Written by Brandon Stettenbenz
Jeff Dehut is a creative professional living in Louisville who has spent the last four years focusing on game development. His largest project to date has been “Pocket Dungeon Quest” (PDQ) and its first expansion “Don’t Go Alone”. He enjoys games because he believes they’re great for learning life and work skills including communication, social skills, team work, and healthy competition. Despite his success since moving here, Jeff is new to our local community:
“I haven’t been in Louisville for too awful long, so I am still relatively new to this particular scene. [But] gamers who I have met here in Louisville are always eager to talk about games and willing to include anyone who wants to play.”
It was Dehut’s love of games and their impact on people’s lives and friendships that drove him to make his tabletop concept a reality. Jeff had the idea to translate video game concepts to tabletop for a long time, and when he was let go from a job, he seized the opportunity. Beginning with paper and pencil sketches, Jeff translated his idea to a prototype that went through many iterations as the illustrated concepts from his brain became puzzle pieces of a then untitled game.
Having just moved to Louisville before starting PDQ, Jeff didn’t have many connections in the local community, but he did meet some people at LVL1 Hackerspace who helped play test early versions of the game. After many revisions of both rules and art, the pieces of his concept eventually formed PDQ:
“I went through many prototypes using a printer, glue and foam core. Play tests included [myself], print & play copies sent to friends, and early prototype group plays. Feedback was collected and modifications were made until everything worked smoothly. The most important thing to me was to make sure Pocket Dungeon Quest was fun to play!”
When he was satisfied with the art and gameplay, Jeff made a final prototype using chipboard and mod podge, which he shipped to reviewers. Having seen the success that other independent tabletop developers had with Kickstarter, Jeff focused on that campaign first:
“Much of the community I interacted with was online. The greatest thing that I noticed about gamers and game developers in general is that everyone is very willing to help and wants to see you succeed. “
Jeff took to Kickstarter where he raised $27,000+ from 839 backers, the majority of which pledged enough to get the physical game. Others were able to download and print their own edition. Completed in 2015, the PDQ campaign met all its original stretch goals (above and beyond the core project), but did not reach an additional goal of $35,000 for development of a mobile app version. During the campaign, Jeff hit the convention circuit with his prototype to generate interest and get the word out about PDQ.
Since the first campaign was such a success, Jeff returned to Kickstarter for Don’t Go Alone, an expansion to PDQ. Don’t Go Alone recently finished its campaign with funds 200% over its original goal totaling $22,000+ and showing that there’s a substantial market for independent games. Now in production with Breaking Games, Jeff says Don’t Go Alone will be available to buy this Fall, 2016.
In addition to sending copies out to campaign pledgers, Jeff has distributed PDQ locally. Squire Greene at Book and Music Exchange in the Highlands said that he’s carried the game for about eight months, and it has sold moderately well. Jeff has plans to distribute both games on a broader scale in the future:
“I am so grateful for the small shops that took the chance to carry a couple copies of my game—[some] quickly found that they needed to come back for reorders. There are more [development and distribution] plans in the works, but those will remain a surprise for the time being!”
Kickstarter has been a great platform for independent tabletop creators, sporting a healthy community of gamers willing to pledge money to make games. Other locals, including Wet Ink Games who we featured previously, have also succeeded in funding their games through Kickstarter. Jeff said that found great support and good feedback on Kickstarter, and he also learned a lot about marketing games during both campaigns. But he cautions that creators with big dreams should begin small:
“I have spoken with too many indie developers who believe they have created the next Magic: The Gathering. There is nothing wrong with aiming high, but at some point you have to bring your ideas back down to the real world. Games like Magic: The Gathering have had decades to improve, expand and perfect. Your first game will never be the next Magic. Start small, start simple. If that succeeds, then expand it. A good test is to hand your game with instructions to complete strangers. If they can figure it out without you guiding them, then you might be on to something!”
Jeff’s success while living in Louisville has made a positive impression on him. While we weren’t able to reach any local gamers who’ve played PDQ to get their impressions, speaking with Jeff about the game definitely piqued our interest. Although no community that I know of is ultimately large enough to fully support game making, Jeff’s journey with PDQ shows that having the support and feedback of local players is essential. In his words:
“I see the local gaming community embracing more indie games, and welcoming the new developers. I for one certainly appreciate that!”
Check out some additional concept art for Pocket Dungeon Quest and Don’t Go Alone in the gallery below:
All of the photos and graphics above are by Jeff Dehut. He has also published three video games games for iOS, Android and Steam–Draw a Stickman: Epic; Draw a Stickman: Epic 2; and Battlepillars. You can find more about PDQ and Jeff on his personal website.