Monday, December 24, 2012

Dicecards Interview

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  
Today I am joined by the clever creator of Dicecards Ian Millington!  Thank you for joining us today Ian.  

Nice to be virtually here. Thanks for talking to me about the project. 

You’re quite welcome, we’re glad you came! So earlier this year I was hit by a novel dice concept and now here you are with another!  Care to describe the concept behind Dicecards and how it all got started?  

Yeah, I was doing some 3D work on a game, where each card had a different random occurrence. I was having to balance the probabilities, when it occurred to me it could be done with dice. Within an hour or so I had a mockup (dice are pretty easy to model in 3D), and sent it out by email to my gaming buddies. Next morning in my email was a whole bunch of suggestions. In particular, on close friend and I worked on ideas for the next few months, until they looked roughly like they do today.

Now if these are such a great concept as I think they are why are you producing them through Kickstarter?  Couldn’t you just sell the concept to some big dice or card company?  Why crowdfunding?  Why Kickstarter when there are other options?

If you’d like to introduce me to some big dice or card companies, that would be cool!

Initially I had a few decks printed for my and friend’s use, and continued to tweak the cards in spare weekends here and there. But when folks see them I often get asked about them, so I hoped there might be a market. I didn’t want to set up a whole business doing this, building the distribution and wholesale relationships needed to get it into stores, taking booths at trade shows, and so on. So putting up $6000 for a print run is a big risk, Kickstarter seemed like an ideal way to remove that risk: if people like it, they get it, if not, nobody is out of pocket.

Honestly the idea of drawing cards instead of rolling dice is very neat and clean, but do you think you have enough in the deck for proper randomness?  
The short answer is yes. But there are lots of long answers that involve how to use the cards to best effect in different situations. For example, if you’re only playing craps, then it is worth just going through the cards and taking out those with the casino dice. Instead of having to shuffle and draw the top card, you can cut the cards, then cut your card back into the deck a couple of times.

Some of the coolest uses I’ve found intentionally bend the probabilities, however. For example, if you deal each person five cards, then they get to choose when to use each card (but can use it only once). That suddenly adds really interesting bluffing and strategy. I’m not suggesting that's how you should use them, just that they really lend themselves to creativity.

So besides those of us who collect bags and bags of dice and enjoy having all sorts of random ways of deciding things who are these cards for?  Could my parents just play cribbage with them and ignore the nerdy bits?

Yes. They should be practical as playing cards. And I’ve certainly played regular card games with them.

But non-geeks can also play other things with them. Dominoes and a card-based word game (somewhat like Scrabble, but without a board, and so obviously different rules) are easy for anyone to play.

But I think it is obvious from the cards that the deck is unashamedly aimed at people on the nerdier end of the gaming spectrum. Folks who don’t look at a d20 and say “wow, that’s a weird looking dice, how many sides does it have?”

As a fellow Blender user imagine my surprise when I scrolled down and saw a screenshot of a blender tree and render layout!  Are you sharing the .blend file with those at the £170 level?

What a great idea! I tell you what, if we hit £7500, I’ll make the all the 3D models, material node trees and textures available for the Blender community on github under a CC Attribution license. Let’s call it a stretch goal - you heard it here first!

Although the 3D models are shown in Blender, most of the actual hard stuff is written in C and drives Blender through its API. Unfortunately, I can’t make the code available, because I rely on it for earning my rent. But you can always arrange the models by hand. They should import directly into, say, Unity 3D, for making a board game app.

My day job is consulting for AI, I’ve done a lot of work for the games industry, and I do some work on procedural content generation and automated creativity. I’ve used Max and Maya a lot in the past, but since 2.5, Blender’s scripting system has just become my absolute workhorse. I don’t use Blender because it is free, I use it because I find it the best for this kind of work.

One of the keys of a successful Kickstarter project is backer participation.  How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

I’m naturally over-enthusiastic, I think. I have a nasty habit of boring people who are nice enough to appear interested in something I’m interested in. So I’m hoping backers aren’t going to get fed up of my updates!

I’ve been adding a few new bits and pieces to the cards, so I’ll be updating backers with new artwork and renders. Already in the first update the backers are helping me make a minor change to the design, and I’m very keen for that to continue. This is genuinely a project where I’m happy to take ideas and work with them.

There’ll be at least one video coming, featuring me and my 5 year old son cutting down a set of proofs and showing off the cards. Hopefully next week.

So yes, I’ve got lots of plans to keep backers involved. Because in the end, they are by far the most important people in a Kickstarter campaign. Not only by their direct funding, but by telling their friends and social media. So far on my project most backers have come that way, and I expect I’m not unusual in that. 

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to help things along?

So far all of the above except Youtube and Direct Advertising. I have a whole bunch of rate-cards for advertising, so I may put a bit into that. I’ve also been reaching out to geeks I know who have good networks who might put a shout out for them.

Do you have any convention showings planned?  Talked to any other kickstarter projects about cross promotion?  

I don’t tend to do conventions very much any more. I have a progressive form of MS, so I’m limited in getting to them and around them. But some of the early positive feedback on the cards came that way.

I have been contacting interesting projects about cross-promotion, yes.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Yes. Don’t listen to the advice of people who’ve only had one small project on Kickstarter for 48 hours. People like me.

On the other hand, if anyone wants to give me tips or advice, that would be most welcome!

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Thanks for offering to interview me, and thanks for your positive feedback on the project. Anyone reading who wants to share some ideas or criticisms is welcome to message me through Kickstarter, and I hope anyone who wants to be part of the community around this project will consider backing it.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Me too! It will be a huge buzz to see a proper production run of the cards go ahead, and decks wend their way around the world.

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