Tuesday, November 5, 2019

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 196: Nathan Harvey Hansen

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:Nathan Harvey Hansen
Location:Riverside, CA USA
Day Job:I'm currently unemployed / working on self-employed as a publisher, but I was a Developer at Victory Point Games for 9 years.
Designing:Over ten years!
Facebook:Nathan Hansen
Find my games at:https://nathanhansengames.com/
Today's Interview is with:

Nathan Harvey Hansen
Interviewed on: 8/13/2019

Nathan Harvey Hansen has been designing games for over a decade, many of those years with Victory Point Games. Lately he's been working toward self publishing, initially via print-n-play games. He already has quite a bit of experience, with eight published games, so keep an eye out for his future endeavors! Read on to learn more about Nathan and his projects.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I've always had an interest in design, but always thought I'd go into videogames. While in college I had a design teacher that taught the class using boardgames. Prior to that experience I basically thought of board games in the vein of Monopoly. By the end of the class we had to design a board game and I was hooked.

What game or games are you currently working on?
This would be a long list if I included everything. 30+ at least across a wide spectrum. I have a couple that are approaching publication. Head Cases is a party game where you try to diagnose the other players. Spray and Pray is a first person shooter with what I think is a unique randomization method. Federation of Sol is a solitaire space 4X-ish game with war, colonization, politics, etc. It doesn't technically have all 4 Xs but it scratches the itch.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I've had 8 games published, but none that have had real commercial success. Battle of 4 Armies (and an expansion), Rules Lawyer, Why?!, Swytch, Symmetric, Dawgs of War, Pew Pew!, and The Chosin Few.

What is your day job?
I'm currently unemployed / working on self-employed as a publisher, but I was a Developer at Victory Point Games for 9 years.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere really. As long as there are minimal distractions I'm happy.

Who do you normally game with?
I try to have a game twice a month. Most the people I invite are old college friends and former coworkers.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
It depends on who I invite. Some of my friends are down for marathon games like Twilight Imperium and some want short filler games like Pit. My personal preferences lean towards the heavier/longer stuff.

And what snacks would you eat?
I usually make bean dip and have chips. Maybe a veggie platter so we can feel slightly healthy, but it doesn't usually get finished.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
In general no because I think it distracts from the game experience, but for lighter and party experiences I think it is ok. Or if the music is carefully selected to set a mood for the game. I'd actually like to see particularly mood heavy games come with a soundtrack.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I don't have one at the moment. At least not a local one. I used to like Brookhurst Hobby but its not really in range anymore. I recently found out about one opening fairly close to me but I haven't had the chance to check it out yet.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My favorite is probably Twilight Imperium 3rd edition. My least favorite that I still enjoy, maybe Catan. But I have modded it quite a bit. The worst game I've ever played... This is probably unfair, but Android. My group got so frustrated by that game that it went back into the box mid game without bothering to put anything away properly. I think it was probably just a bad experience of a good game but it left a sour taste behind.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I don't know that I have a favorite. Or least favorite. It really comes down to how they are used. If I absolutely had to choose I would probably say area control/influence is one I really like and Roll and Move is one I don't but its not really fair. Roll and Move has been used poorly over the years so it has a bad reputation, and I can certainly think of ways to use Roll and Move well.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I'd like to get Twilight Imperium to the table more than once a year.

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?
While not a favorite, it did bring a lot of people into the hobby. I'm glad it exists.

