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Author Topic: Interview with Donald X.  (Read 448141 times)

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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #50 on: December 08, 2012, 06:26:45 am »
+3

What brought me to dominion was that I realized right away that there was a fantastic community discussing dominion strategy. Thanks to this community, dominion is IMO played at a higher level than any other recently invented board game (i.e., any game other than the classics chess, go, bridge). Are you worried at all that this community will no longer thrive once the free dominion online implementations will shut down?
Well I'm not "worried" about it, in that, I don't think it will make my life worse if it happens or anything. It will save me some time reading about Dominion on the internet, there's that. And I'm not sure that no isotropic is a killer; half the people can play for free on Goko, and surely some people will like the game enough to cough up some tiny amount of money for expansions.

As for how long I think this community will survive besides that, uh, I dunno. It happens both ways. The lack of new expansions will make talking about Dominion less compelling, but if people are talking about spin-offs then that could work out. Communities like this can survive for years based on whatever brought them together in the first place; you can go out and find communities of former Magic players for example, people who are not even reading the spoilers for the new sets but still hang out online with the people they used to.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #51 on: December 08, 2012, 06:45:31 am »
+3

When did you first become interested in making board games?

Do you have any advice for ambitious game designers?
I made games in my youth, from time to time, but mostly it was my fixed version of someone else's thing. Magic: The Gathering is what got me seriously interested in pursuing game design, in trying to figure out how games worked and make good ones. I started playing Magic in 1994. I was seriously designing games in 1995, and ramped up over the rest of the 90s.

I don't think I have any advice that will change someone from a failed game designer to a successful one, except possibly, you have to go to cons to show your games to publishers. That's what I needed to hear (and didn't). If you want to specifically focus on "ambition" - that is, making something especially successful, rather than having to keep your day job - then it seems clear that there are two big audiences for games: German families and American families. They overlap some, with Dixit being a good example. I am a little ambitious these days, I would like the respect and admiration of my peers, but ultimately I have to make games my friends and I want to play, whether or not that's what will sell.
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brokoli

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #52 on: December 08, 2012, 06:50:49 am »
0

Do you sometimes play dominion with more than 4 players ?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #53 on: December 08, 2012, 06:54:00 am »
+12

Did you design Dominion with any particular type of person in mind?
I guess it's fair to say that to some degree I designed it for me and the people I was playing games with, like any of my games. However it was also pursuing a particular concept to an extreme, and that was just because that sounded fun to do for me, rather than having any idea if it would work as a game or not.

When was the first time you realized, "Wow, this is going to be a big hit!"?
As explained in more detail in a previous answer, somewhere around 1-2 months after making it. I used to say, my vision is, you will go to the game store, and there will be that shelf of Settlers stuff, and the shelf of Carcassonne stuff, and a similar shelf of Dominion stuff. I did not envision that it would be, a shelf of Dominion stuff, a shelf of Dominion clones, another shelf of Dominion clones.

How do you pick the kingdom cards when you play Dominion with your friends?
I deal out 5 from the set I'm playtesting and 5 from some other set that I brought that evening. After the game I rotate out 2 from each set for 2 new ones, and then keep doing that, gradually changing the set of 10. If there's a specific card I want to focus on then I just put that out at the start and keep it out.

How has your life changed now that you are rich and famous?
I spend a lot more time reading about myself on the internet. I get to make games for a living, so that's nice. I want a nicer house than I might have. It's probably easier to get new games playtested.

The particular degree to which I'm famous is roughly this: a guy can show up to play games at a local game store, be standing in front of me holding his own copy of Dominion, be introduced to me as Donald X., and have no idea I'm anyone. The exception is German gamers, they recognize the name immediately.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #54 on: December 08, 2012, 06:56:46 am »
+4

Why did you cap the number of turns you can take via Outpost but not via Possession?
I tried not doing that on Outpost, and took a lot of turns in a row in one game, with no end in sight. Possession did not have that issue and for sure didn't want extra text it didn't need.

It would have been great not to have that clause on Outpost, but I didn't manage to come up with a better fix in time. Another thing is that I would have preferred like "at the start of that turn, discard down to 3" or something, rather than the weird way it makes the next hand smaller. But time did not permit once I realized that.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #55 on: December 08, 2012, 06:57:19 am »
+8

Don't worry Donald, we know you're someone.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #56 on: December 08, 2012, 06:58:17 am »
+3

Have simulators helped shape some of the cards? For example, you obviously knew about BMU as a strategy before the game was clearly released, but maybe were not aware of how potent BM + Courtyard is. Have any cards been nerfed, buffed, or scrapped because of their BM play and have simulators influenced this?
I have personally written small programs to simulate certain decks. Some cards may have changed as a result, or not changed, you know. I don't remember any specifics.

