Developing the site

We’ve been going through a major upgrade of the site recently.  There’s been a few reasons for this:

  1. Time on my part to deal with coding
  2. Time on our developers part to work with us complex code
  3. Funds for purchasing modules / development work

At the same time, we’ve got to balance both the cost of an upgrade to the site with its potential benefits.  Most changes fall into one of three major categories:

  1. Front-End Design Changes
  2. Back-End Administrative Changes
  3. Bug Fixes

Front-End Design Changes generally focus on making the website more user friendly and interactive.  So the addition of the Social Share buttons to the site, the new Checkout are all front-end design changes.

Back-End Administrative changes help us work more efficiently.  Example would be integrations with Canada Post, a stock updater and edits to our PDF invoices.

Bug Fixes are more complex.  When we can, especially if it’s a bad bug; we fix the problem as quickly as possible.  However, to fix a bug we need to replicate it.  Unfortunately, with some of our more persistent bugs in the system; they are extremely difficult to replicate.  Without going through a tens-of-thousand dollar bug-hunt; they’re just not feasible.

What to Fix & When?

The obvious constraint is funds.  All these changes require funds – whether its purchasing pre-made modules that should work out-of-the-box or having our developers write the code for us specifically.

The Benefit of the change is another major factor – if it’s fixing a major bug or adding a new, must-have feature to the site; we’ll attempt to get on it immediately.  However, some projects are multi-week projects and those then require both the funds and the free time to complete.

Lastly, there’s the Complexity of the project.  It’s why you see a lot of small, simple projects done before the major changes.  Since I can hack my way around basic code; I tackle all the small projects when I have time; leaving the complex code problems to the real developers.

Video Reviews : A Business Perspective

We’ve recently been creating video game reviews of our various board games (and soon, our role-playing games).  It’s our newest marketing push on the site, and there’s a few reasons we’ve gone about doing it.   Obviously, it’s a great marketing tool – it allows us to promote our site in other locations without being too pushy; it (hopefully) convinces customers to purchase a game and perhaps just as importantly, put a ‘face’ to our company.  Even if that face is Kaja’s for the most part. 🙂

There’s a lot of great things to say about the video reviews; but there are obviously concerns too that have held us back from creating them long ago.

Firstly, they’re expensive.  Part of that is my insistence that we do it well.  After all, we could just use a digital camera; slap it down on a table and make Kaja talk into it and then post the resulting footage without editing.  However, I’d rather we do something a touch more professional – thus Rob, Phasefirefilms and Joanna.  That does mean that each video costs us a few hundred dollars though.

The next question is ROI.  If it costs us that much to shoot, how wdo we make it back? The obvious answer is that we have to sell that many additional games from it. However; that’s not viable at all.  Except for truly big-sellers like Settlers of Catan, the resulting increase in sales is unlikely to pay us back.  Frankly, so far we haven’t seen the stick move at all (at least as tracked by sales increases on the product page directly).

Lastly, while it’s great for promotional uses; we have to walk a very fine line between making it useful for promoting our site and being too ‘corporate’ with the video.  Adding too many links on the video or ‘pushing’ a game too hard could create the opposite effect that we’re going for.

So why do it? So far, it’s a promotional and branding tool.  It helps get our name out, helps build some goodwill and it might convert a few gamers to buy here and there.  Of course, that does mean that we’ve got to consider how we’ll make our money back in other ways, which can mean something as simple as adding Adwords to the videos.  After all, nearly 60% of our video viewers aren’t ever going to be our customers since they aren’t from Canada.

Guest Review : Savage Worlds Deluxe

Savage Worlds Deluxe Core Rulebook front cover
Savage Worlds Deluxe is the latest core rulebook for the Savage Worlds Roleplaying Game System by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Savage Worlds is a generic game system that provides a framework for telling stories in a wide variety of genres and settings. The expressed goal of Savage Worlds is to be “Fast! Furious! Fun!” and it has been designed to minimize the amount of accounting needed to play.

