Interview with Dennis Consorte, game designer, Part 4

Welcome back for the conclusion in our interview Dennis Consorte, Director of Galliant Games, which produces the new Scrapyard Empire card game, and previously produced Steampunk Goggles: The Deck.

 

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read part 3 here.

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Airship Ambassador: If you weren’t creating steampunk games, what else would you be doing now?

Dennis Consorte: What wouldn’t I be doing? I definitely keep busy. Right now my biggest projects include wrapping up a few website designs for some clients and helping my fiancée, Eva plan our wedding. I enjoy anything creative and pulling together a great team to execute on it. Don’t tell Eva, but I may have allegedly had the team help with a few aspects of my wedding planning, only because I knew they would do a great job of course.

 

AA: It will be our little secret. Eva will never hear it from me. Your background also includes internet marketing and other entrepreneurial ventures. How did that help and motivate you for your current projects?

DC: I’ve spent the last 10-15 years building traffic to websites using Search Engine Optimization and other internet marketing techniques. Crowdfunding is something entirely new for me. Some of the principles are the same, but some are vastly different. What I enjoy most about Kickstarter is that it is a constant reminder that traffic doesn’t come from Google; it comes from people. And with crowdfunding, you’re many steps closer to those people who you’d like to introduce to your idea. Part of my motivation was simply to educate myself on this alien platform. I’m still learning and it’s still fresh and exciting.

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AA: What do you do to keep a balance between game creation, other work projects, and the rest of your life?

DC: I’m really bad at that work-life-balance thing in the traditional sense. Thankfully, I enjoy what I do, and so for me, most of it isn’t really “work.” That said, I am thankful for having a wonderful partner in life who keeps me grounded. She understands how much time I need to spend on my work and creative outlets, and yet she helps me to carve out time to spend enjoying other aspects of life that I might overlook without her.

 

AA: Do you get to talk much with other creators to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

DC: All the time. I enjoy collaborating with other creators on ideas, and ways to help each other. I’ll talk to anyone who’s interested in what I have to say, and I’ll listen to anyone who has the time to share their ideas with me. I can honestly say that this process has helped me to form new friendships, and has helped me to maintain my faith in humanity when so many things in life can work against it.

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AA: The steampunk community is definitely a great way to meet more people and be involved in some amazing creative activity. How is New Jersey for this kind of work? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

DC: New Jersey definitely isn’t the Mecca of tabletop gaming, and it probably would have been more convenient to live in a place where these games flourish such as the Pacific Northwest. But, I’d have it no other way. I enjoy having New York City a 10-minute train ride from my home, and the diversity and culture that surrounds it. And ultimately, there are like-minded people everywhere; you just have to look.

 

AA: Do people outside the regular gaming, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for Scrapyard Empire or Steampunk Goggles? What kind of reactions have you received?

DC: My friends and colleagues are well aware of my biggest projects. I’m generally very monotone in my speech patterns and come across as stoic at times, and so they find it amusing that I would have such interests. But they’re fully supportive of my interests and have even backed my projects.

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AA: Looking beyond steampunk and gaming, what other interests fill your time?

DC: Once upon a time I would have answered, “bodybuilding” but that was another life, though I really need to carve out the time to exercise and get into better shape, especially with my wedding coming up in November. Right now I would say that I spend a lot of time educating myself on things I don’t understand. In my downtime I like watching shows ranging from Shark Tank to Game of Thrones, and I’ll be looking forward to Gotham in the fall, mostly because we supplied the goggles for Catwoman, played by Camren Bicondova, and partly because of the Batman theme.

 

AA: Who or what do you count as your influences, motivators, or role models?

JCV: Hmm, well my motivators include inspiring creativity and superficially, earning a healthy income. My role models include Dale Carnegie, Steve Jobs despite his aversion to modern medicine, and Jules Verne.

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AA: Three quick fire, random questions – what is your favorite vehicle, dinner food, and historical event?

JCV: My 2005 Audi A6 that was once new; sushi on a hot day; and The Vietnam War because despite its being such a tragic event, it was how my parents met and how I came into being.

 

AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

DC: Explore!

 

 

Thanks so much for talking with us, Dennis! This has been so much fun to hear about the game itself and the process to create it. Hopefully there are budding game designers and entrepreneurs who are motivated to move forward with their projects, too.

Everyone, get your copy of the game by supporting the Kickstarter and keeping up to date with the blog.

