Tuesday, September 14, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 298: Delve Bros - Willem, Eli, and Zac Delventhal

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:Delve Bros - Willem, Eli, and Zac Delventhal
Location:Georgia, USA
Day Job:Eli is currently full time on Taelmoor, Willem runs a school for video game developers, and Zac works in software engineering and blockchain development.
Designing:Six months to a year.
Webpage:Taelmoor on Delve Bros
Facebook:Taelmoor on Facebook
YouTube:Delve Bros
Find my games at:https://www.delvebros.com/play-taelmoor
Today's Interview is with:

Willem Delventhal
Interviewed on: 7/20/2021

For the second week in a row the interview is with a family game design team! The Delve Bros are three brothers: Willem, Eli, and Zac Delventhal. It's truly a family operation though, since their whole families are involved in their games! The brothers cut their teeth in video game development, but just ran a successful Kickstarter for their first board game: Taelmoor. Taelmoor combines their love of board games with their love of video games by creating a unique scan-and-play feature where scanning QR codes on game pieces takes you to digital content to immerse you in the world of the game. Read on to learn more about Delve Bros and their 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?
We are three literal brothers who spent our whole lives bonding over games. After building careers in the video game space, we decided to pursue our board game passions and build Taelmoor. Our inner children love D&D, co-op games, and so much more. Taelmoor is truly a love song to those times.

What game or games are you currently working on?
We are currently working on Taelmoor! Taelmoor is a cooperative narrative adventure game played with both physical board game pieces and a free scan-and-play mobile app. Working together, you and your friends will explore dungeons and underground lairs, talk to the strange denizens within... and sometimes fight them! Scanning QR codes on interactive objects enables a fun tabletop experience with the best parts of both a board game and a video game. It was successfully funded on Kickstarter here! https://tlm.gg/kickstarter

Have you designed any games that have been published?
We have worked on many video games that have been published. Many of the brain training games by Lumosity were created by Eli or Willem. Eli also self published a game called Blitzkeep and Blitzkeep Unleashed. Willem even released a suite of games for cats called Mew and Me. But Taelmoor is our very first board game!

What is your day job?
Eli is currently full time Taelmoor. Willem runs a school for video game developers, and Zac works in software engineering and blockchain development.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At home, sitting around a table! That being said, with the pandemic and the three of us all over the country, we have become quite familiar with online board games. Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia are amazing!

Who do you normally game with?
My brothers! We all also have our own friend circles. Zac hosts board game nights at his home, Eli has a cabinet filled to bursting with games, and Willem is a huge 40k dork.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Taelmoor of course! But in all seriousness, we love co-op adventure games. Pandemic Legacy was a huge hit in our family over a long Thanksgiving break, Gloomhaven scratches the itch for team based combat, and classic D&D is the best for when we want to tell a story together.

And what snacks would you eat?
We love chips, guacamole, and a good beer. Willem is vegan though, so… celery or something?

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
For a board game we usually don’t have music playing. But if somebody is feeling especially rowdy, sometimes we’ll put on epic fantasy battle music. Get some of that Lord of the Rings stuff pumping through our veins.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Because we all live in different parts of the country, we all have different favorites. Eli is a big fan of Games of Berkeley. Willem loves Giga-Bites Cafe. Zac loves Source Comics and Games.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Our current favorite is probably still Gloomhaven. It just does such a tremendous job of creating an engaging combat experience with some light narrative. Personally, Secret Hitler is one of those games that we are tired of, but somehow we still always enjoy. And the worst game ever played? Monopoly is gutter trash.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
We’re big fans of deck building. Watching your character get super epic over time, and trying to think through how you can make more and more interesting combinations of cards is mega fun. Least favorite? Probably waiting. Waiting is a cardinal sin in the video game world, but happens in board games too. It’s not fun to have to wait three turns for something. You can come up with a more creative restriction than that!

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Probably Scythe. We always want to play, but because it's a long one with a learning curve, it can be hard to get folks to the table for it.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Video Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Only if we have to

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?
We would say the mechanics usually come first. While it’s certainly a combination of both, an interesting gameplay loop is essential to a good game, and the theme is like the icing on top.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Not unless you count the Colorado Innovation Pitch Summit where our cat video games took first place!

