Interview: Joseph Norris, Adversity Games

For today’s interview Diagonal Move is joined by Joseph Norris, founder of Adversity Games.

Nightlancer box
Nightlancer box

DM: Hi Joseph, thank you for joining us today. Please tell us how you got started and what inspired you to self-publish Nightlancer?

JN: I began by designing games as a hobby. I was in my late teens and for a long time I played around with ideas without really doing anything with them. I didn’t take myself seriously.

When Nightlancer began to come together, I thought “this is a really interesting idea” and maybe it was worth taking it on as a serious project.

I chose to self-publish – possibly the most difficult of all routes to releasing a game – because I had a concept, a vision, for Nightlancer that I felt would not be completely fulfilled by approaching an established publisher.

Nightlancer Cybercracker

DM: Please tell us more about Nightlancer.

JN: It’s a cyber-punk board game with strong RPG/character building elements. There are competitive, co-operative and solitaire modes included.

It’s set in the crumbling dystopian underworld of Birmingham 2099. Players are Nightlancers, underworld world operative, who improve their skills and abilities using black market cybertech enhancements and other gear before undertaking a range of missions.

Missions are the heart of the game. You can use your contact network to complete these missions in the most effective way or to interfere with your opponents.

There is the option of completing one per round and missions can be tailored to suit your character’s abilities – be that talking, fighting, or shooting their way out of trouble.

DM: How long has Nightlancer taken to travel from concept to Kickstarter launch?

It’s been a very long journey. From idea to playtesting to Kickstarter took around 6 years in total.

There is a phrase in software development: ‘Fail fast and fail often’. I tried to apply that to the Nightlancer development process.

Sometimes I would tweak rules from playtest to playtest. It meant I could learn from issues that occurred during those playtests and quickly gather feedback regarding changes.

In total there has been over 20 major versions of Nightlancer, plus around 200 minor revisions.

DM: Nightlancer was 100% funded two days after launch and went on to receive pledges more than double its Kickstarter campaign target. What lessons did you learn from earlier campaigns that helped make this one a success?

This was the third time I tried to fund Nightlancer on Kickstarter.

Nightlancer assassin

The first campaign was basic and the funding target too high. There were very few graphics and some of those that were there I had created myself. The funding target was high because the game needed further streamlining. There were elements that did not need to be in there. The overall result was that I did not highlight my investment in Nightlancer on the campaign page.

The second campaign had much better graphics, a better video; however, I did a lot of the marketing myself. I had to accept that it was simply not possible for me to do this effectively.

This time, the game itself has been streamlined, resulting in a lower pledge level and funding targets. I have also sought professional help and guidance from graphic artists and marketing experts. I have had to learn what I can do myself and what I cannot.

DM: How much of the success of the KS do you attribute to Adversity Games’ presence at conventions during the last few years?

JN: Getting out there and meeting gamers has resulted in a loyal following. There is no doubt about that. I met people who have stayed with me from the very beginning. People who have helped me keep going no matter how hard it got.

Conventions have helped me understand the audience for my game. Plus, I can now communicate more effectively both what Nightlancer is and what it isn’t.

Meeting gamers has also very much helped with the artwork. Even after I had a professional artist working on the graphics, some things were not clear to players. The demo’s helped improve that by allowing me to really see what was working and what wasn’t.

Nightlancer set up
Nightlancer mid-game

DM: What plans do you have for Adversity Games?

JN: I have a few games in the pipeline, but until the Kickstarter fulfilment is done these are on hold. Fulfilment is the number one priority between now and December.

Once fulfilment is complete, I’m planning to the next Adversity Games release to a public vote.

Some of my late stage prototypes that might be included are Fixer, a deckbuilding game set in the Nightlancer universe. Kickboxer, which is a 2-player character building and fighting game. Also, Arachnida, which is a strategy game about spiders!

I like all the games, but I want to make sure I focus on the one that other people enjoy.

DM: Do you have any advice for someone entering the Games industry?

JN: Publishing is a completely different skill set to game design. I had to learn very quickly what I could do, what I could learn and what I needed help with.

I’m no artist or marketeer. Being able to ask for help in the skillsets where I am weakest was very important.

Identify where you are strong and seek help in areas where you are not so strong.

Nightlancer is available to pre-order here

For more information about Adversity Games see here

A version of this interview was orginally published on the Zatu Games blog