2014 Holiday Letter

PinUpsJanuary began with preparations for Lee’s big art show of Pin-Ups (featuring more than 3 years of literary calendar art and a few others). Below is one of two longs walls at the Catalyst Studio. And in the next shot, the gorgeous Kiana Phi hangs out with us, and with Miss Kim Stanley Robinson for whom she posed. She has us surrounded!

ShowThe opening presented a splendid chance to meet up with many of our friends as they mingled and enjoyed the delicious cheesecake (and other hors d’oeuvres, natch).
The month ended with a trip to Seattle, where many colleagues and co-conspirators were seen, much fabulous food eaten, and several adorable pets petted.

Guests are marked “G•” and shown in burgundy throughout:
G• Ang, Echo & Her Traveling Troupe d’Arte

February was marked by collaborations with Todd Lockwood: Two paintings in honor of Jeff Easley (one of the original D&D artists), and an unusual Superbowl party where both our “home” teams were playing (like me, Todd grew up in Colorado and now lives in the Pacific NW).  The paintings ended rather stronger than the Denver Broncos, but our other home team won.

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 8.17.54 PMG• Gail & Rod

March began with the departure of dear friend Dan Cottle – bound for the wilds of distant Massachusetts. The opening soiree for Kate Ristau‘s book Commas: An Irreverent Primer left us with a new coloring page on our refrigerator (as you know, Lee cannot really be trusted with loose crayons) and a cryptic phrase that might be… a pass code? Mere Dadaist ramblings? Who can know?

DraggyA few weeks after the big Pin-Ups show first appeared, it moved to the Radio Room, site of the original Pin-Ups show some 5 years gone, and we got to spend some time with models Becca and Saamanta into the bargain!

Our friends Tara and Accalia came to stay with us from icy Winnipeg while they attended Rachel Brice‘s intensive belly-dancing masterclass. They were marvelous, even despite their exhaustion and overwork.

We opted for Health Republic (an actual public health co-op) as we sorted out our coverage in light of the ACA.

G• Tara & Accalia

April marked the arrival of The Doom that Came to Atlantic City (just in time for the HP Lovecraft Film Festival!) and the real beginning of Guest Season – Gail and Rod’s visit ending just as Andrew and Anya arrived. The weather was perfect, and a good thing, since Mina and Jamie would arrive from DC the very next day – both couples intent on the HP Lovecraft Film Festival.
Happily, after several years of near misses, Lee finally bested his colleagues at the Film Festival’s live painting demonstration/competition – thus allowing him the right to design the festival’s 2015 poster.

G• Gail & Rod, Andrew & Anya, Mina & Jamie

Doom copyVenetia got a mohawk! She had pondered it for the better part of a year at Lee and Phryo’s suggestion and decided it was the best idea ever. It was… and is!

MohawkCropWith all our guests returned home, we headed back to Seattle that Lee might participate in panels and hang artwork in the show at Norwescon. Artist and Faerieworld’s impresario Robert Gould was this year’s Guest of Honor, but happily past guest John Picacio was in the house too, with Lee rounding out an unlikely trio of Honored Guests. The panel on mapping with Bradley Beaulieu was delightful, and moderator Brenda Carre introduced Lee to the marvelous Carol Berg afterwards (oh, how Lee would love to make the maps for her cartographically inspired books a reality!)

NorwesconHaving done some type design for the von Trapp Family (4 of the grandchildren of the original Sound o’ Music bunch), we ventured out to a local bookstore to see them sing. And while we’d seen them perform with Meow Meow at the Schnitz and Pink Martini in Pioneer Square, the little solo concert was particularly sublime.

The World Horror Convention came to Portland in May. And while we were too busy with work to attend, Lee did put art in the show and pop by the odd party. More importantly, we got to host most of the Illuminaughty – that amazing group of guests we’d met the previous year in Winnipeg. From Mexico, author Ann Aguirre; From Canada, authors Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Chadwick Ginther and GmB Chomichuk – a sort North American Embassy was established here on Alameda Ridge.

Lee created a coloring book and a couple Golden Tickets as part of the party favors for his birthday party and costumed whing-ding at the end of the month. We must again thank the marvelous Jessie and Annabel for hosting, and Ang and Gail and Alanna for abetting! And of course those who could attend. Such good food and idyllic weather!

