Tuesday, January 19, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 262: Keith D Franks III

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:Keith D Franks III
Location:Sydney, Australia
Day Job:This is my day job, but I moonlight as a design and marketing consultant.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:Cutlass Boardgames on Patreon
BGG:Keith D Franks III
Facebook:Cutlass Boardgame/
YouTube:Cutlass Boardgame
Find my games at:https://cutlassboardgame.itch.io
Today's Interview is with:

Keith D Franks III
Interviewed on: 1/1/2021

This week's interview is with AUstralian designer Keith D. Franks III. Keith has a number of self-published games that he's designed, including a successful Kickstarter for Castles of Caleira a couple of years ago. He has a whole bunch of games in the works, so read on to learn more about Keith, his company Cutlass Boardgames, and his projects.

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?
I was inspired by the challenge to be able to tell a story, create a universe, and tell it to people using components, and art. Most of my games revolve around a greater story, and the game itself is only a window into those events, that the players get a chance to witness first hand. I think that unique challenge in creative design is what drew me in. Seeing giants like Magic: The Gathering be able to drop hints at a greater story using only a few lines of flavour text amongst a huge series of cards, and art depicting different parts of the story, was a huge inspiration.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I have two major projects I'm working on at the moment, the first is Winning Love by Daylight; a Sailor Moon inspired boardgame where you are a teenage super hero trying to balance school work, study, romance, and protecting the city. It has a really intricate story, amongst eight main characters that spans an in development visual novel, and webcomic. All which will culminate in the game's release, where you get to play in that world, as those characters. The second is; The Murders at Tealwoods Manor, a reverse murder mystery worker placement and drafting game, where players are trying to manipulate the events of a 19th century banquet to protect certain guests, and ensure the murdering of others. It's light mechanically, but highly strategic.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I've self published a tonne of games, which sometimes feels like it doesn't count. The ones that you would most likely be able to find in a brick and mortar store in 2021 are: Castles of Caleira, my first game: a gorgeously illustrated medieval fantasy castle building microgame, where you attempt to build a greater castle than your rival on a neighbouring hillside. The second is Spaceship Redoubt, a Sci-fi social deduction game where players must repair the ship and uncover the identity of the shapeshifting saboteurs who have killed the captain and are attempting to blow up the engine!

What is your day job?
This is my day job, but I moonlight as a design and marketing consultant.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
The only boardgame events that I've attended regularly have been in function rooms of pubs in the city near me. Game stores in Sydney are too small, and most other places are too expensive. I'd play board games at my place, but there's no chairs in my living room or dining room. Only a billiards table.

Who do you normally game with?
Usually people that are regulars at the local events. All my local game design fam live too spread out to hang out together.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I've always got some untested prototype that I've inflicted upon my friends. Although some of my favourites lately include: Hues n Cues, Azul, Reef, and Blood on the Clocktower.

And what snacks would you eat?
Licorice is my go-to for in most cases, I'm also a big white chocolate fan. Often, Krispy Kreme doughnuts too.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Lo-Fi hip-hop. If you're going to play anything that has lyrics in it, I can't concentrate on what you're saying to me. Elevator music, please.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
My favourite, friendly game store was Gamezilla that closed down too soon. My favourite local one, is Good Games Hurstville. All of the stores I've liked the most, either have changed management for the worse, or shut down entirely. Which is pretty upsetting.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favourite game is still: Blood on the Clocktower. It will be tough to dethrone. Least favourite that I still enjoy is Spirits of Carter Mansion; it's one of mine that I have a huge love hate relationship with, I'm really proud of how it accomplished the design brief, but damn was it a clunky failure. Worst game I ever played goes to any "point at the funny card I wrote, and laugh" that people are still making to this day.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Social Deduction historically, it's inspired the most creations out of me. Lately, I'm really getting into action selection. Least favourite is probably player voting, it never really accomplishes what you want.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
This second: The Murders at Tealwoods Manor. COVID makes it hard to get anything to table, and I'm super excited about this game, and it's really hard to get it happening for people to play it.