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?
I've done both, but I think I come up with mechanic first more often than not.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered yes. Won no.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Kind of. A big part of why I decided to make games in the first place was playing Fallout on the PC. Years later I was able to work with one of the principal designers of Fallout on his board games with Victory Point Games. Chris Taylor.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
They can come from anywhere. All at once or over time. I've woken up in the middle of the night with an idea that just had to come out, and I wasn't getting back to sleep before I had a working prototype. And I've had ideas that sort of came together piece by piece over weeks from separate inspirations. A movie here, a podcast there.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Start with gross testing (just me moving the bits around), then try to get a friend to try it. Then a stranger. At each step pulling further away from the player in terms of how much information I give them. The goal is to be able to just give someone a game and say nothing.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I mostly work alone, but I would love to co-design. I think it can only help to cross-pollinate ideas and approaches that way.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Finding testers :0)

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I don't think I'd want to work with someone else's IP. It feels limiting. Maybe something in the public domain, but I don't think that really what you are asking. I think 1984 will be in the public domain next year so I'll go with that.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You will throw away 99 out of every 100 ideas.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
I know these are cliches but... Your first games will be terrible, but they need to be made so you can get to the good ones. There are no bad mechanics, only bad executions of those mechanics. Do not fall victim to loss aversion, if something isn't working throw it away, move on.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Battle of the Dale, Dawgs of War, Pew Pew!, Swytch, Symmetric, Why?!, Rules Lawyer, and The Chosin Few
Games that will soon be published are: Surrounded! With a Shotgun - A 1 to 4 player "siege" game inspired by Assault on Precinct 13. I'm going to be releasing a PnP version on my website later this week.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Head Cases, Federation of Sol
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Trade Port of Sol, imPede, Capitalism 101, Rondel, Monsters Labyrinth
Games that I'm playtesting are: Aotearoa, The Devil's Own Day, Reich, Trader of Sol, Conquests of Sol: Europa, Ninja Death Battle, Day at the Dawg Track
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Spray and Pray, The Factory Floor, Law Offices, Rule the Waves
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Oregon Trail, Last Flight of the Valkyrie, Roll & Rondel, City-States

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Card & Board Game Designers Guild, and Print and Play Gaming

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. Option 3: Dr Pepper. VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I make my own Mead

What is something you learned in the last week?
In the early days of the Roman Empire the right to collect taxes from a region was auctioned off.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I'm fairly eclectic but my favorite band is Pink Floyd. I like fantasy and science fiction. I'm basically a superhero junkie when it comes to the movies.

What was the last book you read?
The last book I finished would be the last book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series to come out. I think it was A Song of Dragons but I'm probably messing up the title. The last book I read but haven't finished yet is The Business Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Depends on how broadly you define that. I own a couple of guitars and can play a few measures of a song or two.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I learned to read by playing / watching my brothers play video games.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
"Surf" in the back of a flatbed truck in the rain. It was fun. It was stupid.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
My first published design. I was running a tabletop RPG (Mutants and Masterminds), and I have a very loose style of GMing which allows for rather large groups. I think I had 25 people in the campaign at one point, but about 15 regulars that showed up every week. I can't recall specific details but at some point the players did something that I wasn't planning for that resulted in me needing an easy way to choose one of the players to take on a specific strategically important leadership roll and didn't want to just have them roll against each other. I told them to take a short break and be back in 15 minutes. I spent the break making a quick abstract game that mirrored the game setting visually and had them play each other in character with the winner getting the position. Of course, that version of the game wasn't what I ultimately published but it still has a lot of the same core elements.

Who is your idol?
I'm not sure I have one. Or maybe I don't just have one. There are a lot of people I respect for a lot of reasons, but I don't think I'd put any one person on a pedestal. I think it is dangerous to do so.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Get the lottery numbers and go back one day to buy the winning ticket. Then shut the machine down.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
None. They all come with tragedies I wouldn't want to face no matter how much I might want the powers. In terms of powers I would want though. I'd probably want some variation of super speed. So Flash?

Have any pets?
Yes. A cat. Her name is Checkers.

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 like the idea of cooperative games to stick around. No specific game mind you but if we need to rebuild I think having games to learn from that reinforce cooperation would be a good thing. As for what to wipe from existence... I don't know. We learn lessons from everything. If we wipe something from our collective consciousness we lose the lessons and will probably repeat mistakes. Maybe some kind of weapon?

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