In a piece of news unrelated to the ongoing contest proceedings we are happy to announce that our beloved Coconuts has been nominated for the Danish Game of the Year award Guldbrikken in the children´s game category. Our game, that has been renamed to Coco Loco by our scandinavian friends from Competo, was chosen as one of four finalists for the award.
The danish jury will announce their winners in an award ceremony on 11th of September and we are just as much anxious to hear their verdict as the entrants to our own Game Design Contest must be while waiting for ours.
Last time we talked about how we first got to see the game and the things that factored into our decision to try to produce it. After making our minds up, we quickly negotiated contract terms and then immediately started to work on the game. So this week we´d like to discuss the development phase and the final steps to publication.
Step Three: Development
Development for Coconuts began around August 2012. We had many things to consider about the game:
– We needed to define the setting of the game more clearly.
Even going for a generic monkey theme, someone has to define what the monkeys will look like: Are they looking cute and friendly or weird and funny? Are they playing on an island or in a forest ? These kinds of details sound trivial to decide but they are a huge factor when it comes to the success of a game in the mass market, so we didn´t dare to take this lightly.
– We wanted to look for ways to improve the gameplay itself
The game in its original state was a lot of fun but we wanted to at least try to make the gameplay a little more varied.
– As mentioned in part I of this article, we had to make a transition from the original material to something that could be mass-produced, without losing too much of the original charm.
Monkey King Rising:
We spent around three months working on the gameplay and theme of the game.We were thinking about a big variety of monkey/ape-style settings and finally found the “Monkey King”. The Monkey King (or Sun Wukong, Son Ogong, Son Goku) is a famous character from Chinese mythology, that is very well known and beloved in all of Asia. He is a powerful demon spirit that gets imprisoned by Buddha for his arrogance and finally gets freed to accompany a buddhist monk on an important voyage to the west.
In the beginning we were not sure whether we could make this theme work well (because the Monkey King never actually had any business throwing coconuts) but it is such a familiar and well known story in our market that we could not resist trying to paste it on.
At the same time we were trying to improve on the mechanics of the game, constantly playing around with the author´s prototype and testing all kinds of little changes. We introduced a different type of basket, that would grant an additional shot when you hit it, in order to give players something to “fight” for. At the same time we were looking for ways to make the shooting more interesting. The catapults of the original prototype were almost perfectly controllable, so we wanted to give players the possibility to show off their skill with special shots.
At this point, we realized that our greedily chosen popular theme was actually a perfect fit: The Monkey King is able to work powerful magic, that allows him to influence people´s mind, duplicate any kind of object and move quickly over big distances. This lends itself perfectly to be mirrored in the game by special cards that force other players to do the special shots or give the active player additional powers.
That kind of matching story and mechanics is not really usual for a mass-market children´s game and we are quite proud of the result.
Monkey Material :
It quickly became clear that we would have to move away from the original launcher structure completely, so instead of relying on a “bending” catapult, we decided to go for a classic spring-based one. This change had a huge impact on the feeling of the game…
We found that our first spring based launchers were just as precise as the original ones, so we were quite happy with continuing to develop those.
However, there was one problem that we underestimated: It proved to be extremely hard to find a fitting replacement for the coconuts themselves. We continued to change the material until extremely late in the development process, which made the testing process a lot harder than it needed to be.
Step Four: Implementation & Production
Finally, it should be stressed, that the most important part actually comes after the creative work is already done. Printable artwork needs to be created as well as models and actual molds. A manual needs to be written, tested and proofread. Packaging and promotional material must be designed as well.
So when we finished our work on the game and left everything in the hands of the factory, we were extremely happy, but anxious at the same time.
Step Five: Review
It is too early to know whether Coconuts will be a lasting success from a financial perspective. It has certainly been a great learning experience for us. The process was not perfect and we had to make some compromises to be able to realize the game, but overall we are quite proud of our little monkey game.We´d like to finish the article with a short video of the game in action, played by some of the many of the people who helped to create it:
Publishing games is still a very exciting thing for us! Since one of our favorite projects is finally available in Korea now, we thought we might share a little bit about it and the different steps that it had to go through before finally being published. Coconuts is a dexterity game and not a “eurogame”, but it might nevertheless be interesting to read about the whole process that preceded the publication.
