Jan 3, 2020

A Wedding and 2 Funerals - Xeo's 2019 Year in Review

My 2019 reminds me of the 1994 hit comedy "4 Weddings and a Funeral". In my case, its "1 Wedding and 2 Funerals", all involving my closest family members. It's a year of change and moving on to a new phase of life with a hundred million small things to sort out, leaving me with little energy, time and motivation to write. Now that things have cooled down somewhat at the end of the, it is time for me to pick up my pen (or keyboard) again and take a look back at 2019.

Death of Grandma and Dad

Two of my closest family member, grandma and dad, passed away this year. I have been living with them since the time I am born and my house suddenly became too big and empty without their presence. Grandma died of lung infection after years of stroke induced dementia, while Dad died of cancer, all within 2 months of each other. While grandma has been struggling against her illness for the past few years, my dad was diagnosed of stage 4 cancer, quite out of the blue. From the time he was diagnosed to the time of his death was a quick 3 months, leaving us in a state of shock. The pressure of making life and death decisions for both my grandma and dad have driven the family into the hell of mental exhaustion.

Putting the Family Finance in Order

The immediate task on my Dad's passing is to secure all the utility bills that are on a monthly giro across 10 bank accounts and a dozen credit cards. Dad is a prudent man and he often splits the bills on accounts where he gets the best rebates. Of course, this poses a huge task for us to figure out where is what and a mad rush began to get the bills redirected so that we will not cut off from key utilities. Another problem we encountered is that we are unable to locate his will despite digging through his folders of 20 years of chaotic record keeping of every type of utility bills. After a month of turning the house upside down, we finally found the will tucked in an obscure corner of grandma's cupboard and we only managed to find it because we are also clearing out grandma's stuff. How it ended up there, is a mystery which will remain unsolved, while we have other more pressing issues including settling various local and overseas investments owned by dad. At the same time I took over the problematic execution of my grandma's estate, which my dad, who was the sole executor is now deceased. We are only halfway done cleaning up all the family issues and there's more to come for 2020.

Getting Engaged and Planning for a Wedding

Shortly before the death of my grandma, I brought my proposal ring to the hospital, and held it in the hands of my unconscious grandma. The next day, she passed on. I would like to think that she got the message that her greatest wish of getting me married off is finally achieved, with such a big diamond ring pressed into her palm! After we learnt that our dad had at most 1 or 2 years left to live, me and my sister made plans to bring him back to China to visit his ancestral village. I was also hoping that I would be able to hold my wedding in time, for my dad to see me settle down at last, but Fate has dictated that he is unable to witness my wedding.. At least he knows that I have found my Special One before he left!

After we completed all the funerals, we started doing our wedding planning. Wedding planning also requires lots of planning, from a pre-wedding shoot in Kyoto to the big day itself, with lots of small details to plan along the way.

Money and Investing

My investment portfolio did well for 2019 despite navigating the challenges of a trade war and an unpredictable Donald Trump returning an astounding ROI of 18%. The strategy of staying fully invested in US while looking for opportunities in Emerging Markets that are recovering from recessions such as Russia and Brazil paid off handsomely.

Big Strides in Boardgame Publishing

The fortune of the board game business has also seen lots of ups and downs in 2019. One of the biggest development is that CGS has found a permanent office at One North after years of wandering around the cafes. We also had Jaslyn joining us as the CFO and distributor director, which she made tremendous development in our finance and distribution side. Our games also expanded their distribution reach this year in 3 more new countries in China, Japan and Indonesia. Our 2 games launched in 2019, Debtzilla and Cryptocurrency, also won awards in the Serious Games International. While we didn't launch any new financial boardgame titles in 2019, we have been busy with a new Serious Game division which we set up to help institutions and individuals design and publish educational games. We worked on quite a number of serious games projects, helping clients like MOE and Interpol publish board games. Some of these games are expected to go retail in 2020 and watch out for them!

