Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Nat Iwata of Steampunk Cthulhu Resurrection Playing Cards

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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Nat Iwata of Steampunk Cthulhu Resurrection Playing Cards

The Steampunk Cthulhu Resurrection Playing Cards is a revised version of the popular original Steampunk Cthulhu deck released last year. Produced by Nat Iwata, this Steampunk Cthulhu themed deck has been revamped, retouched, and resurrected!

This revised deck features artwork based on a Steampunk rendition of The Call of Cthulhu. The backs are beautifully designed and the unique court cards are illustrated with scenes and characters from the story. Also, fans of the original will be happy to know that many improvements have been made: thin borders on card back, new background art on card fronts, new tuck box and new custom seal.

Nat was nice enough to have a chat with us about his design background, inspiration behind the Steampunk Cthulhu Resurrection deck, his thoughts on the growth of crowd-funded playing card projects and lessons from his previous successful Kickstarter projects.

Can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background?
My background is in the video game industry, which I still work in as a freelance artist and art director. I went to school for film, and then later got a degree from Animation Mentor for character animation, but ultimately decided I wanted to make art as more of a jack of all trades. I've worked on teams and also as the sole artist on mobile games where I'm doing everything from concept art to rigging and animation to UI design.

About 2 years ago the studio I was working for was having some issues so I decided to set out as a full time freelancers, which was when I launched my first Kickstarter for The Steampunk Alphabet, a children's book I wrote and illustrated. The result was an overfunded project and a publishing deal from a small book publisher in California, so more than I bargained for!

After seeing a few card projects on Kickstarter I came to the realization that playing cards offered the perfect vehicle for me to put my illustration skills to work and make a cool product that, luckily, people seem to really like.

What is your inspiration behind the Steampunk Cthulhu Resurrection Playing Cards? Why another Cthulhu themed deck?
A year ago this month, I launched a campaign for my first card deck, the original Steampunk Cthulhu Bicycle deck. I'd already established a steampunk audience with my book, and Cthulhu seemed to be a great tie in. The alphabet book was a kind of mashup, so this just so Steampunk Cthulhu just seemed like a great pairing.

Since then, I've totally sold out. I've done 2 more decks between then and now and have learned a lot, and often thought of some changes I'd make to that first deck. The Steampunk Cthulhu Resurrection campaign is about getting revamping the design, and reintroducing the deck in a new light, hopefully to some new folks as well. I've also decided to go with Expert Playing Card Company, maker of the Exquisite deck, which will allow me more flexibility with the size of my print runs without sacrificing quality.

How much time did you spend working on the deck?
It's hard to say, as I work on a deck for several months, but not full-time. The design work, running the campaign, and fulfilment easily adds up to a couple hundred hours of work.

Can you briefly go through the design evolution of one of your unique card design?
Well it does depend on the card really. Some of the court cards are actually portraits of backers. With those, I get several photos of the person and chose the one I think will best suit the card. I then look at a lot of reference for clothing and sketch out a preliminary outfit for them. Next I do a line drawing of the card and get their approval, as I want them to be happy with their immortalized card self. Next is adding color and shading and putting on finishing touches.

If it's not a portrait card, I generally get an idea of what I want in mind, and just go through the same process of sketching, line drawing, then rendering it out.

What are your thoughts about the continuous strong growth of playing card projects on Kickstarter? 
I think it's good and bad. In some ways I wonder if it's not a bubble waiting to burst, or if people are going to get burned out and broke on card decks. On the other hand, just as the card creator community is growing so is the number of card enthusiasts. There seems to be no shortage of demand for more decks, which is good news for me and other creators.

You've got a few creators that make insane amounts of money, not necessarily insane amount of profits mind you, and the more moderately successful guys like me, and then of course the ones that barely scrape by or are unsuccessful altogether. I think it's becoming harder for creators coming in late to the game that haven't established a place in the community to stand out in the mix.

You have previously launched 5 projects (5 successful) on Kickstarter. Are there any takeaway lessons from your previous projects you would like to share?
There have a been a ton of lessons along the way, many of which I've tried to pass on to other Kickstarter creators this past year. Here are a few that come to mind:

- Kickstarter is a community, be an active part of it. Talk to other creators, collaborate, offer help, and get involved with backers. If you're simply asking others to support you without doing the same in return, you won't do as well as you could.

- Be honest, be fair and communicate. Though I've had a few unpleasant conversations with backers, I've always found the best results by just being upfront with people, kind and respectful.

- I'll move on after this one, but there are so many variables to account for, planning makes all the difference. Make a budget, map out your campaign, know what you need to compensate for your materials and time and don't be so desperate to succeed that you end up in the red.

That is some really good advice! Finally, what are your favourite playing card decks? 
That's too hard of a question to answer, there are so many amazing decks out there!

Thank you for your time, Nat and good to see you back on Kickstarter! :)

The Steampunk Cthulhu Resurrection deck will be printed by the Expert Playing Card Company, the printer of The Exquisite Deck. Pledge starts from $10 and there are multiple add-ons available such as custom coin and uncut sheets.

Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Nat Iwata of Steampunk Cthulhu Resurrection Playing Cards Reviewed by Ivan on 3/03/2014 Rating: 5

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