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#68 – Jim Fitzpatrick

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast where I sit down with a different independent game designer every single 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'll be talking to Jim Fitzpatrick who designed Mission to Planet Hexx. He's one of those people that goes to all of the cons and knows all the people, so I hope to learn some new things from him. Jim, welcome to the show.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It's great to be here. Hi.

Introduction

Patrick Rauland: Hi. So, I did some research about you before this episode and a previous guest recommended you. So I know a little bit about you, but the audience doesn't. So I have a lightning round question to begin. You ready?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Great. Go, shoot.

Patrick Rauland: Right. So, I'm like 95% over a cold, and I've been thinking about if I have to have a cough forever or a runny nose forever, which would you go with?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, I'm about 95% over a cold right now too. I'm in the middle of the coughing phase. So, well, I grew up in a house that I was allergic to, so I'm used to having Kleenex on me and a runny nose, so I would say I could handle that better than a cough. I can't wait for this cough to go away.

Patrick Rauland: Yep, but okay, so I will play devil's advocate for just a second. If you have a cough forever, that's like a free one-minute ab workout a couple times a day.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, yeah, but I rely on my voice a lot as a former dabbler in the theater arts. So, a cough makes your voice go away, so I would be sad about that. I can sing through a runny nose.

Patrick Rauland: Ah, there we go. If you want to get a fancy coffee, what do you go with?

Jim Fitzpatrick: You know what? I never used to drink coffee, and then I was told I should knock off the sugary sodas, so now I have black coffee. So, no matter where I go, I tend to just ask them for black coffee and put up with their looks.

Patrick Rauland: Nice, nice, and who best represents you in the Marvel Universe? Let's go with the cinematic as in the movie [crosstalk 00:02:13].

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, okay, because I have some knowledge of the comics and the movies. The first thing that shoots into my head is I feel like Bruce Banner when he's not the Hulk.

Patrick Rauland: Nice. Do you feel like you have to hold yourself back from raging out?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, he just hangs around in the background. He sees everything. He's smart. But he busts out when it's time to bust out.

How Did You Get Into Board Game and Board Game Design?

Patrick Rauland: Nice. I like that. Okay, cool, so first real question. How did you get into board games and board game design?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, my “board game” history consisted primarily of Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons up until recently, up until a few years ago, with dabbling in some other traditional games. But I had friends designing a game and who formed a board game design company. I've always had this idea for a game. So I thought, “Well, if they can do it, I can do it, so I'll see what I can come up with.” I fell back on what I knew about gaming, and I think sometimes my approach might be a little bit old-fashioned because like I said, I'm in my head gaming, means Mastermind and Monopoly, and games are completely different now I came to realize.

Jim Fitzpatrick: But yeah, my game was an idea that actually came from … I'm a huge Doctor Who fan, and it was going to be a Doctor Who game, and I thought, “Well, I'll just genericize it and try to put this idea on paper.” It just flowed out of me. I had a master document all in one afternoon, and I just started to take it on the road, and one thing led to another. What I like to do is I like to take an idea and take it as far as it can go and see how it's received and how well I'm doing, and if I'm doing well, I'll take it another step, and it just blossoms on its own. It's been great. I just follow it wherever it leads me like a little puppy in the park.

Patrick Rauland: So, I mean, you've been working on this for a while, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, the document I just talked about I came up with in … I want to say the spring of 2016. Then it wasn't until the fall at the Boston Festival of Indie Games that I put it in front of strangers. But the more I got into the game scene, the more I learned about other places that I could show it or places that I could bring it. Like I'm a member of the Game Makers Guild of Boston, and that's a great place to take a game and have people take it apart and put it back together and give you suggestions, and it was extremely helpful.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So, yeah, whoever would look at it, I would let them look at it. From a player's perspective or a designer's perspective, it's all good.

