Hello Dear Reader!
In this special BONUS edition of Red Earth Game Reviews, I am pleased to welcome the game creator Doug Cook!
Doug Cook is the owner, creator, and commander-in-chief of Funmaker Games. His first published game, Mimic, came out on the market in 2006 and debuted at the Origins game convention in Columbus, Ohio. I took some time with Doug recently to discuss not only his game, but the process that brought Mimic to the world!
REGR: Hi there Doug and thank you for sitting down with us today to discuss, well YOURSELF!
DOUG: Thanks, I'm happy to share my time with you, and well, discuss myself ( laughter )
REGR: So, why don't you tell the good readers a little bit about yourself, both professionally and otherwise!
DOUG: Well I'm happily married and raising my son in Wisconsin, where we make the great games of Funmakers! I'm a teacher and decided in addition to educating minds, I wanted to make something enjoyable and intensely fun as well! That's how Mimic came to be!
REGR: How did you get into the whole board game scene? Were you a gamer first or have you always been creating games?
DOUG: I started playing game I got for Christmas, but was often disappointed that I could not get enough people to play with me. I started creating small gaming groups, and out of that I found myself often creating new rules for existing games, and that led me to create MY OWN creations from scratch!
REGR: I won't ask what your favorite game is, but what's your favorite genre? Are you a hard-core role player or do you like the tactile decimation of your opponents miniature collection?
DOUG: I prefer boardgames with a medieval theme and games that require depth of strategy over luck. I like to be the one making choices, not following a dictated set of game mechanics
REGR: So you prefer to be the one in control of your gaming destiny?
DOUG: Yes, control of my destiny, or play of the game, or options for the player are what make the game more playable over and over again. I enjoy that and shun games that don't allow for that.
REGR: Your game, Mimic, debuted at Origins in Columbus, Ohio in 2006, Tell the readers how you got the idea for Mimic, and what the basic steps to publication and Origins you took.
DOUG: Mimic was the most peculiar start of an idea that I ever had. It was born out of the need to memorize terms for human anatomy while at the University of Minnesota. Soon, it morphed into a game that was far more strategic and fun to play, which became a marketable product. I had designed other games, but Mimic showed the most promise for the first game out.
I learned a lot as I went along. There's a tremendous amount of things you have to do just to get a game published. Between copyrights and dealing with printers, and packagers, you basically become a general contractor which can be fun yet challenging. And, on occasion, frustrating too.
Networking became the single most important thing to do as a small company. Usually, you are not blessed with the funds that a BIG BOX company is and meeting and talking with your contacts is a lot of work, but without those contacts, you most likely will not succeed.
I found that Networking is more investment in my company than it is a socializing affair. These people represent not just my suppliers, but the consumers as well and without them and their input and eventual output, I would have nothing to sell OR I'd end up with a lot of unmovable product.
REGR: Obviously, you did research before deciding to produce Mimic, what was the BEST advice you found during your research, and conversely, the worst?
DOUG: I went to the 30th anniversary convention of Origins and at one of the seminars, a mysterious message was waiting for us on the white board... the seminar leaders pointed out that it was not far from the truth.
REGR: What did the white board say?
DOUG: It said “ DON'T DO IT! “
REGR: That was the BEST advice?
DOUG: Well the seminar leader followed it up with the fact that unless you are able and willing to immerse your life in the pursuit of your dream... you just won't succeed. Its an all or nothing proposition.
REGR: Well then, what was the worst advice or counsel?
DOUG: Was to take out paper ads in magazines and newspapers. As a small company you don't have the funds to keep up with the BIG BOX companies. As a small company, the internet, your networked contacts, and conventions are your biggest asset. I won't say that I wasted money, but there were other things that the funds could have been spent upon that would have been a bigger benefit to me starting out. Word of mouth, contacts, online reviews like this are some of the more far-reaching and inexpensive tools in your arsenal that can really push a little company into the spotlight faster. With the advent of podcasting, your ability to advertise makes you a potentially world wide known company.
REGR: Sounds like you had a lot to go through just to make a game. What was more difficult, Creating the game in the first place, or getting it produced?
DOUG: Oh easy, getting it produced. Dealing with printers, and manufacturers. I, as the customer, was hand-holding them every step of the way, and basically riding them constantly to make sure every minute detail was accounted for. If I didn't keep an eye on everything, a lot of stuff could have gotten out the door. Then I would have had some serious quality issues and basically, a worthless product. It would have been like selling rotten fruit...no one is going to buy it no matter how good the idea of fruit looked on the drawing board.
My suggestion for aspiring game creators, join groups like the Game Publishers Association, and listen to them for a full year before you do anything. They have resources and experience that span over 30 years in the game and publishing industries. Its an inexpensive investment that will save you money, and quell a lot of frustrations.
