150 Day Update Featuring: GeekStack

For those of you not familiar with GeekStack, Peter Christensen called in during TWiST #12 (Aug 14, 2009) to ask “How does someone with 2 kids, a mortgage and a job create a startup?” he later called in with a follow-up on TWiST #20.  Jason immediately was very interested in Peter’s concept and we have been following his development since.

Peter’s company GeekStack is an online trading card game focusing on heroes of the science and technology industry with an informal approach to make learning fun.

Our Q&A:

Can you catch me up to date, last I remember you found a co-founder (a grad. student?).

After my call to TWiST on Episode 12, I came into contact with Michael Pavelich, a senior at Illinois State University.  He was majoring in Information Systems with an emphasis in web development, and he convinced his teacher to let him use GeekStack as his senior class project.

Has bringing on a co-founder made things easier?

The biggest change is that we got twice as much work done!  The major parts of GeekStack are the designing the game, coding the game engine, developing the business side, coding the server side, and coding the web client.  Michael took over the last two (incidentally, two that weren’t my strongest points) and that let me focus on the rest.  It required me to prioritize some parts of my work because he was dependant on me to have something finished, and some of our technical decisions changed to make interfacing between our different components easier.

We’re still both working part time and we set aside 1-2 hours a week to talk on the phone, usually 1-3 nights after my kids go to bed.  This lets us work on different projects at our own pace but still know what the other is doing and clear up any dependencies we have on each other.

Did he get an “A” on the project?

I don’t know if it was graded or pass/fail, but he got good enough marks to graduate.

I noticed you are accepting playtesters, how is that going?  Are you getting a big response?  What have you learned so far?

Right now we have signed up a couple dozen playtesters.  We’re still a couple weeks away from beginning playtesting so these are all people that are interested based on what they’ve heard on shows like TWiST and from reading our website and email newsletters.  We expect to begin playtesting at the end of January and we’ll make a harder push at that time.

The signup page for people interested in playtesting is here http://geekstack.com/playtester-signup/ and it highlights some of the things we’re looking for – experience playing other trading card games and thoughts on gaming in general.

Because GeekStack is a multiplayer game, having enough people playtesting will be a big issue.  The more people that are playing, the easier it will be to find an opponent.  When we start playtesting we’ll have a site where playtesters can coordinate with each other and schedule matches, in addition to those that just show up and want to play.  Playtesters will be able to play against anyone that they find throughout the day, and there will also be “office hours” when Michael and I will play against anyone who’s there at that time.

We really hope to find a community of people who get deeply involved in GeekStack.  Some of the original playtesters of Magic: The Gathering still work on it full time almost 20 years later and we’d love to find people that interested in helping us build something great.

Is licensing the game engine still a consideration?

Of course!  Our first priority is to make our game fun, engaging, and easy to play anywhere and anytime you want.  When our platform is mature enough, there are a lot of other great trading card games that would benefit from being on the web and we’d like to help with that.  We’ve worked hard to make our game engine and platform as flexible as possible and hosting a completely different game should be a good test of that.

Is there any way the TWiST community can help you?

The #1 need is for playtesters – if you play trading card games, love games in general, or know someone who does, please go to http://geekstack.com/playtester-signup/ and signup.  Playtesting should begin in earnest at the end of January and signing up puts you on the playtesters mailing list where we’ll send out more information.

The #2 need is for awesome yet affordable art.  The images on the cards are a huge part of what makes these kinds of games “sticky”.  We’ve found one artist that we’re working with but we’ll be commissioning hundreds more images over the next year.  If anyone is or knows a great artist, please send me an introduction (peter@geekstack.com) so we can talk more.

Thanks Scott and thanks TWiST!  We’ll call in to the show again when our demo and playtesting is ready.

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