Why Do You Like Cons?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so a few episodes ago, I was chatting to Brian Compter, and he mentioned that you have a lot of energy when you go to cons, and you just mentioned basically traveling and going to them. Why do you like con so much?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I think that's the best comment because I don't think of myself as an energetic person. But cons energize me. I like going to conventions. I think … Well, similar to like I said, with my theater experiences in the past few decades, I'm always interested in the next thing or the other thing or what other people are doing with whatever my hobby is at the moment. So, I wanted to know … I got an idea of what a handful of people thought about my game in Massachusetts, but I wanted to know what the scene was like in Maine and in New Hampshire and who played games in Connecticut. So I like trying to cover a geographical area because I think that's helpful.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Everybody always has a tendency to stay in their own backyard and get feedback from their friends because it's safe, and that's something you shouldn't do if you really want an honest opinion from people. I think also because I'm a little theatrical and I'm what I call a recovering shy person, I like to get out there and meet people. There's no electronic component or screen between you and the gamer, which I love, and it's similar to theater. Live theater, you're there, and the audience is right there. I get a big thrill from that.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Even if I'm tired, or I've had four hours of sleep, or I have a cold, I think a convention and demoing a game or playing a game can bring me life.

Patrick Rauland: That's interesting. The way you phrased it made me think of … I mean, it's almost like you like the challenge of going out and meeting people and talking to them.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, and I do. Like I said, as a recovering shy person, I was so introverted as a child, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I knew I needed to get some people skills, so getting out there and not only getting out there to talk to people, but asking them to critique something that you made. Depending upon your personality, you can consider that to be risky. But I really enjoy it. I love having somebody sit down. Whether they're positive or negative, I always say, “Demo as long as you want.” The fact that you sat down, that's already made my day, and I already have a spiel. I've demoed my game many, many times. So, I know how to recover from potentially negative situations or how to steer a game that's going the right way or the wrong way.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I think that's useful. Especially if you've made a lot of games, the first thing you want to do is when you've made a new game is get out there and get back to showing it to people. If you've already got those skills tucked away, you don't have to think twice about it. You just sit down at a table and you're good to go.

What Type of Events Do You Attend?

Patrick Rauland: So you mentioned even like playing games. I mean, do you go to a lot of cons to play games? Or are you mostly going to play-testing events?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I get scolded by my friends for play testing my game too much, so I've tried to loosen up a little and play some more games. Plus I think I could really use playing more games to inform my game design skills, which I came to the table with what I had at the time. What was amazing to me was I thought, “Well, I'm making this game, and there's nobody out there doing tabletop games, and this would be a real niche hobby,” and wow, was I wrong about that. I could not believe, and it keeps growing. I feel like my timing was just right. They just have the first PAX Unplugged two years ago, which was just for tabletop games, and I thought I really timed this right.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So now is the time to get out there and see what people think of my game and see what other people are doing, and it's wonderful. I have met so many people who are doing so many interesting things. It's great.

Do You Recommend Any Specific Cons?

Patrick Rauland: Is there a type of con … How about this? If you're an aspiring game designer, a brand new game designer. You've never gone to any board game convention ever. Would you recommend a specific one or a type of event to go to?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I would say that depends on your personality. If you want to gently ease yourself into a convention, then I would recommend one type of convention. But if you're like, “Bring it on. I can take it,” and you want to be critiqued non-stop morning, noon, and night, I think that's a different kind of experience. So I would say it depends on what you want. For example, as a shy guy, one of the first conventions I went to was SnowCon in Bangor, Maine, and I didn't know. So, I put myself down. I just started talking to strangers. They are a small to moderate-sized convention that's been going for about a decade or more, and they were a very easy convention to become a part of.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It was very friendly. It was not intimidating at all. I got the impression that anyone would play my game. Anyone would invite me to play games with them, and it was a very gentle experience I should say. I hope they're happy with … I'm describing them. So that's one type of convention. But then going to PAX was a different thing where I'm in Boston or Massachusetts based. So, going to PAX East was going to hardcore and getting a lot of feedback from gamers all over the globe, and Boston has a lot of gamers, and everybody has an opinion.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So that would be more of a rigorous experience I would say, especially if you can get the right people to come over and play your game. I guess, like I said, it depends upon what you want out of it. Do you want to ease into it? Do you want a lot of heavy critique right away? It depends. I haven't been to a lot of conventions outside New England and the Northeast. So, I can't speak to some of the larger ones. I'm in the Midwest and stuff like that. But maybe someday.

Patrick Rauland: I like to go to a lot of them. One of the things I've actually heard from game designers is they … I remember one game designer saying they couldn't remember the last time they played a published game, and I don't think you can dive that deep. If you dive that deep for too long, you just lose perspective of what people are actually playing and what people like about games. So I like you're still playing games, like that is still an important thing to do. You still need to just play some of the newest games and talk to regular gamers, not just game designers.

Jim Fitzpatrick: At least once every convention I think to myself, “I need to play more games.”

