All About Communication

Welcome to Unscripted–a lighthearted, unrehearsed, and sometimes silly Q&A series with Rose Gauntlet Entertainment founders and tabletop game designers Isaac Vega and Lindsey Rode.

In this edition of Unscripted, we dive into what it takes to build and keep up with a happy backer community, including frequency of updates, what to say when it feels like you have nothing to say [hint: there’s always something], lessons the community can teach project owners and more. Let’s hit it!


How often do you think project owners should reach out to backers over the course of a campaign and after?

Lindsey: So, it's always evolving, but I have a two-part system that I think works well.

Part one is when the project is live. I used to send updates every day, but found that to be a bit much. So now I generally do it every two to three days. I never leave a gap longer than three days because there should always be something exciting happening at least every three days that the backers can engage with. The excitement and energy during the campaign is a really fun part of crowdfunding, so it’s important to keep that enthusiasm going throughout and communicate with fans and enable them to participate and be part of that energy.

Part two is post-project communications starting when the project closes to when it actually delivers to backers. For this period, I believe you should absolutely do it at least once every month. I don't think there's really a reason or an acceptable excuse that a company can give for not touching base with their backers monthly. That monthly rate seems to be the sweet spot where backers feel connected and happy without being overwhelmed with communications.

That's what I’ve found to personally work best over the past ten or so years of crowdfunding.

Isaac: Yeah, Lindsay has a lot of experience in this area, and the cadence she’s describing seems to work out great. Our backers seem to be happy with the frequency, and if you're not, feel free to let us know.

How do you keep communication fresh in the doldrums of a project when you feel like you don’t have much to say?

Lindsey: I think this is a challenge, no matter how many crowdfunding projects you've done, because there are lulls, especially, for example, post-project during production or file review. There could be a couple months where nothing's really happening, and it is a challenge to come up with things to say and try to get people excited because you absolutely need to be checking in with them every month.

I don't really have a good trick for this, and it’s something I have feel like I'm figuring out every project. A good trick is, if you have exciting things happening, try to keep from telling anyone until your update. But I have also put out updates where there isn't anything to say, but I still reach out.

I'm like, “Hey, there’s nothing happening right now, but can I interest you in the history of the Chinese New Year? Because that's happening right now.” I'll try and use holidays around that time and maybe give fun history nuggets. For example, last Thanksgiving I shared a family recipe because I didn't really have anything else going on because everyone was off for the holiday.

So just be creative, and it's okay to tell backers that there isn't anything to say, but you're here. Everything's still going great. That's an okay update to put out too.

Isaac: Yeah, and with post campaign stuff, we tend to also share things that we didn't show during the campaign, like new components or art, any sort of refinements to the design, or additional scenarios that are being worked on. So, things like that always come up throughout the campaign along with production updates, and things like that.

While the project is still live though we try and structure out quite a bit of different things to share like artist interviews, designer blogs, live playthroughs and stuff like that so we have material to talk about as well beyond the project funding status.

What do you think crowdfunding community management can teach project owners about their product and fan base?

Isaac: I think it can show us what people are more interested in. You get to see how people react to the project, how they talk about it online, what product tiers are most popular, things like that. It helps us see the project from the audience’s perspective and what they’re connecting with.

Lindsey: Yeah. I think two of the cool things that crowdfunding gives you is the opportunity to experiment with your product and to better connect directly with the audience interested in it.

When it comes to making a product, we get live feedback and still have the time to make changes before we go to production. So, if there is something that's either really resonating or really not resonating with your products, having that live feedback from backers is incredibly helpful.

And the other thing is just the interaction with fans, whether it’s in the comment section or being able to talk directly with people. That one-on-one connection between the creators of the product and the actual people who are buying it is super rare and something that I really only see on crowdfunding. It's not unique to our industry, but because our industry does so much crowdfunding, it feels special. Building fans is one of the biggest assets that crowdfunding can offer to a company.

How do you balance that feedback from backers with feedback from play testers, not to mention your own personal opinions about how the game should be developed?

Isaac: So, we want to keep an open mind throughout the entire course of the project when we are receiving feedback from all these different sources.

Playtesters are very important because they get an intimate view of the game at an early stage, and we need their gameplay feedback to improve the game and work out issues. Feedback from our internal team is also very important for us. Backer feedback honestly is kind of mixed because they both don’t have the context of actually playing the game and sometimes, we just don’t have time to adjust certain things.

However, things that are flexible enough to adjust we do want to look at and make sure that we are improving and that backers are satisfied with the changes. We're never going to shift an entire project from a single comment, but a pattern of feedback on a project is worth digging into. So, if a few different backers are emailing us with a concern, posting on the project, on BGG, or other forums, that's when we really need to investigate and question our own thought process on the issue.

But also, I will say, Lindsay and I have been doing this for a very long time. We're very confident with the products that we're putting out there. We pay a lot of attention to what the community as a whole is looking for before we ever put our project out into the world.

So, sometimes we do have to just go ahead and take that creative license and move forward with the confidence of what we're trying to make and hopefully enough people resonate with it, but yeah, it is a balance. I don't think there's any perfect equation to figuring out what works.

Lindsey: Yeah, I love this question so much because I get it a lot, particularly with playtesting, and the truth is a little disappointing because it’s not a science – it’s an art. It's a skill that you hone over years of developing and producing games. It's a talent that you can only acquire by jumping in and getting a feel for it yourself and learning, and like Isaac said, getting that feedback and trusting your gut.

So, unfortunately, it's one of those things where I don't think it can really be taught. It is a skill set that will develop with you over years of working on these projects and working with these groups of people and you will just get a feel for it. And you will develop the confidence and the trust and how to hear and get feedback. It’s a skill set that I'm really proud of and I think everyone who works in, or at least develops and produces boardgames build. It's the difference between someone new and someone who's really experienced.

Isaac: Yeah, at the end of the day, we want to make something that you’ll love, but we know we're not always going to satisfy everyone. However, we also know that if we are satisfying a large amount of people and by putting something in the world that we love, we know that we have something special in our hands. So, we just have to go back to that more often than not.

For future projects, if Rose Gauntlet decides to use a more traditional pre-order model, how do you compensate for that lack of direct feedback from backers and that extra time you have to adjust your product with crowdfunding?

Isaac: I think you make up for it with very extensive playtesting, making sure that you have a good community of people that are going to give you really good solid feedback, and then expanding the amount of questions that you're asking in your playtesting. Questions like, “Once this is released, are there other things that we're not looking into? Beyond gameplay, how do you feel about the project? Do you have any thoughts on any of the accessories that we're producing as well around this product?”

Basically, just getting a really good amount of feedback from people in your circle and within the playtesting circle as well, and leaning on them in order to get that kind of experience that we could hopefully get from a crowdfunding campaign.

Lindsey: Yeah, I've been fairly spoiled in the sense that I've never had to traditionally release a product, so I've never had to really tackle this. I will say though, I think this is part of why we see so many companies still using crowdfunding. People may say, “This company is so successful, they don't need a startup anymore. Why are they even on here?” I think it’s partly because the benefits of using crowdfunding and getting that direct feedback are so numerous and you can't replicate them in other release models. It's such a unique system.

Isaac: One other thing to add to help with feedback whether it’s a crowdfunded game or traditional release, I have found it very beneficial in the past to take early games to a convention and be willing to show it to fans or other people I connect with earlier than maybe most people would. You can get some really good feedback right on the spot. That’s proven to be very helpful for me with development and seeing what really resonates with people on a project that may be in that zone where design aspects can still be shifted.

Leave a comment