Tuesday, July 9, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 179: J. Ryan Opp

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:J. Ryan Opp
Location:Greeley, Colorado, USA
Day Job:Software Developer/Administrator
Designing:Five to ten years.
Find my games at:You can buy the Book of Dragons from Grey Fox Games. If you're a publisher, I can send you prototypes or PNP files. If you're in Colorado, you can find me at all the local cons and at our Designer events. Otherwise, be patient. I'll soon be a household name.
Today's Interview is with:

J. Ryan Opp
Interviewed on: 1/15/2019

J. Ryan Opp's first published game was Reflections, a two player strategy game that is part of the Book of Dragons game system from Grey Fox Games. In this collection he stands among the likes of Martin Wallace, Robert Burke, Jonathan Gilmour, Sen Foong Lim & Jay Cormier, and more! That's a pretty awesome crowd to run with, so I expect we'll be seeing a lot more awesomeness from J. Ryan Opp in the future. Read on to learn more about him 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?
Certain games I wanted to play did not exist.

What game or games are you currently working on?
My main 4 right now are The Fairy Ring, Wild Prizefighters, the Big Apple, and Office Demon. Two other unnamed projects are in early stages.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes. It is called Reflections, and is in the Book of Dragons, that was recently released by Grey Fox Games, however, it is out of stock and out of print already ☹️).

What is your day job?
Software Developer/Administrator

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Friends' houses. Several of them have elaborate game rooms and tables.

Who do you normally game with?
I attend about 3 board game nights per week with friends and acquaintances in town, and about once a month with other game designers up to 60 miles away.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Depends on the group. Something new and light like Skylands, all the way to something a little older and much heavier like Terra Mystica. Scythe is always a favorite.

And what snacks would you eat?
Chips and salsa or cheese and crackers, as well as beer and soda.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Instrumental, so people don't get distracted. A lot of Lindsey Stirling gets played. I would also put on some jazz from time to time.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
The Nerd Store, Greeley, Colorado, USA.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite is still probably Scythe, especially since Fenris dropped. Plain vanilla Catan got me into the hobby, but I need at least Cities and Knights since then, and can still enjoy it. Left, Center, Right is the worst game I've ever played.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
As long as there is a new spin on things, I like most mechanics. Advanced Programming is always fun though as chaos ensues when people mess you up. I'm a little tired of Worker Placement and Deck Building, as I'm not seeing a lot of innovation these days in those mechanics.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Far Space Foundry is extremely clever and has mechanics I've never seen anywhere else. I get it to the table, but not as often as I think it deserves.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Video Games, Other 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?
Mechanics first. I figure out some nifty puzzle or mathematical property I'd like the players to mess with for the whole game as the main course. Then I ask myself what such manipulation feels like thematically. After the main mechanic and theme are established, I had secondary mechanics that match both.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have entered several. I won the Book of Dragons competition to get my game put into that collection.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Personality: Mike Fitzgerald (personal friend) and Jamey Stegmaier (really like his blogs). Scope of work: Richard Garfield, Reiner Knizia.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Long showers, and walks with my dog.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I am part of (and current President of) the Colorado Game Designers Guild. We hold playtesting events periodically. I also occasionally ask friends and family when the prototype is young, more frequently as it gets more polished and I know they are having fun.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I design alone. I have not found an individual yet who thinks the same way I do.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Pitching games to publishers. These days you need to be a salesman and a web designer and a videographer and a graphic designer and everything to stand out, or hire a team.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Commander Keen

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Feel free to abandon crappy projects, at least temporarily.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Playtest, revise, repeat. Don't even consider pitching a game less than 20 playtests old. 50 would be better.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Reflections in the Book of Dragons
Currently looking for a publisher I have: The Fairy Ring, Wild Prizefighters, The Big Apple
Games that I'm playtesting are: Office Demon, Attack Jack's Bunker
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Good Cop Bad Cop, The Superfiles

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Colorado Game Designers Guild on Facebook, also RyTracer Games - https://www.facebook.com/groups/373650543258109/

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?
The correct answer is Stargate! Coke. What's a Betamax?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Disc golf, darts, ultimate, racquetball, volleyball, poetry, programming.

What is something you learned in the last week?
That Trump was the president who posthumously pardoned Jack Johnson the boxer, when you would have expected that to be an Obama thing.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Anything but country and rap and autotune. Mostly Scifi, Fantasy, and philosophy. Comedy, action, and animation.

What was the last book you read?
Currently reading the Caverns and Creatures series, some Wooster and Jeeves, and the Bruiser after finishing the Bobiverse.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Yes. Clarinet that I recently traded out for an EWI. Some piano.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I voted for Gary Johnson.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Jumped out of (actually was forcibly shoved out of) an airplane at 4000 feet. Never again.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
My brother's conception. I don't know if you meant MY best accident or simply THE best accident, because of course I had nothing to do with it, but my bro was a surprise baby and is my best friend.

Who is your idol?
Immanual Kant, J.R.R. Tolkien, Douglas Hofstadter.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Invest in Bitcoin.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Jumper. Not really a superhero as he only cares about himself, but I'd like the teleport ability.

Have any pets?
Hudson the Chocolate Lab.

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?
All of my games will last forever, of course.

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

I also design puzzles. On my website, you should really check out the Discworld and Star Wars Einstein riddles and the Picture Slitherlinks.
Oh yeah, I also write a lot of song parodies, most of them about board games, because I'm crazy like that.

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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