How Do You Deal With Life's Unexpected Twists & Turns?

Patrick Rauland: Okay, so before the show started, I asked you … We were talking about conventions, and I was asking you if you were going to come to a protospiel near me, and you mentioned that basically life stuff came up, and I think we often think of game design in this perfect vacuum where it's like we can subtract life. Here's how game design works. Here's the process. You start with A, you go to B, and then you make finished product C. But life is always going on around us, so how do you handle life and get games made?

Jim Fitzpatrick: That's a super interesting question because as we talked about, I had no idea three years ago what the next three years were going to be like in terms of my life interlaced with what I wanted to get done, designing games. In the spring of 2016, I created the game, and then I showed it to the public on mass in the fall. I thought, “Oh, I'm going to do A and then B and then C, and I had all these grand plans.” Unfortunately, my father passed away the following summer, and a lot of my plans got put on hold. It was a lot of work that I was in charge of. It's funny because at first you think, “Oh, this is all going to come to a screeching halt,” and then I found that working on things … I tend to work obsessively on my game.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Anyways, but it was therapeutic, and it was a great distraction. When I had it in a form that I could use to demo for people, it was easy to go to a convention. If I didn't have the energy to do anything else, I could always just take a seat, take it out, demo to a few dozen people hopefully and get some good feedback and keep it all for later. There's always something you can do. Whether you're in a showcase or whatever, or you're just pulling it out to see who might be interested. If you can get one person to play your game, you can get something from the experience.

Jim Fitzpatrick: But it's interesting being on the other side of it, handling your personal business, and now I'm saying to myself, “Well, what do I do next?” Because I'm more in charge of my own affairs after all this personal business has gone by. I'm not sure, but I'm very ambitious about it and just as energetic as when I started. So I hope that's a good thing.

Patrick Rauland: No, I'm sure it's a good thing. One of the things I found is I always need at least one creative hobby in my life.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Amen.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, and if it's not game design, it'll be something else. But you do need to realize that, like yeah, you need to try to balance that with life. But then life always just throw stuff at you and … I mean-

Jim Fitzpatrick: It's easy to get carried away. I mean, my mother passed away about 12 years ago, and I was obsessed with theater. I mean, I did way too much theater. This time around, I said, “Well, don't get as wrapped up in playing games. You need to keep your feet on the ground as well.” So it's you're always striking a balance I think. I have a lot of game designer friends who get very carried away with designing and showing games, which is nice. Like I said, just don't forget the things in your life that you have to do too.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, and I'd say maybe, like I think a lot of people want their game design published soon, and it seems like it's a long road especially when life starts throwing stuff at you. Then it just becomes longer.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yes, well, I read some lists of … I can't remember what it was, The 71 Pieces of Advice about Game Design, and I always loved to quote. I said like number 41 is, “Don't put your game up until it's ready. Be sure it's ready, and don't put it out before it's ready.” Then number 42 is, “Put your game out already. What are you waiting for?” Because a game that's not being played by people is an idea. It's not a game, so it's hard to balance it, and it's up to you to figure out when your game is ready and when it's not.

How Long Do You Work on a Game?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. So let's change gears a little bit. I mean, how many hours a day are you working on games? Or do you have an idea how many hours have you put into Mission to Planet Hexx?

Mission to Planet Hexx playtest

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, it's funny because I was going to say it ebbs and flows. When I first wrote what I call the master document … It ebbs and flows. When I wrote the master document, I put a lot of time into it. My game is like a limited card game, but it's also a board game. So, there are over 100 different cards with different abilities on them. I was trying to come up with unambiguous wording and trying to make sure that everything was just so. So, I would proof the cards on my phone at night obsessively. So I would spend hours and hours and hours.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Then whenever we get in a certain form, I would slow down and back off until I demoed with people who would give me ideas to change it, and then I would go back, and I would become obsessive again. So it's like hills and valleys. That's been my experience. I think lesser hills and valleys, the more the time's gone by because I think the form it's in right now is very tight. Every so often someone will suggest something that I think is brilliant, and that's the joy of really … I've play tested my game. I've played it with strangers 500 times.

Patrick Rauland: Wow.

Jim Fitzpatrick: At least. Let me tell you the cards are holding up pretty well. But to try and sew up the holes, and that was the benefit of only being able to play test it while I was going through my personal life stuff, was I think I got in more play-test time than I would have otherwise because all I could do was play it with people, so I played it. But now I'm working on another game, and I'm part of a game company called Move Rate 20 Games. So, I am working on a game that I invented a little bit more, but I'm also working on games that somebody else invented, which is a whole different experience where I put in time on those.

