Friday, July 1, 2016

Interview With Game Designer Pat Roach

Naturalist Games' current Kickstarter is for the game Lairs (Full disclosure: I recently backed the game after a demo at Origins, and then asked for an interview a couple weeks later).  Pat Roach was kind enough to give me some insight on the project.

When we met at Origins, I decided to back the game. I started watching the funding tracker, and noticed by the end of the convention you were almost fully funded. How much of that do you credit to having a booth at Origins? 

Shortly put, absolutely.
In a more in depth sense that’s actually a pretty interesting question. Of course, there are probably quite a few backers that we directly talked to, but in addition to that there are the folks who saw it there and shared it with others. Either through casual conversations, social media, or even a blog, like yourself. Not to mention, there is some correlation to Kickstarter popularity rankings relative to how quickly they gather backers.

Essentially a bunch of backers from Origins almost certainly snowballed into even wider support.

How do you respond to people who look at the game and say, "Is it just another Kickstarter dungeon crawler?"

I would encourage them to look into the project a little more. We love games like Descent, Dungeon Run, and Hero Quest, but we didn’t want to remake them.

Frankly, we probably couldn’t. I think games like that get a lot of their mileage from the way the miniatures and other set pieces interact with the gameplay. We really don’t have the infrastructure to put out game pieces like that.

Instead, we played more to our strengths. While we definitely wanted to make the game dungeon crawl-y in art direction, and narrative theme, we took the gameplay in another direction.  
Lair’s gameplay is closer to crisis management games, like Dead of Winter, or Battlestar Galactica. Additionally the mechanics for the resolving those crises distances them from other games in the field, as the Crawl in Lairs is a platform for several mini-games.

I understand you have coding experience. Did you find any similarities between boardgame and software development? Did your programming experience come into play in any unexpected ways while you were developing Lairs?

Did programing experience come into play, yes. Was it unexpected, nope! That overlap is one of the things that led us to feeling confident that we could start a board game company.

Both revolve around creating a logically structured system, and an user interface for that system. We think it’s one of the reasons why there is such an overlap between board game nerds and software nerds.  

One of the stretch goals is for more characters. Was it difficult to choose which ones to put in the initial game? how many did you start with?

We started with a stable of about 20 characters, with basic sketches and backstories. Figuring out our favorites was indeed rough, there are some pretty cool made up folks waiting in the wings!

Finally, what is a game that you love that we may have not heard of?
CABO!  One of our favorite memory games. It’s simple, pretty, and has a puking unicorn in it!

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