Producing Fun 17: Jay Cormier - Publisher & Designer

Producing Fun 17: Jay Cormier - Publisher & Designer

Producing Fun is a podcast about making tabletop games from a product perspective. 

Jay Cormier was already a successful designer, having multiple BGG top 1000 games to his name across a very wide variety of genres. 4 years ago he got into game publishing, launching
Off the Page Games, a company producing games based on indie comic books. His first title - Mind MGMT - is already a smash hit. In this episode we get into how to run a profitable kickstarter, making clever manufacturing decisions and the power of branding.

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James 00:00
Hi I'm James, and this is producing fun, a podcast about making games from a product perspective. Welcome to Producing fun. My guest this week is Jay Cormier. Jay was until recently mostly focused on game design, working with his longtime collaborator and close friend Sen-Foong Lim under the moniker of The Bamboozle brothers. As a designer Jay was already very successful, having multiple BGG top 1000 games his name across a wide variety of genres, including dexterity, small box heroes and party games. But in 2018, he got into the publishing business. First, using his experience teaching game design at a film school to launch the fail faster playtesting journal, a resource for designers, before hitting the market with his very own self published product, the critically acclaimed Mind MGMT. Jay's success with Mind MGMT has been stellar, raising more than a million Canadian dollars across its two Kickstarter campaigns truly testament to the power of really knowing your industry before you dive in headfirst. It won't surprise you that Jay really, really knows his stuff when it comes to making games. But I particularly enjoyed this conversation. Because of the depths, we're able to get into, not only on the physical production side with critical details of margin and print run size, which are often deemed trade secrets, but to the power of branding, and the particular way he deployed it to create a compelling experience for his backers, even down to spare parts and customer support. This has got to be one of the most immediately practical lessons I've recorded for a while. If you're ever thinking about putting your game onto Kickstarter, I really really recommend you listen to this one.

Jay Cormier 01:56
One is when you first start game designing that is a struggle in and of itself. Regardless, if you're by yourself or with a partner, when you're with a the partner and you're first starting, there's some challenges and some benefits to that right off the bat. Like you can bounce off each other, you can maybe try to keep each other motivated. But then you're also trying to learn how each other communicate and you're conflicting with with stuff. So there's, there's more hurdles said to go through a little in one way, later on when we're starting a game, and it's our third or fourth game, and we know how to communicate it's a lot easier. But that first game like it didn't end up happening like we never, we probably designed a good 10 games before we got a game signed.

James 02:31
And how would you say that you and Sen think differently, more specifically, like how are you different? What are the kind of ways that you look at things that are going to be different to him

Jay Cormier 02:40
early on, and things have changed. But early on, I was the kind of person that wanted to get things onto paper and into a prototype form as fast as possible. Like let's find like, we got an idea like, like start making it right now. And Sen would, Sen wanted to get all the stuff in his head balanced and mapped out. And he wanted to make sure it all fit. And we learn together that that I'm not saying I'm right and he's wrong or anything, but I'm just saying that it proved that getting a prototype out as soon as possible was the best way to go about it. Because it's such an iterative process game design, that you want to get out something fast just to see if aspects of the game is interesting. And that's something that's that started our game design careers together. And then we're both more aligned with that vision now, which is which is nice. Otherwise, when we first started Sen had kids, young kids. And so I was doing a lot of work. And now I have kids, and I'm still do all the work. Wait a second. No, I'm just kidding. I'm totally kidding. But I have a little bit of I'm almost embarrassed every time I say it. CorelDRAW experience.

James 03:48
Ah CorelDRAW. Yeah, we're talking about a seriously classic graphic design and illustration package here.

Jay Cormier 03:57
It's ridiculous that that's the programme I use, but I'm so fluid in it. And I know all the shortcuts and it's very easy for me to make prototypes. So I'm generally the product...

James 04:05
So you're still using that today.

Jay Cormier 04:06

James 04:07
Oh, wow. Okay, that is a bit retro. Yeah,

Jay Cormier 04:10
They still make it, it's still it's still an existing thing. It's not like it's an old thing. But it's yeah, it's not very well known or used, but I love it. It's I tried to get into Illustrator and it's just based on my knowledge of Corel Draw. It's a lot harder to get into Illustrator, oddly enough, I suppose because I don't know all the shortcuts but.

James 04:29
Almost like an unlearning process a little bit that I suspect you have to do because like everything is a bit different.

Jay Cormier 04:35
It really is. So I had to give up on it. And then Sen. He often focuses a lot on any of the lore or the or the writing aspects of the any game that we're doing, or ensuring things fit the theme or the IP, we do a lot of IP work. So he's really oftentimes there'll be a part where I'll come up with a cool mechanical concept or idea and he'll kind of bring up an opposing view is like well that does not happen in the in this game or like, that just doesn't happen. And I'm like Sen, figure it out, like, that's a cool idea, figure it out, we'll figure out a way to make work. Like it's a cool idea. And so that's where we'll have our humorous difficulties together, where will, one of us eventually has to concede because either it is a really cool idea. And we do have to like it. I guess we could make it this. That's how we get around it thematically or eventually I have, I'll have to be like, yeah, yeah, right. This doesn't fit at all doesn't fit the IP does not doesn't make sense. It's cool, but it doesn't fit. So. But we'll figure that out through playtesting,

James 05:30
That must present a particular challenge, I would have thought with IP titles, because I'm guessing that is that an important variable to the at least to the IP owner, that it kind of all fits thematically? Or is that more of a kind of end user kind of problem?

Jay Cormier 05:44
Oh, no, it's it's, I wouldn't say problem, I'd say that's a, it's a blessing, I'm working on IPS is gives you a constraint. And I'm sure you've heard that constraint is the mother of invention. And it really guides the design process, when you have any kind of any kind of constraint, it makes you be more creative than before, when you say the sky is the limit, you do whatever you want, you kind of kind of stumble around in because you actually don't know, I don't even know. But as soon as you get one constraint, like oh, like we were asked to do a godfather game. And they said, we either want to dice game or an area control game. And so almost immediately, I thought, Oh, what about a dice game, where one player is the Godfather, and you have to make him an offer? He can't refuse the offer dice to him. And immediately, that was cool. So already, that constrain of that IP. And that phrase that everyone knows, it's already implemented like that, that's still in the game. Like that was one aspect that just immediately was in the game. So it helps it actually helps you with your game design.

James 06:42
Yeah, interesting. Interesting. But I guess at the same time, there's that issue of making sure that things fit. But as you said that, and that's something so would you say that that Sen's kind of overthinking Is it is it more that it's just more systematic, or it's more like he's just kind of Watchmen for more of those things? Like does that reflect his kind of personality as well? Like, I'm always, always curious to see how very different designers have got such different approaches, often to solving problems,

Jay Cormier 07:07
I would say that we're both consumers of geek culture, but Sen. Like, I don't know, double what I do, like he just consumed so much geek culture. So he just, like knows everything about and then if he doesn't, he'll, like he'll, he'll go and listen to all the podcasts about or something like he'll just consume it. And he'll just be an expert on that IP. So and I just don't have the time, especially with twin five year olds running around to consume as much geek culture as I used to. But I still do my fair share.

James 07:37
Absolutely. So do you still work with Sen as parts off the page games? Or is that just was it a more informed collaboration before? Did you was it like we wanted to form it into a particular publishing entity? Curious to know how that works?

Jay Cormier 07:49
Yeah. So Sen, and I, informally, had been known as The Bamboozle brothers, super informally, so much so that,

James 07:56
When I saw this I was I was, I was, yes, in preparation for our conversation, I was kind of reading through that and suddenly discovered that you were called The Bamboozle brothers because I knew your names from several different games, but I'm like, I don't have I even seen this on a box before.

Jay Cormier 08:10
No. No. We thought about it, we actually thought about it, when we first got signed, like should we go as The Bamboozle brothers for all games going forward, and we, I think, rightfully decided not to. But so it's just important, because we had a website at one point that is still out there bamboozle And there's a great blog that we did that's like 40 posts long, about how to get your game published. So it's actually we share our journey of how we got our game published. And you can follow that same step. So that's kind of a neat thing. That's how that came from. So that's just how we existed. So Sen and I were just game designer friends, friends, and then game designers, we design tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of games. And then with mind management specifically, we created the game, we signed it to a publisher, and we sit back waiting for that sweet sweet boardgame money to come just rolling in. And as as its, as it does, and the publisher went under, and we got the rights back to the game. And it was, yeah, it was in a meeting with Matt Kindt, the creator of the comic book that it's based on, where he said, Well, guys, why don't we just do it ourselves. He's like, I can do all the art and graphic design, I got a background in graphic design, and then you you publish it. And so I took it away and I thought about it. And I brought it to Sen afterwards, I said, Sen, what? I currently myself part time at my job, job, my job, the job, like, you know, real job. And so I worked three days a week at that. And so I'm like, I got two days a week, plus weekends and evenings to do this. And Sen has got a full time job. He's a teacher, professor at college. And I'm like, what if I ran the comp if I if I had the company and then I just treat you as a as a designer. He's like, totally fine by me. And so that's how it is so Sen's actually not involved in off the page games. So it's my company. I'm the publisher.

