Today we’re joined by two guys, in two different rooms, eagerly awaiting a very big BOOM! Sean McCoy, in Dallas, TX, and Alan Gerding, in Cleveland, OH, are the duo who make up Tuesday Knight Games. They’ve joined us today to talk about some unfortunate developments in fulfilling their Kickstarter for Two Rooms and a Boom.
Guys, thanks for joining us today!
A: Thanks for having us during this sad time.
S: Glad to be here.
So. The bad news is that you’ve heard there is a major delay in the production of 2R1B. When do you expect it to go out to backers?
April is a LONG way off. Where did things get clogged up in the pipeline?
A: There are so many answers to provide here. We’ll do our best to explain.
S: Mass production with our manufacturer typically takes about 40 - 65 days (Full-scale production commences, components are shipped to the main assembly base, printed components are climatized, quality assurance is conducted, games are assembled). However, because plastic cards are a new component for our manufacturer, they wanted to make that more like 65-75 days. They believe it may be sooner if things go smoothly, they just wanted a little extra time.
A: We have to keep in mind that we're using an incredibly popular and reliable manufacturer (it’s Panda, by the way). So I strongly believe that their timelines are very competitive with other game printers. Also...plastic cards. As Sean said, plastic cards add on more time to the production.
So doing the math here, 75 days is about 11 weeks. It is the middle of November now, so that puts us at the very end of January. But...there is Christmas during that time. The factory will be closed for a week over Christmas. So that means the game will be mass produced the first week of February.
The really scary thing is Chinese New Year. Pretty much China takes all of February off. It’s like the whole country shuts down for a month. Because our manufacturing is in China, this can throw a real monkey wrench into production timelines.
Then comes freighting (shipping across the ocean on a boat). This takes 30-45 days. So there's a month and a couple of weeks. Add a couple of weeks for shipping to our backers, and that smacks us into April.
But this doesn’t really answer your question. The real question is why is are we only just now beginning mass production? Why not months ago? If Sean and I knew about production timelines, why did we ever give our backers a November release date?
We gave our backers a November release date because that would have been the release date if our manufacturer immediately went into production after receiving our digital files.
S: First off, let me say that absolutely none of this is Panda’s fault. They’ve been amazing and communicative. When we delayed from June to November, we sent them the files and then met with them at GenCon for an update. At GenCon things were looking good for November, but they needed a few changes made to our files.
There were a few small changes that were quick fixes. The big change that was needed, however, was that our bleed was off on the cards and the character guide. Our card files needed a 3mm bleed and a 3mm inner bleed, which is essentially how far away from the edges a piece of text must be so that it’s not in danger of getting cut off. On the cards, I had submitted files with 2mm inner bleed, it was insanely close, but we thought better safe than sorry and we updated the files.
The main thing that sucked about this was that at this point, my changes introduced a lot of errors into the files. To ensure that everything got moved exactly right, I built new templates for our cards that matched our printer’s. And then moved all the old cards into the new format. Things fell through the cracks, an icon that was needed on an old card didn’t get transferred to a new card, extra bits of text that only apply to certain cards got transferred incorrectly.
The same happened for the character guide, but worse. Our character guide is a real tight fit. It’s 140mm x 140mm, so a small square booklet, twenty four pages long. There are over seventy unique cards in the game, and when you subtract the front and back cover means we needed to fit in about 3-4 characters per page. We had a dream of making the character guide amazing. We wanted it to be really easy to use and an essential tool for hosting the game. Getting the bleed wrong, while a total bonehead move, was frustrating. It meant reformatting the book almost from scratch. However, I had some practice in that at this point, which meant I could pound the thing out pretty quickly. But, of course, in transferring all the old data to the new format, I introduced a lot of errors.
A: Right, so when Panda sent us our digital proofs (the preview of what our game looks like in their printing machines), we saw all these new errors. Fixing the errors took more time. Our proofreaders were a bit exhausted. “Didn’t we just proofread all these things?” We are still thanking them for all the work they did.
So we sent Panda newly updated files without errors and they sent us back a new set of digital proofs to proofread. They looked good! So we approved our digital proofs and then asked, “Hey, has this back and forth with digital files added to our timeline?”
This is where I really think I personally made my mistake. After every exchange with Panda, I really should have asked for a timeline update AND IMMEDIATELY SHARE THAT NEWS WITH OUR BACKERS. Instead, we would get Panda’s files and send them back within a week without asking for an updated timeline. I was really naive to think that these exchanges weren’t really adding too much time. I feel just stupid for thinking that our back-and-forth with the digital files was still part of the November release date. When Sean called me this past Friday and said “Dude, it’s April,” I got sick.
S: For me it was tunnel vision. This is where it hurts being such a small company; we didn’t ever really stop and say, “Hey, we’re slipping. We need to take a step back and see what’s happening here.” Every day it was just, We need to get this done now. Today. Yesterday. If our files didn’t have any problems when we turned them in the first time, people would be receiving copies today. We got back from GenCon near the end of August and then hit the ground running. Two rounds of revision and we look up and it’s late October and then we’re thinking, Oh God, what have we done? It was like we started working on the changes, passed out, and then woke up with knives in our hands and blood everywhere--and it was time to face the music and talk about the delay.
The BoardGameGeek community is taking this news rather poorly. What would you like to say to the folks who are critical of you because of this delay?