Step One: Acquisition
The usual process in the boardgame business is to wait for the games to get to you, via submissions. Then you choose the best one, develop it a bit to remove the rough edges. And voilá you have your “Spiel des Jahres”.
For us, it is a little bit harder. While we are accepting submissions, we are not exactly the most famous board game company in the world (,… yet!). Much less in the beginning of 2012, when we acquired Coconuts. There were some nice submissions, but overall we wanted to see more. So instead of conveniently sitting in our office, we were scouting for suitable games at the Board Game Author´s Meeting in Goettingen, Germany, and there we found this:
The game is about launching little coconuts with your monkey catapults. When you hit a cup, you may take it to your player board. Whoever manages to build a full pyramid of 6 cups first, wins.
What we liked about the game was that it featured quite interactive and dynamic gameplay (mostly by players constantly stealing cups from each other) in addition to the appealing, but not very original “catapult-factor”.
So we took it to our offices in Korea, played and discussed it with others in the companies and thought about the possibility of making this game.
By the way, this game was presented to us by an Agency: White Castle Games from Austria. We´re not saying that as an author you should definitely use their service (because you´ll have to pay for that, while you could just as well send your game to us for free instead :)). But we will say that they are efficient professionals and nice guys as well and we very much enjoy working with them.
Step Two: Reality Check
Sure enough, many people in the company liked the game and we felt that it might be a good prospect. So… we think that we have a good and original game on our hands. At this point in time we have to take a step back and try to analyze:
– What is the target group for the game ? Mass Market, Educational or Gamer, Kid, Family or Adult ? -> Mass Market/Kid+Family
– Do we have a good way to market this game and to reach this target group?
-> Probably, we will have to get it into the big market chains…
– Is this target group big enough in our market to warrant making this game here -> Targeting Mass Market, of course the answer is Yes.
– Can we produce this game with an adequate quality, regarding artwork and material, while keeping our consumer price low enough for our target group? -> Maybe! – (…)
Some of the answers to these questions seem obvious: A game with little monkeys and catapults and coconuts is definitely more of a kid/family game than an adult game, right? When we look at the last question however, it gets more complicated, especially in the case of Coconuts: The original material (catapults and coconuts) provided by the author, which you can see above, combined two unlikely features: It was both perfectly suitable for the game regarding handling and feeling and perfectly unsuitable to be reproduced in the mass-market version of the product (Due to price of production, aesthetics and minor issues like flammability).
So we had to choose and make new material that would
– fit our price point (to get out with any profits after royalties, discounts and our own running costs, the production cost needs to be a very small fraction of the final consumer price
– at the expected sales level
more expected sales = more games produced = lower price per game, but higher risk
– for the chosen target group
MSRP of a mass market/kid/family game must of course be lower than that of a game for hardcore gamers.
– and still be fun to use in the game the launcher must be controllable, coconuts must reach all cups comfortably, but not fly too far. Cups shouldn´t fall over when they are hit…
At this early stage of development there is a lot of guesswork that can be hit-or-miss on things that you can´t really accurately predict. Previous sales data of comparable games is of limited help, but mostly this is where it is important to have experience in your market and in making games as well, to put it all together and get to an appraisal of the chances and risks that is as accurate as possible.
While we are certainly the most experienced game company in Korea and we do know our market quite well, this is nevertheless one of the first games we publish ourselves. So for us to go for making this game despite the existing uncertainties might actually not be the most reasonable thing to do. Except that we really wanted to.
We´ll not go into actual numbers, but in the end, after having a thorough reality check, we decided to go ahead and make the game, despite the fact that there was quite some risk involved and despite the fact that we could already see that there would have to be a lot of additional work before we could put the game on the shelves….
That´s it for today!
In the second part of this short article we´ll tell you more about the actual development process of the game and all those other things that still had to happen on the way to publication.
Tabletop news, views and announcements with the team of Nice Game Publishing.