Monday, March 28, 2016

Five or So Questions with Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor on Unbound

Hi all! Today I have an interview with Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor about their current game on Kickstarter, Unbound! I'll confess to actually being pretty excited about this one - I'll leave the explanation to the guys, but I will note that the art looks awesome and it sounds fun! Here's what Grant and Chris had to say about Unbound!

Tell me a little about Unbound. What excites you about it?

GRANT AND CHRIS, SIMULTANEOUSLY: The most exciting thing about Unbound, for us at least, is the way that it rewards our GMing style - which is to say, extremely low prep, high improvisation. Neither of us like spending hours doing work for a game only to have the players walk in and make it up as they go along - so we thought "Why can't we write a game that lets the GM act like another player?" So that's kind of what we've come up with. There's no setting, because we don't like reading reams and reams of setting text (and we wanted it to be flexible), and at no point does the GM have to sit down and do anything arduous. Everything happens live, from the character creation to the world creation to the game-to-game running of the story as it advances forward. Everything happens in up-time.

Two of my favorite things to do in games are 1) punching things, and 2) jumping through windows. Can I do these things in Unbound, and if so, HOW?

GRANT: 100% on both counts. Punching things is an important and healthy part of any good game of Unbound, and jumping through windows has certainly come up in every game of it I've played. The combat is handled with a deck of playing cards per player, which they use to determine whether or not their attacks hit and also as hit points - when they're out of cards, they're out of the fight. We've found that representing health as a big stack of cards that players deal out of really visualises damage, and we've had people get quite upset when we attack them in combat because it feels so visceral. (I think the best role for punching is probably the Brawler, as they specialise in long, drawn-out melee when surrounded by too many enemies.)

We don't have quite as many rules for jumping through windows as we do for punching, but we can certainly abstract the idea of a window (and you jumping through it) in our combat system by denoting an connection between two areas as challenging - so it becomes a sort of skill test to get through it without taking harm. Also we have a power called Kick In The Door, which means you inflict extra damage on the turn you enter a room, and I definitely think that could apply to windows, too.

How do you accommodate multiple settings while maintaining a consistent system feel?

GRANT: It's been tricky! We've tied everything together with our pulpy battle system, I think, so that no matter where your game ends up it'll still, essentially, be a game about a group of dangerous people going around 1) punching things and 2) jumping through windows. But, importantly, we've done our best to keep everything evocative and exciting, but not explicitly tied to one place, time or idea. So we have Deadeyes, say, as one of the roles - and Deadeyes are people who are good at ranged combat, but that covers everyone from fantasy elven archers to Wild West gunslingers to space-suited recon scouts to magic-missile toting wizards to a dude with a hawk to someone that, I dunno, uses a nightmare science device to create furious clones of himself that have a life measured in seconds and tear his enemies to shreds.

It's been a real challenge to keep the abilities exciting whilst essentially setting-free, and I'm really proud of what we've managed to achieve. We've built something that draws players in with some cool effects and powers, but that they have to put their own mark on.

The traits - extra bonus powers that flavour your character's actions in and out of combat - go a long way to helping people define whattheir setting is about, how magical or unreal it is, how gritty it is. If you get a group picking Captain and Mighty Weapon and Rage and Dirty Fighting, you can tell that they're veering towards a different world from that of a group that chooses Transform and Shadows and and Fire and The Unnatural. So rather than trying to write different setting packs that make the game "Sci-Fi" or "Fantasy" or whatever, we give people the option to build their setting out of parts organically - Aura, a power that gives allies in the character's area certain benefits has a different flavour in a technomagic sci-fi setting (protective amulets powered by silicon demons) to when it's in a modern military thriller (shouted orders, small-unit tactics, self-sacrifice etc). But! We ARE doing setting packs for stretch goals in the Kickstarter, because we're kind of excited to write some more specific rules.

There are a number of setting-neutral games out there - what makes Unbound different?

GRANT: Well, there's the playing card thing! Pretty much everyone else uses dice. But aside from novelty, it gives each player a history of their character because we get them to write on the cards - lasting injuries, ongoing villains, lessons learned, stories experienced and so on. (We used to have people tear up cards when they went out of action because it felt really... squicky to do it, and that acted as a bonding experience. But it messed with the odds of the game too much to be a viable thing, so we've shelved that to use in something else.)

