Since TechRaptor began exploring the world of tabletop gaming, I've been diving in myself when a fast-paced card game based on being a tentacle monster at a Tokyo University caught my eye. I reached out to John Cadice from Soda Pop Miniatures to tell me more about Tentacle Bento.
TR: What was the inspiration behind Tentacle Bento?
Tentacle Bento was our first foray into building a simple card game product that we could publish on our own. At the time, we were locked into a relationship with another publisher for our miniatures and board games products, and wanted to create something that was both different, and could be built up into a separate themed intellectual property over the years to come. Since we were already doing adventure games in fantasy and science fiction, we looked critically at popular themes in manga and anime, as well as drawing from some opinions and discussion with our community from the anime conventions and other shows we attended. It was agreed that we would do something with the supernatural/school girl genre... it was partly fan service oriented, as that theme of product was inspired by old classics like Project A-Ko, and newer features like Vampire Rosario and Ikkitousen. Major themes being; cute school girls in uniform, and crazy story lines about epic battles intermingling with the struggles of fitting in at school. Also, since it was going to be our first throw at public funding with this new fangled thing called Kickstarter... we knew we wanted to drive up the campyness, and from all the available themes, Tentacle Bento was born.
It was, and is a pushing off point to a larger neo-tokyo like universe where ancient cabals, rival schools, aliens, revenge ghosts, giant robots, and the assorted madness that accompanies this category of feature manga/anime can be explored. These girls will be called upon to be heroes in future products, saving the world from all manner of baddies.
TR: What was the community reaction initially like?
It has, and has almost entirely been positive, well received, and loved by our then existing fans, and many new ones through our promotion on trade shows, online, and providing games demonstrations at all our conventions. We know our audience, and seemed to hit a fun, party game niche we are still learning and refining products for.
TR: Your game got canceled by Kickstarter. Can you talk about the reasons why this happened and what the results were for the game?
Long story short, Kickstarter was threatened by a private movement from a perturbed online personality that felt our product has no place in the world, and pretty much painted it something vastly horrid and awful and well beyond anything we had designed or intended. Kickstarter took a safe approach and just killed it without discussing reason. We take no offense, we understand the business decision, and managed to still successfully self fund on our own website. The net effect, more people learned about the game, we got TONS of supporting emails from new fans who were just reading up on the controversy, and frankly, did better than we expected with an outpouring of support from old and new audiences. We delivered a cool product, fans were happy, and we sell it to this day.
TR: You had some negative reactions from some of the gaming media. What do you think the reason behind this was?
Some, certainly. I can only bring barely a handful to mind, all of which repeating the same litany of accusations about a product that no one had played or even seen yet. Its easy to direct outrage. It's disheartening to publishers who make products to think that they can be railroaded off the internet by bullying. But we were confident that the proof was in the pudding with our product, and payed it no mind.
TR: How does your game differ from Consentacle? And why do you think you had different reactions from the press?
yaaa..... well, in my cursory review from all available media, completely. It's not for me to comment on their product, I wish them success. Of the myriad of differences in the games, the only similarities seem to be that they have a tentacle monster too. As for the differences in treatments... well, as you know working in media, the same outlets can seem to have paradoxical and sometimes schizophrenic voice regarding any number of topics and lack of anything serious to put in the front page. It's my opinion that we just fell in on a slow news day, Consentacle does a great job at addressing an issue and taking a responsible tone with it, and it is also something I would never put in front of my customers because of its graphic nature.
TR: Who do you think will enjoy your game?
We are well into our second print run, and we have sold Tentacle Bento to a very broad audience on anime and gaming culture customer events. Our audience is easily 50/50 male and female, anime fans and video game fans gobble it up as the funny, and fast playing game it was built to be. Every demo begins like this... Demonstrator "Have you heard of Tentacle Bento?". Customer, "No, what's that?", Demonstrator "It's a card game where you are an alien trying to catch all the school girls before the school year ends" - usually a cocked eyebrow or wry smile, and then begins a 5-10 minute demo of people laughing, slapping cards around, and walking away with a new copy to play in the hotel or bring back to their gaming groups. No game can be for everybody, but Tentacle Bento is fun, pretty, and easy to play. Fans of manga and anime pick up on the jokes, there are over 80 unique illustrations just in the main set that are really well rendered, and people who want to drag out a surprise at a game night would all be well served looking at our game.
TR: You talk about creating a range of female protagonists. What do you think the challenges are that come with creating female characters?
Well, the current vein of products don't speak to the depth of character we are working on imbuing into the world as we go. I think that our initial tease has brought in people on account of bright colors and themes familiar to products they already consume and enjoy. I think we will be taking on the challenge full force when we lay out for customers the world we have created and the mythos that we will be portraying with the university and its students as key protagonists. Anime is a strange genre, there is both incredible depth of character and emotive experiences in many products, and in others, trope laden explosions of noise and color. I want that we are eventually paying homage to the trope laden fields of mainstream pop culture as is fitting of our look and feel, and then bring our fans into caring about what happens to the characters we want to display. Almost as if our characters will feel out of place, as if they are victims of being placed in a world of maddening silliness, and be the voice that propels the fan out of that world and into a relationship with each and every one of our heroes. Each with their own struggles, humanizing characteristics, dark sides, and challenges. I'm not female, but we will be writing from a mix of the personalities of many of the girls that are in-fact personifications of friends and volunteers of ours, all of whom we hold dear, and take a responsible tact at planning their exploits, to which they will all have a hand in guiding.
TR: What changes did you make to Tentacle Bento compared to previous titles to make it appeal to a broader audience?
Well, actually, I'd say our previous titles are great examples of broad appeal - Super Dungeon Explore was our first published game, which plucks at video game nostalgia and has amazing miniatures, and fun and easy to play rules for romping through dungeons and beating up monsters. Relic Knights is our other miniatures product, more of a hobby games product, it uses high detailed miniatures in a more streamlined anime sci-fi universe. Each of these products is vastly more intensive than our work on Tentacle Bento to date, but highlights the character and quality of work we do.
TR: What can we see in the future for Soda Pop Miniatures?
Soda Pop Miniatures is simply the creative studio behind products for Ninja Division, our publishing arm. We have reprinted Tentacle Bento, and have a range of collectors miniatures we have introduced for collectors. We have continued to develop Super Dungeon Explore and have its second edition delivering to Kickstarter backers after a whirlwind funding campaign last spring.
We are in release of products for our ranges for Relic Knights, and continue to develop on projects for all our other ranges. We will be launching a campaign in spring for Ninja All-Stars, our next miniatures based board games project... which we are very excited for.
Techraptor would like to thank John for taking the time to talk to us. You can find Soda Pop Miniatures on Twitter. If you are interested, Tentacle Bento is available on Amazon.
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