games to eager backers. Bridges to Nowhere had arrived earlier in the week on a few pallets and were now organized into little bunches of games - each grouping aimed toward a different pledge.
Taking a break from the toil, I half-joked, “So what game are we doing next?” John, the designer of Bridges, and always proliferate with new ideas, already had a one ready to go. In fact, his “zoo game” matched a set of criteria I gave him earlier in the year.
“We need to make sure our next game feels like a natural progression from Bridges. We don’t want to alienate our existing backers with something totally difference.” That was just one of requirements, but there were others like, “Make sure the game is accessible to everyone. We need to keep the price down, but keep the depth expected from a more expensive game. So let’s make sure we have a game that prioritizes value.”
Well that day he told me about Zoo-ography. He said the game had been in his head for years, but it seemed to best fit the mold I had set. It contained drafting similar to Bridges, but a unique animal placement mechanic that took the game a step beyond a typical tile-layer. I was interested - the zoo theme alone would have sold me, but his description made me excited to see it.
He mocked up it for me the next day and soon after we started playing. As is common with board game development, the Zoo-ography you see today isn’t nearly the same as John showed me back in June, but it was the seed of something we both knew could be a big hit - tile laying, animal drafting, variable objectives, with a clearly different goal making each game unique.
So after we finished the Bridges to Nowhere fulfillment, we pushed all of our efforts into “the zoo game” as it is still so affectionately named on our Dropbox folder.
The first game was almost exclusively a card game using little wooden cubes for animals and hastily drawn boxes and circles for yet to be fully described structures. I’m pretty sure we used a merry-go-round for almost every card that needed something other than an animal habitat. We had a scoring system, but it, like with most early board game prototypes, was broken and unwieldy. Our little zoos were easily scoring over 60 points based on the objectives, animals, attractions, and other metrics. The mental calculus that went into making a decision, especially in the highly competitive two player game, was overwhelming.
John’s super bright, little seven year old son was sitting at the other end of the table one night, half watching us, half hoping we’d ask him to play. He really wanted to play. He listened to us struggle as we discussed the scoring when he casually suggested, “Why don’t the zoos just earn stars?”
From the mouths of babes. There’s a reason we nicknamed him the CEO of Doomsday Robots - and moments like this one truly shaped the game that was to come. After making this substantial change, and refining the game further, within another month we felt confident enough to release a small free demo of the game for solo or two players which we shared with various print and play groups to get their feedback.
Flash forward to the middle of September. The game had really come together nicely and hours and hours of playtesting with each other and patient friends had fully shaped the primary mechanics of play. The two player game was phenomenal and we felt confident to take a larger version of the game into the public sphere. We made the additional tiles necessary for up to four players and took it to a local gaming event called DFW Nerd Night in Dallas.
Putting together a group for a four player game, we eagerly awaited their glowing opinion of the game. But that didn't happen. The game absolutely fell apart. We tried it a few more times, and the game kept failing. I, as the developer, was clueless as to why. I went home that night demoralized. What had I missed?
The next week I went over and over the game's math and balancing of the four player tiles. We already knew the game was so tight it was balancing on a knife's edge, but the way the game collapsed on itself pointed to a much more systemic problem. We took the game back to its root mechanics, back to two player, and again it worked perfectly - and then it hit me.
We had been developing the game backwards. When we created our updated tiles, we skipped developing the three player game and went straight to four. The problems with the four player game were actually present in the tiles for three players - but because we didn't develop the three player game first, we didn't see it at all.
This "oh duh" moment was pretty defining for not only the development of this game, but for our future game development philosophy. We learned to always build our games from low player count and gradually move to higher and higher numbers of players - ensuring at each step there is a quality experience to be had that mirrors that of the other counts.
Taking our licks, we began redevelopment, spent another month intensely testing, and then debuted the game at Tabletop Artisan’s Workshop, a regular game designer convention in Dallas. There we were met with fantastic feedback and enthusiasm for our sophomore title with players coming back to play again and again. The game was succeeding at all player counts and our solo game got particularly high marks, but one thing kept coming up over and over in our feedback - concerns about the game’s replay-ability.