What else? I think it comes down to our world creation, as we mentioned above. When everyone sits down at the start of the adventure, no-one has to have an idea of what they're playing - not even the GM. We've set it up so that everyone builds the setting together, and plots out future scenes together, and works out what's going on in the world through a series of questions bound to character choices. Everything goes towards making a world that's tied to these characters, and vice-versa - it's a world as seen through the lens of people, not omnipotent creators, so it tends to generate more mysterious places and histories that people are eager to explore. (For example: we've got a Dirty Fighting power where you set an area on fire to give yourself an edge in battle, and if they choose it the player has to tell the GM what the most beautiful thing that their character's ever destroyed is. And, like: what was it? Who did that affect? Does the character feel bad about it? Does the owner want revenge?)

While coordinating to design Unbound, how did you set priorities for the system functions (fiddly mechanics to social mechanics), and what did each of you bring to the table in regards to design skill and knowledge?

GRANT: We didn't really set priorities, I guess? We decided, when I moved to the US in January 2015, that we should do some work on a game with each other over Skype to try and stay something approaching sane, and it ended up sticking; what started out as a weird dice system evolved over eight different iterations and hundreds of, if not a thousand, hours of work, into the thing you see today. (We've always had core, role, and trait, though - the three building blocks have always been the same.) A lot of the mechanical aspects of UNBOUND are combat related - almost all of them, really, with non-combat stuff being much broader and using a looser, more universal system tied around abstracted action and reaction more than the fine-tuned blow-by-blow of combat. Not that we're not proud of the dramatic scene resolution, mind, we've got some great play out of that. But I've often found that mechanical specificity in social scenes can really knacker the pacing and flow, so I'd rather build something flexible than something where you have to run the numbers on a conversation to see if it's a viable option.

In terms of design skill and knowledge, I'm definitely the writer of the two of us, so I'm in charge of putting all the words in the right order; we'll hash out rough rules together in a shared document over voice chat, and then I'll tighten up the wording and Chris will double check it. And, honestly, I think the biggest thing that I've got from Chris is a design safety net - where, in the past, I've built very safe, symmetrical systems in my games, this is the first time I've tried to make a serious game with lots of interlocking rules. He's given me the opportunity to try something weird and interesting and to encourage me if it's good, or tell me in no uncertain terms why it's bad. We have a great working relationship. I reckon I'd probably be married to him if we fancied each other.

CHRIS: We didn't set any hard and fast priorities when we began. I had a few goals that I wanted to reach. I wanted a combat system that gave me some chunky rules and combinations of actions and abilities. It had to feel fun as soon as you picked it up, but have an optional layer of complexity under that for me to get my teeth into. I've always loved really rules heavy combat systems for the sheer joy of sliding all of the mechanics and numbers in to place and making a character shine. Unbound also had to allow you to bring what you wanted to the table every game. From the social and skill based scenes, through combat, and even at the first moment you sit down and build a world with your friends. Everything had to provide a framework for that collaborative storytelling.

All of Unbound was written collaboratively which has given us the ability to lay out all sorts of rules that either went straight in the book, thrown away, or modified as we went on. I am certainly not a writer, I'm no where near the skill level Grant has. My talents lie more in the systems and mechanics of the game. So I'd make a new power, and it would be utilitarian. It functions and fits in a theme and performs its role. Grant then comes along and makes it sound like the best ability you've ever read and you simply have to have it for your character. We balance each other out nicely, when either of us wrote anything that wasn't up to standard it got flagged in the document in a lurid red colour and a less than positive comment got attached. Writing together allowed Grant to make a game that maybe he wouldn't have even tried writing before and to rein me in when I started making complicated tables out of everything.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

GRANT: So what I think I'm really excited to see is what happens after this - and not just from us, but from other designers, too. I've not played anything quite like UNBOUND before, nor have I read anything quite like it, and while we're drawing on a lot of good sources of inspiration for our mechanics, I've not seen this combination. But we're just scratching the surface of what we can do with the systems we've created, and I can't wait to see what happens when other people start getting their hands on it. As in: how can we play with marking cards? How can we play with the way that the GM builds a sort of character for themselves, out of adversaries, factions and twists? What can we do to mechanically track the progress of a saga throughout all the adventures within? We've done some great work on this but I'm buzzed to see what happens if people start picking up our design, our philosophies, and running with them. In video game terms: if UNBOUND is Assassin's Creed, I want to see what our Shadow of Mordor is. I want to see if this can catch on and what that means for games in the future.

