Tuesday, January 1, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 152: Juan Pablo Vargas Seguel

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:Juan Pablo Vargas Seguel
Location:Santiago, Chile
Day Job:Physics teacher in highschool.
Designing:Two to five years.
Facebook:Exoplanet Colony
Find my games at:For now, I only have a PnP version of Exoplanet Colony in spanish: http://www.tinyurl.com/exoplanet-colony
Today's Interview is with:

Juan Pablo Vargas Seguel
Interviewed on: 10/18/2018

We ring in 2019 with an interview from Juan Pablo Vargas Seguel, a designer from Chile who has a few games in the works, most notably Exoplanet Colony, a cooperative game about establishing a human colony on an exoplanet. Keep your eyes open for it, hopefully it'll be gracing the shelves of your game store someday!

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?
When I was a child, I made some boardgames to myself or with friends, mainly replicating different videogames I liked, like Mario Kart, Pokémon, Crash Bash, Final Fantasy Tactics, etc. Later I started creating videogames, which was extremely funny and motivating. When I saw that boardgames where becoming so popular, I started thinking about them again. A friend came with an idea of a boardgame we worked on for awhile, and then I couldn't stop.

What game or games are you currently working on?
My main project right now is "Exoplanet Colony", a classic coop survival game where players have to build a sustainable base on an exoplanet before their resources run out. Some other projects are just ideas, or have been on pause for a while.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet, "Exoplanet" will be the first, hopefully. I did created a custom edition of "Werewolf", printed it and sold about 40 copies, but it was not an official publication or anything.

What is your day job?
Physics teacher in highschool.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
In home or at friend's homes.

Who do you normally game with?
Friends from university.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
7 Wonders, Pandemic, Muse... many more, of course.

And what snacks would you eat?
Probably pizza, is the classic meal.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I don't usually hear music while playing, but if anyone plays music it's OK.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
"Entrejuegos" (http://www.entrejuegos.cl/) and "Movieplay Funstore" (http://movieplay.cl/)

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite? I really enjoyed Pandemic Legacy 1 and 2 a lot, and will keep enjoying basic Pandemic and its expansions. Least favourite and enjoy? Hard question, maybe Monopoly or UNO, or it could be Smallworld. Worst game? Probably "Aether", not a very known game (it's from here: Chile).

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite: Coop game with action points (more like a mechanic combo, but anyway). Worker placement could be the second one. Least fav: Pure luck (like throw and move, in many games).

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Captain Sonar... I don't own it, but a friend does and we haven't been able to coordinate a game session ever.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board 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?
Well, I think I always start from the theme. My games mainly try to simulate a situation, so this is what guides the selection or creation of mechanics, which have to model the situation in a simple, elegant and hopefully funny way. Of course, if there is a novel mechanic interesting enough to inspire a game, I would give it a chance, obviously.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
My game was accepted on Fastaval 2019, which offers a prize, so I think it counts as a game competition. Doesn't it?

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Mmm, Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau did a really great work with Pandemic Legacy, which also has lead to more great "legacy" games, so I think they are one of my favorites.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I usually use my time on the public transport to come up with ideas and also analyze my games from the theoretic point of view; that's why I always carry a notebook and a pen. It also works when I'm going to sleep, but in that case I don't write down my ideas... But if they are really good, I get out of bed and lose some important sleep hours (btw: now it’s 5 am!).

How do you go about playtesting your games?
It was hard to me at first to let people play my raw prototypes, but I learned that it is crucial, and as soon as I started my current project I started posting about it on my social networks, so many people started following the design process and it forced me to make progress. It also made it easier to find friends that wanted to play it, as many of them are avid boardgame players. I also have used Facebook to announce my playtests on a group of game designers from my city. Obviously, big part of the playtesting is done by myself on my room, with cards, paper and some tokens. Sometimes I come with a great idea, make the components, put it over my table and... I find it doesn't work at all.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
It's not a unique answer. When I do something creative, I usually want things to go the way I like. I don't get angry or anything, but I tend to influence greatly the course of the design, so sometimes it's easier doing things alone. BUT, I also feel that, having at least one person to talk about the various ideas is a real difference. It's more exciting, and interesting ideas appear very fast. Currently I miss that person that is almost a co-designer. Anyway, about artists, I really think a good artist/graphic designer is really important. It comes later in the design process (at least in my games), but it is a necessary part for the game to become great.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
To speed up the design loops (ideas, testing, changes, testing, ideas...), and to have a more financial/marketing perspective (or to gain more experience in that area).

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would like to make a game based on Final Fantasy Tactics... which is almost a boardgame on its own, hehe. With some childhood friends we recreated part of that game and we really enjoyed the creation process and the result, but we have always dreamed of making it a complete (and maybe published) game.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That boardgames were going to be so popular, so that I could have dedicated more time to create boardgames when I could. Anyway, I'm very happy with my personal learning process, so it's alright.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Creating games can be a very entertaining experience, as many creative activities are, but one that should be considered more often when talking about hobbies or future occupations. For example it could be used in school activities.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Exoplanet Colony: My current project. I've talked with two publishers, but if anything happens it will be next year. Follow my FB page!
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Infinitum: Made on a game jam some months ago. Maybe we meet again to give it a go.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Citizens ("Ciudadanos"): The idea that brought me back to boardgame design, but apart from various ideas I haven't been able to make one playable prototype.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes: "Creadores de Juegos de Mesa en Chile"

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 Wars and Coke? Maybe? Aaand I had to google "Betamax", so VHS it is.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Playing soccer, playing and designing videogames and singing in a choir.

What is something you learned in the last week?
That there was a virtual epidemic in World of Warcraft some years ago, and that epidemiologist and other scientist used that event to research about human behavior and other aspects of real epidemics.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: Rock of the 70's-80's, Latinamerican Folklore, Jazz, Classical... Books: Sci-fi, the kind of Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov, among others. Movies: Ghibli Studios and Pixar, in general.

What was the last book you read?
I'm reading "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind", very very interesting!

Do you play any musical instruments?
I played the flute, and now I practice some piano on my own.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
Hmmm, people like it when I tell them I have around 140 "peluches" (stuffed animals) on my room; almost all of them have a name and family. <3 I also can tell to which country belongs almost any flag you show me.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I'm not a very extreme person... I can't recall anything right now o.O

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
There is a foggy memory I will never be 100% sure again if it was true or not: On a friend's birthday I was playing basketball and I missed the hoop completely. The ball bounced down a little slope and fell directly over a tower of plates, making the top one jump and make a full 360° flip, then falling again over the others. No damage done.

Who is your idol?
I couldn't say it. Everyone has flaws... Maybe Einstein is a great reference, at least in the scientific area.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Study the development of life and the human species. That book I'm reading has been keeping me thinking a lot about it!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
It depends on the social context, but I would think I am more like in the middle, tending to extrovert.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Green Lantern, just because he is green.

Have any pets?
Yes, right here on my lap: a cat (called "Bolita").

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?
Current games that will survive? From a realistic point of view I think sports, like football (soccer), which only need a ball. What will be wiped out forever? Are we still talking about games?... Then, maybe THE GAME (yes, you lost).

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):
Wooo, ok, keep it cool... I would like to reinforce the importance of our role in climate change. I don't have the moral authority to force anyone to do anything, as I contribute to it as much as anyone, but the argument remains: We have to take steps in our daily lives to reduce our impact on the environment, giving away some commodities, and hopefully making changes on the political and economical spheres, but if we don't do it... It's already late.

Also: Why did I stay awake till 5:30 am to answer an online interview I could have answered any other time? Mystery.

Good bye and thank you!

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

No, thank you =)



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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