Stealing Home with Mike Mullins and Darrell Louder… A Conversation About Bottom of the 9th


With baseball season cranking up I thought it would be cool to re-post my interview with Mike & Darrell about their awesome baseball game, Bottom Of The Ninth.

Enjoy.

 

This inning I’m joined by Mike Mullins and Darrell Louder, co-designers of the home run Bottom Of The Ninth.  We talk about the game, Unpub news, and what’s coming up for them both. Batter up!

bot9aTom: Let’s just dive right in. Bottom of the 9th. There’s an origin story there. Tell it.

Darrell: It all started with the KickStarter booth at PAX East 2014. They were giving away D6s that had a KickStarter K in place of the 6. I snagged 2 of them. Rolling them around throughout the day, I kept trying to think of a small game that could be played with them- being the Ks were on them the first thing I thought of was baseball (K means Strike out, 3 strikes, in Baseball). Mike Mullins was up at PAX with me, we were running the Unpub booth, and I told him of the idea I had- he and I then built the game and together we have made it evolve into what it is now. It really is a co-designed title and I’m damn proud of the work we put into it.

Tom: Talk about the game play some.

Mike: The gameplay is broken down into four phases, each designed to replicate some facet of the pitcher/batter duel. First is the Staredown, in which the batter tries to figure out where the pitcher is going to pitch in order to obtain bonus abilities. This is more than simply guessing high/low and inside/outside, because the batter is aware of the pitcher’s most powerful pitch, and the pitcher has to manage the fatigue track. Next, the pitcher rolls the dice to throw a pitch, using any abilities available to reroll or modify the result. The batter then does the same to try and either hit a ball in the strike zone, or lay off a bad pitch. Finally, if the batter does manage to make contact, there is a real-time Run phase, where both players roll a bot9fsingle die repeatedly to try and get a 5 or 6, either throwing the batter out or reaching base safely.

Tom: The Kickstarter was a smashing success. That is fantastic. What’s next for it?

Darrell: Well the KickStarter paved the way for the base game and the first 2 expansions. So now Mike and I will be diving back into Bottom of the 9th here shortly, to finish up a few more expansions we have in mind.

Tom: Tell me about your artist.

Mike: Darrell and I tell anyone who will listen that we thought of Adam the minute we realized we had a real game on our hands, and never considered another artist. I first noticed his work on Council of Verona, and he’s only improved from there, showing off an ability to capture different aesthetics that truly enhance the game. On top of that, the Coin Age KS video is my favorite one of all time – how could anyone not want to work with that guy?

Tom: Adam is the Scott Almes of game artists I think. He’s everywhere now. Which is fantastic cause he is so good.  Darrell, you are you still an employee of DHMG? With the merger, how has your role changed?

Darrell: Actually, I am an employee of Panda Game Manufacturing, I am their pre-press analyst. With DHMG I am doing some freelance work. Mainly helping with graphic design as well as DHMG inventory and product support. My main day-to-day job though is with Panda, looking over the design of great games to approve them for the factory to print. I love it.

Tom: You’re living the dream, man. Any cool games you’ve seen that you can talk about?bot9g

Darrell: I just completed prepress work for a game called New Salem (Overworld Games), I haven’t played it but the artwork and design are very well done, which of course makes me want to play it.

Tom: Mike, what’s your ‘day job’?

Mike: I’m a stay at home dad of two great kiddos. AJ is 7, and Hannah is 4. You can see both of them in Bottom of the 9th!

Tom: That is awesome and a difficult job but so important. Thanks for doing that. And you have fantastic gaming buddies built-in. Sweet!  Darrell, Update us on Compounded. What’s going on with the Geiger expansion? Anything else in the works?

Darrell: Geiger is at the printers still, and progressing VERY nicely. We expect it to be boarded on a boat very soon (if not already, depending on when this article is released). We expect it to be back in stores late summer. As for what is in the works, there are some BIG things in store for the future of Compounded… REALLY BIG. Some I can’t talk about yet, others (expansions, dice game) I can tease. Just like I did. 🙂

Tom: Ooo, I’m very intrigued. No chance of a leak?

