All good things must come to an end, and this fancy lunch with the master of green is indeed a subset of all things. In this installment we discuss the new game Fast Sloths [Faultier in German] and Fire!, Kickstarter models and the philosophy of game design.
DTD: Faultier [Fast Sloth] looks great. I’m excited about it and I’m trying… In my mind, I’m playing Tetris wondering if I could fit it in my bag. Maybe it’ll fit inside another box…
FF: [laughs] Okay. Yeah, it seems to be a good game. In the moment, in the public, I cannot tell anymore about if it’s good or not.
DTD: And you’ll probably go crazy if you try to figure it out.
FF: Yeah, it’s not possible. And it feels like it was a good idea, because it’s successful at the fair, and I think we will be sold out at the end of the fair with the copies we have.
DTD: Good, that’s what I think.
FF: I think we will… It feels like that we, maybe we will be sold out by Christmas latest for the edition we made.So this sounds like this by now so we will have a new edition coming up.
FF: The expansion was a good idea because a lot of people want to have new boards for that, to have different settings. And it was a good idea to make a real board game again.
DTD: Yeah. And there are new boards in the expansion. Are there are also new …?
FF: No, only new boards.
DTD: All new boards. Well, that’s good.
FF: It was easier to… We could co-produce this particular expansion. We just made double number of boards,or whatever.
DTD: Sure, if you are already printing boards then that’s the time to do it.
FF: Yeah, so it was a kind of a good idea to make the expansion in that moment. And, of course, if it is successful, we make more animals. This is of course, what we have to do.
DTD: Yes, you’re probably thinking about it, what to do.
FF: There were 24 animals and we picked 12 out of them for the game. So, they are all ready.
In Fast Sloths, players coerce the forest animals to carry them to locations with delicious leaves. Different animals have different abilities to transport these lazy sloths to their goals.
DTD: You’re ready?
FF: There are already 12. Of course, there were about seven, eight that were not really working so these are not there, but there are still some left.
DTD: Have you thought about going into the Kickstarter realm, where everybody is going now?
FF: No. Not really. That’s not for me, because to me the problem is, I don’t want to have anybody else in my process from [the] outside, because I never know. And they pay some money, and then they have the feeling they could put some impact on that.
DTD: Yeah, there are pluses and minuses to it, and I don’t like the trend. There’s been a couple of things now where people complain a lot before it’s made. And then they change it. It’s like the people have input before the product’s even done. Even in movies, this is happening and I don’t like this group mentality.
FF: On the other end, you could use a crowd as a big think tank. You can do that, it’s another way of work. It’s not my kind of work, so it’s okay.
DTD: Yeah, well a lot of people just like it for the pre-order status. You know how many to bring. This many people said they want one. So, it avoids all the guessing.
FF: Kickstarter is so great in that kind of ways, even if you make just this one print run thing, then you say, “Okay, people I will only print it once if you want to have it get it now or not.”
DTD: It will never come again. That’s the Cool Mini model.
FF: Yeah, yeah, and then you only produce the games you really will sell. It’s great you will have no leftovers.
DTD: Yeah. that’s why people love it.
FF: From that point of view it’s great
DTD: But then you deal with the internet. People really complain a lot.
FF: Yeah. And on the other hand, now I have a game. I say, “People, this is a game. You can look at it, you can play it, you can test it. You can have it in your hand, and then you decide if you want to pay that much money for that, what you really see. And then go away don’t complain.” [laughs] Because it is there, yeah?
FF: Of course, they’ll complain if some piece is missing yeah? Why not?
DTD: This is a quote for my article now. It’s Friedemann Freise says “Here’s the game, now go away.”
FF: [laughs] That just– you know what I mean.
DTD: I do. It’s okay.
FF: Don’t harm me with your problems.
DTD: I agree. It’s a matter of doing…
FF: I make games. And I want to make games that people love. It’s absolutely what I want to do. Sometimes I only make games that I’m proud to have 100 people loving it. I’m proud I’ve made a game 300 people, 300,000 people will love it. But still, it’s about the love for game, making games that people love.
FF: And if I really make an experiment, and say, “Okay, it is only possible to have 500 people in the world loving it. Okay, I will do that.”
DTD: How much do those 500 love it?
FF: But I don’t want to add this. I made this Friday project, and I blogged about it, and sat there on Fridays, and write it down on the computer and send it out to the world. Somebody said, “Hey, yeah. Where is the button for responses?” I said, “I don’t want to have a response on that. I just want to tell you what I’m doing. I don’t want to have any argue[ment]. I don’t want to have any comment from you. You can hear it if you like it.”
DTD: You’ve misunderstood the project.
FF: Yeah. This is the project, yeah.
