Welcome back to steak dinner with true board game magnate Christian T Petersen. I know I have used the term “magnate” before, but it just fits so well. We are at Weber Grill in Indianapolis, during GenCon 2021, just hanging, talking business. It is a strange juxtaposition for me, as I know quite a bit about the games and history discussed, and almost nothing about business. So I regularly flip from well-informed contributor, to near-zucchini level ignorance.
Corey Konieczka, aside from having a fantastic first name, is one of Fantasy Flight‘s legendary designers, creating Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars: Rebellion, and being involved in many, many more. Recently, Corey was given his own studio, Unexpected Games, which produced The Initiative and Voices in my Head.
CTP: If you look at it, it’s sort of similar to Game of Thrones. Except it’s a “last in first out” system. So, in Game of Thrones, you put your token on a space you control, and that becomes your order, if you will, for that space.
CTP: And everybody does it. And then everybody places their orders, and now we all flip them over. This system was interesting in that I could put a marker down, but then you could put your order on top of mine.
Keep in mind orders are put face down, so you know I am doing something in that space, but you do not know what.
DTD: And you’d go first.
CTP: No, you’d go first, because you were on top. So, what happened is, that you know the game started, you would…
DTD: Didn’t Forbidden Stars have that as well?
CTP: Forbidden Stars was a redesign of StarCraft.
DTD: I didn’t make the connection. OK.
Forbidden Stars, made in a joint collaboration between Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight, unfortunately is one of those great titles that will likely never see a reprint due to licensing. Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight parted ways in 2017, after working together on titles since 2008.
CTP: Yeah. There were certain changes and improvements that were made on Forbidden Stars, but it’s the StarCraft “bones.”
DTD: OK. I’ve heard arguments too, that…
Oh, I’m leading up to something!
CTP: Corey actually may have… I believe, and I haven’t been proven wrong in this. Maybe your readers can prove me wrong…
DTD: Uh oh.
CTP: But I believe that Corey actually invented the deck-building genre.
DTD: I was just going to say that! That’s what I was about to say! Is I heard lots of arguments that StarCraft is the first deck-building game.
The moment was electric. Both of us were inching towards the same statement at the same time. You could feel it. I just was chivalrous enough to give Christian the moment.
CTP: He did not get enough credit for that. That was all him. The whole idea was the idea that you have this deck, and you want to get more powerful cards into it. And then one of the strategies was introducing cards. Because you had the bigger chance with the better cards.
CTP: And that’s how we build in the, effectively the technology advancement system.
DTD: You know that your interview will likely print on my website right after Donald Vaccarino’s interview. [laughs]
Deck building is now a major mechanism in hobby board games. The most famous title, and definitely the most influencial for the genre, is Dominion, published in 2008 by Rio Grande, designed by Donald X Vaccarino. Starcraft, however, is arguably the first title to use deck building, published in 2007.
CTP: OK. I mean, but that is something naturally… Well, I think Corey, actually… This whole concept he did first. I’m not sure if Don [Vaccarino] is even aware of it. But yeah, he absolutely made it …
DTD: Yeah, I’m sure it was independently…
CTP: Yeah, he made an entire game of it, right? So, for Corey it was just a means to an end to solve a combat and technology advancement solution. So that’s where I think a lot of these, what they call “American game,” you know “Ameritrash”… I’m not a huge fan of the connotation to garbage.
DTD: I know.
Originally, board games were characterised as either “Euro” or “Ameritrash”. Euro games were characterized by having little theme, little to no luck, cube pushing, little player interaction, and tons of statistical, mathematical manipulation. Whereas Ameritrash games were full of luck and theme, simple mechanics, and more player interaction – usually fighting. There has been a recent push to rename “Ameritrash” to “Amerithrash” to avoid aspersions, and you rarely hear the former any longer.
CTP: But nevertheless, that’s the thing, and there’s a lot of innovations in these things that I think may be overlooked. Like, for example, that mechanism, which was really ingenious. But it was… A lot of times with these games, we try to solve a problem. We wanted to do something cool and tell a story.
