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#31 – Heather O’Neill

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast where I sit down with a different game designer each week and we talk about their experience in game design and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I’m going to talking with Heather O’Neill, who is the CEO of 9th Level Games. They make very cute and cheeky games, and honestly part of the reason I wanted to have her on the show is that their first game is called Kobolds Ate My Baby! which is just the right amount of silliness I like in my games. So, Heather, welcome to the show.

Heather O’Neill: Hi, how are you?

Patrick Rauland: You know it’s the end of the day, and that means it’s good. You know it’s kind of like … yeah.

Heather O’Neill: Great.

Patrick Rauland: So first of all, I noticed your title is CEO, and I primarily talk to indie game designers. Do you work for some giant mega conglomerate that is planning to take over the world?

Heather O’Neill: No, no, no. The title makes it seem like it is more. Actually I got involved about five years ago when we decided to start making some card and board games. It’s a four person company. I just started kind of doing more of the business work, and more of the finance work, and it made sense when we incorporated to take that title is really what it is, but it’s only a four person company.

How Did You Get Into Games?

Patrick Rauland: Got it. So remind me, your husband created Kobolds Ate My Baby!, and then you started doing more board game stuff.

Heather O’Neill: Right. So Kobolds Ate My Baby! is an RPG that came out in I believe 1999, so in 99 through 2012, I wasn’t really involved, except for convention support, you know proofing, that kind of thing, little stuff like that, ideas because it was mostly a role playing game company at that time. Then when we talked about some board games and card games that I would like to make, and another friend of ours, Heather Wilson would like to make, we got more involved and actually started designing games, and actually got more involved in day to day business in the company.

Patrick Rauland: So why did you move from RPGs to board games? Was that a business decision? Or just like a personal passion thing?

Heather O’Neill: Well we didn’t officially move, but we … We still make RPGs, but we were only doing RPGs up until that point, and I think just the invent of things like Kickstarter, and ways for the little guy to actually make something that you would usually only see on a Target or a Walmart shelf. There was an idea there, “Hey we can make card and board games now too,” which we’ve had tons of ideas for, but we never acted on it because making a book was so much easier to bring to market personally. So when we realized that, we started making more board and card games, but we still do RPGs, and we have one releasing in November, and we’ve got a couple planned for next year too.

Patrick Rauland: So Kickstarter really opened the doors for you, like it was literally enabling you to do more with your company.

Heather O’Neill: It did. Had it not been for Kickstarter, we probably wouldn’t even have become the company that it is today. We relaunched a new version of Kobolds Ate My Baby! in 2013, and once we saw how good that Kickstarter did, we thought, “Okay, people still care about this from 1999. This is still a viable product. We can continue with that, plus now we know how to use Kickstarter. We know what we’re doing,” or so we thought. But we did for the most part, and then we started full steam ahead on the board and card games.

Patrick Rauland: You know it’s funny how fast we take things for granted because I think talking with game designers, they’re like, “Of course we used Kickstarter,” and it’s weird to talk to people who have been designing games since before Kickstarter, and they’re like, “yeah it just wasn’t possible. Like you couldn’t raise the 15, the 20, the 50 grand whatever it is to make a game, so we never did.”

Heather O’Neill: Exactly. I mean it’s similar to like how did we live without an iPhone before or a smartphone. It was only ’07 when that came out. It’s very similar. Like, “How did we live without Kickstarter,” in the gaming world especially because in the board game tabletop world, it is like the marketplace to find new games, especially for indie designers. It super opened the doors for us. Schrödinger’s Cats was our huge board game card game that came out in 2015 on Kickstarter, and that’s really what launched the line of board games for us.

Tell Us About Meeple Party

Patrick Rauland: Very cool. So your upcoming game, Meeple Party, which and I should say, so it’s upcoming for me, but I have so many episodes recorded already that this is going to come out probably at the end, or after the Kickstarter has finished, so by the time this airs, it’ll be the now released Meeple Party. It’s kind of, and you can late pledge, I should say. It seems like a murder mystery party? To me it actually reminded me of a like more, not Clue, but if Clue was made today, this is what it would look like.

Heather O’Neill: You know what it kind of is? It’s kind of like Sims the board game is the comparison that we make the joke of because you’re right, it has got kind of got a Clue vibe. It is a house and you are meeting objectives by taking photos of things happening at a party. So instead of being with a candlestick in the conservatory, it’s two party animals in the kitchen playing beer pong is the idea, or having cake. So it’s a similar idea. There’s an objective which is to take a photo of a specific situation at the party, and everyone’s working together to move the people or meeple around to meet that situation, and that’s basically the idea.

