Tuesday, December 5, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 98: Christopher Davis

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:Christopher Davis
Location:California, USA
Day Job:I am a professional video game designer who has worked across the industry over the past 8 years. Currently I work on Cookie Jam Blast, a mobile match-3 game. I have also worked on the MMO, Wildstar, Final Fantasy Dissidia, and the Guitar Hero Series to name a few titles.
Designing:Two to five years.
BGG:Windborn Games
Facebook:Windborn Games
YouTube:Windborn Games
Find my games at:Once we start publishing, you'll be able to order games through our website!
Today's Interview is with:

Christopher Davis
Interviewed on: 11/4/2017

With a pretty extensive background in video game design, now Christopher Davis is giving tabletop game design a shot. He currently has his first game on Kickstarter right now. Runes of Ragnarok is a strategic dice management game all about the end of days in Norse mythology. This is just one of many interesting projects that Christopher is working on. To learn more about Christopher and his other projects, keep on reading!

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've loved games my entire life. From board games, to video games and puzzles. Basically, I used to code video games as a hobby, but eventually I transitioned to designing board games instead. For years I worked on a number of small games and played them with friends, but most of these projects fell by the wayside when I started working as a professional video game designer. When I found a new board gaming group it reignited that spark and I began working on designing board games in my spare time again.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Runes of Ragnarok is our big project right now. That's our debut title that is running on Kickstarter from Nov. 7th thru Dec. 12th. It's a dice-based combat game for 2-4 players where you're a Norse god fighting other gods using magic, relics, and monsters from the nine realms.

We have four other games in the early stages of development, but we're focusing all our energy on publishing RoR first. We have a kids tile placement game that's a sort of treasure hunt, a futuristic command line style co-op, a fantasy themed bluffing game, and another fantasy themed deck builder all in the works.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet. Runes of Ragnarok will hopefully be our first!

What is your day job?
I am a professional video game designer who has worked across the industry over the past 8 years. Currently I work on Cookie Jam Blast, a mobile match-3 game. I have also worked on the MMO, Wildstar, Final Fantasy Dissidia, and the Guitar Hero Series to name a few titles.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
In my home. Specifically. I like to host, have people over, and set up the table.

Who do you normally game with?
My wife and a couple close friends. Occasionally I'll extend a wider invitation, but my friends can get pretty distracted and forget to even play games if there get to be too many of us together at one time.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Currently we're really into Overlords of Infamy, the DC Deck Builders, and Small World. Although, I want to get my hands on a copy of Seafall and try that with them as well.

And what snacks would you eat?
Popcorn. If I keep chips in the house they get eaten long before friends make it over for game night. That extra bit of effort in popping popcorn means it lasts in the house a bit longer and is ready for when friends come over.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Musicals. The wife and I love to sing along to either show tunes or Disney, or whatever. Then again, that can get pretty distracting from gaming, so it doesn't usually last too long.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Dice House. It's an awesome small shop that has been in Fullerton, CA for many years now. Friendly staff, magic tournaments, open gaming Sundays. Great times.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Overlords of Infamy is definitely my favorite right now. The theming is just amazing. I may upset a few people with this one, but I think Munchkin is my least favorite that I still enjoy. It's a great game, with great theming, but every game plays fairly similarly with the tactics and it gets a bit stale. Worst game I ever played was the Gotham game. It relied too much on guessing and anticipating your opponents, which I was very bad at.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite game mechanic is any time I get to build an engine in a game. If it's a deck builder or a tableau, stuff like that. Least favorite is any time I have to guess my opponents' moves in order to figure out my turn. Basically, if a game requires me to make a guess that could result in a lost turn I'm annoyed.

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, RPG 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?

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?
Both honestly. I'm a technically minded person, but also an artist. If I've got the makings of a mechanic in my mind I'll work from there and add a theme later. With Runes of Ragnarok, the theme came last. We went through three IPs with that game before settling on the final design for it. We started with the Rune Dice and the game evolved from there.

