Jeff checks out Dumpster Brawl, from SolarFlare Games, coming to Kickstarter October 28, 2014.
Jeff checks out Dumpster Brawl, from SolarFlare Games, coming to Kickstarter October 28, 2014.
In this edition of The Game of Crowd Funding Written Interviews we talk to Seth Van Orden, from Nauvoo Games. Nauvoo Games plans to launch Stockpile on Kickstarter on October 21, 2014; and you can check the Stockpile preview page for it now. Now on to our chat with Seth!
What do you do as a profession? (besides making games, and it can be generally and not specific if that is your preference)
I’m a business intelligence developer for a medical software company.
What makes you a geek?
Everything, I do. I was an applied physics major in college. I also enjoy programming, and I of course love gaming. Since I’ve gotten married I’ve shifted away from video games and shifted to board games at an almost obsessive level.
Do you have a geek level passion for something that most people might not consider geek related?
The top of this list would be my faith. I recently spent two years of my life as a full time missionary for my church.
Outside of gaming, what keeps you going and excited to approach each day?
Besides my faith, I would have to say problem solving. This is why I really enjoy science, programming and board games.
The Internet crashes and never recovers, are you lost or do you thrive?
I would be disappointed, and there would be many things I would miss, but overall I would see it as a welcome change. I love interacting with others, and I think we may have lost some of this with the internet. This is another reason I love board games. As for my board game design aspirations they would be gone. At this point the only real reason I have a chance at publishing games is because of things like Kickstarter and social media.
Speaking of the Internet, what has been social media’s impact on your view in to the gaming industry?
Social media has been fuel for the board game industry. Without crowd funding, I wouldn’t have a chance without going into huge debt and risking my family’s future. Websites like facebook and twitter and BGG make kickstarter projects possible.
Besides your own creations, what are the last 5 games you played?
Five Tribes, Tumblin Dice, Among the Stars, Seasons, and Splendor.
What’s your favorite genre of game, and why?
45 min to 90 min medium weight games that are easy to teach. The games with enough strategy to keep me interested, but enough luck that a worse player can win some of the time.
What’s your least favorite genre of game, and why?
Theme centered games. I don’t believe a cool or funny theme can make up for boring or poor mechanics. I love cool themes, but interesting choices in games are far more appealing to me.
Do you have a moment that you can point to where you decided to move from casual game player to wanting to be in the game industry from a business perspective?
I’ve enjoyed designing games since I was young. To me it was another form of problem solving. I started taking designing more seriously after I got married and as I moved away from my video gaming days. I started taking the business perspective more seriously after I created Stockpile and I found those who played it really enjoyed it.
What’s a typical game design process for you?
I always start with mechanics. I’ve tried starting with theme, but I have never personally find that to be a successful direction for me. I try to look for one central mechanic that hasn’t really been done before that would present interesting choices.
Where does playtesting come in to your overall process?
Once I chosen a unique central mechanic, I test it very little added on. I like to keep things simple at first. I like to follow the principles of the scientific method. If you have only add a few variables at a time, it is easy to identify the problem. If the base mechanic works, I’ll add to it. Then at any step something doesn’t work, you know where the problem lies. Playtesting is crucial. You need all kinds of playtesting. Play with your friends; play with strangers; have others play without you. It’s important to get as many ideas from others as you can. The most important step is deciding which ideas to listen to and which ones you shouldn’t.
A lot of times, rules and rulebooks can make or break a game from a player perspective. What do you attempt to do to make sure that’s not an issue for your games?
I personally don’t like writing the rules. It’s probably one of my least favorite parts of the design. It takes a lot of work to get it right. We’ve sent out over 70 print and play copies of Stockpile out so far and we get requests for more each day. We give out nice copies of the print and play files free so we can have as many eyes on the game as possible. This is especially important for the rules. It’s good if people can enjoy it when you are teaching the game to them. It’s even better if they can enjoy playing when learning from the rules. We’ve gotten tons of feedback. Our rules have greatly benefited from the feedback we’ve received.
Do you have a litmus test for yourself on when a game is “done?”
I think there are different levels of done. I believe you can’t get too attached to any one part of the game. The first and most important level of done is when you finally have a game that you love playing. I can honestly say I love playing Stockpile. With most of my designs, I dread playing the game after the 5th or 6th play. It feels more like work. Yet with Stockpile, which I’ve personally played a ton, I still love playing it. I and own a ton of games. It’s a great feeling when I am with my gaming group and we decide to play Stockpile for like the millionth time rather than a similar game in the top 100 of BGG because we simply enjoy Stockpile more. This is the most important feeling of done. When you personally feel your game can hang with the big hitters. I understand everyone else won’t agree with my view of Stockpile, but it’s important that you honestly enjoy playing your own game, because you are going to be playing it a ton with others. Don’t settle for making a good game. Make a great game.