CTP: And do something that’s also ideally abstract and interesting mechanically, but a lot of times you have to say, “OK, so we have to have a combat system here that’s fun and exciting and interesting, because we have to have combat.” We have to have this conflict. We have to have a way to solve it. It’s not like we have a cool system, let’s make it a combat system. It’s the other way around. We had a need for a system.
DTD: And deckbuilding solves so many, it’s such a useful…
CTP: It solved a lot of problems. Yes, it was brilliant. It was fantastic. He also did really good stuff on… Corey, his first project was actually Warrior Knights.
Warrior Knights was originally published in 1985 from Games Workshop. Fantasy Flight gave it a new edition in 2006 with original designer Derek Carver, along with Pierre Cléquin, Bruno Faidutti, and the aforementioned newcomer, Corey Konieczka.
CTP: We got the rights to Warrior Knights from Games Workshop, and he was put on that. And I was really blown away by some of the ideas that he had, and how awesome that card resolution worked out. So, he’s a… He deserves a lot of credit for a lot of the success on the design side of FFG.
DTD: Awesome, I’d love to get him to the table on day.
CTP: I hope you will.
Corey! Corey, here. Call me. Let’s do sandwiches.
DTD: So, it’s really funny. There are so many topics and questions that pop into my head while you’re talking, of this, just all the stuff that happened. Like, was there a story behind the split between Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop? Since we’re talking about all of these joint games that were there? Talisman, Forbidden Stars, [Fury of] Dracula, all those. Or was it just business?
It’s been mentioned, but Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight collaborated on many great games from 2008 through 2017, when their partnership officially ended.
CTP: Everything is stories. Everything is stories, right?
DTD: Oh yeah. Well, especially the board game industry. You know it’s back rooms and handshakes and personal relationships. Or hopefully it still is. But there’s such a, just such a history of that.
CTP: So, I think maybe. I’m not saying Kickstarter is a bad thing. But I think Kickstarter did change the equation in terms of how important it was to have an industry where people could riff off each other, work together, and get to know each other, and form partnerships and stuff. A great part of the market kind of got fractured out into these satellites, coming in from nowhere, passing by and leaving. Or maybe sometimes gravitating back and becoming part of the ecosystem.
CTP: But it’s changed a lot. You asked before what was the idea of selling?
DTD: Oh, to Asmodee?
Fantasy Flight entered into a merger with Asmodee in November 2014. Christian Petersen stayed on as CEO of Fantasy Flight Games.
CTP: To Asmodee, yeah. So I think the… At that time, 2013, when I first started talking about that, I was pretty tired, you know. I’d been doing this for… since 1995. Almost 20 years. Oh, is that right? ’95, yeah, it will be 18 years.
CTP: And been near death many times in terms of the company, right? Up and down. We haven’t even talked about the D20 role playing games – that saved us as well. It came just in time, when we published that. So, we have been involved in role playing, miniatures, all of these. Because I was involved, I was just steeped in all of it. Right? I love all of it. But it was tiring. I mean, at the time, we had Netrunner. It was a big success. We had Star Wars licenses, Lord of the Rings licenses, Game of Thrones licenses.
Fantasy Flight has been heavily involved in Role Playing Games over the years, licensing Wizards of the Coast‘s d20 system for many titles through the late 2000’s.
DTD: Yeah. Only the small licenses.
CTP: Yeah, we had 120 people. And honestly I think one of the big reasons I left was a generational shift that was happening with the staff.
CTP: Because I think, we talk about the millenial generation, whatever, coming in. And there is a great deal about them I don’t understand. And the way they want to evolve, and it was… Maybe I felt that after, maybe I wasn’t the right… Maybe I was a builder, not a maintainer or an administrator?
DTD: It’s like, you’re talking about it more that you left Fantasy Flight, rather than Fantasy Flight, as a business, was sold to Asmodee.
