7 questions for Matthew Leacock


Matt Leacock

When we talk about virus and disease in the Game World we are talking of course of  Pandemic published by Z-Man Games in 2008 and illustrated by Josh Cappel, Christian Hanish, Régis Moulun, Chris Quilliams and Tom Thiel. Today this is the creator of Pandemic in the spotlight: Matt Leacock.

Matt was born in Minnesota and now lives in California specifically in the Silicon Valley. Matt worked for Yahoo, AOL and Netscape where he was interaction designer. He is now the Chief Designer at Sococo.

Apart from the famous Pandemic, Matt has created other successful games nominated for the Spiel des Jahres like Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert and Roll trought the Ages : The Bronze among others.

Here are7questions for MattLeacock.

1- How old were you when you played your first board game and which board game was it ?

« My earliest gaming memories are all at my grandparents’ farmhouse. I’ve no idea how old I was. Four? Five? There I played games of Aggravation, Waterworks, and Sorry. My sister and I also spent a lot of time playing with the pieces from Risk and Monopoly long before we knew how to play the games properly. They used to keep a lot of the games locked up so us kids wouldn’t make a complete mess of all of them. »

2- Why and how did you decide to design a game ?

« I designed my first games on the back of other game boards with a felt-tip marker and scraps of paper when I was about eight or ten years old. This was usually due to the disappointment I’d feel after trying out a new game—I recall I was often let down by the « roll-and-move » games. I’d turn over the board and try to make a better game myself. »

3- What are your 3 favorite games ?

« I usually don’t know what to say when I’m asked that question, but I have been playing an awful lot of Thunderstone lately. I also really enjoy Wallenstein and Ascending Empires—but these rarely see much table time. I’m probably just itching to play them right now. »

4- For you, what is the best combination for a successful game ?

« I enjoy games that help create a positive social experience with family and friends, are easy to teach, and provide opportunities for creative play and surprise. They should have a coherent theme that helps players understand the rules and helps tell a memorable story. These days, I usually favor shorter games (75 minutes or less). »

5- How do you proceed to design a game ?

« Well, that could be a very long answer. I’ll give you a rough outline of my process. I start with a spark, work out a core engine, sculpt the design up, chip away what’s unnecessary, iterate continuously, testing the design on a widening circle of people, observe the playtesters closely over many sessions, and then iterate some more. Once the design has begun to settle, I’ll begin working with the publisher’s team and provide feedback to them on aspects of the overall product design, the visual design, and the final rules. »

6- What tips could you give to someone who want to design a game ?

« Here are three of my favorite tips:
– Don’t be paranoid about people stealing your idea. Ideas are cheap. In my experience, it’s the execution that counts. If you keep your ideas a secret, you’ll miss out on all sorts of feedback that you could be gathering from people.
– Keep your prototypes as raw as possible for as long as possible until you have a central mechanism or hook that can serve as the heart of your game. High production values in your prototype won’t mask a mediocre game and the publisher will want to redo the art anyway. Since your prototype will need to have some visuals, use them to make the game easier to understand (not pretty).
– If you do nothing else, blind test your designs on a group of people you haven’t met and observe them closely. Using a video camera for this (so you’re not in the room) is even better. »

7- Could you give us a small info about your future projects ?

«Pandemic: The Cure (a fast playing version of Pandemic that uses dice) is due out in the second half of 2014 and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of it. If all goes well, it’ll come packaged in a bottle. I’m really happy with the way it plays.

I’m currently working on three other titles. I can’t share any more info on them just yet! »

Thank you Matt for taking the time to answer the 7 questons. For moe information about Matt Leacock visit Locust Games: http://www.leacock.com/locust/index.html

Pandemic

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