Jim Fitzpatrick: But it's more of a … Not a partial contribution, but it's not the same as the game that you came up with yourself and you have a very clear notion. It's more like you're offering critique. It's a collaborative process. So it's like passing the ball back and forth. I don't know because I didn't plan to make a second game. So when an idea comes along, I write it down, and let's see what happens.

Do You Always Like Playing Your Prototype?

Patrick Rauland: So with Fry Thief, I got to a point at about 100 games in. I don't want to say, “I don't play the game anymore.” I do really like playing the game, but I think for me I get less and less out of each play test, and now I think … I'm very happy to play it, but literally with non-board game designer friends. I think I'm happy to play with the people that it's intended to be played with, like it's a very casual game. I think with other designers, I'm very happy to watch, and I'm very happy to … There were some new cards we added from the kickstarter. I'm very happy to do a couple minor things like that. But did you ever get to a point where you just don't want to play test your game anymore?

Jim Fitzpatrick: There's so many ways to respond to your question and what you said. Play testing with players is the bulk of what I've done whether it's hardcore gamers, casual gamers. My game is a light to intermediate game with a little strategy, a little take back. It's not one of those games that requires three hours to learn and six hours to play. So it doesn't appeal to people who like that sort of thing. I also found that … I'm not that big of a used car salesman, but I'm at a convention. I have friends who know how to physically drag people over to play their game. I wait for them to come to me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So, I have a good score with people who like my game I think because they find me, so it probably already looks like something that they would want to play. You know what I mean? So I'm not attracting a whole lot of people who don't want to play it is what I'm saying. The other thing is, is I love the critique I get from casual gamers. You can't just have casual gamers, and you can't just have game designers. Most game designers that I have had talked to me about my game have been polite but very direct, and some of them blunt, and sometimes it takes a while to process that.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I don't regret ever getting that feedback. It's wonderful feedback. I have made so many strides forward in the design of my game because I talked to the right people. But like you said, it can be a lot sometimes to bring it in front of designer after designer and critique. To me, it takes a while to sift through. I like to put it in front of somebody who knows what they're doing, get a lot of feedback, take 24 to 48 hours to sift through what I heard, and decide what's useful and what isn't. It's one of the things I learned in this process is that I don't take critique as easily as I thought, and that was something to learn.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Is what I'm hearing legit or is it … because just like in theater, everybody has their idea of what a good game is.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, totally.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What a game is. They either want to help you improve your game or change your game into something else or change their game into something … change your game into something that they like, which isn't the same as making your game better. You know what I mean? So really, it's like getting your game design machete out and going through the jungle. You have to figure it out yourself. Sometimes, you have to go with your gut. I've gone against some people's advice just because I felt that the direction I wanted to take would make a better game. Hopefully, I was right.

What's a Mechanism You Struggled With?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, so I think I want to start … It's hard to talk about the mechanisms of a board game in a podcast. But it wears something that maybe was hard for you to hear, and then after a while of processing, made sense, and you made some changes to your game. And, I'm sorry.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, yes, anything.

Patrick Rauland: Well, I mean, can you share one with us that hopefully will translate through audio?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Every so often, I would go … My game is a map building game with cards shaped like hexes. They were also used as cards. So, the way that my game worked … I drove an hour to Beverly, Massachusetts to a game café, and I came across a guy who was very happy to give me very direct, very blunt feedback, and I was dealing with a couple of issues with the game. The game starts with one … or at the time, it started with one hex on the board, which was a space hex, and you put your rocket ships on the space hex.

Jim Fitzpatrick: The idea is you have to play planets and space and build a map of the universe, so that you can travel around with your spaceship. I had all these issues, but I would start the game by giving everybody six cards. The directions said if you have six cards that don't include two or more map hexes, you can shuffle your hand back into the deck and get a new hand because you needed a balance of minutes in space in order to build a map or the game would go nowhere. He said to me, “So you have the potential to shuffle the deck like 12 times, and then you shuffle it again before you start?” He said, “No one's going to play this game. No one is going to put up with that.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: I thought, “You know what I've been doing is I've been taking that design on board and normalizing it, knowing deep down that it was not a good idea.” You know what I mean? Sometimes, you need somebody to tell you, and I had another issue where there are various planets with different powers in the game, and the colony were hierarchical.

