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2022 retrospective

Hey folks,

Let me start this by formally thanking all of you who have been following and supporting Bug & Claw thus far.

The amount of traffic this website has been getting actually blows my mind.

Screenshot of a Google Analytics report of recent web activity showing 3000 recent users

3.1K users in the last 90 days when I haven't posted a whole lot and all of my ad campaigns have come to a close? That's a lot of traffic and it means a lot to me. It also gives me pause. I started the year intentionally with a wide purpose for Bug & Claw so that I could see where it would take me. I knew where the story of Bug & Claw was going, but not the business. Thankfully, that's what experimentation, metrics, and iteration are for. Phew!

Recapping this year

  • Running 1 D&D 5E game that ended near the start of the year
  • Starting another D&D 5E game shortly after
  • Occasionally playing in an OSE game throughout the year
  • Design, contract and work with a developer through launch of Bug & Claw website
  • Launch of socials
  • Tome generator project started
    • Survey sent out to crowd source ideas
    • The responses from this survey actually ended up inspired the tinkets project
    • Will continue tomes project but trinkets first!
  • Start on 1000 Trinkets for D&D 5E project
    • Approximately 50% complete
    • additional artist recruited to help
    • 100 Swashbuckling trinkets written
    • 100 Horror trinkets written
    • 100 Arctic, winter, and frigid trinkets written
    • 100 Magic school trinkets written
    • 100 Feywild trinkets written
    • 100 Mysterious library trinkets written
    • 19 Tropical undead trinkets written so far
    • Artist needed some time away for a bit
  • Unannounced D&D 5E Grung project started (30% complete)
  • Starting a Trello board to track work
  • Starting an internal "Ideas" doc
  • Bug & Claw devlog started
  • 3 small TTRPG reviews released
  • New Resources area made for creators and players
  • New game, the Wilds devlog started
  • Ethics policy & code created
  • Artefact playthrough to inform Bug & Claw and world build
  • Additional revenue & financing pursued
    • Amazon associates account
    • DMs Guild account & refferrals
    • DrivethruRPG referrals
    • Selling on ebay to finance
    • Selling on Kijiji to finance
  • Saltmarsh Adventure generator Mini release
  • Curse of Strahd Adventure generator Mini release
  • Fantasy cat project collab with my wife
    • Content 75% written
    • Art I'll say 45%
    • This project could easily be tidied up and released for fun
  • Minor work on system agnostic weather supplement
  • Signed up for NaNoWriMo

How'd all that go?

There are some interesting things in there, and I think some of them could easily be glosssed over. The thing is, I was running some experiments, and I've learned a few things about my audience that I'd like to share.

You see, I started this post by sharing how much traffic I've been getting but I didn't share which pages on the site that traffic has been visiting and what they've been doing, which is incredibly important. Whenever you're looking at metrics I have to encourage people to focus on the outcomes you want to be achieving and not not the outputs you're inadvertendtly being driven to creating. Always and why and always put outcomes over outputs. Always. Ask why you're doing something, why your users are, why something's a problem, and so on. You'll get a lot of advice in creative fields that you should constantly be creating, posting, etc, but it's all poop. Because you should constantly be creating, posting, iterating on matters, and you can only know what matters if you're asking the right questions (like why), paying attention, and measuring.

I think I've hammered that point in well enough. Let's continue.

Over the last year, while I've been working on my Bug & Claw tabletop projects I've exended a lot of energy on things I wasn't sure about. I cast a very wide net, in other words. In a few days, if you check the home page, about page, or other places, there may be no evidence of this, but I was advertising that Bug & Claw was doing a LOT. A lot more than I knew was sustainable. But I was doing this to intentionally see which things caught attention. I wanted to know where my organic audience from the web came from, what they were interested in, and how I could harness that audience.

