Saturday, April 04, 2009

Print on Demand

Currently, there's an uptick in discussions with regards to POD for games. This is attributed to various things, mostly to websites such as artscow.com that are now printing playing cards on demand. Granted, these are pricey, non-money making affairs for the designer at this point, and I doubt a publisher at this technology point could do single one-off games at a desirable price point.

Additionally, I doubt that an POD in the near future is even going to bother with the intricacies of box making, part making, and chit cutting that a large fancy game entails. But it could happen.

I guess the other aspect is with people thinking that they can become "publishers" with this method somehow, which, when you take the POD company's take on the deal, price-wise, the game won't be very attractive at all. Unless you are merely using the service to get the game out there, ala print-and-play.

For example, Lulu.com features a "store" option for most of their book publishing. Unlike "real" publishing, where there is a great amount of cost reduction in the mass producing of a book, lulu.com charges the same high price that you would get as if self-printing a book for yourself from your own data files. Whatever profit you want to charge to go to yourself gets added on top of that price. Your simple deck-o-cards-only card game better be good if you are going to wind up charging $25 total. This would include your additional profit, plus whatever the POD website charges for shipping and delivery. And that doesn't include a rules sheet.

I guess one could make an argument that if someone is POD a game, then they'd just download a free set of rules, or something else, or they'd find a way to get whatever else was needed. And it's a good argument. Or maybe you had a few cards leftover which you could put the rules on.

Granted, if you are trying to get a nice set of prototype cards done, it may be worth the $20 for 52 professionally feeling cards.

Anyway, part of the fun of this world is trying things out, and so, knowing what is currently available out there, I went off an attempted a simple little puzzle/game booklet, using artwork that my kids have done (the larger gallery can be viewed at the BuddingArtist link off to the side). It's sort of a more advanced choose-your-own-adventure book. I would up using shutterfly.com for no apparent reason really. It's available here for viewing, and I suppose, for purchase. It should be noted that I get none of the money in the very odd chance that someone really wants to purchase it, but I do have to say that the little java script thingy is very neat-o.

View Project at Shutterfly

And if the neat-o Java thingy above isn't working, you can go directly to the shutterfly entry for the book here.

The "game" of the puzzle entails collecting items from certain characters, then going to other pages with other characters that manipulate them somehow. Characters come in three different flavor, one's that give the reader something, ones that alter them, and ones that block enterance to other pages until they are given the proper item. Unlike a choose-your-adventure book, which is pretty linear, this is more of a simple text adventure where you can go back and forth between "rooms," experimenting.

Surprisingly, it was a lot tougher than I thought originally when I was taking notes and laying out my world. In fact, the 1st edition of the book was set up much more like a world, where each page would only be able to to other pages; in the final edition I simplified the world by letting the reader visit any of the "base world" pages.

At first, my idea was to layout the entire puzzle on paper, then it would be easy enough to copy and paste the structure into a POD photobook website. This turned out not to be the case initially. Conceptually, it was easy enough coming up with a few puzzles that could be strung along with various ideas derived from the "artists." But understanding the relationship of where each page would be was a harder concept to build. Ideally, you want to "hide" whatever linearity in the puzzle you have throughout the book, instead of it being a simple read through.




In the end, probably laying out the world of the pages on note cards would've been much better initially. The ability to move things around visually would've greatly helped.










At some point, I realized that instead of a typical NSWE grid layout, I decided that a ring around a central page was better, with a few additional "secret passages" across the world.

In the end, it didn't matter much anyway, as my wife, who is ultimately the target for this book, found it a bit hard to comprehend. And while this above method worked, the need to considering your target market prevailed, so, the new current edition was built with no "mapping" of most of the world...the reader can go to any of the early pages as if all the characters are in the same location, only the later pages were locked, to be "unlocked" by the earlier pages.

As far as the "published" book itself, I'm very pleased. Shutterfly provided an excellent end-product that feels truly published, and not just run off a printer in some guy's basement somewhere. So physical quality is not a question with regards to POD stuff at this point. And if you are going to design a game that uses just cards, or just a book, or any of the other wacky stuff that they can "publish" for you (I've always been fascinated by trying to design a game confined to a "space" of it being a published calendar), it works. Just don't expect a cheap price for it.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Jeremiah said...

Now, I've only done the print on demand bit for cards on artscow, and while this regular price (of something like $12.99) for a custom 54 card deck is way too much for 'publishing' they have great sale prices. Right now you can get a custom deck for $5.77. That includes shipping to anywhere in the world, and you can buy as many $5.77 decks as you wish.

So, if you have hopes of making a small print run of a game to self publish, less than six bucks for the deck (and it comes with a nice plastic case) makes it pretty easy to stay at $10 for your selling price and make a pretty fair profit.

It's not the solution for rio grande games, but it works wonderfully for the very little guys.

8:30 AM  
Blogger SDS said...

What resolution hyave you been using for card images on artscow? I'm interested in giving it a try.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Jeremiah said...

My Zombie in my Pocket prints are only about 250 x 332, and they're still turning out nice. I've have a print of Island of D2 that's done at 780 x 1081 which looks fantastic.

5:47 AM  

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