CTP: Well… But I felt that what we could do with Asmodee was… Fantasy Flight was at a crossroads. We were big, I mean we were 120 people, 50+ million dollars in revenue.
CTP: And, what’s next? For somebody who always wants to be on the horizon, right? What’s next? What’s the next thing to do? So, what do we do? You know, I don’t really think carpet bombing even more big board games, and whatever, just didn’t seem to be the right thing to do.
DTD: History has proved you right on that.
There was a period of time in the 2010s where every game company was just trying to release more and more titles, and the quality suffered. Many companies announced strategies to release fewer, better games at that time. One big indicator was AEG’s press release on the subject in 2019.
CTP: [laughs] I’d achieved a lot of things I wanted to do, and so there was some new, maybe some new horizons I wanted to achieve. But for FFG, for it to keep doing what was best, I felt that a merger with a different company… It was really more a merger than an acquisition, because there was a stock exchange and whatever. One thing we were contemplating, for example, is good board games, kids and family games. That was not really us, that was not really our brand. But it was a way to roll, because there was green fields there, for the cows to chew the grass on. But is that really what you want to do? So, I felt that we had kind of reached what I felt was like, this is about as far as I can take it. I don’t know if anything will be done up to that point.
CTP: With a couple of exceptions. It was getting up to that point where, you know, I feel that I’m really excited about doing the next thing. And I felt like it would be fun to be part of a team, rather than just be the guy at the top, you know.
DTD: You ended up being CEO of Asmodee North America. That’s kind of “the top”. [laughs]
Christian was the CEO of Asmodee North America from the merger in 2014 until the end of 2018.
CTP: [laughs] Right. Well, but I was part of a global team of leaders, right? And they’re all nice people, frankly.
DTD: That’s good to hear.
CTP: I think Asmodee gets a lot of crap. Some good reasons and some bad reasons [laughs].
DTD: Well, a lot of stuff happened.
For most consumers, Asmodee is regarded as the big company that gobbles up other gaming companies. Only partially warranted…
CTP: Yeah. So, I got a chance to do some different things. We let the leadership slowly move over to other people for the Fantasy Flight brand and studio. And that’s why I also had a chance… And you remember early in the conversation, I said I wanted to never give up on my investors that had entrusted me at the very, very beginning, 20 years out before. Some of these guys have died! You know, these weren’t spring chickens anymore. And my parents put it in… And so, I felt an obligation. At some point in time, these guys need to get a reward for trusting me with all this stuff.
CTP: I didn’t get a big reward or anything. Because my most of my holdings in FFG was transferred into a pretty substantial one in Asmodee. Thus the “merger.”
CTP: But my investors had a chance to exit the business in a very, very favorable way, and I still remember talking to the daughters of one of the investors who had passed away. Who didn’t really know the investment, to understand what the hell was going. Once in a while they would get dividend checks from this strange “fantasy” business. But I called them up, and I told them that we needed their consent to sell their shares to this company. And I think their dad would have wanted me to call them, and tell them about it. Because it was a life changing sum to these people.
Christian was noticably sincere, invested, and animated about this point – passing along his fortune to those who helped early on. It was really touching.
DTD: Yeah, it was huge.
CTP: And so, it was very rewarding for them. And so, they had a chance to get that reward.
DTD: That’s really nice.
CTP: And so, we could pass different… I learned a lot in those five years with Asmodee, 4.5 years with Asmodee. But ultimately, I build things, I create things. I do things that are new and exciting and maybe sometimes…
DTD: Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is during those five years there was that huge bloom of app integration and computer integration in games, so I’m wondering how involved you were with that.
I suspected. “Mister cutting edge and new horizons” and all.
DTD: It sounded that way, because if you’re always looking for the next big thing… I mean this near-merger with video games. Especially with the kinds of board games that Fantasy Flight was doing, more narrative, more fantasy driven. They tend to be stat hogs. They tend to, you know, accumulate data. And that… I mean, I remember in the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, I always wanted a way to, I wanted something to track all the stats for me. And usually, I would make a computer program to do it. I had access to computers early, and so it sounds like a natural progression.
