Meet Dancer users - The Game Crafter

The Game Crafter is the world's first web-to-print game publishing company and offers a print on demand game publishing service. TGC empowers game designers around the world by allowing them to make a board game, card game, and custom playing cards through a website. Using the latest web technology, TGC developed a website platform that simplifies the design, manufacturing, and retail processes related to tabletop games.

The Game Crafter has a community of over 20,000 users, growing at a rate of over 1,000 users a month, and selling around 2,000 games every month.

With that growth, and praised by TechCrunch, Wired and Mashable among others, it's clear to see that The Game Crafter is going places. The Game Crafter's founder, JT Smith helpfully agreed to a short interview on how Dancer has helped The Game Crafter to succeed:

  • What drew you to Dancer originally?

    I had just finished writing Lacuna Expanse, which used bare-metal Plack. I figured there were some better tools out there to give me routing and a few other things, so I started experimenting. Catalyst was way too big and some of the other micro web frameworks seemed to be not much more than bare-metal Plack, so it quickly came down to Dancer and Mojo. I'd like to say that there was some cool architectural reason I chose Dancer over Mojo, but really it came down to style. Dancer just fit in to my design sense better than Mojo.

  • What benefits has Dancer brought to The Game Crafter?

    Initially it was simply how easy it was to pick up Dancer and just get *something* working. When I picked Dancer for TGC I was at the beginning of a full rewrite of TGC, so being able to go from blank canvas to anything at all in a few minutes was a huge win for productivity.

    The other two big things Dancer gives us are the easy plugin system and the hooks system. When I picked Dancer I wasn't looking for a tool that did everything for me out of the box. I was looking for something I could grow into and build the app the way I wanted to build it. Dancer is easily extensible without getting in my way or limiting me, and that's a big win.

  • What features of Dancer (or the community or ecosystem) especially stand out to you?

    Right off the bat when I started using Dancer I ran into a design limitation with the existing hooks. I posted a quick patch to resolve the problem I was having and it was accepted quickly. But that evolved into a larger discussion with the core dev team about how to handle hooks in a more generic sense. Having a responsive and forward-thinking team means Dancer has a very bright future.

    The plug-in ecosystem is really something special about Dancer. If you're just looking to whip up a quick app in an afternoon you can almost certainly find a plugin that will out-of-the-box do exactly what you need. Likewise, if you want to build something bigger, the plug-in system gives you the way to extend Dancer.

    I believe so much in Dancer that I've given talks about it at local Perl Monger's groups, have taught a few people how to use it, and have even built my next generation web services framework at Plain Black on top of it. So pretty much every new app we build these days, whether at TGC or one of my other companies, is being built on top of Dancer.

  • What would you like to see changed?

    Honestly the big thing I would change about Dancer is already well underway. It's all covered in Dancer 2, which is going to a better and more accessible object system. Dancer 2 is looking spectacular to me, and I'm looking forward to transitioning my code-base to it early in 2013.

    The other thing that I would change is that Dancer::Test currently doesn't have a way of posting a file. I've resorted to using Plack::Test to test file uploads. I should probably just submit a patch to make it work, but I haven't done that yet.

  • Are there any particular opinions, quotes/soundbites etc expressed by any of your team about Dancer?

    My team at TGC is very small...just me and one other person. However, everyone I've shown the codebase to can't believe how tiny everything is. You need to write so little code to do so much.

  • How many developers do you have? How many use Dancer?

    At The Game Crafter we have only two developers and we both use Dancer.

  • How many total employees do you have?

    There are 14 employees at The Game Crafter.

  • How many TGC users are there?

    We have 20,000 users.

  • How many different games have been produced by TGC users?

    We sell about 2,000 games per month.

  • How many copies does each game sell on average?

    Most games aren't publicly available in the shop, and a lot of games that are available in the shop don't get any publicity from their designer's, so therefore only sell a few copies. Of those games that get promoted by their designers, they sell 10 to 50 copies of their game on average. Our best selling games usually sell 100 or 200 copies and then get picked up by another publisher.

  • What is the average cost of a game?

    An average card game goes for about $15, while your average board game goes for about $25. However, we also have more complicated games that sell well at $40 per copy.

  • What is the most popular game so far in terms of sales?

    Our current best selling game is called Plague: The Card Game

  • What is your favourite game so far?

    My favorite game is one that I've developed called MERC. However, my favorite game not developed by me is called Scarborough Fair.

  • How does the production process work?

    Basically a designer comes up with an idea, uploads their artwork and rules to our web site, and about a week later they get a physical copy of their game in the mail.

    In more technical terms we use Dancer to generate a publishing interface to the user which walks them through the process of uploading and proofing their artwork. Then we have a bunch of background processes that turn that artwork into the files needed to run through our printing system. We manage those processes and a lot of other stuff through a bunch of administrative applications written on top of Dancer. The user is able to track every stage of this process through our web shop, which is also written in Dancer. Basically every aspect of our business from sales to publishing to inventory management to historical trends is handled through a series of custom-built Dancer applications.

  • When was TGC founded?

    The Game Crafter came into existence in January of 2001. The publishing service we offer now was launched in July 2009. The Dancer version of the site went live July 2011.

So, thanks JT for your time!


David Precious (BIGPRESH)