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Why are we Publishing Biomass?

Updated: Mar 28

Before I decided to publish Biomass, Crab Studios was completely a vanity publisher, much like Stonemaier Games before the publishing of Wingspan. Meaning that all games previously published by us were games designed by me, Niall Crabtree.

However, Biomass is designed by Natalie Jones, who is decidedly not me. Which begs the question, why? Firstly, there are many negatives/costs to publishing someone else's game, especially when you can make games yourself. You are namely giving up some margin in the form of a rev share, losing creative control of a product being brought to market under your company's name (a decision we opted into), and starting fresh with a game designer who in this case, has no other published games (this will be their debut title).

On the other hand, Biomass is something special, and I can't think of a better game to start us on this journey of becoming a publisher for third-party titles.

To give a bit of backstory of how Biomass came to be, let's start at the start. I first saw Biomass as a lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, a part-time position I occupy every year, to teach 1st year introductory game design. The module goal is to teach and allow students to illustrate a basic understanding of game design through the medium of a tabletop game. Natalie Jones was one of my students, and during the first prototyping session, the game immediately stood out.

The game was sprawling, with lots of different, unique components, something which most other students shied away from. This illustrated their intent, to make a deep game with interesting decisions and interactions. This was further exemplified by the reactions other students had when playing the game. Sessions would often start off with tense, hand-on-chin thoughtful stares at the board, as players started to move their units and amass their army, followed by loud and intense reactions when someone unexpectedly turned on them, or when a player bought a card that would have been vital for their engine right from under their nose.

The game was good, there was no doubt about it, but until I got to play it for myself, and I mean really play it (instead of the 5-10 minutes I get to assess the design at the end of the module) I couldn't fully understand just how good it was.

Fast forward to a few months after the module had finished, Biomass still in the back of my mind, I was approached by Nat to do a playtest on Tabletop Simulator. Excited and impressed that she decided to keep on developing the game after the module had finished, in addition to my curiosity, I was eager to play it again.

The playtest was good, really good, safe to say I enjoyed myself. However, I got absolutely destroyed on the battlefield. Her friends and regular playtesters had a much better grip on the systems than I, and it showed. Now I'm not one to get particularly upset or frustrated when I lose a game, especially when I am brand new to it and playing with experienced players, but one feeling I rarely have with any game is the immediate hunger to play again, to improve. My mind was racing with thoughts of what I could have done better, different strategies and ideas, different formations of units - that's when I knew this game was special.

It didn't take long for me to offer Nat a publishing deal, with the commitment to see this game come to life with beautiful art and high-quality production, and it deserves no less. From then, the game has only improved, dramatically in some areas, which I didn't think was possible. And I'm really excited to share more with you about the game in the future.

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