Tuesday, March 23, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 272: Magnus Karlsson

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:Magnus Karlsson
Location:Vikingstad, Sweden
Day Job:I am a software developer at Sectra, working with digital medical imaging systems.
Designing:Five to ten years.
Facebook:Uptime Games
Find my games at:Send me an email and I will show you our games in Tabletop Simulator.
Today's Interview is with:

Magnus Karlsson
Interviewed on: 1/2/2021

This week's interview is with designer Magnus Karlsson. Magnus has been working on a number of games, but has lately been reworking one of his older titles, Mercenaries, which includes some innovatife drafting mechanics! Several other games are at various stages of completion, with some even out to publishers for evaluation, so you may see some of Magnus's games on shelves someday soon! Read on to learn more about Magnus 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 really enjoy the creative process working with other people trying to create a fun experience. So me and my friend Henrik started to meet regularly to design our ideas and that is a lot of fun.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Our latest projects are Mercenaries, a tactical tile drafting game that has been on back burner for many years. Now in its third major revision it has reached something that might actually be playable. Then we also have Escape from Earth, a two player coop game inspired by old arcade classics like Space Invaders and missile command. This is the first time we actually succeeded in creating a good coop game although we have tried several times before. We also try and create our old "catalog" of games in Tabletop Simulator to make it easier to playtest in these days of Covid-19.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
No, we have been close, but nothing so far.

What is your day job?
I am a software developer at Sectra, working with digital medical imaging systems.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
In friendly environments, where you can talk without shouting.

Who do you normally game with?
Friends, family and a lot of fellow designers.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Probably our latest creation to get a play test, but otherwise something that matches the interest of the participants. For me, the game itself doesn't really matter that much, I enjoy the social experience and want everyone around the table to have fun.

And what snacks would you eat?

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I do enjoy some background music, if it can be something thematic it's great but otherwise it should be something that doesn't disturb the gaming.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I don't really have a local game store, but Spielmaterial.de and gameprototyper.com are two sites that I regularly use for purchasing new components.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Two of my favorite games are The Resistance and Kingdomino. I really like the simplicity they offer, they focus on simple, interesting decisions that highlight gaming for me. So on the other hand, worst games are often over-polluted games that have a ton of mechanics but don't really bring any joy to my brain.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Simultaneous things are the best, allowing everyone to be active at the same time. 7 wonders are a great example, where you feel like you have been involved the whole game. So the opposite for me is action point systems where I need to spend more than 2 points to actually complete a sequence of things on my round.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I do enjoy Game of Thrones the board game, but the player count and playing time makes it really hard to get to the table.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card 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?
7 out of 10 starts from mechanics, but sometimes the theme comes first. Although I must say that I am a mechanic focused designer. The game mechanics must support the game and feel natural, otherwise I am not pleased.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
We have entered a couple of competitions. Second place in the Swedish Championship och Board game design is the top score so far.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
No, not really, but I do admire designers that create great games with few components and rules.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
My co-designer Henrik often comes up with new ideas, bringing them to our design session so that we can create the first prototype.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Friends, family and fellow designers are the most common players.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I do like to work as a team, but I imagine that I can be quite stubborn. So I would say that it's good to have a team structure in place so you know who is the lead.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
My biggest challenge is to add theme to games. I often feel that things get convoluted when you add stuff that for me distracts from the core experience.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
The deeds of Paksenarrion, a book series by Elizabeth Moon that I have read multiple times. It was actually the original inspiration to the Mercenaries project that I am now testing out. Although there is little theme left :-)

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Start doing it! I really wish I had started earlier, it has brought me many new friends and I really enjoy sitting down designing, especially in groups.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't be afraid of showing off your work.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Currently looking for a publisher I have: I would say that almost all of our projects are at this stage. They are ready, showing off the main features, but a publisher would need to mold them into the final product they want to sell.

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

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 Trek: Discovery, Non-alcoholic beer and we actually didn't have any video cassette player at home when I grew up.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Playing floorball.

What is something you learned in the last week?
That it's tough to get the end game scoring right.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I do enjoy all kinds of music as long as I feel the melody... For books I would say historical fiction is my favorite. Similar to that I also enjoy movies or series with historical connections.

What was the last book you read?
I actually re-read some old Tom Clancy books lately. Used to be a real bookworm, but the last 10 years I read very little.

Do you play any musical instruments?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I don't hate your prototype, I just have a lot of opinions and I tend to forget the praise.

Who is your idol?
My dad, he has a "let's fix it attitude" to life. Do things instead of worrying.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back 20 years and tell myself to start designing games earlier.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Good question, I guess I am somewhere in the middle, I like people, but I also like to be alone.

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

Have any pets?
Two cats are roaming our house.

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 really hope that people start to acknowledge that everyone is different, and that we need to work together to get somewhere. Just caring for your own opinion won't get you anywhere.

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):
Thank you Erik Andersson Sunden for showing me this blog!

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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