Is this game any good?
That’s why you have to playtest your games – to find out! And Vrahode is no different.
Jeff’s been to a couple of cons now, and he’s gotten this game in front of a lot of people. The response has been positive, but there’s a lot to unpack in this week’s episode.
Vrahode will be coming to Kickstarter most likely in quarter one of 2024. When that campaign goes live, you will not only be able to buy the core game, Vrahode: The Calteeryn Ascension, but its three expansions as well.
0:00 Do People Like Vrahode? How Playtesters Reacted So Far.
1:02 The response to Vrahode so far
3:27 Underlands demo public debut
6:27 Playtester feedback so far
11:08 Audio app response
13:28 Ravenwood Woodworks Accessories
16:46 Trailer response
Jeff Irving: Well, I feel like I’ve, I, I feel like a five year old that just drank about two or three Cokes and, and ate a bunch of, ate a bunch of Ritalin and got on my, on my tricycle and just headed like hell down the street. You know? That’s how I feel when I’m on these podcasts.
Brandon Rollins: Hey look, a lot, like, editing software can, can, can fix a…
Jeff Irving: Ready, ready. I was like, I earned, I earned my nickname from being a kid. My, when I was a kid, my, my family called me screaming chipmunk because I was just this little hyperactive, you know, annoying little creature.
Brandon Rollins: Nice.
That’s paying off now! You’re in the age of the internet. Being a hyperactive, annoying chipmunk is like the most profitable job you can have.
Jeff Irving: My name is Jeff Irving, and this is the Vrahode Tavern Podcast. I’m the Creator of the Vrahode Game System and in this podcast we’re gonna do a deep dive into the lore and gameplay of Vrahode. I’m joined by Brandon Rollins who will be acting as your stand-in, asking many of the questions you might be curious about yourself.
Brandon, what’s the topic for today?
The response to Vrahode so far
Brandon Rollins: For today’s topic, what I was thinking was actually figuring out how people’s response to Vrahode so far has been, and the reason why I’m choosing to talk about this today at length is because you’ve just had a bunch of stuff happen all at once.
You had KublaCon pretty recently, and a lot of people got to play much more of the game than they have played before. You’ve gotten a bunch of testimonials from this. And then you also dropped the trailer, and we’ve had some time to see what the response has been. So with all these things in mind, I, I wanna just talk about that, like, first, let’s start with KublaCon.
How did people respond to Vrahode while there?
Jeff Irving: After Genghis we were in, uh, Genghis Con in Colorado. That was what, a couple months back. I mean, the response to that was, uh, to the game there was amazing, you know, and so we’re, we’re, we’re energized and invigorated from, from people enjoying the game. And at that point, we were playing a very, very rough version of the, uh, you know, of the game.
And then when we went to Kubla Con here recently, um, we had a little bit more of an updated, uh, uh, version of the game. We had a new set of cards and we decided that it was important for us to get good exposure this year, you know, uh, to, because we don’t have, we don’t have the name, you know, we’re not, we’re not, uh, you know, Steam Forge games or whatever.
So we felt like we really needed to get out there and, and build, build a fan base through, you know, just having exposure to fans and, and hopefully some word of mouth. And so we spent a little bit more money on Kubla to get a bigger booth. And so we were lucky to have the beta of the Vrahode immersive audio app there.
We did end up getting samples of Ravenwood Woodworks gaming accessories, the dice boxes and things. Then we decided to go ahead and, and because we had a bigger booth to run two demos and I’ve, I’ve, I’ve said concurrently incorrectly many times. It is simultaneously, uh, concurrently means one after the other.
Uh, simultaneously means at the same time. And so we were running simultaneous demos. One of the Underlands, one of the Overlands.
Underlands demo public debut
Brandon Rollins: Okay, so we had a minor internet disconnection just a minute ago, but when we left off, you were talking about keeping the Underlands fresh and exciting. And I, I think at this point I’ll just comment. It’s really interesting that you’re balancing essentially two different kinds of gameplay with the way that you’re doing things.
You’ve got Overland, which is very open and exploratory, same thing with the Oceans. And you’ve got like a lot of freedom to kind of do what you want and the game will subtly push you back on a path. But the under lands are, as you’ve been saying, confined and strategic and chess like, and it’s interesting because not only do you have two different kinds of gameplay that you’re testing at the same time, but you’ve also got to make them feel coherent at the same time too. Like they belong in the same game.
Jeff Irving: Well, and, and, you know, you’re, you’re talking about the game as if there’s two modes of play, and, yes, the most distinct, uh, division is Overlands to Underlands play. But you gotta keep in mind that there are subtle differences in every single Overland region too. And, and those are much easier to resolve because that’s, that’s an issue of turning one dial, you know, two clicks to the right and the next one turning it four clicks to the left.
