Update Posted by Jonathan Liu, Designer
Hi! I'm afraid I'll probably have to stick to non-video updates from now on but we do have a special video today, down in the Designer Diary section, which is about Taking Humor Seriously. We also have another artist to introduce!
First, though, a few fun things: If you're a BoardGameGeek user, you can now get an Emperor's New Clothes microbadge! Designed by BGG user entwife (Kim Williams), the microbadge lets others know that you're a fan of the game. It got me thinking that perhaps we need some Twitter and Facebook avatars as well, so we have three choices: One with the fig leaf in the shield, one with just the leaf, and one with just the cover art, sans logo:
Also on BGG, a few industrious fans have taken it upon themselves to create fan-made expansions. You'll find those in the "Files" section of the BGG listing. Oliphant has created a solo variant called "Lonely at the Top" and a horror-themed version called "Robe of the Cthulhu!" (As you may know, I'm not as well-versed in the Lovecraft mythos myself, but this is a fun twist on the story.) Meanwhile, Haoran has created "Emperor's Ninja Clothes" for those of you who like ninja. No pirates yet!
Stretch Goal #4 Unlocked!
Yesterday we also broke through the $9,000 mark, so let me tell you about the three new Townsfolk that will be added to the game.
First up is the Seamstress. Since people trust the Seamstress when it comes to matters of clothing, her state (duped or not) has a stronger influence on all the other characters. If the Seamstress is duped, then everyone else is automatically one step closer to being duped. But if she isn't duped, then each character can discard one "dupe" resource cube when the roles are revealed.
Next we have the Fisherman—and like any good fisherman, ours likes to tell whoppers. What this means that the Fisherman acts almost like a third swindler. Whether or not the Fisherman is duped himself, he tells the people around him that the Emperor's clothes are spectacular, and he gets to add "dupe" resource cubes to two other players when the roles are revealed, before scoring takes place.
Finally, there's the Farmer. He's not so interested in fancy clothes or in what other people think, and he's pretty certain that he's fit for his position. On the other hand, everyone does seem to be making a fuss over the Emperor. He ends up staying silent on the matter: he hasn't been fooled, but he's going to keep his mouth shut. If the Emperor wants to prance around in his birthday suit, well, that's his business. The Farmer gets to discard any "duped" resource cubes for free; however, this is balanced by lower scoring opportunities for turning in dignity points.
That fills out the roles unlocked by the stretch goals. Since I haven't gone into detail about the base characters that were already in the game to begin with, I'll be introducing those as we continue. I should also have some news for you soon about some more add-ons, but I'm waiting to hear back from the folks we're partnering with.
Oh, one more thing. We've increased the Early Bird level in the Swindler package. Wysiayg Press has contracted with another printer to expand their ROOS capabilities and we can print an additional number of the compact game by our August delivery date.
Meet the Artist: John Green
John Green is the illustrator of the graphic novels Teen Boat! and Jax Epoch and the Quicken Forbidden, both co-created with writer Dave Roman. He often draws Phineas and Ferb comics for Disney and has done art for video games such as Puzzle Bots, Emerald City Confidential, and Nearly Departed. I know him mostly for Teen Boat!, which is a hilarious parody of that old '80s cartoon Turbo Teen. Remember that one? It was about a kid who got melded to his sports car, and is able to transform into a car and back (at the most inopportune times, usually). Well, you can guess what T.B. turns into.
Jax Epoch is about a girl who follows a white rabbit (naturally) through an interdimensional portal, sort of an Alice in Wonderland in which Wonderland follows her back into the real world. You can see that John has the ability to pull off different styles:
John says: "I've always enjoyed board games and card games since I was a kid. Scrabble with my parents, Mille Bornes with my grandmother, Scotland Yard with friends, and of course other classics like Monopoly and Risk. My love of games has very much influenced my career: aside from comics I've done game design and art here and there for PC and PlayStation Home. But when I got my start designing computer games, for the Commodore 64 many moons ago, the games I first started making were variations of board games like Parcheesi and Checkers. I would pick and choose mechanics from familiar games and construct a new game narrative with my art. What I like about Emperor's New Clothes is it similarly uses game mechanics from a variety of types of board and card games, and it incorporates the narrative of the Emperor's New Clothes story to wonderful, and hysterical, visual effect."
Taking Humor Seriously
With the success of Geek & Sundry's TableTop, everyone is eager to have Wil Wheaton pick their game to be featured on the show. The show has been great at getting people to take another look at board games, and they've even declared March 30 International TableTop Day, encouraging people all over the world to play board games, celebrating gaming and inviting newcomers to the hobby. (I even posted my tips for hosting your own TableTop Day event on GeekDad yesterday.)
Well, any game played on TableTop gets a boost in awareness and sales, so of course when we were launching this Kickstarter campaign I called my publicist* and asked him to send the game to Wil Wheaton, hoping we could get his support. I was totally blown away when I got this call:
Publicist: Hey, we sent Emperor's New Clothes to Will, and he loved it! He said he'd be happy to record a video for your Kickstarter page.
Me [jumping up and down]: Wil Wheaton is going to record a video about my game?! AWESOME! I can't wait to see it! You're the best publicist ever!
