Advice on getting my game in front of a wider audience

I’d love some advice on getting Premise: Setting, Character, and Plot in front of a larger audience!

I’ve been refining Premise – a collaborative storytelling / worldbuliding game – for the better part of a year and the draft is pretty polished. I received lots of positive feedback from playtests (including at Metatopia) and would love to get the game out to a wider audience. I’m interested in maximizing the number of folks playing it, not profiting – though if I can make a little money, all the better.

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About Premise
Premise is a collaborative storytelling game where players build on each other’s ideas to create settings, characters, and plots. The core of the game involves players simultaneously filling out templates and passing them around – building up narrative elements one step at a time. When the templates are full, the players narrate their shared creations. You can play the three parts (setting, character, plot) independently or chain them together to first create a world, then populate it with characters, and finally create adventures for those characters.

The current draft is here, and I’d love to hear any feedback. I’d also love tips on how to improve the above pitch.

Next Steps
I’d love help figuring out who the ideal market is and how I should publish it. Premise doesn’t fit into a clear category of game (it’s probably closest to Microscope or Story Cubes) and I’m not sure who the core audience might be or how I would target them. I’ve run this game with kids as young as 4, non-gamers, board gamers, and RPG lovers and each of the groups had a great time. Any tips for figuring out who the ideal market is and how to reach them?

Edutainment
I think Premise might work well in classrooms, paired with lessons that teach the elements of storytelling. They could also work well to generate creative writing prompts or to have students explore a setting they’re studying (in literature or history). Are there educational games publishers / companies that might be a good fit?

Kickstarter

I’m happy making the digital version free, as my goal is to get it to as many players as possible. I could do a Kickstarter for a physical version in which the templates are on easy tear-off notepads. If I went down this route, I could easily expand the game to include templates for different genres, character archetypes, and plot structures. Do you think there’s a market? Should I pursue a traditional publisher instead?

In summary my main questions are:
– Do you think there’s a market for this game?
– What’s the best way to reach that market?

Thanks for reading this far and feel free to share this post around – I’ll take all the advice I can get!

Comments

  • Thinking about how this game and the gamer audience might click, I think it would be ideal if you added some sort of a flagship premise. Generic games can catch interest, but it seems to me to be generally easier if you pair the generic idea provisionally with some fun, fresh fictional premise. It's the same logic that boardgame industry swears by - it is impossible to make an abstract enough game that they won't stick zombies or samurais on it just to have some sort of an aesthetic hook to draw people in.

    (Obviously you'd want something that fits the game and doesn't obscure its potential breadth in stepping away from the suggested premise and into other sorts of stories. I'm not suggesting watering down the game, just dressing it up in pretty clothes.)

    A colorful premise might help with other potential audiences as well, depending on the marketing strategy. Might be that it would ideally be a different color for different audiences, of course - you've got quite a range of potential customers for this, it seems.
  • Another stray thought: your game is very close to fulfilling the constraining precepts of a traditional casual boardgame - that is, it's simple and social enough to be marketed alongside Pictionary and such. Are you interested in pursuing publication by a boardgame publisher specializing in those things? I ask because it's sort of a fuddy-duddy old people scene for most gamers (I mean, who plays Trivial Pursuit), and you might feel that your game won't get the respect it deserves in that sort of venue. On the other hand, a mainstream boardgame publisher has the potential for pretty big audiences when a game gets a successful launch.
  • Thanks @Eero_Tuovinen for both bits of advice!

    I'll think about different themes for the initial roll out – it's pretty easy for me to quickly retheme / create slightly different templates. Your point about the pitfalls of themeless / abstract games is very valid.

    I'll definitely reach out to some of the bigger publishers, too. I was originally thinking about self-publishing but if it would help maximize audience, I'm happy to go the traditional route.
  • I have a design question for you:

    Under "Plot", you have "Problems" and "Solutions". That seems to imply, to me, that each Problem gets solves as the "Plot" is played out.

    In a lot of stories, though, they don't. How does this typically play out when you play this game?
  • Thanks @Paul_T

    Only the first two Obstacles need to be overcome or bypassed by the protagonist. The final Obstacle has a Resolution instead of a Solution so it's perfectly okay for the protagonist to fail (that actually happens a lot).

