Apr 162011

I am looking to add up to five more people to our playtester pool for Zeppelin Armada. Reply here with your one sentence reason for why it’s you!

I can’t take all comers, of course, but I’d love to expand our crew. Thanks!

EDIT: Got all I need for this round. Thanks!

Apr 012011

This card game is going to have zeppelins.

Lots of zeppelins. Fast ones. Slow ones. Big ones. Small ones. Aggressive. Pacifist. Chaotic.

They’ll each be in a pulp-style villainous mastermind’s armada, but which fleet they’ll end up in isn’t predetermined. Maybe they’ll be in the conquerer ape’s armada — or the fleet of the martian weather-witch. They could be sky-pirates, or they could be steampunkified electro-vessels. They could be stolen from the future, and crewed by roman soldiers.

But what they need most of all is names.

That’s where you come in. We’re looking for names from you. Share some appropriately pulpy-sounding zeppelin-names with us, here, in the comments. Bonus points if you give us a quick one-phrase description of the kind of zeppelin it is. And remember — these are zeppelins piloted by the bad guys!

If we use your names, you’ll have bragging rights, and … maybe something more (TBD)!

Mar 212011

As I mentioned before, Evil Hat is looking at getting into making card games, relying on Jeff Tidball to do the design work and share the benefit of his extensive experience with us. We’re trying to start reasonably modestly, and — as with anything — work our way up to bigger projects down the road (assuming the effort leads to enough sales to support that).

One of the interesting aspects of this kind of work is the degree of disconnection between the “skin” of a game (the story-conceit, what it looks like, all that) and the “bones” of it (its rules). If you’re doing a licensed game (we’re not, at least not as our first one), you probably start skin first, and then feel around for a rules concept that can play comfortably inside that skin. Personally, though, I’m a rules junkie — I like the fiddlies — so when I look at a design, that’s where my head starts.

With a card game, you can find yourself skinless to start. You may find yourself with the root of a rules concept you’d like to explore, and it’s only through the exploration that you’ll uncover what your best-fit skin for that might be. Part of it is about fitting the rules, and part of it is about making sure the high concept of the game is something you can explain clearly and succinctly, in a way that piques interest and gets folks willing to sit down and play a hand.

With our first game in development, I brought an idea to Jeff that had been banging around in my head for a few years.

The idea grew out of a drive back from one of the big summer conventions with Matt Gandy and Rob Donoghue, where we devolved into a certain amount of “leet speek” trash-talking: IM IN UR BASE, KILLIN UR MANS. Of course, that phrase right there stuck with me and I got the vestiges of a card game idea, where each player is frantically trying to build his base, while the other players were sending invading DOODZ who might kill his MANS. I didn’t take it very far, but the core idea there stuck with me: each player trying to build a 3×3 grid of cards in front of him as his base of operations, the center card representing the player himself in the command & control center, and the ring of cards around that card forming the perimeter of the base, with various defenses and weaponry in place.

So I tossed that idea at Jeff, and he liked it enough to get off to the races. We gave the prototype the code name SIEGE, knowing we’d be changing it; the design concepts Jeff hashed out (which I’ll talk about in a later post after it’s had a little more development & testing done)  didn’t have a home yet in terms of skin. What was the 3×3 grid of cards going to represent? What about the occupant in the center card of the “base”? We kicked around a few ideas over the course of this, including:

  • Sci fi/future war techno-bases, cleaving close to the original roots of the idea
  • Castles with all sorts of fantasy tropes & flair
  • Video game playtesters at a (collapsing) start-up, holing up in their cubicles in order to fight off the HR goons coming to pink-slip them

Each of these had their charms, but they didn’t necessarily sit perfectly right for some of the rules ideas Jeff was coming up with. Then the idea of treating the 3×3 grid less as a physical structure and more as a formation came to mind. That’s when it got interesting for us. A formation of what?

As a publisher, one of the things worth looking at is what else you have in your catalog that your new product can “vibe” with, hopefully driving some cross-sales traffic. We talked about some of Evil Hat’s intellectual property, too, through the course of this — and when we said “a formation of what?”, pretty damn quickly we arrived at the only possible, the only right answer.


Stay tuned to see what we’re going to let fly.

Feb 042011

So, Rob Donoghue and I had an interesting chat around the beginning of the year about what we wanted to see Evil Hat do now that we’re past our previous Big Thing, the Dresden Files RPG. We got into a few bits & details there, but the big takeaway from that conversation was: let’s see if we can get Evil Hat to “grow up”, to act and achieve more like a “real company”. For me, that translated pretty easily into two basic goals: drive the company to do more than one thing at a time, and explore opportunities to do things we haven’t done before. A big, leading possibility in that latter goal was to get into something other than RPG publication. As a part of both goals, I formed a wishlist of folks I wanted to work with in 2011 and onward, and started asking folks on it what they’d be interested in doing together with Evil Hat.

Enter Jeff Tidball. Jeff is a writer, a game designer, and a card-and-board-games veteran bringing plenty of industry experience under his belt that we simply don’t have, over at the Hat. I’ve had a chance to contribute little bits to some books that Jeff & Will have published through GamePlayWright, as well as a few (too short) conversations at conventions over the past few years of Evil Hat build-up. Jeff’s background with card and board games makes him a natural fit for our new ambitions, and was the first person I thought of when our minds pointed in that direction.

And so Jeff went on the wishlist, got an email, and — good news — he was just as excited about working with us as we with him.

And now, the ball is rolling. Jeff will be designing and producing at least one, possibly several, card games with us over the course of the next year-or-so. Along the way I’ll be encouraging Jeff to blog about his side of things over at GamePlayWright, while I’ll be blogging here (as always) about the business lessons I learn as I do my best to drink up Jeff’s precious life force vast experience.

Early on, the first thing is simply one of scale. Card games aren’t the sort of thing one can easily do in a POD footing (though options are starting to show up). That means even a small card game like the one we’ll be starting out with has a five-digit dollar figure as its budget — for a company that started on maybe $10,000 total, any time that fifth digit shows up, it really spins my head.

But, importantly, if we want Evil Hat to grow — and we do — we’ve got to do the things that scare us a little. Business is risk. We’ll do it our way, like we have with everything: start smaller, find our feet, then build on those lessons, failures, and successes to do the next, bigger thing. And while we do that, we’ll do it publicly, transparently. With Jeff riding shotgun on this part of things, I’m confident we’ll meet our goals.

Hang on to your Hat.