Monday, March 5, 2012

Kickstart the Week: Interview With The Designers of Velociraptor! Cannibalism!

There's a new board game tearing up the Kickstarter charts... Velociraptor! Cannibalism!, and we've interviewed the designers!

Velociraptor! Cannibalism! is a card game of survival, mutation, and the occasional volcano. Based on a crude understanding of natural selection,Velocipator! Cannibalism! puts you in the role of a young, eager and bright eyed Raptor as they must eat delicious, adorable prey, survive environmental disaster, mutate and steal the body parts of other Raptors.
Click below to visit and pledge to help Velociraptor! Cannibalism! on Kickstarter!!

The designers have taken a different approach than most game projects and they are looking for funding to create the art needed to develop the game. All pledges will receive a print and play copy of the game, and some of the higher pledges will receive a limited physical copy. The project is currently at $2,534 (63% of it's $4,000 goal) and has 46 days left.

Click through the jump for an interview with the entire team behind this game for more information on the game, their plans for the future, and their Kickstarter experience.

Before we get top the interview, let's meet the designers of the game. 

J.R. Blackwell is a game designer and photographer who wrote the zombie game, Shelter In Place. She likes writing fiction and taking pictures of supervillains and monsters.

Major Johnson is a computer programer who appears in the special thanks for Albedo: Platinum Cataylst and AI War: Fleet Command. He likes unusual software bugs and reading fantasy novels.

Bri Lance is a programmer and game developer who led programming for Fitter Critters, an educational children’s game. She also likes reading novels and throwing random objects at the ceiling to see if they stick.

Jennifer Rodgers is an illustrator and concept artist best known for work in Evil Hat’s The Dresden Files RPG (2010), Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book perfume series by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (2008), and a Harvey Award nomination for Best Colorist in 2006. She’s also a devoted horror geek who dabbles in genre journalism and modeling.

Andrew Wilson is a geek of all trades and sometimes freelancer. He can be found in the wild at various conventions, and is rumored to have mastered hibernation as a sleep cycle.

Jesse Whitworth is a game designer and programmer who cut his teeth making mods for Unreal Tournament and The Wheel of Time. He also enjoys writing novels and constructing rpg campaign settings.

What can tell us about Velociraptor! Cannibalism! that we don't already know from the Kickstarter listing?

The main thing we wish we could convey better is just how fun the game is to play! We’ve put a lot of thought into creating body parts with interesting effects, events that affect gameplay in unique ways, and predators and prey that are fun to interact with. In addition we’ve done a lot of playtesting with the rules and the card set to make sure that everything is well-balanced and full of interesting tradeoffs and interactions.

But we can’t really convey all of that through the Kickstarter listing without giving away the whole game. That’s part of the reason we added a $1 pledge level that gives you access to the game rules. We’re hoping that people who are unsure of the game will check out the rules, and then be motivated to change their pledge to a higher level. - BJL (Bri Lance)

Photo from Velociraptor! Cannibalism! Kickstarter page

Have you worked together or known each other previously, or was the development group randomly created during Global Game Jam?

Some of the team members knew each other individually before Game Jam, but the team as a whole met for the first time at the beginning of Global Game Jam weekend where the game itself was born. I don’t think any of us had any idea that the Game Jam would result in this ongoing project. - BJL

How did Daniel Solis become involved with the project?

Daniel is a friend of mine. We’re both very active within the indie table-top community; often working with the same clients and attending the same events. Despite our friendship and admiration of each other’s work, we’ve never had a chance to work together. Velociraptor! Cannibalism! seemed like the perfect opportunity to change that. Daniel is a brilliant designer. If funding comes through and we can hire him, I’ll be thrilled to finally have a chance to collaborate. We’re very lucky to have him on board. -JAR (Jennifer Rodgers)

Photo from Velociraptor! Cannibalism! Kickstarter page
What are your next plans for Velociraptor! Cannibalism! if you reach the funding goal?

Right now we’re very focused on preparing all of the assets and getting the game ready to the point where it can be made available as a print-on-demand game for anyone who is interested. Depending on the game’s reception and the success of the Kickstarter, we may look into other distribution options, such as finding a traditional publisher for the game. - BJL

Will you do another Kickstarter campaign for a full (non-print-and-play) version of the game, if this is successful?

This is one of many possibilities that we’ve discussed for the future of the game, but a lot depends on the game’s reception and the success of the Kickstarter campaign.

I think we’re leaning more toward the route of trying to find a traditional publisher for the game, once we’ve proven that it has market appeal. That’s mainly because none of us on the team has much experience with the logistical part of board game production, such as printing, shipping, distribution, and so on. These tasks might be better left to the experts. But nothing is decided for certain, yet.- BJL

It's a very interesting approach to start with a campaign to fund the art, and not something that you see often in the Kickstarter board game section. The fact that you're at 45% today, speaks very high for both the print-and-play medium, and the appreciation of quality art. What made you decide to go in this non-conventional direction, and not include the art costs in part of a larger campaign for a full retail quality game?

As creative people, all of us believe in the importance of having beautiful art and design to illustrate ideas. What we learned from developing this game was that this was a project that would require a lot of art. Each body part described in the game needs to be fully illustrated in order to look the way we envisioned it, and to do that, we knew that it would be a full time job for an artist. Paying Jenn and Daniel fairly, and giving them they time they need to fulfill this vision is so important, that we made it our primary investment. We are delighted to find that so many people support our vision of having games that are both visually and mechanically elegant.

