I'm a digital game and app developer, currently crowdfunding my first tabletop game. Ask me anything!

Nov 11, 2017

Thoughtfish is a Berlin-based mobile developer. After several years of successful development in the digital realm, we decided to launch a classic tabletop card game, and are currently crowdfunding the project on Kickstarter. While moving from digital to physical/analog may sound like something of a backwards progression, it makes perfect sense to us. What do YOU think?


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What is your favorite tabletop game?

Nov 12, 11:37AM EST0

If I had to choose one, it would be Diplomacy. It's the perfect example of how a game with straightforward mechanics can have incredible depth. For such a simple game, it can get really intense and personal.

Nov 14, 4:09AM EST0

Thoughtfish, what do we expect from this game?

Nov 11, 7:43AM EST0

Our goal is to create a game that falls between casual and mid- to hardcore tabletop gaming, and is playable and fun at numerous skill levels. We're of course still balancing and tweaking the cards, but we're very happy with the result thus far, and hope that comes through.

We'll be doing another Kickstarter Live tomorrow, for those who would like to see more of the game in action: https://live.kickstarter.com/thoughtfish/live/fightlings-more-gameplay-and-questions-livestream

Nov 12, 9:46AM EST0

Wow! Do you have a twitter account I can follow?

Nov 15, 4:27AM EST0

tell me your games categories?

Nov 11, 12:31AM EST0

We classify this as a Living Card Game (LCG) because the decks come in their complete form, meaning there are no rare and/or more powerful cards (at least not yet). The focus is on deck building, and on the need to update your game plan based on how the early game plays out.

Nov 11, 6:20AM EST0

 Why should people purchase your invention?

Nov 10, 9:53PM EST0

For casual gamers, it's a good pick up quick, play quick game. For mid- to hardcore gamers, the deck building component, as well as the ability to stretch the core game rules on your own, gives the possibility of a much more advanced experience. And it's a robust enough box to fit well on your game shelf, but also small enough that it's portable.

Nov 11, 6:18AM EST0

How much time does an app take to develop?

And is there any software to build apps?

Nov 10, 8:46AM EST0

Building an app is sort of like building a house: it can take one day, or ten years. The time you put into it will be apparent to the user - for some apps, a very short development cycle (as long as it includes QA and edge cases) may be fine, but for a nuanced game with multiple loops, a lot more time and effort is required. 

Similarly, there is tons of app-creation software out there - sometimes third-party software will be fine, but for a product that's really your own, you'll likely need to dig into the code and/or hire a professional.

Nov 10, 12:21PM EST0

How do you describe game design to people who don’t know what it is?

Nov 9, 12:28PM EST0

I like to say that my job is to write the instruction manual on how to build the game. When explaining balancing, I ask them to imagine a game where you fight a dragon. Then I ask, "How much health does the dragon have?" "How much damage does my sword do?" "How quickly can I swing my sword?" These are all values that someone needs to come up with, and changing any of them will have a big impact on how the game feels. If the dragon is too easy to kill, the game becomes boring. If the dragon is too strong, the game is frustrating.

Nov 10, 11:23AM EST0

Who do you consider at the top of your field, and why?

Nov 9, 12:28PM EST0

This is really hard to answer. Games are often made by many different designers working together, and the most talented and innovative folks aren't always the ones in the spotlight.

One of my favorite designers to talk to is Stone Librande. Some of his GDC talks completely changed the way I worked and documented my designs. We both have similar approaches to balancing and I haven't met very many people who can model complex systems the way he does, yet he also makes everything really easy to understand, which is important since so much of our job is about communication.

Nov 10, 11:22AM EST0

What’s the biggest thing players just don’t understand about game mechanics?

Nov 9, 11:55AM EST0

I guess the thing that is hard for players to see sometimes is how everything ties together. Sometimes a player might be complaining about how an item feels overpowered or a weak ability, while the devs can see all the data as a whole, and know exactly how many games are won by this overpowered item. Or they may run a simulator that shows an ability might get overpowered when pushed any further, because of the way it interacts with the other mechanics of the game.

