The High Cost Of Small Errors
August 23, 2017
The first printing of Jack’s Friends arrived the beginning of this month and within two minutes of opening the first production copy I realized we had made a grave error. This is my attempt at a post mortem of the problem. I will cover what happened, how or why it happened, what we are doing to fix it, and finally what we are going to change going forward to minimize the chance of this happening in the future.
Jack’s Friends shipped with 6 golden eggs and 6 meat tokens instead of 7 as intended. This was not a manufacturing error. The production quote was followed to the letter and the final product is of high quality. We at Piggy Bank Games dropped the ball on this one and the error was not found while it would have been still easy to fix.
Why It Happened
On a per word basis I have never spent more time proofreading a document than the one double-sided page of rules included in Jack’s Friends. Another dozen people besides myself reviewed the rules before going to print. So if so much time and effort went into getting this one document right how did it go so wrong? I believe two factors contributed to this lapse. Word choice was worked and reworked ad nauseam. There is nothing wrong with this process of iteration, in fact it is necessary, but you run the risk of training yourself to look for certain things. Maybe you can shave a word here, or make that passage more readable, but the internal contradiction slowly fades to white noise.
The other major contributing factor is the inherent uncertainty in balancing games. At the time of printing starting resources had not changed for about a year but I thought about changing them a lot, still do. This vague uncertainty contributed to treating the resource counts differently than other lines in the rules. Yeah they were “final” but subject to change if new data came in. This is the right approach to balancing a dynamic system but the wrong approach to describing stable rules.
How We Are Fixing It
Once the error was caught replacement component were order right away. In addition the few customers that we shipped incomplete games to were made whole with a follow up letter. Going forward all games will be sold with the missing component slipped under the shrink wrap to complete the set.
Now with 17% more protein!
These extra pieces came from copies of the game we have had to cannibalize to fill out the games for sales. Broken down games will be rebuilt when the replacement components arrive.
What We Are Going To Do Differently
First and foremost priorities in editing a game for print are going to shift. We will still endeavor to provide rules that are succinct and easily parsable but priority number one will be to ship a game playable out of the box in all intended modes of play. It is far easier to release a PDF of reformatted rules to fix missed corner cases then to account for deficiencies of game component. To further this effort we will require final templated rules before the final manufacturing quote so we don’t put the cart before the horse. This was a big error that will cost us lots of money and even more time but we are better because of it. Mistakes were made but they are just opportunities of a different stripe.