G• Ann, Silvia, Chadwick, Gregory, and Ang

BirthdayJune. At this point there is precious little we need to acquire, but the siren call of the annual Laurelhurst Yard Sale is irresistible and beautiful objets de art have to live somewhere.

Is there a more curious juxtaposition than ‘Showboat’ and The March Violets? We took in the former at Lakewood Center. The latter came to town (and the menfolk in the band to our house) from England. Sadly, Lee missed meeting up with talented singer (and author) Rosie Garland, the wife of Lee’s friend and collaborator, Aly Fell. Next time for sure!

Larry and Serena’s wedding celebration brought many notables to town – including Dr. Melissa Ganus and her assistant Tara, who we were happy to host. Doctor Mel’s research on children and their cognitive development is quite interesting, and Lee did a little design for her upcoming book too.

G• Tara, Si & Tom

SquidKate Ristau’s birthday Kickball party gave Venetia her first sport’s related injury in years, and cost her a favorite pair of pants (being a ruthless competitor clearly has it’s costs). We enjoyed the ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ with Kimberly, and looked all the more forward to comparing an actual grand Budapest hotel with Wes Anderson’s more fantastic one.

July began with Roxanne’s sublime show of Gummi Bears as the appetizer, and Keith’s birthday the main course. Lee and Kimberly ventured up the Oneonta Gorge, and enjoyed the sushi in Troutdale thereafter (both of which sound oddly like euphemisms now I come to write them….)

We stayed with Ang in her timeshare during this year’s pilgramage to San Diego, and traveled to both the Hotel del Coronado and the San Diego Zoo with her. The San Diego ComicCon was mad as usual, but seemed to peak with the appearance of the amazing Francois Schuiten. Lee gave him a calendar, and Francois drew the hand you see below in pen! And it’s one thing to get your caricature drawn at the mall, but another to get it drawn by the astonishing Bill Plympton!

SanDiegoG• Zan & Sam

In August, we drove down through Salem to see ‘Avenue Q’ with our friend Kim’s star turn as Christmas Eve, arguably the world’s worst therapist. Seeing the Bad Idea Bears try to sell Venetia (sitting on the aisle) on Scientology was especially delightful!

BadIdeaBearsLater in month we were delighted by a surprise visit from Doug & Lisa. Time was shorter than we’d have liked, but so much good food (at Verde Cochina and Laurelhurst Market) and such lovely sights (the Falls, the Hatchery and Bonneville Dam) were taken in!

G• Doug & Lisa, Gail & Rod, Rose

September was our month of adventuring overseas: to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. We’ve written about that journey HERE.

The timing of our trip abroad was specifically designed to put us back into DC in time for Della and Kevin’s wedding in Alexandria  – as well as allowing Venetia to get back to the precious Smithsonian! This time the highlights were largely sculptural, but the exhibit of Andrew Wyeth still lifes was a refreshing break from the Euro-snobbery that so defines the National Gallery. We didn’t plan on having our luggage kept overlong in Brussels, but when we arrived in DC, our luggage did not. The Barkers kept us in high style and we used the opportunity to see everyone we could amid our wild ride around and through the Beltway. This included the Kate and Heather Hanna at Kate’s home in Annandale, and Helen Svensen in Raljon (Actually Landover. Thank heavens the grasping Jack Kent Cooke couldn’t tar the community with his spoiled children’s names forever!). Helen kindly donated one of her late husband’s shirts for me to wear, and directed Venetia to an amazing shoe store. After our stop in College Park to pick up a frame for the wedding gift, we found Ellie at home in Tacoma Park, where we patted her adorable wee rabbit and dined alfresco. Then, we made the mad dash through the dark heart of DC, arriving at the wedding exactly on time. It was a sort of miracle!

You can probably tell how happy we are watching Della and Kevin married:

023DK_blog_-1024x682Despite the three weeks of traveling, we still managed to fill the last weekend of the month with guests from all points, and luncheon with Stephen, Nicolle, Rajuli, Alaina, and Rose.

