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Dashboard Forums Ask Me Anything Carla Kopp from Weird Giraffe Games (Feb 24)

  • Carla Kopp from Weird Giraffe Games (Feb 24)

  • Gabe Barrett

    Administrator
    February 21, 2022 at 12:46 am

    Carla Kopp, founder of Weird Giraffe Games, joins us this week.

    She’s a designer, a developer, and a publisher with a ton of experience and several games under her belt.

    Hit reply to ask her anything! (Carla will respond to your questions on Feb. 24th.)

    -Please limit your questions to one per person.

    -Please submit your question before 11:59pm PST on Feb. 23rd.

  • Gabe Barrett

    Administrator
    February 21, 2022 at 12:48 am

    Your company leans towards games with interesting themes, so what are some themes you would like to see in the next couple of years?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 6:39 pm

      This is something I think about a lot! The pandemic drove me a bit crazy and had me focusing on bird games (so, so many bird games) but in general, just something I haven’t seen a ton. I’d love to see more themes that were more cozy in nature, like woodworking or fancy hot chocolate. I’m not really a person that likes a lot of conflict so themes that are less conflict oriented would be wonderful.

      I really do need to retheme a number of my bird games, which is why this is something I think about a lot, though it’s really hard to see my games as other themes as I’m such a thematic designer.

  • Amy Price

    Member
    February 21, 2022 at 1:57 pm

    I do a good job teaching published games if I know them well or prepare ahead of time. When I try to teach my own prototypes, it’s as if I barely speak English and can’t think very well. I’ve tried writing out an actual script, but while that’s generally more coherent it’s also too long. Have you any guidance?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 12:23 pm

      First, I try to always have a ‘reference card’ where if I forget how words work, I can just look at the card and know important things about setup, what people can do on their turn, how the game ends, and how the winner is determined. I use this as a history of what I’ve tried, as well, as my memory isn’t the best anymore.

      I also make notes on how to teach a game, just like I take playtesting notes and also make sure to think about that before and after the playtest. I make sure to say what phrases and orders worked better or made people ask more questions.

      For instance, there was this one game I had that kept getting really weird feedback and that was all due to the way it was taught and what it looked like. I did a number of playtests and I learned that if I said mid-weight and engine building a number of times during the teach, the feedback was so much better. I had apparently made it too cute looking or something, but making sure to track what words I used while teaching and the associated feedback made that something I could learn from.

      • Carla Kopp

        Member
        February 24, 2022 at 12:27 pm

        Also! This is an example of one of my reference cards. It means that I don’t have to remember much of anything to go into the teach, other than it should have the starting resources for each player.

  • Nicholas Bartlett

    Member
    February 21, 2022 at 5:01 pm

    How do you seperate feedback while playtesting, blind playtesting, and reviews after production has finalized?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 12:30 pm

      If I understand this correctly, I separate the feedback by location. For example, after a game has been manufactured, I have an ongoing list of things that I want to update, should a second print run happen. This is in a different file than my regular playtesting.

      I also have dates with all my playtesting with the list of reasons why I’m doing the playtest and the outcome of the playtest, so it’s usually really easy to tell the difference between playtests.

      Let me know if that answers the question!

      • Nicholas Bartlett

        Member
        February 24, 2022 at 8:52 pm

        That is super organized. There is a book called “Thanks for the feedback” and another called “Hug your haters” that are super helpful to me as a designer. As you go through the seperate stages of development, do you handle your “haters” differently at each stage? How many bad reviews does it take to make you look at your game to see if it needs a second edition or expansion, etc.

  • Joshua Vogel

    Member
    February 23, 2022 at 11:29 am

    Designing smaller or “filler” games, are there things you think of doing specifically to compliment another game that people might play right before or after yours?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 6:46 pm

      This is actually something I’ve been thinking a lot about! I’m in the process of making games that are actually before or after games for specific games, that continue the story and increase the cognitive load as they go on. Sure, the games can be played separately fine but playing them in a certain order has the progressive feel to it, while keeping something in common with all the games, like a core mechanism.

      When I designed Way Too Many Cats, I also designed the sequel game Not Enough Dragons as it was super inspiring to try to make something different.. enough, but also similar enough, even if it’s only in title and common mechanism (drafting). Restriction is definitely the most inspirational way for me to design.

  • Peter C. Hayward

    Member
    February 23, 2022 at 3:09 pm

    What do you look for when deciding to sign a game?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 6:24 pm

      One of the most important things about signing a game is how I feel about working with the designer. I can design games if I want to, but I really enjoy working with others and making things that I couldn’t create by myself. During the game pitch, I try to make sure that the designer takes feedback well and seems open to ideas. I’ve worked with a designer or two that ended up causing me more stress than if they would have just handed over their design and not talked to me again and I don’t need that to happen again. It’s also definitely a positive if the designer can deal with me as a person because, as you know, I have a specific personality and it doesn’t work for everyone.

