The Making of Project Pimp Butler

EOY was over. It’s kinda fun but nothing particularly exciting. Save for one special project that was fun to make, fun to market and fun to sell.

So here was how the origins of Pimp Butler came about. Sometime ago, WaHa (and his kanojo) and I (the lightbulb) were discussing about a potential project for the future at Nex. “Old Maid,” I said, “Plus the theme of EOY is maids. They go pretty well together.”

“That’s a good idea,” WaHa replied, “We should give it a shot. When’s EOY by the way?”

“17th Dec,” I answered as I check my calendar, “One month from now…”

OH SHI-

We don’t really care much for ‘Old Maid’. But meidos, we like. So instead of farm animals and an old maid, we have plenty of meidos in frilly costumes and one pimp butler. The objective of the game is like Old Maid, but replacing the old maid with the butler. The butler might be a pimp but we prefer the meidos. It was an attractive idea if not for the incredibly tight timeline. We want something for EOY; we like the idea of doing something ‘massive’ but we lack time. WaHa is notoriously slow with his art. That’s what you get when you exchange speed for a meticulous attention to details and quality.

This project is really quite experimental. Sure, they do doujin card games overseas as well. But that’s overseas. This is Singapore and we are doing it for an event that may or may not succeed and attract crowds. As much as I like their indie streak, I can’t say the same for the mass market and certainly the price is not something easy to bear. So it’s with some apprehension and can-do spirit that we decided to crash heads-on into Project Pimp Butler. Yay, if it works out. But if not, it better burn like a magnificent wreck.

Collaboration

Obviously, this is too ambitious a project for a single doujin circle to handle. According to our calculations, we need thirteen card designs. That’s too much for a single doujin circle to handle within limited time. We need allies and we need to get them on our side fast.

Daiyaku was the obvious choice of allies. They are affliated with the EOY organizing committee which should do us some favors when it comes to product promotion. We have also worked with them on past projects such as the K-ON! doujin and we are looking for opportunities to collaborate again. Once they are on board, we turned our attention to Comix Pandora and Teru-teru. The reasoning is both idealistic and practical. One. These are doujin circles that we are decently in close contacts with. Two. They hold the key of us getting approval to use certain mascots for the deck of cards. The last unspoken reason was that I was hoping that such a collaboration would open up more opportunities for inter-circle communications between the local doujin circles.

The im@s silhouette method was a compromise to cancel out all those stylistic difference

There are certain disadvantages to trying to involve many doujin circles in a single project. Firstly, as some of the more senior CDS artists would point out, it’s hard to coordinate. Everyone practices a different style and everyone caters to a different audience. You end up with a more generic product that might not appeal to everyone or at least the hardcore fans with spending power. Wait till you see a beta form of the publicity image. That was when the full impact of contrasting style really hit. (That just didn’t work; we need to do something else. I told Daiyaku’s Jiemi.) Secondly, it does not help build up a lot of brand recognition. When a lot of interest are involved, failure is NOT an option. Unfortunately, it makes things difficult and failure becomes something that might actually happened.

However, in this case, we thought that collaboration would be the best option. As mentioned earlier, time and manpower. We need them to help us make Project Pimp Butler a reality. We wouldn’t have done it without them. I’ll freely admit that communications is more difficult than when we had only a few artists working on it. Responses and updates were slower and less frequent. It’s a game of prediction at times when we are just making estimations on when certain artworks are done despite the lack of updates in the Dropbox. Yet, things work out. Somehow. Everything comes together in the end and we got these wonderful artworks from Comix Pandora and Teruteru. I really, really want to thank all of you for agreeing to participate. In particular, Ume-sama for willing to take up so many artworks despite your schedule. m(_ _)m  It is my pleasure to be able to use your artworks and let’s collaborate on more projects in the future.

Miorine was the last mascot to be completed. Just two days before EOY.

Choice of mascots

Why do the different mascots from the anime community? The original idea had actually nothing to do with the mascots. It was supposed to be original. Then WaHa went to do an example using Ani-tan (his pet creation, NUS CAS mascot) when we are on our rounds to convince the other doujin groups on board. Meido-fying (the pun police never got me) the local anime-related mascots just caught on from there when Daiyaku suggested drawing Yume (EOY mascot) in meido costume.

Version one. The one that we used to persuade the rest.

We choose the various local anime-related mascots and draw them in meido costumes. Because it’s easier, it’s more fun, it’s also an opportunity to get catch up with some of our best friends in the community and do something cute for them. Why not? And it’s a great way of introducing the local anime scene to a new comer of Singapore. Someone like Hitomi.