Getting Started

To start playing Savage Worlds Deluxe, you’ll need this book and some dice. As a generic game system, Savage Worlds Deluxe does a decent job of providing enough information for a wide variety of settings and genres. There are races, weapons, armour, opponents, and gear enough to run a bare-bones Fantasy, Modern, or Sci-Fi game. With a bevy of free resources on the Pinnacle website and fan-sites around the web, you certainly can create a rich world with just the core book.

However, maybe you just want to have a book with all the information you need at your fingertips. Thanks to a number of third party licensors, there are a wide variety of Savage Worlds Setting books that expand on the core rules through the addition of additional player options, gear, and rules to get the ‘feel’ of the setting just right. There are also currently three genre Companion books (Fantasy, Super Powers, and Horror), which provide genre-specific game support.

Gameplay

The Savage Worlds Deluxe edition of the rules is the easiest to understand to date. There are a number of quality examples of the applications of the rules and designers notes to help clarify the intent of rules. Character creation is laid out in a very straightforward manner and, while simple, provides a significant amount of choice for players to create unique and memorable characters. Players create characters by spending points to increase die levels on Attributes and Skills. Attributes are reflections of general areas of ability, like Smarts, Vigor, and Agility; whereas Skills are defined knowledge areas such as Fighting, Scientific Knowledge, and Swimming. Skills are purposely broad, in order to keep things simple. For instance, if you want to hit someone with a bat, sword, or your fist, you only need to look at your Fighting skill.

Players may also select Hindrances and Edges to help define their character. Hindrances are the flaws that make the character human; for example, they may be Lame, Bloodthirsty, or Greedy. Edges are the truly exceptional things the character can do, such as casting spells, or particularly impressive character types such as Noble or Brawny. After this point, there are a few statistics to derive based on the character’s skills, some gear to select, a little background to give, and the character is ready to play!

At its core, conflict resolution is very simple in Savage Worlds. When faced with a task, a player will roll two dice, their skill die and the Wild die and take the highest roll of the two as their score, which is compared against a target number to determine success. If you meet or beat that target, you’re successful. If you manage to beat the target number by a multiple of 4, you score a raise. Raises often improve the results of the roll, for example, additional damage in combat, or discovering additional clues.

Probably the most exciting part of this game is the initiative system. Each Character (and group of enemies) is dealt a card. The GM resolves the order Ace to Deuce. Each round a new card is dealt. What does this mean? The attack order changes, so your tactics will change much more compared to a fixed-initiative order style game. Also, if you are dealt a Joker, you gain the ability to go whenever you want and you get bonuses to your rolls in a round.

When the fists fly and the guns are drawn, players can engage in several combat manoeuvres that help gain the upper hand. It provides a level of tactical thinking that gives characters additional ways to help their group out, especially in situations where, perhaps, making an attack is a futile gesture. Damage in combat is pretty exciting. Damage rolls are compared to the Toughness of the opponent. If the roll is better than their Toughness, this
results in a Shaken status. This means all they can do is try to run away and try to recover. If you hit with a raise, you deal a wound. Each raise deals an additional wound. Once you receive your fourth wound, you’re toast. The rules for the minions are slightly different, as they only have one wound.

Savage Worlds is a generic game system and, because of this, it may not work for every genre and every tone of game. However, because the game has been developed more as a framework, with the expectation of adding setting-specific rules, Savage Worlds is successful at implementing a number of genres. One thing to expect from most Savage Worlds games is a two-fisted pulp style, which one could expect from the motto, “Fast! Furious! Fun!”

Conclusion

Savage Worlds Deluxe is the best edition of the Savage Worlds ruleset. It provides enough material to craft a game in a variety of settings, and also includes 5 exclusive adventures for you and your friends to play through. The rules are relatively easy to learn and offer tense combat and high adventure.

If you’re interested in a roleplaying game that can offer you dungeon crawling, investigating the Cthulhu Mythos, or fighting in World War II in one system, then Savage Worlds Deluxe is the game you should consider.