Components in Meeple Party
Some of the components in Meeple Party

Heather O’Neill: There’s of course as in any real life party, potential disasters that can happen, like the cops show up or there’s a fight or you know there’s a heated debate, and everyone’s uncomfortable, so there’s always a crisis or disaster that you need to watch out for as well. So there’s basically a condition that you need to watch out for, and conditions that you’re all looking to get. There’s five different types of meeple, so there would be a flirt, a jerk, a wallflower, a party animal, and a cool meeple. They all have a specific movement based off the type of personality that they have, and you use this movement to meet your conditions of the photos, is basically the idea of the game.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, that to me seems like the most compelling part of the game, is I love the idea that like, I think the jerk, like when he moves it moves someone else a square away or two squares away.

Heather O’Neill: Two squares away, exactly. So and it’s funny because when it comes down to it, when I designed it, we can get into this a little more when I talk about the design of it, it was quite abstract, and then I realized that all of the things I was drawing, to me looked like a house, and we were always the party house. I got married very young. I was the first person to have a house, so we always had parties at my house, so it just made sense for me to do this. So we put that on, and just made it really fun. So you have the fun vibe of it, but you’re also doing a tactical movement as well, and you maybe don’t even realize it.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, that’s funny, and also I think you just indirectly answered the age old question of theme or mechanism. It sounds like you came up with sort of an abstract movement game, and-

Heather O’Neill: I came up, yes. The five types of personalities, those movements is what I came up with first, and when I went through those movements, and was looking at the board, an coming, I had a bunch of different ideas for themes. When this one came up, I thought, “Yes, this is it.” Because like you said, we have a little bit of silliness. We don’t do war games. We don’t do zombie apocalypse games. We do like fun light games and I thought there’s not a theme like this.

Heather O’Neill: This is what I, more interested in making a theme of something like a party, so that’s where it ended up going, and this was probably close to two years ago that I had the idea, and since then, it’s just been a lot of tweaking and changing things around, stripping a lot of things out of it. I probably took a six month hiatus as well, and had to put it on the shelf for a little while as I’m sure many designers do. You know I went through all the ups and downs of a design process, but here we are, and the Kickstarter as we’re listening, probably just finished.

What Themes Do You Focus On?

Patrick Rauland: Yep, so your company’s designed a bunch of games, and you actually, you just earlier said, “We don’t really do fighting games or war games,” have you found any themes that work, resonates or don’t resonate?

Heather O’Neill: Yeah, well we … though we don’t really have like a formal mission statement that says this, for real one of our missions is we love anything with cute animals in it. So we’re like, “If it’s a cute animal game, we’re probably in.” That theme, we’ll make it work. So that’s definitely something that we all like, and we can all get behind. Our audience tends to be maybe ten year olds to 15 year olds is some of our group, plus of course adults, so we try not to get too much past PG 13 with anything, even though this party game does involve drinking, we kind of keep it light, and that’s the same thing we do with the animal games and those things.

Heather O’Neill: We’ve literally had a game come out last year called Bearicades where you are bears barricading a forest from lumberjacks. That was originally … originally it was a zombie apocalypse themed-game, but we met the designer, and we knew him for a while, and we really liked the game, but we said if we’re going to publish it, it really doesn’t fit our market, so we developed with him the bear and lumberjack theme of the exact same game that he had for zombies.

Patrick Rauland: That’s so fascinating. I love that.

Heather O’Neill: So right, exactly. We really resonate towards that light kind of cute family vibe with an interesting twist. So Schrödinger’s Cats is obviously about Dr. Schrödinger’s thought experiment, however you need to know nothing about that to play that game, and we reference physicists and things, but it’s a cute animal game at its heart.

Patrick Rauland: So if i could come up with … so if I come up with a game, Dog Ate Your Homework, you’d be like, “Yes.”

Heather O’Neill: Done. [crosstalk 00:10:51] exactly. Exactly.

Patrick Rauland: Alright. I will drop everything I’m doing and start working on that.

Heather O’Neill: Yeah, exactly, sounds great.

Patrick Rauland: Do you have like a favorite game or maybe a better question is are you allowed to have a favorite game when you’re the CEO of the company.

