Month: May 2015

Because She Weighs The Same As A Duck – A Conversation With…Jay Treat About Cunning Folk


I have the pleasure of talking with Jay Treat this time out. Jay has a new game called Cunning Folk. The game has a couple of days left on Kickstarter and it’s way over funded. It’s hit two of its stretch goals and is inexpensive.

Tom: Well Jay, It has been a while. Why don’t you remind us about Jay Treat.folk4

Jay: Nice to be back, Tom. I love board, card, and party games, as well as video games, RPGs, and freeform LARPs. I believe games are a force for good in the world, bringing strangers together as friends, and helping us continue to learn and grow.

Tom: Freeform LARP. You’re probably familiar with Jason Morningstar who is a big LARP evangelist.He’s an acquaintance of mine and such an excellent rpg designer and guy. Have you played Fiasco?web_fiasco

Jay: I met Jason at Metatopia where I played his first test of a Fiasco LARP. No one doubts Jason’s talent, and Fiasco has done wonders for the Indie RPG community.

Tom: I had the pleasure to be one of the Fiasco playtesters. I can’t say enough good things about that game. You are right that it has done so very much for the Indie RPG community. That reminds me that I need to have him on the show. What’s your gameography (ludography?)?

Jay: Cahoots! is a shifting-partnership trick-taking game on iOS. Legacy of the Slayer is a story game on demand. Merchants of Araby will be published by Game Designers Clubhouse within a year. For smaller games and free games, check out TreatGames.com

Tom: I’ve not played Cahoots! but it sounds fun. Any plans on making it a physical game?

Jay: Absolutely. We’ve gotten a ton of feedback from players hoping for a physical copy and we’re evaluating potential publishers. That was always my goal.

Tom: We are here to talk about Cunning Folk. Give us the elevator pitch for the game.

folk4

Jay: Cunning Folk is a 13-card micro-game of bluffing and deduction. Players search a small village looking for good and evil witches, lying about what they see where, and trying to oust one coven or other first.

Tom: What’s the story behind Cunning Folk? Where did the idea come from?

Jay: Jason asked me if I had any ideas for his line of wallet games and I said I don’t do micro-games but I’ll think about it. The next morning a compelling image lingered from my last dream and I wondered what kind of small card game I could make from that inspiration. By lunch I’d mocked the cards up and it played surprisingly well. I played again that evening and let Jason know I’d come up with something he’d be wanting.

Tom: What was the most challenging part of designing it?

Jay: I’ve never had so much luck going from an initial idea to a polished experience so quickly. But Jason and I spent a lot of time finding exactly the right title, names for the cards and text for the abilities; to be crystal clear, very short, flavorful, and inoffensive.folk1

Tom: It’s a social microgame. It comes in a wallet. It costs $7. That’s very cool. What sets it apart?

Jay: Cunning Folk delivers a satisfying challenge for players who love figuring things out, as well as players who love lying and calling their friends out. I continue to be stunned how much play is packed in such a small package.

Tom: Now for some general game design questions. What is the least fun part of designing a game?

Jay: The second 90%. Choosing your goal, mapping out your vision, building the prototype, and finding the fun—that’s all play. Stripping the idea down, shaving off the corners, balancing it, and finding its home—that’s work. It’s fulfilling work, but challenging.

Tom: What is the best piece of feedback you’ve received from a playtester?

Jay: In general? “This is two games.” For Cunning Folk? Giving players one free mistake before they’re eliminated. Knowing you’ve got room to breathe emboldens players, and having some players in greater peril than others creates a fun dynamic.

Tom: A free mistake? That is a really cool idea. What makes designing games so fun?

Jay: Game design exercises so many different disciplines; I use Philosophy, Math, Writing, Communication, and Engineering all the time. Building those disparate skills of one another is a unique thrill. Others bring still more disciplines to bear, bringing us such a wonderful diversity of games. Oh, and the end result? People laughing and smiling together.