When you go into Underlands, you’re talking about a lot of similarities, but, but adding completely new mechanics. And, and so yes, you’re absolutely right. You have to, you have to make them feel cohesive as a game. But to, to me, that’s one of our strengths is having those kind of textural differences between the biomes and, and so that each biome has a sense of feeling alive and unique.
And we do that, uh, with so many tools. We do it with the creatures differ. Um, we, we dedicate the most number of miniatures and enemy types. To the Underlands of any biome by far, many, many times over.
Um, because we want our game to have an adventure, a candy shell, like an M&M, a candy shell, if you will, that is adventure oriented.
But eventually he all heroes, the only way they ever test their mettle is by braving the most dangerous parts of a world to, for the, for the good stuff, you know, to fight the big baddies, to get the good loot to affect change in a world on a global scale. And we do that. And, uh, yeah, the Underlands is, is a, it took way more work to, to do it.
It’s, it definitely was last for a reason, cuz it was the hardest to, to make sure that it, it felt perfect. And it hopefully people will trust in our, the time that we put into it so that when they get there, they go, “oh, okay. I see what they did here and this, this is, this is what’s needed.”
Playtester feedback so far
Brandon Rollins: And it seems like you pulled it off because you’ve got a load of just positive testimonials, which I believe are largely coming from KublaCon play experiences.
Jeff Irving: …of them came from, from Genghis Con, which is, which is surprising because the game was far less polished.
Um, people really, really got excited about it. And, and, you know, we just played Overlands stuff there.
That proved to us that the Overlands play was, was, was strong, was exciting and fun and paced well, and the people from, uh, Kubla are the ones that gave us testimonials about both Overlands and Underlands play. I mean, I had on the last day we had a couple guys playing and I think their demo ended up going over three hours cuz they just did not want to get up.
And, and so for our benefit and to allow them to, to have some fun, we let them play for over three hours just to try to gather as much data points as we could from their play. And they, they had some challenges, but it made us recognize that even though the dungeon, the Underlands play as hard, there’s still room to add some more wrinkles of challenge.
Now they can’t be too big. Or we’re gonna have parties wiping out and dying on us all the time. But they had so much fun, and I’m telling you what, I was just a bystander. Katie was running the demo. So I just sat, I just sat there and watched, and I was having fun watching.
And that’s a good sign, you know, that you’re just sitting there watching and being feeling like you’re at a tennis match. It was really cool.
Brandon Rollins: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, like that’s, that’s a sign of a very good game is when people engage in it without even having to play it. That’s part of why streaming is so popular. You know, it’s like some games actually work really well just to…
Jeff Irving: Yeah, I don’t think anybody, if you’d have told people five years before eSports took off and this idea that people wanted to watch other people play games, I think you would’ve been laughed out of a, a meeting on that, a marketing meeting. But what’s different from watching people have fun than watching people be maybe directly athletic?
I don’t, there’s not a lot of difference. I guess what it is, is instead of looking at someone’s physical prowess in an activity, you’re almost kind of redirecting your attention to their mental prowess and how strategic and how smart they are, how, how they plan ahead, how they manage their troops, you know, de you know, how, how, how effective and dextrous they are with a controller.
I mean, that’s fun stuff to watch.
Brandon Rollins: Oh yeah.
And like, what’s even crazier to think about is that they actually get physical injuries too. I mean, like, you know, somebody who’s playing competitive Fortnite has like carpal tunnel in their hand from spamming wood whenever they, whenever they get shot at by somebody. Um, and, and you know, it’s like that kind of stuff can mess with your hands.
It can mess with your eyes.
Of course. Like sitting down for long stretches of time isn’t necessarily great for you either. It’s, it’s very strange to think about, but they’re
Jeff Irving: Um, well, wasn’t there a product by Suzanne Summers, a fitness product released a few years back. Um, was it a, was it a thigh master?
Maybe they could introduce the, maybe they could introduce the, ThighMaster to these e, these, um, eSports events and give them all thigh masters so that while they’re playing their games, they could work out their thighs.
Brandon Rollins: They could, they could rock five inch inseam shorts then.
Jeff Irving: Oh.
Brandon Rollins: Have you heard about this? It’s a thing. It’s a thing.
