Idea Overload!!

So over the past couple of months, I’ve had to face a growing problem with me: I have too many ideas!

Like, this is getting ridiculous. Within 1 week I came up with two new games and short while later I came up with a mini-film I would like to make. At the same time, my work load from my 40hr/week job increased dramatically in late January and school semester started in full swing…makes me tired just thinking about it all. So that is why the blog hasn’t been getting the attention it needs.

I bet I’m not the only one with this issue, right? There are thousands of people in school, working, while having an ambitions that they would like to improve; so how do you deal with the overload? Well, from my experience as being a professional overload-er, the first thing I learned is to not get overloaded…

Sounds obvious right? But in fact it is very hard to do. In an age of technology we find so many things we want to do, and believe we can take on more than we really can. This forces us to have lists long enough to drive some insane. That is why it is important to cut down on that list and prioritize what is really the most important to you? A technique I’m trying right now is keep my list to a top-4. So I have at all times 4 high priorities that I hold myself responsible to. Anything else is just extra. This way every week I can look back and ask, “How well did I help these 4 priorities?”

For now, my 4 priorities is, my 40hr/week job, my education, my KSG company, and my home.

Now I did kindof cheat there…my KSG company can mean a lot of things, it could be making a game, or working with my artists, or even posting a blog post. So just saying “focus on my game company” is probably something not specific enough. If I just keep working blindly, I’ll never get anything put up on Kickstarter, or my social media will never grow, etc. This means I need to focus in on just a few projects/responsibilities if I want something to succeed.

What will those things be? Not sure yet. There is a key game I really would like to get on kickstarter soon, and I would like our social media to remain active. And as I mentioned, there is a mini-film I would like to make ~ completely unrelated to gaming, but when I get inspired about an idea, it is hard for me to focus on much else. No matter what happens, I’ll be sure to keep all of you in the loop, and continue to share some of the lessons I learn along the way.

Keep on gaming!

Take a Pick-Axe to Business!

One valuable business lesson I learned can also be applied to anything in life – from game design problems to arguments on Facebook. “PPPICACC” (pronounced “Pick-Axe”), it is an acronym for reminding yourself how to enhance your critical thinking skills. In short, it teaches you how to process a problem from everyone’s point of view then solve the problem that benefits everyone. Be sure to bookmark this page so you can always come back for a refresher! Here is what it stands for:
Points of View: Did you seek out and identify all relevant perspectives for the situation being evaluated? If you don’t consider every perspective, you may miss out on important, relative, information.

 

Purposes: For each point of view, did you explore and understand what you and the others want to accomplish and care about? In other words, did you dig deeper than just the surface of what they want, and do you really understand what you and the other parties want? If not, then you should continue asking questions until you fully understand. A good way to make sure you are all on the same page.

 

Problems: Did you formulate the problem or challenge from more than one point of view? Remember: A problem for you may not be a problem for someone else.

 

Information: Did you gather sufficient, accurate, and relevant information to solve the issue? If you don’t have enough information or the wrong information you may never come to a good conclusion, or you may all end up agreeing but to a bad idea. It is also essential to research information that opposes your solution/approach as well. Two reasons, first is it will help you reach a good conclusion that will be more likely to succeed. Second, this way when others come to disagree with you, you can have the information you need to explain how it is a good idea and address their concerns.

 

Concepts: Did you identify and explain the main concepts used as part of the formulation or solution approach? If you give a solution without re-stating what the solution is supposed to solve, then you may end up accidentally coming up with a solution that in reality doesn’t make sense. Plus it clears any confusion others might have ~ the other parties may think the solution is supposed to solve one thing, but in reality you mean for it to solve something else. This prevents a lot of unnecessary arguments.

 

Assumptions: These kill the potential for good conversations. So when you make business cases, marketing strategies, perform analyst, etc. always state what your assumptions are within your idea. Then ask yourself, “Did I question the validity of these assumptions?”,  “Did I examine the assumptions that allowed me to eliminate particular solutions?”, “Did I justify or can I justify otherwise hidden assumptions in the development of my solution?”

 

Conclusions: Is your solution clear and supported by logical deductions so that people can understand your approach? Is it consistent with your earlier points/inferences?