 

 

Published in: on July 5, 2014 at 8:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Dennis Consorte, game designer, Part 3

Welcome back for part 3 of 4 in our interview Dennis Consorte, Director of Galliant Games, which produces the new Scrapyard Empire card game, and previously produced Steampunk Goggles: The Deck.

 

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

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Airship Ambassador: What kind of attention has Scrapyard Empire generated before and because of the Kickstarter campaign?

Dennis Consorte: We started generating some buzz about the game a few different ways. Organically, play testers and team members naturally discussed the game with their friends. Proactively, we started talking about Scrapyard Empire with the backers from our deck of cards, and we sent prototypes to numerous reviewers and gaming groups. We’re also reaching out to the Steampunk community as well as some crowdfunding forums. The Kickstarter campaign and the support of so many backers has validated our project, and it is a bit easier now to find people who are interested in learning about the game.

 

AA: Every author, artist, and creative person I’ve talked with has a different journey to seeing their work come to fruition. What was this experience like?

DC: It’s been a fantastic journey so far and every day brings us new adventures! I will say that this project has been easier than our first Kickstarter, because we learned from many of the mistakes we made the first time around, and we prepared in advance as much as we could.

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AA: For the aspiring game creator, what lessons did you and your team learn along the way?

DC: Developing a game may sound simple and fun, but there is a lot of work involved with doing it right. In terms of the game mechanics, make sure that you test it as much as possible, and recruit play-testers early, so that they can help you find bugs in the design. When you’re ready to begin the production process, do lots of research and know your numbers; spreadsheets are your friend. Watch your budgets and timelines, and be ready to adapt when the unexpected happens. Be sure to get estimates on component weights so that you can project your shipping costs and factor those into your pricing.

 

AA: You are a pretty busy person – you started Steampunkgoggles.com as your first foray into the world of steampunk. How did business opportunity come about?

DC: It started as a marketing experiment, but a lot of research went into selecting the niche. We analyzed the media and used tools like Google Trends to spot potential niches. I noticed that Steampunk was a growing niche, and the numbers made sense. Plus it just looked like something fun that I would enjoy exploring and learning about.

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AA: From there came your previous Kickstarter campaign – what can you share about Steampunk Goggles: the Deck?

DC: It was an adventure! I have a lot of experience with project management, but this one really beat me up. We only had about half of the artwork done at the onset of the campaign, so time was divided between managing the artist and the rest of the team, and marketing the campaign. I made the dreadful error in judgment of running my campaign right smack in the middle of the holidays, and we had virtually no movement around Christmas and New Year’s. I also set an ambitious goal for that project, in order to produce not one, but two decks of cards. That campaign was riddled with challenges but I will say that each day I set a goal to accomplish one thing, and each of those small goals contributed to the overall success of the campaign.

 

AA: I really liked the creativity that Jenelle Sosa, the team’s creative consultant, infused the deck with, especially assigning a steampunk archetypes to each of the suits, and personalities to the members of the court. What was the process in brainstorming and selecting those choices?

DC: When it comes to Steampunk and even real history, Jenelle is a fountain of knowledge. It made sense to take 4 suits and divide them into 4 archetypes. Part of the goal of that campaign was to promote our goggles, and so the challenge became looking at our inventory and aligning the attributes of certain lines to each archetype. For example, the Industrials (Spades) were aligned with the heaviest goggles we carry, made from solid brass and leather, while the Aviators (Clubs) included goggles that already had aeronautical names on our website. Once each suit was assigned a theme, the next step was for Jenelle to think of unique characters that matched those themes. Kings, Queens and Jacks were given steampunk personalities that brought them to life.

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AA: What are some of your favorite cards in the deck and why?

DC: The Ace of Hearts, dubbed the Corseted Heart, is probably my favorite card in the deck. The heart could be restricted by the corset, but it instead embraces its fate and the corset actually enhances it. The King of Spades (The Tinker) is also among my favorites. Mike Lees did a spectacular job of creating expression in his face, and adding detail to every nook and cranny. I also enjoy the Escheresque feel to the design.

 

AA: The photo shoot for the Kickstarter promotion seemed successful, especially with the tag line, “What’s YOUR suit?” As Ambassador, mine is probably Diamonds/Glitterati. What’s yours?

DC: Definitely Spades/The Industrials, as it matches my real-life interests in science and technology.

 

AA: Are there any great artwork pieces which were considered but didn’t make it into this project?

