And so it finishes, like it began - with a blank space.
Well, technically with a blank board, the final piece of the puzzle that we're in the process of sending out to backers. Here's what you can expect:
Rather nicer than the boards that originally went out, of course!
We'd like to thank you all for joining us on what has been a rather curious journey. Sure, a lot of you weren't sure precisely what you were getting into and things were looking a little weird throughout, but we love that fact that you stuck with us. We're now officially closing the campaign page, so if there's anything else you need regarding Emperor's New Clothes please drop us an email via Service@GameSalute.com and we'll be happy to help.
One final thank you goes out to Jonathan Liu, without whom all of this madness wouldn't have even happened. It's been really entertaining. Odd at times, but definitely entertaining!
By now most of you in North America have probably received your copies of Emperor's New Clothes, and I've started seeing a few overseas backers mention that they've gotten theirs as well. (If you haven't gotten yours yet, you might check to make sure you filled out the pledge manager. I believe it was sent in July—search for Shop.GameSalute.com, and look for an email that includes a coupon code.)
I had a long conversation this week with Dan Yarrington of Game Salute, just going over how the project went. I think overall the campaign itself, while it was live, accomplished some of the things I was hoping to do, but there were certainly a few missteps. So here's what happened, at least from my perspective.
Part of my inspiration came from seeing those white proofs on other Kickstarter games in production. Something about a whole set of game components all in white just really appealed to me, and I wanted one for myself—as a conversation piece and as a set of components I could fiddle around with for game design. I thought about just calling up a game manufacturer and asking to get a sample of proofs (which I probably could've done), but then I wondered if there were other people who would also be interested in the same thing. If there were enough people, then we could get a better deal on all the components, and maybe buy a batch of them ... hey, this sounds like a Kickstarter project.
About this time I'd also been thinking about the idea of playing a game with blank components—something I could do at a game convention or something, because it'd be eye-catching in the midst of all the other colorful games everyone is playing. I wondered if there were a way to play a game in such a way that somebody who watched you play for a while could figure out the rules even though nothing was written down or visible. Would somebody be able to knowingly buy into the illusion and start playing the game with you? That depends on how consistent you and your fellow gamers could be about the rules of the game. It would be harder to do if you had no common starting point, but I figured some people might be able to pull off a fully improvised game in a way that felt natural.
Those two things were the initial spark for Emperor's New Clothes, and I got excited about whether I could run a Kickstarter campaign for something you couldn't see. Was it possible to run a Kickstarter campaign that looked like a total joke, but was actually something more? There were a lot of people running gag campaigns at the time, like the Death Star project, which were clearly not meant to fund, but I wanted something that was satirical but also an actual physical product.
I knew a project of this sort needed to somehow take April Fool's Day into account, and at this point I had just a few months to prepare. (In retrospect, not nearly enough time.) My wife and I were also expecting our third child at the end of April, so I knew that I definitely wouldn't have the time and energy to be chasing manufacturers about production and shipping out packages myself. So that's when I approached Game Salute with my idea. I'd met Dan Yarrington before and I knew that Game Salute did this sort of thing—they ran campaigns for people with ideas but not the production/fulfillment know-how. In this particular case, my main goal wasn't to make money with the project, but to get it made, and to have an excuse to talk about game design for a month, kind of a mini-blog. I didn't want to deal with tracking down manufacturers, figuring out pricing, handling packaging and shipping, and estimating the ship date, because I knew at that point I couldn't launch before April, and possibly the project wouldn't happen at all.
Dan seemed to get the idea right away, but he told me that they were actually already planning to start selling gaming components (including blank boxes) for game designers. So it wouldn't make sense for sales of my "game" to cut into sales of their generic game components after the campaign. We ended up working out a deal where Emperor's New Clothes was a Kickstarter-only thing: I wanted the chance to do the campaign and blogging, and then after the campaign Game Salute could sell game bits however they saw fit, without any sort of Emperor's New Clothes branding. That sounded like a good deal to me, so I signed on and didn't end up checking with any other publishers. At the time, though, I don't think there were a lot of companies who did this sort of umbrella publishing service, and even now I haven't seen too many companies who handle something like this. I do feel like within the past year there have been a slew of people posting more about how to run a board game Kickstarter campaign, and there are a lot of lessons that have been shared that could help me figure out the production/fulfillment side of things myself if I wanted to.
