actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

GamingI started a game company in my garage and have raised over $2M on Kickstarter. Ask me anything.

Aug 9th 2017 by RobDougherty • 14 Questions • 48 Points

We are Solar Team Twente, a group of 19 students who took a break of a little over a year from our studies in order to build the world’s most efficient solar car. Also, here we are with our solar car and bonus points for finding our mascot in the 360 view of our car and race team.

Our car will be partaking in the biennial World Solar Challenge in Australia, which will be held again this year in October (8-15 October for those wondering). There are multiple classes and we’ll be competing in the Challenger Class, which we like to call the F1 of solar car racing. This basically means that we built a single seat efficiency masterpiece built according to regulations set by the organization.

The team consists of a management team, communications team and technical team and basically functions like a small business, except we don’t get paid ;). We are also proud of the fact that we do almost everything ourselves; from designing, building and testing the solar car to securing all funds and in kind sponsoring and even our own management and public relations. As you would expect we have a great variety of study backgrounds, but let’s not give away everything just yet!

Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper AMA introduction without proof. The image is a little bit outdated (oops sorry), but the guy on the right is clearly so ugly that he can only be me. The two people in the image are also your hosts for this AMA. I, Luc, am one of the aerodynamicists of the team, while Gearte Nynke (good luck pronouncing that) is our communications manager. You can ask us anything you want. Questions could be about the car or other technical aspects, but also about our motivations to join the project or any other aspect of the project you can think off. Don’t be shy, Ask Us Anything!

Q:

When is Hero Realms going to be a phone app?

A:

what are the prospects of solar powered planes entering such contests in the near future?


Q:

Sadly this will be a while. Apps take a long time to do right and the team is very busy working on Star Realms and Epic. We are adding people and would love to have all our games in digital form.

A:

Funny you asked! We actually held a solar plane competition for high schools. In this challenge we tasked them with building a solar powered plane.

We think it is possible that a solar plane challenge will be held in the future. The technology is there, we just need someone to pick up the task of organizing the event. One thing is sure, there is never a shortage of students willing to try their luck at one of these projects!

Why did you ask? Thinking about picking up a project yourself? :)


Q:

How about getting United in the Star Realms app?

A:

i remember asking people before, and was told that autonomous solar-powered planes would not be in hobbyist reach for a long time and wondered if that had changed with the uptick in the drone industry.


Q:

We are working on it!

A:

Solar technology in planes is still future material when it comes to massive passenger sized planes, but it is definitely starting to gain traction as renewable energy sources are becoming better and cheaper every day.


Q:

WWG first came out with Star Realms, then a fantasy version set in the world of Epic -- Hero Realms. So my question is, when do we get a sci-fi version of Epic set in the world of Star Realms?

A:

What were the biggest challenges you faced while building this car?


Q:

Nice idea!

A:

In the beginning of this edition, the regulations of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge changed. Instead of using 6m2 solar panels we were only allowed to use 4m2. That was a really big challenge which could make a really big change to the car. So the designers of our car made a totally new concept. Our car became half a meter smaller which affected all the other technical subteams. They all had to adapt to the winning concept: RED Shift.

It is also really important to have good team. We are a group of 19 students. We did not know each other before the project. The human energy in the team is really determining for the quality of the car. It is a really important to become a dreamteam and to stay a dreamteam. Last weekend we did a racesimulation. In the racesimulation all the teammembers were tested on collaboration. It was a great lesson and our team became a lot stronger by all the scenario's which we were in during the weekend. Is there any specific challenge that you would like to know about?


Q:

Hey Rob,

Love your games but Epic is my favorite. Do you have any general updates on the app? Personally, I was really hoping for news on the chance to qualify for the world championship on the app but as of right now that seems like a pipe dream.

Also, when do you think we'll see Random 60? How about the expansions?

A:

Ouch! 4m2 ? That's a drastic reduction in available power! Is the battery mass still the same?


Q:

Thanks!

Tyrants is being worked on right now, and will be in the alpha soonish. Probably by September.

We are working on early tournaments. There is a lot of work to do there. I REALLY want to do qualifiers in the app. We are working on it!

