Tuesday, September 4, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 136: Jonathan Thwaites

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:Jonathan Thwaites
Location:Canada. British Columbia
Day Job:I am a full time contracted board game designer, and have been since 2015. Prior to that, I worked 11 years as a Health and Safety manager, national safety adviser, and Regional IT tech for the Canadian branch of Aramark, an international food-service company focusing on cafeterias for university's, schools, businesses, entertainment facilities and prisons.
Designing:Over ten years!
BGG:Jonathan Thwaites
Facebook:Jonathan Tthwaites
YouTube:OOMM Games
Other:IGA - OOMM Games
Find my games at:BGG, Amazon
Today's Interview is with:

Jonathan Thwaites
Interviewed on: 6/17/2018

Jonathan Thwaites has been designing games for quite a few years, previously working on the team to design the Vikings: Raid & Conquer deck-builder for High Roller Games. He currently has a Kickstarter going for No Escape and has a slew of other games set in the same universe (and some that stand on their own). Look for a ton of exciting stuff from Jonathan in the future and read on to learn more about him and his projects.

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 started as a general hobby for fun, and as a way to focus my attention while dealing with stresses in my life

What game or games are you currently working on?
The following 6 titles all occur in a shared universe:

No Escape
A tile laying, maze building game for 2-8 people: You are newly arrived recruits to Titan Station, when the unthinkable occurs: core containment breach. With your direct escape route cut off, you must flee into the maintenance corridors of the station and find an escape pod. An explosion rocks the station, and to your horror you realize most of the remaining escape pods have been destroyed. Your initial briefing told you about one emergency pod somewhere in these maintenance corridors. Find it before somebody else does. One of you can make it out, for everyone else, there is No Escape! We just Re-launched the Kickstarter last week.

Imperium - Working Title
Co-op. Players: 1-9. Play time: about 2 hours. Completion: 80% In Imperium, the players have been hired by the galactic corporations to solve a mystery in a key quadrant of space. Players reveal a random objective to be completed at the beginning of each game, and work together to solve the mystery of this area. But be careful, as things continue happening every turn, and each turn players must decide between stopping things from getting worse, or finding the cause of all the problems. However, take to long, and it will be too late to stop it.

E-X - Working Title
Deck-Building. Players: 1-6. Play time: about 1.5 hours. Completion: 75% In E-X, Each player owns of their own ship, and are competing to complete corporate missions, while finding the equipment needed to improve their ships or purchase even larger ships. While you know what abilities will be needed for a mission, you don't know until you attempt a mission just how difficult it will actually be. Of course accidents sometimes happen, and a stray missile might "accidentally" hit an opponent's ship. Become the most famous privateer before one of your opponents do.

Dominus - Working Title
Living. Players: 2-6. Play time: about 1.5 hours. Completion: 50% Take control of one of the major empires during the First Galactic War, and conquer your opponents settlements. Will you use military force, subterfuge, or political manipulation to become the dominant empire? Design your deck to take advantage of your race's strengths, and to advance your colonies. Your colonies are your strength, defend them at all costs.

Bellator - Working Title
Tabletop Wargame. Players: 2-6. Play time: about 1.5 hours. Completion: 60% In Warriors, players control the forces of one of the many factions within the No Escape Universe. Warriors takes place during the first Galactic War, when the manipulations of the evil Olygin lead the various races to weaken their forces. Take control of a racial faction or a corporate entity, as the war for galactic supremacy begins.

Finalem Imperium - Working Title
Role Playing system. Completion: 70% Players can become fully immersed in the intrigue of the No Escape universe. Join a corporate entity, the true powers of the universe, or one of the many races attempting to re-gain their dominance. Play in the time period after the collapse of the Galactic Imperim, with the defeat of the imperial overlords, the Olygin, still fresh on everyone's minds.

Other Ongoing Designs

Dice Designers - Working Title
Worker placement, Dice collection. Players: 2-4. Play time: 60 min. Completion: 30% Compete to design the most successful electronic games, as players take control of their own game studio. Will you stay small and continually produce small but fun games, or will you expand, higher a team of designers, and take on A+ games. Maybe you'll focus on casual mobile games. It's your studio, where will it take you?

Epic Snails
Arena Combat. Players: 2-4. Play time: 30 min. Completion: 40% It's time for epic arena combat ... with Snails! Based on the new electronic game Epic Snails, players compete to gain the most kills on their snail competitors. Epic snails is being developed with a full 3-dimensional movement system. Sneak up on your opponent from underneath, and unleash a full barrage from you rocket launcher.

DB - Working Title
Co-op. Players: 1-4. Play time: 30 min. Completion: 20% It's time for adventure, fame, and LOOT! Grab your friends, and go on a series of adventures, saving the land, defeating monsters, and gaining EPIC LOOT! keep your character progress saved between missions, and continue building the best character, with the BEST LOOT!

AA - Secret Project - Contracted Design
I can't say much about this project at this time, it's just that secret.