One thing I learned myself, once the campaign launched, was that I should have at least run the campaign through my own Kickstarter account. This was set up through Game Salute's account—they had ultimate control over the campaign page, and this way the funding would go to them directly and any sort of questions would also get sent to them. That meant I was one step removed from the campaign, though, which is good and bad. The good part is that if people contacted the project creator with questions, it went to Game Salute instead of me, because I wouldn't have been able to answer any questions about the production side of things anyway. The downside is that I didn't get the automatic notifications if somebody left a comment (either on the main comments section or on an update), and I'd often miss that somebody was asking questions. I also didn't get notifications if somebody backed the project. It also meant that any updates I wrote (and even this one I'm writing now) had to get passed along to somebody at Game Salute and posted by them, so I couldn't post comments or update the front page without getting in touch with somebody else. That led to some errors and miscommunications at times.
I also discovered that I didn't follow all of the advice I give to project creators who come to me for reviews. For instance, I didn't contact nearly enough people ahead of time for publicity, which would have let me explain a little more fully what the project was intended to do. Game Salute had a list of reviewers that I was told would be contacted, but I hadn't realized that they wouldn't be sent an actual demo prototype to sit down and play it. So we ended up with the mid-campaign fiasco rather than being able to run the updates I'd planned. It forced my hand a little early, but it also resulted in me making some changes to the campaign itself. For all of my theoretical knowledge about running a Kickstarter campaign, I encountered the same typical pitfalls: cost overruns, underestimating production time, late publicity. And I discovered some new ones: a scheduled spring break camping trip during the last week of the campaign, for instance.
Initially I had planned to do the "big reveal" on April 1—a fitting day to say that, after all, what you see IS all you get. But I hadn't taken Kickstarter's policies into account, that you couldn't pull your pledges within 48 hours of the closing date if that would cause a project to fall below its funding goal. In the end, that wouldn't have mattered because the project did stay above the goal so nobody would have been stuck, but we had no way of knowing that. Thinking back now, I think it would have made more sense to run the project from mid-March to mid-April, where the first half was before the reveal, and I had more time after the reveal to talk about what everything was actually about.
So then the campaign ended. Some people have expressed disappointment that this campaign was nothing more than a guerrilla marketing campaign for Game Salute's game components—an impression largely due to the fact that just before it closed the home page was changed to show the "Create-A-Game Kit (the project formerly known as Emperor's New Clothes)." That was unexpected. Part of the point of the campaign was that I tried to stay in character until near the end, but now the very top of the home page gave away one of the key ideas. Plus it made it sound like Emperor's New Clothes and the Create-A-Game Kit were one and the same thing. But it was too late: once the campaign closes, the home page of the Kickstarter is locked down and can't be changed anymore—another Kickstarter interface thing I hadn't been aware of. Game Salute wanted to make sure they got that information on the page for people who came across the page in the future, but I would've preferred to have it in an update (with perhaps a link to it on the home page). So while I knew that Game Salute would be selling game components themselves after my campaign was over, I was also disappointed that this made my whole campaign a lead-up to this product, rather than something that stands on its own.
Once the campaign closed, I turned over almost everything to Game Salute. I continued working on getting the sticker sheets laid out and designed, and I got to work on the surprise, but I left the acquisition of components and boxes to the professionals. With the new baby, I didn't think to check in constantly about the progress, and maybe that's one mistake I made. I still don't know where all the delays happened, but it's a combination of factors. Staff turnover (some people who were working on my project left Game Salute, and I know for certain that at least the sticker sheet was delayed by that); inaccurate quotes from suppliers (one place apparently didn't have enough wooden cubes; others required higher minimum purchases than previously stated); and those darn boxes. I know the orders for the boxes were placed late to begin with, but even then it took longer than it should have to get them. The minimum order for those was 500 apiece, so Game Salute ended up just buying a lot of extra boxes which they'll keep for those Create-a-Game Kits. With this project, there were a lot of moving parts—the cards, boards, wooden bits, stickers, and boxes were all coming from different suppliers rather than a single manufacturer, and the delays piled up.