James 09:54
Ah, interesting. And that's just because I guess he didn't want to be as involved you know, the time commitment to be able to have been involved in you could be be

Jay Cormier 10:01
And possibly the interest, he's not as business interested as I am. Case in point, the next game coming from, from Off the Page games, Sen's not even a designer on it. But the one after that that just signed this week, I'm not as designer on it, but Sen is a designer on it.

James 10:16
Like he intends to, that must be a really interesting kind of kind of transition. Because obviously working as a designer not having to think about all those questions of thorny questions of production or manufacturing.

Jay Cormier 10:30
It's hilarious when we whenever we're designing a game, and we come across something like, how are we going to represent this? And what's this going to look like? And should this be the, we'd always say, ahhhh the publisher, will figure it out. I thought at first we that doesn't matter, we recommend somebody, the publisher will figure it out, they'll know what to do. And then when I became the publisher for mind management, I had to figure it all out. And there was some really tough questions that I we didn't have answers to because we had kept saying, the publisher will figure it out. And if you know the game at all, we did not know how for the rogue agents in this hidden movement game could keep track of information. We were trying so many different methods. We tried having somebody as a note taker, and they could take notes, and that's your role. You're a note taker, but then other people couldn't see it. We tried having another little mini map that they could draw on. But it felt like again, it's over in one player side, and they have to pass it around. And it just couldn't figure it out and just stumbled upon the concept of doing dry erase tokens. And that was a magical moment of like, that's it. That is absolutely it. It's all information is exactly where you need it right right there on the board. It's seems like obvious when you now play the game. Like, of course, that's how you do it. But it took us a long time to figure that out.

James 11:44
Do you think that solution would have emerged if you would just contracted designers working on it? Or do you think that solution?

Jay Cormier 11:51
No, it never did? It never did. No. Yeah.

James 11:53
Interesting. Yeah. So oh, so actually, that was before. So when you signed the first version of it to the company that went under,

Jay Cormier 12:00
It had a totally different way of keeping track of Yeah.

James 12:03
So actually, by taking responsibility for that element, you actually kind of furthered the, I guess, the the creative potential of it, because you could kind of see it in the round,

Jay Cormier 12:11
I had so many different ideas of things that stood up and stuck into things and trying to get quotes for different things. And it was it was what magnets like just weird things, like so much is. Yeah, it's funny. So that was it was an interesting journey and process, but it was like, I better figure this out. Because I have to now.

James 12:29
What do you think the bit of moving over to the publishing side of things has frustrated you the most?

Jay Cormier 12:34
I mean, besides the unexpected costs of shipping, besides that, or that?

James 12:39
Oh, right. Yeah, I mean, certainly, right. I mean, that's something as well, I was a first time publisher at the end of last year as well. And that was brutal.

Jay Cormier 12:50
It's sad. And it's, you know, it's definitely a fallout from the pandemic. But it, it's not really righting itself, because now, just like anything, when somebody raises prices, and then people like gas prices go up, and then everyone still pays for gas because they need it. So they're like, well, we don't have to lower the price of gas, people are paying this price. And so that's kind of what it feels like right now. That it's not really going back down. So it's a little bit from the heights from the crazy heights that it was but yeah, so that's that's but other than that, the frustrating parts for me, were more of the, the Super Business sides of things of like keeping track of everything that's really hard. So with the recent success of the second Kickstarter, I had for mind management, I've actually hired a bookkeeper, who's gonna help me keep track of all my books and numbers and spreadsheets and whatnot. So that's awesome.

James 13:39
Yeah, and I can bet that is I mean, that's a huge aspect, I think of publishing that people don't really fully understand the full impact of before they start. It's just accounting for everything.

Jay Cormier 13:48

James 13:50
I guess there's also then this sort of second order financial questions of beginning to think about forecasting, and making sure that everything is properly budgeted, and that your overhead every month is sorted,

Jay Cormier 14:00
also very frustrating. From the first print run to the second print run. There became new legislations in the EU about what had to go on a box, then I didn't, I was like, nobody tells you this. You just have to know it. And so I just like things were sent to the printer. And I learned about it through somebody posted on Facebook on a publisher Facebook group, saying, Yeah, you have to have an EU address on the box printed on your box an EU address if you want to sell the product in the EU, and I'm like, what? And so I got one from my EU partner, who's doing all my distribution and fulfilment. They let me use their address and then I was able to get it in time for the print round. I'm like, holy cow. Unbelievable.

James 14:43
Yeah, I mean, that's the sort of thing that's a lot of bureaucratic detail as well isn't there that you have to have the solve as well as questions of finance as a publisher that are again, not something need to worry about as a as a designer. It doesn't seem to put you off it though. Like carry on down this All I was publishing.

Jay Cormier 15:01
Every single thing is a learning thing. It's like, oh, that's neat. I didn't know this. Yeah, and I mean, I'm also have the mindset of like, it's gotta get done. Like, I got to do it. Like I've promised all these people that this game is coming and the game will come and everything's always exciting for me nothing's ever like a burden. it same with same with game design, and play testing. I often see people get discouraged when they play tests, and they get like a, you know, bad feedback, which that doesn't even exist, that feedback doesn't exist. It's all feedback is, is good that that from anybody that's taking the time to play test your game, it's great that they taken the time, but some people get really discouraged. When they're all the feedback is negative and critical. And to me, I get excited and energised by it, I'm like, Oh, wow, yeah, you're right, that is broken. Shoot, I gotta figure out how to fix that. And I can't wait to go back to my computer and like, tweak the art and make the new prototype. That's the only time I get frustrated from playtesting is I can't see how to fix the thing that they've talked about. You're like, yeah, that is broken. I have no idea how to fix it. That gets frustrating, but not frustrating. And like a mad just like, I'll shelve it for a while and come back to some other time when I think figure it out.

James 16:05
Do you think it was always that way for you? Or did you sort of learn to be that kind of positive about even the negative feedback

Jay Cormier 16:11
It's definitely a learning journey. For sure. At the beginning, you're defensive, everybody is very defensive at the beginning, unless you have somebody that is more of a mentor, or there's a lot of noise in a good way, nowadays, supporting board game design. And so there's a lot of people echoing a lot of the things that you should, you know, should be doing. And a lot of it is don't be defensive, and when you're playtesting. And so you should be able to hear that from so many different sources now that it's a known thing. But back when I started, there was nobody talking about board game design anywhere. So it was very new. Not new in the world. But just the Internet didn't catch up to all the board game design needs that exist now.

James 16:52
Well, that seems like that's something that is a very recent phenomenon, really, there being this kind of mass awareness of this sort of stuff. Well, the fact that podcasts exist, where you can listen and you know, and you can find out about game design and best practice at least that way. Is that one of the motivations and provide information for your fail faster journal?

Jay Cormier 17:12
Yeah, it's it. I've always been, Sen and I both both, but I've been very tran, I like being very transparent so much so that we created with a bamboozle brothers, we talked about that we have like the 40 steps to get your game published, we we just did that. Like nobody paid us. We didn't charge for it. It's just like, go check it out. Here's what we did. People have written to us saying I you followed your steps. And I also got my game published. I'm like, Oh, great, good for you. That's great. So that's just being transparent. I did the same thing with off the page games. When I started the company. I created a weekly YouTube series. And every week, I'll do a video on what am I doing this week to help you know, form this company. And so there's a series out there called How to Start a board game company that you can check out the fail faster playtesting journal came about from it was literally because I was running, I was holding a birthday party for myself. And it happened to be a week before the gathering. Are you familiar with the gathering of friends?

James 18:03
Oh, this sounds familiar to me. But I'm not sure I'm in regardless to fill it in for our listeners?