    Mandating that the first two Obstacles have Solutions could limit the types of stories told, but it hasn't been an issue in my playtests. Plenty of times the "solution" to an Obstacle ends up creating even more problems for the character and often the next, bigger Obstacle. Having the protagonist solve sequentially larger obstacles has yielded good momentum in the story and led the final Obstacle / Solution pair to feel like a true climax.

    The format has worked for a wide variety of genres but I definitely want to experiment with other types of plots that follow different arcs.

    I'll think about adding more direction around the Solution fields so it's clear that bypassing or delaying the obstacle is okay.
  • Good points.

    My feeling is that a lot of familiar (modern, Western) fiction has the protagonist fail the first few obstacles, only to succeed in the final confrontation. Your game shouldn't rule that out, I think!
  • @Paul_T good call – I'll try a few playtests that way to make sure the overall arc feels right.
  • edited January 2017
    (caveat: This may feel like slightly strong language, but it's about my reaction to your pitch, not any strength or weakness in your design! Also, maybe none of this stuff is interesting or the direction you want to take it: 100% fine :) )

    I feel like the hook is missing here: the premise if that's your pitch is really dry: it feels like a technical description of a world building exercise, or like The Generic Writing Sad Things on Index Cards Templates.

    Where is the fun? If the fun is that it's fast and kinda party-game ish / telephoneish / exquisite corpse-ish and you get passed pieces of paper with crazy new ideas that you have to bounce off, then play up that, make that part feel lively.

    If instead, the richness is in that this is a unique, method for building a nuanced, big world, with elements large and small through this template rotation, then really sell that as something special.

    I think if, as you're saying, you're trying to bring this to as wide an audience as possible, you've got three directions:

    1) I agree with Eero in the push towards casual storytelling game, a la exquisite corpse, and a ton of other kickstarter game. That'll mean revamping the affordances to be something that works well in a box, making the rules as easy and condensed as possible, and giving help (maybe via prompt cards) to people who are stuck for ideas.

    2) Or maybe really try and sell up the uniqueness of this as a roleplaying device, a la microscope. I think you could really use some examples / replays which really pitch why this does something special. Alternatively along these lines is thinking about this as roleplaying aid: maybe this, like microscope is the kind of thing where people will use it to set up campaigns of other games. That's a niche which could always use more tools!

    3) Along with two, I think flagship premises are really important to selling this. I love Follow by Ben Robbins, but pitching it to people is tough: "So, you're playing a group, and you're trying to do a difficult quest, and uhh, you're going to have some challenges and complications and relationships while doing the thing." I learned that I got a lot more excitement by pitching people on a specifc Quest ("We're all going to play revolutionaries, and it's about the personal sacrifices we make, and whether we keep our idealism and principles while we try to overthrow this government."), even if I was planning to offer a bunch of quests later.

    Part of what I'd be really excited to see personally is customized templates: I'd love to see even just a few words changed to make the templates the ultimate Game of Thrones intrigue generator ("A Sudden Betrayal", "Hopelessly Outnumbered", "A Poisoned Offer", "A Looming Evil")
  • . (Dot scribbling)
  • I think @James_Stuart, above, is right on the money, for what it's worth.

    Don't expect people to guess what makes your game fun; tell them upfront. They'll be more likely to be interested, and then more likely to play it the right way when they actually try it.
  • @James_Stuart – this is awesome advice; thank you so much for the feedback!

    I think both the casual storytelling game and RPG aide are both viable paths (in addition to education) so my next step is to rewrite three versions of the pitch, one catered to each use case. And I'll definitely hype up the fun aspects! I'll share them back here after the next pass.

    Customized templates as James and Eero suggested seem very help toward grabbing a group's attention. I'll try a few and share them back.

    Another experiment I'm thinking about is posting a version to https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/ to see if it generates interest there.
  • It seems like a great tool for teachers to me. It might need a little more guidance (for each specific step), but would be a great way to explain and learn the "inner workings" of storytelling (or, at least, a particular form of it).
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