CTP: That was a big vision of mine, was the, what they call… I call it “digital augmentation.” Now they call it “app-based,” or whatever it’s called now.
DTD: The word “app” is cool.
And I know cool. Trust me, I’m a board game nerd.
CTP: I’m pretty sure that we did it first in terms of a real, serious app-game. It’s very, very, very, very hard. Very hard. Takes a lot of dedication, a lot of, you know broken eggs, to get that kind of… Some of that stuff made.
DTD: Oh, of course.
CTP: Because you’re kind of forging a whole new ground.
DTD: Well, technologically, I mean I understand how difficult it is to make those things. But also psychologically you need… I mean, you know this better than I, but you need to not make a video game. You need to make a board game that is helped by a computer.
CTP: That’s right, that’s right. I actually had a… One of my in-flight reports, I had done them forever as well, these big reports at GenCon. These big… I don’t remember that anybody did them. But I did them long ago when it was in a little tiny room with seven people. And I said “Come talk to me, and I’ll have a report, tell you all about it.”
For a long time, Fantasy Flight Games would give an “in-flight report” during GenCon each year, and often it would include announcements and titles that no one knew about previously. Sometimes they would even anounce an unknown game for sale that day.
DTD: [laughs] Oh, it’s just same now. Seven people.
CTP: It’s turned into like 1000 people there! But the… I was really, really fascinated by it [app based games], because I just saw it as another tool to make great experiences around table top. And one that could have some moving images and some sound. But you’re right, I actually put up a graph. I called it “digital relevance.” And there’s a bell curve. And it said, on the on the one side it said, “This is the amount of digital integration that you have to gain.” from the X curve. The Y curve was how much does it make sense for board games.
This talk was given at GenCon, during the traditional Fantasy Flight in-flight report, on August 19, 2014. There are a few videos of the actual presentation available out there, here and here. It is a fascinating look into how app integration was viewed 8 years ago.
CTP: I knew very, very little. It probably doesn’t make any sense for board games, because you just, it becomes more or less a gimmick. You know, a dice roll or something?
DTD: You’ve tacked it on. You’ve got a Pop-o-Matic in the middle, that is a digital counter.
I just realized this may be a dated reference. The 1965 board game Trouble came with a device in the center of the board called the Pop-o-Matic. It was a clear dome with a die inside. When you clicked the dome, it rolled the die. That’s it. It was a gimmick to roll a die.
CTP: Most of the people that have done anything at all with them, it’s just a… It was just a tool or some form of a… It was something that wasn’t required to play the game.
CTP: If you don’t make it required, then you can’t really reap the rewards. Now, on the other hand, if you go on the waaaay side… Go too much into integration, you have a computer game.
CTP: Right. So somewhere… and I said, “I don’t know if this exists, but I’m willing to believe that in the middle, there’s a place where there’s a lot of important things.” And that’s where you max out on that bell curve. You say, “Here is when…” But like the Laffer Curve, you don’t know exactly where that amount is, so you have to experiment.
The Laffer Curve, named for economist Arthur Laffer, states that government income from taxation is at 0 for both 0% and 100% taxation, peaking somewhere in the middle. An important point that I feel Christian is leaning towards, is that we do not know where that maximal peak is; it can only be determined by experimentation. Just like the peak for app-based board game “involvement.”
DTD: You have to try.
CTP: You have to try it. And so, that was the first time that we started doing digital augmentation. And it was a bit controversial, right?
DTD: Oh yeah, the community lost their mind. There was arguments about… “No place at all.”
Gamers seem to often be purists, not wanting any computer involvement in their analog cardboard-based world. This attitude was much more prevelent back in 2014, and recent games have certainly made app integration more mainstream.
CTP: But what about the Romans, when they introduced cards to their dice games, or whatever? Right? There’s always been introducing these new mechanisms that… I mean, innovations and people are like, “Aaaah!”