For example, expending effort on reviewing 3rd party content. Sure, I'm definitely interested in other games, but should I be dilluting my own gaming site and content by reviewing those items? Depends. You always start with an experiment. One of my experiments here was to post reviews, direct traffic to those reviews, and direct the reviews to Amazon Associate, DM's Guild, or other Bug & Claw content. What did I find out? I would get a LOT of traffic to reviews, but people wouldn't click a single CTA. They'd read the content of the review and then bounce. I ran a few more experiments trying to see if that traffic could be redirected in a meaningful way– could I actually get any of them to convert to additional Bug & Claw content, or at least referral content? No matter how hard I tried, I failed. Now, I could expend a lot of effort here, and granted if I wanted bootstrapping the problem and dove in with a developer maybe we'd make more headway, but is that really where I should be concentrating?

At the very least, I've learned that "Reviews" don't deserve top billing in the main navigation of this website. I know I occasionally enjoy talking about other games, and indeed talking about other games will inform creating new ones, but maybe that just gets wrapped into the "Articles" section of the site. I know I've spent too much energy on reviews and experiments on the traffic related to them, though.

My health

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my health. It stood in the way of a great many of the things I wanted to do this year, Bug & Claw, professional, educational, leisure, and otherwise.

For a few different reasons (I was blessed with a leg/cartilage condition) I've been less mobile, but my migraines also got exponentially worse over the last couple of years. It got to the point where almost any physical activity, even a brisk walk, could cause a migraine.

Thankfully, the last couple of months have been on the upswing, with a lot of improvements all around health wise. I'm not running any marathons or joining martial arts again any time soon, but I'm diving way more into B&C projects again! For those of you that have shown your support on Twitter when I've been pretty down, thank you so much.

What's next?

  • I'll be reworking the website in the coming months with the help of a developer
    • Removing the Reviews portion or at least putting them under the articles area
    • Elevating "Bug & Claw's games" in the main nav
    • Adding a section for other corpos games in the main nav
    • Making sure it's abundantly clear the difference between a Bug & Claw original game and a supplement made for another game
  • Finishing things!
    • NaNoWriMo first to flesh out the lore of Bug & Claw and finish the Doll's Eye
    • Finish the 1000 Trinkets project
    • Finish the cat project collab with my wife
    • Finish the Grung project (even though it was less far along they're fun to draw, which brings me to...)
  • More art

I spent a lot of time this year on web, social, business, getting going, my health, all sorts of junk. Now it's time to really dig in, finish some things, and get back to the enjoyable parts like... ART! Heck, I'm a trained illustrator. I wanna draw and paint and splop and splat and and and splatter. Coming back to those aforementioned points about focusing on what matters, that doesn't just mean what matters to the business. I mean what matters to you, your people (if you have people working for you), what matters ethically, and your customers/users.

I know that money isn't the only thing that matters to me. I care about the story of Bug & Claw and that it gets executed right. I care about the people around me– in my community, that I work with, hire, play with, or make games for. I care about what I put out into the world and the affect it has on people. In other words, I pledge to continue to drop items and priorities or to train them so that quality and moral integrity are at the forefront of Bug & Claw's games.

I pledge to continue to drop items and priorities or to train them so that quality and moral integrity are at the forefront of Bug & Claw's games.

Financials

Spend

  • Domain $19.99
  • CMS features $50
  • Developer $100 (I insisted they raise their rate and they wouldn't)
  • Google AdWords campaign $1050.57
    • Minus a $600 rebate through my web host this is actually $450.57
  • Twitter campaign $22.44
  • Scrivener 3 $110

This doesn't include all of the books and games I've been buying to help research and development.

Earnings

Royalty report from DM's guild showing abysmal sales

I earned that $2.27! You can see why I need to start finishing and delivering projects.

Conclusions

I hope there's some nuggets of wisdom in here for folks, even if they're things not to do. You're definitely more than welcome to ask me questions via Twitter about anything in here. I think I'll try and do more retrospectives every 6 months, at least internally.

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