No cards have been affected by the simulators that other people have made.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #57 on: December 08, 2012, 07:05:51 am »
0

At what point, if any, did you make enough money from games to give up your day job?
And what was that day job?

I'm thinking Zoo Keeper....
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #58 on: December 08, 2012, 07:27:03 am »
+3

Of the many people you've met (both irl and online) through the making of this wondrous game we call Dominion, who do you think has had the biggest effect on how the game has evolved over time?
The people who have affected the game the most are all in the credits, no surprise there.

In the early days, which mattered the most, Dame Josephine, then Dame Molly, then Sir Destry. I mean they were the ones playing every week (or twice or more a week for the dames). And Dame Josephine had to listen to me talking about the game when we weren't playing. I didn't meet them through making the game though.

During development, we can add Valerie and for all I know Dale, since they did work on the game and the game was changed due to her/their suggestions; plus my original online playtesters (using my own program which did not have internet support - we played over aim), including Sir Michael (especially for later, he didn't play much at first), plus Sir Vander, who did not play so much but chatted about the game. Post-release, some other playtesters have been notable, especially John Vogel and Bill Barksdale (sorry I couldn't knight you guys). The early playtester credits include a bunch of "people who got to play the game before it was released," which is to say, sorry guys, I really did not get much out of you and I am not sufficiently polite not to say it, although at least I'm not naming names. Later credits just have the people who really contributed and well they all did, you had to contribute extra to make the credits. Anyway again, I didn't really meet most of the playtesters through Dominion, I already knew them. Or met them but not through Dominion, just because they were playing games in the same place that I was playtesting.

So, if we stick to "that you met through Dominion," then Valerie, for all I know Dale (I put it like that because stuff came from Valerie), and hey, Jay. Alchemy got pushed forward and smallified because of some mix of Jay, HiG, and Schmidt-Spiele. Intrigue didn't have colored treasure coins because of some mix of partners. And the promos exist because of the people who wanted them, Spielbox etc. I haven't even met those people. Dark Ages isn't War because of HiG.

The game itself had that pile of expansions in various states before being released; there was a lot of balancing for playtesters to work on, but "how the game has evolved over time?" There was no evolution except better testing, so there was no-one to affect that evolution.

Who has had the biggest effect on how the community has evolved over time?
I'm not sure if you mean dominionstrategy or something broader. Man I don't think I can give much of an answer either way. Ask the community! Jay has had tournaments and got the game on BSW; Doug made isotropic. Theory / Frisk / Renaud started this place.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #59 on: December 08, 2012, 07:38:34 am »
+6

Have you ever ragequit a game of Dominion, and why?
I don't believe I have. I have seen rage maybe once ever, and that guy didn't quit (it was over Torturers). I think maybe I have seen multiple people concede to the card that said "play all the attacks in your deck;" I'm not sure. I haven't quit except when everyone wanted to, due to the game being fundamentally broken. For example when I appeared to get infinite turns from Outpost, we didn't finish that game. I've seen a bunch of "we are reduced to 5 cards via overpowered Knights or something" games, and some of them were quit while some were played out. A few times I have seen one person quit, and the other people kept playing. I have had a single opponent concede a few times. I don't think I've ever even conceded to a single opponent; maybe it's happened unmemorably due to needing to go or something. I've had to call a game because the place was closing.

I'm in a position to specifically discourage quitting; I want to get the best data I can, and it's not hard to sit it out. If you get my turn one Silver with your turn one Noble Brigand, or whatever, then I would like to see how that plays out, I don't mind being in an unfavorable position. And I struggle to make games that are fun to lose.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #60 on: December 08, 2012, 07:53:42 am »
+2

You've been very generous with your time in this community, especially in light of how busy you must be.  How do you decide what merits you taking the time to post here (or at BGG)?
There is an xkcd blog entry where he talks about constantly switching activities on the internet, to get some kind of chemical rush you get, and how he decided to reboot whenever he switched activities, in an effort to be more productive. And how it worked, and he would start cleaning his room for a break instead, and had a clean room.