BB - Secret Project - Contracted Design
I can't say much about this project at this time, it's just that secret.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Vikings: Raid & Conquer. A deck-building game based on the TV series Vikings. I was one of the co-designers when I worked for High Roller Games.

Trailer Park Boys: Park Wars. This is a licenced tabletop war-game set with the Trailer Park Boys that I was the sole designer for. This game was about to be released when I left High Roller Games. Even though advertising had begun, a release date was set, and a BGG listing was made, the release ended up being cancelled after I left the company.

What is your day job?
I am a full time contracted board game designer, and have been since 2015. Prior to that, I worked 11 years as a Health and Safety manager, national safety adviser, and Regional IT tech for the Canadian branch of Aramark, an international food-service company focusing on cafeterias for university's, schools, businesses, entertainment facilities and prisons.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At my place, or a friends place.

Who do you normally game with?
Myself and 4 friends usually meet up once a week for games.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
At the moment, we are going through Charterstone, a campaign of Infinity, and whatever random game(s) are brought that night. They are also good sports, and make time for the newest rendition of one my prototypes. Sometimes we will finish a night with a few rounds of CAH.

And what snacks would you eat?
Usually some Pop (Coke or Barq's), and a couple bags of chips.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes, we usually have rock or indie music playing

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Quantum Games. I regularly go in and talk to the owner about trends in the game industry as he sees them to get the perspective of a game store owner. Plus I've been going there for 15 years and he's always been great.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite game currently is Pathfinder card game: skull coast, but I will freely admit that my favorite game very regularly changes. Least favorite that I'd still play is Legends of Andor - I would play anything except the last mission, as the game is too unbalanced when you play the rules as-written. Worst game I have ever played (and own) would probably be TOMB. As players acquire equipment the game very quickly becomes unbalanced.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Dice collection and Worker Placement. Mechanics I dislike when I come across I see as a challenge to make a game that fits the mechanic better. As such, I don't really have a mechanic that would be my least favorite.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Civilization the board game - The original.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG 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 have done both. Vikings and Trailer Park Boys were both theme first, while No Escape was mechanics first. It depends on what I have for an idea to begin with.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No, but I plan to.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Jamey Stegmaier.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Playing other games, watching movies, or just conversations with friends. One concept came from looking at a broken toy from my kids, and thinking the shape would make a cool game piece.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I have a core group of friends I test initial designs with. Later designs I then bring to local game meetups, such as the University Games Club, the Library games meet, a local pubs game night, and my FLGS

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Both. I feel both methods lend themselves well to different types of designs.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Limiting my focus and time to only a few designs, and not spreading myself too thin on multiple designs.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Star Trek, Firefly or Stargate

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Just start designing. don't think about where the design will lead, if you'll make money off it, or if nobody will ever see it. Just do it. And once you've made something, put it in front of people. Take criticism for what it is, a way to help you. If somebody doesn't like your game, there is always a reason why. Learn why without being defensive, and you will become a much better designer. Becoming a good designer does not happen overnight. It takes time. Lots of time. So if you want to design, start it as a hobby, and don't plan on it being any more. That way you will not be disappointed if nothing becomes of it, but happy if something does.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Ideas are a dime a dozen, and you’ll never improve on your designs if you don't talk to people about them. Get past the idea that somebody will steal your hit concept, and start designing, then showing it to others. Only then will you be able to make a game that people will enjoy.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Vikings: Raid & Conquer
Games that will soon be published are: Trailer Park Boys: Park Wars
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: No Escape
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Imperium, E-X
Games that I'm playtesting are: Dominus, Bellator, Finalem Imperium
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Epic Snails, DB
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Dice Designers, AA, BB

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Game Makers Lab, Board and Card Game developers Guild, Art and Graphic design, Startup Board and Card Game Designers, Tabletop Game Publishers guild, Canadian Analogue designers guild, Board Game Design Lab

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 Trek (but not Discovery), Coke, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hiking and Writing

What is something you learned in the last week?
Hotspot volcanoes, such as Hawaii, are thought to be created by the trailing plume from a volcanic burst. The burst would have happened millions of years ago, and could have caused an extinction level event.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Rock music, Sci-fi military opera books, and sci-fi movies

What was the last book you read?
Book 2 of the Manticore Ascension series by David Weber

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I took years of vocal training, and used to be able to sing in 3 octaves. However, that was 18 years ago.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I tried to take the bed frame of my girlfriend’s (now wife's) bed apart to help her move, by hammering the frame apart. The hammer slipped, and I hit myself on the head, giving myself a major concussion. I then drove the vehicle full of stuff to her new place, and helped unload it, before going to the hospital.

Who is your idol?
My dad. He's survived cancer, multiple stokes, several heart attacks, meningitis, a broken back, a skull fracture, abusive parents, got out of a gang alive, was made an honorary Blackfoot, and has hiked the entire Thompson river.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Find out more about the Age of Sail.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert, that works hard to be an extrovert

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

Have any pets?
my wife has a cat

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):
My wife. Without her patience and understanding I never would have had to chance to pursue professional game design.

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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