I know that Dan at Game Salute also would have run things differently: he told me they definitely would have set a longer delivery date, which is what they're doing now for most of their projects. It's now more like 15 months from campaign end, rather than three (which is what this one was). They would have set a higher funding goal as well, because the project really didn't pay for itself—I think they had expected some amount of underwriting (to be made up by sales of excess bits) but they had less leftover than planned at this particular number of orders. So, another lesson learned, though more on Game Salute's part than mine. This is, of course, one of the main reasons I didn't run the project on my own: at the cost of giving up direct control of the project to Game Salute, I also avoided losing thousands of dollars of my own money, not to mention the time and hassle putting everything together. Sure, I spent a lot of hours on coordinating things for the surprise bonus, but that was relatively small compared to the Game Salute staff.
Because this wasn't a normal project, we didn't get material proofs before the orders. I had some rough ideas of what we were getting, but I never got to see the final quality of the components until my own copies arrived. I didn't know what to expect as far as the tuckboxes, the blank rulebooks, and so on. When I'd specified a 4" mat for the 4-player version, I was expecting a thick cardboard tile—but for Game Salute "mat" meant that thick cardstock instead. It's a matter of miscommunication and my mistaken assumption that we were all on the same page. Most of the other components turned out about as I expected, though I'd been hoping for really nice, finished-quality cards. Those would have been less practical for making your own games as far as writing on them, but would have felt more like a real game with invisible art.
The box divider is pretty weak. In all honesty, that's something I hadn't even known was going to be in the box at all. I just figured it was going to be an empty box with stuff in it (and I expected the 4-player version to be a smaller box). The box manufacturer decided to include the divider, which is passable but certainly wasn't specially designed for this game. If you can't stand it, I advise you to just take it out and recycle it instead. I'm planning to fill up my box with a bunch of other components scavenged from other places, so I may not use the divider either.
The biggest problem by far with the finished product, in my opinion, is the quad-fold board that came in the 6-player and 8-player versions. If you've gotten yours, you probably opened it up and wondered what the heck you could possibly do with this thing. When I saw it, I went back to the November update and realized that it's in that photo, but at the time I hadn't noticed what exactly I was looking at. Of course, I'd hoped the backing would be white rather than black, but more importantly it should have had a front to it. As soon as I received my copy, I called Dan about it, knowing that everything was already in the process of being shipped. He actually hadn't seen them himself until then, and said that this isn't what they ordered. I don't know where the communication fail happened, but basically what we thought we were getting and what showed up at the warehouse (and got packed and shipped by people who didn't know any differently) were not the same thing.
While there's nothing at this point we can do about the late delivery, we CAN fix the boards. Dan told me he would order more boards from their manufacturer in China. There's still no guarantee that the backs will be white (though he promised to try), but they will be finished white boards, ready for you to mark up or sticker or use as a blank while playing Emperor's New Clothes. It'll take more time, of course, because for such a small order Game Salute will have to tack it onto whatever is currently getting printed and shipped from China, but when they arrive they'll be shipped to anyone who ordered the 4-player or 6-player version of the game. I appreciate the fact that Game Salute will be replacing the boards at their expense, and I hope the replacements will be satisfactory.
So now what?
Well, first I hope you'll try playing the game as intended: with the blank dice and cards, pre-stickering. If you feel up for it, try leaving out some of my rules and improvise more of the game. For those of you who backed the Emperor deluxe version, there are a lot of extra bits (more dice, some square tiles, and so on) that will let you do even more. Watch this video about the overall gameplay, and stay tuned for a video specifically about the various roles and how to score them.
Then, create your own games! I've seen a couple people tweet about their kids making up games, but this isn't just a kids' activity, either. For example, Amy Kraft of Media Macaroni wrote this post about the game her daughter created. It's actually the first photo I've seen of a finished Emperor's New Clothes custom game, and I love it. This is the sort of thing that makes it all worth it to me, finally getting to see that a box of blank bits can inspire somebody to make things.
And if you need a refresher on what the campaign was like a year ago, you can always visit the Hoke's Games blogspot page. Start here, and you'll get a glimpse at what the Kickstarter page looked like when it launched, and you can follow the updates in chronological order (which is harder to do on the Kickstarter page itself).
Finally, THANK YOU. It's been a crazy ride, and I'm honored that you took a chance on my ridiculous idea and helped make it a reality. I have other ridiculous ideas up my sleeve, but I think I'm going to let them simmer for a while until I've given Emperor's New Clothes a chance to live in the real world for a while.
