Tuesday, October 3, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 89: Nico Valdez

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. Support me on Patreon!

Name:Nico Valdez
Location:Manila, Philippines
Day Job:Game design and publishing
Designing:Five to ten years.
Blog:Balangay Games Blog
Facebook:Nicanor Marco Valdez
Other:BGDF: nicanorrr
Find my games at:I've yet to release a print n play but it’s something I hope to have time for in the future once the business side of things have become more stable.
Today's Interview is with:

Nico Valdez
Interviewed on: 8/1/2017

In the past few years board gaming as a hobby has exploded all around the world, and with that has come a wealth of game design talent from all over the world. Today's interview is with Nico Valdez, a designer from the Philippines, where board games are gaining popularity. He has worked on several games that have been published in the Philippines and is a member of the Balangay Games design group. Read on to learn more about Nico and his other projects that he's working on to bring affordable board games to a Filipino gaming community.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
There weren't many tabletop games by Filipinos. Since designing games is an artform, I wanted our side, stories, and experiences, to be represented.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Mostly either socially relevant, Filipino Pop Culture, or cheap but good games. Making cheap games is important to us because most Filipinos can't afford foreign tabletop games.

Have you designed any games that have been published?

What is your day job?
Game design and publishing

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home. I have a rare ear condition called Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence that makes it hard to play in noisy places like game cafes.

Who do you normally game with?
Officemates and family

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Depends on how we feel. I'm down for anything. Some of our group favs are Agricola, Scythe, Blood Rage, 7 Wonders, Pandemic Legacy, and Lords of Waterdeep

And what snacks would you eat?
Something not greasy since I don't want my games to get dirty

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Most of the time no

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Neutral Grounds and Gaming Library

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Hard to answer since I enjoy a variety of games more than sticking to one. Ever since I started designing, it's been hard to really call a game bad because I try to put myself in the shoes of the type of player who would enjoy it. I can only call a game bad if it wasn't implemented well or is broken.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
It's hard to answer because I judge games more on the core experience it is giving to its players rather than specific mechanics the game has. Mechanics are only a means to an end for me and it's more of how the mechanics are used that matters.

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

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, Video 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 can appreciate it for what it is but I'd rather not if there are other games available.

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 focus first on what the design goal of the game is, then the core experience. Mechanics and theme come after those two. When I say "goal", I don't mean the goal of the players in the game but "what is my game trying to accomplish?". Who is the target player? What emotions are they supposed to feel? What are they supposed to experience? How much should the game cost in the market? How long is a game? Etc. I try to set the restrictions first.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No, let me know if there are any international ones I can join. Locally, there isn't a big enough tabletop industry yet to support awards. [GJJ Games] Be sure to check out the design contests on Board Game Geek. They’re generally just for Geek Gold, but they’re open to everyone and a great way to gains design experience. Plus they’re tons of fun!

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Uwe Rosenburg and Eric Lang

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Everywhere. Mostly in the shower or on the road (when it's hard to find paper to jot things down.)

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Internally first with myself then officemates. I only playtest externally once I'm not exactly sure what the problems of the game are. I don't like playtesting when I know what's wrong because my playtesters will probably only tell me things I already know. External playtests take a lot of resources and logistics so I try to make the best of them.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
There's 5 of us now in Balangay Entertainment and we bounce ideas off each other all the time.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
The local market is still small and underdeveloped. Game design is still underappreciated and we don't have production houses that are experienced in making high quality tabletop games at affordable prices. It's very difficult to make and sell games now in the Philippines because not everybody can afford it. It's a great struggle to make a good game that will sell in the market for around only USD3-4.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Maybe Lord of the Rings

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Game design is the easy part. Publishing and running a business on it is far more difficult.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Respect the artform and develop you skill. Most artists take years to perfect their craft and game design is no different.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Resilience: Survive and Thrive, The Big Switch, Darna at ang Nawawalang Bato (Disclaimer: Since we work as a team in Balangay, I don't take full design credit for these games.)
Games that will soon be published are: sorry, not public info
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Kickstarter doesn't support the Philippines and there aren't enough Filipinos who are open to crowdfunding to make it viable
Currently looking for a publisher I have: secret
I'm planning to crowdfund: none
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Resilience: Survive and Thrive 2nd Ed
Games that I'm playtesting are: I have a long list somewhere of games in different levels of development that I'd have a hard time classifying.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are:
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are:

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
UnPub PH, GDAP, Tabletop Game Publisher's Guild, Print and Play Gaming, Art and Graphic Design for Tabletop Games, Startup Board and Card Designers

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?
Star Wars, don't drink softdrinks, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Used to be a songwriter till my ear problem happened. Right now running our company is absorbing every facet of my life so my other hobbies will have to wait.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Mobile Data is a godsend when stuck in traffic.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Alternative from 2000s, I tend to like fantasy stuff

What was the last book you read?
The Witcher

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar, Voice

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I've never played D&D *shame*

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I started a tabletop game design company in a country where most people have only played Snakes and Ladders, Scrabble, and Chess.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Can't think of any. I'm usually very careful. My wife on the other hand...

Who is your idol?
Jesse Schell

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back in time and save up more money and get some more corporate experience.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Green Lantern. Then I could just imagine a game prototype and test it right away without having to make it.

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?
Doesn't matter since our islands will be underwater and all the paper will become mushy.

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):
Hey Aya, Marx, 2k, and Aa. (My wife then the other three officemates.)

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

Darna at ang Nawawalang Bato (Darna and the Missing Stone) has been out in stores for a little over a month now :D So far, there's been a lot of enthusiasm for it by the local gamer community. Sales are doing better than expected but we still have a long way to go to making up our development costs since we are only selling the game at USD 3.

Also my wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl :) Things have been hard balancing marketing a newly released game and taking care of the wife and baby but life also has never been this exciting and eventful :) I'm just happy I'm able to do the thing I love and I hope I will be able to continue to do so far into the future :)
[GJJ Games] Congrats on the new addition to your family, and your newly published game!

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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