Tuesday, July 14, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 233: Sandy Petersen

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:Sandy Petersen
Location:Rockwall, Texas
Day Job:Game designer is the only full-time job I've ever had as a grown-up.
Designing:Over ten years!
BGG:Just search for my games. They're all there.
YouTube:Sandy of Cthulhu
Find my games at:Petersengames.com; Amazon; Miniature Market; and your FLGS
Today's Interview is with:

Sandy Petersen
Interviewed on: 6/4/2020

This week's interview is with Sandy Petersen. Sandy is probably the most prolific designer I've featured in this interview series so far. Sandy has been designing games of all sorts since 1980, including RPGs, video games, and board games. Read on to learn more about Sandy's projects, past, present, and future!

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 backed into it by accident, while looking for a job to support my family while attending graduate school. Liked working at Chaosium so much that gaming, my avocation, became my vocation instead.

What game or games are you currently working on?
A tactical game about starship combat, a co-op game about exploring ancient terrors, and a team game called Dinosaur 1944 about dinosaurs vs. army men.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I have designed many many games that have been published. Am I supposed to list some of them here? The Call of Cthulhu RPG, the Ghostbuster RPG, Doom, Doom 2, Quake, Age of Empires series, Cthulhu Wars, Planet Apocalypse, Glorantha: The Gods War, etc.

What is your day job?
Game designer is the only full-time job I've ever had as a grown-up.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home.

Who do you normally game with?
One of my three gaming groups! Or my adult sons when they're in town.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
We sometimes play a tabletop RPG, and sometimes playtest one of my upcoming board games. Every few months we play something else.

And what snacks would you eat?
We have kind of a contest to bring in weird stuff from Asian markets, but we also eat pistachios, chips & salsa, order in Chinese or pizza, etc.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
We do not normally play music while we play games, unless it's relevant to the game.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Boardwalk Games in Dallas TX

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite is always whatever game I'm focused on finishing up. The least favorite game I still enjoy is probably Feast for Odin. I enjoy playing it but never ever win. Argh. Worst game I ever played was the old EA game Arctic Fox. You played white tanks. On the tundra. In a blizzard. Ecch. Makes me snowblind just thinking about it.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Not sure if it counts as a mechanic but interesting asymmetry is always fun. My least favorite "mechanic" are games that force you to earn the right to have fun. I prefer the very first game turn to have interesting decisions.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
World in Flames. Its major drawback is it takes about 6 months to play.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board 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?
Theme is number one. The mechanics are draped over the theme.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've won awards for my games, but I didn't submit them myself. Does that count? I'm an Origins Hall of Famer and got picked for two entries in Hobby Games' Best 100.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Shigeru Miyamoto. Man I'd have loved to be a fly on the wall when he was trying to pitch Pikmin to his team.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Well one interesting source is that I am plagued with nightmares. During the nightmare I hate it (wouldn't anyone?), but when I wake up I am often able to take ideas from that dream into a game.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I construct a prototype and take it the rounds of my three playtest groups. When possible I create a "how to make this game" playtest folder and post it to fans on my company forums for feedback.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I am solidly a team player.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
The occasional wall I hit when I'm working on a game and it is not doing what I want it to do. I hammer my head against that barrier for days, sometimes weeks. Once for months. It's awful when I'm not making progress and have to keep redesigning and redoing the entire game from scratch.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Almost zero of the games you publish will be based on your original idea. But that doesn't mean you can't take that idea and make it your own.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
99% of teenagers are incapable of giving useful feedback. You can get good information from pre-teens or from adults. Something goes wrong in a teen's brain.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Lots. Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Doom, Quake, Age of Empires, Cthulhu Wars, Planet Apocalypse, etc.
Games that will soon be published are: Invasion of the Brood - a two-player game about an attempted conquest of modern-day Earth by mind-controlling aliens. Dinosaur 1944 just completed crowdfunding at the end of June.
Currently looking for a publisher I have: I own my own publishing house. I guess I could count the games I'm trying to get published in other languages partnering with foreign companies.
I'm planning to crowdfund: A tactical space combat game
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: A more transportable version of my Cthulhu Wars game
Games that I'm playtesting are: A co-op horror game with separate chapters and settings ranging from a Yellow Sign rave, to an invasion from an advanced underground human civilization.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: A major return to roots for me - a whole new roleplaying game.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: A team effort with me and my son to create a strategic worldbuilding game in a fantasy universe.

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

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?
Old Trek. Dr Pepper. Well I owned a VHS ...

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
history, movies, zoology

What is something you learned in the last week?
The future existence of Roko's Basilisk. I urge you not to look it up. Seriously.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I have extremely broad views on music. Right this second I'm listening to country western, but yesterday it was Mongolian throat-singing. Favorite books are mostly non-fiction history or science but I do love a good horror, SF, or mystery. Favorite movies are almost all horror films. Got hooked on those at 6 years old, after watching Day of the Triffids.

What was the last book you read?
Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, written in 1903

Do you play any musical instruments?
I played the viola and piano in my youth.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I am a faithful practicing Mormon.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I quit a six-figure job with a guaranteed future to found my own business. It totally failed. Later I founded another business, Petersen Games, which is still in operation.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I did a crowdfunder for a digital game about Cthulhu and it was a colossal flop. My partners urged me to try again, but as a tabletop game. I knew for a fact it could not succeed, but they tricked me. It was Cthulhu Wars.

Who is your idol?
Ulysses S. Grant

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Head straight back to the Permian, when monsters ruled the earth.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I enjoy other people, but over time feel drained and enervated by this, so I am an introvert. My oldest son is energized and invigorated by being around people and can't understand why I have to build up my resources before attending conventions or doing seminars.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I think I'd make a way better Green Lantern. For an ability that relies upon your creativity to work, Hal Jordan sure seems unimaginative at times.

Have any pets?
I have always owned pets, ranging from snakes to geckos to rats to ferrets to cats to solpugids. Currently have two mongrel dogs.

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?
All traces of how to operate a totalitarian state.

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):
Hey dad! Your tattered old book from 1942 got me into this career when I read it at the age of 8. Thanks!

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

I read every review. I rejoice in the good ones. I agonize and obsess over the bad ones.

The deepest game ever created was Culdcept Saga, a little known Japanese combination of MtG & Monopoly for the XBox 360. Now you know.

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

Did you like this interview?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

No comments:

Post a Comment