Mike: Darrell won’t even tell me about this, so good luck getting anything out of him.

Tom: Do either you have any designs in the works?

Mike: I’m stepping back from design to man the development desk for a while. I have a few games from friends in the industry to work on.

Tom: That’s very cool. Let’s talk about Unpub a bit. Unpub 5 had a new, larger venue in a new city. That change seems to have helped as 5 was HUGE! (relatively speaking). Something like 92 designers and over 1000 playtesters. As THE Unpub guy Darrell, that must make you feel pretty good?unpub

Darrell: Unpub 5 was amazing- the bar keeps being raised by all of those that attend. Unpub 6 is already getting prepped and we are continously trying to find new ways to pull in the public and ensure everyone has a good time.

Tom: You had a good Unpub team too. Give them some press.

Darrell: Oh man, where to begin. Everyone helped make Unpub 5 what it was, from the designers, to the play testers, to the people who blew off their scheduled meetings/conventions to come take part in ours. Our staff was, again, the best so far!

Tom: Mike, what did you take to Unpub? How were your playtests?

Mike: I was staff at Unpub; my main job was to try to insulate Darrell from the limitless requests he got during the day (it didn’t work!). I did manage to get several tests of Bottom of the 9th in during Unpub After Dark.

Tom: Bravo to you sir! It’s been announced that Unpub 6 will be in Baltimore in April of 2016. I’m REALLY happy with the date change. But  why the date change?

Darrell: In one word, snow. The East coast always seems to be hammered by snow between January and early March, we wanted a move to avoid that. We wanted people to be able to walk from the convention center to their hotels and not be worried about frost bite. 🙂

Tom: I for one am very happy about that. Plus it will help avoid those pesky airline / weather issues. And people will be able to enjoy Baltimore more. Good decision.  You’re expanding the space too. That is awesome. I’m planning on attending, at least as a VIP playtester if not as a designer. What can I expect?

Darrell: One BIG happy family. Last year, due to the growth and demand from KickStarter we grew and had 2 separate rooms (total of ~8,000 sq. ft.). For Unpub 6 we now have 1 massive room (~13,000 sq. ft.) and we intend to have everyone together. We are closer to entrance (right in front) with Starbucks by the entrance. Just a BIG location upgrade- within the same confines of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Tom: That sounds fantastic. Having everything together is going to be great. You have Rob Daviau and Eric Lang as special guests. Sweet. Any other plans in the works?

Darrell: Yup! 🙂

Tom: Care to elaborate? Just a bit? Give me my first exclusive.

Darrell: One change is that we will have a separate space for panels on designer day, as well a separate gaming. So if you want to game, the panels won’t be distracting for you, and visa versa. We are also looking into having panels on Sunday of Unpub 6 for the public.

Tom: I’m really glad to hear both of these additions. The panels for the public is a stroke of genius. Must have been T.C.’s idea. HA!  What are some of your favorite games?

Mike:  So many! Some favorites to hit the table recently are Arkham Horror, Mage Knight (sprawling solo/co-ops), Lagoon (depth of decisions), Friday, and Biblios (lighter fare).bot9b

Darrell: Puerto Rico, Stone Age, Eldritch Horror, Elder Sign, pretty much any puzzle and dexterity game. 🙂

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

Mike:  “What differentiates this from rolling dice and seeing who gets luckier?” – Jordan Martin, re: alpha Bottom of the 9th. He meant it quite literally about our hours-old game concept, but it serves as an important reminder to make sure the decisions players make in your game aren’t merely the trappings of a quality game.

Darrell: We showed the game to Richard Launius, and he liked it, but mentioned that the pitcher needs some restraint- otherwise it could be Ace pitches all the time. We agreed and Mike and I came up with the best inclusion to the game (in my opinion), the Fatigue Track.

