Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bad Family: Starting to develop a pitch

I need to figure out how to pitch and market Bad Family.

Andy Kitkowski developed a set of 19 questions to figure out how to market a game.

I'm going to fill in those questions as I get the inspiration and time. If you know anything about the game, I encourage you to help me in the comments.

The idea is to take the finished stuff to nzrag and gametime for further development, and then off to Story Games (the big leagues).

Here we go ...

Andy's Narcissist Self-Interview 20


1) Here is the name of the game, and how I came up with the name.

Bad Family.

I started with names based on the central mechanic of the game. So, it was stuff like 'Good or Bad', 'The Hand You're Dealt'.

Then I decided to focus on the family that is at the heart of the game, and at the same time introduce the idea that things will either go really well or really badly for them. So I had names like 'The Fortunes of the Joneses' and 'Lucky Jones'. That didn't sit well with me, and I began a search that may have lasted six months or a year for a name that worked better - and by better I mean I felt good about saying it out loud to other people.

Eventually I settled on 'Bad Family' - it's a riff on Bad Santa, it feels a bit current and catchphrase-y, and it clearly emphasises that it's about a family and that they may well do bad things to each other.

2) How would the "back cover blurb" for the game go? Imagine it being read by the "Movie Commercial Guy" ("In a World...")

Imagine your family - loving, complex, weird, and a little screwed up. Now imagine each of them having the worst day of their lives at the same time ... today. Imagine your family - you love them, hate them, and they're a little screwed up. Now imagine everyone in your family is having the worst day of their life.

Bad Family is the game about that day.

Bad Family: answering the question of whether you love the selfish jerks who are trying to stop you from getting what you want.

Alternatively, I have this:

Do you like animated sit-coms like
The Simpsons or Family Guy?

Do you like stories about dysfunctional families, like The Royal Tennebaums, or Malcolm in the Middle, or Married with Children, or American Beauty or pretty much any TV show ever?

That's basically what Bad Family is about: together we'll create an episode of an animated sit-com about a dysfunctional family.

You'll play one of the Family Members, and as part of the game you'll set up a goal your Family Member wants to achieve by the time the episode ends. You win the game by getting what you want before everyone else does. You can increase your chances of winning by creating horrible situations for the other members of your family. Horrible situations like you'd see in any episode of a sit-com.

3) This is a brief example of what play might look like, involving three players and no more than 10 "lines" of text.

Okay, we're back to your turn Elise. Now, if I remember right, your character's Want is to 'Prove he's not gay'. Where did we leave him, and what are you going to do next?

The party had just gotten started at my parents house, and all of my friends from school had arrived. So I think the music's loud, we're all dancing, and everyone starting to get drunk. And that's when Katie shows up.

I'll play her. "Lee, great party! I've never been to your place before - it's not as weird as they say at school."

"Thanks ... uh, do you want to have a look around?"

"I'd love to see your bedroom. I mean get a look at where you sleep. I mean -"

I'll there. So the best case scenario is that you go up to the bedroom, and - who knows - you might get up to all sorts of horrible embarrassing hijinks in the course of proving you're not gay. My worst case scenario, on the other hand, is that Brian arrives. And he chooses just that moment to get down on his knees in front of you, and Katie, and everyone at the party, and declare his love for you.

Oh shit. Okay, I'll draw a card ... Failure. Crap! ... Well I'm not going to let that stand. I'll spend a Bonus and redraw.... Failure. okay, okay ... I need to save my Bonuses for later so, crap, I guess Brian arrives and does his thing.

(in sympathetic embarrassment)

Do you want to spend a Bonus to continue the scene?

No. Guess I'll pass the turn to you.... Crap.

[Hmmm ... I'm not sure - does this come across as homophobic? It's based on a real moment in a playtest, and when we were playing it was awkward, sympathetic and felt true. I'm not sure how it reads, though.

4) This is my target audience.

+ People who want to play a comedy game.
+ People who want a complete game in an hour.
+ Board gamers, maybe.
+ People who haven't played an RPG before (I want Bad Family to be accessible and non-geeky).
+ Groups of friends who like to take the piss together.

This is a really important question and I need to put more thought into answering it.

5) These are other games, media, etc am I blatantly stealing from (or, what I am inspired by)

The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, and Angel. In fact, Angel was the original inspiration because I noticed that in the show was never about how skilled a character was - they either succeeded or they failed when they tried to do something. I wanted a game that would be that simple.

Primetime Adventures is an inadvertent influence - the game has turned out like a stripped-down version of PTA.

6) Here is one single sentence which describes 1-2 things about my game idea that other games don't currently offer (to my knowledge).

I totally don't know how to answer this. I don't think there are any other games that aim to create animated sitcoms. Cartoons, yes (Toon, Cartoon Action Hour); sit-coms, no.

7) Here, in no more than three sentences, is what the game is about in general.

Dysfunctional family.
Worst-case scenarios.

Obviously that's more than 3 sentences but I'm happy to brainstorm on this one and then winnow it down.

8) Here are one to two vignettes about the game's setting.
Depending on the group, the setting can veer all over the place from realistic to totally surreal. Occasionally I've had playtesters who think this is a problem - but over time I've grown to see this as a feature; each group sets up a particular tone for their game.

On the realistic end of things, one player wanted her character to be a teenage boy who was struggling with whether or not he was gay. He ended up at a party, with the girl he was interested trying to lead him upstairs to a bedroom - while at the same time his best (male) friend from school gatecrashed and declared that he loved him in front of everyone. It was an extremely awkward moment in the story that made all of us cringe in sympathy.

Towards the more surreal, I've seen a grandmother character stoned on peyote, stripping off all of her clothes under a hot sunny day while cycling to her weekly bridge game. And one young kid accidentally invented a time machine when he tried to soup up his bicycle with some spare parts stolen from a local army base.


Morgan said...

this looks really promising. nothing to add at this stage tho'

Jenni said...

Ha ha, it wasn't quite what happened in play. In play we found Brian in my room wearing my shirt ;p


hix said...

Thanks for your interest, guys. I was afraid it was a bit of an info dump, so it's awesome you made it through it.

I'm enjoying the writing of the game again - after having to work my way through a bit of a dip.

@Jenni: thanks for the correction - that's much better / more subtle for my purposes. Also: yeah, the names kind of suck and I'll be replacing them in the final version (replacing them with YOU!)