Though it happened while we were overseas, one of the definite highlights of the month, (and the year in general), was Arisia’s Author Guest of Honor N.K. Jemisin getting a tattoo of the blue lotus design Lee rendered from her description of it in the Dreamblood Duology.

JemisinTattooG• Rajuli, Rose

In October, Lee was invited to reprise his Month of Love with a Month of Fear. Other entertaining projects this month included Lee’s heartfelt tribute to Kim Newman‘s exemplary ‘Anno Dracula’ in the online comic (beloved of Librarians everywhere) Unshelved. (We had found Kim’s ‘Life’s Lottery’ earlier in the year and found it, though completely different from ‘Anno Dracula’ or the ‘Diogenes Club’ books Lee has illustrated, to be quite astonishing. As she navigated the complex and surprisingly meta narrative, Venetia had some bad life experiences that left her bitter. Lee, by contrast, enjoyed his golden life so thoroughly he couldn’t bear to dip back in for results virtually guaranteed to be less pleasant.

We traveled with Tracy traveled down to Salem for a splendid autumn party hosted by Kim and a couple of adorable dogs. Venetia journeyed on her own via Portland’s excellent public transit to see outed-spy and budding-stateswoman Valerie Plame at Powell’s in Cedar Hills.

We attended Halloween Parties hosted by Trinity & Sam, and Stephen and Nicolle. While Lee’s Willy Wonka seemed to go over well, who can compete with Totoro in any form? Much less as Iron Totoro?

HalloweenWe finally replaced our iPhone 3s with iPhone 6s – not because they were lacking or busted, but because the 6 is large enough to serve as a proper little portfolio (well, in Lee’s case 28 different little portfolios), thus allowing us to leave the iPad at home far more often.

Peter Beagle, Connor Cochran and ‘The Last Unicorn’ started our November in style. The following week we flew out to DC for the World Fantasy Convention in Lee’s old suburban Virginia stomping grounds. The Art Show was as fancy as an convention art show could hope to be and there were many parties and delightful people throughout – especially Les Howle’s fine Clarion West Party where I almost tripped over that tightknit Ben Rosenbaum/Lis Argall cabal! We found the private Kelly Collection as inspiring as the Belvedere’s more famous one, and spending quality time among the Pyles, Wyeths, Leyendeckers, Cornwells and Schaeffers was a real honor!
ArtMina’s lovely houseparty provided Lee an opportunity to see some old friends, and meet the marvelous Christine Watson at last. And since she had experienced a flat tire en route from Richmond, we put her up that night in our Crystal City hotel room. Here’s to that extra bed!

Panels were moderated and participated in, with the creme de la creme of artsy society – from British art guest/s of honor Les Edwards/Edward Miller to Irene Gallo to Chris Roberts to Michael Whelan. A good time might not have been had by all in attendance, but we had a fine time indeed. And not just because the mohawked ladies were representing.

WFCBack in Portland, we treated ourselves to a concert by Postmodern Jukebox which is currently the most popular band playing in our house. (Maybe tied with Andy Prieboy, but at least our most recent favorite.) Within the same week, we went to Amanda Palmer‘s book launch which Lee wrote about earlier.

And we continued the tradition of inviting our multi-talented friend Jaym to help us host a Thanksgiving feast:

ThanksgivingJaym proved herself to be an especially amazing friend by sacrificing her computer to Venetia’s lust for Civilization V. The game is addictive as can be, but can also easily be used as a teaching tool to show why the world is in such an ongoing state of disaster.

CivG• Jaym

December started out with Lee deep in the throes of pneumonia (he might well have stayed healthy had not the furnace died amid November’s vicious cold snap) and while taking excellent care of him, Venetia and Jaym had their own adventures in Portland and in Seattle – shopping, visiting friends, and seeing the final night of Todd Lockwood’s art show at Krab Jab Studio. This year also saw the last of Lee’s teeth receiving it’s own golden crown and some festive holiday parties: our neighborhood block party, cookies from Andy & Susie (well, Susie’s Mom), Krampus cheer with Michael and Liv, and a gorgeous family meal the day after Christmas. Venetia also saw Jason Webley‘s return to Portland for his kickstarter tour of ‘Margaret‘. And Ang brought her lovely family up and took Venetia to see the sparkling Zoo Lights.