As the company grows, our classic cash flow/growth struggle faced by all SME increased tremendously, especially now that we have rental and staff to pay. The company is growing fast, but the expenses are growing faster than revenue, with the entire team having to double up and triple up in various roles as we try to meet the growing demand for board games. Our failure to fund for our Kaiju Exchange Kickstarter also forced us to re-examine some of the assumptions how we run our crowdfunding campaign and drives home the message that we have still lots to go in learning how to market our products and building a strong community. Despite these obstacles, we are optimistic for 2020 and is looking for another year of growth for CGS! 

Hobbies and Health

2019 was not a good year for my hobbies as I barely have time to write or do creative stuff. Even my regular running routine has been disrupted as I often return home, tired and drained. In the midst of all the chaos, I encountered regular burnt-out and some early signs of depression. Two things kept my sanity in check: A supportive fiancee who regularly pats my head with words of encouragement and a regular dose of anime and music.

Thank you Rei for staying with me and making 2019 a bearable year for me.

Love you lots!

Nov 10, 2019

5 Take away from Spiel Essen 2019 for Capital Gains Studio

Spiel Essen has been an annual event for Capital Gains Studio as we always attend to say hi to old friends and make new friends. This year, we headed back to Spiel Essen 2019 without a brand new game. This year, we are only bringing over a 2nd edition of Wongamania: Banana Economy and a set of prototype of our to-be launched game: Kaiju Exchange. With only a 2nd edition game to sell, how did we fare? I will say pretty good actually. These are the lessons from Spiel Essen 2019.

Increase sales through an increased frequency of play

In 2018, we took the standard 2 X 5 booth and had a table for Debtzilla and Cryptocurrency each. Like all new game launches, people are eager to try out the game, but each game takes an hour to play. We often have to turn away players who are looking to try the game, while trying to encourage the present players to cut short their game play. However, they almost always pleaded with us to let them finish the game and we always relented. With more and more games being launched at Spiel Essen each year, gamers are spoilt for choice and most gamers will prefer to buy games that they have tried and liked. Moreover, Spiel Essen is the sole convention which we attend outside of Asia, and hence it has became our most important channel for us to introduce our games to an western audience. Allowing as many gamers as possible to play your game help to spread the word and increase your sales!

Showcasing old games is good for business

As the result of a larger booth with more tables, we managed to interact with more gamers as they came to try our games. Some of them even remarked, "Hey, this is the first time I seen your game. Is this a new publish?" Spiel Essen has grew quickly in size since our first attendance in 2015 and it is now near impossible for visitors to see everything in a single year. Even though we have presented our games in 2018, the titles are still relatively new to the visitors, due to a lack of marketing budget for a small indie publisher to market in the western world. In 2018, we didn't manage to sell out or copies of Debtzilla and had to carry back cartons of unsold goods. This year, we managed to sell out all our Debtzilla sets by Saturday! This debunks the conventional wisdom that old games do not sell as well in Spiel Essen.

Large scale playtesting for new games

We brought our latest game "Kaiju Exchange" to playtest with the visitors and even though the game was play tested extensively in the past 6 months, we are still able to find new improvement as a result of the feedback from a more seasoned audience pool at Spiel Essen. You will have game designers, media people and publishers coming by to try your game and giving critical feedback, ideas and possible new mechanics. The kind of feedback we get from Singapore and Spiel Essen is quite different due to the kind of gaming experiences they have. Singapore, with a less mature boardgame industry, tend to give more feedback on graphic design while the Spiel visitors are able to deep delve into mechanics and statistics discussions which helps tremendously in moving our mechanics design forward.

Diversify your logistics.. but things can still go wrong!

This year we shipped our main batch of games by air to Spiel Essen while bringing a small quantity of games with us on our check in luggage. Lady Luck decided to take a rest break and our main shipment was stuck at the German custom due to high volume and our checked in luggage got lost in flight transition. Other than our marketing collateral and demo game sets. We literally have nothing to sell for the first day, until a huge amount of frantic phone calls both from Singapore and Germany managed to solve the problem. We managed to get our main shipment of games in by day 2 but the damage to sales was done. This year, we took the extra care to ship in the games 1 week earlier than the previous year and bad things can still happen. In fact, we talked to some other publishers and many of them also have goods that were stuck at the customs. Guess we need to do more planning and diversification in getting our goods to Spiel Essen next year.