Jeff Irving: Five inch in…
Brandon Rollins: I cannot, I cannot find in a store. Oh, yeah. For men. Yeah. I, I cannot actually find shorts. that like, don’t look ridiculously short on me. I’m, I’m quite tall. But, uh, in, in the stores now, because the trend has gone like toward 1980s style…
Jeff Irving: Well, I’m fortunate in that at my age I tend to keep stuff a little longer regardless of what the trend might be because I just, I know what I like and I know what fits me and what’s comfortable. So I have drawers full of knee length cargo shorts with pockets. I just love pockets. I love being able to throw on my shorts and, and take the dogs for a walk.
And so I, I will not be, um, setting any new trends for fashion, but I’ll also have an adequate inseam.
Brandon Rollins: See there. There you go. There you go.
Audio app response
Brandon Rollins: Um, I I’ve been mean to ask how did the, this, totally unrelated to short shorts on men, um, how, how did it go with the the audio app?
Jeff Irving: Um, the problem with the audio app. It was, it was fun. It was amazing. Everybody was super impressed by it. However, when you’re in a con, there is a din, there is a, you know, this, this constant din of people talking and noise. And even though we were off, away from the booth, the room was just big and, and noisy.
And so I, you know, I turned, my worry was, was I was going to offend other people in, in nearby booths with our noise. And it ended up just being an issue of us getting ours loud enough so that we could hear it.
Brandon Rollins: That’s kind of the problem with being in a big open room.
Jeff Irving: When, trust me when I tell you though, that when you can go, I, I mean I had this little story hook for the demo of, you’re in the tavern, you’re talking to Korbwalder Walter and his daughter Brunelle, and, and da, da da da.
And now you’re moving out into the plains and you’re moving over here towards the forest to be able to take them through those, uh, sound stages and to leave the tavern noise behind for, for, uh, you know, peaceful plains.
And then to hear the forest and then to go into combat in the forest and be able to set people up with these, these soundscapes within the game was, uh, to call it well received is an understatement. It’s, it’s really cool.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. That’s really good. It, it’s sometimes it’s a tough sell to get people to do high tech stuff with the board game cuz they’re kind of, they’re trying to get away from it.
Jeff Irving: Some people are resistant to certain apps that run the game, and I understand that and I too am resistant to that because I just, I prefer kicking it old school. But this app is more about just enhancing the experience. It runs, it runs parallel and it, you can set it up and have it go and you don’t even have to mess with it and you change scenes. You just click 1 place on the app. It switches with you and it does it slowly and subtly. So you don’t, you don’t recognize the transitions.
So no, this is not one of those kind of apps that is resisted. This is an app that does nothing more than increase the immersion of the product and kudos to Table Tone for their work on it.
Ravenwood Woodworks Accessories
Jeff Irving: They’ve done a great job. Um, but I also have to say Ravenwood. Having their, their accessories there and being able to show off what is a zebra wood box with resin live edge, dice box? What is, what, what, what even is that? And to be able to show people that these people are associated with us on our product and are gonna be making products for our game system.
I mean, had people’s heads blowing up. They’re like, what? I’m like, oh no. Look at this wood and look at this beautiful resin. Imagine one of our, uh, hero dashboards made of this. And they couldn’t even believe it. I mean, they literally like, really?
I’m like, yeah. So I think, I think Ravenwood is gonna experience some, some sales in, in, uh, in our game system that they might not expect.
I hope. I hope.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, hopefully so. Cuz I mean like, what they do is so high quality and it, it just adds a lot to a game. Not everybody’s gonna be able to, afford it, but it’s like, then again, it’s like nobody, people don’t have to, you know, as long as the core game is at least somewhat accessible to most people, the people who want to go all in for the big Cadillac version of the game and spend a four digit sum on it, it’s like, that’s awesome.
Jeff Irving: Yeah, I talked to Rob and I told him my concerns and I said, you know, I, I, I feel like you guys have the most amazing craftsmanship. You have the most amazing products. I said, but my biggest concern is that you’ve gotta have, you’ve gotta have a Toyota, uh, you know, level, uh, commitment.
And then you’ve gotta have the cadillac commitment level for those that can’t afford it. But to give everyone just the Cadillac option, I think it’s gonna hurt him. And, and he is very receptive to it. He understands that.
But I will say this quality has a price. You can’t expect, you know, plywood construction. Um, and, and cheap joints. You can’t, you’re, you’re going to pay for this quality, but this is gonna be something that’s heirloom quality, like heirloom furniture that you can pass. Now. It’s not gonna something that’s gonna break on you. This is something that is, is shows how much, uh, you want a game to, uh, be around for you for the duration.
And this is that kind of game, Vrahode, we’re not, we’re not designing a game that’s designed to be a flash in the pan. We’re not designing a game about, because we have a bunch of cool minis. No, our game is about an amazing 520,000 word story and world that just, you know, this is one of those games that doesn’t come along very often and we’re proud, uh, of, of being able to bring it to people.
