Tuesday, November 17, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 253: Rob Newton

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:Rob Newton
Location:Seattle, WA
Day Job:Software Engineer
Designing:Two to five years.
Facebook:Coin Flip Games, LLC
Find my games at:Prototypes are generally here: https://coinflipgames.itch.io/
Today's Interview is with:

Rob Newton
Interviewed on: 7/30/2020

This week we get to hear from new, up-and-coming designer, Rob Newton. Rob has a few published games, including Shuffle Grand Prix and Sonora (which there's a giveaway for over on the Roll & Write Games group on Facebook. Rob has a bunch of other games in the works, including at least one that's already been signed. So read on to learn more about Rob and keep an eye out for his latest games!

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?
Because I love games and digital games weren't speaking to me. I work as a software engineer as my day job and spending even more time coding games as a hobby was more draining than fulfilling. I discovered tabletop games through Carcassonne and 7 Wonders and realized that it was something I could aim towards as well.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Many in progress, most of them co-designs.

Mixtape (prototype name) is signed and in development with Talon Strikes. It's an engine builder about recording the best mixtape to win the heart of your crush.

Bear Hugs is a trick-taking inspired game about going into the woods to befriend bears. I'm working on this one with Aaron Mesburne (of Boss Monster: Overlord fame).

Another game with Aaron is Giraffe Buffet. A simple spatial set-collection game about making tall and fancy giraffes.

And one more with Aaron is A Bird In Hand. This is a hand-management game based on the premise that a bird in hand is worth 2 in the bush. Yes, Puns.

I've got a Dutch Auction co-design with Shawn Stankewich and Randy Flynn about bicycles. It's needing a bit of reworking (and a new title since "Amsterdam" was announced this year!)

Another co-design with Shawn uses a mandala for foraging things from the woods to bring them to a farmer's market. This one has a few directions it could go at this point!

And a notebook jam packed with ideas that I could pick up and run with when the inspiration strikes.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Shuffle Grand Prix in 2019 by Bicycle Games
Sonora in 2020 by Pandasaurus
Mixtape (working title) in 2021 by Talon Strikes

What is your day job?
Software Engineer

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
anywhere with friends

Who do you normally game with?
In the quarantimes, anyone who comes to the Seattle Tabletop Designers online meetup. In the before-times, still the Seattle Tabletop Designers meetup, but IN PERSON.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Depends on the mood, but getting in a good mix of games is always nice. Generally I'm thinking about a mechanic and I have a couple games in mind that I want to try out and draw inspiration from.

And what snacks would you eat?
Yes and yes.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yeah, it can be nice if it's not distractingly loud

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Blue Highway Games!

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite: Wingspan Least favorite that I still enjoy: I'm really not sure how to answer this. I still love Carcassonne, but I never play it anymore. Worst game: The not-playing-games-in-person game.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite would be drafting and all its variations. It introduces a lot of good tension and can solve a lot of problems with balance and randomness as well. Least favorite would be negotiation. Definitely tense, but mostly just makes me feel uncomfortable rather than thinky.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Most at this point! Would love to play a large game of Root again sometime.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card 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?
Both! Inspiration can come from anywhere. I will say that a lot of puns have been the spark, however.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes! I entered Tabby Tower into the HABA design contest in 2019 and ended up coming in 2nd place. Tabby Tower is a game about cats climbing to the top of a cat tower by adding shelves to an actual tower. The tower itself is a cube tower that catches and dispenses cubes that are used for action selection.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I'm really inspired by Phil Walker-Harding, Elizabeth Hargrave, Emerson Matsuuchi, Julio Nazario, and a bunch of others.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I've had many ideas while taking flights to conventions. I challenge myself to design games during that time because there are few distractions!

How do you go about playtesting your games?
First is always solo testing. I walk through turns and mechanics in my head, then usually put them down on index cards or other flimsy materials. Then I make a first draft prototype and play through it hot-seat style. If the game passes all those steps, I'll take it to the Seattle Tabletop Designer group and get their thoughts on it. Unpub and Protospiel are incredibly valuable for testing everything else. I try to get as many eyes as possible on my games before showing them to a publisher.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Both! I really like having complete control over an idea and the direction, but co-designs are hugely fulfilling as well. The amount of creativity you can have while working with other people is amazing. I also contracted the artwork for Shuffle Grand Prix from Ruwen Liu back when I thought I might kickstart it myself. Really awesome working with them on art direction for the illustrations.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time! There is never enough to accomplish all the things I would like to.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'm not super interested in IP game development, but I'm not opposed to it either.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Getting a game to production is excruciatingly time consuming. Be patient and have more than one thing in the oven.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
The best advice is to fail. Try things and let them fail and then rework it. When your games stop failing, you know you've got something great.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Shuffle Grand Prix

Games that will soon be published are: Mixtape (working title)
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Bear Hugs
Giraffe Buffet
Tabby Tower

Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Forage
Dutch Bikes
Untitled Dice-and-write
Untitled card worker placement game

And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Too many to count!

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?
Both! Neither! VHS?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hiking and Birding - a perfect match. I've always loved hiking and now birding is a thing to do while hiking. Cooking - trying new recipes and of course eating them!

What is something you learned in the last week?
How to make Chamchi jeon (Korean Tuna Pancakes)! They're really easy and really delicious.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I'm generally open to most music. I'm not a fan of pop country, however. Books are a lot more hit or miss for me. I've started to not finish books that aren't doing it for me rather than powering through. Movies are also something where I'm pretty open to watch almost anything, but it does really depend on mood.

What was the last book you read?
Sabrina and Corina. It's a collection of incredibly well written short stories that all kind of intermingle. It also takes place in Colorado and has a lot of things that made me feel quite nostalgic, despite the many tragedies that happen in the stories.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar, bass, ukulele, melodica -- all pretty poorly!

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
My go-to for outside the board game context is telling people I design games! So inside the game context, maybe it's that I work adjacent to academic publishing trying to make science and research more accessible to researchers.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Quit my job and went to New Zealand for a gap year.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Running into the right folks at a tiny convention in Ohio that put me on a path to getting games published.

Who is your idol?
I try not to idolize anyone! I admire many people, however.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Let's just have a quick look at 2025...

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Both, sometimes. I tend towards introverted, but I can turn it on when I need to; it's exhausting though!

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Spiderman seems to have the most fun.

Have any pets?
A cat - MC Cat Commander, A budgie - Merlin, A lizard - Navarre

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?
At this point I might be rooting for the asteroid. In the meantime, let's just support each other.

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):
Shout out to YOU. Thanks for reading this random interview!

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

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