Tuesday, October 10, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 90: David Abelson

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:David Abelson
Location:Charlotte, NC
Day Job:I am a Marketing Teacher in a high school in Charlotte. My family and I moved to Charlotte in 2013. Before that I was a graphic designer and the owner/operator of an advertising specialty business in New Jersey.
Designing:Two to five years.
Facebook:Fisher Heaton Games
Other:Unpub.net and Indie Game Alliance
Find my games at:Kickstarter October 10 - for starters.
Today's Interview is with:

David Abelson
Interviewed on: 9/27/2017

David Abelson has a game that is launching on Kickstarter today! INTELLE is a 2 player abstract strategy game about two hackers battling each other with code. If successfully funded it'll be David's first published game. He also has another game that was on Kickstarter last year, but he's been reworking it to prepare for a second campaign next year. David also has a bunch of other ideas in the works, so be sure to read on to learn more about him and his projects. And be sure to check out INTELLE on Kickstarter right now!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I started playing tabletop games with my teenage step-son and then with some friends and, being a creative person, I kept thinking of possibilities and wondering if designing games was something I could do. Then, my brother came to me with a concept and we started working on our first design.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I am currently in various stages of design for a few games. Yutera is a dice driven race through space in a distant galaxy with a strong take-that and an interesting movement storage mechanism. We put it on Kickstarter in 2016 as Moonshot: Lunar Solace but after having trouble funding, I went back to the drawing board to tighten it all up and get it ready for another go next year. INTELLE is my 2 player abstract strategy game. In Intelle each player represents a hacker (black hat/white hat) and they are battling using blocks of code in order to either protect or take down the corporate mainframe in about 15 minutes. I am really proud of this game, with easy to learn rules and simple mechanics but surprising depth of strategy. It has been called the love child of tic-tac-toe and chess. I have more designs that are in the "not ready to discuss" stage as well.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Intelle will be my first published game, and it is expected to be available for retail in early December, as the manufacturing process was actually started before the Kickstarter launches.

What is your day job?
I am a Marketing Teacher in a high school in Charlotte. My family and I moved to Charlotte in 2013. Before that I was a graphic designer and the owner/operator of an advertising specialty business in New Jersey.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I regularly play games at my local game store, as well as a few local meetups and we have a semi-regular group that meets at my house to play.

Who do you normally game with?
I have been lucky to play games with a number of great people all over Charlotte and I hope to continue, but primarily I play with friends whom I have met along the way.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Last night we played Dice Forge, Stop Thief and Pit Crew. What we play varies from week to week. I really enjoy playing worker placement games and deck builders. Normally we play games that can be finished in less than an hour and a half but I like the occasional marathon game too.

And what snacks would you eat?
We have been known to have beer and chips but usually we all arrive full, so we don't have to get up as often.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I tried playing Smooth Jazz during a game night once, but it didn't fly. I have been to game nights where Star Wars music was playing or some other awesome John WiIliams tune. I like it, but not everyone else does.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
We have three great ones in Charlotte. Lately I have been playing often at "The Mighty Meeple", but we also have "Your Local Game Store" and "Carolina Tabletop Games" where they serve beer

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite game is Dice Forge. It is easy to teach, and continuously engaging. It isn't the deepest experience but it is a lot of fun and I am in awe at how much thought went into putting the game away in the box. I don't want to name the worst game I ever played because I wouldn't want that said of mine...but I will say that I backed it on Kickstarter and I wasn't even to get through the rule book to try it before throwing up my hands in disgust. I gave it to two different friends - who are both more patient than me - to try to learn and they gave up as well.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
My favorite game mechanic is engine building. I'm not the best at it but I love the challenge of figuring out the best way, or a different way. My least favorite is social deduction. I know it is a really popular thing right now, but I haven't been able to get into it.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I like to think I do a pretty good job of rotating the games we play, though I still have games on the shelf that have never been played. I like Rune Wars, and have only gotten it to the table 2 times in the 4 years I have owned it - primarily because of the time commitment.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?

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.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I still consider myself a baby in game design. I look to every designer as a silent mentor, offering something I can learn. I can't say that I have one favorite though.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Driving in my car. I listen to gaming podcasts in my car, and I often have to replay half of a podcast because my brain moved on to an idea or concept. I need to get better about writing those down, but that is where I get the best inspiration.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start by play-testing myself, then I have a small group of painfully honest friends who are nice enough to play through early designs with me. As soon as I have a working prototype - and until it's perfected - the local players are my other play-testers. I am beginning to develop a larger group of dependable play-testers who will give honest feedback, and I like to ask a lot of questions.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have not co-designed anything with someone who is not family. Yutera was co-designed with my brother Micah. I don't believe that game design should be a solitary event. Games - for me - are about community, and I want a community involved in creating them - so I ask people's opinions and I have discussions at the game store, and I read and ask questions on the Facebook forums and I am learning and the game design is improving as a result. I like to work with artists. I can graphic design but I cannot illustrate. The cover art for Intelle was illustrated by Rebecca McConnell, and most of the art for Yutera was illustrated by Leonardo Sa Guinard.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time. I want to spend so much time designing, and creating, and building prototypes, and learning, and designing, and designing...but I also have a job and a family, and church obligations, and students who look up to me, and unfortunately when time is at a premium, game design gets less of it.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would love to create a game for Atlas Shrugged, the book by Ayn Rand.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I wish someone had told me a long time ago that game design is something I can learn and do.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
The biggest lesson I have learned so far - both in game design and outside of it, and the one I would like to share is this: Success is not a destination, it is a journey. And failure is the fuel that powers it.

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: Intelle
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Intelle
I'm planning to crowdfund: Yutera
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Sub-Contractors, Unnamed Deck Building/Combat game, Disc Golf Masters
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: The cat is still in the bag...

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?
Both - though I am a zealot for neither. Coke, though I prefer tea. VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I play racquetball, disc golf, bowling. I enjoy musical theater - both to do and to watch, though I haven't performed in years.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned that Google is 19 years old.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I prefer show tunes, classic rock, christian contemporary, country - not necessarily in that order. I read non-fiction (a mistake I know) and I lean toward movies about things that couldn't happen in my real life - like sci fi.

What was the last book you read?
I haven't finished a book in a while but the last book I picked up was "Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind". I am also midway through an exciting biography of Cornelius Vanderbuilt.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I can sing. Despite all efforts, no other instruments.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
In 1996 I had the honor of singing a solo rendition of "Proud to be an American" for 300+ soldiers at the Army Ball in Monterey California, while also serving as a soldier myself.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Two months after we started dating, I asked my wife to marry me. 10 months later we got married. 3 children, 5 homes, 3 businesses, countless disagreements and 17 years later, we're still together.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
See my previous answer

Who is your idol?
Frank Lloyd Wright. He wasn't the best husband necessarily, but he was a genius at design. He had great vision and tenacity.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would sell it on ebay.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I used to be an extrovert, but I think I am heading the other direction. I have found that there are moments where both work.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Mr. Fantastic

Have any pets?
I have a Dog and a Cat, which we got on the same day. They are George and Gracie.

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 think Catan and hearts will survive into the next era. I hope that underneath the asteroid is hate.

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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