Heather O’Neill: That’s a good point. You know it’s funny. If you were talking about what’s my favorite game I ever designed, I’d say Meeple Party, but if it’s from the whole company, you’re right. I guess I’m not really allowed to choose favorites. But I think everyone loves Schrödinger’s Cats equally, not necessarily even because of the gameplay even though it’s good. Our artist is so great. He made cat versions of Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Madame Curie, and all these different people, and we made cat versions of them, and it’s just so cute that everyone is just like this is the best game.

Patrick Rauland: Cool.

Heather O’Neill: Everyone in the company agrees that’s our favorite one right now just because it was so fun to do.

How Has Your Process Changed in Regards to Kickstarter?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah yeah. So okay, we talked about how Kickstarter came out, and you were like, “Wow, there’s opportunity.” How has your process changed since your first Kickstarter to the upcoming Kickstarter?

Heather O’Neill: Well, the market saturation is just like insane compared to 2013. If you had a game out in 2013 it might have been either the worst game in the world or the worst marketing campaign on Kickstarter in the world, and you probably funded. If you didn’t fund back then, it was surprising. Now, you might have a great game, and a really good campaign, and you still can’t fund because there’s just so much saturation out there. It’s hard to get through all of the noise, and as you know there’s huge, huge games like Fireball Island or Ghostbusters, or big properties now that you’re competing against. So they’ve already put $50 or $150 into this huge game. Now they’re not going to have the money to put into your $39 game or your $19 game.

Heather O’Neill: So that’s where it gets hard. There’s a lot of huge companies on Kickstarter now, and everyone’s using it as their marketplace. Which is great, which means there’s a lot more people going to Kickstarter, but it does make it hard, and you’ve got to think things a little bit differently than we did five and three years ago. I would say it changed … in ’16 we noticed some change, and then when we did the bear game in ’17, we just followed the same model we had been using, and we didn’t do as, we funded, but we didn’t do as well as we thought we were going to do, and we realized later, “Oh a lot of things have changed here.” We need to do things differently, which is what we’re doing for this Kickstarter.

Patrick Rauland: So what are you doing differently for this Kickstarter? Like what are the-

Heather O’Neill: Yeah, so what we’re doing is a lot more lead up.

Patrick Rauland: Oh okay.

Heather O’Neill: It used to be, hey a couple months lead up, we have our following, we’ll get it out there. Were doing a lot more lead up, so there’s been more talk about this game for the last year. We’re getting a lot more reviews, previews done before the Kickstarter than we would before. Before it was, hey, during the Kickstarter we would get contacted by people to do a review once the game comes out, or have an interview about what the game is or all the print and play. I’m noticing over the last few years, it’s pretty much a requirement on a board game that you have a few reviews, videos up. You have to have you know a bunch of things already done before you even click launch where before, it was more, “Oh we see … we get what you’re doing. We’re understanding that this is you in the design process, or all the way through it, and you’re trying to get this funded. We want to help you with that.”

Heather O’Neill: It’s less of that now, and it’s more, “I want to buy this game.” And this is a sell sheet for the game. So it is different, so if anyone’s listening and they’re thinking about a Kickstarter, it’s not just, “Hey help me make this game,” anymore. It’s more, “I’m a customer at a store, basically. Sell me this game.” That is a big change where things that had worked three and five years ago, just aren’t going to cut it anymore. You have to just do some slightly different things. You’ve got to think about when you’re going to launch. You have to market it a little bit different at the conventions. We were used to going to a lot of things that had role playing. Now we’re going to a lot more of the tabletop and the [PAXs 00:15:18] that have a mainstream crowd because our games are more light. So it’s that kind of thing.

Patrick Rauland: So I’m really curious about timing. Is there … Chester. I hear a little bit of an echo. But is there in terms of timing, is there something … like how do you plan that? Because you can’t plan when the next Fireball Island is going to come out.

Heather O’Neill: Well right. Now there are sources if you delve into the Facebook groups of gaming and different things where you can hear what Kickstarters are going to but coming up, but you’re not going to hear about them all. You can try to avoid launching during a big convention because everyone’s away at the convention, or having a beer last day. You can avoid of course 4th of July and Christmas, and that kind of stuff. But there’s a chance I could launch and then two days later, somebody launches that is a similar like game, and we’re competing but it might also not because maybe that helps us. Which leads me to what happened on our Schrödinger’s Cat Kickstarter. We launched. It’s a cat game. We launched I guess on a Monday or a Tuesday in February, and the very next day, Exploding Kittens launched.

