Should you make your own prototypes or use a print and demand service?
Developing prototypes are part and parcel of being a game designer but should you make your own prototypes or use an on demand print service? We've done both, and it depends on the circumstances what method we use.
DIY prototypes are absolutely acceptable and if you attend a Protospiel or Unpub event you'll see games at different stages. We've printed our own prototypes and used general purpose game pieces to test our designs and develop our games. Even when we made video games, we used paper prototypes to test ideas. If we're going to iterate a lot on something then we will make our own, or adapt something we've previously had printed. Generally we don't go to a POD service until we feel like we have a viable product.
There are numerous resources for helping you make your own. Here are some of them:
Working with a Print on Demand Service
Using a Print on Demand Service is expensive, but we make the judgement call to use it in certain circumstances:
We worked with Print and Play Productions as we had numerous custom items to produce and they are so easy to work with and are reliable. Their templates are easy to use and you can ask them to check the files before printing. You can work with your support manager for custom queries. So even though everything is available online it stills feels like a very personal service and that's something we rely on especially in time critical operations like being game convention ready.
If Print and Play get something wrong, they fix it, and they do everything in their power to get your game to you on time. Our custom sticker sheets were perfectly printed - the character image stickers were all silhouette cut and we had tile stickers, stickers for back stories, weapons stickers etc. Our playtesters loved choosing their stickers and getting them on to their custom player mats. I want to give a particular shout out to Jess who I work with at Print and Play and helped us with the custom order. We got everything on time and even though one custom sheet was missing, she had it delivered overnight and we received it on time for the con.
Why go to a Protospiel? (or Unpub event)
Pacificon Protospiel Shout Out
Pacificon Protospiel was an incredible experience for us as designers, and I highly recommend these events. The Pacificon event is particularly notable because of the support it receives from the Convention ownership. You can tell the importance that Gabriel Mondo Vega places on the protospiel as the heart of his convention. The Protospiel room had pride of place - every gamer had to pass our room on the way to registration, or the vendor hall or open gaming. We weren't hidden away off the beaten path. Every day had something special for us from sponsors, from coffee and donuts from Jeffry Tibbetts to breakfast from Breaking Games and numerous raffle prizes from the tickets you earned playing other people's games (that part was genius). The creative energy from other designers, the energy in the room was high and we were inspired by each other and the event was extremely well organized by Luke Laurie, Sarah Graybill and John Shulters. I think Pacificon might just be our happy place. So if you ever get the opportunity to come to California for a games convention - come to this one, every labor day weekend in Santa Clara. Or, now they have added a new one in Fresno starting MLK weekend next year. Come to this one too!
Where's your favorite protospiel or unpub event? What's your favorite protospiel anecdote?