Branding.. Branding.. Branding..

We started promoting Debtzilla to the Spiel visitors in 2016 and this year, we often here visitors walk pass us and remarked "This is the Debtzilla company!". Though we are still relatively unknown in the western gaming markets, our Debtzilla branding did help to increase the mindshare of the visitors in Spiel. Our "Poke Debtzilla for Luck" activity has been tremendously successful and many visitors couldn't resist the temptation to give our cute Debtzilla plushie a poke when they walk pass us.

All in all, Spiel Essen 2019 has been a fruitful year for us as we talk to old friends, make new ones, sold our games and we learnt quite a bit in the logistic crisis management on how to better prepare for our next Spiel Essen.

Jul 6, 2018

Kickstarter Fulfillment - What can go Wrong?

As we move into the fulfillment portion of the Debtzilla Kickstarter campaign, people are asking us why aren't we making a formal announcement that shipping has started. Backers often expect to receive their game in a matter of a week or two once we announce is that the shipping process has started. However, we have learnt much from our previous kickstarter campaign how things can go wrong, from the simple process of moving goods from factory to the fulfillment center, which may delay the whole process up to a month or two. Therefore,  we are holding back any formal announcement until the game is safely loaded onto the planes and ships. Let me share with you what are some of the things that can go wrong during this process.

Dec 18, 2017

Why Bitcoin is a Bubble in Making

The rise of cryptocurrency and Bitcoin took Wall Street by surprise with many industry leaders stepping forward to give their opinions what they think of this new technology that can potentially disrupt the role of banks.

What is cryptocurrency? It is a form of digital currency that can be used to purchase goods and services and is limited in quantities, much like gold. However, unlike gold, cryptocurrency can be transferred through the internet, across the borders, without the need of going through customs nor banks. This creates a burning problem for governments in the form of illicit money flow which can be used to finance illegal activities and threatens the central banks abilities to control money supply, which is one of the key tool for economy management. Read more about cryptocurrency.

Nov 26, 2017

I Met My Girlfriend Through Kickstarter and She Blew Up My Campaign.

After years of fruitless sessions of speed dating and empty conversations with Tinder, I kinda of gave up on dating for a while. My personal life also underwent major changes which makes it almost impossible for me to focus on dating. First and foremost, my grandma was diagnosis with vascular dementia and she was transformed from a sweet lady, into an irrational angry person, constantly cursing in 4 different languages and accusing me and my dad sleeping and impregnating my helper. None of this is true of course as her delusions were the result of dementia play tricks on her mind. The stress on the caregivers was tremendous as we adapted.

Nov 20, 2017

5 Financial Lessons from Financial Boardgame: Debtzilla

Debtzilla: The Board Game is a superhero co-operative board game that puts players in the role of a secret identity superhero, who has to manage his finances as a common salaryman during the day, and combating villains at night. At the end of the game, the players have to defeat Debtzilla as the final boss in order to win the game. The game is making use of the superhero theme to bring out essential financial lessons and here are 5 of the important ones:

Jul 16, 2017

Debtzilla - Game Design Diary Part II: Money Mechanics

After 1 year of design work and 13 design blueprints later, Debtzilla the board game is finally born. The biggest challenge of designing Debtzilla is the challenge of incorporating various important money concepts such as income statement and compound interest without resorting to players filling out a real balance sheet and whipping out their calculators. The other challenge is to create a game that flows, easy to learn, builds tension gradually to a climax and engaging the players at an intense level making them feel that time flies by quickly.

A Logical Timeline

In Debtzilla, a daily routine is developed which mirrors the working routine of an average working adult. In the morning, players work, earn an income and plan how you want to build their wealth in order to buy gadgets to power up your hero. In the late afternoon, they knock off from their work and head to the shopping street, checking out the latest gadgets that they can use to battle the villains. At night, the villains begin to prowl the streets looking for innocent citizens to scam while the players try to stop them with whatever resources they have accumulated. Once the villains are confronted and the dust has settled, the damage done to the city is tallied and the impact of the hero's actions will be felt in the following day in the form of interference from the final boss: Debtzilla. This flow of events help players get into the game quickly, minimizing their game learning time as it is intuitive and correspond to their daily lives.