ZooLightsOur year ended full of parties and friends and we hope to see much more of both in the coming year.

G• Ang, Jordan, Kitra

Work

Lee’s art year in review for 2014 is in it’s own separate blog (to keep this one from being overwhelmed with images) and you can view it HERE.

Harry Palmer: Starstruck with Elaine Lee, Mw Kaluta and James Ratcliffe is not quite finished, but we made some serious headway! And from where I sit, the book is looking like a masterpiece…. Here’s a small sampling of 3 non-consecutive pages:

StarstruckTrioStill-unrevealed: the cover for ‘The Best of Caitlin Kiernan, Volume II’, a board game for Sasquatch games, and the branding for a fabulous wedding in 2015.

Other activities

Yoga

Kickstarters We Supported
Periscope Studio: Maiden Voyage
Grandmother Fish
Margaret by Jason Webley and Friends
Strong Female Protagonist
EVOLUTION: The Art of Rebecca Guay 1993-2014
The Tooles Record
Reading Rainbow

Books We Read
Carol Berg’s Lighthouse Duo
Impulse by Steven Gould
Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte
Life’s Lottery by Kim Newman
Hounded by Kevin Hearne
Passionate Journeys: Why Successful Women Joined a Cult by Marion Goldman
The Shelter Cycle by Peter Rock
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
Dreamwalker by C. S. Friedman

Movies and Shows We Watched
Game of Thrones
Venture Bros: Season 5 (and then re-watched Seasons 3 & 4)
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Rocketeer
Boardwalk Empire
The Tick (the series)
The Lego Movie
The Artist
City of Ember
X-Men: Days of Future Past
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Snowpiercer
How to Train Your Dragon
X-Men: First Class
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Winter’s Tale
House of Yes
Sky Captain: World of Tomorrow

Theater
The Last Five Years
Lizzie
Avenue Q
Showboat
39 Steps

New Artwork
Three posters from the Kelly Collection: Pyle’s extraordinary ‘Angel’, Leyendecker’s triumphal ‘Saturday Evening Post’ parade, and Mead Shaeffer’s sublime ‘Count of Monte Cristo’; a stupendously framed print of James Christensen’s ‘Superstitions’; Malachite Glass ashtray-turned-crystal-globe-holder from Prague. Also: Paul Komoda’s Ceratosaurus as well as a mystery commission as yet unrevealed!

Grrr

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Doom Update

I received a splendid update today from the fantastic Cryptozoic regarding The Doom That Came to Atlantic City. It even has pictures! If you would like to see the grotesque beauties in person, Cryptozoic will be demoing the game at Board Game Geek Con in Dallas, November 20-24.Please go visit (and play!) if you’re in town!

Shaping Your Doom

doom_atlantic_city_pr_box_web_2_Dear Kickstarter Backer,
We’ve been making some great progress towards creating a beautiful game to send straight to your door. We wanted to keep you in the loop and show you some fun insider photos of what it takes to make a board game!

Miniatures from Another World

DoomPanda2_1_0034f1Check out these incredible resin models that the factory has created. These are based on the sculptures by Paul Komoda that we sent to them. The factory used these to create the actual molds for the plastic figures.

We have the proof copies of these figures in the office now and will be bringing them with us to Board Game Geek Con in Dallas Texas this week!

The detail on these guys is simply amazing. We wanted to retain as much of it as possible while keeping these figures tough to avoid damages in shipping. We also needed to  keep the costs within the realm of sanity.  After some discussion with the factory, we were able to narrow it down to the correct weight and blend that we feel will provide the durability and cost effective solution we required. We can’t wait to show you the final product!

DoomPanda5_1_It really helps to work with great factories that have a ton of experience so they can offer helpful advice. The factory we’re using for Doom has created several other great games with miniatures and was recommended to us by some industry friends.  We know they’re going to make these figures as scary as possible!

What’s next?

We’re getting some more bits and pieces back from the factory soon and will be able to send lots of pictures with our next update. Once all the parts have been approved, we’ll also have a pretty good idea of when the release date will be for the game. We know you’re very excited to find out more so we’ll keep you up to date as much as possible.

Thanks again for funding this game and we look forward to offering you more updates in the near future!

