Honey Bomb has been a really interesting journey. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. It’s been an exceptional journey! From conception to pre-production, not only has the game undergone a ton of changes, but so have I in the process. So much creativity, so much learning; meeting new friends and seeing complete strangers gain enjoyment from something that I helped to produce. Sweet!
In the spirit of paying it forward (because lets face it, a lot of people have helped to get Honey Bomb to where it is today) here are five things that I’ve learned while working to bring Honey Bomb to fruition.
Games change dramatically from their original concepts
When the concept of Honey Bomb was first floated the working title for it was called “Swarm” and the full game contained only 21 tiles (20 game tiles and one central tile off of which the game would be built — this eventually became Queen Zizi). We cut out a test pack on Sabrina’s Cricut cutting machine to test out the mechanics and they worked flawlessly. Super sweet! But…
Since there were only 20 tiles and only one game mechanic (the Pincer attack move where your opponents tiles are flipped when caught between your own) the games were repetitive, over quickly and were fairly forgettable. In its original version, Honey Bomb was going to bomb. So…
Sabrina and Kit had a great idea which was to invent and introduce some Specialty tiles that would help to modify the game play and keep each game fresh and exciting! Enter The Bear tile, The Flower tiles, The Pesticide tile and The Beekeeper tile. These were influenced by the experiences of the team playing online and mobile games which have all kinds of power-ups, bonuses and modifiers you can use depending on how you play the game. We even floated the idea of a Disco Bee tile where you’d have to get up and dance if you wanted to talk to your partner during a co-op game! (we’re still considering it 😉 )
After that, we added another 20 Bee tiles (10 each per side) so the game had a some meat to it and the current version of Honey Bomb was quickly solidified – 40 Bee tiles, 17 Specialty tiles and Queen Zizi herself; a far cry from the original concept of Swarm and much better in our opinion!
Development takes longer than you think
If you’re anything like me, you want everything yesterday 😉 While that may be a bit of an exaggeration so many projects that we enter into we believe will just fall together inside of this magical timeline that we create in our heads. And of course, I and the Ramstar Games team had never designed a tabletop game before so our timeline was going to be perfectly correct, right? Let me tell you something. That is not the case.
We started developing Honey Bomb over a year ago, and as we began the process, I read an article that said game designers should expect their games to take a year to create before they’re able to bring them to market. At the time, I scoffed at the idea that such a simple concept as “swarm” would take a whole year to develop but that article didn’t lie.
After changing the original concept of Honey Bomb several times, designing the cards, doing the art, waiting to get test packs from Print and Play, complaining to Print and Play that their product fell well below expectations (that’s a topic for another blog post), organizing up test play dates, doing said test play dates before Covid 19 shut the majority of them down (jerk! -shakes fist-), the time just started to stack up and here we are, over a year later finally getting ready to kickstart our project.
On the advice side of things, expect game development to take a bit of time, especially if you work a regular day job and are doing game development on the side. That’s how we began, and even just getting the artwork done (14 illustrations) took way longer than we thought it would. Be patient and be diligent. Remember your end goal and keep moving towards it. As long as you’re making daily / weekly / monthly progress, you’ll get there!
On a positive side note, giving your project a bit of time to develop will allow it to benefit from more eyes seeing it, more opinions informing it, and more hands playing it. All of this adds up to a more polished game and that’s not a bad thing!
There’s more to a game than the game itself
As Honey Bomb comes into its final phase of development before we Kickstart, I’m quickly realizing that there’s a lot more to a game than just the game. I’ve been reading a lot of posts on social media about people’s preferences and what really irks them, and often it’s not the game…it’s all the other stuff.
The instructions. The box. The way it was shipped. Poor customer support. A bad developer website.
If the instructions are vague, poorly worded or not robust enough to encompass all of the game play, players get annoyed. If the box is badly laid out and makes for a garbage display, players get annoyed. If the box gets damaged in the mail due to insufficient care, ie. slapping a shipping label directly on the box and throwing it in the mail sans packaging (Yes. I’ve seen this happen), players get annoyed.
Gaming is not just a about the game. It’s a total experience that encompasses the game play, the look of the game and how it displays, the quality of the pieces, the instructions, the packaging remaining flawless etc.
Now that we’ve finalized our development of Honey Bomb “the game” we’re starting on Honey Bomb “the instructions” and Honey Bomb “the box”. These things will have to sparkle just as much as the game itself. Be aware that your game and all its support components, will require a lot of pre-production love before it is ready for market.
Working in a team is awesome
Developing Honey Bomb has been a really enjoyable experience, and a huge part of that enjoyment has Bee-n working with my two besties, Kit and Sabrina.
I don’t think Honey Bomb would be half the game it is if I was sitting in a room by myself, toiling away in solitude without the input and support of a team. I’m a great artist, Sabrina is a great designer, and Kit is a great writer and all of these skills complement each other in a nice, tidy package allowing us to do everything in-house.
We also have a wide variety of board gaming / gaming experiences and we all come to the table with an overwhelming amount of life experiences. For instance, I’ve run many businesses in the past, my own and other peoples. Sabrina has worked in logistics and international shipping for a long time. Kit brings to the table all the office skills from book keeping to computer know-how and social media experience. And research! Damn, Kit knows how to research! Where one of us falls short, the others pick up the ball and keep running. It’s been a fantastic and rewarding experience 🙂
If you’re designing your own game or thinking about designing your own game, I’d highly recommend inviting at least one friend on the journey with you. The rewards are innumerable. Not only is Honey Bomb a much better game for it, but Kit, Sabrina and I are a much tighter group of friends than we were before. Bonding. Ain’t it beautiful?
It’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done
And there you have it. The number one thing that I’ve learned while helping to design Honey Bomb is that designing games is fun, fun, fun! The excitement that is generated around our table when we start jamming on an idea is palpable! You could cut it with a knife, but why would you want to? Just let the excitement grow and seep into every aspect of your life. Carry that excitement with you. It’s great!
Sure, there are elements of the production process that are a little mundane, but all the important (and generally serious) parts usually are. For instance, in the next week I’m going to have to crunch a lot of numbers so I can set a price for our Kickstarter. I’m also going to have to mock up our game, march around to a bunch of shippers (Fedex, UPS, Canada Post etc.) and find out how much it’ll be to ship Honey Bomb around the world from our humble digs in Cambridge, Ontario. (I hope they give bulk discounts!)
Designing and bringing new games into the world has been an exciting and rewarding process, and when Honey Bomb kickstarts successfully, I can’t wait to get on to the next game that we’ve got waiting in the wings. We have about a dozen concepts that could develop nicely into something you’ll be really happy to play on game night. (More on that soon).
If you have a game idea in mind and are looking to develop it, I say go for it! What a blast! I get to hang out with my best buds, come up with fun concepts that allow me to flex my imagination muscles, and create things that are going to bring so many people a great amount of joy. 🙂 Who wouldn’t want that?
For now, that is all.