Patrick Rauland: Oh my gosh.

Heather O’Neill: And Elan Lee who makes it, he was the one who put the game up, I talked to him just as a fellow Kickstarter designer,, and said hey, we should do a cross over. You have a cat game. I have a cat game, and we did. When he was still only at 30,000 or something. Something ridiculously low, and that helped out a lot because he did put a little bit out about our game, and he retweeted about it and things like that, which helped. I mean we didn’t make eight million, unfortunately, but …

Patrick Rauland: [inaudible 00:17:01]

Heather O’Neill: Yeah, we didn’t make eight million, but we did well, and we were at first kind of concerned, “Oh there’s another game,” it’s not even remotely like it in gameplay, but it was about cats, and everyone was going to the Exploding Kittens page, but actually that helped because people who were new to Kickstarter who went there just for Exploding Kittens, were searching things about cats, and found our game. So we think that actually the thing we thought was going to be horrible, actually ended up being okay in that case.

Heather O’Neill: So when everybody’s going there to buy Fireball Island, if they’re the kind of people who have enough money, they’re probably going to search around and look for other games. It does just become a hindrance when there are people out there who only have that budget, that’s the game they’re going to buy. Now they’re not going to buy that new indie thing that they don’t know anything about, right?

Patrick Rauland: So yes. I try not to worry about things I can’t control.

Heather O’Neill: Exactly.

Patrick Rauland: And it seems like the Kickstarter release schedule is something you can’t control right?

Heather O’Neill: Not really. There’s some, right. There’s some guidelines, but for the most part, you really can’t control it, and if you’ve done what you’re supposed to do ahead of time and prepped it, and you’ve got a print and play or rules PDF, you’re probably going to be fine.

Patrick Rauland: Cool. That’s good to know, because I think I could worry for forever about what is the perfect Kickstarter time for my game, and I hate worrying forever, so I think I’m just going to … I have like a range in my brain, but I think I’m just going to pick a date and assuming there’s not Fireball Island … there’s the Batman one earlier this year, assuming it’s not one of those, then I should be good.

Heather O’Neill: Then you should be good, yeah. Exactly. You should be fine. So yeah, things like that just kind of pop up and you just kind of role with it, but …

What is it Like in a Small Company?

Patrick Rauland: Cool. So you’re a small company now as opposed to, I talk to a lot of people who are just like an independent designer. Are there things that as a company you can do that you can’t really do when you’re just like a one off person working for yourself?

Heather O’Neill: I mean, again, when it comes to money related things, that just depends on the person, but I mean what we’ve done a lot of is been able to attend many, many more conventions with a booth presence. We’ll split up or maybe we do all go, and most of us are in the east coast, so sometimes getting to a California or Texas convention is not going to be feasible for a small independent designer who lives in Massachusetts for example, so it really helped us go to places like SXSW, and PAX, and Gama, which is a tradeshow in Reno, and all the PAXs and things like that. So we’ve been able to amp up in the last three years our convention presence which just in turn helps because you’re getting the games in front of people.

Heather O’Neill: The other thing that really helps is being in distribution. We have been in distribution for a long time because of Kobolds Ate My Baby!, but getting the board and card games into distribution now means I don’t have to just rely on people coming to my website or pre ordering it on my Kickstarter page or me hustling at every single convention to make my sales. I’m paying someone to do that every month, and I’m just getting a sales report, which that’s the big thing that … you have to decide if you want to do all this, because it’s great to have that, but it’s a lot of work involved with that too. And sometimes it’s nice if you’re a game designer which I know many. They just design the game and they hand it to somebody like me, and then they just get a check, a royalty check, and it’s not their problem anymore.

Heather O’Neill: Whereas in our case, we like interacting. I like doing the business part of it too. I mean sometimes it can be overwhelming as anything can, but for the most part, I like seeing that evolution and doing that part of it, so for me it made sense for us to continue that way.

How Does an Indie Designer Get into Distribution?

Patrick Rauland: I realize now that we haven’t had many people talk about going into distribution. Why does … so for people who don’t know what that is, that’s like where you get all of your games into retail stores. What is … I guess … how do I want to ask this? Is that sometimes an indie game person can do? It’s just a ton of work or is it just sort of not even possible until you’re a small team?