-Adam Sblendorio
Board Game Brand Manager
Cryptozoic Entertainment

Really Big Doings

Friends, Romans, Countrymen – Lend me your electrons!
Life is full of goodness and I have a lot of news to share:

• THE NEW WEB SITE!
It is remarkable how much work has snowballed during these last 35 years. Curating this curious compendium of work for a cohesive web site presented constant surprises and challenges, but was really great fun. I hope you’ll enjoy perusing them, and that you’ll let me know which pieces you like most, what is missing (and if you have pieces from the distant past that I lack a proper scan of):

www.leemoyer.com

For those who have kindly been following me on WordPress, please know I will gradually be switching my writings over to my new journal on the Zenfolio site: http://www.leemoyer.com/blog

I will keep cross-posting for a while longer and will let you know when I post my last entry here!

• 2014 LITERARY PIN-UP CALENDAR FOR CLARION WRITER’S WORKSHOP
2013’s calendar featured collaborations with modern masters Ray Bradbury, Charlaine Harris, George RR Martin, Jim Butcher, Peter Beagle, and Sir Terry Pratchett, and benefitted author Patrick Rothfuss’ charity Worldbuilders. This next year’s features the Calendar Project’s first authorial return engagement as Neil Gaiman once again graces its pages. Hooray!

I thrilled to be working with Clarion and the award-winning authors they invited to be in this coming year’s calendar.

Their IndieGoGo campaign should be lighting up the internets this very week. We’ll be sending the details to everyone on our mailing list of course, but more important than anything I can do is you spreading the good word.

IndieArt2• 120 SMALL GODS! SO FAR!
I have been drawing Small Gods for one third of a year so far. The story of the project’s origins is here:

https://leemoyer.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/1035/

It has been wonderful to have people approach me in person, on Facebook, or on Twitter with stories and ideas for Small Gods.
I look forward to the next hundred, and hope you’ll join me here:

www.leemoyer.com/smallgods

Also, people can now purchase prints of Small Gods directly from the website. Progress!

• STARSTRUCK
Earlier this year Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund Harry Palmer: Starstruck.
I am pleased to announce that in addition to the cover (below), I will again be painting the entirety of this astonishing work.
Even as I write, new pages are being created and Harry’s story promises to be even more beautiful than the previous.

HPalmer3• ARISIA 2015 HONORS
I was even more pleased to accept the Artist Guest of Honor invitation from Boston’s Arisia when I learned that the Author Guest of Honor is none other than the dynamic and delightful Nora Jemisin. It was an honor to draw a pin-up of one of her fascinating characters for my 2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar. I only hope the piece is as elegant and challenging as its source material.

JemisinPinup• ICELAND & UK
In a weeks time I will be heading out for the UK via Iceland for the World Fantasy Convention. I am very much looking forward to the new friends and old I will see, including authors Kim Newman (whose Diogenes Club books I have been lucky enough to illustrate) and Andri Snær Magnason whose remarkable book LoveStar was runner-up for the Philip K. Dick Award last year. We are especially excited to meet up with The Indelicates, one of our favorite bands – as delightfully subversive and compelling as one could wish!

• 13th AGE
My game with Rob Heinsoo, Jonathan Tweet and Aaron McConnell 13th Age is out (to rave reviews) and available from Pelgrane Press.
I am working on the artwork for its follow-on book 13 True Ways (the wilier among you might notice a couple sneak previews of that art in the vasty Games section my new website):

www.leemoyer.com/13thAge

• DOOM in REVIEW
The rescue of my game ‘The Doom That Came to Atlantic City’ by Cryptozoic was a wonderful thing to be able to announce last month.
I just found this charming review of it from GenCon (where rules designer Keith Baker was present for play tests):

Edit: Upon posting this entry I was informed I have reached my 50th post on my journal! A milestone I didn’t even realize I was making.

Big News!

Good morning lovely people,
Today, after more than a year, Keith Baker and I have some good news for you.

