Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers. Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before. If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.
Interviewed on: 8/30/2016 11:53:47
Way back in October 2014 I attended my very first Protospiel in Madison, WI. On Sunday morning my friend Jim and I were the first ones back to the hotel conference room. I had a game that I had been working on that I brought with (Exploring Argadnel: Quest for the Orb of Mystery), but didn't intend on having playtested because it was playing a whole lot longer than I had originally intended, and was quite a bit more fiddly than I wanted. But I wanted to show it to Jim, so I started to set it up to show how it worked. Well, people started filing in and the game started attracting attention and people started asking to play. So I set it up fully and for about two hours Carl Klutzke and his kids played my game. I got excellent feedback from them and implemented many of the changes. The game is still a long way from where I want it to be, but thanks to Carl it's come a long way. I've met with Carl at a few more Protospiels since and always find his advice exceptional. He has quite a long history of designing games and is always fun to play games with. Read on to learn more about Carl!
Tell me a bit about yourself.
How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!
Why did you start designing tabletop games?
Other people's games didn't work they way I wanted. :)
What game or games are you currently working on?
Primarily Telepathy, but I need to get back to Doomed Atlantis as well
Have you designed any games that have been published?
I self-published the StoryCards RPG with Dogtown Games.
What is your day job?
Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.
Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere there are people to play with, but mostly at our dining room table.
Who do you normally game with?
Local friends in different groups, colleagues at lunch. Protospielers. And I'm in three different RPG groups.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Games I haven't yet tried. I keep a "want to play" list on BGG.
And what snacks would you eat?
I'm trying to dissociate gaming from eating. But I'd enjoy a hard cider.
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I find music distracting: I prefer to have it off. And TVs are right out.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
The Game Preserve
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I play a lot of Sentinels of the Multiverse. I don't remember the names of bad games: I just try to remember what not to do with my own designs.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love co-op games, and adventure games that create immersive experiences. I hate "folding", like in poker. Who designs a game where the best strategy is to decide when to give up? That's not incentivizing interesting behavior.
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Whatever I'm currently designing.
What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games
Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games
OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Never tried it, but it doesn't sound appealing.
You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.
When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
I imagine an experience that I want to create. Then I develop the theme and mechanics to create that experience.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have entered a couple, but didn't win. I'm not that interested in competition.
I did get a dishonorable mention in the Greater Than Games "Game Mechanic: The Game Mechanic" contest with "Set Collecting: The Set Collecting Game", but the game itself wasn't very good.
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I have a lot of respect for Matt Leacock and Mark Rosewater. I'm amazed by Antoine Bauza's versatility.
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
The best way to have great ideas is to have a lot of ideas. I record a lot of ideas, and sometimes I go back through the list to see if any of them stick together. I also steal shamelessly from other games: that's part of why I love learning new games so much.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
I organize a couple of local playtest groups, and I attend three Protospiels a year.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I mostly work alone. My buddy Scotto Starkey and I have been helping each other develop our games for a long time, but we haven't really co-designed a game yet.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
My day job takes up time that I'd rather spend working on my games.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'd probably prefer to develop my own.
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Find other local people that want to make games and help bring them together. Playtest, playtest, playtest. Fail faster.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
People have the same idea about game design that they have about writing a novel: their first creation will be a work of genius and will make them rich. We don't have the same illusion about painters: we know they have to start small and work their way to mastery. It takes about ten years to become an overnight success: game design isn't really different.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: StoryCards RPG
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Telepathy
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Telepathy
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Doomed Atlantis. Coop: The Coop Game. Skyship. Ghost Stories. Hero of Legend. Scrapmech. Zombie Lunch.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Undeveloped ideas aren't worth mentioning.
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Protospiel, Indy Tabletop Game Design and Playtest Group
And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!
Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
You forgot Babylon 5 and Firefly. Water, cider, and coffee. Laserdisc.
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Other kinds of games. And I'm reading toward an armchair psychology degree.
What is something you learned in the last week?
There's an exoplanet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri. So there may be a chance that we won't be completely eradicated when our sun destroys the Earth.
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like entertainment that makes me think and makes me laugh. If it only does one or the other, I probably have something better to do.
What was the last book you read?
Do you play any musical instruments?
Not for years.
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
People are generally surprised by how old I am. Maybe I just act immature.
Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I jumped over a picnic table. I don't know how. It was, not coincidentally, my first experience with alcohol.
Who is your idol?
I've always been a fan of Ben Franklin.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
I'd tell 16-year-old me the things I wish another game designer had told me earlier.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I'm a mezzovert. I need some social contact, but I can get overstimulated.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I want my superpowers to be 1) flight and 2) enough wealth to devote all my time (when I'm not flying) to game design.
Have any pets?
Cats. I can't give a dog the attention it deserves.
When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
If the Internet survives, civilization 2.0 won't take nearly as long: it's amazing what people can do when they collaborate. Of course, there are huge portions of the Internet that would be best hit by that asteroid.
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!
Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html
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