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Raising $5 million on Kickstarter w/ Oathsworn

Welcome to this interview with the creative mind behind Oathsworn, a highly successful Kickstarter project. Oathsworn is a tabletop miniatures game that has gained a large following and critical acclaim from gamers around the world. Created by a team of passionate artists and game designers, Oathsworn has proven to be a unique and engaging game that has captivated the imagination of gamers and hobbyists alike. In this interview, we will be speaking with the creators of Oathsworn to learn more about the inspiration behind the game, the challenges they faced during the development process, and their plans for the future of this exciting project.

You can both watch and listen to our podcast or read the transcript below.

Jamie: [00:00:00] That's like, that's like 400 tons fran of games this time, .

George: These guys are counting in tons fran Fran. Like, they're not even counting games or, or users, just tons

Jamie: fran.

Jamie: Yeah, that's a lot.

George: Welcome everyone to the podcast. We have an incredibly exciting guest for you. Uh, my name is George, and with us we have francisco . Uh, and we have our guest, Jamie Jolly. Did I pronounce it all right? That's right. You got it, mate.

George: All right. So Jamie has not only raised over 5 million on Kickstarter with his games, he has also, uh, run a circus . So we have a ton of questions for Jamie around both those things. The, the [00:01:00] game that he has run on, uh, Kickstarter, sculpt Oath, oath, sworn, did I say that right?

Jamie: Into the Deep Wood,

George: amazing oath thrown into the deep wood.

George: Uh, and we're gonna have an amazing discussion today around art, AI generated art how he runs his team. And we are definitely gonna find out how and why and when he ran a circus. . Jamie, do you wanna, uh, start us off with a small introduction about the

Jamie: game? Yeah. So os one is kind of a, a grand dark Fantasy legacy campaign.

Jamie: It was really an standing on the shoulders of some of these giant games like King and Def Monster and Gloom Haven and things like that that just jump been these huge successes in the, in the, in the passing kickstart and really like opened the way. Just really just seeing what the pH physical max of a game can be.

Jamie: And this is kind of like that attempt, like what happened if you made the craziest, biggest thing you could make and, and put it in a box and really just go all out for making a world. So we sort of spent five years building this world and the concept is basically the world has died with the coming of something called the deep wood, which is this gnarly, chaotic, twisted forest that sort of popped out of [00:02:00] nowhere and destroyed civilization and mankind's left living inside these sort of bastion cities, like islands in a sea of death and trees.

Jamie: And life kind of sucks in the cities. And if that wasn't bad enough, then the monsters started turning up. And, uh, in answer to that threat, the answer to the monsters that was trying to scrabble their way into the cities and get to the civilians, you guys are formed, the oath sworn you are these, a bunch of bad asses who basically stand in the breach between mankind and what comes out of the woods.

Jamie: And and yeah, and then obviously, you know, the community responded and, and, and they, they, you know, up to this point, I think we've raised like 5 million or something on Kickstarter, which is incredible, you know, for for, you know, what was just an idea in someone's head like five years ago.

Jamie: And now it's, it's, it's in the world and people enjoying us. But yeah, that's the, uh, that's a con, general idea of postwar.

George: Amazing. Thank you so much for that intro. It's, it, it, it is pretty amazing. You've, you've done this for in five years, you

Jamie: said? Five. Yeah. Fi five years it took to, to get, get this thing in a box.

Jamie: Cause the, the way the game works is you have, you have two sides. You have like an encounter with a big monster [00:03:00] and it has all these lovely like kind of euro hypothe, thematic combat e kind of mechanisms in that.

Jamie: Where you've got an AI that, a deck that runs the monster and how it reacts to you. And you've got this like team of, of hombres who are kind of going in and trying to use like their push luck, their luck, you know, luck mechanics and some like carve management stuff and, uh, called battle flow. And you're trying to like beat, beat the monster.

Jamie: But before you get to that point, you actually have this story part. So we have this app, companion app that reads the story to you and we wrote a half million word story to make that possible. A playable story. It's a, it's, I think it's the, i i I think it's one of the first novels where it's a fully playable novel that's, and it's as big as the Lord of the Rings series, I believe.

Jamie: I think it's about 500,000 words for all the rings series as big as that. But, but playable, and you don't do anything small, do you? No, it was a bit, I said it was just like, what happens if you just go to the absolute nth degree with something? Could it be possible? Could you do it? And that was that, you know, that's where it is.

Jamie: And so, yeah, thankfully we got it in just before Covid hit because we would never have been able to, well we, we, we, we actually had [00:04:00] to be saved by our community because we actually run into such shipping problems. We literally didn't have enough money to send it. And so for after all that, all that five years and all that f and all that amazing funding, we still couldn't physically get that game to people at the price that we'd been able ask pre covid.