Patrick Rauland: Hey, Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Go ahead.

Patrick Rauland: Sorry. I just wanted to interrupt, so I just want to close the loop. What was your solution to that problem? Did you make two different decks?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I came up with a solution that solved three problems at the same time on the way home as I mulled over what he was saying to me. What I needed to do was there are planets that are hierarchical, which I was about to say, and you have to go to A before you can go to B, and B before you go to C. They were useless in your hand for a chunk of the game if you didn't have the right planets. So the solution to all of this was I have two hexes now when the game opens, a planet and the space, and the planet is the first planet in the sequence. So you no longer need to do the shuffling. You have a workable map, a usable map according to the rules of the game, and it solved the planet hierarchy problem.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I thought about this on the hour-long drive home, and I thought, “Thank God I went to this café, because he solved a whole bunch of problems just by being a straight shooter and going, ‘Listen, no one's going to put up with shuffling the deck 20 times, and you've got problems,'” which nobody wants to hear that. They want to hear that their game is lovely and everyone had a good time. But that's the kind of thing … You have to go into that territory that you need to make a better game because the next day, my game, it jumped 10 points on the 100-point scale because of feedback.

Patrick Rauland: That's great. So, Jim, this is interesting. I work in IT, and I do programming sometimes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, yeah, that's what I do all day.

Patrick Rauland: So what's interesting is the way you described it. Have you ever looked at someone's commit? It's like a code that someone wrote, and you're like, “This is just one line. Why did it take you all day to do one line? It took me eight hours,” defines the problem.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You're talking about the story of my life. I did that today. You're absolutely right. There's absolutely a parallel to be drawn there. First of all, you don't even know you have the problem sometimes. Second of all, somebody points out the problem, and you go, “I need to find a solution.” There are five actions in my game, and you can choose any three, like each turn. Originally, I said you have to do this, and you have to do this, and you have to do that. I had circumstances in the game where you can't do some of the actions, so your hands are tied.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I had a friend say, “Action selection is what you want,” and it changed my life. It's so crazy. Like I said, you need to know that you have the problem, and then you need to solve it.

What's a Resource You'd Recommend to Another Designer?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. So I want to change gears a little bit. We talked about cons a lot, but one of my favorite questions I ask people is what one resource beside cons would you recommend to another indie game designer?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I think … Well, a physical resource, when I originally was designing this, I went online to find hexagonal shaped coasters to draw my game on and discovered the delight of online game design websites that will not only let you design a game, but you can actually print it and get a copy. So, as far as resources like that, I've been making my stuff on The Game Crafter, which was wonderful. I thought if I was 11 years old and this existed, I would have designed 100 games by now and never left my house.

Jim Fitzpatrick: But on the other side, what resources would you recommend? Like I said, groups of designers or gamers. One of the first things I did was join the Boston Game Makers Guild, which I discovered … from the Boston Festival of Indie Games, which I discovered because my friends who were designing games wanted me to go with them and share their table. It's funny again how A leads to B, B leads to C, C leads to C. So I started to go to game designer meetings, and I also started to join game groups and just see what games do people play.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So I was in Arlington and Providence, Rhode Island, and just playing games with people, seeing what they liked, discovering some popular games that I had heard people talk about, but I didn't know how to play and had never played like Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Codenames and some I don't remember, but that I enjoy very much.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, that's great.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So both sides, things to make your game and people to talk to about game design.

Do You Participate in Contests?

Patrick Rauland: Do you participate in any Game Crafter contests?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I haven't. I don't have anything against it. I've come to game design from the point of view of having the idea and wanting to make a game based on the idea. The contests are usually the other way around. They're saying make a game that's like this, and I think, “Oh, that wasn't my process.” So could I do that? I don't know, and I haven't tried to yet.

Patrick Rauland: Interesting. So at least it hasn't called to you?

Jim Fitzpatrick: No, no, it's backwards from my process. Well, I think there's two opposite ends of the spectrum too. For example, I know people who have invented 100 game concepts, but none of them are really mature as opposed to I've primarily focused on my one game. So it's very mature, but my field of vision is very narrow when it comes to game design, which is something I'm trying to change. So I feel like you want to be somewhere in the middle. It would probably suit me to join a game design contest or two and see how I do.