Publicist: Um, sure! It's no big deal. He seemed pretty surprised that we sought him out, actually, and said he's not really comfortable on camera but he'd be willing to give it a shot.
Me [realization dawning]: Not really … comfortable … on camera?
Publicist: Yeah, but I think he did fine. I mean, he was incredibly busy so he didn't have time to do several takes, but I think it gets the message across.
Publicist: I'll send you the video soon!
Well, kids, this is why spelling is important and why sometimes you should conduct business in writing rather than over the phone. Still, I think the video ended up being an excellent introduction to my next topic.
The takeaway is this: If you have trouble seeing the ROOS, don't fret: gamer-blindness can be overcome.
Obviously the ROOS has raised a lot of questions about my campaign, because many people are watching the videos and seeing nothing but blank cards and white components, and they're waiting for me to unveil the artwork, while others understand that that part of the unveiling took place on the first day of the campaign.
So the question that many have asked is: what is this definition of "real gamer" that Wysiayg Press used when formulating the ROOS? Why not just make the game so that it can be seen by everyone? Isn't that being exclusive rather than inclusive? If I'm so gung-ho about bringing new people into the hobby, shouldn't I make games that are playable by everyone?
Whoa, whoa! That's a lot of questions there.
As mentioned in the Wysiayg Press video on the home page and in the AAAUGH video above, one of the key factors in the "true gamer" formula is a sense of humor. While many people think "real gamer" applies to long-time gamers or hardcore gamers, the truth is that there are many players who are new to the hobby or are only drawn to casual games who are more deserving of the term. In fact, in some cases it's those very long-time gamers or hardcore gamers that drive people away from gaming altogether, like when I get on my soapbox about choice when I hear somebody casually mention Candyland. ("Let it go, Jonathan. Let it go," says my wife.)
I think that in order to bring a wider audience to gaming, we need to have gamers who are open to teaching games to newbies and have a good sense of humor. Gaming is fun, and sometimes we (hardcore or long-time gamers) can forget that and take it too seriously. That's why TableTop is so great—when you watch that, you don't see a bunch of people arguing over the rules and pointing out technical flaws in the other player's strategy; you see a group of friends laughing and having fun, even when the game itself can be cutthroat and brutal. (I mean, I'm sure they edit out the parts where somebody storms off crying, right?)
So then, why not make a game that can be seen by everyone? Shouldn't I cast the widest possible net? Sure, there are some games that have hit that sweet spot: Settlers of Catan deserves acclaim for making so many fans, because it's hard to make a game that so many people will enjoy. But that doesn't mean that every game should try to please everyone. I happen to be a sucker for zombie games—I love playing Last Night on Earth, but it's not one that I push on everyone, because I know that some people are really sick of zombies. So does that mean nobody should make zombie games, because they don't have universal appeal? Certainly not! Because for people who do like zombies, those games have the potential to be even more beloved than something like Settlers of Catan.
Greg at 3DTotal Games has this post about expectations. When you look at a game's box or description, you should be able to tell whether this is a game for you. If you're not interested in an intense 3-hour-long game about the Cold War then Twilight Struggle is not for you—and it shouldn't look like it's for you. As Greg puts it, "displaying what sort of a game it is clearly on its box ensures that only players who are interested in these things will play it. The consequence of this is that a much greater proportion of people who play it love it."
I don't want people who won't love Emperor's New Clothes to play it. They'll be disappointed that they wasted money on a game they didn't like; negative ratings are worse than no ratings at all. Using this ROOS is one way of setting the proper expectations: if you like it, then you'll enjoy the game. If all you can see is a pile of white components, then this game isn't for you. It's not my intention to upset people who don't like the game—in fact, it's to prevent you from making a mistake that you'll regret later.
I've mentioned this to some people privately, and I think it bears repeating here. If you and your gaming group just see white components in the photos and videos, then the probability is high that the game will look pretty much the same when it arrives in August. Granted, the final components are subject to change (particularly with stretch goals) but otherwise it's a fairly good representation. Of course, between now and then (and, in fact, before the end of the campaign), there is time to work on your gamer-blindness so that you can see the ROOS for yourself. The last thing I want to do is for a bunch of people to back the project and then be upset when the game doesn't look any different in person as it does in photographs.
Humor is a weird thing, and hard to pin down. We don't all share the same sense of humor, and explaining a joke isn't likely to make it any funnier to the person who didn't like it the first time around. We've all heard that old saw about dissecting a frog. (But, hey, since the frog is dead anyway, we might as well take a closer look at what's inside, right?) These updates aren't my way of saying, "Hey, here's why you should be laughing!" but rather "Oh, you didn't mind that groaner I opened with? Then maybe you're a kindred spirit. Let's hang out! I've got some stories to tell you!"
As Will Whedon says in the video, "anyone can become a true gamer, regardless of age or background." Being a true gamer in that sense isn't a permanent state, but one that can shift and change over time. That friend of yours who insists on saying "AH-gri-CO-la" to rile you up just might end up being your ticket to overcoming gamer-blindness.
*I don't have a publicist. I just made up that conversation so I could blame the spelling error on somebody else. I know how to spell Wil Wheaton now.