Random 60 is on the list of things we want to add. :)

A:

The battery mass is still the same, although increasing the battery mass does not result in as much gains as you might expect. We are allowed to start with a full battery in Darwin, and after that we can only use solar power to drive towards Adelaide (3000km further south). Since we are extracting the maximum amount of energy we can during the race, we'll never again have a full battery after the start of the race. After all, a full battery means that you are not using as much energy as you could!


Q:

Thanks for the AMA. How did you build your initial audience for your first successful kickstarter? How did you drive conversions to your campaign?

A:

Interesting. I was under the impression you could top it off during nighttime. That's very impressive. But that reduction in solar panel area must hurt. How badly will it affect overall performance?


Q:

You have to have some kind of following to successfully launch a Kickstarter.

For my first it came from 1) Being a Hall of Fame Magic player 2) Having made a very successful game in the past (Ascension)

You can build a following by advertising or putting out a print-and-play version of your game early, or in a verity of other ways.

The think you have to ask your self is how are hundreds or thousands of people going to find my Kickstarter out of all the ones out there. You have to answer that question before you launch.

A:

Nope, no charging from the grid allowed! A reduction from 6 to 4 square meters does hurt quite a lot on the energy income side of things. After all, it's a reduction of a third of the total energy income. Of course this year's solar panel is more efficient than last year's, so that offsets it a little.

The important thing to note though, is that a smaller array also leads to a smaller car since the array is the deciding factor when it comes to the size of the car. A smaller car then results in less drag, which in turn improves the performance of the car. In the end we expect the car to be almost as fast as last year's car, even though we only have 2/3rds of the solar array area.

Of course, the speed of this year's car is also down to a lot of improvements on all aspects of the car, so it's still not a good estimator for the exact 'hurt' caused by the reduction of solar array area.

But that's the fun of a technological challenge. We are essentially trying to achieve similar results with a lot less which is a lot of fun!


Q:

What is your opinion on Kickstarter Exclusives, specifically those that add content like those in Blood Rage?

A:

I'd like the management and communications part more. Thank you for your reply!


Q:

On the one hand they help creators raise money so they can continue to make games. On the other hand I like games to be accessible. SO, I do a compromise with Kickstarter exclusives (and other exclusive content). You can't get it for quite a while (a year or two) after the initial offering. Eventually it is reprinted with NEW ART in a publicly available set. This way players can eventually get the game content, but the exclusive versions remain special.

A:

You're very welcome. It is often the case that technical projects employ a great variety of non-STEM people in various roles. So if you're interested in working in a technical minded project, but you don't necessarily want to follow a STEM degree, then it is still possible!


Q:

First off, congrats on success. It's really awesome what you've done. I've played a lot of magic, and I've also played a lot of star realms. I can't wait to pick up Epic Card Game as well. Anyway to my question; what is your favorite movement creating games so far?

A:

Are you sure you don't mean biennial World Solar Challenge?


Q:

Thanks! Playing the early alpha of Star Realms on my ipad for the first time was pretty great. Having people who have brought great entertainment into my life like Wil Wheaton and Richard Garfield tell me how much they like my games was awesome. Watching top Magic players playing Epic for fun in the bar after playing for all weekend the Epic World Championship was very cool. (Those guys rarely play games just for fun, it's always about preparing for the next cash event).

A:

I do actually! Not a native English speaker, so that one slipped through. Sorry for that.


Q:

Hey Rob! I usually don't play card games, but I absolutely love hero realms, and ever since I tried it at a friends place, I need more! Is there any information you can give us that hasn't been divulged already that can make me even more excited for what's to come? I'm already planning to get the campaign/boss stuff. Maybe about the next kickstarted you mentioned?

A:

Hi I once started studying Industrieel Ontwerpen at Twente.(never finished it due to my lacking math abilities) Back then there were student projects like this but always wondered what students got picked for those projects and what studies they did. What are you studying and what are your teammembers studying, also how did you get involved in such a great project?


Q:

A preview of the Lich deck will be coming in a couple weeks (after GenCon).

The Lich is awesome! Can't wait to show it off!

A:

Epic username by the way, but I digress;

You might think that simply picking the smartest people in the room would create the best team for such a project, but that's not true at all. Obviously, intelligence is important and if you want to be a structural engineer in the team the right background is important. But the team members are selected based on more information than simply being smart and getting good grades. Motivation is an important factor, as is the ability to work closely together with 18 other people in a high stress environment for more than a year.