DC: Mike did an amazing, full-width card for the Queen of Clubs. It had an Amelia Earhart meets Frida Kahlo vibe to it and it just had a wonderful composition. Unfortunately, it didn’t match the majority of cards in the deck, because it had a full background scene, with heavy imagery extending all the way to the edge of the card. In the end it was a usability decision to drop the card and replace it with something more in line with the overall design of the deck. At some point, I would love to do another deck in the future with full-width designs for every card.

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We’ll take our last break here in this four part interview with Dennis Consorte.

Join us for the conclusion where Dennis talks about motivation and influences.

In the meantime, keep up to date with the Kickstarter and the blog.

 

Published in: on July 2, 2014 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Dennis Consorte, game designer, Part 2

Welcome back for part 2 of 4 in our interview Dennis Consorte, Director of Galliant Games, which produces the new Scrapyard Empire card game, and previously produced Steampunk Goggles: The Deck.

 

Read Part 1 here.

scrapyard-empire

Airship Ambassador: Creators often talk about how elements of their own lives influence their projects. How did this play into Scrapyard Empire?

Dennis Consorte: When I was a kid, I used to love taking things apart to see how they worked. My problem was that I never could figure out how to put them back together. My behavior in breaking all of my toys resulted in my parents buying fewer of them for me. This put me on a path to find other ways to occupy my time and to satisfy my desire to understand how things worked.

With no hardware to play with, I soon discovered software. I learned how to code at a young age. I was fluent in Basic, Assembly Language, Pascal, C++ and a few other languages (and today I dabble in PHP and other web scripting languages). By the time I was in high school, I had dreams of creating the next great video game. I made a few simple games like a Galaga knock off and an AI version of Othello.

But that dream soon faded and I gave up on developing video games for many years. I’m almost 40 now, and like many others at my age, I’m yearning for the things I missed while younger. Digital is so commonplace now, and as a result, analog technology and old fashioned stuff that’s printed on real paper is making a comeback. I want to be part of this introduction of tangible games to people who are so used to digital imagery, and Scrapyard Empire is part of this realization of my small dream.

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AA: All of those ideas really resonate with, and even motivate, many people in the steampunk community. Today’s technology is great but the clean modern aesthetic doesn’t always appeal to a more artistic perspective and appreciation. What kind of back story is there for Scrapyard Empire which didn’t make it into the final version?

DC: We had a number of ideas for the back story to Scrapyard Empire. The one that stands out most is where the world is about to end, and various nations call upon their scientists to devise an invention that either prevents the impending apocalypse, or helps their people escape their doom.

So for example, a time machine could be used to turn back the hands of time and change the course of history in a way that prevents the apocalypse, while a dirigible could fly countless citizens to freedom. In the end we decided that a wacky contest devised by an eccentric inventor was a lighter theme that more people would enjoy for this particular project.

 

AA: What a great decision to add a sense of whimsy and fun into the game. Are there any plans for expansions?

DC: Possibly. Lately we’ve been testing ways to add abilities to the invention cards and those will probably make it into the first edition of this game. Beyond that, we’d like for the miniatures to have a use beyond serving as markers for the game. I would really enjoy producing a miniatures game that utilizes the fantastical inventions from Scrapyard Empire in a new and exciting way.

We’ve already got a 15-character expansion pack available as an add-on, and we may make new machines and inventions if there is enough of a demand for it. The beauty of these cards is that they are relatively simple by design. This has the advantage of making them highly versatile, and it wouldn’t be hard to utilize them as part of a much more robust game down the line.

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AA: When I get my nieces and nephews to play Scrapyard Empire, what do they need to know?

DC: They’ll be able to pick up on the main concept to the game – collect cards from the Parts deck to build Small Machines, and build the right Small Machines that can be combined to form your Invention. But don’t overlook the special abilities that each small machine gives you when built. These abilities contain hidden gems that will help you win the game if you pay attention to your opponents’ cards and character abilities.

 

AA: What kind of research went into creating the Scrapyard Empire world?

DC: A lot! Some of this research was done during the development of the game, and some of it was done ex post facto. Once we knew we wanted an inventors’ theme, Mike Patierno pulled a number of ideas for the scrapyard and its associated inventions out of his hat, based on years of exposure to the genre. The rest of the team then researched how these devices might look and function, and that provided some direction for the artwork and game mechanics. We also played numerous games that people compared our mechanics to after helping us play-test.

