Interview with Galactic Sneeze

I have a special treat for y'all today, an interview with Sara and Bryan from Galactic Sneeze, creators of SCHMOVIE (reviewed on this blog last December.)  Schmovie is available for purchase at Amazon.  Cheers!

How did you get the idea for SCHMOVIE?  Did other games inspire you, and if so, which?  Or some random event?
Schmovie actually started as a film-themed spin-off of an earlier game we designed called “Pitch King”, where players came up with names for wacky inventions. We were also working on writing a screenplay for an animated film at the time, and had been reading a ton of books about screenwriting and story structure. We applied the film theme to the other game and ended up liking it better since it was more replayable and had a universal theme... everyone likes movies!

About how many times do you think you play-tested the game before printing?  What was your strategy in finding testers? 
We tested the game a lot. We played with friends, family, our friends’ families, and our family’s friends. We started with people we knew since it was easiest to pull folks together quickly that way. We sent out testing/scoring sheets with the prototypes so we could get feedback.

Did the game change much over the course of development?  If so, how?  What was the game like when you first created it?
The core mechanic of the game has stayed the same, but pretty much everything around it has evolved: the name, the branding, the trophies, and the design. Schmovie was originally called “Screen Play”, but we realized pretty quickly that it would be hard to secure the URL for that name, or have the game come up readily in online searches. So we knew we had to come up with a name that was more unique and ownable. We tried out a bunch of different names, and Schmovie just sort of schtuck!
The original design of the game was black, white, and gold… pulling inspiration from Hollywood and the film industry. It made sense but lacked our current playfulness. Once we changed the name to Schmovie, we got a little sillier. It was actually through our play-along Facebook page that the Schquid Trophy (our reward system) evolved and ultimately became the face of our brand.

Why did you decide to go the "start a small business and do everything yourself" route, rather than "try and find a company to license and publish the game for you" route (or did you try that too?)  Are you happy you went this direction?
We originally formed Galactic Sneeze as a “fun stuff think tank” with the goal of pitching toys, games, and IPs to larger companies. And that’s exactly what we did… at first. One company was interested in Schmovie (when it was still “Screen Play”) and considered it for about 6 months. We grew increasingly excited as it made it to subsequent review rounds within the company. They ultimately passed, but the fact they had been so interested inspired us to pursue self-publishing. It has been a tremendous learning experience, and although bringing a game to market is a ridiculous amount of work, the reward is greater.

How much of a time and effort commitment is it to run Galactic Sneeze, on top of family and other work considerations?  What do you two do in your other lives?
Galactic Sneeze is 24/7. We talk about projects over morning coffee, while grocery shopping, on the subway, and while cooking meals. On weekends, we put our 2-year-old daughter down for her afternoon nap and then squeeze in a few hours of work. It is extremely demanding to run a business with your spouse and also have a family. You become partners on all levels, which is also uniquely awesome.
Up until recently, Bryan was a Creative Director at an advertising agency. He now focuses on Galactic Sneeze full time. I (Sara) still do freelance toy and game development for larger companies. I really enjoy the creative work involved and feel fortunate to be able to continue to do that in addition to Galactic Sneeze projects.

Is "Galactic Sneeze" a callback to Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy books, one of which mentioned a competing theory to the Big Bang theory, in which the universe was sneezed out of a creature called the Great Green Arkleseizure?  If not, where does the name come from?
No… but we’re fans of the series. :) We wanted to come up with a name that felt big and fun. It captures the moment when you’re first struck with a great idea, as well as the energy of it growing and spreading. This lead to our tag line: Contagious Concepts.

What has your experience been in creating, publishing and marketing SCHMOVIE?  Was it difficult to find distribution and to get your game on Amazon?  Do you have any advice for aspiring game company startups?
It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to create, publish, and market a game. Bryan’s background is in advertising, and I come from the world of toys. And even with our experience, we had a huge learning curve ahead of us. There are several ways to get your game onto Amazon, so depending on your goals, that part isn’t too difficult. We’ve been working hard to get our game into retailers, and it’s awesome when they call us to reorder because they’ve sold out. We’re now working with a distributor to get Schmovie into larger stores... and we’re excited to announce it’ll be available at Barnes & Noble starting in April!

What other game ideas are you working on, if you can disclose them yet?  What sort of game would you like to do next?
We have a couple game concepts/prototypes currently being reviewed by larger game companies, which is promising. We’re not opposed to self-publishing future games, but we’re going to focus on growing Schmovie before bringing another  one to market on our own. All of our current concepts are in the Party and Family Games category. We also pitch toys, intellectual properties, and kids’ TV shows.

What is your favorite thing about making games?
Sara: My favorite aspect is the creative process, and the joy that stems from that “aha” moment when you figure out the solution to some creative problem that’s been plaguing you for weeks.
Bryan: I love watching people play our games. I’ve seen folks laugh so hard that beer came out their nose.
Sara: And they weren't even drinking beer. Ha ha.

Thank you so much! :)  Much success and best of luck in your continued endeavors!