Jay Cormier 18:08
Well, it's a bit hoity toity, because it's an invite only event in Niagara Falls, that Allen Moon designer of Ticket to Ride and many other games. He puts together he puts on and he runs it. And it's maximum 400 people will attend this thing. And it's awesome. It's and it's 10 days long. And

James 18:28
10 days!?

Jay Cormier 18:29
Hello, yeah, I can't go for that long anymore. I used to but with kids, I can't go that long

James 18:34
as, Hang on so we're talking about is a 10 day mostly play testing event or what what?

Jay Cormier 18:40
Generally it's all playing games, just just playing games. But because a lot of Allen Moon's friends are designers. There's also a lot of designers there. And because of a lot of elements, friends are publishers. There's a tonne of publishers there. And it turns out to be the best place in the world for pitching board games. So yeah, so we were one one or two weeks away from me going to the gathering. And back when I was more of a game designer. And I had four or five games that I was getting ready to pitch. And so I thought, let's have a birthday party, that all my game designer friends and other people that want to help a play come and it's a play testing birthday party. And so because I had all my games set up in different tables, I kind of rented a room to do it. And all these different games set up and I would go around teaching people how to play and giving all this feedback to you know, do this last minute tweaks or whatever. And as I was planning for it, you know, I'm getting the food ready and cake and you know, all this kind of stuff for for this kind of party. And I'm like, oh, thinking of birthday parties when you're a kid like a little grab bag, a little loot bag when you leave. I was trying to think of that. I'm trying to think of what it would like designers want like a bag full of meeples?

James 19:50
Maybe some coins or other things. You could use as tokens?

Jay Cormier 19:53
Right? Yeah. And then somehow I got thinking about a something that helps you keep track of your playtesting and because concurrently with this, I was also teaching at Vancouver Film School game design I've been teaching there for about 10 years. And one of them. Yeah, and one of the things they have to do is they have to hand in their play test reports, they have to hand them in to show that they play tests, and they have to write notes about what they think is broken. So I can see their thinking and process of, of if they're, you know, learning and actually developing the game. And I thought, maybe we can take something from there and make it a bit more fine tuned it for designers, and not just students. And so I started kind of created just on my own in CorelDRAW. A,

James 20:35
of course, where else?

Jay Cormier 20:37
a a booklet that I made, you know, they got printed at Staples, you know, folded in half stapled in the middle kind of thing. And it was just like black and white or whatever. And, and handed that out to everybody. I tried to pack as much value into it as I could with like, you know, there's a ruler along one side, sometimes you need that in the middle of a game. There's a scoreboard on the back page, in case you forgot a scoreboard, you can use the back page for a scoreboard. Anyway, it's more more stuff. I handed out to everybody. And then you know, a couple weeks passed by and somebody's like, Hey, I didn't come to your party. But can I get one of those journal things? Like, oh, yeah, I got left for you to go. And then a couple weeks later, somebody's like, Hey, I've used up mine, do you have any more? And I keep like, these friends kept asking for more. Like, is this a real thing? Is this something that is like people want? And so I decided, yeah, maybe it is so I hired a graphic designer to lay it out properly. They did not use CorelDRAW

James 21:30
Oh dreadful, InDesign InDesign. Oh, that's so awful.

Jay Cormier 21:36
I've learned now how to use InDesign so I can use InDesign much easily now

James 21:39
Hey, progress.

Jay Cormier 21:40
And, and I put a Kickstarter together as my first Kickstarter ever now I've been I've had many of my games go on Kickstarter. So I've, I've participated from a I'm the designer of this game that had publishers on you know, from that perspective, and follow the whole journey, you know, all the ups and downs of that, that may have some failed, some succeeded, all this kind of stuff. But this is the first time I did it. And one of the cool, the subtitle collaboration is really neat. So I'm gonna come back to this because this is a nice segue. When I parted with my graphic designer, he didn't know anything about board games at all, like zero. So I'm telling him what a meeple is, um, this icon, put this here, and he doesn't want any of this. And I had this idea of like, for some reason I wanted kind of like, how did I say, I on the cover, I was thinking of putting some, you know, just your old generic boardgame, icons, meeples and dice and this kind of stuff. And he, when he came back was he designed it, and it kind of looked like a boy scout sash with a bunch of badges on it of these icons. And I'm like that's super cool. That's a really cool looking thing. And so I thought it gave me an idea. Like as as

James 22:52
Oh, yeah. Looking at them. Now I can see that they look very much like if you've got a sash and you're wearing them, like yours. Yeah, like you're a boy scout. You've got one letter you know, for tying knots or something. You know, orienteering, you've got sort of game design badges. Yeah. So

Jay Cormier 23:08
but you're now you're already thinking, the way I started thinking, because I thought, wait a second, can I actually gamify this. And so what I did was, I looked through the playtesting journal, and what kind of stuff I made. And I came up with all these behaviours, and I created in the playtesting, journal, all these behaviours. And if you do any of these behaviours,

James 23:28
Oh, I see. So you got like number of play tests, or rules changes filled in more than three lines, observations, right. So they're like, become like challenges that as you complete them, you're sort of unlocking rewards that you would have like a mobile game or something.

Jay Cormier 23:42
Exactly. And then when you get to a little, there's a little badge icon on this, each track, you flip, and that comes with some stickers, and you literally put a sticker on the front of your fail faster play test journal. So that came from a collaboration with a graphic designer who added value in a way that, you know, that's what I love about collaborating is like two heads is way better than two people. As far as the amount of energy and creative juice you get out of that. It's like you go places, and we can talk about mind management I'm in but it just like, here's, here's my idea of what the perfect products gonna look like. And it ends up being better than that, because I did not even see this potential. And so when it came to Kickstarter, that kind of felt like part of the branding now of fail faster, this badge thing. And so I leaned into that and that's how I did my stretch goals. Is everything was you earn badges as backers.

James 24:32
Oh, very nice. So tying back into it,

Jay Cormier 24:35
and you know, it's just so that's really important to me is is really trying to have a brand that feels like it's about something and so it was really easy and like really lean into the brand and that was really easy with the fail faster playtesting journal once I came once it got to that point of getting these these icons in a badge format, whatnot. And so yeah, people would earn whether it's like doing social media type stuff, posting on stuff or whether it was just number of backers in a day Oh 100. If we ever get 100 backers today, we get we get a badge. And then the way I did it was then people, we could spend those badges, you'd earn badges. And then you could spend badges on upgrades. And so then we'd have votes. And we have votes on a voting system or whatever. And people would vote on what they wanted to. And so it was really engaging campaign, and which is I found very valuable to really talk and be involved and engaged with your community. Your backers peep, they most a lot of them love it, and it's gets to keep makes it exciting and draws a lot of attention. But that was that was I think, my branding story for fail faster. I don't know how I got all the way here. But that's a couple of a couple of good stories in there.

James 25:41
I felt like that, that's often the journey of game design itself, isn't it like you suddenly think I've got one idea for something, you collaborate with someone else, you end up something different, as you said that an even better version of the product that you got, from that kind of possibility to bounce ideas off another mind. It's almost a little bit like a kind of yes anding process.

Jay Cormier 26:01
And no, and it's wonderful because the publisher I ended up using for this was game land. And I went with them because they had printed in the hall of the Mountain King, a game I designed and burnt Island games published. And she gave me the contact and they were wonderful. And I've been partners with them ever since. And they're the same thing. They keep adding value every time I can contact. They're like, Well, what about this? I'm like, oh, that's I didn't know you could do that. Yes, that'd be way better. With Case in point, literally last night, there was in the deluxe edition of mind management, there's a screen, and there's a card sleeves that go where cards go into the sleeves in the back of the screen. And she said she found just I didn't even ask this, she found that it's a bit tight. And so she came up with a new system to make it slide in and out a lot easier. I'm like, Oh, thank you. Yes, great. When you when you collaborate with people that have the similar objective of, you know, making a great experience a great game. For people. It's just, it's amazing. That's, that's all you need. You all have to be on the same page. And you can see sometimes there's people I've talked to that their objective is to make money. And then that's hard. I find if that's your objective, that's I find a hard way to go about game design. I'm not saying you can't work for you. But it just, that's a I don't know, not as interesting to me, I guess, to partner with those kinds of people

James 26:02
Is that maybe the difference between money as a hygiene factor? And money as an objective? Because obviously, if you if you don't make money, your publishing business will not last very long.

Jay Cormier 27:34
You have to have Yeah, you have to have that merchant mentality. Right? You really have to have that.