Tom: What makes designing games so fun?

Mike: For me, it’s more than the act of creating something; I love the mental exercise. I have notebooks filled with design ideas, and sometimes I’ll pick one up and tinker with an existing idea. Other times something will occur to me and I’ll flip to a clean page and start sketching out an entirely new concept. Either way, “going into the tank” (as I’ve come to call it) is always satisfying, regardless of the design outcome.

Darrell: Playtesting. I love to play and see the reactions of players; good or bad, happy or sad- it’s the best and, arguably, one of the most important things to study when getting feedback.

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

Mike:  Luke Peterschmidt (Castle Dice, Epic PvP) described himself as the designer equivalent of a blacksmith. He takes a concept and bangs away at it via playtesting until it starts to take shape. I’m almost the complete opposite. I’ll turn something over and over in my head until I think I have it figured out before making even the most basic prototype. As a result, I’m probably in the “add to” camp. Incidentally, our different design methods is one of the reasons it has been so fun to work with Luke.

Darrell: Add to. TC gets on me for this- big time. I’ll add and add and then spend time to make my prototypes look pretty. Only to cut and cut and have to redo all the work. One day I’ll learn. One day.

Tom: What designers do you admire?

Mike:  Luke, for one. His experience in the industry is incredible, and yet he remains a humble and and gregarious guy who started Fun to 11  to making games he thinks are fun. I also love what Jason Tagmire does. He’s incredibly prolific, relishes taking chances in his designs, and as a result has created some truly unique games. FInally, I love Ignacy Trzewiczek’s vision of “Board Games That Tell Stories,” and the way it’s realized in his games. Voyage of the Beagle is way up there on my “jealous it wasn’t me” list.

Darrell: Richard Launius. The man is, literally, the nicest man on the planet. There is no ‘air’ about him, he is in this as he loves to play games. He’s super approachable and will never turn down a game invitation. His ideas are brilliant- he’s not the ‘King of Dice’ for nothing.bot9j

Tom: What was the most challenging part of designing?

Mike:  Knowing when to let something be. Maybe it’s because I started as a playtester, and graduated to a “developer,” but I constantly try to improve what’s in front of me. What’s important to realize is that at some point, changes you make might just be that, changes. You can absolutely be doing things that make a game different, not necessarily better or worse. At that point, it’s important to focus on your original goal and make the game you set out to make.

Darrell: What Mike said, that and admitting when Mike is right about something. Hurts so much. 🙂

Tom: What are some things that you have learned about playtesting?

Mike:  There are so many amazing articles about playtesting, I don’t know how much I could contribute! One thing I can absolutely say is that no matter how thorough and sure of your methodology you are, a fresh set of eyes is always welcome. Sometimes a new player will simply validate you, but other times you’ll be challenged.

Darrell: Time is hard to find- but thankfully making a game that we can play test in a cup holder of a car, on Skype, or over the phone has made Bottom of the 9th so much faster/easier to playtest than my previous designs.

Tom: What games have you admired or researched in order to understand game design better?

Mike:  I can’t point to particular games that I’ve researched. It’s through Unpub and seeking out designers playing each others’ games at conventions that I’ve been able to learn as much as I have.bot9g

Darrell: I’d say every designer/game that has been through the Unpub program. I may be too busy to participate with a design now, but i still try and take the time to walk around and see all the new ideas and faces every event Unpub has. I admire the play testers and designers for being brave and embracing their creativity.

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

Mike:  That I’m wrong once in a great while (I wish I was kidding!).  Arrogance can be a major problem for designers. It’s crucial to know when to stick to your guns and when to admit another idea outstrips yours.

Darrell: Can’t please everyone. You may really like your game, others may like you game, but you will ALWAYS have that play test where it feels like you’ve kicked everyone in the gut and stole their candy. Those are the most informative- but most painful truths to play testing/designing new games. That and the Game Designer’s Fight Clu- ummm, nevermind.

