This week we find ourselves in the Northeast, New Hampshire to be precise to visit the lair of Ben Swainbank of Superhuman Games.
What games have you published through The Game Crafter and what is the name of your game design label?
I am the owner and lead designer of Superhuman Games. We are publishing a superhero themed card game, based on the classic RPG: The Villains and Vigilantes Card Game.
I’m using The Game Crafter for prototyping, playtesting, and a kind of “open beta” which we’re calling the V&V R&D Program. We’re getting ready for a Kickstarter launch and brick-and-mortar print run this spring.
Products for V&V CG are organized like a comic book. We call them action sets. Each action set features a complete game but with different heroes and villains and power sets to play using the same game system and rules.
Currently, there are 5 V&V CG action sets available on The Game Crafter:
Day of Reckoning
Mind Over Matter
Dreams of Ice and Fire
Terror from the Shadows
How and when did you first hear of The Game Crafter?
During the summer of 2010, I had been iterating over the game design for a while, and was working with a new graphic designer (Jason Greeno, designer of Pocket Kung-Fu). He pointed toward The Game Crafter and suggested I check it out.
I did check it out. Even though it would be another year before I was uploading files and adding items to the store, the existence of The Game Crafter was an important motivation during that year. I knew that when I completed the design, completed the graphic design, and collected all the artwork - once I was ready - I knew I would be able to print, play and share my game.
Had you ever published a game before using The Game Crafter?
I had done some prototypes using a local printer. They were great to me. But that option was more expensive and much less flexible than The Game Crafter.
How long had you been designing games before using The Game Crafter?
I grew up designing games - tinkering with whatever game we where playing and frequently designing my own to play with friends. I did some semi-professional work as a playtester, writer and then Storyline Coordinator for White Wolf’s Vampire: the Eternal Struggle CCG. The initial design for what would become the Villains an Vigilantes Card Game began in 2001. That’s something I’ve been iterating over for a while.
How much time do you spend on designing and playing games?
I’m always playing games — my own and others. That’s a mixture of business and pleasure. But between my kids, friends, and local games groups, I’m playing a number of games every week, and ofter learning something new.
Design work on V&V CG varies from week to week depending on where I am in the cycle. Currently, the bulk of the game design is complete and I’m more focused on testing, coordinating art production on the next wave of cards, and refining the game presentation and getting ready for the initial launch.
What keeps you motivated to continue designing games?
I like to be building games that are the games I want to play and that don’t exist yet. There’s nothing like being at a table where everyone is having fun with something you created. When a game really “clicks” that’s just a wonderful experience.
It is also a great activity to be able share with my kids. Their enthusiasm for games in general, and Villains and Vigilantes in particular, has been highly motivating. That helps push me through the aspects of game production that are a lot of work and can be a slog at times.
I grew up playing games and always wanted to be able to call my self a “game designer”. It’s a pleasure to be able to honestly do so.
What is The Game Crafter’s killer feature and why?
The total package of having an easy way to upload your files and order up a copy of your game is pretty amazing.
For me, one thing I’ve really loved is how it allows me to easily iterate over my game. I can take feedback from a game session, make changes, update cards as needed, and order up the updated cards. This means we can always be playing with good looking cards and components, get the full experience of the game, and still retain the flexibility to make changes and constantly make improvements.
This flexibility lets me experiment with a lot of different heroes, villains, powers, missions and see what works best in the game. It will allow me to offer custom products that allow players to get their own favorite heroes and villains from their RPG campaigns into the card game. Anything I can imagine I can get into the game and onto the table.
Have you learned anything from your experiences that you’d like to share with The Game Crafter community?
I would caution publishers putting their game up on The Game Crafter that it may not be a big money-maker for you. If your goal is to take your design, make it real, and be able to play your game, then you’ll love The Game Crafter. If your goal in is to “go pro” with your game designs then The Game Crafter is an essential stepping stone.
What game conventions do you usually attend?
I used to be a regular at GenCon and Origins when I was on the Vampire CCG tournament circuit. Last year I joined an epic gathering of the V&V RPG luminaries for an convention long campaign at GaryCon.
I expect the Villains and Vigilantes Card Game will be available at Origins and GenCon this year. But I haven’t yet determined where I’ll be personally.
How would you describe yourself?
Family, work, and games are the three pillars of my life. As long as I’m spending time with each I’m happy. When I can combine them it is especially gratifying.
Are you married, dating, or otherwise involved?
My wife grew up down the street from me. We met in high school and have been together for 25 years now.
Do you have any kids?
My two boys are in 3rd and 6th grade. They have been critical to the game’s development. When they started asking to play more of “Dad’s Superhero Game”, back when it was index cards and a few random HeroClix, I knew I might be on to something. Their continued enthusiasm and willingness to act as an in-house playtest team has been great for the game.
Do you have any pets?
Nope. I grew up with a dog and cat. But I’m just not a pet person.
If someone visited your area, what’s something they must see or do?
I’m in Portsmouth, New Hampshire which is a great little seaside town. We’ve got a very nice downtown area, right by the water, with lots of great shops and an abundance of fantastic restaurants.
What do you hate?
I don’t have a lot of “hate”. I do get disappointed when a game has good ideas, cool bits, or original mechanics, but then falls flat with a flawed implementation. Minor mistakes and oversights can kill a game that might have been good.
What do you love?
… I do love to “rehabilitate” a game. Often I’ll tweak the rules or reinvent a game we have. My kids have learned to be very accommodating. I love it when I see a simple change that really brings out the fun factor in a game.
What’s the last CD/MP3 you bought (or downloaded)?
I almost never buy music any more. I do listen to music all day. My favorite radio stream is Radio Paradise.
What’s the last movie you watched?
That last movie I saw in the theatre was “The Muppets”, which I loved. It’s great to see them back and in the hands of someone who can throw their heart into it.
You’re stuck on a train/plane for 6 hours and bored out of your mind, how do you pass the time?
These days I feel like I’m always doing something. And if I’m not doing something then there’s a list of things that I should be doing. Being “stuck” for hours with nothing much you can do can be a rare blessing.
I’ll have a book or two with me and be happy to sit back and focus on that.
Any last words?
One fun spin-off from the game project has been a twitter feed I’m doing based on the life a long-time supervillain henchman named Victor Rath. Victor tweets about the villains he works for, heroes he’s gone up against, and the life of a professional henchman. Comic book and V&V fans might enjoy that. Check out https://twitter.com/#!/@VictorRath
Come visit www.superhumangames.com and our Facebook page.
And look for the upcoming Villains and Vigilantes Card Game Kickstarter campaign!