Tom: Are you a ‘pare down’ or ‘add to’ designer?folk3

Jay: Pare down, usually. I tend to be pretty pie-in-the-sky and usually need to bring myself to a rational level and then start peeling off games until there one best game is left.

Tom: Do you have a really big game inside trying to get out?

Jay: I’ve got this crazy idea for a crowd-sourced digital card game. In my head, it’s the best thing ever. In reality, it’s the sort of thing that would require a massive investment to get rolling. I think I’ll try a medium game or two first.

Tom: Mechanics or theme first? Which is most important?

Jay: Both together whenever possible. Designs can start from so many different places: mechanics, theme, audience, format, components, experience. But none of these things are optional and the earlier you start thinking about all of them, and how your game will blend them into a cohesive whole, the better each individual piece will be, to say nothing of the whole.

Tom: Tell us about a ‘Eureka!’ moment. Was there a moment when you went ‘Yeah, this is a game.’?

Jay: I was probably in the shower sorting the random ideas from the morning into a game-shaped box when I realized I’d most likely stumbled onto something simple enough to get players past the cards and playing each other.

Tom: What designers do you admire?

Jay: I’m lucky to count a lot of talented up-and-coming designers among my friends. Among established designers, Antoine Bauza gets mad props for the brilliance that is Hanabi, Rob Daviau for a long string of badly-balanced and wildly fun games (Betrayal at the House on Haunted Hill, Star Wars: Epic Duels & Heroscape), and Richard Garfield for having the strongest academic understanding of games, while still being able to make an approachable just-for-fun game like King of Tokyo.

Tom: In that interview with Scott Almes he mentions, regarding Kickstarter that “a lot of publishers are not looking for filler-style games.  They are looking for something more flashy, I guess.  I  have a hard time imagining a company putting up Coloretto on kickstarter, because it’s not that flashy.” I think he may be onto something here. I’m taking publishers in his quote to mean the larger companies – Asmodee, FFG, Rio, Queen, etc.. I get the feeling that they are more interested in larger games, the Queen Big Boxes for example. It’s the smaller companies (Dice Hate Me, Green Couch, Gamelyn, etc.)  that are doing the ‘filler’ games. It seems kind of appropriate in a sense as a smaller company puts a lot more on the line if they go after a large game. TMG and Stronghold would be exceptions I think. What do you think?

Jay: Large publishers make small games, but they don’t rely on KickStarter to do it. They’ve got the capital to print and distribute the game regardless, as well as the industry knowledge and customer base to market them with confidence. Smaller companies often need that support up front to get the ball rolling, even for small games. Publishers of all sizes enjoy KickStarter to gauge interest for large games, eliminating the risk of investing in an expensive product that might not sell at the price point it requires. Slam-dunks like FFG’s Star Wars licensed gamed being an obvious exception.

folk2

Tom: What do you think is driving up the game prices, other than normal production costs?

Jay: I don’t think we’re paying more for what we’re getting, but I do think we’ve seen a trend over the last decade where publishers are going all-out on game’s production values, and they’ve got to charge more for it. Perhaps where the gamer audience had been quite frugal in the 80s, they’re now more interested in quality because many of them have grown into well-paying positions, or because console video games have raised the bar for what a game is worth.

Tom: That’s a very interesting take that I’ve not heard yet. Thanks for pointing that out. What are some things that you have learned about playtesting?

Jay: I’ve written and spoken about playtesting. If I were to choose three pieces of advice:

Forget your ego. If you can’t separate your value as a game designer from your execution on one particular project at one particular snapshot in time, you’ve got no chance of hearing how to improve your game.

Ask the right questions. If you ask for “any feedback” you will get random suggestions rather than pointed analysis. Ask instead about specific areas of concern. If you pose a question so that your players feel inadequate, they won’t answer. Show where you think the game might be failing, and let them tell you how.

Find out what the issue is your playtester is trying to address. Their solution is rarely ideal, but their concern is always relevant. Ask leading questions, but don’t argue. Always thank your playtesters.