Gamification of Balance Sheet

The biggest problem when designing this game is to find an efficient way to represent an income statement without resorting to actually filling in an actual income statement and slowing down game. How do I incorporate expenses such as interest payments, insurance premiums, personal expenses, while at the same time allowing players to build their income via dividends and proving their saving rates by budgeting and re-financing their loan. I borrowed heavily from the deck building mechanics of a famous boardgame named  Dominion whereby players start with a stand deck of cards and they get to pick new cards from a common pool, resulting in each players having different sets of monsters and abilities by the end of the game. However, the huge variety of cards offered by Dominion often result in a steep learning curve for players, which is daunting for non-gamers, which Debtzilla is trying to reach. As a result, a simplified version of the deck building mechanics is designed, with players limited to 8 cards to choose from, rather than hundreds typical in deck building game. The system is designed in such a way that more cards can be added to the Income deck in the future if I am keen to add in more kinds of debts and money instruments, such as medical debt, investment loan and car loans.

Law of Compound Interest

One of the key mechanic that I am trying to design into the game is the idea of an escalation mechanic similar to the boardgame Pandemic where players have to stop viruses from spreading exponentially. The world of finance has its own form of virus, it's called the the law of compounding interest represented by this formula
The actual calculation of compound interest actually requires a financial calculator and the mechanic to represent this formula in an actual game mechanic took some trials and errors before I got it to work elegantly.

The law of compound interest is designed into the health of Debtzilla in the form of the interest rate bar. At the initial stage, Debtzilla grows at a slow pace, often prompting players to be more reckless in their spendings. As the gauge move beyond 60, Debtzilla health starts to jump much faster, often causing panic among the players, who now will be trying to pay back the debt they have borrowed, but more often than not, the accumulated interest payment has grown so much by than that whatever amount thrown at the monster only delays the apocalypse by a turn or two. It translate the feeling of despair of crushing debt very well as players are now forced to work together to as any mis-step will lead to a losing end game.

Other Challenges

There are other challenges in design, such as balancing a 2 player vs a 4 player game and ensuring a good win-lose ratio for a cooperative game. However, these topic I will leave for another day as there are more things to talk about in the game design process.

Jun 13, 2017

So You Want to Be an Asian Board Game Designer?

When Capital Gains Studio first entered into the tabletop scene in Singapore, many of the previous generation of tabletop game publishers have thrown in the towel and left the scene all together, along with their industry knowledge and competency.  With no established publishers in the region, game designers often have to double up as game publishers and we can totally understand why our predecessors left as the board game publishing environment in this part of the world. Making tabletop games in this part of the world is harsh and unforgiving. We started with wanting to just design a simple low budget educational game for workshops and classroom  as a side project with no knowledge whatsoever how a good game is produced. Fast forward three years later, we have gained a lot more knowledge and expertise after attending the tabletop school of hardknocks after publishing 3 games and about to launch another Kickstarter for Debtzilla. With Kickstarter launching their operation in Singapore and Hong Kong in 2016, we are seeing more designers trying to fund and launch their tabletop game via Kickstarter. So I thought its timely to share with some of the local up and coming game designers and publishers some of the challenges they will face.

Ain't got Time and Money for Board Games
In the ancient past, tabletop games are reserved for the rich and noble, whereby they are the only people who have the time and money to enjoy a strategic game of chess. This is somewhat true for most parts of Asia as the majority of the population is trying to break out of the poverty trap and moving into the middle income. Many Asian countries also boast the some of the longest working hours in the world and by the time we reach home at late at night, we are too tired to even make babies, leaving little time for board games. The thriving bootleg market also means that the average popular board games be purchased at a discount to their actual retail price. When we tried to penetrate the less developed markets which have a much weaker currency exchange, we have to decide if we wanted to slash our retail price by more than half in order to compete with bootleg board games or only target a very niche elite market who can afford the game. In high population and high growth markets such as China, India and Indonesia, board game is still considered as a luxury niche product and the easier markets to penetrate are the smaller rich nations with a higher disposable income such as Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.