James 27:39
That's interesting. Yeah, merchant meant that's not expression I've heard before, please go on.

Jay Cormier 27:43
Well, this is this concept that, and I find it is a death knell of some early and new publishers where, you know, they get a bit of success on Kickstarter. And it's going and they start adding stretch goals that they weren't planning for. And all of a sudden, they realise afterwards, it's very expensive. So my concept for merchant mentality is that I want to make I'm always going to do for Kickstarter, I guess I can't say always, you never know what's gonna happen, but a retail version and a deluxe version. And the reason behind that is a deluxe version. This is where you can get all the Kickstarter only access, they only get this on Kickstarter. And, and I found that that has been very successful way to get backers from on your game is because this, this edition is only a Kickstarter type of available, it's not gonna be in stores. So if you want this cool wooden pieces, and the game trays and all this kind of stuff that you have to get here. But then if you're trying to think forward as from a business, then you need to have a retail version, because that that Deluxe is going to be really hard to get into distribution. And so retail version, if you can get that down. So then I'm being very judicious about okay, maybe instead of two millimetres can we make this 1.5 millimetres on this one, or the screen is a nice thick cardboard with with pockets on the inside for the Deluxe. On the retail, it's more of a, I won't say flimsy, but it's like it's like it's it's glossy, but it's like, just like a card cardstock not cardboard. You know what I mean? So Stan is totally fine. It's functional. It's great. It doesn't have sleeves in it. So just trying to keep it how, how can I keep that price as low as possible, but still provide the same gameplay and not negatively impact the experience? And I think I did a great job. pat myself on the back, I guess because people online have been saying the retail edition is great. Like, you don't need anything else. And then other people saying yeah, but the Deluxe is pretty sweet. And that's exactly where you want to be where people are happy with it. The retail like it's great, and they're recommending it. And then the Deluxe is just sweet for those people that want all you know, the whole experience.

James 29:49
Yeah, that's very interesting. So what are the differences, then is that uh, what are the differences in between mind management? I'm kind of really curious to know because this is one of those really interesting thorny manufacturing things that makes a huge difference in terms of how profitable something can be, for example, to make it a sustainable product,

Jay Cormier 30:06
The Deluxe is actually a thicker box. So it's actually a different box size. And so this was a thought as we're going along, we could have kept the same size for both, but then the the retail would have been swimming inside this big big box, and shipping would have went through the roof for every retail unit. So in one case, I can get four Deluxe or six retail units, there's got to really think about that from a shipping perspective. While it costs me more because now I'm printing two different boxes on having having to pay for two different die cuts of a boxes or whatever. That's more expensive. That's, that's a one time cost. And from now on, every time I ship a retail unit, it's cheaper than shipping a deluxe unit, like including ship putting into containers and how many I can fit into a container on a ship and getting over you know, everything is cheaper if you make your box smaller.

James 30:55
Yeah, this is 50% more copies for the same volume in a container. Right?

Jay Cormier 31:00
Exactly. And it probably even with six units, I bet you it's the same weight. Because there's I'm actually no wood there's a teeny bit of wood, but mostly no wood in the retail edition. So a lot of wood chunky bits was really nice. And I talked about the screen is another thing is a different material. The same with the recruiters mini board that they draw on on the mini map that they draw on is also flimsy in the retail and thick cardboard in the Deluxe. And then finally, if you don't know the mind management game, it comes with something called the shift system. And the shift system is these 14 Sealed packages. And the side that loses in a one versus many game, they get to open a package it has contents and even a little comic book actually inside each one that you can add to your next game to make your next game different. In the deluxe edition, there is this gigantic full the size of the box wallet that folds out like this. And then folds out again. And there's seven and seven game trays, plastic packages, that looks and art on all sides from at Kent and looks gorgeous. And in the retail there there's 14 cardboard little tuck boxes thrown into the box. And so that extra wallet takes up a tonne of space. But it's gorgeous. It's amazing. Like it's just blows my mind every time I if I wanted that experience of opening the box. And then that's the first thing you see is this full thing like it looks like another cover. Because it's a whole nother of a different art with different art on it looks amazing. And if we talk continue talking about branding how I use branding to my advantage with fail faster. With mind management, the game is a psychic espionage game. And so we infuse that concept of a psychic espionage throughout the entire game. All the components, there's hidden messages, we ended up doing a blue red thing, one of the stretch goals was there's a little time token that you put this little circle donut thing that you put over the time to tell you what round you're in. And one of the stretch goals we hit was we're going to put a red filter onto it. And so as soon as we hit that, then we hid Matt well, as I say we but Matt did at all, a bunch of those, you know those red, blue messages were red and blue are on top of each other. And now with this red decoder, you can, you can decode it by sliding it over top of it on cards on boards all over the place was these red, red, red blue hidden messages. There's messages hidden under the lips of the of the box lid, there's messages everywhere, there's messages and secret codes and hidden messages, so much so that we actually literally hid 10 actual codes by codes in the game components, some crazily hidden like just absolutely wildly hidden that I'm surprised if anybody can find them. And if you get that code in the rulebook, it tells you if you ever find a code, go to this website, flood safe Enter that code in and you will get a brand new card that you can print out and add to your game immediately. So that's all part of that whole branding of the psyche against like you feel like you're going on a secret mission. And we did that for the Kickstarter, we actually had a secret mission throughout the Kickstarter, that people had to go to other websites, even to other Kickstarter that were going on at the time I partnered with some other Kickstarters they hid a secret code on their Kickstarter page for me. Like, they had to find codes throughout the whole thing. And it was wild.

James 34:17
So that's that I can see that it's pretty lovely examples you say, you're kind of bringing the branding to life very completely. So it's not just a question of think of branding, they think of the visual stuff. They think like, oh, a logo, maybe or the graphic design scheme, but you're thinking about it. Well, actually, it's like the whole experience. It's about what the game is about in general. Mmm, that's been, you know, imprinted even in the marketing ideas.

Jay Cormier 34:42
Even even in the customer service. I had some people that email me, it's true. You know, some people email me saying, Hey, I have a missing token. And this is so and so token in my game, I know that I'm missing it. Can I get a new one? And I'd respond saying thank you for email. We can but you'll have to use your psychic energy, psychic abilities to figure out the information I require before I can make this happen. And they're like, here's my address.

James 35:09
Oh my god, that is the best customer service I've ever heard of. We're gonna have to psychically work out what we need to know. Oh my god, it doesn't fit thematically at all but I'm a bit tempted to do that with my spare parts. Well what do you think we need to know next in order to send you a spare part?

Jay Cormier 35:28
Yeah, normally that'd be a jerk thing to say to your customers.

James 35:31
Yeah. Also how could I express that for magnate, I guess I could say something like, You've got to use your business now and then work it out? Maybe Maybe? I don't know. That's really cool. I mean, I think that's really interesting as well, as you said about how you your how you can make really brand branding work for you that way, both in terms of marketing and product. One of the things that I think is so impressive about mind management, so I'm going to admit now admitted, I actually haven't played it.

Jay Cormier 35:56
Get out of here, this conversation is over.

James 35:58
I just immediately gonna, going to rage quit this whole podcast, but it's very much you'll be glad to know on my list. And I'm not just saying that I've want to play. It's genuinely curious to me the concept sounds really, really interesting and says it's kind of one versus many idea, but also a little bit different, very different other deduction games. But the thing that I've got to be honest, that really caught my eye, it was just the box. I just looked at it. And I was just like, holy crap. That's some really nice art execution.

Jay Cormier 36:27
Yes, it is.

James 36:28
It's just really well thought through as well. This whole like 60s, vibe to it. That was just like, I was like, Oh, my God, just he just picked the perfect time period for this as well.

Jay Cormier 36:37
Yeah, it's ever again, we wanted the, like the experience of of getting the box and just opening the box and exploring the box is, is amazing on itself. And putting a lot of that on matt because he just hit he just did so many nice touches, not just hidden messages, but just like nice touches of like, Oh, that's really cool that that's there. And like on the so you got to be playing board on the back of the board of the of the game board, there's a comic book. There's four comics, introducing each of the rogue agents in case you've never read the comic book. It's really cool. And then there's that little mini board that the recruiter use by the screen on the back of that is another comic book. And guess what? If you put that little comic book in the middle of the big board, it changes the ending of each of those four other comic books.

James 37:20
Oh, wow.

Jay Cormier 37:21
Because this, this mini comic book has the big bad in it. The Big Bad person in my measure is called the eraser, which is a bit funny because it's on the back of a dry erase board. That's hilarious. But she erased all their memories. And she only knows how those stories ended.