Heather O’Neill: No, I think it’s possible. It’s still possible. like I said it depends on … if you’re self-publishing your own game, and you’ve created it. Let’s say you’ve had a successful Kickstarter. Even if it’s a $10,000 or $5,000 Kickstarter, and you’re nothing huge, that’s fine. If you’ve done pretty well with that, that’s where you can start thinking, “Okay, how many followers do I have? How many backers was that?” You can talk to some of these smaller distributors and they might pick you up. I know some people who are indie game designers. It wasn’t their first campaign. It’s wasn’t maybe even their third, but after a while, they talked to some of these people and they got picked up into distribution.

Heather O’Neill: They all have different reasons why they’ll pick somebody up, but, that is something that … it helped us out that we already had that distribution set up, so it just made it easier for us. So even though like I said we’re a company in quotes, and we probably are a step above just your average designer that would sell the game to a publisher, we’re not that much above that. We just kind of got lucky that it was already in distribution because it had been out for so long. So we’re still trying to push it even more.

Heather O’Neill: But you’re right. It’s something that if you’re still designing the game, don’t even worry about that right now. Decide if you even want to get involved in all of the manufacturing and process of self-publishing, or if you’d rather just sell it to someone and have them do it all. if you do want to start your own company and do all of that, I would suggest a year or two of build up, and maybe one or two successful campaigns on Kickstarter, and then you might be able to get into distribution.

Patrick Rauland: I think that’s really helpful because like knowing, basically you probably can’t do it for your first one, so think about that for later campaigns, later projects.

Heather O’Neill: Right. So if you’re thinking, “Oh okay, my cost is,” you know $1,000 for example for a thousand copies of this game, which we know it’s not, but let’s just say it is. If you know that that’s doable that could be your first Kickstarter. If you’re thinking, “Oh I’m going to print 5,000 copies on my first game, but I don’t know how I’m selling those 5,000 copies if this doesn’t go well on Kickstarter,” that’s where you’ve got to think about maybe for your first campaign maybe going down for what your goal is. Because hey, if it goes Gangbusters, then you can buy more.

Heather O’Neill: But I have seen some people, and I should mention this, I’m part of the Game Makers Guild of Philadelphia, where we meet and play test, and give feedback to new and currently published designers, and I’ve seen a lot of people say, “Oh I launched my campaign last night,” and then the next day they come in with their prototype. It’s like, “Well, maybe that wasn’t the right time to do that, because there’s all this information we could’ve given you.” So some people, just they just don’t know the numbers, there’s tons of research you can do out there on it, but I would just say always go a little bit smaller than you think, and the worst problem to have is you have too many backers, or you’re selling out of your game, and you need to print more. Like that’s the worst problem you can have, because it’s the best worst problem.

Patrick Rauland: I hear you. Love it.

Heather O’Neill: You know I’ll take it.

How Many Unpublished Games Do You Have?

Patrick Rauland: So being a small company, how many unpublished/half finished games do you have?

Heather O’Neill: Too many.

Patrick Rauland: Is it like hundreds?

Heather O’Neill: I wouldn’t say it’s hundreds, because … I would say half finished, a third to half finished or more, I’d say it’s maybe 12 or 15. But as far as how many have we started and having ideas in our heads, I’d say probably hundreds, and it’s because a few of us, especially Chris, my husband, probably has an idea every single day for a game. We all riff off ideas all the time about games, so there’s a thing on Dropbox called paper, where you just basically write notes. So we have paper for just all of our ideas, and we go on there as we think of things, and just riff on ideas all the time.

Heather O’Neill: Sometimes we’re in the middle of doing this campaign for Meeple Party and for example three games have been designed since January. Now are they coming out any time soon? I don’t know. But we have three games that we’ve been designing as we’re working on this. Which is the worst … we were telling ourselves, “We can’t design a game right now.” But it just got in our heads, and we’ve been doing this on the side, and we just have a bunch of games that are not quite ready to come out, but just things that we’re all riffing about and talking about in our free time. So there’s just a lot of that going on. Which is fun. It helps because there’s a lot of creative juices, so to me that helps me think even more.

What’s The Best Money You’ve Spent?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. So you’ve been in this game a long time. What is some of the best money that you’ve spent as a game designer?