People. Distrust. Change.
DTD: Of course, and there’s no reason why a computer could be different from a die.
CTP: Yeah, I mean there was this idea [that] you could do too much, then you lose the medium of “board game.” You do too little, then you’re just having annoying, or maybe semi-useful gimmicks.
CTP: But was there a way you can actually use that technology to make it an enjoyable experience, that maybe did something you cannot do with physical components? But still have a “physical component” game. Maybe there’s some very, very, very slim margin of things you can do. Nobody knows, because nobody’s explored it yet. And not… I don’t think it’s a… It’s also extremely hard to do. I think very few people have done it. Some have started to do it now, but I think… I think Lucky Duck is the only one that I know, that I’ve seen as doing it substantially.
DTD: Has done it heavily.
CTP: It’s extremely hard. What they did with, first we did it with… I believe we did it with Descent first. And it was, we called it Legends… Descent first edition had this big campaign expansion called… How was the name…?
DTD: Legends, I think.
CTP: There’s a little more than that. It will come to me in a sec. I sent it back…
Descent: Road to Legend came out in 2008, and it was an expansion creating more of a campaign and cooperative environment for the one-versus-many classic. No app-integration there. 2016’s Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – Road to Legend was an app designed to play Descent cooperatively. And none of this should be confused with the recently released Descent: Legends of the Dark. Hence our confusion.
DTD: I remember when it came out.
CTP: Yeah, there’s a big Red Dragon, with an elf in front… But that was a really important expansion for Descent first edition. Kevin Wilson did that. I mean he was deep, poured his heart and soul into that. So, second edition, we wanted to do something special, and I think there was a way… The way it actually happened was that one of the guys had made this kind of small AI system with cards, to play a solo game of Descent. And we said, “Wait a minute. If you can do an AI system with cards, you can do a much, much better one on a computer.”
Descent first edition came out in 2005. The second edition was released in 2012. The app to convert the game into a cooperative experience became available in 2016.
CTP: And what if that could take over some of the decisions? And so, we made Road to Legend.
This whole time, Christian was trying to come up with the exact title of the app. And as the name fell from his lips just now, he made an ecstatic trill noise to emphasize the fact, gave a snarky finger point, and grinned like a fool. It was great.
CTP: Road to Legend, which was the name. And of course what it would do is, I think we charged a little bit more, but mainly it basically said, “Choose what Descent stuff you have, and we’ll bake it into the game.”
CTP: So, if you have this expansion, choose that. Because then some of those monsters and stuff, they could come up. So, the more you would buy, the more material could be put in the digital experience.
DTD: Absolutely. I was right there.
I believe it was at that time I decided there was a deep need to own everything from Descent. Just to check them off in the app.
CTP: It didn’t require any. But yeah, so that was something new. Something also that I think I was really proud of, to say, “Let’s just make cool digital experience.” You don’t have to do it. But in a way, you know, I still think it probably would have been better if you had to. Now that’s… Later on, we said, “Well, we gotta…” The Mansions of Madness was probably one of the best examples of that.
What Christian meant, was that you did not need the app to play Descent. But the quality of later titles, including Mansions of Madness, suggested that app-driven Descent would have been a better game if the app were mandatory from the start.
CTP: You’ll have to do it, but because you have to do it, we can now do so much stuff.
DTD: You can add so much to it.
CTP: The problem with it, is it is so expensive. Software development is not cheap.
DTD: Development on it’s gotta be crazy.
CTP: It’s very expensive.
DTD: I remember being thrilled out of my mind. The one-versus-many in Descent often didn’t work with my game group. There were ways… Descent, it feels like it was made so that whoever played the Overlord, whoever played the bad guys, had to be more of a “game master” than a player. So, if that “game master” tried hard to win, it often would degrade our plays.
Right at this moment, another raucous round of “Happy Birthday” broke forth in the restaurant. This was probably the 3rd time over dinner we involuntarily celebrated someone’s progression towards inevitable mortality.
