Publishing games in the Internet era

tot_art2-300x199There is discussion that will never end and will always engage gamers – is KS good for the Industry? Are games from KS worse than games published by regular publisher? Should people buy games at KS or they should support their FLGS? There is so much discussion about KS and so many arguments.

There is one thing that no one argues.

KS games have best presentation of the product ever. In most cases people who put their product on KS do their job so much better than average regular publisher. Artwork, rulebook, previews, reviews, you call it, you’ll find it on the KS page.

I mention it in this shameless post because even though I am not at KS, I put so much effort presenting you the game before you buy it. I mention it in this shameless promotion post because me and my team put lot of time, effort and heart into providing you with best content possible. I mention it in this shameless way because I want you to go to Portal Games site and look at Tides of Time.

Presentation like on KS.

Published by a regular publisher.


Landing a Boeing 747 in a phone booth

tot_cards(this is guest post by Michał Walczak)

It’s just another average day at Portal Games. I work on new version of our next strategy game. I update rules, I print new cards for prototype, that kind of stuff. I love this job.

At some point Ignacy approaches me and shows me prototype of Tides of Time. Micro game about building macro civilization. Rules can be explained in 2 minutes, you play in 10 minutes and what is most crucial – you want to play again. I love it since the first game. ‘Where is a problem here?’, I ask.

Ignacy lays out cards on the table and shows me. There is 5 suits in the game. Some suits are scored more often. Player with three Libraries in hand will score less than player with three Towers. We need to balance this mess.

Numbers! Suits become numbers, everything changes like Matrix. I can sum up values, I can calculate probabilities, I can do math. Yeah, I love math. I turn on my laptop, I open Excel and I start to work. I am so excited.

Soon after Ignacy contacts me with Kristian Curla, designer of the game. And soon after I discover he is mathematician. He works at University. He knows math.

Oh, my. It will be hard to say that I just did some calculations and I know better. He is mathematician. He is shark in this pool.

Anyway, I start working. Towers can’t be stronger than Libraries. Red can’t be stronger than blue. A can’t be stronger than C. I know my job. I fixed everything, the game was balanced, suits were symetrical. Tides of Time fixed. Ignacy will be proud of me.

Actually he wasn’t. After we played he said something like ‘It’s boring. You broke the game. It’s not fun anymore.’

Fun. Yeah, I might forgot about fun factor element.

Ignacy wants cards that shake the game. Ignacy wants balance. Ignacy wants more types of cards. Ignacy wants it all on this 18 cards.

Basically he wants me to land Boeing 747 in a phone booth.

That’s what working at Portal is. Doing impossible. So I have math shark on Skype, I have Ignacy in the office. It’s time to work. It won’t be easy, but I will land this damn Boeing in a phone booth. Oh, yes, I will.

18 cards. Time for changes.
Card that scores if you don’t have all suits. Nope, too easy.
Card that works as wild suit. Nope, too easy.
Card that scores each suit you have majority in. Nope, too similar to other strategies already in the game.
Card that score if you have 3 non scoring cards. Nope, it is playing against the goal of the game.
Card that scores if you got more points than opponent. Nope, it’s snowball effect.
Card that copies other card. Nope…
Card that…

I don’t want to sound like complaining but this is hard. You have these ideas for cards, you come up with one idea after another, you put them on the table and you hear over and over ‘Nope. Trash it.’

At some point I was asked by Lucas when we are ready with the game. He needed to write rulebook. My answer was simple ‘I wish I know.’

We have time tables, we have scheduled work, we have releases planned for Gen Con or Essen, we try our best to do everything as planned. But above that, above planned release date, above marketing and buzz opportunities we have if we get the game for big fair, above all of that is just ‘Not good enough. Trash it.’ Mantra that keeps games on play testing tables as long as it is needed.

We wanted Tides of Time for Gen Con. We wanted it really badly. Gen con release is huge for every publisher on this planet. And yet, there was no single moment of me, Kristian or Ignacy saying ‘Stop trashing. We need to go to production stage”. We had layout. We had artwork. We had box ready and yet there was struggle, there was testing, there was trashing and looking for best set of 18 cards.

We have them. We have 18 cards. Cards that can shake things. Cards that are balanced. Cards that work in many different ways. We landed a Boeing 747 in a phone booth. Here, at Portal Games everything is possible.

I need a doctor

IMG_4856As I said in the previous post and as I was tweeting for couple of past weeks – I am done with Gen con releases. I finished all our boxes for Gen con, I am also done with Stronghold II ed. (I just need to get results from testers, update the balance, if needed). My 2015 to-design list is empty.

I am on vacation.

I received Witcher 3 from CD Projekt RED. I bought Mortal Combat X. I bought DVD with three seasons of Homeland. I bought 6 epic comic books albums (more than 1300 pages all together!). All cool stuff I was waiting to dive into for months. All cool stuff I was postponing because of working on prototypes like madman.

This is time to have fun. I was waiting for this for so long.

Well, there is a problem though – I managed to enjoy my vacations for one week. And then my brain betrayed me.

I am back in design mode. I can’t fight it. Guys, I need a doctor.