Now that we had the idea for Drop Squad, we had to put it into action. We began to call around, and enlisted an industrial designer, a game artist, and various other people.
Slowly, and with many revisions, general arguments, and hours of sweat and hard work, the game was designed; from the beautiful back board, to the pegs, to the characters themselves. Cheeks, Brutus, Trixie, Stretch, and Roo all slowly grew from being muddled, colorless balls, to the shaded, nuanced characters that now adorn our game box.
Slowly, we chose our colors, and the game came to life. Reds, yellows, greens, blues, and pinks added the magic that made the game come to life. We created the comic strip that comes inside the box, and the story was being told. Suddenly, through our art and our hard work, Drop Squad had become a living, breathing thing.
We contacted producers in China, and sent them our initial trademarked files. We were all ready to sign off on design, and get our first samples printed, produced and sent to us. And then… silence. Our emails, calls, and attempts to locate the producers using middlemen and spokespeople came to naught. The suppliers had simply disappeared. It would later transpire that the producers had decided the product was too complex to put together, and had fled as a result. But ultimately it meant that we needed to find someone to make Drop Squad, and if we were holding to our own timelines, it needed to happen soon.
And so we found our current producers, through our trusty middleman. They agreed to produce Drop Squad and were duly contracted to give us a batch of samples and then an order of 10,000 copies of the game.
Our samples arrived and it was magical. Seeing the game that we had worked so hard on brought to life so wonderfully was one of the most rewarding experiences any of us had ever had. We played and played the game, enjoying the satisfying THUNK the marbles made every time they hit a ramp or rolled into a goal, and we spent hours experimenting with the different ramp settings.
After a couple of days, we sent back our revisions to the producers in China. We hashed out the details and production began in earnest. We eagerly anticipated the arrival of our first 10,000 copies, and had made arrangements for them to begin selling immediately. Slightly ahead of the rest of the batch, a single box of 8 games was sent directly to us so that we could have some copies of the final game. When this arrived, we opened them with glee, ready to show off our beautiful new game to all and sundry.
Instead, what we found inside was a disaster. Pieces were cracked, colors were washed and faded, the marbles were of inconsistent sizes, boxes were falling apart, and simple pieces arrived not glued together properly.
We were devastated, and caught totally unprepared. We had no idea of what to do, and how to do it. After some hurried, panicked discussion, we felt the only thing that we could do was to pull shipping permission, as the rest of the shipment had not yet left China. We did this quickly, and immediately contacted our suppliers to let them know how dissatisfied we were with what had been delivered. To their credit, they immediately acknowledged the problem, and over the next few days and weeks we worked out a plan to remedy the problem.
We had to totally review each component of the game, scrutinizing each aspect until we had figured out exactly what was wrong with each component, and recorded it so that we could send it back to our producers. We returned to our industrial designer to come up with new ways to test the components to prevent this from happening again. Finally, we enlisted a third-party inspection agency to check the new, finished product when it reached the final stage.
Fast forward to 5 months later, and all of our revisions, name changes, color alterations, and spelling corrections have been signed off and sent across to the producers. The entire process has been such a pain in the butt that we were on the verge of switching suppliers, despite paying a deposit and being contractually held to more even if we received nothing in return.
But then our new samples arrived, and they were magnificent. Sturdy where they before had been flimsy; bright where colors had been washed; clipped and pristine where the prior workmanship had been messy and imprecise. We were thrilled! We profusely thanked our producers for bringing everything together, and now we can’t wait to see the first true production batch come through. It’s up to our third-party inspectors and some ship captains to get us the game we’ve all been dying to play: The Drop Squad!