So, in my last post I talked about AMP: Year One, and the current Kickstarter campaign for AMP: Year Two, the first expansion book for the game. Well shortly after that, I got in contact with Eloy Lasanta, the creator of AMP: Year One, and he graciously agreed to let me bludgeon him with questions in order to assuage my curiosity about his work as a game designer. So a big thanks to him for that!
If you haven’t read the previous post, you should go and do so right now… but just in case, a quick bit of background. Eloy created Third Eye Games back in 2008, and since then has written and published a number of well received games covering a very diverse range of genres and themes. He’s a prolific and successful user of Kickstarter as platform to get his new projects up off the ground. As well as working on his own games, Eloy has written for a number of other publishers including Margaret Weis Productions, Varja Enterprises and House Dok.
So, let’s get down to it. Without further ado, I present the Grassy Gnoll’s interview with Eloy Lasanta.
Tink: How exactly did you get involved with role-playing games? Did you start young, or come to it later in life?
Eloy: It depends on your definition of young and old. I wasn’t raised on it like many kids that I meet when I venture out to conventions everywhere. I started in high school around the age of 13 with RIFTS and didn’t play any other games for a long time. Eventually, I check out other things and it’s all downhill from there. A lot of World of Darkness and the like. Lots of fun was had.
Tink: Interesting, that’s about the age I started at. My uncle gave me a copy of the D&D 3rd Edition Players Handbook for my 12th birthday. So, what led you to actually designing games? Was it just a natural progression of your hobby, or did you actively decide that it was what you wanted to do with your life?
Eloy: I did a bit of freelancing, dipping my toes in to see if it was something liked. Funny enough, it WAS! The prospect of getting paid to do something I love and get paid for it was a crazy endeavor and it wasn’t automatically a money-maker. Though, now, Third Eye Games is enough to sustain my bills enough, which is cool. It took years to get to that point, but the struggle was an amazing lesson of what to do and what not to do. But yes, I always knew that I wanted to do this the moment I got a taste.
Tink: Can you tell me a bit about your design process for your games? How long does it normally take you to go from having an idea to implementing it as a full game? How do you organize your play-testing to make sure the rules are balanced? Do you work with other designers or primarily on your own?
Eloy: Wow! That’s quite the layered question! Ha! Designing games comes pretty naturally, but takes a lot of time. You start with a question that your game is going to somehow answer. What if you played a Men in Black type character, but you were going after demons and monsters instead of aliens? What if we put the emergence of superpowers was put under a microscope? Things to that effect. Then you spend the next 2-3 years developing the idea and making it a full game. There’s no single process; all designers have their own guidelines. I primarily use Third Eye Games to vent my own ideas, so most of the core books for any of my gamelines are written by me. Then I bring on others to help with sourcebooks and to expand farther out in scope.
Tink: You’ve published a number of games now, such as Apocalypse Prevention Inc., Part-Time Gods and AMP: Year One. Can you tell us a bit about these games and your others? What inspired each game, what are their intended audiences and play-styles? Do they all use similar mechanics, or have you built new systems for some of them?
Eloy: Oh man, I’m up to 7 gamelines right now with an 8th in the works, so I’m not sure if going over all of them is the best use of this space, but I’ll try to be quick about it. Here’re my gamelines:
(Editor’s Note: I’ve linked each of these to their page on ThirdEyeGames.net in case anyone wants to learn more about them)
API, WX, PTG and AMP all use a variant of my Dynamic Gaming System, while Mermaid Adventures, Camp Myth and Infestation all use my Pip System. Both of these house systems are very different and evoke a completely different feel. You design games to create a certain mood and theme, and sometimes you have to change the system to do so.
Tink: Do you have a favorite game out the ones you’ve created so far?
Eloy: I do suffer a bit from Oo! Shiny! syndrome, so my newest game is usually my favorite at the time. It’s the game that’s most on my mind and I’m crazy inspired or I wouldn’t have written it. That said, Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. was my first and holds a special place in my heart. AMP: Year One, I also believe, is my best version of the DGS to date (though I haven’t unveiled Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2nd Edition yet. 😉 ).
Tink: In a market fairly heavily saturated with RPG systems, it can be hard to avoid just fading into the crowd. Honestly, beyond the big names in the hobby (Pathfinder and D&D most likely being the two best known, with games like World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu and maybe Savage Worlds probably not being far behind), there’s countless lesser known RPGs being put out, from the small-scale and independent publishers (games like Summerland and Hollowpoint) to the more niche games put out by larger publishers (the various GUMSHOE games from Pelgrane Press for example). What is it about your games that you think makes them stand out and grab attention?
