Tuesday, September 17, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 189: Lucas Gentry

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:Lucas Gentry
Location:Indiana, USA
Day Job:Assistant Librarian
Designing:One to two years.
YouTube:Lucas Gentry
Find my games at:BGG or Button Shy Games
Today's Interview is with:

Lucas Gentry
Interviewed on: 8/14/2019

Lucas Gentry has just had his first game design shipped to Kickstarter backers in the past few weeks. SpaceShipped was published by Button Shy Games and is already getting decent reviews. It is a solo game that uses only 18 cards. Lucas has several other games in the works, too, so read on to learn more about Lucas and the other projects he's working on.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
Heroscape was fun, but took too long to set up. So I tried to make a quick-setup version.

What game or games are you currently working on?
A pocket-sided adventure game, and a worker placement game, neither of which are currently named

Have you designed any games that have been published?
SpaceShipped, by Button Shy Games

What is your day job?
Assistant Librarian

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Friends' houses

Who do you normally game with?
Half a dozen friends that went to college with my wife

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Whatever we haven't yet played before, or whatever someone just acquired

And what snacks would you eat?
Pizza, fruit, veggies, cookies

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Gam3, in Terre Haute, IN

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Least Favorite still enjoyable: Mr. Jack Pocket. Worst game: Apples to Apples

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite: Deckbuilding. Least: Secret Traitor

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

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

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?
Typically mechanics or "feel". With SpaceShipped, my first published game, I was thinking about an old PalmOS game that I really enjoyed back in the day, and I attempted to distill the feel of that game into an 18 card game.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've entered a few, but never won any. SpaceShipped, however, was a part of a Button Shy contest. It didn't win, but several months later, the publisher emailed me and said even though it didn't win, they really liked the game and they wanted to publish it anyway.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Maybe John D. Clair, but probably just because I've only recently started playing Mystic Vale, and I really enjoyed it. I also really like Scott Almes for Tiny Epic Galaxies, and Matt Leacock for all of his Cooperative games, but I don't think I really have a "favorite" per se. Just lots that I really like.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I get a lot of ideas from the concept of "I really like this game, but I think I'd like to change this part of it." Typically, that means streamlining a game, or making it less complex or hard to set up. Other times, I get ideas from video games or discussions with other designers. Sometimes, it's simply a matter of putting some components on the table and moving them around and seeing what makes me inspired.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
By myself at first, then I often share the ideas with people from facebook or BoardGameGeek and get feedback from them. I've been to a Protospiel one year, and it was awesome, but I can't go to the far away or expensive events at the moment, so a lot of the time, it's interacting with people online or friends that I know in meat space (whatever you call people not online).

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I'd love to work with co-designers, but as of yet, I haven't. I think a big problem is finding someone else that has the same level of interest as yourself, combined with similar levels of availability.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time management, definitely. I try to carve out game design time, but it's a constant struggle.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Mega Man X or one of the old Super Nintendo RPGs, like Final Fantasy III/VI or Chronotrigger.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
"Put in your reps," as Gabe Barrett (from the Board Game Design Lab Podcast) would say. Keep cranking out the bad ideas and you'll get better and better. You're not going to make a great game your first time through, but the more you make, the better you'll be in the long run.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Always cut. The less complex you can make something, the better. If you have to say "unless" or "except" in your rules, try to see if there's something you can cut to make it so you don't have to say that. Complexity is the enemy of accessibility.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: SpaceShipped. It's my only professionally-published game, and it just started arriving at customers' houses this week (mid-August, 2019). It can be found at: https://buttonshygames.com/products/spaceshipped
Games that I'm playtesting are: Under Cover, a kid-accessible game of set collecting and spycraft.
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: An adventure game that fits into 18 cards. Imagine the huge game of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, smashed somehow into 18 cards. More expansions of 6 cards or so at a time.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: A worker placement game, set on an asteroid hurtling towards the sun.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Facebook: Indy Tabletop Game Creators

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. No thanks. I love the fizzy flavored water. After getting used to that, Coke and Pepsi just feel thick. I have good memories of VHS, but I pretty much just stream any videos I watch.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I also dabble in learning new languages and computer programming.

What is something you learned in the last week?
No matter how many times you proofread your instructions, and no matter how many people think they are clear, once a game gets published, you'll find more edge cases and misunderstandings. (But still try to iron out as many as you can before sending to the printer)

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I like peaceful music with good harmonies that I can sing along with. I love Sci-Fi books, especially speculative hard science future. I love Action Adventure, Sci-Fi, and Super Hero movies.

What was the last book you read?
Apes and Angels, by Don Bova.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Nothing very well.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
When I'm stressed, I make up songs in Spanish and I sing them very loud while I drive.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I stay away from crazy when I can help it, but one time, we climbed up the side of a mountain (not a rock wall, just like a steep hike), until we were above the cloud line. It was surreal.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Sorry, I'm drawing a blank at the moment.

Who is your idol?
Well, I won't call him an idol, but there's this (not famous) guy named Andrew that I know that I just respect almost more than anyone. He is the most intentional person I know, and he lives his life the most unselfishly of anyone I've ever met. Like, I don't think he ever just wastes time goofing off, because he just is spending his time so intentionally, helping people, serving others, encouraging those around him.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I guess jump into the future to see how things turn out (for me, for my family, for the world), then come back and live my life to the fullest with the time I know I have.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Ambivert. I love people deeply, but I want them in small quantities at a time.

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

Have any pets?
1.85 cats. (Two cats, but one has some missing parts)

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'd want Chess, Mastermind, Carcassonne, Pandemic, and Paperback to survive. I'd hope selfishness and xenophobia to be wiped out.

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):
Howdy, Adam! (That's my brother)

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

"Nobody cares how much you know, unless they know how much you care." I wish I could just say a thing to make the world stop being so selfish, but I can't. The best I can do is pray and try to be the best example for others as I can.

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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