Post-Mortem: Dwarven Weeaboos

The Dwarven Weeaboos Kickstarter has ended (435% funded!) and we’re now working on the bonus content and getting the game out the door to ship to our backers. While it’s still fresh in my mind, I wanted to write down a couple of reflections about the project and how it went.

 

Good things

I’d say the project went pretty well in general, with us reaching our funding goals and the game being well on its way to getting out there. In particular, I feel that we did great on managing project scope and incorporating and improving the tools at our disposal this time around.

Managing Project Scope

It’s been quite the whirlwind at CGC Games with us transitioning from a group of gamers working to make our dream games a reality to a group of adults trying to scale a game studio/publisher into something. That isn’t to say that we’re eschewing game quality to switch priorities to our bottom line; we’re simply now taking things like demographic preferences, shipping timings, and audience resonance into consideration as well (and we’re trying to keep a better eye on our bottom line too).

Practically, this means we’ve tweaked our strategy from going all in on only a single large scope game every few years to pacing out smaller games more frequently. Dwarven Weeaboos is one such smaller scope project. If we had continued to be focused only on making large scope games, we would have totally missed out on the opportunity to make a game like this which resonates with its audience so well. The game’s low budget meant we couldn’t just rely on stunning quality artwork for the game’s visual appeal, so we had to learn and innovate in other areas to make sure it caught attention.

On the game design side of things, it was also greatly informative for us to go through the exercise of attempting to make a game whose components consisted of only cards and restrict the number of them to a number near 100. This put a bigger emphasis on the quality of our card layouts and the entertainment per complexity the game offered. Further, the experience of working within a smaller microcosm forced a focus on systems design, since we couldn’t just add another system to the game to induce a specific play pattern or feel we wanted.

Tools

Dwarven Weeaboos was the first CGC Game that fully incorporated Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia and Adobe InDesign. While we have been experimenting with these tools earlier, Dwarven Weeaboos is the first project with these new tools to reach the finish line. Needless to say, having better access to quicker prototyping and lower barriers to playtesting helped the game immensely.

Bad things

There were a couple of things worth noting down for next time as well. For me personally, working on Dwarven Weeaboos ended up being very informative about what it’s like to work on games and even a little about myself as a person, and within the realm of game design, working on this project has helped me recognize some further depths into complexity and play patterns to learn and study.

It turns out Nathaniel is not a memester

One of the interesting parts of working on Dwarven Weeaboos was just how ingrained the references and parodies were to the novelty of the game. Even the title of the game is mashing up and referencing two different niches: dwarven building games and anime weeaboo culture. While I don’t feel antipathy toward either of those cultures, I definitely don’t consider myself a part of them, so the process of providing opportunities in mechanics and writing flavor text for that niche was somewhat difficult for me. The second-guessing part of my brain still worries that there are too many game references compared to anime or dwarf references. Of course, it’s totally unreasonable to expect that you’re always going to be working on your favorite game ever, so I consider this experience of working on Dwarven Weeaboos where I was basically given a game concept to see through production a good one in that it helped me tap into my ability to support and work on other people’s ideas. In that sense, I’ve found that I’m content with working on and improving other designs even if they are not my own (so long as I feel like my feedback is getting processed appropriately).

On the marketing side of things, I discovered that despite having an eye for detail, facility with social media and image editing software and a willingness to respond to comments, I find myself neither intuitively knowing what to say in a social media push nor enjoying planning what to say in them. Maybe that’s just the normal work part of doing social media, but I found the combination of being obligated to have something exciting to announce on a regular basis and engaging an audience I don’t know so well to be a great source of writers block.

Action Systems are always complex

The primary design goal at the outset of making the game was “make a game that the least games literate anime nerds could enjoy, but that has a greater depth than other games that appeal based on the novelty of their theme”. While we could probably have gotten away with having less depth in the game (and been more successful if we had focused that energy into marketing instead), it was important to us that the game could be enjoyed after its 3rd or 4th game. It was this desire for depth that inspired the implantation of 3 turn actions which the player could spend how the pleased. While I still stand behind this system as a way to create the feel of shopping for collectibles, the game’s complexity scales a little higher than I’m totally comfortable with by endgame for me to honestly say that it’s exceptionally accessible.

This is furthered by oversight in balancing the game’s ability to entertain as a contest of skill in with its ability to entertain as an environment in which thematic references could be cashed in on. It is possible for a very dominating lead to be formed within the game by a veteran player of the engine builder genre and last minute changes to the way that scoring information was revealed in the game created an optimal strategy that was very contradictory toward the intuitive playstyle of the game (specifically, playing waifu parts that match your collection early is very detrimental to your chances of winning due to the replacement of waifu parts becoming universally available). I would attribute the first half of this to my own blind spot of failing to realize that “engine builder” was a genre, and thus failing to study contemporaries in the genre. For the second half, I guess I can chalk that up to “small company difficulties with achieving polish”.

Concluding Thoughts

Dwarven Weeaboos was a great experience for me as a designer with the biggest take-aways being finding my ability to support other game ideas and getting a better ability to understand project scope. I’m also glad that it seems to resonate quite well with its intended audience, and hopefully our goal of providing solid gameplay in addition to novelty will serve them well also. Only time will tell I suppose.

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