At the time the game had exactly ten objectives - each worth one star - that the players had to complete. The game was challenging - changes in the draft and priority by other players made each game different, but the goals were always the same. John and I had been playing the game for months on repeat and never got tired of it, but considering how consistent the replay-ability factor kept coming up, we knew we needed a solution.
We knew in every game, the animals had to play an important part. After all - managing your habitats so you can flexibly take animals waiting to be drafted was a very important part of the game. Almost equally important, was ensuring that attractions remained a staple of the game as placing them was one of the more puzzle-like and strategic elements of the game. We knew whatever objectives were used, that had to always have some focus on these two very important parts of the game. We had one other problem though. We were running out of development space.
Keeping the standard edition of the game at $10 was no easy feat. It meant maximizing on every single component - ensuring nothing went to waste. The tile backs needed to be as significant as the tile fronts for game play. Everything had to be considered to keep costs down. There just wasn’t enough room in the game’s production budget to add a ton more cards to give the game a variable feel. We’d have to find another way
We struggled with this challenge for the next week - trying various ways to work with the existing components - when we considered that we weren’t actually maximizing on every aspect of the objective cards. By experimenting with the orientation of the cards, we were suddenly not only able to create more objectives, but theme them in a such a way so that each game had a consistent feel even if the objectives as a whole created totally different zoos.
We were running out of time before our proposed Kickstarter date and we had to get copies into the hands of reviewers. While the demo we sent only had 24 possible objective layouts at the time, we were confident the core of the game would still shine through. But since then we developed a game with over 200 variable objective groups - each themed with a specific city name for easy reference or to repeat a favorite combination - especially for solo game players who may want to beat every individual city.
At this point, we had one problem left to solve. Which animals did we want to include in the final game? We had the idea to allow the community of gamers to help us determine what to do - and this initial idea eventually evolved into a full blown voting system where Zoo-ography Community Page members helped us to make critical decisions involving animal inclusion, which exhibits would be added and so much more. In fact, this one decision, to crowdsource our game flavor choices, has defined our experience with the Zoo-ography Kickstarter, and we can’t wait to see what choices will be made.
So as we move forward with this campaign into the unknown, and the awesome roller coaster that is Kickstarter, we hope you’ll join us as we continue to write our Zoo-ography story. It's truly up to you how the story ends. Thank you for being a part of it.
Risks and challenges
Kickstarter is an ever evolving market, and what games may have been a sure fire win even last year, may not be on anyone's radar today. With larger and larger game companies taking up greater share of the market, small indie board game publishers like ourselves can often be left in the dust - especially if our campaigns lack the polish backers have come to expect. While the ever rising bar is good for Kickstarter, it presents new challenges. With more up front capital needed and a demand for near completed games prior to launching, the cost of failure can be significant.
We at Doomsday Robots recognize the risks involved in pursuing our passion of making board games and are ready to rise to the challenge. Market analysis is a huge part of what we do prior to deciding which game to create and bring to publication, We want to make sure that not only is our investment secure, but that we can meet the demands of this amazing Kickstarter market. As such we've done our homework to minimize costs and risks to our backers.
We aren't perfect, and we've made mistakes in the past, but we never let that prevent us from doing right by our backers - a commitment we will keep today. We welcome feedback for how we can improve, and indeed listening to our backers have helped us to be a better company.
The biggest risk we face is the same that most publishers face - ever changing shipping costs. We've taken definitive steps to minimize this risk with an unprecedented level of transparency with our backers so that we can support one another in not only the successful creation of this game, but ensuring the costs to deliver it aren't unbearable to either party. As such we've moved the shipping charges to be collected after the campaign so we can truly minimize the costs with the foreknowledge of how many games we need, and exactly where they are going.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- All gone!