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, RPG 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?
Depends on the game, I've done a little of the both mentioned above, and also a few games where I've just created all of the components, and then tried to figure out how they all come together to make a game. I think what motivates me the most is the challenge, sometimes the challenge is creating a immersive story with three-dimensional characters, sometimes the challenge is to create a game with infinite replayability with only 18 cards. The fun in a Haiku is knowing you have to tell a story with a limited amount of syllables, when I design a game, the challenge exists first, and that motivates me to build something, which eventually evolves into the final product.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
The Calling: A Cthulean Social Deduction game, placed as a finalist in TheGameCrafter competition for Social Deduction games. The game featured a unique moderatorless mechanic where players performed an action, then woke the next player up around a circle. Also, instead of voting to execute, any three players alive or dead (all dead players are auto-evil) could form a murder party, and instantly kill a named player. The game is HAVOC, and super fun.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Usually is the local talent that inspires me the most, and more-so because they kick my ass about improving too. Also Omari Akil, out there killing it everyday, and makes me want to level up to match his game.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
When: Half asleep usually. scribble some notes, and come back to it, or pull an all-nighter to make a proof-of-concept. How: Usually it's in response to a what-if, or trying to improve upon an existing concept. which comes from anywhere.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
You're asking Mr. Bring-your-work-to-Board-Game-events-2020

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Whether or not it's my preference, all of my projects have for the most part been: Me hiring an artist to do the illustration work that I can't, and me taking the idea all the way to shelf. Designers out there that want to collab? Hit me up fam!

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
The distance between Australia and America. Not being able to attend the convention circuit makes me feel like I don't exist compared to the indie scene over there. Australia's talent just doesn't get a spotlight on the global stage, and we have some crazy cool folks down here.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Godzilla. Without a second's hesitation.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That I should do it. I was a DJ for TOO long.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Anyone can do it. It's about telling a story to people through play. Build a story that you think will be fun. Even if playing it for the first time sucked, that's a lesson learned, tweak until it works, or it'll turn into something useful later. Some of the things I had written off the hardest, turned into great ideas when presented as part of a different project.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Castles of Caleira, 90s Tapes, Crikita, Spirits of Carter Mansion, Strange Sites, the Calling, Treachery of the Paper Fox, Wingfalls of Dusk, Wings of the Eve, Spaceship Redoubt.
Games that will soon be published are: Journey into Death's Grasp: (A RPG system that uses 2 D20; a D+20 and a D-20, and a dynamic alignment system from (+)heartless to (-)wholesome, where your skills affect whether or not you have heartless or wholesome outcomes in combat, dialogue, and so-on.)
The Murders and Tealwoods Manor: (Mentioned earlier in this interview.)
Galactic Cartel: (A Social Deduction game where you bid on people to be executed instead of voting.)

I'm planning to crowdfund: Winning Love by Daylight: (Mentioned earlier in this interview.)

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
I'm in so many that the folder of bookmarks for them doesn't all fit on my monitor at once.

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 Wars, but not by much. Coke. VHS, it's become such an iconic LoFi aesthetic filled with glorious 90s Nostalgia.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video Games, mostly. I watch a tonne of movies.

What is something you learned in the last week?
A random Facebook post shed some light on some ancient personal trauma. Super unexpected, but very wholesome and helpful.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: LoFi and Riddim, I like snappy snares. Books: Currently reading Piers Anthony's Xanth series, all of the world building is done with Puns and that is weird and interesting to me. Movies: I usually pick things based on the people in it, but I have a love for Monster Movies, Romantic Comedies, Regular Comedies, High-concept Sci-Fi and the occasional Drama.

What was the last book you read?
A spell for Chameleon: Piers Anthony

Do you play any musical instruments?
No, but I can Beatbox pretty damn well.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
People always seem surprised that I'm very tall, probably because they usually see me sitting down a lot. I'm a big fan of sit.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Funded a Kickstarter, did all the graphic design and production myself, and got it delivered to backers earlier than scheduled, while I was homeless. Looking back on it, I have no idea how I accomplished it so well with so little money.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Ask my parents.

Who is your idol?
Steve Buscemi is way too underappreciated for how cool he actually is.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Get more hours out of everyday. Shock everyone by how productive I am.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Ambivert with huge introvert leanings.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Mystique probably, I dig that whole infiltrating and disappearing angle, where most other heroes are kind of all about the big rumble with the villain.

Have any pets?
Not currently, but eagerly waiting until my lease is up so I can get a Cat.

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 feel like the mostly likely to survive is the deck of 54, and whatever games people can invent with that. Hopefully it'd be a role-playing game. I'd be pretty stoked if human greed disappears in the future.

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 all the artists I work with. Arianne Elliot, Seth Rutledge, Klaudia Bezak, Kaionalpaca, and more. They're the real rockstars here.

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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