James 37:36
So it all locks in together.

Jay Cormier 37:38
Yeah. It's magical.

James 37:40
And so this the style is presumably very close to visual style to the comic books, or is it quite different? Or you've kind of...

Jay Cormier 37:48
It's the same artists! It's the same exact artists!

James 37:51
Right, okay, yeah.

Jay Cormier 37:52
Oh, yeah, it's 100% identical.

James 37:54
And I find that really interesting, because I feel like, again, when you talked earlier about the role of IPs creative constraints, I was kind of wonder about this was kind of projects that work with some existing creative process is it does feel like a lot of thinking has already been done. And that thinking is kind of baked into some aspect of the original IP so that when you're responding to it, you're not just responding to like an arbitrary constraint, you're responding to a constraint that itself is the product of a huge amount of pre existing creative thought process.

Jay Cormier 38:23
So much so that it took us a good solid three years, from when we agreed to do a mind management game to finally figure out what the game was going to be. We went through five different alpha prototypes of like, what if it was like this, like a pandemic type game where it's cooperative, and you run around, and there's a secret traitor, and like, we just went through so many different versions, and none of them. Some of them, like had some interesting mechanic ideas, but none of them felt like mind management. And it wasn't until we came into the genre of one versus many, and a hidden movement, that now it feels like you're manipulating each other like you're like, Oh, did he go this way? He probably went this way. That jerk, I bet you you went this way. And meanwhile, that guy's smiling because he didn't go that way. It's, it's feels like you're actually manipulating them psychically. It's great.

James 39:08
Yeah, that's really interesting is that remember, that's a really good example of Ludo narrative harmony, isn't it a flight? Because you know how important it is. But fascinating that it took you so long? Because, again, we talked about speed a bit earlier on. It's sort of, you know, you think maybe I mean, how many games have you designed now, and I was looking at BGG page, it's always very hard to know, because often that includes expansions and things as well.

Jay Cormier 39:29
It's around 20 ish.

James 39:30
About 20 base games, right? So we're talking about someone who's already got experience in 20 base games. And it still took you three years to find like the right way to do that, because that's interesting, because it just was a fundamentally hard problem. Isn't it like bringing that to life?

Jay Cormier 39:43
I know sometimes. I said constraints are great. And I found this one to be really a struggle because of the experience. It's it's sometimes the the constraint like Godfather I mentioned before was, I had a good quote about it, and I often make me an offer I can't refuse, and I turn that into a dice mechanic and that felt really perfect, and that was great, but in this one, there wasn't anything mechanically or there's no, it's all about the experience the feels you get from it. And that is just a lot harder to to use as a constraint because then you're still pie in the sky for mechanics?

James 40:15
Well, that's really interesting, because I'd like to ask a bit more specifically about that, about knowing how you get that feeling that you've recreated that because one of the things that I'm working on a project at the moment, one of the games we've got in design is trying to recreate a feeling that you get from somewhere else very much like your example of mind management. And there is this issue that it has, it has to have a certain emotional tenor. And when I'm playing it, we're replay testing, obviously, the same bit of content over and over again, this is a campaign based game. And I'm like, at what point am I not feeling this? Because we're not quite there? Or is it just because I've played this same scenario 10 times over which a real person would never really do? And it's and it's those kind of challenges I mentioned, what was it quite difficult to know, when you were like, Am I on or off day? Are we not nailing this experience?

Jay Cormier 41:04
Right, fortunately, for mind management, it's so replayable, it doesn't have that campaign-y-ness to it. And so I could still play with Sen right now and be right in each other's heads, and trying to figure it out, he'll probably win. He just he's really good at this game. But I can understand from a more narrative perspective, how that would be limiting. That's where you just have to reach out to do more play testers. I know, like Matt Leacock, for example, would do, he would get people to play test any of his legacy games, and he would record them, he would have them record the entire play test on video. And he would watch the whole thing to kind of pick out what questions that what don't they understand? What did they choose? How did what did how did that make him feel? What are the, you know, experiences? And so that's, you know, how other people do it.

James 41:48
That's interesting in that, and that was, I don't know how much you know, more specifically about that. Was that quite early in the design process as well? Or was that more of a kind of later thing?

Jay Cormier 41:55
No, this is more this is more later, when we're trying to fine tune? Is this the right balance? Is this the right amount of umph? But so it's pretty near the end, at that point, I think, to do those are like blind tests, you know, like where you're just not? He's not even there.

James 42:08
Yeah, yeah. It's interesting. You mention that, because that is a technique that actually, we used on magnate as well was doing remote blind testing, which, actually, during the depths of the pandemic, to be honest, was quite useful. Because you couldn't, you couldn't certainly hang out with people. But what you could do was send them a game and then over Google Hangout, just watch them, it did feel a bit odd that there was one where my developer Jaya had this thing where he was like, on the television screen in the room. So his face was was appearing on the TV screen, it felt like there was some sort of strange psychological experiment. Because because they've got to check in on that. That's pretty fascinating. So did this mean, then we'll be going back to kind of on the production of mind management, because I find this really, really interesting, you mentioned that it was you Deluxe seemed like a tremendous amount sense in a retail version, obviously, I would not expect you to reveal any pricing data at all. But could you say anything about relatively the kind of relative cost of production between those two, to kind of help people understand the difference,

Jay Cormier 43:06
The Deluxe is double or more than double the cost, double or more, probably more than double the cost to manufacture. But your profit is a lot higher on a deluxe. Because it's never going to retail. So you make 100% of everything, minus, you know, Kickstarter fees, and all your expenses, but you make all of that. Whereas retail, if you're lucky to even get into distribution, that's its own challenge and a whole other topic, we could talk about distribution, but you make so little on that, like so little. But I mean, but then you got volume, right? So, that's the trade off, like you could, you could keep it all and just sell it on all from your own website, but who's going to your website to buy one game, it's very, very, you're gonna have very low sales, compared to selling, you know, 4000 to a distributor or whatever,

James 43:52
you completely I mean, this is a very much been been my experience, we sell direct magnets on our website, and that's, I'm quite happy with it. There's like a constant trickle. That's pretty good. I'm, that's, it's great. I'm very happy that, won't complain at all. But certainly, yeah, you're not you're not remotely going to get those kinds of volumes. So then were you able to get mind management, that immediate distribution? And the reason I asked that question is because when I've spoken to certain distributors, when it comes to a lot of like, small new companies, obviously, you as a designer, have a lot of experience, but new companies often struggle quite a bit to persuade a distributor to even work with them.

Jay Cormier 44:28
Yeah, I mean, you got to think from a distributor perspective is running a business. And there's what a billion publishers out there, I don't know what the number is right now.

James 44:35
Probably. It could be that I mean, the number of different companies I just see just on Twitter, let alone anywhere else. So there's like tonnes and tonnes of them now.

Jay Cormier 44:43
Also thinking about how many publishers last year are still publishers this year, and the year before, because people come out do their passion project as a publisher, put it out and then don't do anything else ever again, either because they didn't make enough money or to sustain themselves or whatever. So you can't, as a distributor like you can't take take on all these Mom and Pop publishers that are doing these passion projects and just one game. So they want you to have three, four games already to show that you're, you're a business that you're in business. And that's that's why it's hard to get in with distributors. So my quick story on that is that back when my game was signed by a publisher, when mind manager was signed by a publisher, that publisher took it to, at the time line rampid, which is a distributor in Canada, and they had an open house. And so they got to play and kind of pitch slash play it with them. And also lucky that I mentioned has an IP, like, it's a brand. It's the Obviously not, you know, Batman, but it's a brand and it's it, there's a bit of cachet to the brand a bit. And so at the time, they said, Yeah, we'll distribute this. Great, then we lost that. And so then I remember him saying that we hadn't just and so I contacted that publisher, still a friend of mine, and he's like, yeah, here's a contact. Now that contact doesn't work there. He works at Universal Distributing now. So I contacted him at universal. That's it remember this game? He was? Yeah, that's great. He's like, do you want distribute it? He's like, Yeah, okay, let's do it. So that was easy. Canada was easy. Like, that was fantastic. So I'm in Canada. And then as we're getting closer, it was like, Kickstarter is over at this point. And I'm, like, had this thought or an idea of like, Wait a second. I contacted Halina Capello from Bird Island games, she published my in the hall of the mountain king game. And I said, hey, what if we put off a bird island game logo on the back of mind management? And you say it's a bird island game game, and go to your distributor and say, Hey, I got another game. And then you take x percent of the sales? And she's like, Yeah, let's do that. And so because she has an in any game she has, they're gonna distribute. And so it is from their perspective. And they know it's not something shady, I don't mean to sound this is like being sneaky. This is a way you can get into distribution is if you find a partner that believes in your game as much as you do that wants to put their logo on it, and be affiliated with it. And so for Yeah, for all retail in the States, it's yeah, it's got the bird island logo on it.