I do not reboot when I switch computer activities. I sit at my computer. I work on what I'm working on. I google something tangentially related and then read a wikipedia article, then click a link and read another. I check BGG, I check DS; they are tabs I always have open. I play a game of Boggle at Wordsplay.net. I try to go back to work but immediately think of another website I could check. I look at a list of songs for a mixed CD and tweak it. I check a file for another game I'm working on, maybe try to get something done on that instead. I remember a card I wanted to reword for a 3rd game and make that image. I go back to the first game. I make a couple cards. I check BGG and DS again.

All for that sweet sweet chemical rush.

I do try to pass up answering rules questions that surely lots of people will immediately answer. And there are some threads that I'm unlikely to check, like storage solution threads. Man, I have had the experience.

There are a few other sites I look at once in a while to see people talking about my games, but I haven't registered at those places. I considered registering at F:AT a few days ago to comment on why Magic was the surviving TCG (you can only play one TCG, due to time/money/finding players, so games that compete with Magic are doomed, which is why the other successful TCG's are ones that don't compete with it, e.g. pokemon), but Ken B. hit on part of what I had to say, and I'm not sure how I'd be received there, so I didn't.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #61 on: December 08, 2012, 07:55:53 am »
+4

I love how the genius mastermind of the complex, intricate, always-different Dominion spends his spare time playing Boggle.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #62 on: December 08, 2012, 07:58:26 am »
+1

How many requests per day do you get from people wanting to show you their game?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #63 on: December 08, 2012, 08:02:42 am »
+3

Has competitive Dominion gone further than you originally expected, with both live and internet tournaments worldwide and a healthy community of serious players discussing and writing about Dominion here on Dominion Strategy?
Well Jay originally did not plan on ever having tournaments - which is why we didn't include a tiebreaker for tournaments. So, sure, it was surprising when he changed his mind. Otherwise, I dunno, it wasn't something I thought about.

Do you think Dominion's primary audience is somewhat to seriously competitive players who mainly play online, or more of the "family game" audience who will pick it up occasionally but never know what Big Money means? Does this influence the game's design, as well as its presentation both in real life as well as the official online implementation?
The family game one. I mean, 32K people on BGG have the main set of Dominion listed as a game they own. That's a small fraction of the number of copies sold.

It does have an effect, mainly to say, you are making things too complex, try to simplify some of these cards over playtester objections, and maybe stop after Guilds.

I don't make online versions and so it's harder to make that call. I think they are trying to please the existing online players while appealing to the broader audience of normal people.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #64 on: December 08, 2012, 08:03:49 am »
+4

Have you ever considered participating in forum mafia?
Not on this site. When I first saw mafia I read some of a few threads, and spent a few hours thinking about directions to take the game.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #65 on: December 08, 2012, 08:04:26 am »
+22

Have you looked at the Dominion memes thread? If so, do you have a favorite?
I have read that thread. My favorite is easily the Baron one - "I don't always discard an Estate, but when I do, I gain $4." Man it looks just like that guy.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #66 on: December 08, 2012, 08:04:40 am »
+3

Any chance we'll get the Secret History of Donald's Mafia Thoughts?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #67 on: December 08, 2012, 08:12:32 am »
+7

Do you open double Ambassador or Ambassador/Silver?

What is your favorite beer? If you don't drink beer, favorite alcoholic drink? If you don't drink alcohol, favorite drink?
Depends on the board and also what my opponents do. They are both reasonable openings sometimes.

I don't drink alcohol. I've had champagne at a wedding, a sip of wine to see how easy it was going to be to drink tiny amounts of it when I'm older and it seems beneficial, and once I said, "this ice cream tastes funny," and they said, "there's rum in it." I don't really have any interest in mucking with my brain randomly.

I buy a Lemon Tea Snapple maybe every two weeks, then spend two weeks drinking tap water from the bottle. You want to drink from glass rather than plastic, see, and the bottle has a lid whereas a cup doesn't. Well I could be drinking water from a sippy cup but you know. Anyway that's what I do drink-wise.
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aaron0013

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #68 on: December 08, 2012, 08:29:08 am »
0

Do you open double Ambassador or Ambassador/Silver?

What is your favorite beer? If you don't drink beer, favorite alcoholic drink? If you don't drink alcohol, favorite drink?
Depends on the board and also what my opponents do. They are both reasonable openings sometimes.

I don't drink alcohol. I've had champagne at a wedding, a sip of wine to see how easy it was going to be to drink tiny amounts of it when I'm older and it seems beneficial, and once I said, "this ice cream tastes funny," and they said, "there's rum in it." I don't really have any interest in mucking with my brain randomly.

