Tuesday, February 2, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 264: Chris Williams

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:Chris Williams
Location:Volga, SD
Day Job:I am a banking compliance officer. My love for reading board game rules is what actually led me to a job in compliance, where I get to comb through regulations.
Designing:Five to ten years.
Facebook:Alright Games
YouTube:Alright Games
Other:The Game Crafter: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/designers/alright-games
Find my games at:The Game Crafter https://www.thegamecrafter.com/designers/alright-games
Today's Interview is with:

Chris Williams
Interviewed on: 1/2/2021

This week I’m happy to introduce you to Chris Williams, a member of The Game Crafter’s design community. Chris has designed a number of great games, available on The Game Crafter, including the amazing Trace the Stars (which was recently picked up for publication by 25th Century Games) and the currently crowdfunding 1-2 Punch. Read on to learn more about Chris and his projects.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I started working for an educational video game design startup and was introduced to modern board gaming around the same time. This inspired me to make a board game version of one of the games we were working on and my passion only grew from there. Eventually, the startup shut down but I still wanted to make board games, so I started Alright Games.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I have learned that my favorite type of games to design are 2-player strategy games. So, for 2021, I am focusing on finishing and releasing 3 of them that are already very close to being ready. This includes 1-2 Punch (a boxing card game with action planning), Animal Firm (formerly Lobby Mintcala, a character-driven Mancala-inspired game), and Dark Spires (an abstract game with a chess-like feel).

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I just recently signed my roll-n-write, Trace the Stars, to a publisher and am excited for its release. I also currently have one game I self-published on The Game Crafter called Kickflip. When I worked for that startup, we self-published a game on The Game Crafter called To Make a Dollar, but it is no longer available for purchase.

What is your day job?
I am a banking compliance officer. My love for reading board game rules is what actually led me to a job in compliance, where I get to comb through regulations.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home with friends. I love hosting game nights.

Who do you normally game with?
I have a couple of small friend groups that are my go-to gamers, but I have also recently been making some more friends online that I game with using TableTop Simulator.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I really like learning new games and have a ton in my collection that I have yet to play. Santa Monica, Holding On, Bargain Quest, and Fort are a few on my list to play.

And what snacks would you eat?
I tend to forget to eat when I’m gaming.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I love finding some thematic background music. I will usually just find a video game soundtrack that fits the theme. Like Dark Souls for fantasy or Mass Effect for sci-fi. If it’s Wingspan, I just turn on bird noises.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Brost’s Aquarium and Hobby in Brookings, SD. I typically stop in every Friday when he gets in new games.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My favorite game might be a tie between Splendor and Tiny Epic Galaxy. Least favorite that I still enjoy is Pokemon Master Trainer. And worst game would actually have to be Catan. I know it’s a classic, but I just really don’t like it.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love dice chucking and choosing how to allocate those dice. I also love push-your-luck. In my own designs, I really like using a circle of cards as a sort of map. For least favorite, I’m not really a fan of drafting. While I think there are games that it works really well in, Inis being one of my favorites, it usually just feels like it would have just been as easy and nearly as effective as randomly drawing cards. This is typically due to me not playing games more than a couple of times, which means I don’t have enough information or knowledge to go on to feel like I’m making an informed decision.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Root. I have only played it once and I loved everything about it. The gameplay, the art, and the characters are all amazing, but the nature of an asymmetric game makes them difficult to teach.