I personally am doing a Master's in Mechanical Engineering after completing my Bachelor's in Biomedical Engineering. However, I do not follow an aerodynamics master (I'm following a structural/mechanics master), yet I got chosen to fill one of the aerodynamics spots in the team anyway. The backgrounds of other team members varies quite a lot. Obviously there are a lot of mechanical engineers and electrical engineers in our team. But there are also students from biomedical engineering (function: structural engineer), applied physics (function: head electrical engineer) and even one from industrial design engineering! (function: technical manager). Outside of the technical team we have Industrial Engineering and Management, Civil Engineering and again someone from industrial design engineering.

We all got involved by simply applying after being fascinated by the project. After a three stage application process we eventually all ended up fulfilling our roles in the team, and we're now at the point that we're almost already done!

What do you do now (study I mean) if I may ask? Did you find it disappointing that you weren't able to continue IO? Or wasn't it enjoyable for you anyway?


Q:

Hi Rob - I have some questions about the current Star Realms Frontiers kickstarter campaign:

    1. What makes Frontiers stand out when compared to the Base Set and Colony Wars? Most of the previews make Frontiers look like more of the same. The only new mechanics I have seen from previews is the double-ally ability - is there anything new in that Frontiers box?
    1. $35 is a lot to pay for the command decks. So far we know very few details about the actual cards in each deck. Will you be showing any of the command deck cards before the campaign is over?
A:

Thanks very much for your response! Your username is very tasty as well ;).

I'll PM you my personal story.


Q:

1) Frontiers IS a Star Realms set, so it has the same game mechanics with an all new 80 cards trade deck. For me, playing a game I know with new cards is very fun. I love it with games like Magic, and with Deckbuilders like Star Realms.

Things that are NEW if Frontiers: New Challenges. Likely 6 NEW oversized challenge cards for solo and co-op play. New Card Mechanics. We've talked about the double ally ability, which can have a big effect on your deckbuilding. There is also the Star Empire's draw-then-discard "strafe" ability on many ships. There are some other mechanics on not-yet-spoiled cards. New improved score cards. Like in Hero Realms. Much easier to use then the old Authority cards.

2) This Kickstarer has many sets, and those sets are in various stages of the design development process. Frontiers itself is very nearly complete and will likely go to the printer VERY soon after this Kickstarter campaign ends. So, we have final art, final card design, and I'm happy to show those cards off in the Kickstarter. Command Decks are still in development), so their card text is likely to change, much of the art isn't in, etc. Finishing them is one of the things we will do with funds raised in this Kickstarter. They will not be ready to show today or tomorrow (before this campaign ends). We will work hard to make them awesome. You have seen the type of work we do. If you are comfortable pledging based on that, awesome! If not, I totally understand and hopefully you will get them when they hit store shelves.

A:

Please do!


Q:

Can we get more of the card stats? I can't get enough of those. I wanna know what the new ships do!

A:

Since you don't get paid, how do you cover your costs of living for this year? Does the project require full-time dedication or can you have a job on the side?

Good luck in the race!


Q:

Sorry, I only like to spoil with full card images including art. It makes such a better impression on most people that way.

I will post updates with card images after the campaign ends, just like I'm doing with Hero Realms.

A:

We get a compensation from the University to cover any college fees. However, that still doesn't cover living for a year. For most of us, having a job on the side is not possible. The project is already 1,5 workweeks for pretty much everyone involved, so doing a job on the side is unthinkable. I myself basically loan money from the state. The Dutch government has a very attractive loan system with very low interest rates for students. This allows everyone to follow a University degree, even if your financial situation is complicated.

Since I'm currently following a study which has very good job prospects, I'm not too worried about paying back those loans. Especially with the low interest rates. But you are right, doing this on a voluntary basis yet fulltime is difficult financially speaking.

Oh, Eindhoven is in a different class (Cruiser class, road legal vehicles). But last edition the Dutch were 1, 1 and 2 so let's repeat that feat once more!


Q:

I am also a dad to 7 kids and a St. Bernard.

You farthered a dog? And I presume human kids, not fawns?... Or perhaps a healthy mix? :p

A:

Since you don't get paid, how do you cover your costs of living for this year? Does the project require full-time dedication or can you have a job on the side?