So why are some mascots chosen over others? For now, the main reasoning behind some mascots over others are simply due to time constraint. We don’t have a lot of time to talk to people we don’t really know. So we naturally go after mascots that belong to people we already know first hand and can contact quickly. Ani-culture, Gordonator and Sgcafe agreed pretty quickly. CDS (or at least WaHa) did the mascots for NUS CAS and Hobby Frontier, so we were pretty confident of been allowed to draw them. Daiyaku got their Ii-chan and they did the mascot for EOY too. The last mascot owner to agree to the meido-fication frenzy was Rethseeee and that’s mainly due to difficulty in getting into contact with her.

Ani-tan. Like a daughter to us. Gotta dress her in goth loli in the future.

We know that there are plenty of other mascots out there just waiting for the opportunity. If there are enough mascot holders who are willing to let us meido-fy their mascots and enough demand for more meido-fy mascots, we might do an actual ‘expansion pack’. Maybe for Cosfest X.2. Who knows, eh? I personally hope to get SYOG’s Merly meido-fied.

Beautified photo of the finished product

Marketing

When it seemed like the project is going to materialize better than expected, it is time to turn towards some less artistic aspects of doujin work. Marketing and Publicity. Only the more prominent doujin groups place more importance on this aspect. Well, I supposed that’s why they are ‘the more prominent doujin groups’… Doujin groups that I see at events but don’t really hear of! Do it! I want to get to know you guys as well!

Anyway, given how ad hoc the project progress is, the marketing efforts were really very ad hoc in nature. The intention was mainly to only sell this at EOY so we figured that the best method of marketing will be on-site marketing. Of course, we still do our usual web publicity first. Through Daiyaku and the various mascot holders, we were able to publicize it pretty far and wide. Beyond the usual reach of CDS.

People playing at the demo table

Note that the cards were not sold at the CDS booth. We decided that given the amount of stakes in this project, it is beyond just a CDS project. Call it a dedication to EOY or at least to their theme of the year, we wanted to sell it as part of EOY’s special product and Daiyaku helped facilitate that possibility. The card set was sold at the ‘official’ EOY booth instead. The plan was to set up an extra table during EOY itself so that people can actually play the game. This way, people can gather around and see the game in action (and hopefully get interested enough to buy it.)

The Hitomi card was a last minute decision after Hitomi agreed to a game

Perhaps we should have Hitomi play a game or two as well with the EOY attendees! Well, that turned out harder than expected. Apparently, Hitomi’s schedule during EOY was so packed that the only ‘free time’ she has was during lunch when she was supposed to interact with the VIP ticket holders. Talk about restrictive. Not that we exactly saw the Danceroid wandering the EOY grounds last year but I do think that it will be something fun for the special guests to have the opportunity to walk around. Certainly, it might just be more interesting for us attendees compared to just seeing the special guest on the concert grounds. I’m pretty sure Singaporean fans are a lot more tame compared to the more fanatic Japanese fans.

So apparently going through the usual channels might not work. So let’s get Hitomi in a more direct manner. Social media, specifically Twitter, holds the answer. We managed to establish some form of communication between her and us, using Twitter, Google Translate and some very elementary Japanese skills.

 

This turned out better than expected

Later, as we draw closer to EOY, the CDS Facebook received a confirmation from Tim that Hitomi will play a game of Pimp Butler at our booth. Success! Time to worry about how to go about that on the day itself!

Production

When we just finished everything two days before EOY. Mess on the table not included.

Oh boy. Production is a nightmare. This time, we’ve decided to take the more DIY route of trying to hand-make almost every part of the product. Every single Pimp Butler card you hold in your hand is a product of our sweat, tears (of joy when we are finally done) and for a couple of ‘Kneesocks’ cards, blood (paper cut). This long, somewhat agonizing process somewhat makes you empathize greatly with all those print shop helpers that we have come to rely on in the past.

No deck is also the same as each other as each one was specifically handpicked and customized. Certain cards are actually shorter and longer than other cards due to the printing method and the occasional cutting error. Thus, to make each deck as playable as possible, a lot of time is also spent filtering the cards and sorting them out by size. The end result was that some decks might be slightly longer than others but within each deck, the cards should be of similar size. Of course, plenty of cards were rejected over the filtering process due to too small, too slant, too long, too whatever. Almost 40% of all the completed cards was rejected during the first print run and the second time we do it, we are just as unforgiving.

Daiyaku’s Ophelia designed the packaging. Way better than the box idea we had.

