Tuesday, March 10, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 214: David Van Drunen

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:David Van Drunen
Day Job:Freelance game designer, and homemaker.
Designing:Two to five years.
Find my games at:https://analoggamestudios.com/product/gnomes-at-midnight/
Today's Interview is with:

David Van Drunen
Interviewed on: 12/4/2019

This week's interview is with David Van Drunen, the designer of Gnomes at Midnight from Analog Game Studios. In addition to designing games, David is also a very talented artist, using paints to create dynamic, energetic abstract paintings on canvas. Check out his work (both paintings and games) at http://www.theartlion.com/

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?
It started with changing rules in games to ‘fix them’, and then to making up expansions in games I really enjoyed. After a while I realized I could make a game “from scratch” and designed my first game.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I like to work on a couple at a time, to bounce between them when I get stuck on one. Right now I’m designing a social deduction game called, “Royal Pie Fight”, a real-time game called “Ding-dong Donuts”, and a co-op game about grief.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I’m fortunate enough to have “Gnomes at Midnight” published by Analog Game Studios.

What is your day job?
Freelance game designer, and homemaker.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
In a home.

Who do you normally game with?
Mostly with friends, but also every time with my family when I visit them.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Magic Maze, Tussie Mussie, Vikings on Board, Shadows Amsterdam, Seikatsu, Timeline...

And what snacks would you eat?
Pretzels and candy are best, (no oily, cheesy, sticky fingers).

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Softly a random mix of pop, soundtracks, and alt rock.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I frequent Snakes & Lattes, the College location.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favourite is Keyforge, (specifically the ‘Call of the Archons’ series). Catan is my least favourite I’ll still play because I’ve over played it and there are better games now. Worst: Tic-Tac-Toe, or as it should be called ‘Go First and Win or Tie Again’.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favourite mechanic: Area Control, (I’m a bit of a hoarder by nature). Not really a mechanic but least favourite: Reading, (if I wanted to read a novel of text I wouldn’t be playing a game!)

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Game of Thrones the board game. It taught me war games don’t need chance or dice, but it’s a big time commitment, and lengthy teach time.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures 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?
Feeling first; ‘wouldn’t it be cool if’. From there it splits evenly between whether the feeling relates better to a theme or mechanic. For ‘Gnomes at Midnight’ it related to mechanics of how pieces move around a shifting board. My unfinished spy game based on the TV show Turn was theme first, and then I built how it would physically work.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I entered HABAs box of bits contest. It’s a great design exercise, (you have to make a game with a random box of their wooden pieces) and very different from my normal design process.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I consistently enjoy J. Alex Kevern’s designs, (World Fair 1893, Sentient).

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Anywhere! That’s why I have notepads all around the house. I’ll be watching a movie, reading a book, or just about to fall asleep and it will just hit me. If I want to coax it out, I’ll watch a bunch of how to play game videos.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
First I run a couple games by myself acting out different play styles, (normal, timid, wacky) to see if I can break it. Then I’ll try to explain it to someone; if I can’t get them playing in 5 mins, then something's off. If it works then it’s off to Designer Nights at Snakes & Lattes.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
All my designs are solo, that’s why playtesting with many others is so key. I’m open to co-designing, but it’s just so much easier right now to do it solo.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Going from designer to self-marketer to pitch the game to publishers is tough.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I’d love to do an “All you Need is Kill, by Hiroshi Sakurazaka” game. Or an “Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer” game.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Start simple. My first design was a mix of Catan meets Risk, and it was too much. Also, avoid designing war games because most publishers won’t touch it.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Get it playtested sooner rather than later. Learn how to decipher playtesters’ feedback well. Get to the core of the feeling they are expressing. Keep asking yourself throughout the process, “why?”. Why 10 cards not 9? Why cards not dice? Having a good answer for everything will help strip away the excess.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Gnomes at Midnight
Games that will soon be published are: My 3D block stacking game will launch in 2020, publisher: Inside Up Games.
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Ding-dong Donuts (Real-time donut disaster!)
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Mystic Nomads (Rondel, area control, minis game)
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Grief Game
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: A stand-alone sequel to Gnomes at Midnight

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes, I'm around online. But mostly just browsing.

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 because of all the issues it tackled. Water. VHS! because Betamax beta-sux!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I really enjoy Sci-Fi movies and unique graphic novels, (Chew, Come Back to Me, Unknown Soldier).

What is something you learned in the last week?
I'm slowly learning where spices grow naturally in the wild, and some of the wacky harvesting required.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: Alt Rock. Books: Sci-Fi. Movies: Time travel.

What was the last book you read?
Why the Dutch are Different, by Ben Coates. A cool look at the reasons behind my ancestral quirks.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I learned the clarinet in grade school, and have recently tried to get back into it.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I’m in the movie Crimson Peak, and have a brief interaction with Tom Hiddleston.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I did a comedy gig at Yuk Yuks Comedy Bar once. It was crazy scary but it went well.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
“There are no accidents, only collisions.” - my Young Drivers Instructor.

Who is your idol?
Anyone who stands up against bullies.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Realistically I’d nit-pick everything trying to change it and then go back to ultimately undo the horrible butterfly effects.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Captain Marvel, it’d be great to shoot beams out of my hands and fly around.

Have any pets?
I'm allergic to cats and dogs, so now I have a papier-mâché cat, who is very good at ‘stay’.

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?
Smote from space is a fitting end to Cards Against Humanity. I hope Magic Maze endures to delight the future peoples. (Or maybe Trivial Pursuit to teach people about the past.)

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):
Thank you Ainsley for all your love and support! I couldn’t do this without you, and it’s been a blast! And to Richard of Analog Game Studios, thank you for believing in Gnomes at Midnight!

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

“Be excellent to each other.” Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

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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