Jamie: And so the community gathered around and saved us, and they were incredible. They, they, they pitched in a load of extra shipping money to help us get it across the line. And we got there. And and yeah, so that's like 250 tons fran of games actually managed to get their way around the world in the middle of like, the biggest spike in shipping costs, in the history of, of, of global, global uh, product movement, you know?

George: Wow. And that, that is kind of the, the power of crowdfunding, right? The fact that you actually just built this community and then you can actually go back to them and say, guys, massive problem, , we need more money. And they'll actually go and do it. .

Jamie: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's, it's definitely strange. You know, you talk to other people in businesses, you're like, so what?

Jamie: They give you the money before they get the product and then they support you with encouragement and like, and, and, and kindness and stuff like that. And then they've got, they, they show genuine interest in everything you [00:05:00] do. And they might even turn up for the next thing you do because they like you.

Jamie: It's like, this doesn't make any sense to, you know, this doesn't make sense, isn't how we do business, you know, like in the world. But it's so, it is, it's really wonderful and it's actually something that's really valuable to protect. I think there's there's a dangerous ball game gets bigger and bigger that it could become too commercial and too, too giant.

Jamie: And like the moment, it's still just at that point where it can be, you know, it's, it's a group of, of people being people together, you know, like it's, I, I, I hope we never lose that. Amazing. .

George: So with that wonderful introduction Fran, do you wanna dive into the art discussion with

Fran: Jamie? Yeah. So five years ago, was it when you envisioned the game or when you just had the idea that you wanted to make this game and then you, you started from that point or you already had a vision, you, you know, what he wanted to build and it took five years to.

Jamie: Yeah, it generally started like Sunday nights. Toby and I, my partner would gather and I'd be there with my glass of whiskey and we'd just just back things around for [00:06:00] hours and hours, just back like ideas for the world. For the thing. It was really decided that if, with this game, particularly, not all games, but with this game particularly, we wanted to build a world and the world had to have a background.

Jamie: It had to have a rich, like depth to it. And so we spent like six months just really just churning through all that stuff. Before we put anything to paper, we had no game mechanisms at that point. We had no uh, no artwork of any kind at that point. And so it was just like this, this pure ideas sort of level.

Jamie: And then obviously the gas it was when we found the deep wood, I really knew that there was gonna be a, a snowballing of that because the deep wood was this like antagonistic concept that just, it kept answering questions for us when it popped out. Like, this is, this is a really interesting concept.

Jamie: You can do all kinds of stuff with it. It allows us to kind of build a game system around it. And yeah, and that was. That was that was where things started to pick up. And then not long after that point, we then got on board our artists who then became you know, like big part of our team over the next few years.

Jamie: And, you know, he was, he was there with us as well, like, you know, when we were, we were then iterating on this core concept.

Fran: And was it easy to [00:07:00] communicate your vision, , at, at the beginning or did it have any issues?

Jamie: Yeah, I mean we we are very fortunate with. We actually, we've been through a bunch of sort of different artists and things over the time that we've had, and we've had obviously have graphic designers as well that are often artists are, they are sort of like the cross, they cross the streams a lot.

Jamie: But the uh, yeah, the, the, the conversation we were very blessed with Don Jones was Don Jones at the time. He was just between jobs. And he was, he was, uh, he was go, he was heading into Wetter Workshop, which obviously is this massive art studio, but probably the biggest, most influential one in the world, I would say.

Jamie: They provide a lot of the artwork, concept art for stuff like they did, like Lord of the Rings, for instance. They did a lot of hard Hollywood movies, Marvel stuff, you know, like they, they, lots of, lots of big, big, big, big IPs.

Jamie: And they provide a lot of the a lot of the concept work and sub concept art for those things. So they create, you know, weapons, creatures, uh, you know, environments, all this kind of stuff. And very, yeah, very, very, the highest sort of level of art. But he, but he was kind of not. Quite into that space yet, and he kind of committed to us and be part of what we were doing as well.

Jamie: And that continued on through his time at, at Weta. Yeah. And so he was, he's, he's [00:08:00] this, he, I mean he himself is a trainer of many artists. And so he's a, he's a a world level kind of artist who's he has hundreds of thousands of followers in the art community. He has his own like, training school that he trained, training sessions and things that he trains other artists in how to to do rendering and, and, and all that sort of thing.

Jamie: So yeah, he's very good at his communication and, and very, you can just give him, you know, a, a spec sheet. The way, just the way it works to give you an idea of how that comes, comes give you, you, you have an idea in your mind. You have the kind of world set in there. So you've got this idea, okay, right?

Jamie: You got a besiege city surrounded by the trees, and you've got this kind of like this you know, got a guard with a torch, like looking over into the mist, you know, with eyes looking back at him from, you know, you know, the shadow of the trees. You've got this kind of concept. You want a piece of art for it.

