Thursday, February 23, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 52: Richard T Saunders

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 and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.

Name:Richard T Saunders
Location:Tucson, Arizona
Day Job:Software engineer and occasional adjunct Lecturer in the department of Computer Science at the University of Arizona.
Designing:One to two years.
Blog:The Co-operative Gestalt
Facebook:Co-op The Game
Find my games at:Kickstarter, hopefully a store near you soon!
Today's Interview is with:

Richard T Saunders
Interviewed on: 12/5/2016

Richie Saunders runs a blog called The Co-operative Gestalt, all about cooperative games (and more). There he talks all about coop games, which is fitting since he designed a coop game last year that just funded successfully on Kickstarter this past December. So be sure to check out Co-op: The Co-op Game later this year! Read on to learn more about Richie and the projects he's working on.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I love cooperative games. After playing them for years, I wanted to put my own spin on them. And I love creating.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Some more cooperative games and possibly a music game that integrates with your phone,

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Only by me: I had a successful Kickstarter for CO-OP: The Co-op Game that ran through mid December, 2016.

What is your day job?
Software engineer and occasional adjunct Lecturer in the department of Computer Science at the University of Arizona.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
At game nights with my friends, in Tucson or Las Cruces

Who do you normally game with?
A very eclectic group of friends

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Usually a deeper game of about 3 hours

And what snacks would you eat?
Pizza, brownies, cookies

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
At my house, it's always progressive rock. Dream theater, Nightwish, Trevor Rabin, Asia, Yes, Stephan Wilson, ...

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Isle of Games or Heroes and Villains

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Sentinels of the Universe is easily my favorite: it's thematic and cooperative. I love Arkham Horror, but I can't seem to get it to the table. Worst game? There are some Games I haven't enjoyed, but I can't come up a worst

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite: cooperative. Least favorite:anything related to Texas hold'em poker

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Arkham horror

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games?

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Video Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
I plead the 5th

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?
Like writing music, you follow the muse where it leads you. An idea germinates and then takes hold: the idea may by the theme or a mechanic or a spin on something. You follow the idea and see where it takes you!

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Started life by entering the MetaGames competition from GreaterThanGames. Didn't win.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Someone you've never heard of: Chris Chamberlin. He designs video games for education at NMSU by day and board games by night. He has amazing ideas and currently had a cooperative war game that hopefully will get published. He's a great guy, a great designer, imaginative and inspires me to do better.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I have to be alone for a long stretch of time to pursue ideas, so usually on extended vacation or weekends

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I get everyone I can to play, but I try very hard not to annoy people. I try to read a room or my friends because the last thing I want is to force anything. A group has to be in the right state of mind. After all, I want everyone to have fun!

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Alone with until I get the majority built, then get as much feedback as I can. My friends are very vocal (which is good) -they will tell me what works and what doesn't. I think the gameplay must be solid before you ever approach artists.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Being heard. This is a golden age of games with everyone being able to contribute...sometimes it's hard for the little guy to be heard.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Bob's Burgers, Monkey Island, Star Trek DS9 or TNG.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Every time you think your game design is done, it's probably not. It takes time to refine all the little elements that make a game fun, intuitive, readable, and attractive.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Play test, play test, play test. Never argue with playtesters: they are trying to tell you what's not working! Write down everything they say and sort it out later.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: CO-OP: the co-op game
Currently looking for a publisher I have: A couple in the queue

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)

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?
I like Star Wars, but love Star Trek. Never Pepsi, only Coke. Betamax vs VHS is an interesting parable about what people accept vs what's technically superior: the best technology doesn't always win.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Guitar, teaching

What is something you learned in the last week?
Eucalyptus has cyanide, and the koala has a bacteria which neutralizes the poison so they can eat it!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Progressive Rock, comic books (pre 2012), animated movies

What was the last book you read?
Astro City by Kurt Busiek

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar and bass and piano (not at the same time)

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I had my software engineering class implement Arkham Horror in Java

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Took 8 months off work to teach 2 classes at university, then travelled to Australia for two months, crashing on friends couches. Somehow, I still had a job when I got back.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Missed an UnPub event in Tucson (and apologized profusely to the organizers because I can't read a calendar), but ended up chatting about my game design with my friend Jeremy for 4 hours and got some great ideas for CO-OP. We still joke about that time at Carl's Jr...

Who is your idol?
Captain America. (Yes, I know he's not real, but it's what he represents as a hero)

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back in time and come up with better answer to this question!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert on occasion, but definitely an introvert to recharge

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Captain America (see above)

Have any pets?

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?
I would want cooperative games to survive... I don't know about the eradication...

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Guthrie Govan and Zee Garcia. I met them both in person and was completely tongue tied when I met them. They were both very cool about it. Thank guys for being awesome and so forgiving!

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

At one point, I could play La Villa Strangiata on guitar...the whole thing

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:

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