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Deal of the Day – Deep Dive

Today’s vblog is all about my recent 3Deep Deal of the Day. If you are a publisher, or aspiring publisher, Deal of the Day is ‘the thing’ that we all aim for with DriveThruRPG’s Publisher Promotion Points. It is the most expensive option available, and out of reach for most small publishers.

I have now run two DotD. The first was for a solo product. It was my Blades in the Dark book, which meant that the attached game had an existing huge following. The price was just a couple of dollars, which also meant that it was an easy impulse buy.

The second, this week’s 3Deep offer, was a completely different challenge. 3Deep is a standalone system neutral game system. Most role players already have more games than they will ever play, asking them to buy another one is a tougher challenge. Even discounted 60% the PDF was $4, not a huge amount, but the POD wasn’t discounted.

Experience says that a DotD will earn you $200 – $280 in additional sales. This one earned $199.01, so pretty much as expected. I hoped to sell 50 copies, actually sold 62.

The follow on sale was the big win this time.

What the video for more detail, and feel free to ask me anything about it.

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Wheels within wheels…

I think it was Douglas Adams used coined the phrase “Everything is connected”. I like getting the maximum benefit from any single effort. In this video I used a blog post on High Level Games, to promote some of my own supplements and games, and got paid for writing it. The article included affiliate links, so I earned a little affiliate income and I made money on selling the books themselves. The author bio included a link to my DriveThru storefront, and that held out a chance for people to discover my entire catalogue.

I like the idea of being paid to advertise my own work. The other supplements I talked about in the article did show off a wide range of different systems, all of what were solo playable.

In the same way, being featured in the Forged in the Dark Bundle of Holding, has boosted my DriveThru mailing list by over 500 contacts. The solo rules I am working on right now is also Forged in the Dark, there is a strong chance that they may well be interested in Wicked Ones, or Wickedly Solo as I think the booklet will be called.

My DriveThru mailing list has been built up over the years from all sorts of different sources. This means that it is not very focused. Some people are on the list because they bought into my very early system neutral stuff, others because of my 3Deep d6 system, many more are into my solo stuff.

The consequence of that is that whatever I release and tell the world about, it does not engage with everyone on the list.

The newsletter on this site is much newer. It is almost exclusively made up with people who know me for my solo play stuff. When I tell people about a new solo supplement there is a much greater chance of them being interested.

That difference is quite marked in the take up of discounts and sales of new books.

The numbers may look small on the video, but they vary widely from title to title. I only highlight discounts given out in the past three weeks or so, because the subscriber base was largely similar across all of them over such a short period.

I have send out announcements and made 40 or more sales straight off the mailing. It helps if it is a really popular game to start with. I think the best to date was probably the Cepheus Engine solo booklet.

There is more in the video, including some hard facts and figures.

Hope you enjoy it.

I send out discounts of up to 40% to my blog readers. To qualify all you need to is join my contact list, so I have an email to send the discount code to!

You can of course leave the list whenever you want. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Playtesting Navigator RPG

This is my latest video diary.

This is my second time using OBS for recording the video. Still not really comfortable with it, but getting better. I made a classic mistake in that I did the full 16 minutes to camera and then realised I hadn’t pressed record. D’oh!

I touch upon virtual Cons in the video. I think it is important that we support these online conventions. Many small cons may not survive without people picking up the baton and joining in the virtual games.

There is not a lot you can say that is positive about a pandemic, but the way that our hobby has taken to virtual table tops is one of them. I have also seen an increase in popularity in my little solo books.

I honestly feel that this spring as been the easiest time to find playtesters for new games. I am also hoping that this attitude shift towards supporting new indie games and giving them a go continues.

I use my contact list to send out notifications of new booklets, send discount codes and very occasionally to get your opinions on things related to game and gaming, to help me make my little books better. Please consider joining up.

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Minimum Viable Product Game Design

If you sat through my first two videos, I do apologise for the poor quality in every sense.

This video is about minimum viable product. The idea of MVP comes from silicon valley. With new tech it makes a lot of sense. New hardware is expensive to develop and manufacture. If you make something really basic, it is cheaper to create. If early adopters latch on to it, they are often happy to play top dollar for basic functionality, just because it is the newest, shiny thing.

If you have a successful product then you can invest in making it better and more feature rich.

This idea was never intended for books and games.