Jamie: So, what we tended to do, which was the easiest thing is. Try and create stuff like a mood board where we've been talking about like, here's ideas of the composition of the picture. Cause there's a lot that goes into a shot, like, you know, into an image. You have to obviously have the content of the image, like the characters in them, and then like the character, what stance are they in, what they [00:09:00] wearing you know, what, is there anything particular that needs to be said?

Jamie: And with the game, for instance, if you have like a player board that's like this shape, like you have a load of information on this part of the player board and you. Don't, so you don't need the character there, you need the character out the way here. And so you have to compose the image put where everything is gonna be and sort of what zones need to be free of complex details so that you can actually put your graphics design over the top of it and your information on top of it.

Jamie: And so you kind of do that. You kinda make the spec sheet where you lay out the composition, the characters, the content, and you have like a mood board of like, here's ideas of, of things that are kind of cool and exciting, these sort of colors, these sort of uh, these types of armors, maybe weapons and things like that.

Jamie: And you kind of give that as a basic thing. And then he goes away and iterates on it and comes back with these incredible, like, just super rendered images of, of ideas. And we we would have when we had time Back in the beginning we did, we, we did do some iteration backwards, forth, different things like the Adendry who are like plant-based people.

Jamie: We spent a bunch of time going backwards and forwards with them. Like they started off with mouths and, and we, we lost the mouth cause we thought it'd be more kind of like through that the alienness and [00:10:00] otherness that the, uh, the Adendry represent. And they, cause they have, they have like a lot of like cult like genetic differences from humans.

Jamie: Like they have hair that is vines. That itself helped create spores. And that spore is how they communicate with each other. They like release the spores into their community. So we wanted to kind of manifest that in the artwork as well. And so there's a lot of light backwards and forwards about these little nuanced bits of the law that we wanted to see inside the artwork.

Jamie: So we could, we, we had time. To do that a little bit, but actually as you go on and we, we had like 500 pieces of art or something, you know, sworn. Oh wow. And, and, and by the time you get that, you can't just keep iterating back so forth. It takes weeks, you know, it can take, know, you can have one thing, it take, it goes away, comes back, goes away.

Jamie: And you just can't really justify that kind of time cuz you just need to be moving forward or as you're never gonna finish the project. And so as we got for fortunately, we, we did plan it around that problem. So we, we started off with like the, the characters, the different racial groups and things like that within the, again, the different peoples.

Jamie: We built those out early cause we knew we wanted more time to spend with those. And then when it was coming down to things like weapons and arms and things, it was just quick one shots. Like, here's an idea, here's, here's [00:11:00] a weapon we did, we need a big ax, double bladed. Please make something good.

Jamie: And he'd be like, go away and come back and it'd be great. As we got further into the deadline was we were getting quicker and quicker at getting stuff done. And fortunately we'd had the time originally to kind of get the main, the main design elements of the world sort of built out.

Jamie: But yeah, that sort of idea of spec sheeting is a, is a big thing like in the mood boards and, and getting the, you know, all those kind of bits of, of detail over is very good. We found another way that actually helped speed us up, which was pretty good, cause my partner Toby, he's a, uh, 3D sculptor.

Jamie: And and so one thing we had when it was like coming down to the exact posing of characters and where they needed to be in the boards and stuff like that, we, we were struggling on that side a little bit in getting that without iteration. So what we actually end up doing is we ended up designing a bunch of characters in Zebra actually in three 3D characters posing them, say like, with a big blade in this sort of stance, looking over here.

Jamie: And then we'd put. into the kind of graphic design area that we knew so they could really see where it was going. Then he would, uh, Don John would be able to take that and paint over the top of it and then take it. He'd mold it and [00:12:00] add to it and make it even way better than we ever did in the kind of small uh, sculpting, uh, sort of jobs that we did with it.

Jamie: But certainly it was like, it was, that was quite, that worked quite well creating these 3D the scene so that we could just, cause just having more people kind of at it sped spread things up a bit. So that was another way we did it, is yeah, making these three dimensional uh, characters and then painting over the top of them to make them, you know, come to, come to life.

Jamie: Wow. That's

George: amazing.

George: Can I just jump one step back because. Here you are having raised $5 million, and then you're just, you're saying, oh, we just, we hired this worldclass artist, you know, that to work at like the biggest studios and they just joined their team. H how, like, how, how do you, how do you find a Worldclass artist and then a, attract them to, to your startup, I guess, at that point, right.

Jamie: So yeah, so well we're very fortunate and yeah, there's a, I'm a university. I was voted most likely to become a salesman after uni. And, uh, and so like, there's a little bit of that going on is that you have to be able to sell these concepts and [00:13:00] give people a really good, really good understanding of where things are going.

Jamie: Like you have to know, know the market is what, and the industry is, what we were doing really is that we, I, I knew board games. I'd been been a board game designer for a while at that point, and also knew the market very clearly. And so I was able to, with Toby, like explain it and give it, show it to Don John, just.