James 47:06
Oh, interesting. So does that mean you had to actually change the boxes for those ones. So the ones bound for them are different.

Jay Cormier 47:11
So they're already printed. So we actually paid to get stickers put on them.

James 47:15
Ah, okay,

Jay Cormier 47:17
The new print run, the new print run has the burnt Island logo on it,

James 47:20
right. And that's going to be for retail globally, that's got their logo on.

Jay Cormier 47:23
It does. So they're lucky for that.

James 47:25
Extra win for them! They get a little bit of extra little push out of that one. That's really nice. I that's very interesting. I mean, it makes a tremendous sense that sense. If you've got someone that you trust, who's someone who is, you know, also trust you and those knows you're good for it. You've believed in the potential of the product. And is, and is prepared to go look, I'm going to put my name to it to help you get into distribution. Yeah, it's really to say it makes a tremendous sense. It's not something I'd ever even considered as a something which is, can be done. I guess you just got to make sure that said you've got the right people in place, and you have the right product that realistically is going to be something that distributors want to carry any way. With that name attached.

Jay Cormier 48:03
She saw the you know, the first Kickstarter did 191,000. So she saw that it was all Yeah, as a not not a no brainer. But it also aligned with the types of games that she makes you know what I mean? You don't want to pitch a heavy game to a company that does family games, for example. So you know, it'll it'll and it aligned well. And she's now super happy because the second Kickstarter campaign, which we didn't talk about that, but this is a funny story, as so we're just about to run out of units all over the world. And I printed 7500 units in the first print run that to fulfil the 3000 backers from Kickstarter, plus some more just to see if they sell in distribution and whatnot. Yeah, they sold really, they sold really quickly. So I'm starting to plan my second print run. And on February 2, the Shut up, sit down review of mind management dropped right around there, like within a day before day after that, we were officially sold out of the product, like literally, which sucks when there's a shut up, sit down review that we have zero product anywhere in the world to get. So that's February second. February 3, I started having an idea mostly urged by some friends saying Why don't you do this. And I started putting together a Kickstarter page. February 8, I started I ran my next Kickstarter. So from February 2, not even thinking on February second that there was a Kickstarter in my future. February 8, I said, we launched a Kickstarter a second Kickstarter, and I always had this idea that you can't do a Kickstarter for something that already exists. And in hindsight, I realised that the deluxe edition doesn't exist. It's sold out. It's done so and it's not available anywhere and it won't be available anywhere. So I didn't have to add anything but I added a secret missions. Remember I told you about all those 10 Secret cards are hidden. I added those as actual printed cards in each individually sealed as its own envelope. So you can retain the secret if you want. But they're all printed. And now because I added that and the second Kickstarter did 870,000 So just bonkers just crazy bonkers. So we're just it's finishing up printing now. It'll be finished finished by July 15. And then we're off into fulfilment.

James 50:04
Yeah, that's absolutely fantastic.

Jay Cormier 50:06
I mean, when I was going to my second print run was going to be 8000 units, and it's now 28,000 units.

James 50:12
My God.

Jay Cormier 50:13

James 50:14
That's really fascinating, isn't it? I mean, I think one of the most fascinating things about this is that I think the way that the numbers work with these incredibly extreme Pareto distributions for what will be what what a success is, right. Like, I remember looking at Jamey Stegmaier's recent data, and seeing that Wingspan accounts for 54% of everything he has ever made. And I'm just like that one game is 54% of everything.

Jay Cormier 50:37
And he was already doing really well with all his games.

James 50:40
Yeah, like,

Jay Cormier 50:42
Scythe was selling really well,

James 50:43
Right, you've got Scythe out there. So it's, I think the same like the Scythe was like, was the second biggest. That was half a million units had been produced lifetime units of Scythe. And then wingspan was 1.4. And it was just like, at the time of printing of this is like, I think I'm like 31st of December 2021. So we can only assume that it's bigger now.

Jay Cormier 51:01

James 51:02
And it just blew my mind again, thinking of like how a game can go from that, and particularly a big trigger. So it seems a historically have been at least within the hobby game space. The the Shut up and sit down review seems to be a pretty good one. If you can get a positive tape from them. It just seems to be just like a (explosion sound)

Jay Cormier 51:20
Absolutely, yeah, that's bonkers. So yeah, so I'm hoping to leverage all of that, that now new attention 10,000 backers on this campaign, to my next project for Off the Page games. And I'm not sure if you've kind of picked up on what off the page games means. But basically, I'm taking from off the comic book page and onto your table.

James 51:43
Ah, I'm gonna be completely honest with you. I have not picked up on that at all. But it now suddenly, it's falling into place.

Jay Cormier 51:50
Yes. So all my games are based off of creator owned comic books. I don't want to deal with a DC and Marvel's and the lawyers and the corporations. I want to deal with people. I want to deal with the artists who's going to be making new art for this game. And like Matt did for mind management. My second game is Harrow County: The game of Gothic conflict, which is based on the Harrow County comic book by Cullen Bunn. And Tyler Crook and Tyler Crook's doing all new art for it. It's amazing to be able to work with these amazing artists and collaborate with them. And again, same thing, things are better than I could have imagined before, having him on board. So it's an so that artists gone to the printers to get some samples made. And we're looking to kickstart that in October.

James 52:28
Fantastic. Yeah, excellent. So all the forthcoming projects are like that. So they're all going to be comic books, those in creator and comic books, and all that

Jay Cormier 52:37
I just signed my I signed my third contract for a comic, which I'm not gonna announce yet. But as I said, Sen, and his partner Olara are designing it. And I'm just going to be developing and publishing it.

James 52:48
Can you tell us a little bit now about the second game? Or is that still under wraps?

Jay Cormier 52:53
No Harrow County is amaze, it's so it's so cool. It's a one versus one asymmetric game. A lot of people compare it to Root because of the asymmetry and how it fights, how it plays, one of the cool visual components to it is that, have you ever played a game with a cube a tower, like America or valance D?

James 53:09
I don't think so no.

Jay Cormier 53:11
So it's a tower, that you've dropped cubes into it at the top, but it has all these little ledges throughout it. And so only some of the cubes come out the bottom. So it's a nice randomise. Then when you put new cubes in it jostle some other ones out. So this game has a cube tower. But even more interesting is that the cube tower is built into the box. So you're actually going to have the box on the table, and it has a hole in the top of the box. And you can drop cubes into it, there's a hole in the front of the box. And literally in, there's a very famous in the story of Harrow County, a very famous tree, and the cubes are going to come out of the front of the tree. And it's very relevant to the story. And so that's going to have some cool table presence, it's just going to be fun to to do. That's one part. Another part of this is there's a third player that can play in this one versus one game. There's a third player that come in, and they don't play as units or fact, like, I always find in any game, that three player that's units trying to fight each other, that you can easily have a team up effect.

James 54:10
Yeah, exactly. It becomes more about that than any of the game mechanics. Exactly.

Jay Cormier 54:13
Exactly. So this has does not have that at all. Instead, you're playing as the dead witch that's buried under that tree. And you are playing as the roots of the tree. And so you're putting root tokens throughout the land, and you're trying to infect the other players' units. And when you do infect their units in the comic, and in the game, you take a snake and you put it into the ear of that unit. That's how they get infected. So there's a little tiny snake that's gonna go into the ears of these little units, and they're infected and when you have an infected unit, if it's my unit that's affected on my turn, I can still use this unit I can move around and do stuff with it. But on Hester's turn, that the witches turn, she gets to remove them and if she can get two opposing infected units to the same hex they go away and a bonfire appears there and she can summon Hester uhh with a certain amount of cubes coming out of the tower. And she'd go back to life, then Hester is going to come around and she's going to try to eat your legends, your main characters, that's what she does in the comic. She's going to try to eat you. It's amazing.