Eloy: You always need to have something that makes your game different, whether it’s a theme or a mechanic of something. I try really hard not to do something other people have already done, though. My games are never “Like X, but better.” If X already exists, you don’t need my game whether it’s better of not. Luckily, there isn’t anything like any of my games on the market, which creates their own niche and makes people really take notice.
Tink: So you’re currently running a Kickstarter for AMP: Year Two, the first expansion book for AMP: Year One, your modern-day Supers RPG. Can you tell me a bit about that project and it’s goals? What exactly is in store for the AMPs with this book? For that matter, what is AMP: Year One all about?
Eloy: Yes! The Kickstarter! It’s going very well and has already funded. Let’s start at the beginning.
AMP: Year One takes the reader/gamer on a journey through the first year of what happens when people gain superpowers and how that affects the world. Year one was very much about the discovery of said powers with it ending in a huge climax at the end of the year where everyone learned of mutants’ existence. AMP: Year Two is more focused on the fear and the chaos caused by people with powers. What’s in store for them? Lots of misery and sadness, but it’s all amazingly well crafted and pumped to the max for the highest payoff. We’re telling a story here that a lot of fans are really getting behind and becoming absorbed into, which we love.
Definitely check out the kickstarter if you want more info!
Tink: AMP: Year Two is far from being your first Kickstarter project. How many exactly have you run now? Are there any particular lessons you’ve learnt from running these campaigns and delivering the final product?
Eloy: AMP: Year Two is actually my 11th kickstarter. I’ve learned a lot of lessons, as each of them has been an experiment I’ve run. Lots of fun, but there’ not enough time to answer this to its fullest extent here. However, you can see some of my tips at this video: Design Discussion #1: Running a Successful Kickstarter
Tink: What is it that you think makes Kickstarter work so well for you? Obviously you’re a fan of the platform, since you keep coming back to it, so what is it about it that draws you to it for publishing your games?
Eloy: Strangely, Kickstarter has kind of become the norm in the industry. I made my game by taking a chance on Kickstarter, to it just makes it really easy to stick with that since that is what the people expect. It is a decent interface and it get you the funding you need to make a book awesome, as opposed to making it “passable,” so that’s a big reason why I keep coming back.
Tink: I had noticed that a lot of independent publishers are using Kickstarter as a primary platform to launch projects now. I suppose it helps to be able to get a clear idea of interest and the numbers needed before actually going to print… Are you already planning your next campaign? Or will you let the dust settle on AMP: Year Two first?
Eloy: Always have the next one ready to go. It’ll be for the Part-Time Gods of Fate, converting one our best-selling games to that beloved system. It’s gonna be great. You’ll see it soon, but AMP: Year Two is the focus at the moment.
Tink: If you don’t mind, my last few questions are usually a little more about just getting to know you. What are some of your personal favorite games? We’re talking RPGs, boardgames, card games, video games, anything you can think of. Is there anything you’d recommend that you don’t think gets enough attention?
Eloy: I’m a big fan of the Battlestar Galactica Boardgame and the Sentinels of the Multiverse card game. Both of those are amazing fun. Like, I spend way too much money on these two games and their various expansions. lol.
Tink: Do you have any hobbies apart from gaming? What do you do to relax after a long, tough day of designing?
Eloy: When I’m not designing games, I’m watching movies and TV, playing videos games, spending time with family, going swimming, and (occasionally) playing RPGs. Sometimes, when you write games, you don’t get to play as often as you’d like. That’s changed for me in recent times, but there was a long span of time there where I played almost no games.
Tink: And one last one, this one’s a big question for me since it’s such an integral part of my life. What sort of music do you listen to, and who is your favorite artist or band? Any particular favorite genre, or do you have an eclectic taste? Do you work while listening to music?
Eloy: I listen to tons of different kinds of music. Country is really the only genre I haven’t gotten into. In my normal writing day recently, I’ll jump from Childish Gambino to Marilyn Manson to Prince to Sia.
Thanks for the interview! This was a lot of fun!
Tink: Thank you for taking the time to answer my many questions, especially when you’re so busy with the AMP: Year Two campaign. Good luck with the rest of it, I can’t wait to see the finished product.
Well, that’s it for this time. Before I go though, a few links if you’re interested in keeping an eye on Eloy’s work.
Once again, a huge thanks to Eloy for agreeing to be interviewed.
Posted while listening to Three Days Grace, specifically the album Life Starts Now. Check out the title song, one of my favourites of theirs.
No idea what the next post will be yet, but hopefully it’ll be up within the next week, whatever it may be…