Love the products featured on our Kickstarters and website? Our Products and Logistics Manager, Matthew Witbreuk has taken the time to answer our questions on how he designs, tests and creates the amazing products at Ghostfire Gaming!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself! What are your interests?
My background is quite unique in the Tabletop RPG world – because it has nothing to do with the industry! I studied Exercise Science and Human Movement at University and completed my final year placement at Essendon Football club – an elite AFL club here in Australia. My previous work has involved being a Personal Trainer, a Strength & Conditioning Coach, and starting my own business; providing personal trainer certifications.
So how do I find myself as a co-owner of Ghostfire Gaming and head of Products & Logistics? Great question!
I’ve known Jordon and Tyler (my fellow co-founders of Ghostfire Gaming) for a number of years and each of us have always loved playing games and generally nerding out. After a few beers, we got talking about a pipe dream, and an idea quickly turned into an obsession. Thankfully, at the time I was working on my own business, and teaching an Allied Health Assistance course for 3-4 days per week, so I had time – and money – to invest. Before long, we were well underway on our first Kickstarter – Grim Hollow: The Campaign Guide. The journey there was effectively; three friends who came together to plan, and execute an idea. Sounds simple on its surface, but it was certainly challenging, especially managing the growing workload, but in the end, the result was well worth the time.
We began wea
ring multiple “hats”, and thankfully due to the success of each Kickstarter, we have been able to bring on more people and grow our team. The hat I am left wearing is the one you will have to fight me for – the Products Manager role! Up until the 1st of June 2021, each and every product that has been released has been my doing, and I am loving it. I really enjoy thinking about what will benefit players and GM’s at their table, as well as what products will just look awesome and reflect the overall project the best.
2. What advice would you give to someone looking to become a Products and Fulfilment Manager themselves?
Just start. It’s what we did, and we haven’t stopped. Either work with someone who loves to write, and create some products that synergize with that writing and/or world, or start your own product-only Kickstarter on the side.
3. What is your process in products? The design? Is there a particular process you go by?
Ahh, where do I begin about the process! It really depends on what the product is, as some products require more unique and specific tasks than others. For example – the process of a “Poster” is MUCH different than a set of injection moulded miniatures!
Generally, we follow the process of:
Phase 1: Concepting: Idea Generation -> Refinement -> Confirmation
First things first – what are we creating!? Arguably the most enjoyable phase, filled with a lot of thinking, concepting, conversation and revision. Questions I ask myself here are:
1. What is the intended purpose of this product?
2. What is the feel/tone of the project, and does this product match?
3. What will backers/players/GM’s want in this product?
Phase 2: Development: Brief Creation -> Designing
The next phase – is getting the working files and product mock-ups completed. Here it is important to know the specifics of what you are asking for from
a freelancer or colleague. These specifics should be in line with the manufacturing process of the product we are creating – and they should be in line with the skill sets of the freelancer or colleague. Every “sculptor” is different, and so is every “artist” – and there are a number of niches that exist inside each product category. Aligning these is crucial for the success of a product.
This process has become easier with every new “creative” Ghostfire has had the privilege to bring on to work with us. First with Suzanne Helmigh, and most recently with Simon Sherry, the needs are progressively joining the “in-house” umbrella, which is fantastic to see for the company.
Phase 3: Production: Prototyping -> Manufacturing
The easiest, or the hardest phase – depending on who you select to work with! In my short stint, I’ve had a number of positive and successful experiences as well as a few horror ones. I’m very thankful to have found reliable manufacturers in each product category and to be building more solid relationships with every new product that passes through.
If you are looking at contacting manufacturers for prototyping, I would strongly suggest contacting multiple manufacturers if your budget allows – from my experience, rarely is your first contact the best fit for your needs. Also, make sure you have completed your design before prototyping, as a general rule, because you want that prototype to look as close to the real thing as possible.
Phase 4: Fulfilment
What a mountain of the last step. The learning curves and details that I’ve had to work with here has been immense, to say the least – and especially considering the global shipping climate, it’s been a trial by fire. For context, we took payments for our first KS in November of 2019, and fulfilled in June of 2020… It was not a fun time!
But in regards to the process, we use a 3rd party fulfilment centre to manage the warehouse and the freight. However, we’ve had quite a few roles to play in the setup here. Long story short, we freight our product from our manufacturers all to the one fulfilment centre, and from there we pack all individual orders – there was no way we were going to be the ones to handle orders after seeing the number of backers!
The design process:
o Working with Forged with Ghostfire vs Projects internal to Ghostfire Gaming.
o Respecting the vision and the tone of the project as a whole.
o Thinking about what products will look awesome, vs which ones would help the experience at the table (ie. utility vs aesthetic).
4. What has been the most challenging product you have created so far?
Injection moulded miniatures, hands down. Doesn’t even come close. The multiple design phases themselves each have a challenging aspect to them and adding engineering into the mix, and the additional assets that go into each product definitely make these the most labour-intensive products.
5. You must’ve seen some pretty cool art and product designs in your time at Ghostfire Gaming, any favourites?
I definitely have a few favourites! The original Grim Hollow Ostoya image done by Andreas Rocha is one that I loved from the moment we got to see it. Another one I was especially excited about was the Ghostfire Gaming Grim Hollow: The Campaign Guide cover art and GM Screen art, which is done by Blake. And last but not least a special shout out to Fabio Perez’s Hydra Puck in Stibbles Codex of Companions. Loved that little guy!
6. What fulfils you most in your work?
The most fulfilling part about my role as Products & Logistics Manager is seeing and hearing about how much our backers like the products we put out. Additionally, the general hype on Discord and Kickstarter pages when we release a project is certainly up there!
Also – I have to mention that it is very fulfilling to see the staff at Ghostfire love what they do for work. Seeing them thrive in their roles and be happy doing it is one of, if not the best, feeling as a co-owner.