Other Challenges Facing the Asian Designer
Asia has a similar problem to Europe: There is such a huge in differentiation of culture and language that localization is the key to sell your board game. In South East Asia alone, you will need to translate your game into 6-7 different languages in which each country probably will have a demand of 300-400 units with sustained marketing efforts. Hardly worth the effort to do a minimal print runs for each country. Therefore, the ability to design a language independent game where it can cater to different languages by able to update the rulebook is important for a designer aiming to distribute their games in Asia.

In terms of art, anime style artwork tend to gain better traction in North Asia and South East Asia, due to the popularity of Japanese anime and manga in the region. Just looking at the attendance of pop culture conventions will give you an idea of the demand for art. Anime Festival Asia (AFA) which features mainly Japanese pop culture has an attendance of around 150k while Singapore Toys, Games and Comic convention (STGCC) has an attendance of around 50k. The local illustrators we worked with often shared with us on the better marketability of anime art as compared to the more semi-realistic art more favored by the western markets. However, designing a board game with a pure anime theme may find trouble when marketing to the western markets as there is still a stigma against anime artwork.

Heavy games which takes a few hours to play will also find limited traction in Asia and the more popular games are usually smaller and quick to learn and play social games, as evident from many of the table top games published by Asian designers. For example, social games such as Werewolf and Saboteur are popular in China, while Japan has a more dominant card game culture. One of the best selling game in Malaysia is a game about a social game called Poop.

Therefore, a designer who is considering to market out of their home country to different parts of Asia have to consider the language, game mechanics, art and limited demand for board game. It is a high risk and potentially low return strategy. Confronted with such a design and logistical nightmare, many designers choose to design their games with the US and European market in mind, only to be hit with another set of challenge.

Marketing in US and Europe? Time Space and Money

In Singapore, I often participate in game testing sessions and when I asked the game designer about their target audience, the game designer will often say, "United States and Germany." It is not a surprise since many designers believe that there is a lack of demand locally while the grass is greener on the Western front.

Asian game designers also tend to believe that Kickstarter will solve most of their marketing challenges and helps to penetrate the Western Markets. The truth is that it is not as effective as they think. They often under-estimated the amount of money, time and networks they need to build before and after the Kickstarter campaign with the media, publishers and distributors which are often done during conventions and tradeshows. However, the cost of air tickets and logisitcs often makes the cost difficult to bear and most small Asian indie designer simply does not have the resource and time to attend all these conventions.

Financially strapped and fearful that they will be stuck with a load of board games which they cannot sell, designers often go for small print runs of 500 and below. There is a joke within the Singapore creative community: "If you can sell 500 books, you are considered to be a best seller in Singapore". Not willing to take a risk to go for a bigger print run, the per unit cost of manufacturing shoots up too high for these designers and given that most major distributors in the western markets will want 60% of the product retail price plus shipping, it makes distributing into the US market unprofitable for most designers who are not willing to risk a print run of 2000 and above.

Lastly, the western markets are getting more competitive by the day as the number of board games being launched is increasing on a yearly basis. In order to stand out from the crowd, a board game has to have top notch production value in order to compete at the highest level. An board game considered as excellent standard in the local context, is normally considered as average to good when pitting against some of the best board games around the world. You have to raise the bar beyond your usual standards if you want to stand a chance even to compete on a global level.

Design Locally, Think Globally

Hence, here are the choices which an Asian designer can take

- Design a game with art, language and mechanics suitable for the local market with the benefit of cheaper marketing cost but at the risk of limited demand. A good example is a Singapore adaptation of Cards Against Humanity "Lim Peh Says"  which raised more than $120,000. As the jokes are only unique to Singaporeans, the product probably will not go international anytime but a simple card game raising a 6 digit figure is still no joke.

- Design a game with the Western Market in mind with top of the line artwork, components and unique mechanics. The best example is Three Kingdom Redux, a beautifully designed and balanced heavy Euro game which has a better distribution network in the Western Market than in Asia. They did not launch their project on Kickstarter.