I still love making games, obviously, or you wouldn't have a copy of Mimic right now, so perseverance is key. Listen to people that have already done what you want to do. Never give up, and work smarter, not harder. Creative thinking doesn't just apply to making the game, but to the actual production as well. Thinking out side of the box, or even WAY out of the box, can work for you, and if it does, who cares what other people think.
REGR: Did you have any troubles finding an artist for your game? Or did you make all the great pictures yourself?
DOUG: Artists are all over conventions. The trick is to finding one that clicks with your personality and style of working. I prefer conventions because I can actually meet them face to face and can tell if we'll work well together or not. This person has to be able to work with you and get inside your head in order to really show what it is you want people to see. Game graphics are often essential to a clear gaming experience. In the end, you get what you pay for. Go too cheap and it will show. Some people think they deserve more money than their particular talents are worth. Check their portfolios, see what they can do. Then make your choice. Get references as you would for any other employee you'd hire, because that's what they are, someone working for you. Sign a contract and be specific with who gets the rights to the image, and never pay until you are 100% satisfied with the work.
REGR: So its more than just a little photoshop work and a copyright line?
DOUG: Its a lot of work, but its worth it. My artist, Beth Trott, is a classically trained, award-winning, artist as well as a gamer herself. I think she has a wonderful ability to work with your ideas and wants to make the project as close to your original ideas and visions. She's willing to offer suggestions based on her abilities and training, but will never override your desires and vision to insert her own. Beth is great to work with and I'd recommend her to anyone needing an artist. She works in water colors that enabled me to make changes to the artwork that another medium would have made difficult or impossible. My ideas changed a lot and her flexibility made her ideal for my game creation needs. She worked well for me and we worked well together, THAT is what you need and want when making anything.
REGR: What was your biggest surprise at the conventions?
DOUG: I guess I was surprised by my ability to actually sell Mimic. You have to have a ringmaster like persona and get people to come to your booth.
REGR: So a pretty smile is not enough?
DOUG: No, people will just walk on by. You have to get to the people and bring them in. Once I did that things flowed and it was a more rewarding experience. When I first started attending conventions I was very surprised by people with booths that didn't interact with the consumers at all, so when I started my own booth, I made sure that was not the case. If you have difficulty with sales and socializing, find someone who does not. Being a leader is knowing both your strengths and your weaknesses. In the immortal words of Clint Eastwood, “ A man's got to know his limitations. "
REGR: What's the single best way to contact you for professional matters regarding Mimic, or contact information for publishers and manufacturers? Do your ringmaster skills extend towards mentoring?
DOUG: My website is the single best way to reach me, regarding my games or for mentoring. Helping another person into the game industry helps everyone. I was a gamer first and another good company means more fun for me. The Game Publisher's Association is an excellent resource and I recommend them as well. Podcasters are a new great way to get the word out about a game. Tom Vassal on Dice Tower is well followed, and the exposure you'll get is well worth a copy of your game. Tom is usually at the Origins convention, so make sure you get to him and get his take on things.
REGR: Any plans for the future you'd like the good Readers to watch for?
DOUG: Yes, we're hoping to come out with the expansion for Mimic which will allow four players to play, a solitaire style, and team play. ( printers see above ) After that we have two new Sudoku based games due in 2009. WE are also working on a game based on sea-faring, with pirates, commodities trading, and high seas adventure!
REGR: Ok, you're stranded on a desert island and all the rum is gone.....what three games would help you keep a hold of your sanity til you can find some sea turtles?
DOUG: Anything I make.... that counts as one. Card Football by CSE, and Kung-Fu Fighting by Slugfest Games ( of course with my own personal zombie ninja rules! ) and because 3 is not enough... Battlestations by Gorilla Games, which is a cross between a role playing game and a board game!
REGR: Awesome choices all! Well Doug, On behalf of all of us at Red Earth Game Reviews, we wish you well with your upcoming games and conventions and heartily thank you for this great time!
DOUG: I appreciate this opportunity and look forward to future reviews of the upcoming Funmaker Games as they appear on the market! I hope to see you all at Origins this year too!
Well everyone, that's a look at the man behind the games at Funmakers! I hope you enjoyed the bonus post and rest assured there will be more in the near future as well!
Here are some links to some of the various sites mentioned in this interview!
http://home.comcast.net/~kyteel/index.html ~ Funmakers!
http://www.thegpa.org/ ~ Game Publisher's Association
http://www.originsgamefair.com/ ~ Origins Convention
http://www.bethtrott.com/ ~Beth Trott!
http://www.slugfestgames.com/ ~ Slugfest Games
http://www.gorillaboardgames.com/ ~ Gorilla Games
http://www.csegames.com/ ~ CSE GAMES