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Don’t Forget the Paperclips

Derailed Tabletop is still a relatively new company, but we’ve met more success than we have expected in the short amount of time we’ve been active.  We have been welcomed into the indie tabletop gaming industry with open arms and I am eternally grateful for that.  I have learned a lot working with Derailed the past few months, but the most important lesson is one that no one told me before I helped start the company.

While everyone wants to know about the design and playtest process, I think an essential part of the process of running a successful company happens entirely separate from the development process.  A game company, like any company, will fail regardless of how good their games are if they are not organized.  The people in the company must make it a priority.  Like Nick and Tom, I have spent money on Derailed, but I have not received any income from it.  I’m not surprised by this.  We’ve focused a lot recently on playtesting and getting contacts.  Vigilance is still being sent out as a digital copy rather than a physical copy and we all agree that this is where we wanted to be at this point.  We might actually be a bit ahead of schedule, but the point still remains that this is not something that is giving me any income.

I am getting to the point in my life where I realize that I need to stop doing things for free.  I go to school full-time and hold several part-time jobs, so my free time is precious to me.  Derailed is something I care passionately about, however, so I will forgo pay and continue to work on it with the same amount of effort I would give to a job where I am being paid in hopes that I can someday make it a full-time career.  Otherwise, things will fall by the wayside.

Work that you need to do behind-the-scenes in a game development company is not something that you can put off.  What I have learned from my experiences with Derailed is that everything needs to have an exact date attached to it.  Nick and I were actually having a conversation about this just last night.  We’ve decided to implement exact deadlines into our Derailed meetings.  Whenever we have said during a Derailed meeting that we will get something in “in about a week,” there is a low chance we will actually finish it in that seven days.  We have always met specific deadlines, however (with the exception of blog posts it seems).  When a date is attached to the assignment, it is much harder to put off.  Even if you do it last minute, it’s still done on time, and that’s what matters.

Additionally, I have found that having office supplies is actually pretty useful.  Just like I have a notebook for my short stories, I now also have a notebook for game ideas.  If anyone else were to look at it, they would think it was the ramblings of a crazy person, but it makes perfect sense to me.  At my desk at home, I have always had staplers, paperclips, post-its, and other office supplies, but they were used for the occasional school project rather than for work.  Now, they are used for both.  I like to mark up drafts I am editing, so I have a copy of Vigilance rules next to my computer marked up in red.  Additionally, I have all of my Derailed vendor passes from the conventions we’ve been to sitting next to me.  These inspire me.  We’ve always had a grand time at conventions and remembering people who have said our game or our company looks “cool” continues to inspire me every day.

One thing that I think everyone should own is a white board.  I use this when I tutor and I use it for Derailed.  A white board can be anything.  It can be a game board, a schedule, a storyboard, or really anything.  I prefer it over paper, especially in the early stages, because paper can get cluttered, whereas you can erase a whiteboard.  Having both is a good balance.  I use my notebook when inspiration strikes on the go and after I’m pretty certain I have an idea locked down.  A whiteboard I use for everything in between.  I can erase crappy ideas or I can circle good ones.  And, after each stage, I can take a picture because the cats will almost certainly wipe at least part of the board off.

Here at Derailed, we try to hold meetings weekly.  In those meetings, we try to, obviously, design new games.  However, a significant portion of the meeting also is dedicated to advertising and other boring business things.  We have had long discussions about things like font size and tri-fold pamphlets.  Without these discussions though, I think that we would be worse off. You need an obsessive attention to detail because people notice the small thnigs.  The font choice in Vigilance needed to quickly establish the game’s setting and tone.  Our advertisements need to be eye-catching and we have to decide on what we want draw someone’s attention who stops at our table.  We have our big banner, but that only establishes who we are.  We need to convey that we have a game and that we are selling posters or raising money without looking cluttered.  Whether it sounds silly or not, we have had more success when our table cloth was just the right shade of blue.

Nick is a brilliant artist and developer (don’t tell him I said that) and Tom is just crazy good at absolutely everything.  Each of us would be successful if we struck out on our own, but we wouldn’t be as successful as we are together.  Frankly, we are all individually too poor to do this alone, but also every company needs other people for various reasons.  Tom, Nick and I work extremely well together.  We communicate well, and no one gets offended when their idea is struck down.  If one of us was a little more sensitive, I don’t think Derailed would have made it this far.  I am so glad that we are all able to say no to each other.  When you don’t say “no,” you get things like Howard the Duck.  We don’t want to make Howard the Duck and I hope we never do.  Even if we fail, we fail less than if we tried to do it on our own.  You get up off the ground much easier when you have support.

I think Nick and Tom will agree that, since Tom and I have off school for winter break now, we will be spending a lot of time doing Derailed things.  Hopefully in that time, we can start playtesting our next game and send out Vigilance.  You know, then, or in like a week.

Keep an eye out for us.

Fiona L.F. Kelly (@FionaLFKelly)
Fiona L.F. Kelly is a professional writer and editor living in Cleveland, Ohio with her partner, cat, and many house plants. She is the current editor-in-chief for Project Derailed. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet. She was also a writer for the latest edition of Trinity Continuum: Aberrant. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/fionalfkelly

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