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

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?
It’s kind of a mix of the two for me. I typically have a small idea of a core mechanic and then I then figure out a theme that fits, which I use as inspiration for the rest of the mechanics.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have entered a few contests and my game, Trace the Stars, is currently a finalist in The Game Crafter’s Roll and Write contest.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Jamey Stegmaier. His games are so well thought out and he does so much for the community, including not just his countless blog posts and discussions, but also the way he manages his company and releases his games. He always has the consumer’s interest at heart and purposefully tries to be inclusive. He just seems like an all-around great guy.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Many of them just come randomly when I’m driving or trying to fall asleep. I will also explore Pinterest to help find inspiration, especially when I have something specific in mind. I keep an ongoing Pinterest board of things I find interesting that might give me inspiration at some point.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Lately, it’s just been through TableTop Simulator with a handful of other designer friends that I’ve met through The Game Crafter community. As for in-person, I have a couple of really good friend groups that are usually up for a playtest. I attended Protospiel MN in 2020 for the first time and had some amazing playtests there, too.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have bounced some ideas around with some friends about co-designing but haven’t fully gotten into anything yet; however, I think it would be a lot of fun. I have a fairly good handle on where my design strengths lie, and this really helps when working with someone so that we can complement each other. As for artists, I love finding artists to work with; however, it’s not always in the budget. Depending on the scale of the project, I can sometimes create the art myself, but again, I know my limits. The same goes for graphic design.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
I really struggle with giving myself that last step to finishing a game, like creating the final rulebook and marketing. I really hate marketing.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I have a dream game that I would love to make that actually uses a bunch of different board game IP’s. I want to make the equivalent of Super Smash Bros but as a board game. Not necessarily a fighting game, but just something that uses characters from a bunch of different board games. However, I definitely do not have the resources for something so ambitious, so please, someone make this game.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
To use The Game Crafter right out of the gate for things like card and box templates as well as component possibilities. Having these sort of “constraints” really helped shape my games into more than just ideas on scraps of paper.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
To just power through and finish your first game. It’s not going to be good, and it’s important to understand that, but it will help give you the experience and drive to move forward with your other games. You will grow as a designer, but only if you actually have those experiences to learn from.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Kickflip (self published on The Game Crafter)
Games that will soon be published are: Trace the Stars

This is what I have currently crowdfunding: 1-2 Punch
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Anything
I'm planning to crowdfund: Dark Spires, Animal Firm
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Dark Spires, Animal Firm
Games that I'm playtesting are: After the Stars Fell, Risky Kittens, Super Hyper Combo
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: DRAWmalgamation
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Adult Friendships

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
A few different groups but I am active on The Game Crafter Designer Discussion Facebook Group.

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 are fun but I’m not super into them. Coke for making a rum and Coke, but I drink Mt Dew daily. I grew up on VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I play a lot of video games, especially Overwatch. If anyone plays on PS4, let me know!

What is something you learned in the last week?
How to make reindeer poop.
[GJJ Games] OK, I’m intrigued. What exactly is reindeer poop? https://pin.it/XPe40d2 - It is super delicious and easy to make! The recipe calls it “White Trash”, but I’ve always heard it called “Reindeer Poop”.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Death Cab for Cutie (depressing), This is How it Always is (depressing), and The Royal Tenenbaums (depressing).

What was the last book you read?
I am currently reading Sophie’s World.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I’ve been trying to learn the harmonica.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I have a huge collection of Pokemon memorabilia.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I broke my ankle skateboarding back in high school but I didn’t want to stop hanging out with my friends, so I waiting a few hours before finally going home and having my mom take me to the hospital.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Years ago, I applied at a coffee shop without actually wanting to get the job, but I got it and it taught me to like espresso drinks.

Who is your idol?
I typically don’t like to idolize people because I have come to the realization that no one is any better than anyone else, and everyone is really just faking it till they make it. However, I got to meet Tony Hawk a few years ago and that was pretty cool.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Jump into the future when space travel is normal and affordable.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I’m right smack in the middle.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Hellboy is my favorite.

Have any pets?
A dog, 2 cats, and my daughter’s 2 cockroaches.

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 would like Chess to survive as I think it helps teach patience and strategic planning. I would be happy to see Football die out because it gives kids numerous concussions that can have lifelong consequences.

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):
Brian LaPorte, Ben Moy, and Donnie Coleman are other designers that I’ve met through The Game Crafter community. They are extremely supportive, helpful, and kind and are simply amazing people.

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

I love to brainstorm with other designers and help them think through their ideas. I like to support indie designers in any way I can. Please reach out if you’d like to chat!

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.

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