Our blogger, Neil Bunker, is joined by Joseph Norris founder of, and lead designer for, Adversity Games.
Joe you are both the founder of Adversity Games and the designer of Nightlancer, which is currently on Kickstarter. Please tell us how you got started and what inspired you to self-publish?
I started designing games in my late teens as a hobby. For a long time, I played around with ideas without really doing anything with them. I didn’t take myself seriously.
When Nightlancer began to come together, I thought “this is a really interesting idea” and maybe it was worth taking it on as a serious project.
I chose to self-publish – possibly the most difficult of all routes to releasing a game – because I had a concept, a vision, for Nightlancer that I felt would not be completely fulfilled by approaching an established publisher.
Can you briefly describe Nightlancer for us?
It’s a competitive, cyber-punk board game with strong RPG/character building elements.
Players are Nightlancers surviving in the crumbling dystopian underworld of Birmingham 2099.
You use the black market to invest in cybertech enhancements and other gear to improve your skills and abilities before taking on a range of missions.
Missions are the heart of the game. There is the option of completing one per round and missions can be tailored to suit your character’s abilities – be that talking, fighting or shooting their way out of trouble.
You can use your contact network to complete missions in the most effective way or to interfere with your opponents.
There are also co-operative and solitaire options included.
How long has it taken travel from initial concept to Kickstarter launch?
From idea to playtesting to Kickstarter has been a very long journey. Around 6 years.
There have been 20 major versions of Nightlancer in that time, plus a further 200 minor revisions.
There is a phrase in software development: ‘Fail fast and fail often’. I tried to apply that in the game development process.
Sometimes I would change Nightlancer from playtest to playtest. It meant I could learn from issues that occurred during those playtests and quickly gather feedback regarding changes.
At the time of writing Nightlancer is 100% funded two days after the Kickstarter launch. Yet, this is the third Kickstarter campaign. What lessons did you learn from earlier campaigns that have helped make this one a success?
The first campaign was very basic with very few graphics, some of which I had created myself. The result was that I did not highlight my investment in Nightlancer on the page. The funding target was also too high because the game was too bloated, there were elements that just did not need to be there.
The second campaign had much better graphics, a better video; however, I had to accept that I simply could not do all the marketing myself.
This time, I have had to learn what I can do myself and what I cannot. I have sought professional help and guidance from graphic artists and marketing experts. The game itself has been streamlined, resulting in a lower pledge level and funding targets.
Adversity Games has had a presence at many conventions during the last few years? How much of the success of the KS do you attribute to this grassroots approach?
There is no doubt that getting out there and meeting gamers has resulted in a loyal following; people who have been with me from the very beginning. People who have helped me keep going no matter how hard it got.
Going to conventions has also helped me understand the audience for my game. How to communicate both what Nightlancer is and what it isn’t.
It also very much helped with the artwork. Even after I had a professional artist working on the graphics, some things were not clear to players and the demo’s helped improve that by allowing me to really see what was working and what wasn’t.
Where next for Adversity? Any other games in the pipeline?
Kickstarter fulfilment is the number one priority between now and December. I have a few games in the pipeline, but until the fulfilment is done these are on hold.
Once fulfilment is complete, I’ll be looking at some of the other games I have as late stage prototypes.
Fixer, a deckbuilding game set in the Nightlancer universe. Kickboxer which is a 2-player character building and fighting game. Also, Arachnida, which is a strategy game about spiders!
I’m planning to put the next release to a public vote. I like all the games, but I want to make sure I focus on the one that other people enjoy.
If you could offer one piece of advice for someone entering the Games industry, what would it be?
Identify where you are strong and seek help in areas where you are not so strong.
Publishing is a completely different skill set to game design. I had to learn very quickly what I could do, what I could learn and what I needed help with.
I’m no artist or marketeer and being able to ask for help in the skillsets where I am weakest was very important.