Today’s guest has been perfecting his game series for over 20 years. And I can relate to that struggle too as I have been working on several of my own ideas for around 10 years now.
Kerry has set up at several conventions now and has a growing fan base. Let’s find out more on what he has learned over the last 20 years.
Keep up to date with Kerry and his games on his:
About Kerry and his Realm Warfare series
1. When and why did you start playing games?
When I was young I played a lot of video games at the same time I was playing Chess with my brother. He’d constantly beat me, which was very frustrating.
One night I dreamed of both my video games and Chess in the same setting. That created the basis for my first game. My other games were influenced by one of my best friends, who is the best RPG GMers I have ever seen.
2. What is the name of the first game you have published?
Realm Warfare series
3. When was the first time you remember wanting to create a game of your own?
One of the first games I ever made was based on an animated movie I loved as a kid, “The Flight of Dragons.” Pieces moved around a path on the board, like Sorry and had to avoid or fight monsters or obstacles. The art was based off of the movie but the quality wasn’t the best because I was just a kid at the time. Creating games allowed me to ‘live’ in the worlds I loved.
Making Your Game
1. What steps did you take in planning out your game?
I started with a generalized concept and created pieces so I could play it on the square-tiled carpet in my bedroom. The concept was there but it took me years to develop a working game play that worked.
2. Who created the art for your game?
Before I graduated from college in graphic design my niece created the conceptual design for the game’s main characters. She also did many more, creating the perfect look and feel for the game. After I graduated I tried to match her research and artistic style.
3. Was it difficult finding playtesters? How did you find them?
I generally used family and friends. I started out playing with my friends when I had a generalized concept but no official rules. Decades later, when I had colorful, working prototypes, I played with my nephews. My nephews are now some of the biggest fans of the game and now know it inside and out.
4. How did you publish your game and what was most challenging about this process?
Because my game has exclusive features (Example: magnetic gameboard), I had a very hard time locating a manufacturer who could supply me with not only all of my high-quality requirements, but in the limited amount I needed to get started. My requirements had already been turned down by at least 3 different USA manufacturers. I also paid a large amount of money to have some market research done, who informed me that while my game would be over 70% successful, they wanted even more money to get the game created.
I had almost settled on the idea of creating and making only prototype versions from home when Do Fine Printing in China reached out to me. After many lengthy discussions via email over a few weeks, they fit the bill. They said they could reach my high quality goals at a price my future customers would like for a limited amount of games.
5. What obstacles did you overcome in the manufacturing process?
My contact at Do Fine was Eva Luo. She is wonderful. Despite the long distance, she responded quickly to my emails quite promptly – days instead of weeks.
If a long time passed without communication she’d send a kind note, asking how I was doing and if she could help. When we finally managed to connect on Facebook, it was a bit of a dream come true to be able to communicate in real time.
Do Fine understands how KickStarter works, so Eva was able to offer excellent suggestions on how to prepare and gather potential contributors, fans, and customers to my cause. She’s been very honest, kind, and complimentary. A joy to work with!
(Related: How to Make a Kickstarter)
6. How long did it take you to create your first game from the planning to the publishing phase?
I’ve been honing my product for over 20 years! Because my original game was a combination of my favorite video games and chess,
I went through 3 branding processes before coming to a finished product and brand. While I spent years researching and developing the first version of the gameboard, pieces, rulebook, and cards, it always ate at the back of my mind that if I altered characters, locations, and icons it would be my own product.
Another handful of years went by, repeating the process and creating more characters from scratch, complete with a history of this new world.
Given the potential violence, scary monsters, and my own limited artistic ability I opted for a family friendly version with cartoonish characters and even comics based off of our test gaming humor. After that process was complete, my true fans and target audience informed me that a family friendly version would not be accepted by them.
I then had to start all over again-spending more years, and even going to school, to create something my fans could really get excited about and I could truly be proud of.
Promoting Your Game
1. Where did you promote your game?
My first marketing attempt was creating collateral buttons via a homework assignment in Jr. High. Before the internet was even invented and such connections were difficult to make.
Now, I have a website, business cards, a banner, a flag, a commercial, signs, booth display, t-shirts, pens, and logo stickers. I have designs for bumper stickers, laser engraved mugs, jewelry, bags, letter openers, and more.
It’s mostly been word of mouth and ‘bring your friends’ when we’ve tested games. I tried hosting a game at a local game store, but without willing participants who were informed I didn’t get the reaction I wanted.
I was doing volunteer graphics for a friend trying to start his own business when our first GameCon was held. My friend offered to bring me along to his booth and requested I bring something to showcase my skills. I decided to bring my game prototype and got a crash course in conventions. After the first day I was scrambling to create signs, banners, handouts, and name tags. I got a lot of positive reactions and was even showcased on the con’s commercial.
Months later, I had the opportunity to have my own booth at a smaller convention in my home town, even though I’d since moved to our state’s capital. I made some good connections there, but the important step was creating necessary booth material.
- edit my rulebook
- pose for a digitally enhanced character photo
- gather testimonials and video
- offer test run games
- provide local celebrity endorsement, and
- bring new people to the game.
More months later, when my friend informed me that I could host my game at our state’s ComicCon I knew I’d hit the jackpot. Even though I was exhausted from the previous day’s con festivities, I forced myself to go and set up.
It was an amazing experience! I gave away almost all of my business cards, made some great old and new connections, played 2 full games, gained some excellent testimonials, captured some game-play video, got onto the con’s commercial again, and really put the name out there!
I am now currently creating a new website.
2. Who helped create your awesome promo video on your website?
“It was all shot by me, of me, from our home.”
My schooling! I’m a graphic designer, but my school wanted to give us as many tools as we could handle. When I took the beginner animation class I just fell in love with it.
Years after I graduated, the KickStarter website suggested creating a commercial to promote your product. I jumped into it like I was making a movie. Such a fun project!
I didn’t have all of the tools to make it as professional as I’d like, so I did the best I could. I’d love to still add some video of the game being played, but other than that, I’m really pleased at how it turned out. It was all shot by me, of me, from our home.
1. What are several things you wish you did differently when creating your first game?
I wish I’d done better research of my target audience when I first started. With the first brand, which took several years, I made it for me. That’s nice, but I was my only customer.
While I always loved to design and make games, I didn’t think of it being an actual business. If I had trusted my dreams and goals better, I probably could’ve skipped several years of hard work and gotten closer to my finished product faster.
Also, I was limited by my vision and skills. Going to school to learn how to create my vision was one of my best decisions. Without my schooling, I never could have gotten the tools I needed to make the final product I, and my fans, always wanted.
2. Why did you set out to create your first game?
It was an obsession. As an artistic problem-solver, I couldn’t have this grand idea in my head and not act on it. When I first tried to explain it to my wife it made absolutely no sense to her. A few months later, when I finally had a working prototype, she finally saw the vision and could see how far it could go.
That grand vision is what drove me. Over time, more and more products, games, expansions, characters, and accessories were added to the list.
3. What is your favorite part of game design?
Seeing the same excitement I feel in the game play being reflected in the faces of my players.
(This is similar to Mike Abrahamson’s reason for creating his game)
4. What is your least favorite part of game design?
Problem solving; when you know something should work and you have an idea of how it should work but you still can’t get it to work. And you’re not sure how to fix it.
The Realm Warfare series is only my first product of many. I have several series in mind that are collectible action figure, RPG, board games intended to all work together. Current future genres include modern military, martial arts, and superheroes!
And feel free to ask Kerry a question about his 4 player chess inspired Realm Warfare series in the comments below.
Check out last week’s interview with KC to see how he is inspiring Africa to make board games.