The WR Post-Solstice Q&A + July Update part I
8 months ago
– Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 12:12:16 AM
Hello fellow Realm Dwellers!
As the days begin their descent into darkness here in the Northwest, Wooded Realms has been continuing to work on making our tables as fast and as good as we can! I understand that there are folks anxiously waiting for more details on the production and timeline for the 2nd Breakfast, and we'll get to what's been keeping us busy for the last couple of weeks! But first, thanks to James' assistance, I have a series of FAQs that I figured we could go ahead and address right now:
Q: Can we get an update with photos and videos? It did not happen last weekend - when will this occur?
A: Yes! Part of the reason this is taking so long is that I have over 10GB of photos to go through(!) this takes a long time for a multitude of reasons, but the main reason is that I want everyone to feel like they can feel confident that they will be happy with the colors they choose. Rather than going the photoshop route this time, we photographed every color variation. This process is time consuming, but there is another reason why photos haven't gone up yet, and I will share that with everyone in the update section.
Q: What has honestly been the issue with communication and giving timely responses to pertinent questions?
A: I feel this question has a bit of subtext, so I'll address both the direct and the subtextual questions here. First, for those who did not know, I made a last-minute call to attend E3 2019 in service of one of WR's upcoming products. E3 occurs the same week as the annual video game convention that I run, the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo, so going to the show was not only time-consuming, but stressful. Top that with the fact that I lost my phone on the first day in LA, and you have one very frazzled Realm Dweller. This time away from 2nd Breakfast was pre-planned between me and Michael, as a lot of what's been going on with the table is taking place in China, but this also meant that my ability to communicate with backers would be hindered. James has been invaluable in that regard, helping to keep me posted on our community's activity!
The second, and more nebulous half of this question revolves around the implication that I am not being honest with backers about the status of the project. I think that folks who have this concern are not being unreasonable; After all, a lot of people have put a lot of money into this project, and even more faith in me and Michael. So I understand that when I don't pop up in the forums regularly, this can be frightening.
So to directly face any concerns, let me state clearly that Wooded Realms is not at risk for failing to deliver on our promises. Neither delays we are experiencing, potential tariff-related expenses, nor unexpected costs are threatening our commitment to shipping tables to our backers. We have been carefully budgeting the funds that you have entrusted to us, and please keep in mind that Michael, the owner of his own factory, is committed to making Wooded Realms successful. Things that are not related to this kickstarter (eg: my and Michael's travel, our explorations for future projects, etc.) are coming from independent resources.
I hope this answers both questions. I am grateful for everyone's faith in our project, and I am looking forward to rewarding your faith with a quality product!
Q: Does Nathan still feel excited and supportive of this project?
A: Absolutely! I can totally understand that on the other side of my monitor, the comments, questions, and concerns can begin to feel like a negative echo chamber, but as the person responsible for turning 2nd Breakfast's transition from idea to reality, I have felt nothing but gratitude for the amazing experiences I've had. I've met some amazing people. I have full autonomy over my day. My future lies entirely in my hands, and it is all thanks to the backers of this Kickstarter! How could I not feel excited and supportive of this project??
I will always own up to my own shortcomings here, and I fully admit that I can be hard to reach, and that our delivery timeline has not met my expectations. But these things continue to energize me, and I hope that when you ultimately receive your table, you will agree that our decisions that affect the timeline are the right decisions.
Q: What is the opinion of how the project is coming along behind the scenes?
A: I sort of got into this with the previous A, but basically, I am embarrassed by our naivete WRT our shipping deadline (looking back now at production details that weren't solidified, administrative obstacles we didn't anticipate, and underestimating our known unknown, shipping, I can see how we have generated anxiety where none should exist). I also understand that some percentage of our backers made plans based on the timeline we provided, and every deviation from our timeline creates stress for them. These are important lessons that we will take with us into the next project for sure. But the project itself I feel is still exciting and rolling towards a satisfying conclusion. When I think about 2nd Breakfast, my only substantial regret is in setting an expectation that I wasn't able to meet with the timeline. If I had not set a Spring 2019 deadline, and instead said the project would take up to (for example) 1 year, we might have lost some backers at the time, but it would have saved a lot of stress on both sides of the project. If I could spend the next couple of months knowing that our backers were prepared and cool with the timeline, then I would say that the project is in awesome shape and getting better every day. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of waiting; for those people I sincerely apologize. For the rest of you, I believe you will agree that the final product will be worth the extra wait.
More directly, I feel that the project is coming along nicely; our setbacks have either been a simple lack of experience or in service of making a better product for our backers.
Q: What is the timeline for things at this point? I know it said a timeline is going to exist only for the current step that the project is at, but I'm wondering what that current timeline is.
A: There's a good news/bad news answer to this question that I'll get into in the update below, but the solid answer is that certification is still the current hard blocker (we expect positive results in the next 14 days), but our ongoing quest to improve the product before we ship it will hopefully be resolved within 14 days as well. In other words, our next milestone date for production is July 14th. After we hit that goal, the next milestone is the initial shipment to Seattle, which is the same time that we'll be able to solidify our local pickup locations.
Q: When the update to the pledge manager finally comes at some point, we can guarantee there will be more questions that come with it. Will we be able to get quick responses to those questions? I would really like to get the table in my house and the quicker we can all get the pledge manager completed, theoretically the quicker that can happen.
A: Short answer, yes there will be quick responses to those questions. Now that SRGE is done for 2019 and I have no travel plans until October, my focus is on being ready for when the table ships to the US. That means that I'll be near a computer much more regularly. James I'm sure will also be a big help in this department!