Tom: What is the least fun part of designing a game?

Mike: I love to analyze games with math, often to a point that’s more personal exploration than game development. For example, I researched stochastic matrices and Markov chains while testing Monster Truck Mayhem just to see if I should drive over the car crush or the mud pit. If it’s not obvious, that was MAJOR overkill. However, as much as I love the analytical aspect, the initial valuations seem so arbitrary to me, and as a result that stage of building a game is my least favorite (and the design aspect I struggle with the most).

Darrell: Overhauls. It’s rough when you need to cut and redo, then cut and redo. You have played the game more than anyone- and you know you need to ‘trim the fat’, but it’s still part of your work/time that is being left on the floor. It sucks- but you have to constantly remind yourself that the game will be all the better for it.

Tom: So Mike, with Monster Truck, it sounds like you are doing some of the development of it. True or just helping out?

Darrell: Just a bit. I played it at Unpub 4, along with a few other Ridback games. They’ve since sent me protos for a bunch of different games; I love working with those guys. For MTM I had some ideas for new obstacles, and wanted to test out a few of the things I saw as possible “broken” aspects. Specifically, I thought that some obstacles should statistically always be chosen over others. While it is true, the margins aren’t all that significant. When faced with a dice roll result that could carry you into either obstacle at a fork, the stress of a real-time decision-making pretty much obviates the math.

Tom: Anything else y’all want to talk about?

Darrell: Unpub 6, April 2016! Also, that Compounded: Geiger Expansion should be in stores late Summer 2015. Lastly, for those attending GenCon this year, we will be having the first annual Bottom of the 9th World Series with some pretty slick prizes! So you’ll want to look for that when GenCon event sign-up becomes available.

Tom: How can people contact you?

Mike:  I’m easiest to reach on Twitter @bluedevilduke

Darrell: And you can find me on Twitter as @getlouder and @theunpub

Tom: Final words?

Mike:  Thank you so much for the opportunity to have a chat with you and promote Bottom of the 9th. Oh, and Go Sox!

Darrell: Sorry for being a schmuck about finishing this, but thank you for your willingness and patience to do this.

No, Darrell. You are not a schmuck. Thank you both for hanging out with me and talking about games with me. It was a lot of fun. I hope to get to see you both soon.

Readers, please look for Bottom of the 9th later this year in your Friendly Local Game Store or at the Dice Hate Me Games web store. And please leave a comment below or tweet about this article.bot9c

Hocus Focus… A Conversation With Grant Rodiek


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Hi everyone. I’m back. It has been a while. I apologize for that. It has been graduation time in my household – one daughter from UNC-CH and one from high school. So it has been very busy here. And no time to record. But that’s over now and I should be back on schedule in the next week or so.

This time out I have Grant Rodiek. Grant is the fantastic game designer of Hocus, Farmageddon, and Cry Havoc coming very soon from Portal Games. We talk about each of these games as well as Grant’s super website, Hyperbole Games. You can find out more about Hyperbole Games here. This is a fun and informative interview. I hope you like it. If so please leave a comment.

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With A Cherry On Top…A Conversation With Josh Mills


Joshua Mills

This episode I’m talking to up-and-coming game designer Josh Mills. We talk about Josh’s game, Rocky Road A La Mode, coming soon from Green Couch Games. We also discuss being part of a game design group, Unpub, and some of Josh’s in-progress games. And we are joined by my son, Zachary. It’s a really fun show.

If you enjoyed the show, why not leave a comment or a tweet telling me so. You can contact me at goforthandgame@gmail.com and @goforthandgame or @tomgurg. Thanks!!

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Smokin’ – A Conversation With… Darrell Louder, the designer of Compounded & co-designer of Bottom of the 9th. Oh, and Chris Kirkman too.


This time I’m talking with game designer Darrell Louder, creator of Compounded and co-designer of Bottom of the Ninth. Darrell and I chat about those games, bbq, and a new game he is co-designing with only Richard Lanius. Yeah, Darrell’s pretty jazzed about that. Oh, and Chris Kirkman joins us too.