DTD: It’s a popular day! So, when the app came out, and it became a purely cooperative experience, Descent just turned into one of my very favorite games. Cooperatively, it was amazing.
CTP: Did the same with Imperial Assault.
DTD: Right. And I played through all of that.
Eric Lang is one of the foremost modern designers, having contributed Dice Masters, Blood Rage, Arcadia Quest, and many, many others. Early in his career, Eric worked for Fantasy Flight. Someone should interview that guy…
CTP: We had a different approach to that. Mansions was a…
DTD: Mansions was just a narrative experience.
CTP: It was extraordinary. I mean, that me, was the… The fact it had this music, the fact you can now…
DTD: But then that led right into Journeys [in Middle Earth], and that, I felt that was…
CTP: Journeys was actually now beyond my time, but I felt that that was the most exciting area of gaming to remain, was the digital augmentation.
CTP: Not necessarily just that, there was also the other, one other thing that I was really, really taken by. And that was the process of creating KeyForge. Which I think was kind of an accumulation of all the different talents we had accumulated by software and production and the relationships, with an amazing guy like Richard Garfield.
The card game KeyForge took the idea of digitally printing cards to a new level. Each card was modular and procedural, and could be printed with customized art, text, and components on the fly. KeyForge sold individual decks of cards, with every deck being absolutely unique and bearing a unique name.
DTD: Right. Well, definitely an experiment with what you could do.
CTP: I mean this is just as much of a software, as it is a game, but you don’t ever see the software. Because to be able to make unique decks, and do it in such a way where we felt we were remotely balanced, you know, there was a lot of algorithms that goes into place, and a lot of software is being written to set it up.
DTD: Of course.
CTP: But I really felt fascinated by digital printing. When you print digitally, you can customize and personalize everything. You have the software backend to accomplish all that stuff.
CTP: But it was really fascinating by what that could bring. That’s probably today, my… What remains my single-most… Kind of the “convergence,” where digital printing, app augmentation, and advancement of tabletop games in some way, whether it’s card, miniatures, board, dice, whatever, makes sense. It’s an undiscovered country there that I would love to look at. So that’s really maybe my… If I were to go back, and I am in some degree going back, to try to look into this. That’s where I’m going.
DTD: I was going to say, it sounds like you’ve got a company that’s thinking about doing that.
CTP: Yeah, I had a non-compete, which is very interesting.
Our waiter came to check up on the progress of the devourance. I strongly suspect he may have been a bit “chemically enhanced,” although to be fair, I enjoyed it. He immediately targeted me as a fellow counterculture icon. Gotta be the long hair.
Waiter: Are you all finished with this?
DTD: I think I’m doing good. I’m gonna take a picture of it [the empty plate] first. I know that sounds weird, but.
Waiter: No, no. That sounds, yeah, good.
CTP: A before and after?
Waiter: “Look what I did.”
DTD: It’s GenCon. We’re allowed to be weird.
Waiter: Isn’t that the point? Let your weird flag fly, man!
DTD: So far beyond that. I let my freak flag fly, man.
For those among us who are not of the aged distinction, the term “let your freak flag fly” was made famous in the 1969 song “Almost Cut My Hair” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, although it was first used in the 1967 Jimi Hendrix song “If 6 Was 9”. It basically means you’re weird and proud. Although, many people in the 60s and 70s equated the “freak flag” literally to the long hair men wore at the time.
Waiter: Alright buddy, I try to do that every day of my life.
DTD: There you go, thank you. Wow.
CTP: I’m going to try some of this pork here.
Christian had taken advantage of my interlude with the waiter to actually get some eating done. “Sticky Ribs.” Quite tasty.
DTD: Oh yeah, I apologize. I’ve prevented you from eating for quite a while now.
CTP: No, it’s my own fault.