Other times I'll see a painting, hear a song, or just be driving and a sight will inspire me. I'll start thinking about a game setting just like that, building the characters within it, what they're doing and figure out how the game would fit the narrative I've built in my head.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've been designing in a bubble for too long and am just starting to figure out the greater communities that exist online and around me. So no, I haven't yet, but I am beginning to look at them.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
No one specifically. I admire many people in the industry, but mostly I enjoy seeing the small timers finally realizing their dreams and making their games a reality.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Any small thing can give me the spark of an idea, a movie, painting, song, whatever. But a spark isn't much to go on. My best early design work and planning comes while commuting to work on a long drive. Distractions are at a minimum and it's just me and myself thinking about game design. That's where the best ideas come. The tricky bit is remembering it all until I stop the car so I can quickly jot it all down.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I usually start alone. Don't want to bother others with a crap idea that is so unbalanced it shouldn't be seen by others. From there I go to immediate friend circle, then extended friends, and finally outside communities at game shops, and conventions.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I like to do initial design alone, but I'm not afraid to accept help from others either if I've hit a wall or if they have an idea they want to pitch. I always hire artists because I can't do this on my own. I'll interview several until I find one with the right qualities to fit my vision, and let them know what that vision is, but from there let them take the reins.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Constant editing. My wife will yell at me every time I come home with yet another change to a game that was almost done. I'll insist that it makes the game so much better, or fixes something that I perceived as a problem. I feel I'm right a lot of the time, but she wants to keep me on task so that a game won't stay in limbo forever.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Marvel, but if I had to be specific? Probably Spider-Man or the Avengers

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Designing a game is the easy part, even playtesting is easy. Marketing and publishing? Strap in cause that's a bumpy ride.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
If you're just starting out, start marketing at least 6 months out. Need reviews of your game? Yes, of course you do. Spend the money, make at least 10 prototypes just for reviewers and send them out. Doing this on Kickstarter? Get things to reviewers starting 2 months before your planned KS launch date. Engage with the community. Don't just try to leech them for likes and interactions about your project.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Runes of Ragnarok (Nov 7th - Dec. 12th)
I'm planning to crowdfund: Absolutely
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Kids tile placement game, futuristic command line, fantasy themed bluffing, fantasy themed deck builder games.

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! Pepsi with pizza, coke with hot dogs. Is that weird? Beta! Much better quality. My family probably still has a machine floating around somewhere, lord knows we have the tapes.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I do competitive axe throwing, hiking, and furniture building.

What is something you learned in the last week?
The reason I always get Billy Joel and Billy Idol mixed up is because of Billie Joe Armstrong.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music - Punk Rock, Books - Fantasy, Movies - Comedy/Action/Adventure

What was the last book you read?
Storm Front, Dresden Files

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
My eyes change color

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I drove 2,000 miles to meet a girl from the internet. We also married and started a family together.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
A bit of schadenfreude here, but someone at work left on medical leave for several months. Their absence actually opened a door that propelled my career forward.

Who is your idol?
Stan "the Man" Lee

What would you do if you had a time machine?
1) Save a few Woolly Mammoths and bring them to the present 2) Take lots of pictures of dinosaurs, record their roars and so forth 3) Coin collecting 4) Ask famous historical religious and political leaders to clarify some finer points of their philosophies. 5) Travel to the future to get awesome tech to do "cool stuff".

-) NEVER travel to within my own timeline and try to fix anything from my past prior to me obtaining said time machine.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
First one, then the other. Ambivert.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Nightcrawler, but just for the power not for the looks. Tony Stark, but for his personal lifestyle, not the heroic parts

Have any pets?
4 cats, 2 guinea pigs, 1 ball python, 3 goldfish, 1 toddler

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 that Settlers of Catan will become a sort of mantra for life itself as people learn to rebuild society. We shall greet each other with, "Sheep for wood." Under the asteroid is every tv exec who thinks that either A) We need more reality shows or B) Let's just keep rebooting old movies.

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):
Shout out to Stan Lee. I am this way because of you! The good, the bad, the weird, he had at least like I dunno, 70% to do with that? Let's go with that.

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

Before bed, roll a d10. That's how many hours you get to sleep. Good luck!
[GJJ Games] I've got a 5 month old. I'll be rolling a d4!

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

Did you like this interview?  Pleasse show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

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