Tom: What has been the hardest lesson for you to learn as a game designer?

Jay: I’ve learned all the easy stuff and now I’m onto some really hard lessons. Right now, I’m focusing on how to evoke joy in the player experience, and prioritizing that over the goals that initiated the project. You need a destination to get started, but most journeys will take you somewhere better if you’re willing.

Tom: “how to evoke joy in the player experience, and prioritizing that over the goals that initiated the project” That is a really great way of verbalizing what we all are after as designers. Neat. It gives me something to think about and strive for. Thanks. You are just full of good points. After Cunning Folk, Merchants of Araby is up from Game Designers Clubhouse. Talk about it.GDC1

Jay:  I sent the game to David for blind playtesting and was ecstatic to hear that he loved the game and wanted to buy it. It has enjoyed a theme change and we’ve been working together to find our shared vision for the project. It’s a unique fusion of negotiation and engine-building. I’m excited to see the finished product, something greater than either of us could have made on our own.

Tom: I have an interview with David McKenzie in the works so we will be talking more about it.

Jay: David’s a great guy with some impressive game experience. I’m lucky to work with him.

Tom: Button Shy is Jason Tagmire’s company and they are publishing Cunning Folk. Why did you go with him?folk5

Jay: Jason is a lovely person and a personal friend. Even if he weren’t, I love his wallet line business model, and his dedication to quickly deliver fun, portable games. His track record is enviable, and his enthusiasm contagious.

Tom: What are some of your favorite games?

Jay: Hanabi, Tichu, Magic: the Gathering, Heroscape, Notre Dame, Werewolf, Resistance: Avalon, Crokinole, Psychiatrist, Volleyball… Ten is clearly a stretch for ‘some.’

Tom: If you have a favorite cartoon what is it?

Jay: Cartoon? Does Samurai Jack count?641324-samurai

Tom: Oh, absolutely. Great pick. Any final thoughts?

Jay: It was a pleasure chatting with you, as always, Tom. Thanks for your continued efforts highlighting up and coming games and designers.

Tom: Where can people interact with you?

Jay: @jtreat3 on Twitter

and

TreatGames.com

 

Jay, it has been my pleasure to talk with you this time. I’m very glad Cunning Folk will be published and has so many backers. It looks like a really fun game.

Readers, you can support Cunning Folk right here. You only have a couple of days left to get it though.

I’d like to know what you thought of this interview. Please leave a comment by clicking the word balloon at the top. Or you can tweet me at @goforthandgame or @tomgurg.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next time when I’ll be talking to Matt Wolfe about Wombat Rescue.

Jurassic Fun For Everyone!…A Conversation With Dan Letzring


Tom: Welcome again Dan. I’m really happy to talk to you again. Let’s get into it. You decided to cancel the Dino Dude Ranch campaign and relaunch it. Which you did this past week. Congratulations! The game is doing quite well. With the previous campaign, you unlocked basically all the stretch goals by the end of the campaign. Can you talk about them and why you decided to go ahead and release them?

Rev's Box

Dan: Yes, some of the stretch goals were not intended to be directly in the base game so they were not included at base funding, but they were minimal in cost to add so I figured I would start to unlock them to attract more backers to the campaign.  The more expensive upgrades were able to be compensated for by the changes I made early in the campaign to reduce the cost of the game.  At the start of the campaign I realized that simply reducing thickness of the player mats, which are still quality and functionally equivalent, allowed me to save on both manufacture and shipping.  Since the campaign costs were based on the more expens9099414ive game, I  was able to unlock the stretch goals and still cover the costs if the campaign successfully funded.

Tom: You’ve included your other game, Ph. D., as an add-on. That was a good idea. How well has it been received?