I'm really excited to see the final product of Unbound, and you can help make that happen! Check out the game on Kickstarter now to learn more about the game!

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Five or So Questions with Josh Jordan and Caitlynn Belle on Singularity

Today I have an interview with Josh Jordan and Caitlynn Belle on their larp that is currently on Kickstarter, Singularity. There are only a few days left on the Kickstarter, but hopefully this interview will tell you a bit about the project and pique your interest!

Tell me a little about Singularity. What excites you about it?

Josh: Singularity is a larp for 4-6 players that emulates a dating game show set in the the transhuman future. I am excited about it for more than one reason. I like that it allows us to play an episode of a dating game show. I think that's a fun format for a one-shot game that I haven't seen before. I like it because setting it in the transhuman future allows me to play characters from a hugely diverse list of human and post-human people. And I like it because I think my co-designer, Caitlynn Belle, is particularly talented at making games about tense human relationships and explorations of personal identity.

What elements of transhumanism are brought forward strongest in Singularity?

Josh: In Singularity, characters are not necessarily human. Though most of them had human bodies when they were born, they now have a variety of physical forms. Basically, the characters exist in a universe where the human body is optional. You can choose your own body to match your sense of identity. Whether that's an uplifted tortoise, a humanoid composed of pure electricity, an android, an abandoned planet, or something else entirely, you choose to define yourself, and you can conform your body to that identity.

Caitlynn: Mostly the idea of changing yourself and no longer needing to rely on standard conventions of what a human being is. We've purposefully kept the majority of the topic out of the game and focused on the technology to change who you are, to bring yourself more in line with the ideal soul within yourself.

When designing games about relationships, particularly larps, what do you think are the most important elements?

Josh: Player safety and comfort are the most important. Then of course, preparing and monitoring to make sure that the players are having fun. After that, being true to the theme of the game itself.

Caitlynn: Figuring out how a relationship actually works and trying to deliver the tools to help players convey that. We have a very romanticized version of how marriage or relationships work via the media we consume, and it's important to try to transcend that and deliver a more honest experience. The core of a relationship is defined, I think, by how people work together and what they're willing to go through and still stick it out. If you're trying to make a game about how people interact with romance and sexuality, you have to take into account that they're people, with their own quirks and hang-ups about love, sex, gender, ethics, and so on. It's putting two personalities together and see where they stick and where they repel, and finding out what happens when they can't make those things compatible.

Another important thing is safety, because a relationship is trust and love and carries certain connotations and baggage with it, and may sometimes elicit strong memories from players. You have to make sure people are ready.

Tell me a little about the structure of Singularity. How does the game flow?

Josh: Allow me to answer that by first showing you the Table of Contents. It follows the order of the game itself, so it should give you an idea of how the game flows.

Pre-Show Directions
  • Pitch
  • Setup
  • Rules
  • Opening
  • Round Table
  • Second Dates
  • Decision Debrief
During the pre-show directions, players talk about what the game is supposed to be and what they need to do to choose characters and prepare to play. They also talk about safety rules and boundaries, so that no player feels unsafe, and so that any player who begins to feel unsafe knows what to do. The players are there to support each other and make sure everyone is doing okay.

During the actual game, which the book calls the Screenplay section, the format is very much like an episode of a dating show, followed by a player debrief. The Host opens the show and introduces the characters. The Star meets all the Contestants at a round table group date. The Star takes each Contestant on a separate second date. Then the Star talks with the Host and makes her final decision of who to pursue a relationship with.

