Tuesday, July 23, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 181: Derek "Zyn" Buczynski

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:Derek "Zyn" Buczynski
Location:College Station, TX
Day Job:I own Zyn Creative Studios. We provide graphic design, web development, sponsorship acquisition, and publication management. Most of our clients are Non-Profits, but we also offer services to general businesses and consumers.
Designing:Five to ten years.
BGG:Riftway Games
Facebook:Riftway Games
Find my games at:www.riftwaygames.com
Today's Interview is with:

Derek "Zyn" Buczynski
Interviewed on: 1/15/2019 (updated 7/22/2019)

This week we meet Derek "Zyn" Buczynski. Derek is a Patreon of GJJ Games, so thank you for your support Derek! Last year Derek ran a successful Kickstarter for Beasts: Edge of Extinction and he's currently working on an expansion, so look for that coming soon. He's also working on several other projects that he hopes to publish through his company, Riftway Games. Read on to learn more about Derek 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've always had a huge imagination. Before I hit double digits I had created my own superhero world - complete with custom action figures. I would tell their stories to anyone who would listen, building sets out of cardboard to put them through world saving scenarios. It took me into my 30's to fully understand it was all a precursor to developing tabletop games. Your only limit and your imagination, and I think that's just amazing.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Since wrapping up a successful Kickstarter for Beasts: Edge of Extinction last December, I’ve been working on its first expansion: Revenge of the Dodos. In it, eliminated players can exact their revenge by working together to help the game eliminate the final 2 players simultaneously. It’s an exciting new angle for an already fun game.

I'm also developing a board game based on the Unluckables by artist Kristie Silva. They're these cute little living dolls that absorb your bad luck, and in turn end up in all kinds of mischief and unlucky situations.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Beasts: Edge of Extinction

What is your day job?
I own Zyn Creative Studios. We provide graphic design, web development, sponsorship acquisition, and publication management. Most of our clients are Non-Profits, but we also offer services to general businesses and consumers.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
While I love the convenience of playing games in my home game room, there's just something magical about playing at gaming conventions. The atmosphere of hundreds of happy and excited players really enhances the experience.

Who do you normally game with?
At home with local friends, online with distant friends via Tabletopia, and lots of strangers at meetups and game game conventions.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Games that make it to my table most often are Horizons, Zombicide, Hellapagos, and Sushi Go. Of course, Beasts always makes it there at some point of the night or whatever new game idea I've printed out to test.

And what snacks would you eat?
It's actually become a tradition that I cook or grill players dinner before we get started, so everyone is required to come hungry! After that we'll typically have some chips and salsa to nibble on along with our drink of choice.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes! Typically just some 90's or 2000's rock mix station via Pandora or Spotify. If we are playing something like Zombicide: Black Plague I'll find some eerie music playlist online, just to set the mood.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
We are pretty limited out here in College Station, but Clockwork Games provides a pretty nice facility for a gamer to both buy and play locally. I buy all of my card sleeves from them.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite game is Hellapagos. It's simple to play but really fun with a big group. My least favorite that I still enjoy is Cards Against Humanity. Worst game I've ever played was Quarantine.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I enjoy Take-That style games a lot, or anything that creates an emotional response from player to player interaction. I'm not a very big fan of auction mechanics, but they do have their purpose when implemented properly.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Second Edition

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures 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?
Many game designers will tell you to start with mechanics, and it's a sound concept. Unfortunately, my brain doesn't always work that way. I'm ADHD and have a difficult time keeping focus without putting things into mental containers. To me, a theme is a container and the mechanics are what I put inside it. Without having my container it can be a mess, mechanics scattered everywhere, stepping on them in the middle of the night like a lost Lego piece... If I first settle on a theme, game mechanics just tend to fall into place.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have not.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I think there are way too many talented designers out there to pick just one, but if I had to, I'd probably say Richard Garfield. I have a lot of respect for his eclectic creativity.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Usually the most inconvenient places, like in the shower or driving. I think things like running water or the sound of tires on a road stimulate my creative thought processes and really get my inner muse going.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start with my family and close friends, playing it repeatedly. I have to be able to over-play my own game without getting tired of it. Once it’s at that point, I know it’s ready to take to game stores, meetups, and conventions to get as much feedback from outsiders as possible. Recently, I started using Tabletopia to help with groups of people online. It is much easier for friends who do not all live near each other.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
In the conception stage I like to work alone. I get too easily distracted by others, so I tend to lock myself up in my office and work out the blueprint for a game. After that, I rely heavily on my family and friends for input and will constantly bounce ideas off them. My artists can also inadvertently sway ideas for a game based on their artwork. It'll trigger new inspiration.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time and money.