Dan: It was actually well received.  I know that the game is targeted to a very specific audience, which is why I was hesitant to add it in the first place, but as soon as I added it I had a handful of backers change to the reward tier as well as people contact me post campaign asking about it for the next time around.  Even though the game is not directly related to Dino Dude Ranch, backers were receptive to it because they were interested in seeing the project succeed, supporting me as a designer, and trying out a new game.  Though I must admit, the game is still fun regardless of if you went to grad school or not.  This second time around,Dr Dinosaur Image to share I will be including Ph. D. The Game right from the start and it will include a Limited Edition Card for the backers who choose it called Dr. Dinosaur.  It will include a Dinosaur Dude Rancher as the image but in the style of Ph. D. The Game.  I will also be sending this card to backers of my first campaign for Ph. D. The Game as a thank you for being repeat backers.  For more information on Ph. D. The Game, people can check out the BoardGameGeek page at:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/153653/ph-d-game

Tom: You mentioned after the last campaign that there were some improvements that you discovered during the campaign and some ideas from backer feedback. What improvement are you incorporating?

Dan: First and foremost, I was able to get the game down to $23 (shipped for free in the US).  This price will not include the upgrade to custom cut wooden food meeples but those will also be available for an additional cost. I was able to lower international shipping, especially significant for the UK, France and the western EU.  Lastly, I have been workDDR veloing hard to improve the layout/graphic design of a lot of the components.  On top of that, I have been working with the artist to complete the remaining pieces needed for the game: The player mats/ranches, some characters, and the velociraptors.

Tom: The updates look fantastic! I think they improve the game quite a bit. And as small as it seems, dropping the price to $23 will make it more attractive I think. And it makes it seem more like a family game for some reason. Free shipping for the U.S. doesn’t hurt either.

Now, we didn’t talk too much about this in the last interview but I want to talk about the art for DDR. Who was your artist? They’re super great and perfect for a family game.

Dan: Thank you!  I was very lucky to connect with a fantastic artist, Jesse Labbe.  I was playing a game published by 1A Games called Cross Hares and thought to myself that the artwork would go perfectly with my game so I reached out to the artist (who also turned out to be the game designer) and that was Jesse.  He drew me one sample dinosaur and I was sold immediately.  We worked really well together and have been sharing the same vision moving forward with it ever since.  I look forward to seeing the remaining pieces that he has left to complete and updating the rest of the placeholder art.  I must say again that I have been very lucky to work with someone who I can mesh so well with.

Tom: You’ve changed some of the pledge tiers too. Talk about that decision.

I realized that making a less expensive reward tier was beneficial in many ways.  First, it gives the backers a less expensive option (shipped in the US for $23 instead of $29) which will also alleviate high cost concerns for international backers.  Second, it was less expensive for me to offer the base game with the upgraded add ons, thus allowing me to lower the goal a little Old and new reference Cardbit…and every little bit counts!.  What is great about this change too is that it has zero impact on gameplay.  The main difference is thick punchboard tokens (which are still quality) vs. custom cut wooden food resources.  Although the custom wood pieces are nice, I figured some people would be indifferent to them and prefer to save some money.  Now they can.  I also figured I would reward those who chose the upgrade by including Velociraptor dinosaur tiles as well.  They are not a part of the base game but add a nice new scoring mechanic that has a nice effect on gameplay.

Tom: What have you learned from the first DDR campaign? What have Updated Chityou done differently?

Dan: I think the most important thing is that I am going into it with a stronger crowd.  I have been raising awareness of the launch date (May 19) and I had all of these amazing backers from the first campaign ready to go on Day 1.  This strong start will hopefully set the tone for a fantastic re-launch.

Thanks for joining me Dan. The game looks even better than before. It has had a very strong start, at little over halfway to goal with 25 days to go. That’s awesome.

Dino Dude Ranch can be supported right here. It has about 20 days to go and is halfway to its funding goal. As you have seen Dan has updated most of the art and made some significant improvements to the game. It’s Jurassic fun for everyone.

Representative image

Readers, please leave a comment by clicking on the word balloon at the top of the page. Or you can email me at goforthandgame@gmail.com or on Twitter @goforthandgame or @tomgurg. I would really like to hear from you.