This doesn't mean that the designers are omnipotent, though - there are often so many things interacting with each other in your game that it can be hard to see what an individual experience feels like which is why designers need to do user tests and be players of the game themselves. 

Nov 10, 11:22AM EST0

What non-game art influences you the most?

Nov 9, 10:29AM EST0

A huge variety of stuff: Japanese Manga, old 1920s/30s cartoons, the early days of 8-bit graphics, Marvel/DC comics, and everything in between.

Nov 10, 11:28AM EST0

What are the essential tools of your trade?

Nov 9, 9:18AM EST0

The best way to dig into game design is to constantly refresh your view of the game you're working on. If you get stuck, it can help to focus on just one facet of the game: what sort of playable space does it use? What are the players thinking about when they play, and what are they thinking about when they're waiting for the other player? Do the game pieces communicate all the essential information, or does the player need to bring an understanding of the pieces to the match? 

On the other hand, there's good old number-crunching via Excel and other programs. People don't realize how much of balancing is math - it's almost like balancing a budget. I know that doesn't sound like much fun, but the point is, if I can balance the game well, the players should feel powerful and challenged at the same time, and the game shouldn't feel like a chore.

Nov 10, 12:18PM EST0

What’s the most important game mechanic of the past 10 years?

Nov 9, 8:53AM EST0

Games have had crafting mechanics for ages but I think the popularity of Minecraft has shown that crafting systems can be a game on their own. I'm loving the amount of crafting games coming out now, because there are so many takes on this new genre that it feels super fresh, and it has gotten a lot of people to try videogames who were previously not interested in them.

Nov 10, 11:19AM EST0

What are the best 30 seconds of game design ever?

Nov 9, 5:42AM EST0

Great question - because it's time-based, I'd have to say the beginning of World 1-1 of Super Mario Brothers. Check out this breakdown:


Nov 10, 11:18AM EST0

Do crowdfunding sites ensure the campaign's intentions are pure?

Nov 9, 5:20AM EST0

Sites like Kickstarter do have a basic set of standards for being a creator and launching a project, to make sure there's no outright fraud occurring. But the lion's share of accountability falls on the creators themselves. A big part of the work of running a campaign is convincing the community that 1) your intentions are good, 2) you know what you're talking about, and most importantly, 3) if funded, you will in fact be able to produce the product or products in question. We've tried to address these points in our campaign, either directly or indirectly - hopefully it comes through in the campaign, but please let us know if something seems unclear! 


Nov 10, 11:16AM EST0

How did you come up with this idea?

Nov 8, 10:33PM EST0

I started by thinking back to my childhood playing Memory, which is an incredibly simple game that is nonetheless different every time, and always fair even if it's somewhat luck-based. I wondered if there was a way to combine this really simple and straightforward mechanic with all the card battlers that have come since then. While the idea of "unlocking" cards once a pair was uncovered was the real breakthrough, the real work of creating the game was in balancing luck/unpredictability on one hand, and skill/strategy/memory on the other.

Nov 10, 11:08AM EST0

Would you say that perhaps people need to see your idea from a new or different perspective?

Nov 8, 10:12PM EST0

That's sort of our goal with this game - to take two fairly familiar genres (pair matching and CCG) and combine them into something new. We're hoping people see the potential in the game that we do, particularly for new game modes, three-faction duels, etc.

Nov 10, 11:11AM EST0

How different do you feel your concept is compared to anything else out there right now?

Nov 8, 6:17PM EST0

While each of the game's two halves uses a fairly straightforward concept, the combination of these two things - pair-matching game and CCG combat - has not really been done in this way before. It was really difficult to factor in luck (which has a huge effect on the first 5-6 moves) in such a way that it would set the game in motion, but not leave either player with too much of an advantage too early on. We've played dozens and dozens of iterations of the game, and we're really happy with the way it now balances out between unpredictability/luck on one hand, and planning/strategy on the other.

Nov 10, 10:57AM EST0

How does your office or workplace change your work?

Nov 8, 2:46PM EST0

We're all avid gamers, and our collective love of all types of games really shapes the way we work. It's important for us to create games we ourselves would want to play, so we're constantly testing and reworking our games - whether digital or tabletop - to make sure they're fun, balanced, and simple to understand without being too easy or repetitive.