There was thought about doing a proper box for the packaging of Pimp Butler but we were already readying ourselves for the ‘sweatshop’ session to come. Then Daiyaku came up with the packaging idea. It was simple, based on what we did for the Kingdom Hearts set from the past. We went along with it. During the cutting process, we were down one man as Ophelia was not feeling well. However, even as she was not feeling well, she did all the sewing of the packaging from her place.

Two days before EOY, after all those cutting, sorting and packing, we were finally done. About 20-plus complete decks were formed from all the cards we have made. Just enough, we thought. That’s a safe number, not too heavy to carry and should be just enough for our estimated sales figure. We were VERY cautious about this. On hindsight, a little too cautious.

Sales

Sales for Pimp Butler started slightly later after the opening of EOY. There were people asking about it over at the CDS booth but we directed them towards the EOY booth. This is not just a CDS project; it’s an EOY project and it deserves the prominent, near-front-entrance spot it got.

The one on display could afford to be neater.

About one or two hours later, I received an update from the EOY booth. Less than half of the available decks of Pimp Butler were left. Demand was surprisingly high. While there were imaginary *kachings* going off at the back of my head, a nice, strong dose of reality brought us down. Given the amount of effort required in the production, it would not be possible for us to create more Pimp Butler decks anyway. But it is still very encouraging to hear that people are supporting something as experimental as this. When the full decks were sold out, we sold the remaining cards individually to those who wants to get just one or two designs.

Here’s a big thank you to all of you who had bought the full deck of Pimp Butler and those of you who bought individual cards.

Even as the cards get sold, Hitomi’s game was confirmed to be between 3 to 4pm. The show must go on. The original plan was to have some of the involved artists play the game with Hitomi but due to the wonderful train breakdowns on that day, WaHa was incredibly late for EOY. He was also very unwilling to take the stage, insisting on staying out of the camera. With the first plan shot down, we came up with another plan right on the spot.

Hitomi’s game

Jiemi spoke to Vincent who was in charge of the meido ambassadors. Soon, we got ourselves some meidos willing to face off with Hitomi. So instead of something more ‘appreciative’ like the involved artists playing with Hitomi; we had a meido face-off between the EOY meidos and Hitomi. Ophelia also came up with a losing forfeit for the one who ended up with the Pimp Butler card in the end. The loser will have to do the ‘Moe Moe Kyun’ actions for everyone. Just to spice things up, ya?

Objective: Beat Hitomi to get her to do the forfeit. Cheat if you must.

When Hitomi was finally done with her autograph session, she sat down at the demo table. She was ready to face off with the rest. Admittedly, I was not expecting her manager to join in the game but hey, it might be funny if he lost and did the Moe Moe Kyun instead. So let the games begin!

Pimp Butler. Srs Business.

Girls. You are doing great.

We didn’t exactly plan for that to happen but Hitomi did lose in the end. She also did the Moe Moe Kyun quite gamely. It was a fun match, I think. Probably didn’t help A LOT in promoting the card game since all the Pimp Butler decks were already sold out by them. But fun all the same. We took our own video of the game but there was simply too much background noise. Thus, let’s watch Ani-Culture’s version of the video instead~

It’s kinda fun. Thank you everyone who took part in the game.

Video by Ani-Culture‘s Tueac

Evaluation

The card game had succeed within our limited and conservative expectations. Perhaps a more accurate number might emerged if we had created more decks but for now, we are just happy that we managed to sell out and cleared most of the cards. Pimp Butler is something that can probably be done only once. Even if we do it again, we will rely on better printing, more expensive material and such. The results will be something more professional, something more expensive but it might just lack that fun, DIY, by fans for fans feel to the entire product. This is a very impromptu product. Everything from the conceptualization to production to even on-site sales were devised on the spot with the Daiyaku team and us thinking on our feets and taking any changes in our strides to create a fun product experience for all of us.

Having the chance to work with all the other doujin circles is also quite an enjoyable experience. I’ll also be looking forward to the next chance we have to do something else with them again.

In a way, you can say that it’s a move away from the more traditional doujin practice of just selling doujins from behind the booth. Doujins are now a more interactive experience for both sellers and buyers. With this experience in our sleeves, we will be going on to do more interesting projects for the future. Look out for more of our stuffs in the future!

If you so happen to be on our Facebook (which you should) and got yourself a deck of Pimp Butler, be sure to post photos or videos of your Pimp Butler game! Thank you for everyone’s support and go have a pimping time with your meido harem.