Hello there everyone. Michael here with our final update for Emperor's New Clothes.
It's been something of a rollercoaster ride for us all when it comes to ENC. Jonathan's previous update is a must read, so do check it out here, but I'd just like to say thank you for your support on the campaign - even if you weren't entirely sure that the project was a real thing at times!
By now, all copies have been shipped out. International backers' copies are on their way, but if you've not heard anything from us please send an email to Kickstarter@GameSalute.com and we'll get everything sorted out for you.
Thank you all once again. We hope you enjoy the experience that is Emperor's New Clothes!
This project really wasn't supposed to take nearly as long as it did, though I suppose it's only appropriate that Emperor's New Clothes has been arriving in time for April Fool's Day. I guess with a campaign like this one, I might as well use the occasion to be serious for once. I know I stated when the campaign closed that what you were supporting wasn't primarily the box of bits, but the idea and the experience—but for a while there I'm sure you were wondering if the idea and the experience were all you were getting.
Now that you're finally starting to get these lovely white boxes in your hands, I hope we can recapture some of the excitement you felt a year ago. I've been playing my demo prototype set at conventions and it's been a blast, after overcoming the initial hesitation from new players. You'll face the same assumptions and expectations: people you don't know will assume you're just pulling their leg when you break out a box of blank cards and dice. But once you get past that fear of appearing foolish, that's when the magic happens.
I've been waiting for the games to be delivered before doing a post-mortem, going into more details about the real story behind everything, as well as examining what went wrong and mistakes I made in the process. Even within the past year, the culture of Kickstarter board games has continued to evolve, and I've learned many lessons about how the process works.
Remember, you can find the rules for Emperor's New Clothes on the Hoke's Games website. If you develop your own games using these bits and cards, please tell me about them (firstname.lastname@example.org or @hokesgames on Twitter) and I may include them in the list!
I also made this video explaining a little more about how to play the game:
Finally, I want to be sure that everybody got all the parts that were supposed to be there. Here are the parts lists for the various versions of the game. You may have elected ROOS (white) bits or TROO (colored) bits, but the total number of parts should be the same.
Hoke's on You: 1 Sticker sheet
The Swindler: 4-player version - 1 box, 1 sticker sheet, 36 cards in tuckbox, 1 4" square mat, 4 6-sided dice, 1 wooden pawn, 4 wooden disks, 30 wooden cubes, 1 medium "rulebook" (blank), 1 Roles Summary + something special
The Sycophant: 6-player version - 1 box, 1 sticker sheet, 54 cards in tuckbox, 1 18" quad-fold board, 6 6-sided dice, 1 wooden pawn, 6 wooden disks, 45 wooden cubes, 1 large "rulebook" (blank), 1 Roles Summary + something special
If you find you are missing anything, please contact Game Salute through this Kickstarter campaign or through their support page, and they will get things straightened out. Note: all reward tiers were missing approximately eight months of your life—unfortunately, this is out of stock and cannot be replaced. Please accept my sincere apologies and the something special in exchange—a meagre substitute, but one that I hope brings you some joy and surprise!
Ladies and gentlemen - you, the backers of Emperor's New Clothes, have undoubtedly been amongst some of the most patient people here on Kickstarter. You've been with us since the beginning, since other people thought that the whole project was just a joke. You've been here since those final hours where countless non-backers thought that we were going to pull the plug and say that yes, it was all a big joke.
ENC was never meant to be a joke. ENC was a real thing from the very beginning and YOU stuck with us. Sure, there were times when you may have thought you'd never get a package in the mail from us, but seeing that word in the subject header must be a relief for many of you.
Emperor's New Clothes is now shipping. Copies are landing on doorsteps around the world and more are being sent over these next couple of days.
We have one simple message for you. Thank You. For sticking with us through this project. For being part of it. For believing that it was actually going to happen, even if you may not have thought it at some points! We're sorry that it took so long to get to you guys, but we honestly wanted to get the very best product out to you - even if it was a box of blank pieces. Thankfully it turned out to be a very lovely box filled with very lovely bits, and if you haven't got it in your hands yet you should have it very soon.
Tell us when you get your copies! We can't wait to hear what you think!