Caitlynn: One player takes on the role of host, facilitating the entire game, while everyone else plays contestants on a dating show. One is the star, and the others are trying to win their affection. There's a round of introductions, then a first date, where everyone plays a scene in a nightclub or bar or somewhere and they discuss who they are and what matters to them.

After that, players work together to improvise stories about a second date, making it up on the fly. The host will try to interject and draw conflict out of it. Then, after about an hour of play, you've got these characters who have put everything about themselves on the table, who are excited that this person is into this thing, but are nervous because they're opposed to that thing, and finally the star has to make a tough decision and decide who is important for them.

Does Singularity have any built-in safeguards for safe, respectful play?

Josh: Yes, the section of the book entitled "Rules" is all about safe, respectful play. Before the players get in character, they discuss which topics should be off-limits, expectations for physical touch during the game (SPOILER: There doesn't need to be any physical touch during the game), three things they can do when they feel uncomfortable during the game, and what to do when they think another player looks uncomfortable.

Caitlynn: We talk a lot in the setup about safe practices and techniques - cut and brake, the door is always open, and so on. There's a whole section dedicated to making sure people understand they're free to walk away at any time and that we all exist as a group to make this a fun experience for all.

Despite the characters being a bit strange, they're really just very surreal takes on identity and gender, so we talk about making sure you're addressing those things respectfully and the role you have in making it work successfully for everyone. Safety and good times are huge concerns!

What do you think is the most valuable thing someone can get out of the experience in playing Singularity?

Josh: That's a good question. I don't want to limit what you get out of the game or tell you that if you don't feel X, you're not playing right. But I hope that by playing Singularity, you have at least a moment of empathy for people who struggle with identity issues in real life. Maybe you are like me and have always had a strong sense of who you are. That's great, but not everyone is like that. Or maybe you have a sense of identity, but the society where you live doesn't value you or your identity. Playing a game of Singularity can give you moments of empathy with people who are either A. still figuring out who their are or B. being told by their neighbors that their identity isn't worth much.
TL;DR I hope you get out of it whatever you want, but our intent to explore issues of identity. Especially identity in the context of looking for romance.

Caitlynn: That these people exist. Trans, non-binary, queer, or what have you. They're a part of our community, and even outside of that, a part of our society. The big goal with this game was to help characters find connections across differing creeds, cultures, ideas, identities, and genders, to show that even the people we hate or distrust, they're still people. We're all human in the end.

Thank you to Caitlynn and Josh for their responses, and make sure to check out Singularity on Kickstarter!

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Five or So Questions with Fred Hicks on Evil Hat Crowdfunding

In the indie publishing scene, there are some companies trying out new business models for funding and production. One recent model is being implemented by Evil Hat, the company behind Fate Core and the Dresden Files RPG.  When Evil Hat's most recent Kickstarter pulled in over 7 times its original goal, I knew I had to find out more. I spoke to one of the main guys at Evil Hat, Fred Hicks, who gave some insight into the company's plans for using crowdfunding for game releases and supplements.

Tell me about the model for Evil Hat's crowdfunding plans this year. What inspired the development, and what excites you about moving forward?

When we were reviewing how the company did financially in 2015 — good, stable, nothing to be worried about, but not particularly stellar when compared to our best years — we realized that we had fatigued a bit on running crowdfunds and then had let that conceal how much crowdfunding was a component of our budget in our best years.

We're past the fatigue now, and based on past performance, we figure our good average number of big crowdfunds (not counting the ongoing Patreon) is two per year. With one in 2015, we decided 2016 would be where we play catch-up and aim to run at least three. (Honestly we could probably do four, but that fourth is for a card game and those can be a bit "grindy" if you don't have a lot of fire and heat on them, so we need to do our big, definite fire-and-heat card game KS this year and see how that affects our audience & presence in the board & card game category. Also our fantastic backers might shoot us if we try to do four in one calendar year, so best to move that possibility to 2017, for now.)

The Kickstarter we're running right now — ending in about 24 hours from the time I'm saying this, mid-day on February 10th — is Fate More: From Bits to Books. This is "Fate More Part 1", which is to say we'll be running a "Fate More Part 2" KS later. These could have been combined to make a single campaign, but we came to realize that we had two separate groups of things we wanted to do with a sequel-to-Fate-Core campaign, and getting the two halves to play well with each other in one campaign would have been tricky. (More on that in just a bit.)