And this, uh, relationship with Ravenwood speaks to our commitment. You know, we want, we want this to be something that does not sit on your shelf. We want this to be something that is on your table regularly, because it’s different. It’s unique, it’s exciting. It’s accessible. Um, you know, your whole family can play it.
It’s not something that your 10 year old’s gonna go, I don’t know how to play it. They’re gonna be able to grasp it, you know? So, I don’t know. I think I just, I’m just really excited about the whole, um, partnership thing.
Brandon Rollins: I think it’s gonna do wonders. So, to round out this episode, the last thing I wanted to ask you about was the trailer particularly that dropped, I don’t know, two or three weeks ago.
Um, as, as of the time of recording, how did people react to that?
Jeff Irving: Well, I mean, you know, from the get go.
Brandon Rollins: Just…
Jeff Irving: Well
Brandon Rollins: laughter.
Jeff Irving: From the get go. My, my goal. Yeah. My goal has been an, I’ve had an, an understanding that we faced a certain number of challenges on our way to market to bring this game series to market. And one of those challenges was how do you get people to take a small company, a small, essentially one man operation in rural Montana called Weathervane Games with no games under their belt and a no name designer to, I mean, I’ve created one game, but nothing to speak of.
How do you get them to take you seriously? And I felt like one of the, one of the most important ways we could do that was to spend more money on developing quality trailers that were, uh, compelling. And that did a good job of highlighting our assets and our gameplay. And, you know, I looked around, Ori Kagan is a guy that’s, that’s, uh, very good on video content.
But I ended up, uh, Andrew Lowen, who’s a friend of ours, we work with them on marketing. Uh, he sent me to, um, David Diaz with Mesa Game Lab. And David has an ability to elevate things. He’s just, his quality of work is better. Um, he’s worth the extra money and we spend extra money with him, uh, to try to do something special.
And he delivered. Yeah, it, it just, I mean, when every, every little bit I would see a new trailer come out, cuz you know, obviously games are coming out all the time. And I would send it to him and be like, mm-hmm. This is not one that makes the cut. And he goes, oh no. I mean, that’s nothing like I would make anyway.
And what he, what he ultimately delivered for us, um, was what we needed. You know, I mean, we had great music, which my daughter, Olivia actually turned me onto, uh, which was the song by Bobby Bass and his friends, uh, Oh Death, it was a perfect song to go with our trailer. David did a great job of doing the trailer.
And then he, what I like about David is he’s good at what he does, but he’s also a good listener. And so when I would direct him and, and challenge him to make changes and to replace things and when things didn’t feel right, he was very receptive to change and it, to making it what, what I wanted. And, you know, I have a very clear vision considering this world has been in my head since 1990.
I, I know what I want, you know, and he was the perfect partner for us to, uh, to work with. And I’m so thankful for all of his hard work.
Brandon Rollins: When you watch it, you see it.
Jeff Irving: Yeah, it’s there. But, um, I got a, I got an email a couple mornings ago from a company in Spain that said that our game had caught their eye and that they wanted to make our game in, in Spanish and in Portuguese. And, um, I was, you know, of course, elated and, and I said, absolutely. Um, you need to reach out to Michael Raftopolous with mob Vanguard, who is our localization specialist. And, um, the reason that our game impressed them was the trailer.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and to me it’s like if, if a trailer’s pulling in strategic partners, it’s clearly doing something right.
Jeff Irving: Yeah, well, anything I can do to make our, the problem with our game is, is it’s it’s very expensive you know, to, to it’s expensive to produce a game of this scale, a game series.
And, and so you have to, everything’s gotta be top notch, you know?
And so what it did to me is it just proved to me that the money, uh, we spent with David to do the teaser trailer and the full trailer was worth it.
Brandon Rollins: I completely agree.
So on that note, we are coming up on time for this one, but for the next episode, I, I actually just wanna tease this here.
You just got off a call with the writer of, uh, the main writer of the series, which is Shawn Allen Dressler, and you said that you’ve got a lot to talk about. So I’m excited to hear about that in this next episode.
Jeff Irving: No, I, I’m looking forward.
Brandon Rollins: But in the meantime, do you wanna go ahead and take us out?
Jeff Irving: Sure, I’d be happy to do that.
Thank you for listening to the Vrahode Tavern Podcast. If you enjoyed this show, take a moment to subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts. And if you’re on Apple Podcasts, please leave a five star review. It helps more than you know.
You can learn more about Vrahode on vrahode.com. That’s V R A H O D E.Com. Link in the show notes. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where we are @Vrahode. Thank you again for listening. We really appreciate it. Keep an eye out for our next episode in two weeks.