Do you have a current favorite game designer?
Probably David Cicurel, as Chronicles of Crime is a big inspiration for us!

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
We find that when we are doing something totally unrelated we will get lightning bolts of inspiration. Mowing the lawn? BOOM! What if you had grapple hooks for hands? Cooking some food? BOOM! What if you had rockets for feet? Reading a book? BOOM! What if you had wheels for legs? It’s really quite inconvenient.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
During the pandemic Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia have been a godsend. We invite members of our community to play Taelmoor online every week, and usually have a great time. We also play in person at home and with friends. Plus we have a free print and play for people to try and give us feedback about!

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
While working alone can be nice because decisions are so streamlined, we definitely prefer collaboration! Having a group of minds with different experience and expertise creates the best possible game, even if it takes a little longer.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Definitely getting the word out and understanding the market. Kickstarter now recommends that you bring 70% of your backers to your Kickstarter. This means you need hundreds or thousands of people who are willing to spend money on your product before you can even try to raise enough money to manufacture your first set of boxes. It is quite the challenge!

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Oooo great question. Maybe a Mass Effect board game. Where it would have branching endings and characters in the game would remember your actions and respond to them. We’d also have a way better ending than the video game series.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
It takes a while! You will almost certainly not be supporting yourself financially from your first game, or even your tenth game. But as long as you are seeing a positive trendline, you know you are headed in the right direction. It takes persistence and resilience!

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Work with people, and do not be hesitant about delegating. We have a marketing agency that took over our facebook ads, two artists, four writers, an amazing audio designer, and an even more amazing project manager (Just kidding Mario you rule). Trying to do everything yourself is possible, but also insane. Bring in other people who see your vision, and you will make a vastly better game. There are plenty of great games made by one person, but there is a magic that a well connected team creates that you just can’t deny.

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: Taelmoor: The Scan-and-Play Dungeon Crawler - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/delvebros/taelmoor-the-scan-and-play-dungeon-crawler

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Kickstarter Board Games, Board Game Design Concepts, Mechanics and Prototyping

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, Coke, and VHS. Maybe we’re typical. Or maybe we’re right.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
We love video games, rock climbing, jogging, crafting, reading and all sorts of other good stuff.

What is something you learned in the last week?
There is a type of ant called the honeypot ant with a caste of worker that basically acts as food storage. They eat and eat and convert the food to something like honey that they store in their abdomens. They swell like crazy and wind up looking like golden grapes. The indigineous people in the area dig them up and eat them as candy.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Our favorite music is probably a good electronic, basey soundtrack. Books and movies are 100% fantasy.

What was the last book you read?
Ready Player Two

Do you play any musical instruments?
Willem smacks the bongo now and then.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
Well Zac is a classically trained actor. And Eli has been making games since he was 11. And Willem has a scar on his chest from when he fell through a window.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Willem pitched his cat video games live in Vegas to an audience of a few hundred. He lost that one, unfortunately. But they thought it was cool!

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Perhaps Eli running into his now spouse? She was a coworker at the time and Eli was undergoing a bad break-up. She and Eli ran into each other a few times, and Eli asked her on a date after a month or two of courting.

Who is your idol or hero?
Adam Savage of the Mythbusters. He is such a pure soul. All he does is craft stuff, teach people about crafting stuff, and make videos about crafting stuff. He is also kind, considerate, and wants the best for people.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Probably watch the dawn of the universe.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
We’re a mix, but mostly ambiverts. We like a bit of both.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be and why?
Zac would be one of the Watchers so he could do cool stuff forever. Willem is Captain America. Boring.

Have any pets?
Eli and Willem are both Cat Dads. Eli has a little maniac named Flitty, and Willem has the chillest cat in the world, named Fez.

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?
We would be clutching our copy of Pandemic and a few core rulebooks for D&D in our hands to the very end. And hopefully, 2020 will land squarely under it.

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