There's also a concern, I think, with making sure we don't ask too much of our backers at one time, and that we avoid aiming too high on a "sequel" campaign. I've seen time and again that follow-up campaigns often don't pull nearly as much as the original one, and Fate Core's was positively stratospheric.

As it happens, Fate More: From Bits to Books (I'm gonna just start saying FM1 from here on out) has done really well vs. its goals — we're reaching towards $60k right now, and will probably end at least in the mid-$60k range, if yesterday's performance continues. But it's not Fate Core's $433k, and some folks in the middle of the campaign talked about how that wasn't a success for Fate More. I heartily disagree! Our base funding goal for two books, and three additional books beyond that, have already been hit, and I was honestly only aiming at the first four books as reasonably-sure. We got there pretty early on. The remaining three books — hardcover compilations of Worlds from our Patreon project — were more of a question mark, a "do people actually want this sort of book?" query meant to be answered by the backers' choices. And that means any range of possible answers are "correct" and good for our intended goals, whether that answer is "nope, don't do the compilations" or "holy shit PLEASE DO THEM".

So we've already been well past our victory conditions for the campaign for a few weeks now, back in the $35-40k range. :)

At any rate, FM1 is all about taking our digital stuff that's ready to go to print, and getting it into print. This includes a few new releases, as well as pre-existing, already-released-in-digital content. I prioritized and ordered the stretch goals such that the new releases came first, and like I said, folks just blasted right through those. Folks like new. Plus, by focusing in on stuff which was ready or nearly-ready to go to press, we'd have a very short time period between the KS funding and getting those books shipped — we expect to have them in backer hands by June at the latest, with the titles hitting distribution early into Summer. In this sense, FM1 is "Fate Now", the stuff that we're focused on delivering to people in the present, that we want to see in print, on shelves, this year.

Fate More Part 2 (FM2) is the one that looks forward, to the future. It'll have a stronger new-digital-content focus and will ask more questions that our backers will help us answer. FM2's focus will be on kicking off new projects, and expanding the overall Fate Core line in some new directions. We're still firming up exactly what that looks like (with some projects already underway, because it's good to have something ready to give to backers at launch), so please forgive my vagueness here. :) We're aiming to make FM2 happen in the Summer.

But between those two campaigns is our April-or-May one, that may be the big one this year if we can reach the right people: we're going to be crowdfunding the printing and expansion of the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game. You can read more about it on our website — I've played and demo'd the game dozens of times, and it's tense, fun, and really serves the Dresden Files fans well. We're in the middle of getting art done for the cards, which is the main hold-up at this point, aside from the usual KS preparations — a campaign video, a teach video, polishing and editing the rulebook. This is probably the campaign I'm the most scared about — in a fun-scared sense — simply because I don't know how big it could go, or how fast, or how well we'll connect with the novels' fans, backers, and boardgame fans. I've got a lot of hope, there. We've put out a series of solid card & board games over the past couple years, but we're not really on the map yet. This one has a chance to put us on the map. Maybe even light the map on fire. We'll see!

What are the biggest challenges you've encountered, from a business and marketing perspective, for promoting this project plan and getting the wheels on the ground, so to speak?

Expectations, possibly. Fate Core's KS sets a high bar, and the Fate-focused backer-audience might be expecting us to clear that kind of crazy thing every time. But that KS was a special snowflake; I think Fate More's performance is the calmer, saner, and more typical one between the two, and that's just fine. But Fate Core's KS is also why we have a 10,000-member mailing list we can promote the new Kickstarter to. So in that sense, we're already well past finding our core audience, marketing-wise, for Fate stuff. And we got that audience back in 2013 for Fate Core because we'd spent ten years (!)building the Fate audience and community in the first place. So a lot of the challenges you're talking about are really hurdles that we've cleared in the past.

There's also a communications dimension to this sort of thing that's a little challenging. I'm hugely transparent in how I run the business — Jeff Tidball would say (!)pathologically transparent, and that's a fair cop — but that doesn't mean that people automatically understand the business reasons and dynamics that go into parceling out the things we want to do (to push Fate forward) into two separate KS campaigns.