A: During the last couple of days I’ve been called a few names. Some of which include profanity unsuitable for younger readers. Many of the insults include references to our intelligence, saying that Sean and I are stupid, ignorant, or moronic for allowing these delays to happen. The harsh truth of the matter is...I agree with them.
A: I think I was living in this blissful ignorance, basically lying to myself. I thought that because I didn’t know that the game was going to be greatly delayed that I was being honest and open with our backers. In reality, it was just being unprofessional. A true professional asks the hard questions and openly shares the answers with the backers, no matter how ugly those answers may be. A month ago I thought that the game might not make its November release. I mentioned that in last month’s update. I didn’t mention the five-month delay because I really didn’t know it would be near that long.
The delay is upsetting, but that isn’t the problem. The problem is that I let some of our backers feel blindsided because I didn’t do my research. This anger is my fault.
S: We both spend a lot of time working on this game and we’ve got about five to 10 other people who regularly help with proofreading, error-catching, and then just playtesting and design in general. After GenCon we moved as fast as we could. Find an error, fix an error, update the printer. Wash, rinse, repeat. And then you look up and you’re like “$#@%, we’re not going to make it.” So then we went back and got an updated timeline. We should’ve done that as soon as we started slipping.
It hurts. Letting so many people down makes me want to throw up and sleep has been insanely difficult. These people took a chance on us when we were nothing, and to have to say to them, “We’ve messed up,” is incredibly painful.
I get that people think we’re morons--I think we’re morons. There’s probably nothing someone could say to me that would be more hurtful than the kinds of things I say to myself. But there’s no other way through this than forward.
You have several games in the hopper--ones you’re developing and preparing to publish--presumably through Kickstarter. What steps are you taking to ensure that fulfillment is done on time without cutting corners?
S: So the question here is why are we in this mess in the first place? What could we have done differently? First off, this kind of art likely won’t be done in house ever again. I did a lot of art direction on Mage Wars back when I worked at Arcane Wonders and I have experience in hiring and corralling artists. I wanted to try my hand at illustration and I’m glad that I did. I feel terrible about the mistakes I made and the extra time it added, so we’ve learned our lesson there. We’ll be hiring outside artists with a proven track record and we’ll be paying for art to be done before we launch a kickstarter from now on.
Having learned the hard way about the process, we’re going to do everything we can to have everything finished before the game hits Kickstarter. As you know, Two Rooms and a Boom has been free online for years at this point. We love that people can play our game with as little a barrier to entry as possible. If we put time and effort into getting the art and print files ready for a game before the Kickstarter and the Kickstarter doesn’t fund, we’ll just toss the thing up as a free print-and-play and move on.
A: To be completely fair, we are just two dudes (or pathetic bumbling idiots) that just want to make games together. Two Rooms and a Boom is our first outing. Starting new, we really didn’t have the finances or time to put into hiring an artist, creating beautifully illustrated rulebooks, or configuring digital templates on a game we weren’t even sure would fund. We believed we had a winner on our hands, but we couldn’t gamble our lives away on it.
Prior to launching this Kickstarter we did our homework. We read all of the Stonemeier blogs, talked to industry veterans, and generally asked around for guidance. But even with that research, we still dropped the ball in many ways. We went from feeling awesome to feeling like...well, like we feel now. I really don’t ever want to feel this way again.
In future projects, I don’t even want to launch until we're where we are right now with Two Rooms and a Boom. Art...done. Rulebooks...beautiful. Proofreading...perfect. And estimated delivery dates...erring on the side of every possible catastrophe imaginable. I really hope to garner a reputation of professionalism and to earn back some of the respect we lost.
You’ve come through on another promise to your backers and fans with Punch Party. And there are some rumblings about how you managed to pull of another game while Two Rooms and a Boom is delayed. What’s the low down on that?
S: We might want to make one thing here clear about the division of labor in Two Rooms and a Boom so that people don’t get the wrong idea. For the most part, I’ve been handling all the manufacturer relations and the design. So that means, the majority of the problems are mine. Alan has been indispensable and a huge support in all this and is also a talented graphic designer himself, but I took on the bulk of that role. So there was a lot of time when files would be with the printer, or I’d be making changes to the files that only I could make, where Alan had free time. In that free time he worked on stretch goals like Punch Party. It never came at the expense of getting Two Rooms and a Boom to print. We would work in parallel. We’d have Skype calls that were like:
“Okay, I’m going to update the changes from playtesters into the rulebook tonight, what about you?”
“I’m going to work on getting Punch Party ready.”
“Okay cool, I’ll need you in a few hours to review the changes I made, will you have time to go over them with me?”
And so on.
A: Yeah, Two Rooms and a Boom is our baby. I want it in my hands more than any other game. To me, everything else is secondary. If there is or ever was work for me to do on Two Rooms, that is my key priority. But when I’m not working on Two Rooms...I am designing games.
Sean, you said on Facebook you guys were referred to as “Two Bozos and a Bust.” Is the final product a bust, or is it worth the wait?
S: I can’t tell people what is and isn’t worth their time, attention, or money. We made a lot of mistakes and there are a lot of people angry at us right now. But of all the mistakes we made, and there are a lot, we made them to try and get the best game possible to our backers.
We'd like to thank Sean and Alan for being so transparent in the interview. We've both played Two Rooms and a Boom, and it's a TERRIFIC game. Make sure you pick up a copy when it's available in the Spring. And thanks for reading!