From Prototype to Full-fledged Product: How Kites Came to Be

August 23, 2022 Leave your thoughts
A previous iteration of Kites
A previous iteration of Kites

I used to think that I got started with game design after a light literally turned on above my head in a Fullerton parking lot. In retrospect, my desire to design games started much earlier.

Since I was little, I used to create hand drawn board games on paper for my parents to play with. I’m not sure if any of them were actually good, but the desire to create games was definitely there. I have fond memories of playing games like Crazy Golf Machine and Monopoly Deluxe, then trying to figure out ways to mix and match related mechanisms.

Years later, I was introduced to a game called Magic: The Gathering. In addition to creating decks and playing with my siblings, I remembered creating cards using the blanks given in a few of the Championship decks we had. I was able to uncover these cards recently:

Also 1 0/1 lettuce token...
Also 1 0/1 lettuce token...

Time to play games kind of dwindled as I approached high school. It wasn’t until college that I started developing a small collection and playing board games again. After years of collecting and playing games, I had that lightbulb moment.

I thought to myself, if other people can do it, why can’t I make a game too?

How I Created a Game

I don’t know if there were resources out there or not, but I certainly didn’t know about podcasts or blogs aimed at helping new tabletop game designers.

Without a manual or anything to go by, I started slowly making notes of different ideas that I thought might make a fun game. Maybe it was writing down a theme, maybe a scenario, maybe a mechanic. While I was working on mobile games, if an idea came across, I would make a quick note and chuck the note into a folder.

Months went by without a playable game, when I randomly decided that I wanted to go to PAX West (PAX Prime at the time). One of my best friends, Patrick, reminded me that there would be a lot of gamers there to possibly play with. With this in mind, I set out to create a few playable prototypes.

The first playtest was brutal.
The first playtest was brutal.

I remember feeling really awkward that the game wasn’t going as hoped and that I was wasting Patrick’s time. Still embarrassed, we moved to a cafe where I quickly switched to helping him with his space-themed game.

Undeterred, I took the learnings from that first test and iterated, gluing parts on the plane ride to Seattle and prototyping in the hotel.

Just prototyping on a flight. Don't mind me.
Just prototyping on a flight. Don't mind me.

After a lot of being too embarrassed to playtest, I summoned the courage to playtest my games with Patrick and our late dear friend, Andrew. The first two games were okay. The final one was actually fun to play.

Having two friends encourage me to continue working on this fun game and seeing how many genuine emotions it elicited, was the spark that made me want to design more.

Along the Way

One of the first time playtesting with strangers.
One of the first time playtesting with strangers.

Since that moment, I’ve gone to a variety of prototyping events including San Jose Protospiel, Unpub, playtesting at Victory Point cafe, etc. I’ve also playtested with friends who have been willing to try my silly ideas.

I’ve gone to conventions including San Diego Comic-Con, Gen Con, GameX, Pacificon, and PAX Unplugged.

L to R by game: The King's Guild, Abandon All Artichokes, Fantastic Factories, and Kites
L to R by game: The King's Guild, Abandon All Artichokes, Fantastic Factories, and Kites

I’ve been a speaker and have hosted panels at some of these conventions. I’ve also reached out to publishers and had meeting with notable companies.

I’ve designed dozens of playable games, some more polished than others, some that friends have even asked if they could buy.

Somewhere along the way, I created the game the would become Kites by combining a few different elements from notes I had written.

How Kites Got Signed

I had known of the education Sen-Foong Lim had provided to the broader board game community through listening to podcasts, so when there was an opportunity to find participants for a tabletop game design education panel, I knew who to ask.

Sen helping designers with sell sheets.
Sen helping designers with sell sheets.

Two years later, Sen launched the Pitch Project. From day one, I was in, I just had to get my sell sheet ready. In the end, I ended up creating a sell sheet for six of my games. One of them won.

For winning, I had to pitch the idea to a variety of publishers both on the call and who would review the call later.

I got a few responses from publishers who wanted to talk more. After a bunch of back and forth, I landed on Floodgate Games and Ben Harkins as my publisher of choiceโ€”I previously loved the work that they had done on titles like Sagrada, Holi, and Bosk.

Love looking at these components!
Love looking at these components!

Since then, working with Floodgate games on Kites has been a pleasure.


Hope you enjoyed this journey. If anything, it goes to show that a little encouragement from the right people can be just the spark needed to keep on going.

Whether you’re reading this because you’re curious about my journey or interested in creating your own game, I hope you’re able to find just the right spark that can help you ignite wonder.

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