Good luck in the race!


Q:

The dog is adopted, but she doesn't know that. :)

A:

We encapsulate our solar cells with a laminate from SunCat. It's entirely custom made to fit on our solar car, so it's not something you can simply buy at a normal store or something. You could also contact Gochermann. We only have one solar array. It's understandable that you think we have two arrays because our substitute panels look quite real from a distance. However, they are only cover plates to protect the inside of the solar car from the elements. We use it when it is unnecessary to use our solar array, to protect the array as much as possible.

Your best bet in doing something similar would be to contact either SunCat or Gochermann.


Q:

Hey Rob,

  1. Will you attend to Essen this year?

  2. What are the most common mistakes people make when playing Epic? I mean both rules and strategy.

Thanks for creating great games!

A:

Ahhh I thought the black array looks like a cover from the wind tunnel video you posted to facebook. Someone recommended SunCat to me previously but I've heard it's difficult to get in contact with them and since I don't really know what I'm looking for I was hoping to find someone with an online store I can poke through. Thanks for the help and the car looks amazing! Good luck!


Q:

1) Yes! See you there.

2) Most common Epic mistake: spending your gold too early, especially on your own turn, leaving you open to devastating counter-plays by your opponent.

A:

Yeah SunCat is a very small, specialized operation. The quality is excellent, but it would be hard for someone to get a hold of them since they are mostly busy supporting student projects like us. An online store would be difficult unfortunately. Thank you!


Q:

Hi Rob, HomerJr here. I love Star Realms and have almost 10k games played on the app.

I have been an aspiring game designerfor a few years and have designed a couple deck builders as a hobby. The biggest challenge I have as a hobbyist while designing games is building prototypes, being able to test changes, and iterate the game cards and components. It is time consuming and expensive to keep making/printing new sets of cards over and over everytime I want to try out some new card or mechanic.

Can you describe your approach to game designbbeyind the conceptual phase, in terms of building prototypes and testing out the game? What tools do you use to build prototypes, and how do you manage the costs of testing/integrating new cards/components?

A:

I've heard that the only way that space exploration is going to be able to get out of the Milky Way is if we store solar energy from surrounding stars, however, our current way of doing this is very bulky and not aerodynamic. Is your designs and engineering of the car doing anything to help advance these [non-related] space designs?


Q:

The quick answer is "make crappy proxies".

I print text only cards on plain paper, sleeve them with real cards in back. Changes are made with a sharpie as we play.

Only when the cards are near final do we bother to make them look nice.

That advice is for internal testing only. If you are going to show your game to an investor or the like, by all means make a nice prototype.

A:

I don't think aerodynamics will be too much of a problem for interstellar space exploration since there won't be an atmosphere. I also think that such an exploration vessel would have to be built in space anyway, since it would be too big to be launched from earth anyway. But the solar cell technology used on our car could definitely be interesting for future space ships. Solar power would most likely be the best energy source in space.


Q:

Hi Rob, are there any plans to introduce new keyword abilities to Epic in future expansions?

A:

How did you start with the project?

How do you recommend another new team to start building a Solar Car for competition?


Q:

We are going to try to not introduce new keywords. The game has a few too many for new players as it is, and we can have new mechanics without adding keywords.

So, yes to the mechanics of new keywords, just without the keywords!

A:

Do you mean me personally? I basically got interested in the project when I switched to a Mechanical Engineering Master after finishing my Biomedical Engineering Bachelor. I saw a couple of videos (vlogs I think of the 2015 race) and got interested in the project. After that a couple of my friends introduced me to some people and the ball basically got rolling from there.

If you mean the team, that started a long time ago. The first team competed in 2005, but started work on their first car in 2001 or 2002 already. That's 10 (!) years before I even started my Bachelor's degree. I suppose all of these student projects start out exactly the same. There is someone, or a group of people who are interested in doing some off the beaten path. They want to do more than just study for a few years and then move on. Most of the time they find something they want to work on and then they just start.