We also did quite a bit of competitor research, and in fact discovered a couple of other steampunk inventor-themed games that were released after we had finished our first (extended) round of playtesting. We looked at their mechanics and artwork to make sure that our game was actually quite different. I even went so far as to reach out to the creator of one game that played very differently from ours, but which had some of the same inventions.

From that conversation, I made the decision to change the names of some of our devices, to make them just a bit more different. I felt that this was good for both their projects and ours, and it also made for a nice introduction to some great people who share similar dreams to ours.

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AA: One aspect I appreciated about the game is that is can be played by one person in solitaire mode, or in a group. What prompted that aspect of gameplay and what kind of discussions went into it to make that happen?

DC: Believe it or not, the idea for a solo mode came from my therapist. The thought had crossed my mind briefly before that, but it wasn’t until I introduced him to the game that he made the suggestion and gave me the slight nudge that I needed to explore it further. It makes sense – from a psychological and logistical standpoint, not everyone can find several friends at a moment’s notice to play a card game. And of course, we all have friends who are late to events, where having a solitaire game to occupy one’s time while waiting is a great way to pass the time.

We put a lot of effort into Scrapyard Empire: Solitaire and in fact had two release candidates for the game. One was a version where you play against a drone player of sorts. While that was more in tune with the 2-4 player game’s rules, we felt that the solo version we decided to release as part of the core game was just a lot more fun. Since our goal was to make a fun game, this became the logical choice.

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AA: You’ve run several game sessions for design and beta testing. What are some memorable fan reactions to Scrapyard Empire which you’ve heard?

DC: We’ve run countless sessions during beta testing. Though most of them didn’t make their way to our Youtube channel, they all had memorable reactions. My favorites were when games were extremely close, because it really is a race to build your inventions before the other contenders. This often resulted in maniacal laughter, heads buried into folded arms and lots of colorful language.

But the fan reaction that stood out most to me was from a local gamer who we recruited one night from around town. Ed Rivera said that he wasn’t accustomed to set collection games like Scrapyard Empire, but actually enjoyed it a lot more than some of the most popular deck builders on the market. He was masterful with using the aspects of the game that were similar to common deck building mechanics, such as the special abilities associated with the small machine cards. Yet he felt that the dice mechanic and being able to dig through the scrap pile (i.e. the discard pile) was something fresh that added a level of excitement to the game. A compliment like that will be remembered for a long time.

 

AA: After all these teasing questions, what is the actual game play?

DC: In a 2-4 player game, everyone is dealt cards from 4 decks: 8 Part cards, 5 Small Machine cards, 1 Invention card and 1 Character card. The Parts, Small Machines and Inventions decks are placed face-down on the table, and the top card is flipped face-up next to it to form the “scrap pile.” Parts and Characters are laid out face-up on the table, while the other cards are in-hand, hidden from the view of other players.

The object of the game is to build 2 or 3 inventions, depending on the number of players. You do this by collecting the right Parts to build Small Machines, and the right Small Machines to build Inventions. Each Small Machine is comprised of 3 Parts, and each Invention is comprised of 3 Small Machines. That’s the core of the game, but it’s the little nuances that make it more interesting and engaging.

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Each turn is comprised of 4 phases. Below is a summary of the basics, but there are a few items that you’ll need to read about in the rule book for clarification:

Draw Phase – take 1 card from the Parts pile

Action Phase – you get 2 actions per turn. Actions include drawing a card from the 3 decks, “digging” from the scrap pile upon a successful dice roll, stealing from or trading with other players, or activating a special ability. One unique thing about the dice, or “luck” component to this game is that it can be augmented by discarding extra cards. So for example, if you need to roll a 4, 5 or 6 in order to dig for a part you need but end up with an unlucky 2, you can simply discard 2 of the cards that you don’t need to bump that 2 up to a 4, and get the card that you do need.

Build Phase – discard 3 parts to build a small machine, or discard 3 small machines to build an invention. You may build as many items as you have cards for.

Discard Phase – with the exception of certain characters with special abilities, every player must discard down to 8 Part cards, 5 Small Machine cards in their hand and 1 Invention in their hand. Just like in real life, you only have so many places to put stuff, so you have to manage that space effectively.

 

It’s agonizing, I know, but we’ll break here at the halfway mark in this four part interview with Dennis Consorte.

Join us for part three where Dennis talks about behind the scenes game creation activity.

In the meantime, keep up to date with the Kickstarter and the blog.

 

Published in: on July 1, 2014 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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