I buy a Lemon Tea Snapple maybe every two weeks, then spend two weeks drinking tap water from the bottle. You want to drink from glass rather than plastic, see, and the bottle has a lid whereas a cup doesn't. Well I could be drinking water from a sippy cup but you know. Anyway that's what I do drink-wise.

And that's why he is such a genius, he doesn't fry is brain every night...not to mention his liver ;)

Tell me off if this is too personal, but what does a day in the life of Donald X. consist of? When do you find time to post on the forum or play games online and IRL?
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #69 on: December 08, 2012, 08:34:46 am »
+1

Who would win in a fight between James Bond and Indiana Jones....?
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #70 on: December 08, 2012, 08:40:38 am »
+2

What game do you consider a guilty pleasure? That is, you think it's poorly designed or has serious flaws in some way, but you enjoy it anyways.
I am not sure I have one. If I thought the game could be fixed and that I would like that version, I would fix it and play my fixed version. If I'm enjoying it it could still be flawed, but it's all about enjoyment, so hey, it made it.

Magic has two serious flaws: 1) the rules are unlearnable, and 2) sometimes you don't get to play. Despite that it's one of the best games ever; it's certainly not poorly designed or a guilty pleasure.

Can you give an example of when you had to make a game design decision due to business factors (like cards per expansion, or cost or something), and it turned out better than you expected? How about (heresy!) worse?
Well Jay decided to live with the intended size for the main set; business factors caused worry and discussion but no actual change. Business factors meant particular set sizes that resulted in blanks in the main set and Haven in Seaside (taken out then put back in). Partners not liking the idea nixed switching to colored treasure coins in Intrigue. Alchemy exists as a small set for business reasons; it was on a tight schedule - not as tight as they wanted - and I think that hurt it. Guilds got pushed back due to the Base Cards product. War was rethemed and the new theme is probably better anyway. Prosperity is slightly better because it was pushed back for Alchemy.

I guess the existence of all of the promos is business, that would be a significant thing. In general business isn't hanging over me though. If I ask Jay, and I have, what matters business-wise for something, he will just say, every time, "just make the game as good as you can and I'll worry about the rest." Dominion had to be 500 cards so it is. The business part, past deciding to publish it at all, was just, it has to be exactly 500, so there are some blanks.

If there were such thing as a perfectly designed game, which player skills do you think it would emphasize, and which skills would be secondary concerns?
Meh, people get different things from games. There's no perfect game except from a particular narrow perspective we choose in order to get an answer, and since it's so narrow, who cares?

What is your best source of inspiration for new cards?
Years of cards made for many games. In general I am not looking for inspiration when I make cards; I am doing the work. I know how to look at the rules set and find cards to make. Any really inspired cards are going to be exceptions.

What is your best source of feedback?
Seeing if people like the game or not.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #71 on: December 08, 2012, 08:52:10 am »
+2

Have you considered or dabbled with designing a game specifically for computer or some other electronic doodad (iPad, etc.)?
I had a text adventure game published in some small sense back in the day (Escape from Planet X). I've programmed a bunch of little computer games. There are two that are especially significant to me. The Little Guy Game was like Lode Runner but with puzzles. Dudes of Stuff and Things is my take on Heroes of Might and Magic III. I made Dudes over a decade ago but have played it within the last month.

I talked some with a friend about making an iPad etc. game. We made a little puzzle game that I got some fun from but decided it wasn't good enough to get art for and try selling. Anyway something could still happen.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #72 on: December 08, 2012, 08:54:29 am »
+1

Do you sometimes play dominion with more than 4 players ?
IRL, when I was playing Dominion irl, I would play with 5 sometimes. There are 5 people who want to play, counting me; man, it works well enough. I prefer 3, then 4, then 2, then 5. I don't play with 6. Online I have played with 5 a few times but we usually split into 2/3 when that came up.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #73 on: December 08, 2012, 08:57:06 am »
+1

At what point, if any, did you make enough money from games to give up your day job?
And what was that day job?

I'm thinking Zoo Keeper....
My day job was computer programmer. More specifically I was programming dialysis machines.

I am making way more now. I quit my day job way before I made any money from Dominion, but Dominion was making enough to support me immediately.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #74 on: December 08, 2012, 08:59:23 am »
+3

I love how the genius mastermind of the complex, intricate, always-different Dominion spends his spare time playing Boggle.
I will beat you up at it dude, I will anagram so fast relative to you and a bunch of other people but not quite everyone playing unless no-one great is on. Not counting the teams, man I just clicked the button to hide those.
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