It becomes difficult to find enough time to work on games between a job and family. Some of it can just be self-imposed guilt. If my family is home while I'm locked up in my office and my fiancé’s 8 year old daughter comes knocking because she wants to play, it's really difficult not to just drop what I'm doing for her.

Otherwise, money is a huge challenge. While Beasts was a successful Kickstarter, it's still financially far from breaking even. All of the artwork was purchased before it hit Kickstarter, which only covered the cost of printing and shipping. Indie game design is really a labor of love, but it would be a wonderful thing to make games that could fully pay for themselves. I guess that's every designer’s dream though, right?

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Any property created by Margret Weis & Tracy Hickman. They have been creative inspirations to me for a very long time, and it would be an absolute honor to be tapped to develop a game for one of their properties.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
There are no rules other than the ones you make.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
There are no rules other than the ones you make! Seriously, don't ever let anyone dictate what your game can or cannot do. You make the rules. You are the master of your own realm; shape it to your vision.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Beasts: Edge of Extinction
Games that will soon be published are: Revenge of the Dodos - the first expansion for Beasts
Currently looking for a publisher I have: I am always willing to talk to publishers about any past, present, or future property to help reach more tables.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Revenge of the Dodos
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Revenge of the Dodos
Games that I'm playtesting are: Unluckables: Shadow Dilemma
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Riftkey: Allies & Enemies
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Pirate’s End, Tainted Forest, and a currently unnamed second Beasts expansion

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
The Boardgame Group, Board Game Revolution Community, Board Game Spotlight, Board Game Exposure, etc. Too many to count.

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. Neither. Betamax!

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I’m a musician and songwriter. You can listen to some of my previously recorded music at https://www.reverbnation.com/lifesofar

What is something you learned in the last week?
That a gene inherited from the recently discovered ancient Denisovans help Sherpas and other Tibetans to breathe easy at high altitudes.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I listen to mostly rock, blues and their sub-genres. I read mostly sci-fi and fantasy novels, comic books, and articles from Discovery, National Geographic, etc. in relation to ancient life on earth; from ecosystems and megafauna to lost cultures and mythology. Similar interests in movies.

What was the last book you read?
Do comic books count? I recently reread Deadpool #1 from my collection.

Do you play any musical instruments?
My primary instruments are guitar and bass, with some minor skill on piano and drums.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I have ADHD. Although some will say it's difficult to tell on the outside, on the inside my brain is a constant battlefield. That said, I don't believe I would be able to be as abstract and creative as I am now, if I wasn't. It's a blessing and a curse.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
When I was a kid I built a small campfire on the side of our house to cook a hot dog. I was a boy scout and knew exactly how to make one, but put absolutely no thought into safety and briefly lit our garage on fire. Thankfully I was able to get to the hose quickly and put it out before doing any major damage. Sorry mom!

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I drove to Texas on a road trip back in 2009. While exercising, I slipped and fractured my foot in 3 places. The doctor put me in a boot, but it was so big that when I tried to hit my gas pedal it would also hit the brake. I had to use my left foot to drive myself home. I eventually accepted it as my fate and rented an apartment. I've lived in Texas ever since.

Who is your idol?
Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Save the dodos!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Yes...I am.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Doctor Strange. He really has some of the coolest powers.

Have any pets?
Not anymore.

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 think most non-digital games will continue. Obviously sports would survive, most being traditional and easy to pull off in some fashion. I think role-playing games will definitely prosper. I can only hope that hate and prejudice will finally be wiped out of the human consciousness.

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):
Love you mom! Thank you for always supporting and believing in me, even when no one else - including myself - did!

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

While the career of an indie game designer is always a work-in-progress, I owe that progress to everyone who ever has, and does, support me. Thank you all!

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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