Jason: Hi Scott. As a designer myself and a publisher who is putting out one of your next games, I thought it would be fun to ask you a few questions to take a look under the hood of that tiny epic brain of yours! And since I’m kind of into small things, like my podcast 20 Minutes of Filler and Green Couch Games, I’ll keep it quick. Also, since the Happy Mitten Games crew were kind enough to host this little discussion (THANKS!), Jeff might pop in with a few questions, too. Ready for it?
Scott: I’m ready! (Straps on safety gear and goggles)
Jason: What is the first game you can think of that made you want to design games and why?
Scott: I think playing roleplaying games is what inspired my to branch out and design my own games. I was the dungeon master, and when you are in that role you are basically creating games already. Designing quests within an rpg structure is halfway into board game design, you’re just still in the shallow end of the design pool. After playing RPG’s and moving onto board games, the itch to create was still there and I just chased it. Plus, I have always liked making things within the hobbies I enjoy. I like to read, so I started to write stories when I was younger (and still do today).
Jason: You have a number of games under your belt, starting back with a couple titles from Tasty Minstrel Games; Martian Dice and Kings of Air and Steam. Can you share a little bit about how you have seen things in the gaming space change between now and then? For better and for worse?
Scott: Kickstarter is, of course, the biggest change. With Kings of Air and Steam, Kickstarter was still relatively new. It had been only a couple months since games like Alien Frontiers and Eminent Domain started to blaze the trail. Since then, KS has allowed a lot more small publishers and indie designers to get on the scene. This has created a much more diverse landscape, which is great.
And, it’s impossible not to notice the trend towards small box games recently. With so many games coming out, I think cost is becoming more of a factor It’s becoming harder to have a smash-hit big box game. Not impossible, but certainly harder. A lot of the runaway hits recently seem to be smaller games, with streamlined rulesets.
Jason: What’s your favorite character/faction in all the Tiny Epic games?
Scott: In ALL the games? Well, I’ll say the shapeshifters in TEK. When you play them, it’s like seeing a “who’s who” of factions within the game. It’s the sampler platter of factions.
Jason: What are a couple short term and long term goals you have set for yourself as a designer?
Scott: My short term goals tend to be very development oriented. For instance, I’m working on a two-player variant for a game coming out later this year (The Great Dinosaur Rush with APE Games). Or, I’m trying to get a game out the door by X date. Right now, I just finished a light dice game (a great, 12-dice push your luck/party game) that I’m starting to find a publisher for. My short term goals tend to be very discreet like that.
My long term goals include:
- Continue the pipeline of Tiny Epic Games
- Continue to work relationships with my awesome publishers – I like to work with people again and again
- Keep my games diverse and unique, and branch out into different genres that are outside my comfort zone
Jeff: Which published game that you currently have was the most uncomfortable to create? Why?
Scott: Tiny Epic Galaxies – because I was met with a crippling fear when developing it that it wouldn’t live up to the standard we had with TE Kingdoms & Defenders. It was the first game that I designed from scratch to be part of a continuing series (Defenders’ mechanics had already existed in another game, which fit TED better) When I started TEG, from the very beginning, I knew it was supposed to be part of a successful series – and that scared the crap out of me. In the end, that fear made the game better. (And I hope I don’t lose that fear for any of my games… it helps me strive to be better) But, that fear was by far the most pronounced with TEG.
I’ll give a bonus answer, too: the most awkward one was Kings of Air and Steam, because I had no idea what I was doing when we entered development. The game was decent when I submitted it – and awesome by the time we were done – but since it was the first game I had gotten accepted for publication (although Martian Dice would hit the market first) it was really the one I learned the process on. Luckily, the folks at TMG were great about working with me. When we would later work on Harbour and the KoA&S expansion we were all on the same page.
Jason: As a person who works in the train industry, what are your top 5 train games?
Scott: I’ll keep Kings of Air and Steam off the table, since I’m obviously biased, but they are:
- Ticket to Ride
- Paris Connection
- Trains (the AEG game)
- And the Crayon Rail series
Jason: If you could work with any game designer on a co-design, who would you pick and what kind of game would you want to make?
Scott: This is a tricky one. There are a lot of designer’s I admire, but it would be so hard to tell if you’d work well together. Co-designing is such a personal thing. Adam McIver had hinted that he’d be interested in working on something together – so maybe him and I will have to talk soon 🙂 I met him at BGG.CON, and he’s a great guy. Plus, he’s one of the best artists in the biz, so anything we worked on would turn out beautiful.
Jeff: If you forced into a cage fight with another designer, who would you throwdown against?
Scott: T.C. Petty – both in a figurative cage fight as a design challenge, because he’s coming up with some great design ideas that deserve more attention. Why hasn’t anyone published his Club Zen yet!?!? His theory on positive player interaction is worth noting for any designer. And, I’d face him in an actual cage fight, too, because I’d like to see what chops he has behind that pretty-boy hair. The gauntlet has been dropped, sir! Ya hear me TC?
Jason: Our little game, Best Treehouse Ever is on KIckstarter right now! In your mind, what makes this game special?
Scott: You get to build a treehouse! Seriously, that’s the most fun part. At the end of the game, after competing for points and colors and deciding a winner, you get the sense that you really built the best treehouse ever. It’s that “I built this!” feeling that makes the game rock.
Jason: What made you want to bring this game to my company Green Couch Games (prepares to stroke ego)?
Scott: Mainly, I like the podcast – you GET the need for cool little filler games. Fidelitas turned out great, and the Kickstarter was well done. So, it seemed like a no brainer when I had this little game looking for the home. And, it seemed like we were on the same page instantly after I submitted it and we chatted on Skype, which always bodes well for an awesome production.
Jeff: If you could live in the world of one of the games you designed as one of the characters, which game would you live in and why?
Scott: Best Treehouse Ever… because it has everything you’d ever want! Martian Dice doesn’t seem like a good call, because Martians are abducting everyone. Kings of Air and Steam will likely have global warming issues, due to the lack of environmental regulations and the overheating airships. The Tiny Epic series is a pretty dangerous world to live in. So, yeah, I’ll go with Best Treehouse Ever.
Jason: Thanks for taking some time to share with us! Tell folks how they can track you down and what we should be watching for.
Scott: Sure! Thanks for the chat! You can find me on Twitter @Scott_Almes where I’m always posting about game stuff. Right now, you should check out “Best Treehouse Ever” and make the kid inside you happy. In the future, you should look out for “Big Easy Business” by Nevermore Games, “Loop Inc” by Eagle-Gryphon Games, “The Great Dinosaur Rush” by APE games, and some more Tiny Epic stuff later on, too.
Jason: Alright, Scott’s a cool dude. You’re pretty cool, too. You know, for taking the time to read this and checking out the next game from Green Couch Games and Scot Almes, Best Treehouse Ever.
Special thanks to Happy Mitten for doing lots of cool stuff to support this gaming space we love so much!