So head on over to ITunes and grab the episode and subscribe to the podcast while you are at it. Leave some review stars too if you don’t mind. Or listen right here. http://traffic.libsyn.com/goforthandgame/Darrell_Louder_2016.mp3

A Conversation With…AJ Porifirio of Van Ryder Games & Rob Couch About Saloon Tycoon


Box for date announcementThis episode I talk to AJ Porifirio and Rob Couch about their new game, Saloon Tycoon. AJ’s company, Van Ryder Games, is publishing through Kickstarter. The episode was recorded prior to the Kickstarter launch. In this show we talk about game design, Hostage Negotiator, and several other things. Saloon Tycoon has already funded so it will be produced. You should check it out here. And head over to iTunes and subscribe to the podcast.

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Thanks for reading and listening. Tell your friends!

A Conversation With…Diane Sauer of Shoot Again Games


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This time Diane Sauer of Shoot Again Games talks with me. We discuss Conspiracy!, Shoot Again’s newest game. There’s talk about Bigfoot, artifacts, men in black, and string. This was a really fun interview. The Conspiracy! campaign is fully funded but ends in three days so head over here to support it.

 

Please head over to iTunes and subscribe to Go Forth And Game Podcast.

Next up: Saloon Tycoon!

 

Down In Flames – A Conversation With…Dan Letzring About Dirigible Disaster


In this episode I talk to Letiman Games head honcho Dan Letzring. Dan and I discuss his previous game, Dino Dude Ranch (which is fun!) and delve into Dirigible Disaster, Letiman’s most recent. Dirigible Disaster is in its last couple of weeks on Kickstarter. It’s funded so it will be produced. Here over here to check it out.

A Conversation With … Michael Knight About VENOM Assault


My guest this time is Michael Knight, the co-designer of VENOM Assault. VENOM Assault is a co-op about a special ops team battling the evil, world-spanning organization VENOM. It’s a really fun interview with a pretty cool guy. VENOM Assault is currently on Kickstarter right here.  You’ll find the interview below or on iTunes.

Please consider subscribing to the podcast on iTunes and even leave a nice rating. I would appreciate that.

Jamey Stegmaier Interviews Me – Part 2


Thanks for coming back for Part 2. It will be worth it. I had forgotten how interesting I sound (and Jamey to of course). I hope you enjoy.

Tom: Rhythm. That’s the key. I need a rhythm. And a goal. I need something to shoot for. You have inspired me Mr. Stegmaier!

Jamey: As for the advice, other than what I wrote above, I have a formatting suggestion for bloggers: Write the blog in a way that is easy for people to read. That is, use very short paragraphs, short sentences, and lots of lists and images. Breaking down content into smaller chunks makes it much easier for people to read.

Tom: I like that advice a lot. I tend to run on and on. I will definitely work on this. Starting with this interview. ( I would like to request some pictures now.)

Jamey: Do you have any tactical suggestions like that for fellow bloggers? What’s your favorite gaming-related blog to read and what makes you keep returning to it (both in terms of content and format)?

Tom: Two pop up immediately – Cardboard Edison and Hyperbole Games. Cardboard Edison compiles info from hundreds of gaming sites every day or so. It makes it easy to find real gems. And the folks who run it are awesome. They have a Patreon fund raising campaign going that everyone should check out.

Grant Rodiek of Hyperbole Games is such a prolific blogger about games. And he really delves into gaming why’s, how’s, and many aspects of game design. Every designer and gamer interested in design should visit Hyperbole Games regularly.

Format? I agree with you on the short and sweet points. People will not spend time on a blog unless you get to the point. The K.I.S.S. philosophy works well. AND we will probably have to break this interview into three or four parts if I am serious about starting to live by that. Give the people what they want – quick, useful, pretty. Or at least grab them, draw them in with that.

