This week brings Iain McAllister, creator of the card game “Revenge of the B-Movie” to my interview chair. Iain’s thoughts on the difficult process to go from idea to published game are fascinating. He also discusses everything from the first step of writing a game to issues with printers to bring it to market. There is some good advice for the aspiring game designer or publisher, so read on to learn from someone who has actually travelled the path!
Trask: Let’s start with you. What brought you to the gaming industry?
Iain McAllister:Do you mean as a publisher or just what started my interest in gaming?
Trask: How about “interest in gaming,” then move on to the publisher?
IM: Well, I have played board games from a very young age. We used to go on family holidays to france and germany and I would always come back with a Ravensburger game in hand, this was back when they did translations a lot more that they do now. I built up a fairly healthy collection of what you could call ‘family games’ and then moved onto Games Workshop stuff, Warhammer, 40k, blood bowl etc. during my teenage years. When I came to university the local games shop owner Liam, got me into Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing and I also got into Vampire: The Eternal Struggle amongst other CCGS. I started running Deadlands shortly after getting into WFRP and I guess I have been gaming in one from or another for most of my life.
Trask: Now you are publishing games yourself. What brought that about?
IM: Well I have fiddled with design off and on for a few years, but never really settled on anyone project, a problem that still plagues me from time to time. I guess it was meeting up with Malcolm Craig and the fine folks at Contested Ground Studios that really gave me the push I needed. At the time I had been fiddling with a card game project called ‘Mob Justice’ about rival gangsters in 1920s chicago and had also been thinking about trying to write an RPG based on it. I showed them the basic idea, they liked it and I set to work trying to iron out the kinks.
Eventually, after attending some of Luke Crane and Jared Sorenson’s design workshops at Gencon, I managed to get the game into a form I was happy with and CGS were good enough to put it out for me From there I started to look at some other projects I had on the back burner, and the idea for my own company was born out of some conversations at Gencon 2006, I think.
It took a couple of years to get my first project off the ground, but thanks to the services provided by Guild of Blades I have finally managed to get my first card game out ‘Revenge of the B-Movie!’ without having to mortgage my house.
I think that brings us up to present
Trask: Now that you have a couple of games out, what did you think the biggest obstacle was to getting the games published?
IM: Oh, nice question.
Well with Mob Justice it was just a matter of making sure that CGS liked it enough to put it out, and where confident in my entusiasm and support for the project.
With ‘Revenge of the B-Movie!’ it has been a struggle to find a printer capable of producing a game of high enough quality, but with low enough price. I have been continuously frustrated by printers offering cheap deals, only to have it fall apart on me at the last minute due to bad communication, price hikes or some other factor.
At the start of this year ‘Guild of Blades’ started doing Print on Demand (POD) cards, following in the footsteps of the numerous POD book printers that had sprung up over the preceding years.
I got a sample or two, and was impressed enough to sign up with them as soon as I could.
I have had an enormous amount of support and advice from my artist Paul Bourne and the fine folks at the Collective Endeavour, and I think that support is vital in giving you the confidence to take the plunge and invest your own money in a project you love.
Trask: Collective Endeavour?
IM: Sorry, the Collective Endeavour is a group of small press publishers in the United Kingdom who band together to go to conventions so that we don’t all have to individually have a stall.
Alongside that we have an active community website whose goal is to support and nurture the burgeoning indie gaming scene in the United Kingdom and provide support to designers, players and publishers of small press games.
Trask:How long did it take for “Revenge of the B-Movie” to go from idea to published product?
IM: Oh let me think. The original idea came out of a challenge from a mate of mine to produce a game based on b-movies. I think that was at least 5 years ago now. Every now and again I would get the project out and fiddle with it, and look at publishing it, but the costs involved where prohibitive. It wasn’t something I was constantly working on over that period, just one of many little projects I had on the go. Eventually I had shown it to enough people to convince myself that it was worth putting out, and the rest is history.
Trask: Enough about the development, let’s talk about the game. Tell me about “Revenge of the B-Movie.”
IM: Indeed. ‘Revenge of the B-Movie!’ is a fast playing card game for 3-6 players. Every player takes on the role of a hollywood director recycling old b-movies to create new titles whilst throwing in a few ideas of their own.
The cards all have a word on them that makes up a part of a b-movie title like ‘Giant ape’, ‘invisible’, ‘zombie’ or they may have ones that you should never find in a b-movie like ‘baby’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘tiny.’ Some cards are worth positive cult and some are worth negative cult. The game consists of a series of rounds where players first of all build movie titles, playing positive cards on themselves and negative cards on other players and then try and sell them to by rolling under the total cult value of their films. The amount of money required to win depends on the number of players and the reward for each movie depends on the length of the film. Longer films get more money per point of cult. I think that is about it. Oh sorry, they roll on a d6. A film title might end up being something like ‘The Beautiful zombie from down the road vs. the tiny man.’
Tras: Did you do extensive “b-movie” research before writing the cards?
IM: I certainly had seen any number of terrible films in my time, but a lot of my research involved bouncing around bad film sites for word inspirations. After that it was merely a matter of choosing the ones I found funny, and that other people liked. Took a bit of fiddling eventually the deck settled down and the game was born. I also had to look up trademarks to avoid being sued
Trask: Are there any expansions planned? Sorry, sequels.
IM:Haha, at the moment I have one that I really want to do which will be a ‘straight to dvd’ action film ‘sequel’ based on the fine works of Seagal, Van Damme and Norris amongst others. I have also had many requests for an ‘adult’ movie expansion but have not quite decided how to go about that one as yet. Other expansion will no doubt come to mind down the line but that is the only two I have in mind at the moment. My mother would like me to do a nursery rhymes based one for teaching kids grammar.
Trask: I noticed on your site that you are working on a game called “Reel Adventures.” Is this an RPG?
IM: Yes it is and almost done as well. I have a couple of games in playtesting at the moment, and Reel adventures is one of them. It is designed to be a ‘gateway’ game for people interested in role-playing with very light rules, little setup and a short playtime. The game is all about action heroes with one player taking on the role of the diabolical nemesis. It is designed to reflect the likes of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, only the first one though, Indiana Jones etc. I am really happy with it, and it should see the light of day sometime next year. Life has unfortunately gotten in the way of it coming out this year.
Trask:Do you have a good guess on a street date?
IM: I don’t like tying myself to a street date until I actually have the thing heading to printers, I learnt that lesson with ‘Revenge of the B-Movie!’ But I am hoping to have it out for the local con here in Edinburgh called Conpulsion. That would be in March of next year.
Trask: What is your advice for the aspiring game publisher? What is one thing they should do to get their game to market?
IM: Be patient and believe in yourself. I realise that is two pieces of advice but I think they are most useful, alongside realising that at some point you will have to spend money. You must realise that it can take sometime from conception to product and that if you are enthusiastic about your game then that will rub off on the people you are demoing it to and telling about it.