 

Consequences: One of the most important and probably hardest is: what are the potential positive and negative long-run consequences of your solution? This can be easily skewed by biases. I can’t tell you all how many times I’ve seen people come up with inconsistent ideas or presentations just to end it with, “As a result we are certain to succeed with little to no chance of failure.” This is because when we think of solutions and come up with one – of course we don’t think it will end up badly, it’s our solution! That is when you have to look at people’s incentives. Ask yourself, “If I was the other person, and I saw this solution/strategy get implemented, how would I respond?” And if you want to plan for worst case scenarios, just assume the other parties are going to be as profiteering as possible.

I’ll write more about how to think of incentives of others and better come up with possible consequences, but that will be for another day.
As for right now, just keep on playing!

Stay Determined!

Sorry if this post seems too personal or dramatic, but given this time of year, it is good to reflect on determination and inspirations. As we all go through life, things change or happen that are outside of our own control. If we are lucky, it is something for the better; other times, bad things happen to good people. And just as possible, it seems bad but in reality it will end up being good or vice-verse. Usually it is hard for us to tell the difference, but when life beats you up you need inspiration to help keep you fighting back until you beat life at its own game.

If you have ever played the game Undertales, you would have learned a large part of hope requires determination to try again (or perhaps it is the other way around?). So a good question we all have to ask ourselves is, “Where do we get our hope or determination from?” Some get it from God, others get it from their own aspirations, while some struggle to find it all. I’m like that sometimes. When the world is pushing down on all your ideas. You feel like nothing is working no matter what you do. Such situations requires a jolt of inspiration.

What I do in such situations is I brush away all of my currently laid paths and start again. Seriously, sometimes you just need a fresh start to re-build your foundations. Learn from your mistakes and keep going forward with your ideas. Of course this is always easier said than done, some of us get stuck over analyzing our past to try to learn from these mistakes (#1 example: this guy right here). It is tough, but when you are lost in what to do, you just have to take a leap of faith. Be bold! Try to create your own success! Sure you might fail, but you are guaranteed not to succeed if you don’t try something.

Now then, if you really feel hopeless, as in so much so you are thinking of some harmful things to yourself or others – know that there is always someone to talk to (see link below). Christmas season is always a challenge for people who suffer from depression or just plain sadness. It can be a bad time for some people. Seriously though, stay determined! Even if you feel like you don’t have any hope left in your life, you can always give hope to someone else’s life.

Keep on playing!
Seriously though, if you need someone to talk to here is a link to a site with people who are happy to help! Click Here

What is a “Business Strategy”?

I see plenty of blogs and guides in gaming, but for small businesses in this field that is only half the battle. Besides making the actual product you also need to learn how to make a good business. This can be hard for young entrepreneurs who may have a dream of becoming the next big company but don’t even know how to ‘start a business’ let alone anything about business. Personally, I have always been a fan of entrepreneurs, perhaps even admire them more than professional game designers. Spending my entire life studying business, I think I have some advice that I can share with my fellow gamers in the community who may not fully understand the business side of running a “Game Company”.

So for those who are wanting to start your own business the first thing you will need is an idea, but chances are if you are reading this, you already got that.

The next thing you will need is a business strategy. You may have heard this word being thrown around a lot in your business 101 class, but it really is important. This is basically your entire battle strategy to rise above the competition (and I mean that in the most friendly way possible). It tells you how you are going to run your business, the costs and profits involved, and expected success that you can measure yourself to as time passes. Your business strategy should tell you at least the following:

What order are you going to produce your products? Do you have more than one idea? Which idea comes first?

Who is your target market? Are you going to target teenagers, adults, kids, boys and girls equally or is it meant for one gender over the other? Then remind yourself that you need to tailor the rest of the strategy expecting this target market is going to be your primary customer.

Details on how you are going to produce your products. Will you be able to make it at your home, or are you going to need a professional manufacturer? Will it be a manufacturer in China where it is cheapest but usually lower quality or in America/Europe where it is higher quality but may cost you a lot more?

Details on how you are going to sell your products. Will you sell it on a website directly to customers? To distributors only? Are you going to provide volume discounts? Charge for shipping?
Where will you store your products? Your basement, a storage facility? How much will it cost to store it?

Where will your business be located? Will it be in a mall, your own building, your basement? How much will it cost?

