Tuesday, November 12, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 197: Dave Neale

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:Dave Neale
Day Job:I am a researcher in the Centre for Research on Play, Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) at The University of Cambridge, and I look at how play helps children learn and develop. From October, I will be doing game-design full-time for a while, though intend to return to academia soon.
Designing:5 to 10 years.
BGG:Dave Neale
Find my games at:Most online stores and probably their FLGS
Today's Interview is with:

Dave Neale
Interviewed on: 8/13/2019

This week we get to meet Dave Neale, a UK based designer with a penchant for designing games based on Sherlock Holmes. He even has a title coming out next year in the classic Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective line, one of my wife's favorite series of games! Keep reading to learn more about Dave and his Holmes based games and other projects.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Six months to a year.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I've always dabbled in ideas for board games since I was a child, but it really started in 2012 when I played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and had an idea for a case. I liked the idea of coming up with mysteries and letting my friends and family investigate them.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Three very different mystery/narrative games, all due to be released at some point in the next two years. I'll also soon be checking the proofs for my Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective set, 'The Baker Street Irregulars'.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes. The scenario 'Sherlock Holmes - The Scarlet Thread of Murder' in 'Unlock! Heroic Adventures'; the real-time tile-laying game '5-Minute Chase'; and 'Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Baker Street Irregulars', which is due for release in around 4 months' time.

What is your day job?
I am a researcher in the Centre for Research on Play, Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) at The University of Cambridge, and I look at how play helps children learn and develop. From October, I will be doing game-design full-time for a while, though intend to return to academia soon.

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

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
A variety. Perhaps a euro-style game with a good narrative, like Village or Alchemists; an escape game such as Unlock! or Exit; and then some social deduction to finish - probably The Resistance: Avalon. Alternatively, we could make a whole night out of a good Consulting Detective case.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Heffers in Cambridge - friendly, knowledgeable and dedicated staff; huge games selection and great games nights.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Right now I am really liking Black Sonata by John Kean - it's technically a solo game, though I've played it as a co-op. It's not my current favourite in the sense of the enjoyment I get from it (though I definitely do enjoy it!) but because I am impressed and fascinated by the design. I mean, a hidden movement game for one player, how can that work? Well, it does. And it's not a narrative game, so it is a refreshing change from the heavy story stuff I spend most of my time buried in when designing my own games.

Least favourite I still enjoy...? That's tricky - I have to think of something I like less than almost everything else, but also do like a bit? Coup probably falls somewhere in that zone for me, because it's primarily a bluffing game, and I prefer the simplicity of Skull. Yet, every time I play it I enjoy it. There must be others like that but I can't think of them right now.

And I don't know what the worst game I've ever played is, but it's probably something based on a tv gameshow. They seem to be universally bad.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I don't tend to think about mechanics in isolation, but more about the theme and experience around them. I think any mechanic can work or fail depending on the context. Even roll and move - which is often lambasted by gamers - works well in games such as Deep Sea Adventure.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I like This War of Mine, but have only managed to play it once. It requires a big time commitment and the right mood - you need to be prepared for some depressing stuff!

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, 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 have done both. Normally, as I primarily design narrative games, it is the theme first.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Often when exercising - running, walking, cycling. When the brain is allowed to drift a little, new, unusual ideas can sometimes emerge.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I attend a weekly play test group which is part of Playtest UK. I also have various groups of friends and family who tend to be first to experience new ideas and mysteries, when they are normally a little too challenging...

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Both. I designed 5-Minute Chase with Anthony Proietti, and am currently co-designing games with Matt Dunstan and various other designers. But I created my Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective set alone, my Sherlock Unlock! scenario alone, and have a few other games in the pipeline that will be all me.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Creating a realistic, immersive, believable, highly interactive, world in a box.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Playtesting is everything. Although in this, and many other aspects of game design, narrative games are a very different beast to more conventional games. I don't have the time to outline all the ways in which this is true, but over the past few years I have learned narrative game design is a very specific craft.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Sherlock Holmes - The Scarlet Thread of Murder', in Unlock! Heroic Adventures
5-Minute Chase

Games that will soon be published are: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Baker Street Irregulars
Perspective (a mystery-solving card game)
The Science of Deduction (title TBC, essentially Sherlock Holmes the party game)

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Card & Board Game Designers Guild

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!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hiking, traveling, rock climbing, running, playing guitar, songwriting

What is something you learned in the last week?
That dolphins juggle jellyfish

What was the last book you read?
Appropriately, The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I once got drunk with the Foo Fighters.

Who is your idol?
Not sure, but Sherlock Holmes has to factor in there somewhere!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I tend to come across mostly as an extrovert, but growing up I was always more of an introvert, so it's a bit of both. The best way to phrase it is probably that I'm an introvert trapped in an extrovert's body.

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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