FM1 is heavily focused on print, but a lot of our audience is very digitally oriented, so I think some folks have felt a bit confused, and it was important to get out in front of that and both talk about how FM2 is going to be more for them,and make sure that to the extent FM1 has a digital component, that it is at least somewhat compelling to them.

I think I managed it, tho it wasn't really until the announcement of our "Extra Goals" in the middle of the campaign (which focus on releasing more of our content into open licensing) that I really hit the right spectrum-breadth for our digital fans. It's nuts: for a heavily print-focused campaign, half of our Fate More backers are only in at the digital tiers. But while they're 50% of the population, they're only about 15% of the revenue at last count; print is still king as far as money-making goes.

Can you talk a little bit about how this crowdfunding project plan meshes with the Patreon funding and development?

Patreon has been about funding the development of the Fate Worlds of Adventure content, but not the manufacture. The Patreon paid for the writing, editing, development, and the biggest cost, art. But that's all it could cover. Putting that content into a physical book costs as much or more than all of those costs combined, at least at our scale. (Print on demand is another matter, but I'm often unsatisfied by print on demand for color interior books.)

So Fate More: From Bits to Books is the manufacture portion, as far as the Patreon content goes (it's also the manufacture portion as far as some digital-only Fate Core KS content goes, with Do and Young Centurions). And there, we've chosen to go for compilation books, four worlds in each hardcover volume, rather than the individually printed softcover worlds we did for Secrets of Cats, Save Game, Aether Sea, and Romance in the Air haven't managed to see sales strong enough to justify the relatively minor cost of printing them. I really love the format — $10 softcovers, 40ish to 60ish pages, full color interiors — but the market hasn't really responded. Could be twofold, and the funded volume(s) from the KS will help us figure out if that's a format-driven lack of interest (do our fans want more stuff in one book? do they want their color interiors to have hard covers?), or a general lack of interest in adventure/light setting content beyond the digital market.

What do you think are some of the key items leading to continued success with both this Kickstarter and your products related to Fate in general?

It's those ten years I mentioned earlier. We started growing the Fate community — almost accidentally, but we were doing it! — just past the turn of the century. During that time up to 2013, there wasn't any Evil Hat originated for-pay Fate book; just Spirit of the Century and, eventually, the Dresden Files RPG, following an earlier-edition digital-only free PDF generic version.

By the time we got ten years deep we had plenty of pent up demand in the community for a core, setting-free Fate book. And that gave us momentum enough to make the Fate Core KS huge and then carry past that into the market at large.

Being able to get out there with Fate-related stuff, like our Fate Dice line, has really helped too, in terms of smoothing out the company's revenue stream. Fate Dice sell very steadily and fill in some of the gaps that book-driven releases can't.

And there's the Patreon, which has let us produce a steady stream of digital releases even in years where we put out very few physical products (hello, 2015).

We've continued our commitment to open content too, which has helped create some Fate focused opportunities for third party publishers out there.

And finally, when we run our KSes, we have our eye on creating products that outlive their Kickstarters.

For one, it's easy to fall into a trap where the Kickstarter is such a good deal, nobody's really motivated to seek out the product without the Kickstarter involved. We don't do early bird specials in the reward tiers, or really any kind of discounting on the products; we sell them at the price they'd sell for in a gamestore. That preserves good retailer relations and makes sure we don't undercut the value of our product.

We also make sure to focus on producing excess inventory we can sell in distribution, but funded by the campaign; that makes sure we're in a fairly low risk footing when it comes to the post-KS discovery of whether or not we reached 25% or 100% of our potential audience through the campaign. There's no way to really assess that aside from shipping your stuff and hoping it sells. Smart budgeting: it's a thing.

With Fate Core, I managed to size our printables such that I printed roughly double of what the Kickstarter population demanded of each product (tho sometimes that multiplier was higher simply b/c there's a minimum number of copies I wanted to print of any one given thing so I can spread it around usefully in distro). So that meant I ended up shipping up to half of what I printed, and had half left over to sell through distro, with the KS's funding of each print goal covering the total print cost of that item.

