10 Questions

Each month in the Inventor Newsletter I ask 10 Questions of an established inventor or game company. The results are posted below and will be updated monthly.

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Valley Games (Sep '08) as answered by Torben Sherwood
Q - What are Valley Games' greatest hits, and how would you describe your line of games overall?
A - I'm going to be biased in this remark but I think all of the games we have in our line-up are our greatest hits. Each title we select is in our opinion a great game and the designer of that game should be commended for creating it. A publisher, in our opinion, should be looking to create success not only for themselves but for the designer, the artist, and the shop owner that sells the games. At the end of the day, I as a game player, want to have games that I will play again and again and enjoy myself when I do it. So with that in mind we won't produce something that we don't think someone would like a lot. Specifically, we have a couple titles so far that have certainly turned some heads those being Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage and Titan but there are so many yet to come from Valley Games that this list, I'm sure, will grow dramatically.

Q - Is there anything currently that you are looking for that is different than what you have done in the past?
A - We're still pretty new at this and after Essen in October of 2008, you will see something in almost every different type of game category, from us. We don't want to stick ourselves into a specific category, because like all game players, we like to play a variety of things. We are trying to keep it to more the board/card game feel because that is what we think we understand best currently. That being said, we are never opposed to receiving design prototypes of any game, because you never know if there is a great idea out there that no one has produced yet. Great games come from everywhere. If you ask some of the most prolific designers out there, they will say that they never expected certain games of theirs would have reached the heights it did.

Q - How many games do you or your company review in a year?
A - We probably see 20-30 ideas a year, so far. We are still a new company and I'm sure most designers come to us after they have tried to hit the bigger lads first. So the pool we see could be somewhat distilled by the time we get prototypes but it's a good number for us in that we are able to play the game a few times in full and we get some time to really look at it. It helps if you can do that because, as most gamers know, sometimes a game needs to marinate and be played a couple times before a mechanic comes out that is either broken or off balance.

Q - How many games does your company usually release in a year?
A - With our current production issues things have taken longer as we learn what not to do. So I believe in our first year we released 1 game, in our second year we released 2, this year we are releasing 7 for sure and possibly another 2 -3 before Christmas so as far as growth, it's a nice curve.

Q - Do you look at games by unknown inventors?
A - Absolutely, many moons ago Reiner Knizia was unknown, same with Alan Moon; the list goes on. Someone new is actually really refreshing because they could come up with something so different that it's almost bizarre and that could be what the game market needs. For those folks, it may be easier dealing with a smaller company in that it's a bit more personal, and for your first release it may be good to learn the ropes when it comes to contracts and production.

Q - For beginning inventors, what would be the ideal way to approach and submit game ideas to you?
A - We like to see a prototype, the rules are great but sometimes the feel of the game does not come from the rules. Take Die Macher as an example, if you read me the rules to that thing I would have fallen asleep, but once I was playing it, I couldn't wait to play it again. So we think we get a better feel of it by playing the actual game. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just needs to convey the game, we have artists for prettiness and layout folks for asthetics so don't worry about it.

Q - How long does it take from the time you receive a submission to the time you say 'yes' or 'no'?
A - Sometimes it's right away but other times it can take a few months, just based on the timing. We try to play the game a couple times before we make a decision then if it meets our criteria then we start to put it through the paces of what we think we can do with it in the future. Again, we don't want to be unsuccessful with it and neither does anyone else. If your game gets published and it doesn't do very well because the publisher didn't market it very well or didn't have great artwork, etc, then how successful will you be promoting yourself to others? "Oh, you did that game? Hmm, maybe next time."

Q - Does it depend on the time of the year, and if 'yes', what times of the year are best to submit?
A - The whole year is crazy with conventions everywhere, I would say if you sent me your submission a month or so before Essen I would not be looking at it until November sometime. But really, there is no time like the present to get a game into the fold so send them whenever you like to us and we'll look at it. The decision time may be a bit longer but that may be all.

Q - What is the most common mistake you see from inventors?
A - Becoming too locked down in making sure the publisher is producing it according to what they think it should be. Micro-managing and changing their minds while the game is in final production. That can really bog things down. We will consult with the designer on many different things - such as re-theming, adjusting card counts - but when the designer says " I think the box is too green", we have that covered. We've had games not produced for months based on this type of thing. You should self publish if you want to be that involved. BTW, it's expensive ;)

Q - If you were to give beginning inventors a bit of advice, what would it be?
A -
· Create, create, create; there is no such thing as a bad idea.
· Your idea might look better in a different light so look for constructive criticism; do not be discouraged by negative comments with no positives.
· Research what is out there.
· Don't cram too many mechanics into a game just to get them in there. Sometimes the simplest idea is the most successful one. Pick an idea, a mechanic, a theme, a type and run with it. Sometimes you get it the first time and other times you don't. Try, try again.
· You're not in this for the money at the beginning so don't quit the day job, we didn't. It takes time and while you make a name for yourself and your games are on everyone's shelf you still need to eat. Plus your wife will go easier on you when you still have a paycheque!
· One last thing, it's a game, it's supposed to be fun, so have fun with it. If you are pulling your hair out you're forcing the issue. Square pegs are not going to fit in round openings, so step back and try a different approach.


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