GottaCon 2012 Con Report

What an amazing weekend. GottaCon 2012 took place between February 3 – 5, 2012 in Victoria and it was packed. A lot of gaming (and selling for us) happened throughout the weekend and we had a lot of fun catching up with old customers and meeting new one’s too.  I would say it was our most successful con so far, though it was also our most tiring.

Before the Con

Getting ready for a con is generally a multi-day event.  We put an order through a few days beforehand in an attempt to increase stock for the event; especially for games we expect to sell well.  Once we do receive the stock, the evening before the event we pack everything that has to go up so that on the day itself, load-up is easy. It’s particularly important for GottaCon for us since it’s a multi-day event in Victoria which means we can’t just restock throughout the week if we are missing product.

Friday

As always we stayed at the Howard Johnson in Victoria, mainly because of the price and convenience factor.  It’s not a luxury location; but really we are barely there anyway.   After that, it was the 2 1/2 hour unloading & set-up for the con.  Unfortunately unlike previous years, we couldn’t drive most of the way in for unloading which meant we got a ton of exercise.

Starlit Citadel's Booth at Gottacon 2012
Starlit Citadel's Booth at Gottacon 2012

Due to an extremely long and not very well organised line-up; most visitors didn’t stream in till much later than the 5pm start time. However, once they were in, the Con-goers were quite happy to browse around, grab seats and start their various games. While we were meant to shut down at 9pm; due to the slow-start we stayed open till 10.30pm before calling it a day.

Saturday
Saturday would be a roller-coaster day. After an early breakfast, we proceeded to get ready for the first sponsored event we would run – the Race for the Galaxy Tournament. We had 15 players turn-up, and the games begun. In between of course, Kaja and I took turns manning the booth, running the tournament and wandering around the Con.

The tournament went well, though I think next year we’ll adjust how we run it. We ran the tournament in 2 rounds, with 3 games each. That seemed to take too long, so we’ll adjust it to 3 rounds only, with 1 game in the first 2 rounds for next year.

With customers arriving in fits and starts, we got a chance to talk to our booth neighbors – the webcomic creators Sam and Fuzzy and Weregeek’s Alina; both of who are great people and even better Con neighbors. We were also next to TableTopScenery who make the most amazing Miniature Scenery.   Almost makes me want to become a miniature gamer just to own some of their stuff.

During the slower parts of the day, I also managed to make my way around the Con, poking my head into the RPG section; the auction and visiting with Standard Action‘s cast and crew.  It was great catching up with them again as well as many of the other distributors that we knew.  We also bumped into Ed Healy of the Gamerati & Critical Gamers; both of whom were quite cool.

The Dominion Tournament we ran started at 7pm and would run till 12.30am.  We had 32 players in the tournament and likely could have had more if we could fit them all in! With so many players, we had to run 3 rounds; which meant a long-night.  We finally called it a day at the booth at 11pm and got a chance to play our first game of the Con – Galaxy Trucker.   I truly enjoy Galaxy Trucker, though even with the timer on we were all moving slow.

With the game and tournament finished, we made it back home and crashed out.

 Sunday

Being the last day of the Con, we had a slower start to the day and made it to the tables a tad late.  At first, it started slow with only a few players around and so I sent Kaja off to game.  A relatively bad move as by 10am the booth was slammed for the next 2 hours with customers coming by having made up their minds.  Thankfully, she was playing close by and could drop by to help when it got really bad.

Sunday was a hectic day.  While we had few lull’s; it was overall quite busy and time just flew by.  After 3 days; the hall was getting extremely stuffy and warm (though not as bad as Saturday night) and that didn’t help keep our energy levels up.  Thank god for good booth neighbors and understanding customers as I phased out at points.

The rush to pack-up and get everything squared away for the 7pm ferry was a tad too chaotic for my liking but we did manage to make it.  With about 1 minute to spare for our reservations.  Unfortunately, we managed to forget a box which Carson & Evan of GottaCon now have. Ugh.

Monday

Post con, all the enjoyable administration began. Unpacking, resorting, inventorying all damaged items during transit.  Then checking all our receipts, making sure they matched up with our stock and sales, counting our cash and balancing the books before making the final deposits.   And then of course, getting back to our usual routine!