Every 2 weeks we have what we call "Epic Friday", which in the past has been everything from game brainstorming to stress testing to epic all-staff battle royales in Fightlings.

Nov 10, 10:50AM EST0

What's with crowdfunding that made you choose it as a platform to promote your cause?

Nov 8, 2:40PM EST0

Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter go especially well with board and card games, since they are very production-intensive, and really are an all-or-nothing effort. With a successfully funded Kickstarter project, a creator knows exactly how many copies of the game need to be created before placing the order, and can plan production, shipping, and fulfillment based on that number. It helps us set a minimum goal for funding, and lets us choose and update our stretch goals based on feedback from the community (see the updated "Stretch Goals" section of our campaign page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thoughtfish/fightlings-the-card-game)

Nov 10, 10:25AM EST0

How quickly do you need your money?

Nov 8, 2:28PM EST0

If you mean the funding goal, that's a hard deadline set by Kickstarter. In our case, the campaign ends on November 15th - just 4 days from now!

If you mean the actual funds, that's a much, much slower process. Funds take about 3 weeks to reach creators after a successful campaign, and with board and card games, the production process takes at least a few months - not to mention shipping times. For our project, we aren't promising the product to backers until Summer 2018 - it certainly could be sooner, but better to underpromise and overdeliver than the opposite.

Nov 10, 10:20AM EST0

What are other effective platforms for launching campaigns aside from crowdfunding sites?

Nov 8, 12:19PM EST0

Generally the word "campaigns" would imply you're using some sort of crowdfunding effort. To simply launch games (whether digital or tabletop), you can always go with the old-school method of creating a working prototype, and using it to approach potential publishers. This is certainly valid, but in the past 5-10 years the market has become so flooded with developers that it's gotten harder and harder to get your game in front of publishers. It's certainly possible, but - as with music or film - don't expect to sign a deal right out of the starting gate.

Nov 10, 12:26PM EST0

Could you team up with companies who are in the same field or similar in order to offer incentives or rewards to users?

Nov 8, 12:14PM EST0

While it's possible to team up with other companies when crowdfunding, it's important to set these arrangements up well in advance, and to be prepared for various levels of funding. Campaigns can be unpredictable, and so the quantities of rewards offered can differ greatly depending on what funding goal you reach. If you do partner with another company during a crowdfunding campaign, make sure the goals and expectations of each party are clearly stated beforehand!

Nov 10, 10:17AM EST0

Do you need advice or connections?

Nov 8, 12:06PM EST0

Always! We're always happy to get your feedback and advice - please leave us a comment on the project page, or send us a message directly! 

Project page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thoughtfish/fightlings-the-card-game

Nov 10, 10:15AM EST0

Can you give some advice to people interested in launching their own crowdfunding campaigns?

Nov 8, 11:44AM EST0

Start making connections as early as possible, and keep them updated with your progress. This can be everyone from potential backers, to small bloggers and Youtubers, to huge media outlets. The more you involve a community in your process from an early stage, the stronger that community will be.

If you're making a physical product, start getting quotes well in advance, especially for things like shipping and order fulfillment. These may feel like afterthoughts or separate from the vision that led you to start the project, but they can truly make or break a project.

Nov 10, 10:14AM EST0

Should you design for yourself, or should you design for your audience?

Nov 8, 11:16AM EST0

As the old saying goes, there are games that are fun for the creator, games that are fun for the player, and games that are fun for the computer (or in this case, the table). If a game is too much one of these, it runs the risk of being too light and easy (player), too involved and opaque (creator), or too obsessed with playing out a concept or celebrating its own form (computer/table). 

The best approach is to start with a core mechanic and build on it. The game's form should serve this mechanic and vice versa, and additional layers of complexity should serve to deepen this connection, rather than undo it.

To answer more succinctly: design for yourself, but playtest constantly, and take player feedback seriously. Introducing new ideas is important in a game, but never at the cost of making the player feel cheapened, confused, slighted or ignored.

Nov 10, 10:09AM EST0
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