Jamie: Valuable, this kind of world can be if you do things. Now, the, the irony was, is that we ended up losing money on the whole project the first time around. Actually, we, we we're only now making, uh, making profit on the second kickstart, which is fantastic. But but at the time, pre covid, the, the numbers were very clear about actually if you can make this and make it successful.

Jamie: And so the idea was, is, is, you know, if we were all prepared to risk this time together. And I think that's another thing for things, we were all risking it together was the thing. Like we were a team that just, we all had. You know, at this, knowing that, you know, we were every, we all failed equally. We all lost equally in time if nothing came of this thing.

Jamie: And so we were, it was that kind of thing. Like I wasn't just asking someone else to risk something and I, like, we were all kind of in it together with that. But yeah, just so, just explain to them like how, how actually [00:14:00] the explaining how the board game world is exploding as a big, big concept.

Jamie: And there's this, you know, there's these, there's still these kind of giant super games that are being created that that there's still space for them in the world and that they could be designed. But in terms of like the actual, uh, finding of Dodge as well, like, I mean, places like deviant Arts and Art Station are incredible, like sources.

Jamie: Art Station is probably like the main way that if you're just somebody looking for an artist, you want to go find a profession or you go to art station. And uh, actually this's where a lot of the controversy around the AI thing is coming from is, is the, is the use of art station in the database.

Jamie: Toby and I had, you know, we'd been around. Like games and entertainment and so lot of fantasy stuff and sci-fi and all that. So, so there was a bunch of artists we knew of, and Don John was right at the top of Toby's List, actually. I didn't know of him at that point, but Toby did.

Jamie: And he was like, what if we could, you know, just go and be cheeky instead of an, we're like, hi, how you doing? You wanna give up two and a half years of your life and come and work for us to make a board game? , I mean, and you know, it ended up being that we just caught him perfectly at the right time because, uh, he hadn't [00:15:00] got the offer to work for Weta workshop at that point.

Jamie: He was coming out of another job and he just didn't have anything to do with that exact moment in his life. And I was like, that was perfect. And, and it does, it does seem to be that that's how a lot of things do. If you ever watch like a lot of these the makings of films type things, like a lot of what happens is these incredible like circumstances where someone just happens to be between things at just the right time.

Jamie: And you bring together this super team of actors and writers and directors, and some of the best films you've ever seen are actually primarily a consequence of this. Happenstance of a team coming together and actually just well being available at the right time. And so that was what with Don John, he was just happened to be free at that time.

Jamie: And I don't think we'd ever, if it had been a year later, we definitely wouldn't have got him, you know, a year before we wouldn't have got him. So just happened to be there

George: at the right time.

George: So the lesson here is to kind of, super boost your serendipity basically by just going for it, right?

George: Because you saw this amazing artist, you're both thinking that it would be a bit cheeky to ask him, but you just did and you just, and then just happened to catch him at the right time. So, so I guess the, the, the big takeaway here for other [00:16:00] folks is just do it . Just send that message, just send that email.

Jamie: You don't ask, you don't get right. Like you just, and, and, and you don't also, you don't know like what position people are in. Especially I think with the, in the kind of fame world, there's mm-hmm , a lot of, very famous people not doing an awful lot. Most of the time , right?

Jamie: Because they're, they do something incredibly big and they do something incredibly well known. But then there's a bunch of other little or smaller things that then people can get involved in.

Jamie: And really what they're looking for is satisfaction in their creative outlets. A lot of 'em are creative people. They wanna do something interesting and something that excites them. And so the ability to say to Don John, do you wanna make a world, you know, do you wanna make a world? We're gonna make something completely that's gonna be insane and we're gonna have all these kind of crazy monsters.

Jamie: And, you know, he, he was, he loves making monsters, but there's not that much call for making monster. In the concept work that he was doing at the time. Right. And so it was like, there's a, he was a so for hi for him. I know that was something that was very appealing to him, was the idea of being able to make monsters.

Jamie: Whereas, you know, his day job wasn't letting him do that. It's like our, our graphic designer is fantastic. He's a [00:17:00] Turkish chap over there, but he, just wouldn't be happy if he just got to sit down all day, painting skulls, . He'd be a perfect guy to be Kos like artists, you know, and that was the kind of pitch I did to him was like, I know you like making skulls. Do you wanna make like a hundred more of them? Because we've got a lot of skulls that need painting in this, game. Got a lot of like graphic design things that need to have this kind of dark, macabre kind of like Scully type thing going on there. And Yeah. He came in, enjoyed that.

Fran: When we go to your website, you see that the, the team group quite, quite a bit. So did that change the way you guys work or is it still

Jamie: the same?

Jamie: Yeah. I mean, he is still very much a sort of a disparate group of people arou