Vladimir Teneslav is a designer based in Bucharest in Romania. His company is What We Make. Teneslav’s designed and is in the process of Kickstarting a board game called MIND: The Fall of Paradise all by himself. Tough gig, right?
I think the pitch video for MIND speaks for itself. I wanted to talk to Vladimir about how any one person could tackle the odds and do so much by themselves? Could he come up with five tips for anyone else considering the same?
#1: Take the Leap, Start Working on your Dream
I believe everyone has ideas, or dreams of things they’d want to create one day, some day. But the key factor that separates those who make it from those who don’t is … ignorance. You really have to ignore the voices in your head that tell you that the task is too big, that you are not prepared, that question who are you to make a difference in the world. In other words, you may have to be more optimistic, but also more naive. Just…go for it. Better regret doing it than not doing it.
Have you ever heard of the saying, “Reach for the Sun to land on the Moon?”. This saying defines me. Always think bigger to end up big and always go for it. This got me my first job, my first short film and now it got me my first boardgame. The first two are some of my greatest accomplishments and if the trend continues, the boardgame will be too.
#2: Understand What You are Getting Yourself Into
I recommended you to be more naive, not stupid. Naivety is playful, stupidity is punishing. When I first started to learn my craft I wanted to make Lord of the Rings Fan Art. I did not know anything about 3D or art in general, but I wanted to make the citadel of Minas Tirirth. That was naive. But I worked so hard and learned so much that people at Ubisoft were impressed and got me a job. At 18 years old I was the youngest in the company and maybe the most naive person.
Half a decade later I was dreaming about an action short film idea and I’ve decided to buy a DLSR and shoot it. I had no background, just a desire and a passion. This was my first short ever (my second short “Alone” will come out next year) and not many people know, but “Urban” was supposed to be only the intro part of a larger action chase but I soon found myself way over my head and had to cut it. Who thought that action is not as easy to shoot as it seems? But shoot for the Sun to land on the Moon, remember? The short won some art contests, ended up in a couple of music videos and made its budget back. Not only that, but now I have this short that I can look back to with the pride that I’ve created something.
The point is that you need to be prepared to learn A LOT. I mean, A LOT! And this can be done only if you are passionate about what you want to do, otherwise you will have no patience to do it. Do not start something for money as it never ends well.
#3: Set High Standards from the Get Go
Do not make your benchmark your parents or friends. They will love what you do no matter what, and there is a good chance that they are not knowledgeable on the given subject.
Choose the best examples you can think of and try to mimic that experience. For boardgames it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by companies with lots of employees and a brand and as a lone designer you really have to be ignorant to the voice that tells you that you cannot compete with a company. I personally wanted to aspire to produce my boardgame at a Fantasy Flight and Days of Wander quality standard.
If you want to build a brand you cannot build it on cheap foundation so you need to invest your time and your resources. Fans or clients will sense that you do not believe in yourself so give 100% in your dream.
#4: Don’t Look for Reasons to Fail
There is an abort fail system inside all of us, but it never blames ourselves, but our circumstances. “I don’t have the resources, I don’t have the contacts, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the luck, etc”. When I was working on Minas Tirith I had a very weak PC. It was very bad for working in 3D. During my research to learn 3D I would lurk on forums and would often see people that excused themselves for not working on their projects anymore with the “I have only 512 of RAM and the computer is slow” phrase.
One day, I finally decide to post my progress and someone asks me how much RAM do I have to support such a heavy 3D scene. I say 256 and everyone’s minds were blown. There was a mixture of pity and amazement. The secret was that my few resources made me think of workarounds and my passion was my fuel to this creativity for improvisation.
The same effect happened when I shot “Urban”, as many filmmaker believe that shorts can be shot only with REDs or fancy cameras, while the secret is to just shoot it. People will see if you know what you are doing.
#5: The World Doesn’t Care
The sooner you understand this the better. It is your dream, not theirs. Do not wait for support from others. Sure, you can lure attention but in the end, it is your interest to do the best you can do, not anyone’s else’s. And don’t blame them, they have their own dreams to take care of.
But don’t look for reason to fail just because you cannot get someone to help. Do it yourself. Learn and create what you are missing. It sounds hard, and it is, but the alternative is to just stop. If that’s an option, then you didn’t have it in you.
In conclusion, do everything you can to follow you dreams, and understand what you are trying to do, and for whom you are doing it. I cannot talk about the boardgame at the past tense as its history is in the making but what I can tell you is that even if it doesn’t work well I really did my best and I will have no regret. I did not back down, I did not cheap out. I did everything I could, I learned everything I thought I needed to learn. We all have our limits and this would prove to be one of them for me. But if people like what I have created, then this experience will top down every accomplishment I have ever had.