James 55:11
Yeah. Oh, that's really cool. dripping with theme very much I can see very much like mind management, very much like, how can you bring that to life? That's absolutely fantastic. That's obviously because they were meant to mention that it did make me think a little bit of Vast actually, with a dungeon is the one of the characters right, and it's trying to collapse in on itself and, and destroy everyone. It's like, it's, I think that's a much better way to do it, where you have this third player who's got completely different goals, and is working against both players, rather than the teaming up or anything like that.

Jay Cormier 55:41
And as we were designing this, there was a combo mini series, a four issue miniseries of Harrow County that was coming out, called the Fair folk. And as we were designing, we're like, oh, man, why are you doing this to us. And so we designed, we designed a fourth player to play as the fair folk, and as an expansion, and it'll come with a Deluxe, but you buy it separately if you're buying retail. And so the Fair Folk also don't have units on the board. They live under the ground. And they, concurrent with what's happening, to this they've, somebody has stolen their queen, they've lost their queen. And the fair folk cannot do anything for themselves in the comic and in this game. They just can't they have to make deals and bargains with other people to help them do things even look for the queen, they can't look for the queen on their own. They have to get other people to do it. So the fair folk in this game, make offerings to people. And if you take their offering, they get information about where the queen is. And so it's a bit of a deduction game that happens. That's just fascinating.

James 56:39
Oh, interesting. Of course. Wow, fantastic. Oh, my God, I think it seems like quite a rich vein you're tapping into. I mean, that's really interesting as well picking up on a particular strand like that, because I guess comic books have their rich visuals, they don't have quite kind of relatively simple archetypal stories. And that feels like often the kind of the kind of story you want to mine, right? Like you don't want necessarily, in some ways that might be slightly easier and more naturally, subject matter for board games, and maybe novels, for example,

Jay Cormier 57:08
maybe yeah, maybe it's, at the very least, it's very visual. So that's what's so that's great.

James 57:13
I mean, yeah, that's the thing, right? Isn't the very least you've got, you've got that to work with, that gives you these sort of visuals. Because again, I think about how like, like, if you if let's say you'd come up with the idea for mind management somehow independently, which is actually itself interesting, quite hard to imagine, in some ways. Like, if you would you then arrive at that art style, it feels like it would be quite difficult to even think about how you would go straight into an art direction from something like that there's there's just completely neutral there's a thing I found that's very hard with art direction is coming up with like an original art field is obviously super challenging, because that's often a big part of what good art is in general,

Jay Cormier 57:48
I've been also lucky again collaborating then, when looking for for mind management. makinde did all the graphic design for Harrow County, Tyler crook is an illustrator, he's not a graphic designer, so I had to hire a graphic designer. And so part one of that was I really wanted a female graphic designer, because the two main characters in Harrow county are female. And there's already a bunch of guy, there's two male creators of the comic book two male designers, I wanted a female graphic designer. So I went through, you know, the games, I liked on BGG. And we looked in the listings for to see who the graphic designer was, and if I liked them, then I contacted them it took me about three or four people to get through because some just weren't interested in the theme, being a horror theme. That's fine. And then found Alexandra bellick. And she is awesome. And she added so much more to this, and had some great conversations with Tyler as well about like, the style, but what is Gothic, that kind of Southern Gothic, and he she would do something he's He and Tyler knew exactly what was what isn't part of that style. And he's like, No, that's actually a little bit more Victorian, this. So we want this to be more like, Wow, that's great. So we, you know, collect collectively and collaboratively created a project that is now very cohesive, in its approach to the game. That's lovely. Surround yourself with amazing people and amazing things happen.

James 59:06
Yeah, I mean, I feel like that's like a an incredibly good piece of advice in general, for any project but especially for anything creative like this. I mean, I feel very fortunate to over time gradually in the process of building I think is the right way to phrase it, you did a very talented team, where we started to get some more regular artists that we work with, and very much having a much higher my kind of CO designer on multiple projects is is super important and collaboration to me to make to make everything everything work. So okay, so I'm conscious of time, and I want to make sure we've got time to cover, just a couple more things. This has been absolutely fascinating.

Jay Cormier 59:45
Yeah, we haven't even talked about the fail faster game design course that's coming out.

James 59:48
No! We haven't had a chance to talk about that yet. So we'll actually why don't you tell us a little bit more about that. And then I've got I think then after that what I want to talk to you about is sort of your top advice, I think for new game to publish and creators, I think Like, I normally ask people to top three, I feel like you've nailed one already, which is about surrounding yourself with with other creative peak collaborators, because that is massive. But you'll have to have two more ready for the rest. I'd love to know more about the fail faster design journal, because this is such a cool idea. I love the badge concept. And I think it's really interesting giving someone just a little bit of structure, because it's quite hard to learn all of these skills, and you can only learn them by doing so. So yeah, I'd love to learn more.

Jay Cormier 1:00:28
Yeah, so the journal was my way of guiding designers to take the notes they need to take in order to become a successful play tester, and ultimately, a successful game designer, if you can, if you can, T. And that's what the gamification was trying to encourage and force you to take these notes, and they all have a reason. Every little thing has a reason of why it's there. It says here list of lists your play testers names, and then in brackets says in player order. So that why is that there? Because if you do enough games, you can actually see what their scores Hey, is that always the first player that's winning? Hey, that's, that's so you know what I mean? Everything has value and wisely. There's even a little checkbox beside every single player's name. Why is that there? I say in the in the rules for it, it says, Put a check there if this is the first time that that player has ever played this game, then you can go back and see how many unique play testers have you had any like, Oh, I've only ever had 12 unique play testers. And maybe that's not big enough, I'm not getting enough sample size to get everybody's taste and tear, included. So every single thing has a reason why it's in there. So that's important. So then I'm taking that brand. It's it launched in a poor time, because by the time it was available in the world as a physical product, then the pandemic happened. And so nobody is doing in person testing for last year. So now we're just starting to get back to doing produce fields and stuff. So I'm trying to get my journal out it to produce fields and and unpubs and these events that are like playtesting events and kind of sponsor them and whatnot. So that's part of it. But I'm also taking the brand and turning it into also a game design course that I'm teaching. And so this is gonna be an online game design course through fail faster, that will take you from A to Z on how to design a board game. The first series of courses is or a series of classes, which is something like 20 videos long is the intro to board game design. And through that, you're going to make a roll and write game together, I'll make that with you. And learning some of the background and some of the terminology and things like that. Then after this, the next course that I haven't started yet is going to be the full, the full course where we're going to learn all the ins and outs of everything from the other mechanics and feedback loops and uncertainty and all these things that you need to know as a game designer, we're gonna go through that then I've been teaching this for about 10 years at Vancouver Film School. I taught it for about a year and a half at Langara. And I'm even teaching this year to some grade six and sevens game design. So I've taught from adults to kids.

James 1:02:40
Yeah, so wide age group. Yeah,

Jay Cormier 1:02:42
Yeah. So I'm really trying to grow this brand. The other thing I'm doing with this brand, this is kind of a little bit of an answer, because it's not really ever been announced. So there you go, is...

James 1:02:51
Oh heard it here first, I love it!

Jay Cormier 1:02:52
Oh, man. Scoop! So I partnered with Blaze, who will who is a game designer and a writer. And we're writing a young adult fiction book. And as you read the young adult fiction book, after a couple chapters, you'll be presented with a board game in the book. And this, this book will come with some extra pieces and cards and stuff like that you'll play the board game with a with a friend or a parent or whatever. And then either you'll lose or it won't there's something about it's not exact right. And so then there's been a couple more pages about asking you how would you redesign this game and give you some stickers and some extra advice on how would you redesign this game to make it more interesting and more fair for both players, but five different board games that come in this really cool story? time travel story? And we're really excited about that. So that's we're looking at that maybe in February, hopefully to launch that.

James 1:02:52
Oh, wow, that's really cool. So hang on with that, then. So just so I understand the concepts that are more clearly. So there's a there's a novel and is it the board games are kind of in the novel, or they're kind of more about the novel?

Jay Cormier 1:03:52
They're like, you get to a point where like, oh my god, we're being chased by this guy. And like, you turn the page and like, now you're being chased by the guy,

James 1:03:58
right. And now, you know, right. Oh, cool, as this is like a really interesting variation of Yeah, like, like a literary form a bit of those interactive Netflix films. Yeah, that's true. Yes. Right. Yeah. Where you can like choose what happens next. And that's like a level to which, but more, more completely gamified. In that sense.