The problem with MVP in games is that it often comes down to:

  • rules light
  • no setting
  • poor quality or no art
  • basic page layout

Rules Light

There is nothing wrong with rules-light games. I love them. Two of my favourite systems are TinyD6 and Adventurers! Both games were designed from the ground up to be rules-light, and with Adventurers! modular games. Most games are not like that. They are not rules-light enough to be really classed as rules-light but they are not fully developed enough, because of the MVP idea, to be called rules medium. I fell into this trap. My design for 3Deep was that the core rules would be simple and stripped back and I would then sell addon books that contained the genre and setting material.

This approach really only achieves one thing. It dumps a load of work into the GM’s lap. Stuff they have to do before they even get to play your game.

There is another flaw as well and that is the addon setting

No Setting

I have written/produced two setting books for 3Deep. The first was 3Deep in the Wild West, and the second I got permission from Tangent Zero [Todd Zircher] to port No GMs Sky to 3Deep. That all sounds fine, there are also several adventures from a fantasy horror campaign, science fiction adventures and theatre of the mind adventure ideas for the game.

If I had these ready before or at the same time as the core rules, then that would have been a nice package. But if they were ready at the same time, why not include them in the main game and make the game that much more appealing and complete?

As it was, the people who bought my game (thank you if you did!) had to wait a year to get that additional material. The MVP idea ended up hurting the very people who gave me their hard earned money when they bought the game.

The problem for the indie developer is that it took a year to make 3Deep in the Wild West. It also cost about $200. That is a gamble that some people would not be comfortable making. I was spending the money I had made from the core 3Deep book on an American writer to write the setting material for the American Old West. For me that validated the whole idea of MVP. The first book paid to write the second, both are now on sale, then they produced the third, and so on.

But would 3Deep have been very value for money, and easier to play if the settings had come out at the same time, or in a more timely manner?

I think the answer has to be yes.

Poor Quality/No Art

Art in role playing games is a nightmare for the indie producer. About the best small games company out there for managing this is Earl of Fife Games. They use a wealth of fantastic art in their books. I would hold them up as an example of how to do it right.

When I was starting out I had no budget and I lacked the knowledge of where to find the art resources I needed. That then comes across in the finished book.

A lot of MVP books, games and adventures go without art all together. I suspect that that is a better option than the terrible design choices I made.

Poor Layout/Design

This is closely related. There are three common options for design and layout. The first is the free option of Scribus. It is an open source layout programme. The one thing it struggles with is tables, and of course tables are a core feature of role playing games.

I use inDesign. I bought a cheap second hand copy of Creative Suite 4. It works with Windows 10. I will continue to use it until it stops working, which will probably be with Windows 11. I am rarely in a hurry to upgrade my computers and operating system so I will get a few more years out of it yet.

I refuse to go to software as a service and pay adobe every month. The alternative is Affinity.

Affinity Publisher and Affinity Photo are a viable alternative to inDesign and Photoshop. Together they will cost you about $100, but discounts abound. For me, I think they are lacking a few of the nicer features of inDesign. But they are gaining features almost monthly and rapidly going through version upgrades. I fully expect the programmes to be mature and feature rich enough for me, when I am forced to move over.

My advice would be to reinvest the first $50 you make into buying Affinity Publisher. What you gain is the ability to do professional looking layouts and prepare Print on Demand book files. Seeing your book in print is worth every cent!

Minimum Viable Product?

I would honestly recommend building your game to a stage where you could release it and then carry on building. Go beyond that minimum. Create the extra stuff that will make your game really fun to play, and if you can make it beautiful to look at. It may sound shallow but with PDFs and digital downloads you are going to need to appeal to all the senses you have access to, and that is primarily visual.

Save yourself some grief!

I will be the first to admit that I am not destined to become the next Youtubing superstar. I much prefer the written word. If you would like to get email updates from me then I have an update mailing list. Please consider joining.

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Diary of an Indie Game Developer Part 1

So yesterday I said I was going to start a YouTube channel. Well, here is the first video. It was highly embarrassing to make and the whole process was awkward and unnatural.

I am going to proceed under the self delusion that it will get more natural over time.

Depending on Amazon deliveries, I should have a better camera, sound and lighting by this time next week. I am also going to do something about that background. I had never realised how institutional the wall behind my desk looks!

I also have that “It shows that I haven’t been to the barbers since before lockdown’ hair.

Looking at the positives, I said I would start the channel, and I have done it. I have gotten over the video equivalent of the blank page. Everything I do from now on should be slightly better quality than the video that went before.

May I ask anyone reading this to become a subscriber? What I would like the most is subscribers, comments and suggestions so I can continue to improve what I am offering. You can find DoaIGD (Diary of an Indie Game Developer) here.

Thank you!