Tuesday, July 10, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 128: Ian Taylor

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:Ian Taylor
Location:Massachusetts, USA
Day Job:Freelance writer/designer
Designing:Over ten years!
Find my games at:Currently my house. Please don't come in. I will be out there soon.
Today's Interview is with:

Ian Taylor
Interviewed on: 6/14/2018

This week we get to meet Ian Taylor, an author, rulebook editor, game lore writer, and game designer. In addition to designing his own games, Ian has worked on several great card games, including writing for Star Realms, Epic Card Game, and Hero Realms from White Wizard Games. Be sure to keep your eye on Kickstarter later this year for Widget Ridge, Ian's first game as designer.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I've been a writer all my life, and the most fascinating thing about games for me is immersion. How me, as a gamer, can be manipulated into caring about these cardboard shapes and wooden cubes.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Widget Ridge, a Steampunk Deckbuilding game, and Cardboard Wrecktangles, a not-serious strategy game.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I have worked on games that were published, but I was not the lead designer or developer. WWE Raw Deal, Conan TCG, Epic TCG, Star Realms, Hero Realms, Epic Card Game, Sorcerer, and MMA Combat.

What is your day job?
Freelance writer/designer

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
LGS (Game Knights in Gardner MA) or my testing table.

Who do you normally game with?
My children, having roped them into playtesting.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Currently enjoying Epic Spell Wars. A friend got me into Red Dragon Inn.

And what snacks would you eat?
All snacks. All of them.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
No. I am autistic, as are my children. I like a small musical distraction, but my children don't.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Game Knights in Gardner MA. Just opened last month. I am biased since I know the owners, but speaking objectively, they're making a huge effort to support non-Magic games (though they support Magic as well) and it's a great place to play.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I think Epic Spell Wars right now is my favourite. It's stupid fun. Least favourite that I enjoy...either Fluxx or CaH. The kids enjoy them but I'm a bit tired of them. I don't know that I have a worst game. I suppose when my daughter taught me War? I quickly realised that I had no decision points whatsoever and the game could be played without me, which annoyed her greatly (she was 6). I don't think I've ever hated a game to a point where I'd never play it. People, yes. Games, no.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I like any game with a random element that can be manipulated or tweaked. I think my least favourite is any mechanic that requires memory. Mine's not great.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Star Trek Ascendency is the closest thing. I've never played it, but it looks amazing (I did a demo at Toyfair), but it would probably take an afternoon of free time to kill just to set it up and learn it, and i just don't have the time right now.

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 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.

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 think theme is extremely important, but I usually come up with a base mechanic first, and then assign a theme. The game I'm currently working on (Widget Ridge) was originally an idea for a Doctor Who deckbuilding game.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I don't know about idol, but I've worked with Rob Dougherty, and I like him.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
When I'm trying to do other work! Or trying to sleep.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I usually eyeball a base mechanic, and write out some proxies, then test to see if it has legs. If it does, I'll come up with a baseline for card stats and then design from there. Once the game is done, another test with myself just to see if it feels like a game, then I rope the kids in.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have worked as part of a team, but I'm a solo act currently.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
The worst thing I do to myself is make excuses for bad or ineffective design. It can always be better,

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Doctor Who would be incredible,

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That the first step is to just do it. I've been designing games for 20+ years, but I never had the guts to actually show people outside my family and friends.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't ignore immersion. Take your players somewhere. Make them care about your world.

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: None (close though)
Currently looking for a publisher I have: See below. Not actively seeking pubs, but I'm open if approached. (I'm aware that never happens.)
I'm planning to crowdfund: Widget Ridge by the end of the year.
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Widget Ridge (Art still coming in. The game is 99% locked down.)
Games that I'm playtesting are: Widget Ridge (technically, still deciding between two different win conditions)
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Cardboard Wrecktangles
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Unnamed co-op base defense game that's family friendly. The Streisand Effect (the game doesn't exist but anyone who talks about it gets threatened by my lawyer.) I'd love to do something with robots as a theme.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
I am a member of I believe every single Facebook boardgame design, publishing, and KS group in existence.

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?
Trek, Coke, VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I'm a writer and comedian. I've been a Magic judge for 23 years.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned that pro wrestlers always move counter-clockwise around each other. Never noticed that.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
My favourite band is The Clouds, a pub band from my home country of Australia. I tend to write a lot more than I read, so I'm currently reading non-fiction to clean out the pipes. I like all movies except jump-scare films, and films where most of the people wear hats. Seriously, that's just weird.

What was the last book you read?
Star Trek Movie Memories by William Shatner.

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I know all of the words to Poison Arrow by ABC.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I once married my penpal and moved to America.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
A friend showed me WWE Raw Deal (he was the first world champ). He emailed me a copy of the rules, and cc'd the designer. I didn't realise he did that, so I responded with something like "Ugh, these rules are terrible. Think they'd mind if I took a crack at rewriting them?" Of course, I sent this email to the lead designer. He responded, and I ended up writing their tournament rules, comp rules, and head judging their world championship event three times.

Who is your idol?
I don't really have idols, but I quite like Dan Harmon. The writing is just SO GOOD

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Kick my own ass at 20. Then at 22. Then at 24, 26, 28, and 30.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert. How do people go into rooms with other people? Like, do you not see them?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Iron Man. I love tinkering.

Have any pets?
I had a cat called Crazy Cat, but my daughter's stupid cat chased him away.

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?
Ok this got real dark. Classic games like Chess and Go need to survive. Other than that, storytelling and comedy both need to survive. Those things make humanity. Monopoly needs to go. It's not a bad game, but everybody misses the point of it, and it's always held up as an example of a classic board game.

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):
Nah. I'm pretty active on social media. I've already outshouted everyone I care to.

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

Widget Ridge is featured in the fantasy novel: Aklan and the Grand Prophecy (in which we find that Aklan is terrible at paperwork). I am writing the novel.


Back in Roman times, people would often camp at the intersection of roads in order to meet other travellers. They would exchange news, but more often, little pieces of odd and useless knowledge. The intersection of 3 roads was known as a Trivium, which is where we get the word Trivia.

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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