Jay Cormier 1:04:15
Gameified. And you know that we're obviously just doing one right now. But we already have plans to do a series of them. And each one, each book will be about a different type of mechanic. So the first one is all about movement. So the very first game you play is a roll and move game. And so how can we and we'll find out why that's not super interesting. How can we make that better? And then we keep going up to the various other ways of moving including in the in here, there's gonna be a game that's about flicking for movement.

James 1:04:39
Yeah, a really cool that a brilliant idea. And I can see that actually, I can see you directly immediately make an entire series out of that. Like there are so many ways because it's almost like a new media a little bit you're working in there, where you can have like a like a written story that has those bits, you know, it's rather than more than just a choose your own adventure. It's actually like somehow, because we're doing the games can be very different to them as you go through it.

Jay Cormier 1:04:59
I know. And then I'm hoping that the games are gonna be fun in it of itself itself that they'll just want to play the games, bring it up and play that one game because it was a cool game. And especially the fact that I got to redesign it and tweak it. Let's play my version of the game. That's fun. And so the series is called a the books are called Design Your Destiny, which ties into designing a game, but also ties into the fact that it's time travel that they're all they travel to different times. So that allows us to do some funky things with future technology and stuff like that.

James 1:05:25
Yeah, that's really, really cool. And then you're also going to be expanding on this. How are you working with more people with fail faster as well, I guess that's you know, that's fantastic.

Jay Cormier 1:05:33
And then we haven't even talked about the TV show that I'm trying to produce. But anyway.

James 1:05:37
You're producing a TV show as well?! okay, okay, you've got to say something about this. The game that you've also designed behind you. But wait, there's more. As I feel Yeah, we're playing that now. It's great. I'd love to I'd love to hear about this. Tell me more about that.

Jay Cormier 1:05:52
Yeah, we're putting together a show where producer contact and a pitching constantly liked it. So we're going to head with it. And we're getting comedians to play board games. And but it's not like tabletop from with Wil Wheaton. It's because we don't necessarily care and put that in quotes about the rules the game, we will 100 percent hundreds play the rules, the game will really showcase the game, but we're not going to be teaching the game. It's not a teaching video, we're going to play the game. And it's all about comedians trying to roast each other. And so they're going to actually get bonus points for for good. They're gonna be a judge or referee that's going to give them points for based on how good their roasts are. And, and just general jokes, and so you can get a certain amount of points for winning the game. Plus your bonus points.

James 1:06:36
All right, yeah.

Jay Cormier 1:06:37
Yeah. So so we're just it's just, we just want to show how fun it is to play games. And at the end, people like man, that game looked really fun. I want to I don't know exactly how to play it. But it looked really fun and they had a great time with it. I want to try that game.

James 1:06:48
Yeah, no, that's brilliant idea. I think getting people to show the just demonstrate the joy you can have sitting around with a group of people just having fun with the games, I think the idea of winning bonus points, and what a wonderful fusion of multiple different different ideas. Yeah, that's something that we're experimenting with in a game that we've got coming to Kickstarter later this year, which fuses a kind of pitching element with other gameplay. So I'm really curious to see how the TV show works out. It's really cool. Awesome, fantastic. Alright, so So then you've given us one of your top tips of being, let's say, a self publisher of games. What would your other two be?

Jay Cormier 1:07:24
For a self publisher?

James 1:07:25

Jay Cormier 1:07:26
It's, I mean, understand the market. And when I say that, I mean, follow a lot of other campaigns, like literally back it for a dollar, follow them, see how they communicate, see how they lay out their page, understand what price points they're using. Are they doing add ons or stretch goals? Are they doing daily reveals, like, follow the ones that you like, not that you that just that you like, that's one thing, but also for the ones that you think, aligned with the kind of game you're making. So if you're making more of a party game follow some of the party games, but don't, don't just follow the ones that are like based on oatmeal, or something like that, that have a huge following, because they're going to do things differently, follow ones that are more closely aligned with how, where you are from a publisher perspective. Now, I gambled when I did mind management, because I, I was a first time publisher, but yes, I've had many games published. And we had mind management as a brand from an IP, like we had, you know, some cache there. From the get go, I treated this like it was going to be a big game, like, like it was going to be 100,000 plus game. And it paid off because it was, but I was lucky. So many people, game designers that are publishing their own game, think that their game is going to be the next game, everybody thinks that, that this is going to be the next big game, because they play tested with all their friends, and they love it, and they want to play it every time they come over. That's dangerous. And so you have to be a bit more judicious and, and if this is your only game you've ever designed, that's gonna be very, very tricky to figure out how to get a following before you, you know, go to Kickstarter, assuming your crowdfunding which 99% of people are because they have no other way of getting game out there besides crowdfunding. So know your market fine and and try to try to align with the expectations. I don't even know how to say that properly. Because so many people have these like, think their games just gonna go bananas that it doesn't and then they get that after three days, or like we're in there, you see them posting on Facebook, why is what can I do this just nobody else coming to my game? And then I'm not funded yet. Like it's over. It's over. If you're not funded, I don't wanna say it's over. I mean, there's things you can do, but it's like, it's you should have done it six months ago.

James 1:09:29
Well, that I mean, that's one of the modern realities, it seems of Kickstarter is that you really want to be funding in the first few 48 hours. And if you don't really like there's a maybe even 24 hours now that that that's a bit of a problem. Actually, something I noticed lots of campaigns is they tend to either fund in 24 and then go really quite well, or they would fund they would maybe just make it over the finish line, rather than which, you know, you ideally don't want to be in that situation. So something essentially you said that sort of echoes a little bit what Jamey Stegmaier talks about this about being prepared for best and worst case scenarios. So for like you've got to do that actually is wise to do the estimate of, Okay, what if we did have 200,000 pounds or $200,000? And what would we do in that situation to make sure that you're not suddenly overwhelmed. And it's nice to think big, but you've also got to make sure you're fully prepped and geared for the smaller version too, because you just can't possibly assume that your game is going to be the next big one because again, we're talking about those those Pareto distributions that came up earlier. You know if even for Jamey Stegmaier 54% of all his lifetime sales of everything is just one game. Like that. Even within his titles. It's like his poor selling titles have like 30,000 lifetime sales.

Jay Cormier 1:10:46
I know. But that's true for any publisher that has a hit. Like you look at CG, CGE. If you look at CGE, I bet you it's somewhere of like 90% of all their games I've ever sold is Codenames.

James 1:10:57
Probably, yeah. It's probably a huge chunk.

Jay Cormier 1:10:59
And CGE has sold a lot of games. But you know what I mean? Like, that's all you need, you need that one big hit that is your evergreen title. So you can't I don't it's hard to stay in business if you don't, for a long time. Without a big, big hit. My my third piece of advice would be to start nine months ago.

James 1:11:17
Yes, yes,

Jay Cormier 1:11:19
There's literally there's no rush. There's no rush, don't. So many people think that I'm going to do by September, and then there's locked into September. And now it's got to happen in September, and then you get close to September and it's not happening. Even if you've announced September. Who cares? Guys, it's not ready we're postponing to November, fine. Oh, go into February, fine! It's better to delay and build your audience and do it the right way and have all the information you need from your manufacturer, about how much everything costs and just have all the information. Just don't, don't rush it. And the more time the better for building your audience, go to more cons demo it, whatever you have to do to get the word out what I found that I was taking over for as a publisher. And so the game is 100% designed at that point, I put a nine month, say okay, let's let's target nine months from now. That's when we'll target the launch. And so that's what it was. And it worked. We were ready. Like we were ready, like everything was ready. I mean, not the art.

James 1:12:13
Three years to get it ready. And then nine months more to get to

Jay Cormier 1:12:16
No it was three months just to get the thing was still another two years after that to design the game.

James 1:12:21
Right. Okay.

Jay Cormier 1:12:21
Yeah, it was five years of Design Pro time to get mind management done. There's even more stories, but we're gonna run out of time. But yeah, It was great.

James 1:12:29
Well, I mean, absolutely, we can go into much more detail and we can discuss more of those. On another occasion.

Jay Cormier 1:12:35

James 1:12:35
If you would like to come back for another chat. Oh, most of that. Marvellous. Wonderful. Thank you so much Jay for joining me.

Jay Cormier 1:12:41
Yeah, thank you for having me.

James 1:12:51
Producing fun is produced by Naylor games. If you enjoyed the show, follow us on Spotify, Stitcher or other major podcasting platforms. Remember, Producing Fun is also a product, and it's thrives on feedback. So please leave a review wherever possible, or simply send me your feedback directly. You can message me on Twitter at Naylor James, and write me an email James at Naylor Until next time,


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