      From there, I’m really just looking for that ‘twist of weird’, which is usually a classic mechanism done in different way. The game might be close to complete or really far from it, but if I could see where the game could be fantastic in a Weird Giraffe way, I’m open to working on it and molding it to fit my line. For example, I signed Wicked & Wise when it had bidding in it and during the development process it lost the bidding, got turned into a deck building game, then set collection, and probably a few more until it settled where it is now, but the core game loop stayed throughout the process. It was really early on in the development of the game, but Fertessa was amazing, so it was worth signing that early.

  • Brian Chandler

    Member
    February 23, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Carla – You consistently have solid accessibility-related in your games. What’s the process you go through, and who do you have in mind, during design, development, and publishing?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 12:48 pm

      One really cool thing about accessibility is that making more accessible usually means that the game is more fun for everyone. For instance, if all colors are distinct and double coded with icons, that means that it’s really easy for people to identify the component based on what is easiest for them, so they never have their fun interrupted by thoughts of, “Is that blue or black?” or “Is that the warrior icon or the ranger?”

      I do try to keep a list of things or people to test with throughout my process. I have friends that have large hands or are color blind or dyslexic and if they have issues during the playtest, the problem is caught early on. Making sure to playtest with a variety of people, from different parts of the US or outside the US, different ages, and different levels of gaming helps out a lot, too. I go to a lot of conventions (or did before the pandemic) so it was a lot easier to make sure that a game worked for a ton of different types of people.

      I’ve found that being willing to ask people questions and incorporating their feedback means that there’s a lot of people that want to give feedback, just like with any other part of playtesting. Treating accessibility as important through the entire process means that I usually don’t think too much about it at any one time, as it’s already happening.

  • Graham Henry

    Member
    February 23, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    Carla, I enjoy your tagline ‘Classic Mechanisms with a Twist of Weird’. A design thought I’ve been wrestling with recently: with mechanisms, it seems on one extreme there is inventing a completely new system (but running the risk of it not being interesting or balanced), and on the other extreme copying an existing tried and true system (but thus not standing out). What are your thoughts? How do you strike a balance and know how much of a ‘twist’ to include?

    (Also what inspired the name Weird Giraffe?)

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 7:00 pm

      When I design games, I like to think of a mechanism that works and change it just a bit. For Way Too Many Cats, it uses the Winston draft, which is in itself a twist on the classic draft, but it does so face up, so there’s no hidden information. In another one of my drafting games, the most important cards are not the cards that are drafted, but the cards that are left behind after the draft. Slight tweaks like that make the mechanism more interesting but don’t change it enough that it’s completely new.

      Weird Giraffe Games came from me making a logo with my first idea for the company name, Okoppi Games, which sounds like the okapi animal, but has my last name in it. Turns out, no one thought that was funny, so I kept the logo I painstakingly made in Paint and just put new words to it, problem solved!

  • Ken C

    Member
    February 23, 2022 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Carla, I have enjoyed your blog, so thanks for all the tips and ideas you’ve put into those posts!

    I have some solo games in the works…could you share some key things that make solo games resonate with players? Like the types of challenges or experiences that solo players always seem to enjoy?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 1:18 pm

      Thanks so much for reaching my blog! That definitely makes me happy.

      Solo gamers tend to like either just winning or just losing. If a game feels like they had no chance of winning, they won’t want to play again as much as they would if they could point out one or two different moves that could have changed the state of the game. A close win is also a lot more satisfying than knowing you’re going to win halfway through the game. Having the game maintain that feeling that the player is just a bit behind or only slightly ahead means that every decision matters and makes the experience so much better.

      It’s also a good thing if the player can’t directly tell if they’re winning or losing. If there’s an easy way to calculate score, it might make the player calculate the score every turn, which takes away from the fun.

      • Ken C

        Member
        February 24, 2022 at 3:05 pm

        Wow, these are great concepts I have not heard before…I will definitely look to apply these to my in-process solo projects. Thank you!

        • Carla Kopp

          Member
          February 24, 2022 at 6:02 pm

          Glad I could help!

  • Grant Kerwood

    Member
    February 23, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    Thank you for your time Carla.

    What steps go into making such great games that strike the perfect balance between easy to learn and having deep meaningful strategies?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 6:52 pm

      I think the main important aspect is that most or all choices will lead you in a positive direction. If you make games that work like this, players can learn while playing and do pretty ok, which makes the learning experience much more fun than if they are able to do something that hinders them for the next 30 minutes of the game. For instance, if each type of action gets you a resource of some sort… you’ll at least have more resources than you started with and theoretically more choice at the beginning of your next turn.

      Having a game where a player doesn’t have to understand every nuance of a game but they can still have fun is that sweet spot. Adding in the ability to pull off a super awesome turn, if the player can plan and line it up appropriately helps with the strategy side of things. You want players to be able to feel amazing and have something to strive for, even if they might not do that every time they play the game.

  • Johan Falk

    Member
    February 23, 2022 at 11:34 pm

    I remember listening to you being interviewed in both Ludology and the BGDL podcast. Thanks for inspiration and perspectives.