DTD: I wanted to lock myself in a room on Friday and just work.
FF: Yeah. And I don’t want to discuss with people, hearing what they think about it. I can talk to you now we are meeting but in this project, not.
DTD: No, I understand.
FF: And I don’t want to be rude. I just want to tell what it is.I just want to make games, and if you like it, buy it. If you don’t like it, yeah, don’t buy it. Don’t harm me and say, “Yeah, I would buy it if it is that way, that way, yeah.” There are over a thousand new games here, and you will find your game.
DTD: Yes. [laughs] So, how many games do you have rattling around in your head at a time? Do you obsess over one, or do you have five or six going at once and cross-pollinate?
FF: I absolutely do think I only have one at a time, but sometimes I put one out and get another one in [laughs]. So, I cannot tell. There are some projects coming back to me. I was asked for, right now, for an expansion for a game I really liked from another company.
DTD: That’s been happening a lot where different designers work on…
FF: Somebody asked me for that, and he knows that… I know I love that game because we talked about this game, and then the company came up and said, “Okay, are you interested in making an expansion?” I said, “Yeah, maybe.” Maybe this guy’s meeting me up here; we just mailed letters. He might show up and then we talk about it, and maybe see what happens. And this will be on my mind. But later on I go to whatever. I said just send some prototypes to another company. If they come back they said they will feedback after the fair, so when they come this game is on my mind.
FF: I know what I will come to, do next year. So maybe this comes to my mind. [laughs]
DTD: There are a lot of things going on. Yeah. That’s awesome. It seems like most of the designers I’m talking to are… They’re thinking about a lot of different things. And then one comes to the forefront and that becomes the obsessive priority for a little while.
FF: And, of course, I truly believe in two or three weeks I will have a new game, because I have so much impression here, and I’ve talked so much about them. And we talk now about a lot of games and there are ideas in my head about whatever we talked about. And I’ve seen a lot of people playing my game and looking, looking people. Even though I bought this game look at the table when somebody else is playing whatever game and I’ve seen it in my mind, and maybe later on I get this picture in my mind and I said, “What happened there?” and “What did they do there? Ah! Yeah- yeah.” Then maybe I make a research on, “This is important! I heard about that!”
FF: If I hear somebody talk about the game, and I misunderstood something and said, “Oh, this game does that?” And then I look at him, “No, this game does not do that.” Then I said, “Oh, I have to invent the game that does that, what I thought about this game would be.” Because therefore I look for the game because I think it’s interesting. If I look for a game for the wrong reasons, then the wrong reason could be a good new game.
DTD: This is strange. Yeah.
FF: Of course.
DTD: Yeah, I understand. You never know where those paths lead. I’m pretty convinced that some of the games that I’ve played were designed one way, but just took a completely different direction and somehow it worked.
FF: And some designers are just, they just play. They have three or four favorite games, and then they make a game like their favorite games, which is okay. If these favorite games are big sellers.
DTD: I like your style better.
DTD: It sounds like you play games like I play games. I think if I looked on my list right now, I probably have about 400 or 500 new games in the past year. And I have a lot of groups going, and I have a library.
I checked. I have 30 of Friedemann’s games in my ibrary. I may be a fan.
FF: It’s just, I do have a lot of time to play my own games. If I would not have that time…
DTD: Do you enjoy playing your own games?
FF: Yeah. Of course I do.
DTD: Even ones you’ve worked on so much?
DTD: Are you good at them?
FF: Yeah. No and yes.
DTD: [laughs] The obvious one is Power Grid, you know. If you were to go in, you’d do very well in a Power Grid tournament?
FF: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m very good Power Grid player, it’s no problem. If I really concentrate, and I’m awake. This is very good, like not so much alcohol, or something like that…
FF: On the other hand, which is important for my design process, is when I start this game, I’m really poor at the game because I try things, and I try to get to know my own game and figure out things, and try special moves that are in the game, maybe not. They sound dumb but then I try out if they’re dumb
DTD: Yeah, try them all.
FF: But in the end of the design process, I’m getting better and better. And then when the stage comes where I always win, I think “Now I’m ready. Now I’m done.” Because I make prototypes of games, and it’s possible to beat others with my game. Even with different strategies, not the only single win strategy, that would be boring.
DTD: Oh, yeah.
FF: And so, I would think, “Oh now I’m done with my work.” And then the design process is, more or less, that I do not play anymore if I show it to people. Because I would spoil everything, because I would… Why should I sit there and show people that I know my own game?
DTD: You know the game’s secrets. I understand that.
FF: Okay. I could understand if there’s a tournament for Power Grid or so on. In the finals, I will sit at the table. I did that once I think. It was something like that. That people had a tournament, and they qualified for a game with me.
