This week we are talking with Liz Spain, creator of steampunk game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis, where players lead a steampunk expedition to explore fantastic places and face otherworldly horrors in a deck building strategy game for 1-5 players.
Airship Ambassador: Hi Liz, it’s great to catch up with you and talk about your projects.
Liz Spain: Hi! I’m really excited that we’re so close to revealing the final product of the project I’ve been working on for the past two years.
AA: Before we talk about your current game, which is definitely not your first, what can you share about your background as a games designer?
LS: I started in game design creating Lovecraft-inspired live-action mystery games. My husband and I ran these modules in our hometown and at Gen Con (the largest tabletop gaming convention in North America). Eventually, we added steampunk elements to our games which enriched the worlds of our games and gave everyone an excuse to costume to the nines.
I worked a lot on Marshal Hunter’s steampunk live-action roleplaying game Rise of Aester. In addition to writing world material and helping to develop the rules, I also wrote the original modules for the game. Several of the characters I wrote for those modules became very popular and their stories became part of the world’s canon.
I’ve also playtested, costumed, modeled and demoed for a number of Flying Frog Productions board games. The Something Wicked expansion for A Touch of Evil is the first game I worked on there, but you can find my name in the credits for a number of Flying Frog games. I’ve also did consulting on the steampunk aesthetic and costumed over 100 people for Harebrained Scheme’s Crimson Steam Pirates on the ipad.
AA: Wow, all of those games sound interesting, and it’s great to hear about the various roles you’ve played in creating and bringing those games to life. For your current game, what is the premise of Incredible Expeditions?
LS: A slightly-unhinged scientist, Professor Pendergast, was kicked out of the Royal Academy of Sciences for his wild theories on the fate of the lost city of Atlantis. After discovering that the sunken city drifted and became trapped in the ice shelves off the coast of Antarctica, he announced to the world that he was forming an expedition. Other notable explorers the world over jump in on the challenge and the race is on to be the first to uncover the ancient city.
AA: What was the motivation for creating Incredible Expeditions? How did it all come about?
LS: Incredible Expeditions is my attempt to put the world of my Lovecraftian steampunk mystery games in a box. I really wanted to see the creative imagination of steampunk in a board game and decided the only way that was going to happen was if I did it myself.
AA: Completely understandable, and sometimes the only way to get something done, or to get just the item we want, is to do it ourselves. Why a card game?
LS: I wanted a game that would be easy for anyone to learn to play and would be dripping with a steampunk aesthetic and world.
AA: Why use steampunk as the game’s aesthetic?
LS: Incredible Expeditions is more than just a board game. I designed it to showcase the imagination and creative maker skills of the steampunk community at large. By starting with a steampunk aesthetic, I’ve been able to bring in friends to contribute to the project who are illustrators, prop makers, costumers, musicians and even a dancer and a calligrapher.
AA: That’s an interesting range of skills to bring into creating a game. Who are the other people who are part of the team to create this game?
LS: The biggest contributor to the project has been my husband, Austin. Throughout this project, he’s been there as a strong voice of criticism and helped immensely with organizing the Kickstarter campaign and playtesting. Incredible Expeditions owes the depth and balance of its strategy to his constructive skepticism at every step in development.
Jade Cheung (of Arctic Phoenix Studios) is a friend and artist who helped me develop the distinctive art nouveau style for the graphic design. The card frames are her design and she also made costumes and modeled for different characters in the game.
Beyond that, there are simply too many wonderful people to name. Over a dozen artists worked on the illustration and graphic design and there were dozens of models, most of whom made their own costumes and props. There’s hardly a steampunk in the Seattle area who hasn’t contributed to the project in some way.
We’ll take a break here in our chat with Liz Spain, talking about her newest game, Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis/
Check back for part 2 where Liz talks about research, artwork and the kickstarter experience.