Update Posted by Jonathan Liu, Designer
WE MADE IT!
Thanks to everyone who helped us get to 100%! The graph above shows you our current progress.
Now that we've hit our basic goal we can announce the stretch goals, and we're actually pretty close to the first one: at $6,000 we'll add in another character, The Jester, and at $7,000 we'll put in The Mother. I'll tell you a little more about each of these when we add them, plus I realized I haven't gone back and told you about the starting set of characters yet, so I'll fill those in as we go. But today we've already got a full update: a Q&A with Jamey Stegmaier, introducing artist Meg Hunt, and another designer diary entry about storytelling!
"I Backed a Backer" on Stonemaier Games
Jamey Stegmaier ran a terrific Kickstarter campaign for his wine-making board game Viticulture, and since then has been running a series of "Kickstarter Lessons" on the Stonemaier Games website. They're quite good and I've tried to follow some of his advice (though for some of it, I admit, I was just in too much of a hurry). He also has a few pieces called "I Backed a Backer," where he talks about a project created by somebody who backed Viticulture. Today, I get to be that backed backer! Here's a little Q&A I did with Jamey.
Meet the Artist: Meg Hunt
A few years ago I stumbled across a website called the Picture Book Report, in which fifteen artists created illustrations for their favorite books, just as a way to build up a portfolio, celebrate stories they loved, and (they hoped) find paid work through this exposure. The "chief ringleader" of the Picture Book Report was Meg Hunt, who did a series of pieces on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, one of my own favorite books. Her illustration of Alice falling down the rabbit hole is pictured here.
The Picture Book Report ran for about a year, at which time Meg decided to wrap it up because artists had moved, people had found work, and Meg was moving into the next phase of her life as an illustrator. Fast forward to today, and Meg's work can now be found in lots of places, from Radiolab to the Cartoon Network to Disneyland. Her illustrations are richly detailed and call to my mind fairy tales and fables, and I'm also fond of her hand-lettering skills (although we won't definitely get to use those in this particular project).
You can visit Meg's website to see some of her other work, but we're excited to have her on board!
Designer Diary: Weaving a Tale
I'm not an RPG player. I missed out on that growing up and by the time that I met a lot of cool people who appreciated the value of RPGs, I was already deep into my board game hobby (and a parent) and it was hard to work long campaigns into my life. So I'm not great at games that involve storytelling and improvisation—I'm a mechanics geek. I love finding a cool new way to play games.
But as I play more and more board games, I'm starting to gravitate toward two things: quick, casual games and games with a great story. In today's update, I'd like to focus on the topic of storytelling in games. (We'll talk casual games later.)
RPGs are about immersing the players in a story. It's right there in the name: role-playing. You play a role, and together with the other players and the Game Master, you weave a tale that engages you for a few hours … or many hours. Of course, there are mechanics and dice and lots of rules, but these are there to facilitate the storytelling, to give consistency to the world you are building collectively.
There are many other games that incorporate storytelling to varying degrees. Some have more structure, more "game" rules, while others just give you a basic framework and leave the heavy lifting to your imagination. Fiasco can be hilarious when played with the right people, but I'm not as good at thinking on my feet and my acting falls flat.
That's why I'm excited about games like Storm Hollow, which uses storytelling but provides a lot of dice and boards to walk me through the story with lots of hints. Level 99 Games' Infinity Dungeon is another one that's built on short, silly stories that take place within a specific framework. Three games I'm currently backing on Kickstarter—Machine of Death, Story War, and Superfight!—now take similar approaches: the cards seed the story, but you and your fellow players determine how it plays out. These games let me participate in some level of storytelling, but the game mechanics shoulder some of that weight for people like me.
My own shift toward storytelling games should be evident in Emperor's New Clothes. Yes, there are all the trappings of a conventional board game: dice, wooden bits, cards, a scoring track. But as you play the game, you are weaving a tale about swindlers and taking the Emperor for a ride. A key component of the game is your imagination (not included).
So why this transition?
As much as I love game mechanics, I've realized that a spiffy new mechanic is more fun when it's new, and less so as the novelty wears off. For instance, the deck-building mechanic introduced in Dominion is fantastic; it's one of my favorite mechanics and for a while I was thrilled to see so many game designers making use of it. But although I still play Dominion, I don't find individual games of it as memorable as some other deck-building games in which there's more of a plot as you play the game: Shadowrift, for instance, where the deck-building is used in service of defending a vulnerable city from hordes of monsters.
I still remember a game of Bang! in which I, as the Sheriff, lit the dynamite in an attempt to blow up my last opponent, the Renegade. I probably could have waited him out: I had more equipment, more health. But I liked the idea of playing this wild card, lighting the fuse and playing hot potato with it. Well, my plan backfired and I blew myself up, losing to the Renegade. But although I lost the game, I did get a really fun story out of it, one that I'll remember for a long time.
For Emperor's New Clothes, I wanted a game in which the story is central. Playing the game isn't just a matter of tediously carrying out some set of instructions and scoring points. No, when you play Emperor's New Clothes, the Swindlers should really feel a stake in duping the Emperor; the Emperor should really feel embarrassed at being fooled; the Child should really feel indignant when pointing out that there's nothing to see.
My game, like others, has dice and cards and boards and wooden cubes. What distinguishes games from each other, even when they have similar mechanics or components, is their stories. In a sense, without a good story, there's really no game at all.