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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Friday, September 16, 2005

Birth of a Game Publisher

I wish I had more time to write this week, but I’m on the road again (in Memphis this time) and I need to get up at 4am to catch my 6:30am flight – I’ll keep it short. It is going to be a long end-of-year as it looks like I’ll be traveling just about every week through at least mid November. 

Early on I mentioned that I’ll do quite a bit of disclosure on the economics of publishing a (small) game like Havoc.  For starters, though, here’s a brief history of how Sunriver Games came to be.

My first meeting with KC Humphrey was at GameStorm 2003 in Portland – one of my earliest blog entries.  KC treated my family to a wonderful morning of euro games, including some real classics like 6 Tage Rennen and Viva Pamplona.  Not long after that I had a self-imposed trial session with the Rip City Gamers group at my house, where I had my first opportunity to play New Eden, one of KC’s prototypes.  I took this prototype on the road to a variety of friends and gaming groups, including a visit to Uberplay headquarters.

It wasn’t until KC, Rita, and I spent some time at Doug’s Sunriver retreat in May of 2004 that we started getting serious about trying to self publish one of KC’s titles.  After some discussions with a few other folks, we opted to limit the initial investment to just our two families to keep things simple.  This would also constrain our choices a bit to a game of the lighter sort (i.e., no big board, big box, or lots of bits).  Sunriver Games LLC was officially formed on July 26, 2004.

This is the process we used to select the first game to publish:

  • We chose four of KC’s lighter designs as candidates: Pizzza, Tres Amigos, Havoc, and Northwest Trek.
  • We scheduled two playtest days in November of 2004 and had about 20 folks participate.  Playtesters filled out playtest reports and we tabulated the results.  The clear winner was Havoc, though NW Trek was also very favorable.
  • Havoc, being a card game, was a perfect choice for a first game to publish. It is also felt better in our collective guts. QED.

In late November, we sent copies of Havoc to the various spots on planet earth for blind playtesting and further feedback.  This process wrapped up in early 2005 and we started the ball rolling on final development and design.  This is where the fun really started!  More on that process later…


  • At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Rita said…

    July 26, really? I didn't remember that. That's my b-day! What a great present to myself!


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