DTD: But I am just, I’m absolutely rapt in all the stories. This is…
CTP: So, I’ve just skipped around a lot, but ultimately I decided to, you know, here’s one of the Asmodee solutions – that I would step back. And I’ve done well, and had other ideas to do stuff, and I wanted to explore some small businesses. I love small businesses. I love the grit and the sweat. And its like, “I’m over here at GenCon, selling games on the floor.” I love it.
DTD: [laughs] That’s awesome.
CTP: It’s much more fun than sitting in the office.
DTD: Well, I have got to tell you, at the Dice Tower booth we had a clear view. And the scuttlebutt in the booth was often, “Is that Christian Peterson over there? Is he setting up a booth? Noooo… Must be someone else.”
We had a perfect view of the Gamezenter booth, which is at its heart a retail store. Christian was casually stocking games in jeans and a T-shirt, although his name tag was usually convienently flipped backwards. Christian Petersen purchased the Gamezenter from Fantasy Flight in April, 2021. The ‘zenter is a large board game oriented retail, event, and food center in Roseville, MN.
CTP: It was much harder on me the second day than I thought it would be. I could feel some of the years in my bones there.
DTD: Oh, we were talking about you. We had a great view.
CTP: We don’t really… Yeah. We are here just to be here, I think. We have some of our companies here. So, I have a digital printing company now, called Artiforge.
CTP: I have a software company called AWEbase, which designs software for publishers. They have a lot of digital workflows and problems. So, it solves a lot of issues I think for people.
There were at least 4 booths at GenCon for companies owned or run by Christian Petersen.
DTD: Wow, now when you say “software for publishers,” this is not like the KeyForge and the “board game KeyForge” model of doing all that?
CTP: Right, no. That’s not that, no. Although that’s interesting.
In 2018, Fantasy Flight published Discover: Lands Unknown by designer Corey Konieczka. Discover used a similar printing process as KeyForge, resulting in every copy of Discover being unique in its own way, containing unique combinations of components and cards. Ultimately, the game did not sell well, but the fact that it could be done was incredible.
DTD: Well, it’s fascinating.
CTP: This is a cloud-based software that helps publishers do their workflows. In particular, it does a lot of work to help them with the contracting. Because contracting… Most publishers will do substantial contracting, whether it’s translation, or writing, or editing, or artwork, or a number of different things. And it can be very, very complex. And it’s very important that contractors are paid in time, and treated good, and reporting in quick communication. And you want to know where your files went after they’re done. Lots of different, million different little operational details.
DTD: Because if you lose files or software then “key” deckbuilding games cannot be made anymore.
This was a sly, nasty jab on my part. KeyForge had to stop production of its card decks in September 2021, due to a broken algorithm, and Fantasy Flight reported the software had to be rewritten from the ground up. Rumors of foul play circulated as well. I think Christian recognized my insinuation, and took the high ground, not acknowledging it.
CTP: Sure. Let’s say you have a game, or you want to make a game. You have to get 100 pieces of art. And you’re assigning 100 pieces of art. How would you do it? You start emailing people, right? And so you have… And then you get, let’s say 20 different people to do it. Or 25 people to do it. All of a sudden you are inundated with sketches, and emails, and a giant hairball of Emails.
DTD: You have to organize.
I don’t have that much personal experience with hairballs of any type. I have a hairless cat.
CTP: And you take them into your Photoshop and there’s a lot of… That is just one part of it. That’s just one person’s part of the whole process. What about the contract, what about, you know… Huge amounts of that. So, we kind of build in this enormous complicated workflow, into a really powerful tool. That I build, primarily for myself. Just like I make games, mostly for myself.
DTD: Oh, so is this software stuff that you had had in mind, or built, to help yourself with some of the publishing?
CTP: We had fragments of it in different parts. But this was a much more ambitious way to organize it all.
Waiter: So, are we all done?
CTP: Yup. All done.
Come back next time for more food, dessert, and coffee. As well as more behind the scenes stories regarding the Gamezenter, tough teaching moments, and Fantasy Flight straight from the former CEO’s mouth.