Will you have employees? Who do you expect to be helping you? Are they going to work for free (probably not or at least not for very long)? How much will you pay them?

Will you have any other costs? Taxes? Outsourced work (such as artist)? Paying yourself?

What will be your Cost of Investment? For a small business I recommend you be as accurate as possible for each individual product. For example, in your first product your COI will be all the costs you listed above. As you make more products and have a more steady stream of income from each of those product lines, your fixed costs (such as paychecks, bills, etc.) will be spread out across your investments, then your COI will be more and more just your costs associated to that one product line.

How long should it take for you to produce Net Profit? What is the Return on Investment ( ROI = (Net Profit / Cost of Investment) x 100)? What is the estimated Net Present Value of the idea (NPV)? This is a big mistake many people make – just because you sold a unit of a product for profit doesn’t mean you actually made profit yet. You need to recoup your investments first. Write down how much you will be selling it for to distributors, directly to the customer, etc. Then figure out how much of the product you think you can sell and how quickly. Be realistic, if you are not sure, then error on the side of cation by assuming the worst.
If you answer the questions above you are on your first steps towards a good business strategy. There is a lot more that goes into it, but I’ll save that future blog posts. This is meant to help get people’s feet wet and start thinking about the business side of things. Perhaps in future posts I’ll go into each of these in more details to help you answer these questions.

In the meantime, keep on playing!

OPO Presents: Grillinator

Another week, another Wednesday, or it would have been had it not been for the discovery of a new product that changed my way of thinking forever: Grillinator’s BBQ Cleaning Brush!

At the Old Post Office today they had a new guest speaker, Shawn Cornett, your average BBQ enthusiast with big dreams. He wanted to invent a new BBQ Cleaning Brush one that didn’t lose its steel hairs and actually cleaned the grill so you can see the metal bars again. To do this he started a KickStarter with a good size goal in mind (around $50,000). On his first try he succeeded! He shared a lot of great insight in how he pulled it off ~ which was the topic of today’s get together: How to have a successful Kickstarter!

He told a lot of interesting personal stories, and got across the time devoted to the project. He made clear that it is far more time consuming than you would think. He spent 4 solid Full Time, months to his project. Before that, at least a years worth of proto-typing and product development. When the crowd asked him what was the biggest contribution to his success he said it was the “prep-work before the Kickstarter went live.” That means gathering emails, reaching out to family and friends, and making sure you have a great quality video! He went on to mention that if he had to do it again, he would make sure he had everything ready before he submitted the KickStarter for review by the staff.

With that said, I decided to hold off on lunching the KickStarter for World of Anastroc. Instead my growing team and I will be doing prep-work for the upcoming campaign. Spreading the word, making videos, and more so that way we make sure we have everything ready ahead of time. We want to deliver a high quality experience to you guys & gals. That means doing the best we can in everything we release. So sign up with one of our many social media outlets and stay tuned!
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KingStevensGame
Facebook: King Steven’s Games @WNLOA

And more on the way!
Keep on playing!

OPO Presents: TechShop!

Ever had an idea that you wanted to physically bring into reality but had no idea how to make it nor the tools to make it with? Than you should hold on to that idea, and take it to TechShop!

So lately I have been going to a local business incubator called “Old Post Office” (OPO). It is brand new after buying out an old building on Main Street in St. Charles, MO. I am ecstatic to have such a place so close to my home! They do a “Wednesday Guest Speaker” event which is free to aspiring entrepreneurs, and so needless to say I have been going every chance I have had.

The information is always helpful, and gives you oppitunity to learn more about what is going on in the community along with chances to network with like-minded individuals. This week was Chris Ruzicka, a business developer for “TechShop”. TechShop has apparently been around for a very long time; however, they are only located in a few cities so not many people have heard of it. Each location is a massive warehouse sized building filled with different equipment for inventors to utilize.

It kindof reminds me of those computer game stores where you rent a computer and it gives you access to hundreds of high end games you would normally never be able to play on your computer at home let alone buy them all? That is what this place is but for building prototypes. Personally, I hope to take advantage of it now that they are opening a location in St. Louis, MO. It is about $150 a month or $95 if you are a student, but still if you have an idea you want to make they will have trained staff who will help you bring it into reality. I have TONS of invention ideas, but I don’t know the first thing about how to make things.

