Tuesday, September 10, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 188: Rocky Heckman

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:Rocky Heckman
Location:Canberra Australia
Day Job:I work for a large IT company dealing cloud computing engineering.
Designing:Two to five years.
BGG:Rocky Heckman
YouTube:Rocky Heckman
Find my games at:The Game Crafter, Amazon.com. cravonstudios.com
Today's Interview is with:

Rocky Heckman
Interviewed on: 8/22/2019

Today's interview is with Rocky Heckman, an Australian designer who just partnered with Grand Gamers Guild to bring his latest game, Rare Roses to Kickstarter on August 27. Rocky has a whole bunch of games he's working on, so read on to learn more about Rocky and his other projects.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
Like most of us I played board games as a kid. We had ones like Code Name Sector, King Oil, and other ones that weren't mainstream Monopoly. In fact I didn't play Monopoly until I was in my late teens. Once I started D&D though I spent a long time in RPGs. I played them all. Star Frontiers, Marvel and DC superheros, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I even played some of the more obscure ones like Harnmaster. I was bitten by the Magic: The Gathering bug and got to the point of becoming a judge, and a Tournament Organizer. But, I kept drifting back to board games and tinkered with existing rule sets. I created my first board game based on the movie Blood Of Heroes back in about 1990. Once I moved to Australia, I was too busy to do anything with it, but it was always in the back of my mind. Then during a trip to GenCon, and one of my designs leaked out of my head onto some paper, and the floodgates were opened again. It is my creative outlet that also help scratch the more analytical side of my brain. I think it's that intersection of the creative and analytical disciplines that attracts me to it so much.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I just released Rare Roses on Kickstarter August 27th, I have a couple Mint Tin games in flight for the Game Crafter competition. Additionally, I have a fairly large scale pirate themed game, and an engine building C'thulhu themed game in-flight. There is also a very large scale game engine project that I'm working on with a co-designer that we hope will be a pretty big deal in the industry. I suppose I have about 16 or 17 games in my backlog to work on.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes, not all of which are successful. My first game that my company published was called Troll Bridge. But, it wasn't quite what it should have been. We also have a few party card games we call our Kickin' Series. (Kickin' Your Ass, and Kickin' Your Caterpillar). Those are still available on Amazon.

What is your day job?
I work for a large IT company dealing cloud computing engineering.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At my house actually. Mostly because I'm an introvert and I don't have far to go to bed afterward. :-) I enjoy hosting so we can make the most of the game experience.

Who do you normally game with?
My family when I can convince them, and a handful of close friends. I do game with others at conventions and conferences when I can.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Charterstone, Fate of the Elder Gods, Gloomhaven, Clank! / Clank! In Space...

And what snacks would you eat?
Hmm. This is mood dependent. Usually, corn chips and salsa. other times veggies and ranch. I don't mind cocktails either. Especially if we can theme them to the game. :-)

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yeah light background music, normally I let Spotify find some great 80's music for me.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Probably LFG, or Games Capital

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite is hard, but I think if I had to reach for one it would be Clank! right now. Least favorite, Charades....always Charades. Worst game, did I mention Charades?

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I like engine building games. Something where you can see your decisions building up to be more and more successful. Least favorite is probably Charades.... wait, I think I said that before...

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Gloomhaven at the moment.

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, Card Games, RPG Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
It has its moments and situations. But they are increasingly rare.

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?
Both. I know it's a cop-out but sometimes I see a mechanic and a variation of it pops into my head, I want to build a game around it. Others, I have a theme or an idea for scenarios in theme and I build mechanics to support that story / theme.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I haven't really done too much. I entered one, and have just entered my second. I think I like the idea though due to the pressure to get things finished.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Jamey Stegmaier. Not just for design, but all around industry person. (and Ryan Laukat, and Richard Launius and Richard Garfield and....)

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Randomly from seemingly unconnected events and bits of movies, other games, books...

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I play solo, then with friends, then at conventions. lots of tests... with different people.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
mostly alone, but that is due to circumstances more than anything. Living here in Canberra, it's a loner's type work. The introvert portion of me likes it better that way anyway. But once I get a workable design, I go to others.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Getting exposure. Here in Australia we are out of sync with US and UK time zones, media, and attention. It's hard and very costly to get to conventions. So exposure is the worst bit. We design some amazing games down here that don't get the air time they deserve because of it.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Ghost Rider, or Spawn. There is so much potential there. I am already working on a C'Thulhu one which is nice and might not count.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Design, and persistently pitch. Don't try to do everything all at once. If something feels hinky to you about a game, STOP, rethink. Don't hit Publish.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Do it. Do it a lot. Just get something on paper and see if it works. Once you have that, get other people to play it. Even if it's a solo game, hand it to others to play. Rare roses was under testing for 3 years and it very solid because of it. You will get a lot of feedback from this testing, not all of it good, but it's not a personal attack. Feedback is a gift, treat it as such. ASK FOR HELP. There is a bunch of it out there and it's free and friendly.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Our Kickin' Series card games Kickin Your Ass! , Kickin' Your Caterpillar
Games that will soon be published are: Elder Gods Awakening, From The Sea, NOX, Mint Tin Skirmish: God Fodder, 7th Sign, Dice Engine
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Rare Roses (hit Kickstarter August 27th)
Currently looking for a publisher I have: None yet, but NOX, Mint Tin Skirmish: God Fodder, 7th Sign will be available for other publishers soon.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Elder Gods Awakening, From The Sea, Dice Engine
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Mint Tin Skirmish: God Fodder
Games that I'm playtesting are: From The Sea
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Elder Gods Awakening, Dice Engine
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: NOX, 7th Sign

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
BGDL, The Game Designers Australia, many on FB.

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, Pepsi in the USA, Coke everywhere else. VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Bladesmithing, leatherworking

What is something you learned in the last week?
I like designing more than I like publishing... and it's my way forward.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
80's and New Age instrumental, Fantasy / Sci-Fi for books and movies.

What was the last book you read?
Space Team: The King Of Space Must Die

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar, Trombone, Saxophone, and I tinker with the piano.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I am a certified Aircraft mechanic, and Avionics technician. I've worked in Cape Canaveral, and used to be an Arizona Ranger.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I'm not that crazy so power sliding a car in the snow down the interstate is about it.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Chatting with a random person in IRC, that became my wife.

Who is your idol?
Nicola Tesla

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back and tell my younger self to do this game design thing earlier with more dedication.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
introvert, very.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Professor Xavier. .. I don't like having to guess what people are thinking.

Have any pets?
Dog... but I'm a cat person.

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?
Board games will survive, and if not they can easily be re-created in that kind of environment. But I do kind of hope that most world politicians get a reset. I don't think there are any good choices left anymore.

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):
Marc Specter for helping and partnering with me. Jamey Stegmaier for inspiring the industry.

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

Make Awesome Things!


Thank you for reading all the way through this. My motto is Bringing friends and family back to the table. I hope to see you all in the future and talk games. Maybe we can make something awesome together!

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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