If you want to start a new team you should start by finding a group of like minded people who are also interested in the subject and who are willing to do something extracurricular. After that, you will have to divide roles within the team and set up a general plan of what you want to achieve. It is very important to have a sound team structure and make sure all facets are covered. We actually have a management team who look after financials, logistics, time schedules, managing us and managing the project in general. We also have a communications team, who maintain the connections to our partners, make sure all in kind and financial support is present and who do PR and media. Of course we also have a technical team who design and build the car. It is best to make sure this technical team is versatile, our team is divided in aerodynamics, structural engineering, mechanics, electrical engineering, data acquisition and race strategy. We also have a technical manager who ensures everything will continue to run smoothly.

Create a financial plan of your expected expenditures, create a time schedule listing important deadlines and how you're going to meet them. Reach out to your university/teachers/professors. Educational institutes often encourage such projects, so getting financial or in kind backing from your university can help you a lot in getting your project off the ground. Reach out to all relevant companies and institutes in your direct (and maybe not so direct) surroundings. We now work together with more than a 150 partners to keep this project running. Of course that network has been built across a decade, but you have to start somewhere. Most student projects are completely impossible without the help of companies and institutes helping out in one way or another. Don't be afraid to ask, almost all companies love projects such as these.

On the technical side of things, look at your competitors! You will not be competitive in your first year nowadays. That is something you built over years of hard work. But a good start in designing your first solar car is try and look at what other successful teams are doing. Never blindly copy a design, always try to reason why a team chose for a design. If you can figure out why they did it and it could be beneficial to you; use it as a starting point. After creating a team you could also reach out to the community in general. Top teams are not going to help each other much, because we are very competitive. But we will always help a smaller team and smaller teams will always help each other. The community is very friendly in general.

This is of course a super broad explanation and the whole story is so much more detailed and complex. If you want to know more I could always give more in depth explanations about more specific subjects. Anything more specific you would like to know?


Q:

Thanks! Perfect. It looks super cool!

A:

Sorcerer will be coming to Kickstarter this fall! Stay tuned!


Q:

Do you plan on making a board game of any sort in the future? Or is it going to be deck building games onward?

A:

Definitely doing various games types, not all focusing exclusively on cards. Epic isn't Deckbuilder BTW, but it is card-based so your point holds.


Q:

Thanks for putting out great games. Ive really come to love Hero Realms. It is easily one of my favorite deck builders these days. Super quick to set up and super fun to play. Something about the combo decks you can build in that game really click for me.

Do you have a favorite character to play or do you play with the starting decks included in the base game? Which color of cards do you like to go after? I tend to go for green and then either blue or white.

Can we expect similar Kickstarter campaigns for Hero Realms?

I know additional content for Hero Realms has been announced and I can't wait!

A:

I personally like the Ranger and Wizard. Darwin loves the Fighter.

I'm pretty flexible on colors but often like yellow.

I haven't figured out our Kickstarter schedule for next year, but another Hero Realms Kickstarter is possible.


Q:

Hey Rob, if you could have any super power what would you choose?

A:

Assuming combo-powers and escalating powers (wish for more wishes) are off the table, then I'd go with super-regeneration.


Q:

What card out of all the star realm sets do you think you overpowered?

A:

I think Cutter is the most overpowered (by cost) card in Star Realms. Base set play hint: Buy more Cutters! The Arc is a close second.


Q:

What is your favorite faction in Star Realms?

A:

It is a fight between Blob and Star Empire.


Q:

Hey Rob, I'm a great fan of Star Realms and MTG! A few questions:

  1. How do you think your game compares to Ascension? I found them very similar, especially since it was designed by Brian Kibler.

  2. What are your favorite board games to play besides Magic?

  3. Last year, Star Realms was 34 on Dice Tower's Top 100 Games as chosen by readers. How do you feel about that and do you think it deserves it?

Thank you and keep up the good work!

A:

Hi! 1) I was co-founder and a co-designer for Ascension (with Justin Gary and Brian Kibler). The biggest new elements that Star Realms brings are:

A) Direct player attack (attacking your opponents score and their stuff (instead of random monsters) .

B) No points for cards -your cards aren't worth anything at the end of the game. You either defeat your opponent or you don't. This means that cards must stand on their own, so the power level of cards is far higher

2) I don't get to play games designed by other people as much as I'd like. Favorites I've had include: King of Tokyo, Titan, Axis and Allies, 7 Wonders, Settlers of Cataan, Arkhem Horror, Poker