Tuesday, December 22, 2020

People Behind the Meepels - Episode 258: E. Michael Wostbrock

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:E. Michael Wostbrock
Location:Atlanta, GA
Day Job:I am a network engineer for a large energy company.
Designing:Six months to a year.
Facebook:Onederful Games
YouTube:Onederful Games
Find my games at:https://www.thegamecrafter.com/designers/onederful-games
Today's Interview is with:

E. Michael Wostbrock
Interviewed on: 11/20/2020

This week we get to meet Michael Wostbrook, a newer designer who's started Onederful Games to showcase his own designs. His first major design, a deck-building game about the food chain called The Clearing, should be available on The Game Crafter soon. So keep your eye out for that, and read on to learn more about Michael and his 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 was talking with my family about an old card game we played as kids (Into the Forest). We all used to love that game but looking back, the mechanics and gameplay left a lot to be desired. I thought it would be fun to try and recreate what we liked about that game (the animal kingdom food chain) in a new game that was more fun and fair.

What game or games are you currently working on?
The result of my aforementioned design goals is The Clearing. It is a deck building, food chain game with a simple game board. The gameplay focuses on changing habitats that give special bonuses to the animals that find their home in those habitats. There are also changing seasons that pace the game and keep things interesting. I am playtesting several printed copies of The Clearing that I ordered from The Game Crafter.

I'm also working on Kaleidoscope, a simple board game I am entering into a Ben Moy's Community Anthology contest. Picture Chinese Checkers mixed with a color wheel.

Besides those games, I'm tinkering around with a few other ideas. I guess you could say I caught the game design bug.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I have not, yet. I am certainly interested in publishing a game, but first I want to make sure I have a game worth publishing. I hope that The Clearing will be ready by mid 2021, but I'd really like to take it to ProtoATL first.

What is your day job?
I am a network engineer for a large energy company.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home, at a big table with lots of space.

Who do you normally game with?
My wife, my siblings and in-laws, and my kids.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
If it was my sister and brother-in-law, probably another round of Gloomhaven. It's been far too long since we played that. For my side of the family, Bang or Secret Hitler are more likely.

And what snacks would you eat?
Does coffee count? I eat a lot of coffee.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Sometimes I'll play something fun to set the mood, like western music when we play Colt Express.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Raven's Nest Games, in Marietta. It's a personal goal to have them carry one of my games one day.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I love Machi Koro, and my oldest daughter (4y) is just getting to where she can play it with me, so that is fun. 7 Wonders is a good family game, but I can't figure out how my mom keeps beating me at it! I hate dominoes. It drags on forever and it feels like none of your choices matter. In all of my game designs, one thing I keep asking myself is "do my players' choices matter?" because the world doesn't need another game like dominoes.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
As I mentioned, I'm fond of worker placement and deck building. There is a video game called Slay the Spire that does a better job with deck building than any physical card game I have ever played, and I highly recommend designers check it out if they are interested in that mechanic.

I don't like pile-on mechanics that encourage players to "kick someone while they're down". One example is the combat system in Through the Ages, which is an excellent game but once a player falls behind in military strength they gain a huge target on their backs and attract aggression from every other player. This can snowball and leave the losing player with no way to regain military might. I think aggressive tactics like this should offer diminishing returns, but that may be more of a play style preference than good game design.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Gloomhaven. So good, but it takes more time to set up than it does to play!

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other 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?
Never played it, but I'm pretty sure I would like it

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'm pretty new to this, but the two principles I have found most helpful are
1: Fail Fast
2: Chase the Fun
If an idea of a gameplay mechanic seems interesting I'll spin something up quickly and then test it out on someone. The parts that are engaging or fun, I keep. Then, rinse and repeat with new ideas. The main goal is to not get hung up on a bad idea and to keep after the things that are fun.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have one entry submitted to Ben Moy's Community Anthology Contest. Fingers crossed!

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
So many people have welcomed me into the design community, and I am thankful for each of them.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I have to give my wife Karie credit for most of my good ideas. I mostly just handle the implementation.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I'm experimenting with several approaches. I play as much as I can with close friends and family. I have also shipped prototypes to friends that live further away (this also helps with blind testing). I am working on porting The Clearing into Tabletop Simulator so I can bring it to Protospiel Online.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I'm a solo designer, but I get lots of help from family and friends.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Since I have a full time job and a family, time can be hard to come by. I also sometimes feel anxious because I feel like I have so much catch-up to do compared to others that have been designing for years.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'd love to make a tile-based dungeon creator featuring The Legend of Zelda.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That I could start sooner. I didn't know until this year that there were print to order services like The Game Crafter that could let me make a game without needing to purchase hundreds of copies.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Learn to use GIMP. And Inkscape. And maybe Scribus.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: The Clearing, Kaleidoscope
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: The Clearing
Games that I'm playtesting are: Kaleidoscope
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Crowded Kitchen
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Westward

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

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?
You can't taste the difference (come at me)
What is a Betamax?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hiking (I've stayed several nights on the AT), Guitar, Video Games, Cooking.

What is something you learned in the last week?
The importance of flossing daily

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?

What was the last book you read?
My Side of the Mountain

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
When I was a kid I made a 3D Mario Party board game out of cardboard

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I ate a 3lb burrito in under 30min

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
watermelon yogurt smoothie

Who is your idol?
Shigeru Miyamoto

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back in time and uninvent it. Too dangerous.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Static Shock

Have any pets?
A Weimaraner named Layton

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?
I think games that simulate war and economy like Chess and Shogi will be around forever. I also think silly games - the kinds that kids make up - will always be around because at our core humans love to play, and I hope we never forget that. That asteroid could crush every last domino on the planet and I wouldn't shed a single tear...

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):
Thanks to Karie for all the support and ideas! And thanks to Christy, Becca, Anna, and all my family to their help in making The Clearing. Even if I never sell one copy, it will have been worth making just so we can play together.

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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