Tactical suggestions? Take the high ground. On first glance that sounds like a joke and facecious but it’s not. Set high standards for yourself and live by them. Don’t get caught up in the latest BGG or Twitter fire fight, unless you REALLY care about the topic and are contributing something positive / solutional to the situation. Don’t pick fights. Don’t get too emotional. Take a breath. Then respond if you feel it is necessary. There have been some recent scuffles that I almost jumped into because they struck emotional nerves.

Jamey: I really, really like what you’ve shared here about taking the high ground (in a humble way). I actually just wrote an article about customer service, so this idea fits perfectly with that. It’s often our instinct to get defensive, but if you treat people with respect and create a dialogue with them, you might find that you have a really loyal reader at your back from then on. And for the people who just like to pick fights, if you don’t fight back, they’ll quickly move on.

Tom: The biggest fight I know of  at the moment is on Kickstarter – why do backers or potential backers now feel that a game HAS to have finished art when the project is in the campaign? A few months ago, prototype are was fine. Why the change? Do you understand what Kickstarter is about? I don’t get them. It was very apparent in a recent campaign and possibly affected the outcome of that project. I don’t get them. Oh, man. I was starting to rant.

Jamey: That’s really interesting. I think it might be because some people associate a game without finished art with an unfinished game in terms of mechanisms and testing. It’s often a fallacy, but the association is there. Also, some backers may have been burned by projects that needed “just a little more art,” and 2 years later they still don’t have the game.

However, I think it’s a good point to remind backers of–one of the biggest up-front costs for a tabletop game is the art, so if you’re raising money for the game, the art probably isn’t complete. I think the key is feature a few beautiful, evocative pieces that represent the overall art in the game, and have a specific schedule in place for the rest of the art to be complete if you successfully fund.

I’m actually working on an “open letter to backers”. Other than the art rant, what’s one thing you’d like to remind backers of (or something they could be better or more understanding of), and what’s one piece of positive backer behavior you’d like to reinforce so it continues?

Tom: I’ll tackle the second question first. Backer behaviour to reinforce?

Jamey: Yep! What’s one thing you’d like backers to continue doing?

Tom: Other than continue backing? Talking up the projects they are backing. Continue the verbal support. Keep up the word of mouth marketing that Kickstarter projects depend on. Without that many I’m sure many projects would not fund.

Jamey: I think that’s a great point. If a backer feels strongly about a project, it’s great if they go out and share it. Sometimes people are hesitant to blast a message out on social media, so as a creator I encourage backers once or twice during a project to share the project with 1-2 people who they think might really like it.

Tom: As to something backers could be more understanding about I believe people should really understand how much work creating a game takes. There are lots of game campaigns and that probably gives an impression that it is easy to create a game and run a KS campaign. I know from interviews and because I have a good friend who has run quite a few campaigns that it is hard work. It takes a huge amount of time and there are so many things that pop up and are under the radar. So I wish backers would really take this in.

 

Stay tuned for the grand finale of this super duper interview.

Paperize


Well, it’s been a long time. Things have been quite busy lately. I have had this interview in the queue for a while. But life gets in the way. I have three more posts in the queue all from Jamey Stegmaier that I have had since April that I’m prepping for you. I thought I had posted them but hadn’t. It’s probably the best interview ever. In the meantime here is one with the creators of a super cool prototyping tool, Paperize.

Tom: Hi guys, tell us about yourselves.

Loren: I’m a serial entrepreneur and startup engineer who has bounced between startups, consulting gigs, and day jobs for about the past 15 years. A few years ago I had my “quarter-life crisis” and realized that chasing money wasn’t fulfilling in itself, and that I needed to actually follow the ideas I was passionate about. Oil & Rope is my attempt to slow down and care about something.

Clint: I’m a graphic and experience designer who’s been a “maker” all my life. I’m passionate about supporting myself doing work that I love and helping others do the same. In addition to games I enjoy chilling with my lady and our “weasels”, drinking craft beer and playing disc golf.