Patrick Rauland: I mean, so we're recording this, listeners, at the end of March, and we'll probably air at the end of April. I've got a lot of interviews in the bag, which is nice. But there is these … I think it's called Simple Elegance Contest coming up.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I can see that. The game that I'm working on right now, which is tentatively called Ruthless Old Prospectors, which I really hope that I can make this into a game. It sounded great until they said they want to keep the price point down. They said, “Oh, no. Well, the cost of your box is ruining that game crafter.”

Patrick Rauland: I saw that. Yeah, the cost of the game has to be like $29.99 or less or something like that. That is going to be tricky for a lot of games, but I don't know if you need a box.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I have to revisit it. It's a little like Tsuro, which is it has a board, and it has 100 tiles. I think it might be a bit much.

Patrick Rauland: We'll talk about some cost-saving ideas after the episode.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Amen.

What's the Best Money You've Spent?

Patrick Rauland: So what is the best money you've ever spent as a game designer?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, what a good question. The best money I've spent. I'm trying to think of what I spent money on. Traveling to conventions. I think I'd answer that two ways. One, when I decided I should print out my game and see what it was like in reality versus as a concept, so that initial printing that I spent money on was good. What was a really smart thing to do. The other one was really getting into it, like I thought about it, and I was on my own and created my document and created the cards, but it was all … My friends came to me who were designing me a game, and they said, “We got a show … ” not a showcase, “An exhibitor table in Boston. But would you like to do it? Because then you can pay for half?”

Jim Fitzpatrick: I thought, “Is this 100 bucks or whatever it was I wanted to spend?” I thought, “Well, it's going to be a one-shot deal,” so I said, “I'll just go for it.” It was the shot heard around the world as far as my game is concerned, because I went, and I said, “Oh please, God. Let somebody play my game today,” and I played the game all day.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, cool.

Jim Fitzpatrick: They had to tell us to stop at the end of the day, and I said, “I think I'm going to pursue this a little further.” So that was an investment that was well made because it started this whole process. It gave me the idea that I could take it a step further, and that's why I tell a lot of people who sit down, and say, “I have an idea for a game.” I said, “You should absolutely create it and get it in front of people because it's fun. Maybe your game is really good, but you won't know any of these things unless you do it.” So, yeah, those are both I'd say good investments, investments well-made.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: Cool. Love it. So, I mean, what does success look like in the board game world?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I don't know. I don't pay attention to a lot of trends, and I mean my game is just published on Game Crafter at this point. Although a lot of people have got a copy right now, which is nice, a few hundred, and I'm wondering what the next step is because I was originally going to do a Kickstarter. Then like I said, life got in the way. Now, I'm wondering if it's still fresh enough for a Kickstarter and what I need to do to elevate it to a really professional level. So that's what I'm focusing on more now as opposed to the actual design of the game. So I'm not sure. I'm not sure. These are all things I'm going to look into in 2019 and then-

Patrick Rauland: Oh, cool.

Jim Fitzpatrick: But I also realized that I'm not paying attention to trends. Trends are there I think for you to do with what you will. If my game doesn't become super popular, I'm not worried about this particular game because it turned out to be the game that I wanted it to be. So, success for me with regard to Mission to Planet Hexx is I had an idea for this game, and it came out to be the game that I wanted to be. So, I'm personally very satisfied with Mission to Planet Hexx. The fact that people want to play it is great too.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I think the second game I'm working on is more a response to what I've been told the industry is interested in. So, I may take a different tack with that in terms of trying something that's a little bit more commercial and a little bit less what I want. You know what I mean?

Patrick Rauland: Oh, interesting.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So I don't know. Some people that I meet are very driven to be published like that as the [crosstalk 00:35:52] star. But that has not been the most important thing to me.

Patrick Rauland: That's totally fine. I like hearing different answers to this question. Success is a very individual thing, so I like hearing your feedback.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I'm not putting it down if you want it to be published. It's great, and I know people who have published their games and more power to them. I think everybody's different.

Overrated Underrated Game

Patrick Rauland: So I like to end with a game called Overrated Underrated. Have you heard about it?

Jim Fitzpatrick: No.

Patrick Rauland: Heck, well, then it's great. No, that's perfect. That means I can throw you under the bus for my listeners' enjoyment. So, basically, I'm going to give you a word or phrase, and you just need to tell me if it is underrated or overrated. There's no staying in the middle. That's too easy. If I said … Oh boy. What example do I want to go with now? Fluffy clouds. You would say underrated because you just want to poke them. So, does that make sense?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay.

