Tuesday, August 7, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 132: Mark W. Miller

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:Mark W. Miller
(not the one who invented the hex sheet).
Location:Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Day Job:Software Engineer
Designing:Two to five years.
BGG:Dwarf War
Facebook:Dwarf War
YouTube:Dwarf War
Find my games at:Before the KS Campaign we can make some boards for the intrepid few… If you have a serious game club, send me a note and make your case, I might send you a board.
Today's Interview is with:

Mark W. Miller (not the one who invented the hex sheet).
Interviewed on: 6/14/2018

This week we hear from Mark Miller, a published author and designer of the incredibly eye catching Dwarf War game. Mark is originally from the Chicagoland area, but now hails from Amsterdam. Read on to learn more about Mark and his projects, plus read a bit of his poetry!

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 played a lot of D&D right from the beginning. I have the original three small manuals somewhere and I met Gary Gygax at a GenCon back when it was still in Geneva, WI. I loved the game, and I was usually the DM and crafting the adventures was the best part! I moved to Ireland to go to school and found a new crew and kept going. Eventually my nomadic European lifestyle meant I lost track of a good group of players and stopped. To fill the creative gap I took to writing Fantasy, not really to get it published, but just for the joy of it. There was a chapter in my book, Winter: The Vracken’s Gate, called Dwarf War, wherein two bands of dwarves have a bloody underground war, and I thought myself when I wrote it: "that would make a cool game." I was thinking computer game at the time, and I pondered the idea off and on for twenty years. One night I was playing around with some balsa wood, and I thought why not do a 3D Board Game…underground…and Dwarf War was born. We are now on Mark X of the board and its almost ready for prime time.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Dwarf War! I have a another game, Slice, in the works, but one thing at a time.

Have you designed any games that have been published?

What is your day job?
Software Engineer

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

Where do you prefer to play games?

Who do you normally game with?
Friends and Family

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I let other people make that decision for me. They are really competent.

And what snacks would you eat?
Raw vegetables. Nachos. Beer, you know, stuff like that.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yea, but no one else does...

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Friends & Foes

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I've never been good with rating. Fun or not fun is the best I can manage.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Roll them bones!

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
30 Pieces. Problem is, I have not written it yet.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board 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?
They come to me independently.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
It will always be Gary Gygax, but I’m pretty old.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
When I am writing fantasy fiction.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I try hard to get other people to do it =) But I am still really learning.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
A good co-designer is essential. Two heads are better than one, but I do the majority of the details of the design myself. And I outsource that stuff other people do better than me.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Ummm. Wait, I know this one… Oh Right! Making fun games.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
My own universe, there is no place I love better.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Get busy and stay that way.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
See above.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
I'm planning to crowdfund: Dwarf War
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Dwarf War

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Not really, still looking for a home.

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?
BetaTrek Adds Life!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Designing 3D TableTop Games, Writing and poetry.

What is something you learned in the last week?
That one can spend any continuous block of time social mediaing.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Stuff I can sing to.

What was the last book you read?
The Futurological Congress.

Do you play any musical instruments?
No, well Garage Band, does that count?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm 1/4 Angel.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Skied the Sur de Glace in Chamonix, France, on really heavy skis which nearly killed me up in the powder and saved my life down in the ice caverns.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
My struggle to find the most amusing answer to this question has failed...

Who is your idol?
Bruce Springsteen. Have you ever noticed just how much fun that guy has on stage?

What would you do if you had a time machine?
It all over again =)

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
An extrovert in my own mind.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Vertebrate Man

Have any pets?
Two cats, Sonja and Hogan.

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?
The first part is easy, this was already addressed in an episode of Futurama, and if it’s good enough for Al Gore, Gary Gygax, Stephen Hawking and Nichelle Nichols, D&D is good enough for me.

And I wouldn’t change a thing. Mankind is awesome and most of what we do is beautiful. The thing is our brains are really difference engines and once you get that, you realize we will always be halfway between Heaven and Hell. It’s not about what’s happening in the world, it’s about how you choose to cope with it.

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):
37 years ago a friend of mine, Tim Townley, hung himself in a jail cell. He was 19 years old, high on acid and locked away down in the basement of a cop shop in Oak Park, Illinois. He hadn’t done anything really wrong. He was a keen D&D player and his main character was Hogan Ironshield the king of a Dwarven Country. I used Hogan in my book and much of the inspiration for Dwarf War came from that character. Anyway, my shout out is to Tim, wherever you are.

I like to write poetry as well, and a few years back I wrote this about the whole non-stop gaming thing and that ugly pointless incident:

Stallions in the Quasar

Streams of light,
Filled our nights,
Some mother’s house a ghost,
We saw a path,
We did the math,
We rolled a mighty host.
We sought to believe,
To pound the weave,
Heavin' heavy,
We sundered the stars,
A bloom of youth,
In need of proof,
Fresh stallions in the quasar.

A crystal of rage,
We wrote on the page,
A thundering cannonade,
We slipped,
We slayed,
We were at play,
A barley-hopped charade.
When lightning struck,
No need for luck,
As the minstrel strummed his song.
Forgin' annealed tempered steel,
Bringin' it down hard,
A rumblin’ tumblin' cavalcade,
Spillin' out across the yard.

A smoke,
A toke,
A mushroom cloak,
Dreams from the local bazaar.
Shruggin' off real,
Just tryin’ to feel,
Always goin' too far.
Fine paranoia,
Swinging sequoia,
Pull the shades,
Turn up the guitar,
Keep firin' out words,
Ignore the damn birds,
We were
The Stallions in the Quasar.

A brace of blades,
A hand of Spades,
Just stabbin' in the dark,
We left no sign,
Blew past the line,
And did not miss the mark.
When we clicked,
We sure were quick,
With an agile turn of phrase.
We shouldn’t,
We couldn’t,
But no way we wouldn’t,
Unwind in an epic haze.
The dogs they won’t find us,
The cats they don’t mind us,
Cool how they fight in a pile.
We stressed up the big view,
Us guys with the new clue,
Certain we did it with style.


But somehow we lost one,
The kid had his shoes on!
His hell was all he could see.
Down in that cell block,
He punched out his own clock,
The things we do to get free.
His axe it had failed,
His mates they had bailed,
His darling screwed loose,
and off-center.
The dice said: Two zeros,
Scratch out: One hero,
And what’s left is:
“Speak Friend and Enter.”

Down on respect,
And down on the deck,
As Nero fiddled with zeal,
Sack laden grease jacks
Led you down wrong tracks,
Bad news, when your ship has no keel.
Someone was missing,
We all just went fishing,
Played pinball in a Chicago-town bar,
The numbers are in,
We learned nothing of sin,
Following bread crumbs through the bizarre.
A magnificent wreck,
But whaddya expect?
From some stallions in the quasar.

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

Designing table-top games is the funnest thing I do alone.

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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