Tom: What’s your gamer cred?

Loren: You know that gamer friend who owns every. single. game. and somehow always wants to play, despite their spouse and children and day job? Yeah. That’s not me. I’m just a long-time video gamer (more strategic than twitch) who has always wished for more tabletop options.

Then, some time in the last 10 years, I actually looked into it and discovered this ongoing tabletop renaissance. My knowledge-worker background has me laser focused on the design of these games, and building processes around that.

Clint: I still remember the exact moment I saw my first Magic card when I was 12. I was instantly hooked. It’s still one of my favorite games even though I don’t play it near as much as I used to. Loren and I had been acquaintances since college but I found myself moving into his neighborhood a few years ago and we had both just caught the board gaming bug. It didn’t take long before we were nailing a projector to his ceiling to project our dynamically generated animated Mage Knight board. We were in deep.

Loren:  Cred? You’ll find that in our Game Design Workshops we put on, as well as in the playtest credits for Dead of Winter, Vault Wars, and (soon), Scythe.

Tom: All right. Paperize. What is it and where did the idea come from?

Loren: Paperize started life a couple of years ago as an internal, supporting tool for our first game, Flip the Script. We had a dozen collaborators working on cards for this game because it was born out of our Game Design Workshop process and it needed lots of content at the outset.

Google Sheets was a no-brainer for such collaboration, and once we had a spreadsheet full of content we needed a way to turn that into a PDF, fast and repeatedly. A weekend sprint churned out 50ish lines of code that did this for us, and we’ve been updating and maintaining it ever since. At some point, we slapped a web interface on it, and the rest is history!

Tom: I’ve started using Paperize for prototyping on Duck Blind. It is fantastic. I was using InDesign with data merge. That works great, if you can get everything done within the trial period or can afford Creative Cloud. But I can’t. So when Eugene (of Most Glorious Comrade fame. ) told us (GDoNC) about Paperize I was excited. It does basically the same thing and more. Is easier to use. And is specifically for prototyping cards. Awesome! It’s in beta right now. What are the plans for it?

Loren: That’s awesome, Tom! We love seeing all the prototypes being put into Paperize during the early adopter period. It’s so obvious already that people “get it”, so we’re encouraged to keep working on features and usability.

We are passionate about seeing more, better games on shelves and tabletops everywhere. This passion drives everything we do, from our games to our workshops and tools. We envision Paperize on that spectrum: a tool focused on achieving quality game designs through iteration that happens early, often, and with as much feedback as possible.

Right now, we are seeing people get hung up just trying to get started. So many new voices could enter our industry if there were fewer barriers to entry. So we’re looking at existing tools, taking the good and culling the bad, and bundling it up in a usable package that is drastically more approachable to people.

Some examples of ways that existing tools are failing new designers:

  • platform dependence (PC? Mac? How about web!)
  • usability (“just learn Photoshop/Illustrator” is no place to start!)
  • programming experience required (broad tools, narrow audience)
  • not focused on tabletop games, or rapid prototyping

So what do those tools do right? What is the irreducible feature set that helps game designers move fast, get a design to the table, iterate until it needs testing, then share far and wide?

Tom: You’ve been incredibly responsive to your beta testers, building out suggestions and answering questions. Even troubleshooting files for people that is fantastic. What are the next upgrades?

Loren: I’m glad you feel that way! I always feel like we haven’t done enough, and our work is never done, so it is nice to be appreciated at this early stage. We have to be careful because it is so fun and rewarding just to do “free labor” on other people’s games all day, but then we’d never ship anything!

Right now, we’ve just finished getting invites out to everyone who signed up for early access. This process has naturally generated a lot of maintenance work as we’re learning just where the bugs are. And it’s important to note that bugs don’t have to just be technical in nature: user experience is key as well! So we’ve been very reactive in the past month.