We calculated the costs of producing a full retail game with over a hundred cards, player mats and game pieces, and we determined that a print run would be very expensive. We considered that goal very high for a group of new designers, and decided that what we wanted most of all was to share this game with other people, so we designed a campaign with a lower goal, centered around the art, that would result in a product we could share. If we reach $4,500, we will open up two new reward levels to provide physical copies of the game, one for $48 for supporters in the U.S. and one for $58 for our international supporters. - J.R. (J.R. Blackwell)

Photo by J. Tagmire. Prototype from Philly IGDA Demo night

What are your favorite board games?

Lately I’ve been playing Pret-a-Porter, which is an economic strategy game by Ignacy Trzewiczek. I’m actually fairly new to the board game scene, but so far I like economic strategy games a lot, and this one is interesting because it has a unique theme and setting in the fashion industry. While that’s not exactly my “thing”, it’s cool to see a game that goes outside of the typical sci-fi and fantasy settings, and the setting creates opportunities for lots of complex economic interactions. - BJL

There’s a long history on that question, including retiring from Puerto Rico in college after some preposterous scores. Recently I’ve been playing a lot of Ascension and Risk variants, though my favorite is probably Uncle Chestnut’s Table Gype. - ARW (Andrew Wilson)

I played a couple games of Chris’ newest game, John Company, at Dreamation and loved
it. It’s not very far along in development yet, so it’s not going to popup anywhere (other than some demo runs at Dex Con and a few other places) any time soon. Beyond that I’ve been bouncing around lately--some League of Legends, some Team Fortress 2 mapping, some Dino D-Day...sometimes my own projects. --Major (Major Johnson)

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Talisman and, if anyone will indulge me the occasionally frustrating process, I love to revisit those days with the new edition. I’m also in love with the Battlestar Galactica game. Packed with intrigue and a variety of fun roles to play, it’s a great time whether you’re familiar with the show or not. -JAR

I don’t often get the chance to play board games, but some of my all-time favorites include Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Clue, Risk, Chess, The Royal Game of Ur, and Pirate Cove. Nowadays though, I think V!C! is creeping up to the top of the list. -JTW (Jesse Whitworth)

Photo by J. Tagmire. Prototype from Philly IGDA Demo night
Did you have any history with Kickstarter prior to launching your project? How about game development?

I launched a Kickstarter for my live-action game, Shelter in Place, in 2011, and doubled my original goal, raising over five thousand dollars to produce the print run of my zombie game. Having that experience was incredibly helpful in producing the Kickstarter for Velociraptor! Cannibalism! -J.R.

I have some background in computer game development, including two games that have won awards. One is the educational game Fitter Critters, which won second place in the Apps for Healthy Kids contest in 2009. The second is Quattris, which was an html5 game that got an Honorable Mention in a Microsoft game contest. As well as lots and lots of personal projects that haven’t gone anywhere... yet. - BJL

Ranging from illustrations for table-top RPGs to concepts and 2D elements for video games, I’ve been an artist in the game industry for almost 9 years. This is actually the first time I’ve had an active role in developing a game’s design from the ground up. It’s exciting and new. -JAR

I had gotten as far as submitting a proposal to Kickstarter, but never launched the project.
The success we’re seeing with V!C! has really inspired me and given me hope for some other projects I’ve been working on. I’ve dabbled in game design for almost eleven years now, starting with the mod community for Unreal Tournament. However, this is the first time a project I’ve been involved in has received this much attention. -JTW

How has the Kickstarter journey been so far? What has been your best method of spreading the word? Will you survive the next 55 days? :)

Word of mouth, mostly! --Major

The best method of spreading the word about the game has been using social media to get
the word out to fans, friends, and Velociraptor enthusiasts. Using twitter, facebook and our webpage, we’ve been able to help people to find our Kickstarter, and to direct people who were interested in the development of the game to the right place. We’ve also reached out to blogs, podcasters, reviewers and our contacts in gaming to help us spread the word about this project.

We have been developing hilarious interviews with our characters, the Velociraptors, that have been produced as flash animations, and we are planning on sending those around to let people know more about our characters, sense of humor, and our games. We’ve also gone to Dreamation in New Jersey where we’ve run demos of the game for con-goers, and we plan to do the same thing at PAX East, to share the game with people who might not find it in a basic internet search. Running the game at cons is very helpful, as it lets us interact directly with other gamers. -J.R.

Photo by J. Tagmire. Prototype from Philly IGDA Demo night
Do you have any ideas on how to improve Kickstarter, or how to expand on it?

Kickstarter is an amazing tool for artists to create projects and allow other people who believe in the project to help it come to life. One of the issues with Kickstarter that some people might not understand is that Kickstarter is a tool to share your vision, not an ATM machine. Having a project people can believe in is the real key, and Kickstarter is a tool that lets you take that project and connect with that audience - but it’s just a tool, the thing that makes it run is the people behind the projects who are creating the things and drawing an audience in. - J.R.

After your experience so far with Kickstarter, would you use the service again?

Definitely! Our interactions with the site so far has been really positive. We were even lucky enough to be featured as a Staff Pick the day after we launched. I think groups like ours are lucky to be living in a time when things like Kickstarter make crowd-funding possible. Otherwise, things like weird little games about mutant dinosaurs would never really make it off the ground. - BJL

And once again, click below to visit and pledge to help Velociraptor! Cannibalism! on Kickstarter!!

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