• Please check this page out:

http://www.cryptozoic.com/games/doom-came-atlantic-city

• Please check this board out:

DoomBoard• Please check this press release out:

_____________________________________________________

CRYPTOZOIC ENTERTAINMENT PARTNERS WITH CREATORS LEE MOYER
AND KEITH BAKER TO SAVE THE DOOM THAT CAME TO ATLANTIC CITY
BOARD GAME
Cryptozoic & Creators Pledge that Kickstarter Backers will not be Abandoned!
Irvine, CA (July 31, 2013)—Cryptozoic Entertainment™, a premier developer of original and licensed games, announced today that it will be publishing the board game The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, created by Lee Moyer and Keith Baker.This news comes just a week after the previous publisher announced that the Kickstarter project had been cancelled.
“For Lee and I, the worst part of this is that people who put their faith in our game have been hurt by it,” said Baker. “After the Kickstarter was cancelled, many people came forward with ideas to keep the game alive. But we didn’t want to pursue an option that would save Doom unless it would also get the game into the hands of the people who first supported it.”
Moyer and Baker have fought to bring this whimsical game of cosmic horror to life for over a decade. In 2010, sculptor Paul Komoda joined the team with his unique vision of the terrifying Old Ones. In 2013 it seemed that the stars were finally aligned… until the surprising announcement that the project was abandoned.
“We were really shocked to hear the news about this last week” said Scott Gaeta Cryptozoic’s chief operating officer. “The game looked fantastic and I thought that we might be able to help, so I contacted Keith right away. Keith and Lee told me that taking care of the Kickstarter backers was the most important thing to them and I couldn’t agree more. That’s why we are going to be fulfilling all of the Kickstarter game orders ourselves.”
“Our first priority is getting the game produced and in the hands of the Kickstarter backers,” said Gaeta. “We are already working with the factory and should have a date we can share in a few weeks. We are also going to be demoing the game at Gen Con and the upcoming Alliance Open House. This game is just too much fun not to make it available to gamers everywhere.”
Soon to be available in hobby stores world wide, The Doom that Came to Atlantic City board game invites players to assume the role of one of the Great Old Ones – beings of ancient eldritch power. Cosmic forces have held you at bay for untold eons, but at last the stars are right and your maniacal cult has called you forth. Once you regain your full powers, you will unleash your doom upon the world! There’s only one problem: you’re not alone. The other Great Old Ones are here as well, and your rivals are determined to steal your cultists and snatch victory from your flabby claws! It’s a race to the ultimate
finish as you crush houses, smash holes in reality, and fight to call down The Doom That Came To Atlantic City!
For more information about The Doom that Came to Atlantic City Board Game, please visit
http://www.cryptozoic.com, Keith Baker’s blog at http://www.keith-baker.com and Lee Moyer’s blog at
http://www.leemoyer.com/
Keep up to date with exclusive contests, promotions and game information on Cryptozoic
Entertainment’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

About Cryptozoic Entertainment
Founded in 2010, Cryptozoic Entertainment, Inc. is a premier developer and publisher of original and licensed board games, card games, comics and trading cards, including the World of Warcraft® Trading Card Game, The Hobbit board and deck building games, The Big Bang Theory: The Party Game and The Walking Dead™ Board Game. Following a philosophy and core principle of “Fans First,” the dedicated gamers and fans of the Cryptozoic Entertainment team are focused on producing fun and amazing products along with epic events that bring all gaming fans together as part of the Cryptozoic community. Visit http://www.cryptozoic.com for additional product and event information.
_____________________________________________________

• Everyone who supported this Kickstarter deserves the game, my sincere thanks, and their money back from the Forking Path.

• Many thanks to those of you who have supported this project. My thanks to you for your patience and support – and to Keith, Paul Komoda and Cryptozoic for their brilliance! Thank you all!

Addendum. In regards to various notes I have received on the subject I would like to clarify one very important thing and I will use Keith Baker’s excellent words to do so:

“To be absolutely clear: This has nothing to do with The Forking Path or Kickstarter. The project was cancelled, and this is not a reward or refund from the Forking Path. Cryptozoic isn’t assuming responsibility for the Kickstarter project or the actions of The Forking Path: They are simply doing what they can to make things right for the gamers who have suffered because of it. As I said, they can’t cover all rewards The Forking Path promised, because they are doing this entirely at their own expense to lend a hand. But Cryptozoic will see to it that the backers get the game they thought they were backing, and that is a tremendous relief to me.”

Kickstarter – What does it all mean?