Some things we’re working on now are server upgrades for performance and stability, layout changes and instruction text to make it easier to understand, and R&D on some top secret stuff we want to launch this Fall that people really, really want.

Tom: I’m guessing you’re going to commercialize Paperize at some point. What’s the plan for that? Will it be less expensive than InDesign?

Loren: Ah, the million dollar question! Of course the answer is “we don’t know” or “it depends”, but we can talk about some of the possibilities here.

The first thing I ask people is “What is your time worth?” Next, we try to ballpark the time that Paperize could potentially save game designers. Is it 5 or 10 hours a week? A month? Or maybe 10 hour per iteration? If that’s true, and you’re going to work on games in a serious fashion, can you really afford not to do this?

That said, there is probably always some free feature set we’ll make available for people to use. Your print jobs get bumped by paying customers, you can’t access all of the art we make available for pro accounts, your cards have a watermark on them, etc, but you can get started designing nonetheless.

Things get more interesting as the higher-level features roll out. Playtester management, forums and wikis, store pages, versioning, Kickstarter support, TheGameCrafter.com support, etc. We don’t even know what these things necessarily mean as they are still just dreams, but there are probably reasonable ways to charge for these services that can lessen the monetary burden on the core Paperize product.

A lot of this is going to be driven by what makes sense to our users, too. Many have expressed understanding that our time has value, too! And servers. Servers cost money.

Tom: If I’m a designer, what can you do for me?

Clint: That’s a great question because it’s one we try to answer every day. Our goal isn’t “to make a tool that turns spreadsheets into cards”, it’s “make you a better game designer.”

That means creating tools specifically geared towards game designers. We got our start doing a game design workshop which we’ve continued to improve over the last year and a half. It’s focused collaborative brainstorming and paper prototyping, and people walk away with a prototype after just an hour. We’ve already had hundreds of professional and wannabe designers take the workshop, and the feedback has been fantastic!

Tom: How important has BGG been for you?

Clint: Honestly it hasn’t been. It’s a great resource for current game information but Reddit has been invaluable for us both in r/boardgames and r/tabletopgamedesign. I’m also a fan of BGDF.com but I just lurk there mostly.

Tom: Let’s switch gears and talk about Oil & Rope Games. First, where did that name come from?

Clint: A few years back we were in a Pathfinder campaign, it was the first time many of us had done any kind of roleplaying. Being rules lawyers we often got into lengthy discussions when we came to scenarios that we needed resources for. You’d hear comments like “Surely we picked up some rope after that last raid” or we’d ask the DM “How much lamp oil do we have?” This became an ongoing joke, especially after a battle where we used those items to defeat a mini-boss.

It just so happened that O&R started focusing more on tools than our own game designs, so that really cemented that it was a perfect name for us. We sometimes joke that we’re “selling picks and shovels to gold miners.”

Tom: I’m guessing you have games in the works. Talk about them.

Clint: Our first game is called “Flip The Script”, it’s a storytelling party game in the grimy world of Hollywood, CA. Each round, one player is the writer trying to sell a script and the rest are producers trying to interject their own ideas. The fun comes from pandering to the producers to get paid as well as from the player aid which makes anyone into an amazing screenwriter.

Our second game is tentatively called “Crossing The Sahara.” Watership Down is my favorite book and it borrows from that source material, but it’s about fennec foxes in the Sahara. Mechanically it plays like a mix of Star Realms and Mage Knight, but after reading Keith Burgun’s excellent “Clockwork Game Design” I’m considering changing the core mechanics. That book really spoke to me.

Tom: Anything else you would like to talk about?

Clint: Please check out http://paperize.io and tell us what you think! You can tweet at us @oilandrope or email us directly at contact@oilandrope.com, and read our game design blog on http://oilandrope.com .

Tom: Thank you both for being my guests on Go Forth And Game.

Readers, please visit Paperize and Oil & Rope Games. Paperize is a fantastic prototyping tool and the guys are always open for discussion.

Stay tuned. There are big things in store.