For those who don’t know, what are some projects being developed by Steam Kitty Games?
Oh, R’lyeh? — a fast paced cardgame set in the Lovecraftian Mythos. You’re not a Cultist. You’re not an Investigator. You play the role of an Elder Being, collecting Cultists for When the Stars are Right. It doesn’t take itself terribly seriously, trying to balance cuteness, silliness, and horror at the same time.
This one wasn’t the first in development, but it’s the closest to completion — we shifted gears to concentrate on this one for a couple of reasons. It’s a simpler games than the others and provides quicker resume / portfolio fodder for the artist, Mackenzie Fields.
Machines, Monsters, and Madness — In this you’re a Mad Scientist seeking fame and glory. “Invent. Create. Fight your Enemies. Become famous. Try to stay sane.” In an playtest almost a year ago, Kidzilla’s creation was a Bear-Scorpion-Centipede riding around in a tank with a machine gun, meat tenderizer, and …. a salad fork.
This game actually started development back around 2007, with the idea being a computer game where players were students at a school for Mad Scientists. In 2009, I decided that before writing a lot of code I should try a paper based game first to see if it would work because it would be “easier”.
Life intervened and I didn’t get much chance to work on it for many years. In 2016 I started working at a new company with a lot more gamers as well as other designers — we playtest each other’s games. That got me back into working on games.
To Save Earth — After the events of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, Her Majesty’s government sends a punitive expedition to Mars. This is a Worker Placement game, with a time limit — while Humanity is building the capacity to go to Mars, the Martians will send a larger invasion force to Earth when the orbits align. The race is on!
Cube of the Magi — An esoteric puzzle game still in the concept phase.
What’s your process when developing multiple games at once? Do you tend to work with one title at a time, or shift between them?
It’s a bit of each, actually. I mostly work on one thing at a time, with periodic diversions. I probably would be more productive with fewer tasks in progress, but I occasionally feel the need to take a break and shift gears. Sometimes, too, the Muse will grab me and I need to pay heed. Generally these diversions don’t last terribly long
and prove useful over time — learning is always good!
When I was young, I decided that I wanted to be a Renaissance Person when I grow up — maybe one day I’ll get there. But in the meantime, I’m having fun along the way!
So far it seems to work pretty well, but I expect that I’ll shortly reach the point where I need to manage my time and efforts a bit more.
I’m really intrigued by the Hour Games listed on your site. Can you tell us about that experience?
I’ve heard that boundaries encourage creativity. One day this past summer I had an hour to kill and I’d been reading about a couple of game competitions which had recently ended. So… I decided to see what I could create within an hour, creating a dungeon crawl using pencil, paper, and dice. At the end of the hour I had a rough draft of
a set of rules, which are actually playable.
My “rules” are:
- You have an hour to create a set of rules for a game
- After the hour, you can type them up and make them “pretty”
- Hour games need to be shared!
I really enjoy the challenge of creating something with the constraints. Given the time constraint, my thoughts speed up and it feels like my mind works “better”. Not quite hyper, but more focused.
It also forces me to focus on one or two elements of a game; there is simply not time to make anything complicated. Simple really is good — the most famous games throughout history have been fairly simple to
learn, albeit difficult to master.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Additionally, by time boxing, I can explore an idea without it becoming too much of a time sync. In some of my other games I’ve spent hours and days researching fonts, art styles, and the like in order to create a mood. The limit of the hour really forces me to focus on game mechanics.
So far, there have been two “hour games” — the second, Great Green Globs is similar to Cards Against Humanity, but the goal is to come up with the most disgusting foods. (After a children’s song, “Great Green Globs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts”)
I expect that soon I’ll do another!
Can you remember your gateway title to modern tabletop games?
I think the earliest I can remember playing games was when I was four or five years old.
However, Cosmic Encounters would likely be the first game classified as a modern tabletop game; I remember playing the first edition back in 1977 when I was seven. I also played Elric and other war games at that time. Throughout the 80’s I played a number of war games and others including Ogre, Car Wars, and BattleTech. I also played Nuclear War and Talisman in the late eighties and into the 90’s…
One of the important lessons I learned at an early age is to play for the sake of playing — there was a game I played with my mom at age 4-5, called the Honeybee Tree, where you built a tree from pieces in your “hand”, based on die rolls. I enjoyed playing, even though I never won — Mom felt so bad about this, but there really was no way for her to cheat and give me a win.
But it gave me a chance to appreciate the playing itself and the interactions with others, rather than focusing on the win. Don’t get me wrong, I like to win (as long as I’m not winning all the time), but most of the time I am more playing to have fun.
More people are speaking out about mental health in the tabletop world (as you have on your website). Has the community been supportive, or is there more work to be done?
I believe that there is a lot of acceptance. Acceptance can grow into understanding and support.
From what I’ve seen thus far, the response has been generally supportive; I think that people are comfortable speaking out is a great step. Is there room for more progress? I’d have to say yes — given the historic incidence of depression and bipolar disorder among creative types I would expect that while mental health issues are fairly common among tabletop game players, there’s still only a (vocal) minority speaking out about these issues.
This is likely related to stigma in society as a whole, but I think as more speak out about it, then the stigma will be lessened.
I started putting together a bipolar simulator (“Bipolar Explorer”) Thanksgiving night; it’s taking a bit more than an hour, though. The seed idea came from your questions and is an attempt to explain to others what it’s like to be bipolar and some of the effects it can have on one’s life. I’m finding, as I’m developing it, that I’m having
to face some of my own demons and/or issues.
So hopefully soonish I’ll put it out, but a lot of it will depend on what I discover in the process. I am thinking about putting it out as a $1 Kickstarter pledge, with the proceeds going to the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, corresponding with World Bipolar Day.
What tip or trick would you give someone beginning their game design journey?
Play lots of games. Play a lot of *types* of games. Don’t play to win; play more to have fun. After a game, think about what works and what doesn’t in a game. Watch other people playing games — that can help prevent echo chambers — they’ll play differently than you do.
It can also help to find a child and play with them. Kids, at least when I was growing up, make up games all the time. They aren’t as concerned with “the rules”, but having fun. And they’re a lot more likely to try new ideas.
Playtest games. It’s a great way to learn what works and to put it into words as you critique the game. Also, you can learn from other’s “mistakes”, in a supportive environment. When you playtest your own games, players will come up with suggestions that you would never have dreamt of. You’ll also find what works and what does not — and what
can be removed.
Also remember that you can’t do it alone; game design is a cooperative endeavor. “Be excellent to each other,” as Abraham Lincoln might have said in a movie once.
Game design is a lot of work, but, if it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong!
What’s next for Steam Kitty Games?
In the near term, I’ll be finishing the Bipolar Explorer, polishing Oh, R’lyeh? and learning about how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign. The more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to learn!
Thank you for this opportunity!