Seriously, I bought a $50 build-a-robot kit and…well…lets just say I have a very awesome looking paper weight (see picture)! So if you are in the area, I recommend you check them out (www.techshop.com)

That’s it for now! Keep on playing!
(Oh, and I will release an update soon on Gen Con and the Kickstarter)

GEN CON!!! + Kickstarter Update

Gen Con 2016 is coming up next week. I hope everyone got a ticket and is going cause I am!
I have been going to Gen Con every year since 2014. I only started going after forcing myself to spend the money. It was the best decision I ever made, and one that I wish I had made years before then.

At Gen Con you meet with fellow board gamers and video gamers. It is a gathering of similar minded individuals with similar passions. There is a lot to do at every Gen Con ~ something for everyone. My friend who went with me for the past 2 years would go to try out many of the games he helped kickstart. He is a great supporter of the arts and a good man. But we wouldn’t get to hang out much since I would go there for networking reasons.

My first year I spent all 4 days going to every seminar related to business I could find. I would then talk to the speaker afterwards (if possible) and suck up all the knowledge I could get. I met many inspiring characters and got lucky enough to make long lasting connections. Many of which I am hoping to see again this year. So if you do go, don’t be shy, make some new friends or business partners. Again there is everything for everyone at Gen Con!

Kickstarter update: Got my quotes back, and got some volunteer help reviewing my tiers. Once we think it is ready, I’ll be sure to post about it again!

Keep on playing!

10 Reasons Why You Should Like Mark Rosewater

6 months since my last post! So much to catch the world up on with my adventures! I got a new job, signed up for 9 credit hours for my Masters…now that I have caught all of you up to speed, lets just jump into things!
I still listen to Mark Rosewater’s pod casts (click here to check them out, highly recommended!)(and if you don’t know who Mark is click here to learn more about him).
In a recent pod cast he discusses being a minor celebrity and what that is like personally. One thing that really struck home with me is when he talked about the hate on the internet about him. Someone even wrote an article “10 Reasons Why You Should Hate Mark Rosewater”. I’ve had a taste of that medicine too. When I was Head Judge of YuGiOh Regionals I tried extremely hard to have all the rules and policies memorized and while I can count on one hand the number of wrong rulings I gave out, I had a poor reputation as a judge. Mostly people made up stories about me, or gripped about one of those bad rulings from years ago. Eventually you learn to deal with it, but it requires thick skin.

Out of empathy then, and simply because he has earned it, I came up with writing my own blog about “10 Reasons Why You Should Like Mark Rosewater”.

1) He Answers Emails: People take this for granted way too much. On the old Magic The Gathering website he used to have his actual email posted for everyone to see! A couple years ago I emailed him asking him how to get a job at Wizards of the Coast. He emailed back and forth with me for a good while. A few months later I emailed him again asking for advice and he answered! Eventually the emails stopped however. I probably emailed him too many times and he needed to move on to other fans. This guy probably gets thousands of emails every month and to actually respond back several times is incredible! I wish I hadn’t over taxed him, but live and learn, personally I understand.

2) He Loves Magic: One thing Mark is for sure – he is passionate for Magic. I don’t even know if he likes playing that much or not, but he loves the art, the flavor, the stories, the fans. He appreciates its roots, because of that he would never do anything irresponsible to the health of the game. There are many stories about leaders of companies who get spoiled with success and just squeeze it for all they can get out of it (cough* YGO *cough). But no one at Wizards has done that, and Mark continues that trend.

3) He Understands Magic: It is one thing to love, another to truly take the time to understand it. He has studied Magic to its roots and more. He created the color wheel which brilliantly gave ever-lasting flavor to the game. He broke down its psychology, even down to the key words.

4) He has a grasp of the business: Anyone can answer emails or know Magic, but to also keep in mind the market and business side of things is a real feat. Does Mark have a degree in marketing? No, that is why Wizards hired a marketing department; however, he does have a self-observant mind set about it. He also understands what it takes to make an idea of a card go onto the shelves, like the actual logistics of card making (he has done several pod casts about it). To be a fan and have working knowledge of the industry is amazing.

5) He makes Pod Casts: He could just drive to work listening to the radio every day enjoying himself, but instead he shares his knowledge with everyone by making several pod casts every week. If you ever have tired to do something consistent before (such as managing a blog on a personal business website *shifting eyes*) it is very hard to do. But he does it in stride. Not only that, but they are clear, cleaver, interesting, and honest. Very inspiring, hopefully one day I will be able to do that too.