Heather O’Neill: Well I would say that the first thing I can think of is there is a design conference called Metatopia, which is in Northern Jersey, so it’s not necessarily easy for everyone to get to, but there might be other ones around the country. I think it’s really really good because it’s a convention for, it’s more of a conference actually for designers. So the idea isn’t, “Oh you have a booth, and you sell your game,” or even like an Unpub where you have your game, and the public come in. It’s more designer to designer, and the public can be there of course, but for the most part, it’s you’re actually having other designers play your games and having panels and meetings with the other designers, and that really opened my eyes.

Heather O’Neill: I think the first one I went to was in 2014. I learned a lot there, and just also I think it helps you, it helped me anyway, get over that fear of showing a prototype to somebody, because you’re thinking, “Oh well they’re just another designer too, so I feel a little bit more comfortable than putting it in front of the public.” You know? So four years ago I had taken one game, and this one coming up in this November, I’m planning three games, and they’re brand new ideas because I’m less worried about showing something that’s maybe only an alpha at this stage.

Heather O’Neill: So Unpub, I would say that doesn’t cost anything, but I would say Unpub maybe does a little bit, but Unpubs are amazing if anyone doesn’t know about those, they should look them up. And Unpub is Unpublished Network, it’s I guess a group that you can join. You can look on their calendar for local events. You can go to their bigger events which are I believe are once a year in Baltimore, and it’s basically where you just show your prototype to the public and also publishers. So again, that’s another great one. Anyone that’s looking to get into this, I would suggest looking at that.

Patrick Rauland: I love both of those, and I’m a little jealous because Unpub is primarily in the Northeast.

Heather O’Neill: Oh, is it? Okay.

Patrick Rauland: [inaudible 00:28:33]

Heather O’Neill: Yeah it is.

Patrick Rauland: And they have … sorry I’m trying to think. They have something in Origins which-

Heather O’Neill: Yeah, they’ll do one in Origins, and they might do one at GenCon, I’m not sure, but you’re right. That’s true. They have … most of their events are over here which is probably why it seems like there’s so many events to me because I’m over in Philadelphia area. But if you are in this area, that’s great. Or there might be other outlets in your local area, but that really helped me a lot because it wasn’t a traditional convention in the way that you walk down aisles. You look at product, and you see … you’re trying to basically sell to people.

Heather O’Neill: It was a totally different vibe, more of a hanging out in a hotel lobby, and having a drink kind of vibe, even though what I’m doing is talking about games and game design. So it was pretty fun, and definitely that’s where, not only do you meet a lot of people, but you just … it just helps you think about things a little bit differently than you might have going into it. And at that time, I had only really been in the publisher game like two years, so it really helped me out.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: So what is the, so we’re wrapping, getting near the end here. What is the success look like for you? Is it just continuing where your company is? Do you want to grow to 50 people? Do you want to take over the world?

Heather O’Neill: Yes, it’s definitely not grow to 50 people. I mean if that happens that’s fine, but I mean we’d be really happy just if we could do this full time. So though it sounds all lofty being CEO, all four of the employees have full time other jobs.

Patrick Rauland: Oh wow.

Heather O’Neill: Yes, that’s what we’re thinking. We would really like to dedicate a lot more time to this. Which we’re dedicating a good amount of our free time because we really love it, and it’s something that we luckily all have the flexibility in our jobs to do this, but at the same time, that’s definitely, that’s the success. I think even I would feel it was a success if two of us can do it out of the four because we know we’re at that point where we’re on that cusp, but we’re not there yet. It’s a pretty big leap, so that’s what we’re looking to do. That is where, once we get there, we’ll be really happy. That’s all we’re looking for.

Patrick Rauland: Do you think you can get there, well at least one person by the end of the year?

Heather O’Neill: I don’t think so, no.

Patrick Rauland: No you don’t think so?

Heather O’Neill: No. I don’t think so, but I think maybe in the next two years, one or two of us could do it. But again, over the last five years, we’ve just kind of in slow incremental build up, and we’re getting there, so that’s what we’re looking at.

Patrick Rauland: Well I wish you luck with that.

Heather O’Neill: Thank you.

Patrick Rauland: That sounds [crosstalk 00:31:11].

Heather O’Neill: I’m sure that’s what everybody wants, you know the same thing. I talk to anybody in any industry, and they say, “Oh you can do what you want to do? Do it.” Exactly, so that is what we’re trying to get to.

Overrated Underrated Game

Patrick Rauland: So, I like to end my little show with a game called Overrated, Underrated. Have you heard of it?