Q: Refunds - people are curious about refunds and if they are possible, potentially as Tariffs come into play as some people didn’t budget for that
A: As I mentioned in my earlier A, I totally understand if you backed 2nd Breakfast based on the delivery timeline and our delays have now caused issues or anxiety, and I apologize for that. Refunds are ALWAYS on the table (no pun intended), I just ask for a bit of patience as there are periods where I'm away from the computer and focused on other issues. We are currently looking for a part-time individual who can handle customer service, so hopefully these kinds of communication dead zones will be minimized soon.
RE: Tariffs, we are doing absolutely everything we can to absorb any potential tariffs. I have a visceral repulsion to the idea of asking backers for more money. For now, I do not foresee any situation where we would do this, and I'd rather eat a fist full of sauerkraut or a peck of pickles than ask for money to cover tariffs.
Q: Will accessories ship before the table?
A: Right now, probably not. I hate saying this, as the accessories are super cool. Tell you what, I'll see what I can do about this, bc I know a chunk of backers *only* ordered accessories. TBD...
Q: If you are going for UL Cert, if you use UL Certified parts it gets approved quicker, why not just use UL certified parts?
A: One clarification; we're actually getting CE certification, which is a stricter process than UL, but it will allow us to ship to the EU. That said, all of our off-the-shelf components are actually already CE certified. But A) we still need to demonstrate that these components are being implemented/placed safely, and B) we are having at least one electronic component designed and manufactured in order to meet the standards we've set for aesthetic quality.
Q: Solid wood packing materials need to be fumigated or treated, otherwise you'll have issues with importing. So if you're trying to import in pallets you need the certification showing they've been treated. Just a heads up.
A: Thanks for the heads up! This was actually one of the first things I learned when I started learning about shipping; for those who don't know, shipping wood (particularly wood pallets) can be ground zero for bugs, fungus, plant diseases and other nasty stowaways, so everything has to be treated and rubber stamped or they won't let the pallet (including the product sitting on it!) into the US.
Q: Any updates on local pickups?
A: Local pickup options sadly aren't ready yet. We'll know this once we do our first test shipment. Everyone will have at least 2 weeks to make their pickup decisions, since we will have that info locked down before the first container of tables leaves China.
Q: Can anyone redo their pledge manager at this point?
A: Yes! If you still have the email with the link to the PM, you can make edits that way, or you can go to BackerKit's website, search for the 2nd Breakfast project, and log in with the same email address you used to back the original KS.
Q: Realistically, when do you see tables shipping to backers? 2019? 2020? What is your hope?
A: Don't take this as set in stone! I don't want to worry about folks making plans around a date that might change, BUT I personally am hoping to have tables in backers' homes in August, with deliveries running through late September. I think this is pretty realistic, and I'll go into the timeline in a bit in the next section.
The Next Section
Ok! Here's what has been happening, and what's going to happen!
What's been happening
So, some of you may know about, or be part of, a percentage of backers who are interested in getting a different style of playfield. Our original plan was to offer the standard hard playfield with the tables, then after launch, we would offer a premium foam version of the playfield. One that is lighter, easier to store, and has a better firmness/feel.
Well, a few months ago, Michael noticed that the wood playfields we had produced just after the Kickstarter ended in October 2018 were beginning to warp. Corners were starting to turn upwards, and boards weren't staying flat across the floor of the table. After an investigation, it was determined that the likely culprit was our warehouse, which was not temperature controlled. The transition from Datong's sub-zero winter to a warmer, more humid spring was the likely cause, and playfields shipped to backers seemed unlikely to have the same problem. However, during my last visit to the factory, Michael and I discussed the situation, and we agreed that the best thing to do would be to swap out the standard playfield with our planned premium foam fields. We agreed to do this at no extra cost to backers. The tradeoff is that it would take time to find the right match of fabric to foam materials, and we would need to pay to have custom fabric colors produced if existing colors didn't match our picks.
In a case of mixed blessings, during that same trip to China, we visited Foshan to source materials and meet with groups that had experience with exporting product. That's when we learned that getting an FCC ID wouldn't be enough if we wanted to sell 2nd Breakfast at retail. The time it would take to get tables certified roughly lined up with the time we'd need to prepare our premium playfields, so things sort of worked out.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've mostly been focused on non-WR things, but I have been keeping up with Michael on WeChat about the certification and playfield, and getting regular updates on new fabric and foam combinations. Ultimately, the new playfields will look as good or better than the old hard playfield, be less prone to stress, warping, or damage, and provide a better gaming experience for everyone. I'm looking forward to showing you the new playfields when they are ready!
Beyond that, there hasn't been much of an update; right now we are waiting to hear from the certification labs, and we're working on our next project, which I will share with you guys as soon as I can!
What's going to happen
My big task now is finishing the photos and posting them for you guys. I'll try to post stuff to the IG so you can see how the trip went as well as some of the behind the scenes videos like the ones I posted while I was in Datong last month.
Based on the feedback I got from you guys via James, I'm also going to approach C4 Labs, our incredible partners who are producing the premium accessories. I'll try to get some footage and pics up for you on that visit as well, and fingers crossed, I'll let you know if we can ship accessories ahead of tables in the next update!
Ok, I think that's it for now. I'm sure I've missed something, so feel free to ask questions here or in the main comments, and either James or I will get back to you!
For now, here are some random pics from the pile I need to upload (note these have not been properly cropped or color adjusted yet).