- Design a game with mechanics and artwork that appeals to the local market but at the same time, can still be enjoyed by an international audience. This is the route that we took for Wongamania: Banana Economy, but this is a risky route whereby you may risk alienating all the markets you wish to pursue rather than making everyone happy. For example, Wongamania: Banana Economy is often referred as a "Simple Game" by the more seasoned players in the western market, whereby it is considered a "Difficult Game" locally as the most commonly exposed tabletop games in this part of the world are simple games such as Cards against Humanities and Monopoly. Trying to maintain that balance requires designer to put in a lot more effort in terms of designing every aspect of the game.

The Choices Designers Have to Make

So you live in Asia and want to design a board game? Before you start, you need to do a quick check of your own resources and who you want to design your board game for. If you are unable to take time off and invest a huge amount of time and money in design, artwork, air tickets and convention fees to US or Germany, consider designing a simple game for your local market and build your expertise from ground up. When we first started, we are amazed by the kind of cardboard you can use to design a simple card game and learning the 101 variety of cardboard, is the first step to become a good designer. We are also seeing an increased interest in tabletop gaming as Asians are getting increasingly wealthy and work life balance becoming a priority among Asian families. Who knows, that small game you have designed for your local market with limited demand may become the next big hit when the tabletop culture become more widespread in years to come. 

Jan 23, 2017

Debtzilla - Game Design Diary Part I: Theme

Right after the launch of Wongamania: Banana Economy, I started to brainstorm on a new game which can portray another aspect of the world of finance. There has been requests from different sectors on different subjects. Some wanted me to create value stock investment game, some wanted me to focus on commodity and there are ideas on using a game to teach people about real estate investing. However, as we reach out to more people, it became apparent that debt is a common topic among the man on the streets. There has been rising cases of young people getting into debt with little understanding of the consequences that they face as a result. We decided to create a game that touch on the consequences of Debt.

The initial game idea is pretty simple. Your uncle is deep in debt, as a result of certain unsavory habits (gambling, drinking etc)  and you work with other players to manage the different aspect of your uncle's life and the objective is to dig your uncle out of the pile of debt. I shared this idea with a couple of my friends and there is a generally negative response.

"Look, there is always an idiot in the family that gets themselves into trouble, resulting in the need to borrow money from his or her relatives. This almost always result to family argument and conflict and most people prefer not to play a game that reflect real life so accurately. I know I will prefer not to play the game because I will recall the unhappy times when our family quarreled over debt problems."

Well, that's pretty good feedback. One of the purpose of games is to help people escape from realism and allow them to do things which they normally cannot do in the real world.

"You can turn the uncle into a gnome or some troll," my friend continued. "It definitely beats a realistic modern setting that will distance people from their real problems."

That is one of the biggest challenges in creating education games. The need to communicate real life lessons, yet to be disconnected from the real life to let people have fun and escapism.

I took my friends suggestions to the next stage and replaced "Uncle" with a creature which I created in Wongamania: Banana Economy - Debtzilla. So the story goes that Debtzilla goes into debt and a bunch of merry men made up of lawyers, bankers and psychiatrist is there to help Debtzilla get out of Debt. This idea immediately ran into a logic trap. How can a fearsome monster merrily spend its time going into Louis Vuitton, buys a luxury bag and get intimidated by a bank officers calling for repayment? That sounds too incredulous, even in an alternate universe in Banana Republic.

At that point of time, Captain America: Civil War is screening with great reviews in the cinemas and one of the highlight of the show is Spiderman. That sparked off my inspiration for the new game design idea.

What if, most of the superheroes in Banana Republic are like spiderman. They are not too rich, get into debts and is scrimping together some small savings to finance their superhero lifestyle in order to battle and corruption and injustice in Banana Republic? How about making Debtzilla the final boss and is the result of the manifestation of the debts which the heroes have accumulated? The theme is fresh and gives a new take on the superhero meta theme, while fulfilling the purpose of highlighting the debt problems that everyday people faces.