Patrick Rauland: Great. All right, so app versions of board games. Are they overrated or underrated?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I'm going to say overrated.

Patrick Rauland: Ooh, and give me a one sentence description why.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, I just think you're defeating the purpose. Somebody convinced me that Magic: The Gathering Online was actually a good idea because it's for people who don't have the time, and I said, “Okay, I'll buy it. I'll buy it for that reason.” But the point of board games is to get people's butts off their chairs, out of their houses, and to socialize.

Patrick Rauland: Get into different chairs.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, talking with each other, making eye contact. So, yeah, play the app version of a board game if you must, but play the real thing if you-

Patrick Rauland: Love it. Let's go with Spaceballs, the movie.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, I think it's underrated by the modern movie viewer … No. Yeah, it's underrated by the modern movie viewer. They think it's overrated, but now that's when … I was a young person when it came out, and I thought, “Well, this is all right.” Now, as I'm older, I think it's great. It gets better every year that passes especially where I live with the Star Wars geek. Star Wars room. So that just makes it all that much better.

Patrick Rauland: How about roll and write games, overrated or underrated?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I'm not sure what roll and write games are.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, great. So they're games where you roll a bunch of dice and then write stuff on a piece of paper. The classic example would be Yahtzee.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, like Yahtzee. I'm going to shamelessly plug somebody that I just met at Total Con. I thought they're okay, and he was demoing a game called … I can't remember … Monopahtzee, I think. It was an idea for Monopoly and Yahtzee fusion. No copyright infringement intended. But yeah, it was just a concept, and I thought it was great. It was one of those things … This is something I advocate everybody do. I looked over the game designers presenting … No, it wasn't at Total Con. It was at Granite Game Summit. I was looking over the gamers presenting and get nobody at this table. I just said, “You get me because you have nobody at your table.” I'm so glad I went.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, really cool.

Jim Fitzpatrick: [crosstalk 00:39:11] end up being, like I said, that game and those names, but the concepts involved were really fun. So yeah, I'd say they're underrated. I think they're legitimately games.

Patrick Rauland: Love it. And Easter as in the holiday, overrated or underrated?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well I think it's overrated by adults. I know kids love it. I always tend to forget that Easter exists until it sneaks up on me because it's not a holiday that you get a day off. So I look at the schedule at work, and I don't notice it. But the flip side of that is this year on Easter weekend, I'm getting married, so I'm paying a lot more attention to trying to make plans on Easter weekend that don't interfere too much with Easter and that Easter needs to accommodate what I'm trying to do. You know what I mean? Because every restaurant is full and every everybody's booked.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So I'm really looking forward to Easter this year once the business aspect of it is out of the way. But the [crosstalk 00:40:15] the eggs and stuff is … That's for-

Wrap Up

Patrick Rauland: Hopefully, you don't forget about it this year. So that's all I got. Thank you for being on the show, Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Patrick Rauland: Where can people find you and your game online?

Jim Fitzpatrick: The best place I would say is I am on Twitter and Instagram, but my main HQ is our Facebook page, Mission to Planet Hexx. That's with two x's, and you can find how to play videos, links to how to purchase the game. You can contact me directly, find out which conventions I'm going to be at. Just to make a shameless plug at the end of this week, I'm going to be demoing all four days at PAX East. So if you want to play, send me a message on Facebook, and give me a time and date.

Patrick Rauland: Awesome. Listeners, if you liked this podcast, please leave us a review wherever you heard it. If you leave a review, Jim said he will do his best to ask aliens to abduct you when they visit earth. So I just wanted to share one thing. I just wanted to share something on my journey is I'm still working on getting Fry Thief all the illustrations done. I actually in the meantime submitted games away to The Game Crafter Holiday Contest.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Nice.

Patrick Rauland: So I just this morning found out that I moved on to the semi-final round, meaning I was in the top 20 in terms of vote submission. So, the judge will select three to seven games to move from that semi-final round on to the final round. So I'm hoping I get to go on to the finals, and what's cool for you listeners is you can probably go look at the results now and see if I did. So I've never gotten to the finals before, so hopefully I'll get there. Anyways, that's what I'm working on now. So, let's see. You can visit the site at indieboardgamedesigners.com. You can follow me on Twitter. I'm @BFTrick. That is B as in board game, F as in fun, and trick as in trick taking games. That's all I've got for now. So until next time everyone, happy designing everyone. Bye-bye.

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