Heather O’Neill: Okay.

Patrick Rauland: Or I take it you haven’t heard of it before?

Heather O’Neill: Oh what the game?

Patrick Rauland: Yep.

Heather O’Neill: No I haven’t heard about it.

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so basically I’m going to say a word or phrase, and I’m going to force you to take a position if you think it is overrated or underrated. So if I said Friends the TV show, you’d be like, “Ugh, overrated because they’re not funny.” Something like that. Got it?

Heather O’Neill: Okay. Yep.

Patrick Rauland: Alright so publisher speed dating events. Are they overrated or underrated?

Heather O’Neill: I guess I’d say overrated, but I have never been to one so I can’t say.

Patrick Rauland: Oh okay. I think I assumed that publishers do the exact same thing as me where as a designer I go to publisher speed dating events, but obviously not all publishers do that.

Heather O’Neill: No, we don’t really go to it, and I’ve seen a lot of them, but unfortunately I haven’t heard a lot about the success of them is where the problem is with me. Maybe there is, and I’m just not aware.

Patrick Rauland: So this next one is a total gamble. I did not ask you ahead of time if you’d played this game. Have you played the game Baldur’s Gate?

Heather O’Neill: No, I haven’t.

Patrick Rauland: Dang it.

Heather O’Neill: But I know that I’m supposed to say underrated.

Patrick Rauland: It is like my favorite-

Heather O’Neill: For my geek cred there.

Patrick Rauland: It’s like one of my favorite computer role playing games.

Heather O’Neill: I know, it’s like the number one, everyone loves it. See the thing is I’m the board gamer person. I’m not the role playing person in the company. Everyone else is a role player. I have done it, but I’m more the board game analytical person.

Patrick Rauland: So let me get super nerdy here, and connect the wires. So Baldur’s Gate is set in, I believe it’s called the Sword Coast, and Lords of Waterdeep is also set in the Sword Coast, so I’m changing my question to Lords of Waterdeep. Overrated or underrated?

Heather O’Neill: Underrated. I like it.

Patrick Rauland: Alright, nice. That is weird to like ask a publisher to like talk about a specific game. I usually talk about genres of games.

Heather O’Neill: No that’s fine.

Patrick Rauland: Alright. Moving on. Murder mystery parties, overrated or underrated?

Heather O’Neill: Overrated.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, overrated. Why is that?

Heather O’Neill: Well, they don’t live up to what they … you think they’re going to be most of the time.

Patrick Rauland: Okay. Okay I see that. Last one, guac. Overrated, underrated?

Heather O’Neill: Underrated. I like guac.

Patrick Rauland: I like it, but you’ve gotta have like the avocados, they’ve gotta be just right, so if someone else can figure that out.

Heather O’Neill: I guess you’ve gotta say good guac. That’s the … that’s right, yeah. Not any guac.

Patrick Rauland: Awesome, well thank you for being on the show Heather.

Heather O’Neill: Thanks so much.

Wrap Up

Patrick Rauland: Where can people find you online?

Heather O’Neill: So 9th Level, 9thlevel.com, or @9thLevel on Twitter. Also if you’re interested in Instagram, following us on the design process, we have @9thLevelGames where we’re putting a lot of the information about Meeple Party and where we are and what we’re doing.

Patrick Rauland: And where can people find Meeple Party?

Heather O’Neill: That will be on Kickstarter September 25th through October 25th. If this airs after that, you can also go on Kickstarter and search it, and there will be a pre-order link or it’ll be on [Backerkit 00:34:40] as well for pre-orders.

Patrick Rauland: Awesome.

Heather O’Neill: And it’ll be under Meeple Party, so hopefully that’ll be pretty easy to search.

Patrick Rauland: Awesome. Listeners, if you enjoyed this podcast, please leave us a review. It helps other people find us. If you do, Heather said she would let you hug her kobold, but she can’t promise it won’t try to abduct you, so pros, cons. You can find the site at Indieboardgamedesigners.com. You can follow me on Twitter. I am @BFTrick, that is at as in, oh at. B as in board game, F as in fun, and Trick as in trick taking game. So last little bit is in a couple months, after this podcast comes out, I’ll be releasing my game Fry Thief on Kickstarter if Kickstarter doesn’t explode. So follow me on my website. I have a whole page dedicated to the game and what we’re working on.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, that’s all I got, so until next time designers, happy designing. Bye bye.

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