Cardboarding with Carla: Robottery 101

Here’s the next installment of Cardboarding with Carla and I hope that you’re all ready for this game with so many Gurren Lagann references.


Hello, Michelle! Welcome to Cardboarding with Carla and thanks for being on this interview! Could we start off with you telling us a bit about yourself?

Hello Carla! Thank you for interviewing me! I’m currently a sophomore game design student at the University of Southern California.

My main dream is to create bright, joyful, and engaging experiences with my games. I’m hugely inspired in my game design by Nintendo, both in aesthetics and in design philosophy. Even in a tabletop game like Robottery 101, I wanted to create something that was colorful, exciting, and fun for all ages!

This is my first serious game design project, and the first project I was creative director on – I’m hoping it’s the first of many!


What’s your team dynamic like? How did you all meet?

We all met in an intro to game design course at USC!  When designing the game, we spent a lot of late nights sipping coffee, watching Gurren Lagann for inspiration, and singing Les Misérables songs at the top of our lungs to keep our spirits high 🙂


Robottery 101 is your first serious design, but have you tried designing anything else?

I have designed a few other tabletop games, and so have my partners. However, this IS the first game, we worked on together! Additionally, it is the first game that we decided to take to the next step with polishing and marketing.

Though it was not our first design, the process of initial designing is such a different skillset than finishing and polishing a product, so I learned infinitely more from trying to finish this project up and release it into the world than I had from any other game project I’ve been a part of!


What really makes Robottery 101 stand out against other board games?

Our game is set in a space college in the distant future where students build robots for a science fair. We took a lot of our own experiences as game designers in college trying to create something that we are proud of and applied those feelings into our game. There’s something exciting about crunching away with your friends to try and get a project done – which is precisely what we tried to capture in Robottery 101. The game’s school setting evokes a celebratory space where robots are to be admired, not blasted to bits.

And because there are a multitude of victory conditions and tons of robot piece combinations, players consider both strategy and aesthetics, allowing them to infuse their personality and passion into their robots so that they are uniquely theirs.

We want the main action of the game – building robots out of cards – to be exciting and satisfying so that players will feel proud of their robot creations and want to collaborate to see each other’s work become the best it can be.


What do you feel was the most important thing you learned during playtesting with Robottery 101?

I learned how to take feedback well, and in doing so I realized that feedback is something that you need to interpret through your vision of the game – you can’t make a game be what everyone wants it to be! It’s very easy to get disheartened when people tear your game apart and you want to make every change that any playtester suggests. I learned quickly that that’s not possible, and that instead I should try to understand what the core problem the playtester is identifying, then try to fix that!  It took a lot of learning how to interpret feedback for for our game, and what helped us best reach our design goals.


Do you have any interesting stories to share about designing Robottery 101?

Robottery 101 actually began as a VASTLY different game. It started as a game called “Space Junk”,  a cooperative puzzle board game where two aliens use space junk and salvaged blueprints to construct a giant mech. The game was meant to be played once and was much more akin to an “Escape Room in a Box” type of experience. After Will (who is now my design partner!) had played the game and expressed the sheer excitement and joy of getting to build a giant mech with his friends, I knew that I had to hold onto that element at all costs. I had actually almost scrapped the entire game the night before, but because of Will’s positive and passionate response, it drove me to move the game forward!  

After 2 weeks of struggling to make an easily replayable puzzle game, failing, and then a long 3 hours in my favorite tea shop picking my brain for solutions, Robottery 101 was born. It’s changed A LOT since then into the anime school themed set-collection game it now is, but at it’s core, it’s the wonder-inducing giant robot building experience we always hoped it would be.


On your Kickstarter page, you said, “We aimed to promote collaboration in a competitive game”; how did you go about doing this?

By choosing a university setting, we were hoping to emulate the excitement and anxiety of building something you are proud of alongside your peers. Though the nature of a school science fair is inherently competitive, Robottery 101 creates willful collaboration in a competitive game by honing in on the excitement and bonding that occurs with friends over academic crunch time. We keep the slight stress and anticipation of approaching deadlines, but keep it low stakes and joyful to emphasize cooperative play.

With an emphasis on creation and making, we also ensure that it’s deeply satisfying to see the progress you’ve made with others in the course of a game. As with the collegiate satisfaction of seeing one’s projects come together, one can revel in the accomplishment of building robots and appreciate all the work that brought everyone together.


It seems like the game plays only at four players; how did you make that choice?

We found during development, that when the game had fewer players, the energy and excitement, and the feeling of people part of a class with classmates suffered. So much of our game is dependent upon having your fellow students to collaborate with, fall back on, compete with, etc. We found that 4 was the minimum for this experience to be possible.

We haven’t conducted too many tests of a variant with more than 4 players (perhaps by combining two games together!), but perhaps it could work! As for now, all the card numbers and professor qualifications are balanced just so that it is optimized for a cooperative and competitive romp with 4 people 🙂


I really like the fact that you didn’t force the game into a player count that didn’t work; it’s never fun to get a game that says a certain player count, but it doesn’t play well at that count. 

What do you think was the most important thing you did to prepare for your Kickstarter campaign?

Becoming really confident in how we present and pitch the game to others, whether that be in person, through emails, etc. was really valuable. We spent several extra months polishing this game into a product we’re really proud of, so we tried to find the best language we could use to prove its quality to people.

Additionally, I researched other successful kickstarters for inspiration on how to present ourselves – seeing what sorts of graphics they made, how they structured their campaigns, what rewards they offered, etc. Case studies of other people’s successes helped us a lot!


Any advice that you wish you had at the beginning of start of this project?

I wish we had contacted blogs a few months a few months before the campaign began. We underestimated the importance of getting your game out there as early as possible, and being unafraid to reach out to others. We are so excited with the responses we’ve received from many game bloggers, despite our lateness to reaching out! The community is so wonderful, and we are hoping to get in contact with more of them!

The main takeaway from that though is that especially with a small team, where you choose your efforts to go makes a big difference. We focused most of our efforts on design, that our marketing outreach suffered a bit. However, we are really confident in the game, and that most of the issues have been buffed out at this point!  


Do you have anyone that you’d like to give a shoutout to that gave you some really good advice?  Feel free to list more than one, if you’d like.

  • Sean + Jesse, our professors who helped us bring this game to it’s final stages.
  • Michael, the professor who originally oversaw and guided us through this game’s creation.
  • The playtesters at Cardboard camp, who pointed us in the right direction to work out one of the most glaring problems with our sabotage mechanic, and the need to diffuse the last turn’s tension throughout the whole game.
  • DeckHead Games! As peers of ours who has an amazing success, we’ve been asking them for help and advice about the ropes of running a kickstarter.
  • And our friends and family who have supported us throughout this design process



Why should I be interested in Robottery 101?

Robottery 101 has over 50 unique win conditions, endless combinations of limb pieces to create colorful unique robots each game, and is fantastic for kids and adults alike. In each game, we want players to feel like they are building a robot that is personal to them – that they can customize and be proud of. During playthroughs, players began posing, taking pictures, and even naming their robot – exactly what we’d hoped for.

Ultimately, we wanted to channel our passion for mecha into something that was about robots for robots’ sake. The game creates space for players to get creative and feel excitement, passion, and pride for the robots that they construct. By focusing gameplay on construction and creativity, we hope our players feel the same childlike excitement for building robots as we do!


Thanks again to Michelle for being on Cardboarding with Carla! Robottery 101 will be on Kickstarter until August 6th, so make sure to check it out before then! 

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