    I’m coding framework for having bot-driven playtesting, as a complement to human playtesting. The purpose is to be able to get a _lot_ of data for quite specific questions (such as game length or other quantitative stuff). You used to do robotics and have done a lot of solo game development. What are your thoughts about potential and risks for bot-triven playtesting?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks for listening!

      Honestly, I learn A LOT from watching players play the game. I see what people look at, notice their emotions at different times, and can see a lot of different playstyles and how they interact.

      Taking that I learn so much from playtesting with people, there’s not much more that can be gained accurately from bot-driven playtesting, unless you put in a lot of effort on the logic of the bot. The bot has all the same biases and assumptions as you which is definitely a risk.

      You can use bot-driven testing to identify some edge cases or inconsistencies in balance, which is nice, but it’s usually more important for me to identify and understand perceived imbalances in the game, instead of actual imbalances.

      I tend to spend lots of time in spreadsheets, though, making sure everything seems about right, so if you don’t do that, you could find those issues through bot-driven testing, instead.

      • Johan Falk

        Member
        February 24, 2022 at 3:35 pm

        Thanks for your thoughts. You rock.

        • Carla Kopp

          Member
          February 24, 2022 at 6:32 pm

          💚💚💚 thanks for saying that!

  • Gabe Barrett

    Administrator
    February 24, 2022 at 12:57 am

    What are your best 1-2 tips for designing a solo mode for a game?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 12:35 pm

      Personally, I try to design the solo mode for a game once the multiplayer version of the game is pretty much done. If you try to design the solo early on in the experience, it can be nice as you can solo playtest the game, but in my experience that means updating the solo mode and not being clear on what is an issue with the solo and with the overall game.

      Second! I like to take lots of notes on the multiplayer game, with the different player types and ways to interact so that when I go to start on the solo game, I have a lot to work with. If any players interact in odd ways, especially ways you personally wouldn’t play, I’d write those down as well, as they can be super helpful in making a robust solo.

  • Nick Sims

    Member
    February 24, 2022 at 3:25 am

    What do you wish you’d known when you first started to publish games?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 6:55 pm

      I wish I had known that I’d always be learning! Honestly, I thought a few years ago that I knew what I was doing, but every project is a learning experience from some aspect and nothing ever goes completely as planned. If I had known that when I began, I would have been a lot less harsh on myself for the mistakes I made, as in retrospect, none of the mistakes were all that bad and could have been much worse.

  • Johan Falk

    Member
    February 24, 2022 at 4:46 am

    You seem very energetic.

    How do you channel your energy towards the things that need doing, and how do you keep your engagement at a balanced level?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 12:56 pm

      I try to have only one or two things a day that are really important and need to get done. That way, I can make sure to get that out of the way first while I have the most motivation. Then I tend to use the pomodoro technique, where you work for some amount of minutes, then take a break for some amount of minutes (maybe 30 min of work, 5 min of break). Knowing that a break is at most, 30 min away makes thigs a lot easier to do! I don’t always adhere to this, though. If I’m making progress and I’m in the moment, I might work for several hours at a time on something, which is great! Otherwise, I don’t spend too much time procrastinating so that really helps.

      Also, after I get the major daily task done, I tend to just ‘follow the squirrel’ as it is. I can get a lot of progress on a ton of random things if I let them just happen in the natural order and that helps a lot with the motivation. It balances out over time that I finish the creative stuff when I’m creative, the easy stuff when I’m braindead, etc. I have enough projects in flight at any time that the overall effect is that I get a lot done, even if I didn’t do things in the ‘correct’ order.

      • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Carla Kopp.
  • Devon Mettlin

    Member
    February 24, 2022 at 8:39 am

    Carla, how are you currently dealing with the shipping crisis and deflation of people who aren’t motivated through Crowdfunding that much anymore as a result of this? What is your company doing to strategically push through and make your fans still excited to back your games?

    • Carla Kopp

      Member
      February 24, 2022 at 6:31 pm

      So! I’m trying a number of things. First, I’m going to have a number of games coming up that are much smaller so that they are easy to ship and fulfill. Then I’m going to try and see how a preorder system can work, as I honestly don’t know where Kickstarter is going with their latest updates and it’s also really stressful to run a Kickstarter! So, being able to skip that step would be WONDERFUL if I can make it work. I have 3 projects in process now and while I won’t get the money upfront, they should be small and contained enough that even if they flop, it’ll be fine. Hopefully they won’t! But it’s a lot easier to try new things when the price of failure is a bit lower.

      I’m also going back to what I know works, so one of the games is an 18 card game based on Fire in the Library, which is one of my best selling games. I’m taking some chances… but also they’re less risky in different ways.

      I’ve also been moving to focusing more on the US, just due to the amount of time it takes to deal with all the things that come with shipping and fulfillment across the globe. While that would mean less customers, it would also mean a lot less work, so I can focus more on building my brand in the US.

      Hopefully that ramble actually answered the question!

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