Ever since the conclusion (actually long before the conclusion), of our recent Kickstarter campaign for The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, I’ve been receiving congratulations of one type and another. When I seemed momentarily startled by their kindness, people asked me why. And when I came out of my fugue state, I told them the simple truth: “Mistakes were made”.

With a little prompting, I went on to explain some of these mistakes. And I told all my friends to please let me know before they began their own Kickstarter campaigns, to help them better prevent the mistakes we made. But I soon realized that rather than repeat myself over and over, I should simply write a white paper on the subject, so that I could more easily disseminate the facts without forgetting crucial information with each repetition.

Before I get to practical matters however, there is no shortage of more diffuse and impractical thoughts to get out of the way from my month-long addiction to Kickstarter.

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1. Kickstarter is the best thing ever.

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2. It’s Kickstarter’s world. We just live in it.

Kickstarter is an amazing font of crowd-sourced capital, yes. But where does that crowd come from? Our first supporters had already supported between 2 and 178 other Kickstarter projects. In short, they were already “of the body”. They knew and loved Kickstarter for allowing them to help create products they wanted, for helping to change the playing field, for telling them about projects they would never otherwise have even heard of, and perhaps most important of all, for changing, deepening, and strengthening the relationship between Creator and consumer. They understood the paradigm and paid attention to the site’s many categories and recommendations.

As our month went on and we got stellar press, Kickstarter habitués gave way to people who’d never used, or in some cases even heard of, Kickstarter. I don’t know what the workers at Kickstarter Central call these wonderful people – Newcomers? Virgins? Noobs? Lambs to the slaughter? But this was the most surprising point to me. Not only were we using Kickstarter to fund this game project that no game publisher would touch, Kickstarter was using us to bring them more users. And the larger the user base grows, the better for everyone involved. Especially, Kickstarter shareholders.

Because Kickstarter makes its money on the success of projects, it is deeply incentivized to assist clever campaigns. As a result, we were featured on Kickstarter in a couple places: as Portland, Oregon’s top campaign for most of the month, and as a top pick in the Games category. In fact, during our tenure in Kickstarter’s Staff Picks, they restructured the “Games” category to include both “Board & Card Games” and “Video Games”, ensuring Doom’s status as a top pick for an even longer period of time.

I had initially guessed that our project was getting love from Kickstarter because it was graphic, we presented it well enough, and that the resumes of the 3 creators were pretty impressive. That may be true. But were we also a likelier candidate for success by virtue of the creators’ pre-existing social networks? Was our old-school board game meets HP Lovecraft vibe more likely to ensnare Kickstarter Virgins? I don’t know, but what I do know is by the end, few if any of our new backers had supported even 1 other Kickstarter project, and that may have been the really important part for Kickstarter.

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3. Kickstarter is the best PR other people’s money can buy.

I had never heard of the Pebble watch until masses of our backers proved to be supporting their Kickstarter. The word of mouth and feeling of involvement a strong Kickstarter campaign can generate is phenomenal, and all without traditional Venture Capital or Angel Investors to pay off! It’s a funding platform that sells you rather than one that buys you. Sure, you’re giving them some of your supporters in perpetuity, but isn’t that transaction more agreeable than selling them a whopping percent of your company? And besides, each backer can use the wonders of the Internet to get you more backers! To get Kickstarter more! To get your next project more! To… well, looking forward, things get mighty interesting.

Does the current boom go bust as all the cool kids exceed their Kickstarter budgets and the whole thing shuts down? Or do projects get better and better the way evolution should work? This is an interesting point to me as I’ve watched actual capitalism wither and die in some parts of the economy. Yes, there’s been no shortage of shoddy product on Kickstarter – projects born of pity or in reaction to the dominant paradigms, et al. – but will such campaigns continue?

Will they be allowed to?

Will the marketplace of ideas become more discerning, and the bar for projects that Kickstarter will even approve be set much much higher?

Will Kickstarter self-censor strongly and effectively?

What will make them leverage their power more specifically, and control access more tightly?

Will some projects be so successful that Kickstarter finds itself paying for their virgins?

We can’t know at this juncture, but it’ll be fascinating to find out.

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4. All the cool kids are doing it.