With this idea in mind, I started to share with some of my friends on this idea. The idea pretty much got a universal thumbs up from everybody and the common feedback is that the idea is familiar and yet fresh and is guaranteed to get attention from people who are looking for a fresh theme and game concept to try out. 

Here is the theme of the new game:
  In the land of Banana Republic, an incompetent and corrupted government has caused a wave of crime and lawlessness in Banana Republic. 

A few brave souls have finally showed and decided to take on the mantle of heros - to combat the Villains who are stealing the hard earned savings of ordinary citizens. However, beneath every hero lies an average human being, who has a job to perform, daily expenses to pay and crime fighting gadgets to buy, using their trusty credit cards. Little did they know that their credit card bills are feeding the ultimate monster of mass destruction: Debtzilla, which they have to confront at the end of the game. The more they borrow, the more powerful Debtzilla becomes.

Debtzilla is a 2 to 4 player, cooperative board game where heroes work together to protect ordinary citizens from being scammed by Villains, and take down the final boss: Debtzilla. Sharing the same universe as Wongamania: Banana Economy, Debtzilla focuses on the issue of how debt affects the lives of ordinary people in Banana Republic. Using a combination of card drafting and dice mechanics, players have to race against time to bring down the bad guys before the law of compounding debt interest destroys their chances of winning the game. Be too stingy on your finances and you will find your hero too weak to do any good in a real fight. On the other hand, splurging too much on those flashy hero gadgets on borrowed money will result in the final boss too difficult to defeat. Can you balance your books and save the world at the same time?

With Great Power, Comes Great Debt!

Most designer board game started with the design of game mechanics, before looking for a theme that will sell well in the current market. However, for an education game, the purpose and theme comes first before finding the right mechanics to communicate the educational message, while at the same time, retain the fun element of a great game. This triples the difficulty from a game design point of view. The next blog post, I will talk about the difficulty of finding the right mix of game mechanics to bring out both the educational message, fun factor and the tension involved in a superhero game.

Dec 1, 2016

Plagiarism or Co-incident? Coin sorting wallet designers clash on Kickstarter.

Ever since Kickstarter allows Singaporean creators to launch their projects in September, there has been a rush of projects being listed. Many did not manage to survive the harsh world of crowdfunding and a few will stand and gain media recognition. One of the project that succeeded in doing so is the KIN wallet. Designed by a team of students in the NUS School of Industry Design, the project managed to raise closed to $275,000 with 4 more hours to go. The key selling point of this wallet is that it is able to sort coins and notes into separate compartments from a common point of entry. They seem to be working with an international product design firm Allocacoc which will probably provide them with design, manufacturing and distribution support. 

2 Days before the campaign ended, another Singapore creator launched a similar coin sorting wallet  called Numistar launched by Eden Kew.

Kickstarter backers started to speculate if there is industrial plagiarism involved between these two creators.

One of key concerns among the backers is the functionality of the coin sorting mechanism, which KIN wallet designers have decided to keep it under wraps. There have been worries that the promised product features may not work, as experienced by many other similar Kickstarter products which failed to function as they should. Many of these projects also declined to share in depth the key mechanics which propels their unique selling point which is demostrated by the failed Zano drone project. They explained that they wanted to prevent a rip-off in their design by China manufacturers which have been duplicating the designs of successful Kickstarter projects in recent times.

On the other end, Numistar wallet designer elaborated on the design of the coin sorting mechanism in detail.  

In response to the possibility of plagiarism, the designers of KIN wallet may choose to take legal action against the Numistar wallet designer.

The Numistar wallet designer defended his design by highlighting the fact that the wallet has been in prototype phase since September and it has been mentioned in his facebook page. He also highlighted the difference between Numistar and KIN.

He ended his update by sharing that it takes time to design and test these products and it is by coincident that both projects are launched in close proximity with each other.

As part of the Singapore design ecology, I hope that the designers of KIN and NUMISTAR will work things out peacefully between both of them. Running a design business in Singapore is already a difficult business with our small market and lack of hardware ecology within the country. Designers should work together to put more Singaporean design products in the global arena and talk things out among themselves should a conflict arises. An expensive lawsuit is the last thing our fragile design ecosystem needs.
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