How does collaborating on a project differ for you from solo design?
Collaborating on a project is very important for me. Even though I personally designed Stockpile, it was only possible because of the ideas of those around me. I don’t see the point in limiting one’s self to your own ideas. It also make design a lot more fun. It’s great to have people to share success with. I’ve had a lot of help with Stockpile. Most notable from my wife Tania, and my business partner and friend Brett Sobol. I couldn’t do it without them or the hundreds of play testers.
Give us your elevator pitch for Stockpile. Ready? Go!
Stockpile is an economic board game about insider trading. Each round players are given insider knowledge about how the market is going to change. They must use this knowledge to help them best invest in the stock market. Because of Stockpile’s unique bidding mechanic, players will have the opportunity to misdirect each other into making poor investment choices. Only the most perceptive investor will win.
What was the driving factor that inspired you to create this game?
It all started with the main bidding mechanic. This is how players obtain their stock. Players build piles of cards to bid over, but not all cards bid over are played face-up. This mechanic was inspired by the feeling in Liars dice where collectively the group knows everything, but individually you only know part of the story. Yet you are expected to take chances to optimize the chance of your success. You have to gauge what others know by their actions.
What went in to your decision to go with a Kickstarter campaign versus seeking publishing?
We decided we wanted to have control over the development and production of our games. Too often publishers cut corners with components, art and gameplay just to increase their bottom line. Kickstarter allowed us to keep control over this process ourselves. You’ll notice with our first game, Stockpile, that we went all in. We didn’t cut any corners. We’ve invested thousands of dollars of own money to make sure the art is top notch, and we think you’ll agree.
In the spectrum of “I love designing and don’t want to handle publishing at all” to “I love the publishing side and want to do that full time” where do you fit in?
If you would have asked me this question several months ago, I would have answered differently. I would not have guessed that I would have like the publishing side of things, and if it wasn’t for Brett, the other co-founder of Nauvoo Games, this probably would not have been true because publishing is a lot of work. I was surprised how enjoyable it is, and how much I enjoy networking with others in the board game industry. I’ve loved learning the ins and outs of the industry. I personally believe publishing has made me a better designer. I’m looking forward to continuing both designing and publishing in the future.
What are a couple of things you would tell someone on the fence about your project that would make them say, “I HAVE to back this right now!”
It’s the deal you will be getting by backing the Kickstarter. We’ve included two expansion with the base game with all copies of the Kickstarter. On top of that, after considering the cost of shipping kickstarter backers are getting Stockpile at nearly 50% off the MSRP. We wanted to reward our Kickstarer backers by giving them the best deal. Also the more that back the Kickstarter project the more we can upgrade the components.
Do you have any lessons about the Kickstarter process that you can share with others that might be looking at launching their first project?
Find someone good to do your Kickstarter with. A Kickstarter project done right takes a lot of work and money. I would suggest finding someone to help lighten the load. It makes boring things a lot more exciting, and I think it definitely improves the end product because two heads are better than one.
Where can people find out more about you/your company?
You go to our website Nauvoogames.com or you follow us on Twiiter @NauvooGames, or on Facebook /NauvooGames. Both Brett and I are active on Boardgamegeek.com, and you can easily find us because we are linked to Stockpile’s BGG page.
We would like to thank Seth for taking the time to answer our questions and let us know a bit more about Stockpile. Make sure to check out the preview page for the Stockpile Kickstarter, which should be launching October 21, 2014!
If you are interested in being interviewed by All Us Geeks, please visit our contact form and let us know.
Jeff & Megan take a look at Chroma Cubes, from 5th Street Games, on Kickstarter through November 2, 2014.
Jeff takes a look at Strife: Legacy of the Eternals, from V3G, on Kickstarter through October 30, 2014.
Jeff takes a look at Hooch, from Talon Strikes Studios, on Kickstarter through October 20, 2014.
Jason Washburn, from Talon Strikes Studios, joins Jeff for a conversation on The Game of Crowd Funding. They discuss Jason’s varied professions, producing well made prototypes, getting the word out, and Jason’s current project; Hooch on Kickstarter through October 19, 2014!
Jason Washburn (Talon Strikes Studios)
Hooch Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/693352677/hooch?ref=allusgeeks
Talon Strikes Studios Website: http://talonstrikes.com/