As 2012 dawned, I had never done a Kickstarter project. By the end of the year, I’ll have done half a dozen. A few with young, largely untested talent, but the vast majority with award-winning authors like M. K. Hobson, sculptors like Paul Komoda, and top-tier game designers like Keith Baker, Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. And that’s just a hint of what I’m doing. Most of the Creators I know are currently working on some level of campaign (thus the white paper to follow)!

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5. Creatives and Corporations – why can’t they all just get along?

I worried a little before Doom that ours would be the project with which Kickstarter would officially jump the shark. But that was apparently just nerves. It had, however, happened once before. The wonderful Z-Man Games (publishers of Pandemic, see above) purchased Doom, but then Z-Man was sold to a European game company right before our publication date, and the new owners didn’t want our game. And neither did anyone else. How is that working out for those publishers now I wonder?

When we took in 122k in a month, an old colleague suggested that, “The market was clearly ready for your game.” Maybe so, but the game companies were not. At all. The Creators’ willingness to market their game, the public’s desire to see Lovecraftian Gods trash Atlantic City, the pedigree of the creative team (games, novels, films, posters): none of that mattered one whit. They didn’t see a return that showed any kind of clear profit for them, and they passed.

In the decline of the working and creative class that we’ve all weathered these last 30 years, major monopolist corporations have intentionally made Creators the lowest people on their totem poles.

The odious work-for-hire contracts, the hierarchical apple-polishing, the constant cancellations of green-lit projects to protect their jobs at the expense of others and to “bolster” their bottom line: it’s all been designed to maximize their profits and strip Creators of their chance for licensure, and the passive streams of income Creators might otherwise have enjoyed. There are still plenty of artists who need corporate paychecks, but many artists are viewing this as a long-overdue sea change. In Portland, many people suggest that the only way to move up the ranks at Nike is to go to Adidas. And vice versa. In New York, people leave DC for Marvel. And vice versa. Does Kickstarter mean that Creatives will be getting more respect from the big players now that they can set their own terms elsewhere? Or will the big companies simply ignore them when they ask for more respect? As exciting as Kickstarter is now, what will it be in the future? Will it morph over time like the massive powerhouse whose informal corporate motto was “Don’t be evil”? We shall see.

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6. Make no mistake. This is an addiction.

The shots of dopamine that accompany every new dollar the Refresh button reveals are the most obvious example. But the fact is, we Creators are on the line here. Every mistake or miscue is now on us. And that’s not the sort of responsibility that leads one to sleep like a baby. Kickstarter is not for the faint of heart. Can you imagine working a month or more (more really, even for a “30 day” campaign) only to have that campaign stall and fail? Many of the best and brightest Creators have already experienced that very thing. Sobering. Kickstarter will take every ounce of energy you can give it and want more. Believe it.

Every mistake we made weighs on me, and I suspect it’s the same for many others. So, with this prologue, I hope you’ll enjoy (and be informed by) the paper to come.

Part 1 of Kickstarter White Paper

Part 2 of Kickstarter White Paper

THANK YOU!

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I haven’t written a word here since the Kickstarter campaign for The Doom That Came to Atlantic City went live. There are plenty of reasons for that, and I strongly advise anyone I know who is planning a Kickstarter of their own to contact me before they set out on beautiful but mysterious the waters of crowdsourcing! It’s obviously an amazing venue that can yield spectacular results, but it might just eat your life in the process.

We were successful, and I want to thank everyone who helped spread the word! It was always a delight to see the names of my friends and colleagues join the list of backers. And watching that list grow was like watching the beans your Mom said were worthless (Don’t have a cow, Mom!) sprout and grow and reach their green tendrils up to the heavens.

The wonderful Nadya at Coilhouse led the way, and io9, Wired’s GeekDadQuarter to ThreeThe Gaming Gang, Geek.com and Nerd Approved followed thereafter. BoardGameGeek.com was also helpful, even when their members couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that we’d come not to praise Monopoly, but to bury it.

With their help, we not only have the bare-bones game, we got to add several features we never thought we could afford (Tomes, Hotels, Gate markers, custom dice, et al.) that the wild success of the Kickstarter campaign made possible. There’s a lot more work for me to do, but it’s going to be amazing!

Thanks again,

Lee