6) He goes to events: Being more than just the man behind the curtain, he actually goes to events. In a pod cast he says that he will pop into local card shops from time to time, or go to Comic Con (lucky). In the past he Head Judge tournaments at Gen Con (even dressed as animals to add flavor to the event!). I personally have never met him, but I’m out in Missouri.

7) Great Role Model: There are some who make it to the top and let it all go to their head. They act as though that now they are in the dream position all shall revere them forever! This sort of arrogant is common now-a-days. It seems in the game community it is really hit or miss; either you are the coolest, nicest person in the world, or just selfish and cursing up a storm. I’ve been lucky to meet and stay in contact with some of the finest. Real role models that honestly inspire you and give you hope. Mark Rosewater is that way for many people in the Magic community with good reasons. He is polite, helpful, never heard him curse, and thoughtful. It is easy to see why he would make such a great role model.

8) Very Professional: There are some awesome people out there who mange companies, but aren’t very professional about it. While I still appreciate them, I have learned that there is an air about professionalism that is lost on many people. You have to know when to have fun, but you also have to know when to get a job done. This also means knowing how to manage others and not overwhelm new employees, how to handle past mistakes, or how to handle emotions around others. Whether he realizes this or not, he has demonstrated all these things in one story or another.

9) Willing to let loose and entertain!: This is where I personally fail. I am the personality that shows up to a football game wearing a business suit. I like to try to “let loose” but just not me. I’m 26 now and I act more like a 70 year old man than ever! But Mark doesn’t have that issue. He is willing to make fun of himself to make others have a good time, such as wearing a rabbit suit in the office for a party, or a chicken outfit while judging at a tournament. He has done funny videos with Walk the Planes and more. Got to respect that!

10) Respect for the fans: You don’t have to respect him. You don’t even have to believe anything on this list, but I think he has a great deal of respect for the fans. I’m not talking about Magic fans; fans of all games. His pod casts relates mostly to Magic, but he goes into all kinds of game theories that can be applied to anything. More so, he gives personal advice that I have shared with non-gaming individuals to help them through their tough times. The fact that he makes articles, pod casts, visits tournaments, answers twitter, emails, tumbler, etc. is evidence that he really does respect and care for all gamers in a very balanced way that is refreshing.

Well, that’s my top 10 for why you should like Mark Rosewater. I’m sure there are dozens of articles similar to this one, you should find out more by checking those out to. I purposely didn’t look because I wanted to be original to myself. Keep on gaming!

Pixel Pop Success!!

Pixel Pop St. Louis was last weekend and I am still recovering from all the excitement. There are so many creative people in our area!  There were a lot of video games, but that only helped our booth stand out as we were one of the few non-video game companies there.

We demoed our flagship product World of Anastroc, and another brand new board game (which I cannot say what it is atm).

Needless to say World of Anastroc was well received by the public. I got to demo the game to someone who had never played a trading card game before and he understood all the rules within a few minutes and went on to beat me! That was exciting because it showed that my goal of making a simple yet challenge trading card game worked.

What really surprised me was our newest game. I wanted to demo it out and get feedback, this was the perfect place to do it. It attracted many people to play our games, while just making other people laugh that it exists (in a good way). Let me put it like this, I’m a numbers guy, and I kept track of how many played which game, this game got played more than DOUBLE of Anastroc!

We also gave away a bunch of stuff, we gave away food for beating the demoers (which I could have advertised better; live and learn). And a cool T-Shirt of Machine Emperor X! It made my day when several gamers came back to try to win the drawing; particularly one young gentleman who came back several times. Ironically he also won the shirt, which made his day.

I think my biggest success from the event was when I saw people laughing and enjoying the games I created. When I demoed about my umpteenth time, I was getting to the point of saying, “Look…I win…yay…can we be done now?” But then I realized that while the flavor of the game got stale with me, these people were tasting it for the first time, and they were loving it! That was motivational. It also helps when people say they would buy it in a heartbeat if possible.

While I love making profit through sales, it was really just seeing everyone having a good time that made the hard work and investment worth it. That is why I will continue to do what I can to make this company great.