Worked out pretty well — and concentrated and excited enough of our audience that we've even had to go into reprintings of Core and Accelerated in the time since the KS.

How have you worked internally with your teams to really build a solid concept of how this program will work and get them all on board? After all, if you can't get your people on it, getting customers on it could be even harder.

I presume I am not the smartest guy in the room, and surround myself with people who are smarter than me in their areas of specialty. I make sure to learn from every mistake and listen to my smartfolks' advice, especially when they're telling me that I'm doing something wrong or that we need to shift focus. One of the earliest bits of advice I got from Chris Hanrahan, the first smart person I brought on board, was something he told me to do during the Fate Core KS's insane explosion of activity and funding: get a project manager.

That brought in Sean Nittner, and Sean proceded to make sure we got our shit organized. That let me continue to pursue the things I do best for the business, while someone else was entirely focused on making sure that projects happened, that vision was defined and examined up front on every project, and then communicated to each projectmember at kickoff. And let me tell you, compared to me on that sort of thing, Sean is a super genius and I am... somewhere around a field mouse in terms of intellect. The guy gets how to make a team work on a level I never really did. If I'd been clever enough to get him on board five years earlier, the Dresden Files RPG probably would have come out in 2008 instead of 2010.

At any rate, it means that I don't have to examine (and be responsible for) process; I can focus on implementation. And so can everyone else. Project managers, like editors, are worth their weight in gold. No, gold's too cheap. Platinum? Something radioactive? I dunno. A lot.

Chris and Sean have made more recommendations since — including bringing on Carrie Harris as our head of marketing, another soooper genius — and I've done my best to follow every one of them. It's too bad these folks don't play a sport like they help me run the company, because they'd be at the top of their game and making bank.

(Lest you think I'm leaving him out, Rob Donoghue, my co-founder, remains involved as well, but with life distractions and a day job and so forth his job at Evil Hat is more about safeguarding the soul of the company and making sure we keep in mind what we should do along all the stuff we're figuring out we can do. That, and nothing I've ever done with Evil Hat would've been possible without his support and encouragement. You know. Little things.)

Anyway, vis a vis your question, I think what all that amounts to is that I've focused on working with these guys to make sure we really have our shit together at the top/leadership level of the company. Poor leaders make for unhappy or unengaged or confused freelancers and that's a recipe for poor products and a general lack of enthusiasm.

Plus, I pay people on time, very quickly, and at the time they get their work done rather than making them wait for when the thing they wrote (or whatever) sees publication. Because that's just the right damn thing to do. :) (Note from Brie: This is true! Evil Hat pays on time, quickly, and fair wages. A+!)

Is there anything else you'd like to share about this project that would give people insight into the spirit of the idea?

Insight into the spirit, hmm. Well, going into this, I knew we were taking on a challenge of sorts. The Fate audience is growing, but it's probably really composed of several smaller overlapping groups divided up (tho "divided" really feels like an over-strong word there) into clusters around preferred product formats, preferred product types. I knew we weren't aiming the campaign at all of those clusters equally. I tried to touch on each of them — something for the digital fans, the open content fans, etc — but it was primarily for the folks looking to put some new books on their gaming shelves, the bibliophiles. I'm really proud of how it has performed given that challenge, because it's clear that the fans who weren't as well-served were still quite willing to show up and lend their support. It's my hope that Summer's Fate More 2, the future-directions-focused one, shifts the balance around a bit and satisfies those who weren't as engaged by this one. FM1 gave us a great start to 2016; FM2 will come around in time to give us a big boost through the rest of the year and heading into 2017. If they all work out pretty well, we may have a solid pattern for us to repeat in the years beyond as our catalog continues to grow. Lots of question marks ahead: I'm excited to start answering them, with a little help from the fans. :)

Thanks so much to Fred (and Evil Hat!) for sharing the perspective and plans for Evil Hat's future with crowdfunding! There is a lot here that could be valuable for new developers and publishers, so I hope everyone enjoys it. You can find more on Evil Hat's games on their website, and Fred's regular thoughts on gaming and development on his blog

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