DTD: [laughs] It’s an odd thing.
FF: It’s okay, yeah. You can do that because it honors the game and there’s possible instruction you can give.
DTD: I heard that when you’re playing board games, there are people who play against the game, and people who play to be social, and people who play to explore.
FF: Yeah, yeah. They’re all in there. There’re different styles of gamers.
DTD: Oh, yeah.
FF: Even these gamers, they don’t want to have experiments, which I totally do not understand. There are gamers out there, they just want to play a game and don’t want to have a new style, new experiment.
DTD: And that’s when I’m playing games. I’m usually exploring new things. I don’t win very often, but I’m having fun just exploring how does the game work, and what happens if I do this? And you know, can I truly win the game by losing all the battles? That’s been a new trend, is winning by losing.
FF: Yeah, it can happen, yeah. I don’t know what the trend is. I think a lot of people do solo a lot right now. It’s strange for me as well.
DTD: Does Faultier [Fast Sloths] have a solo mode?
FF: No, Faultier is impossible. Uh, [laughs], not impossible. Maybe one day.
DTD: You can try to do your own track and make a score that is against a table or an automota. But that is a huge trend right now.
FF: Because, the problem is, what I like about board games, is the social part.That I meet people, while I game and communicate-
DTD: Friday is amazing. It’s… I really enjoy it.
FF: It’s very successful.
DTD: Oh yeah. Yeah. Were you thinking about more solo games like that?
FF: I have my new Fire!
DTD: Fire? I haven’t played Fire yet. I saw it on the table. I didn’t… tell me about Fire.
FF: Have you ever heard about these old arcade games like [laughs] Galaga or [laughs] you know?
DTD: [snarky] I have them in my garage!
FF: Yeah, I know, I know, I know. I’m just kidding [laughter]
DTD: I think someone was telling me, I think one of the Dice Tower people was telling me about it.
FF: Yeah, this is a solo game about that.
DTD: That’s wonderful.
FF: You have these pixelized aliens. And you have shooting from down, which is in the game speed, and you charge them by batteries. And when they are over 10, they shoot.
FF: So, you put cards on there and whenever is the value of these, some of the cards is over 10, you just subtract 10 from the sum and then you have a multiplier. And you multiply by the number of cards you played.
DTD: Oh, cool.
FF: This is a charge you push to the aliens.And then you try to kill them all. But for every shot you do, you lose one card from the deck. You decide which card.
DTD: Oh, that’s wonderful.
FF: But you have only five ones, four twos, three threes, two fours, and one five.
DTD: That math nature of it, it reminds me of some of the stuff from [Steffen] Benndorf, very mathy games.
FF: That’s it. You’re just organizing 15 cards.
DTD: That is delightful, 15 cards.
FF: 15 cards, and it is a level game. So, when you beat the aliens, Space Invaders,then you get new cards.
DTD: To the next level.
FF: So, you get the next level. You get new aliens, you get a second row. It’s not only one, so, it might grow, grow.
DTD: And it’s this big? [gesturing the size of a small guinea pig]
FF: It’s this big. [same gesture] Friday sized box.
DTD: That’ll fit in my suitcase.
FF: And first game, it’s only 15 cards.And today, I met somebody who was really good at gaming, really good at gaming. He said, “Yeah, I tried it and, yeah it was just level one was just like– Am I right for level two? I don’t want to spoil anything?” I said, “Yeah, you are right.” “And does it get any harder?” I said, “Yes, it will.” But somebody else, yesterday at the board, “I played it seven times at level one, I will beat it once!” So, there are different skilled people outside. And, of course, the game is hard, I know that. It should be, because it is a level game.
DTD: Well solo games, I think, should be a little harder?
FF: Yeah, and they are only nine levels, yeah?
FF: And yeah, and you’re getting more and more content, you get special cards, special weapons, whatever, everything is included. Special agents.
DTD: I’m excited. Oh, I’ll take a look at it closer. I haven’t had time to sit at your booth longer than to watch Faultier.
FF: Yeah-yeah. It’s just a geek game. [laughs]
DTD: Well, come on. It’s… I have one of these, big arcade cabinets that I’ve programmed to play every old arcade game.
FF: [laughs] Yeah. I feel I’m done. I feel like I’m empty.
DTD: Sounds good. I really appreciate everything!
FF: I could talk forever, but now I feel like…
DTD: And I would probably let you talk forever, but [laughs] not a worry at all.
And so a final fond farewell from a full fledged Friedemann Friese Fan. It was fantastic fun philandering and feeding with the fanciful formulator of frequent full fifties of frolicsome festivities.