In this edition of Featued Designer we speak artist and game designer Bryan Tillman, creator of the game Dark Legacy: The Rising.
Bellwether Games: So we’ve taken a look at your website. It looks like you have a great game in Dark Legacy. Could you tell us a little more about this game, how it came about, and what your goals are for it?
Bryan Tillman: First I would like to say thank you for this opportunity to talk to you guys and tell you a little bit about my game.
Dark Legacy: The Rising is something a little different in the realm of card games. It has been deemed a Role Playing Card Game (RPCG). Dark Legacy is a unique character creation strategy game that mixes the best elements of current collectible card games, role playing and strategic games and wraps them all up into an in-depth sci-fi/fantasy story. In Dark Legacy, players are no longer bystanders of the battle; they get to be part of it as a war general within one of six different factions. With the unique and various weapons, armor and relics that a player can equip themselves with, players can become whoever they imagine themselves to be.
In Dark Legacy, it is the players’ objective to destroy their opponents and their armies, by building a deck of magic spells that no one can withstand, rolling the d20 in their favor and strategically summoning their army to be the strongest. Just like in real battle you will have to anticipate the probability of the unexpected. Don’t make choices too hastily for they may be the demise of your army and yourself.
Dark Legacy is a game that can be played one-on-one or in team battle, ages 10 and up, with an average play time of about 45-60 minutes.
As far as why or how Dark Legacy came about, well… it came about for many selfish reasons that I then later found out many other people wanted as well. I wanted to have more time to play with the cards that I just bought without the fear of them becoming obsolete within three to four months. I wanted to have more of a role in the overall story that the game took place in. I wanted to have a game where anyone could win at any time. I wanted to have something, and this is and was a big one for me, that my kids could take to show and tell and say that my Dad was the one that made this game. I also wanted to prove to all those people who doubted that one person could be the driving force behind a game like this wrong. So in short I made Dark Legacy for me, it just so happened that the game is pretty addictive and other people want to play it as well.
What are the goals for Dark Legacy? I would have to say to create an experience for Role Players and Card Games that they haven’t really had yet. By combining these two gaming elements it brings something new to both sides of gaming. I am hoping by doing this there will be a very active community that is involved in telling the story of Dark Legacy with their characters. I am hoping that this game will have one of the largest fan interaction sites on the web. I know that is a big goal, but I believe that with the idea of being able to create your own characters and as they level up and you equip yourself with better weapons and better spells and you will want to brag about it, share your back story of that character and maybe even let others see the deck your created for that character.
BG: What could you tell us about some of your most significant challenges creating Dark Legacy?
BT: That is a tough one, but if I had to nail it down to one thing it would have to be balancing the cards. Dark Legacy cards aren’t just based on rarity and casting points, but also a leveling system. So it was really hard to figure out how to balance out what a level three spell would do and how much it would cost in comparison to a level fifteen card. Since that is one of the most important parts of the game it took a very long time to get it to what I think is a good balance.
Besides that I would have to say actually getting the product in hand and ready to go. Dealing with prints and production companies is always hard because well they are not you, so it takes a while to get them to see your vision. Also as I mentioned before I am a one man show, with some last minute help from some friends for sleep reasons, so I am the one putting all the packaging together. Sorting, randomizing, box building, etc. and let me tell you, that isn’t an easy task. I now know why other people pay for people to have that done for them.
BG: That sounds like it would consume a lot of time! Are you currently seeking to outsource any of these tasks?
BT: It does take a lot of time, and I have to say that I completely understand why people pay for it. I don’t think that I will be outsourcing these tasks to anyone else for two reasons. One, it is very costly to have other people do this type of work for you and I just don’t have the means for that, and two, by doing this type of work I am very connected with this project and it keeps me grounded. Having to do all the hard work makes me appreciate all the fun work I get to do and a project like this, like doing the art and designing games.
BG: How do you go about prototyping, playtesting and promoting your games and design studio?
BT: The prototyping phase was done by me. I had many games against myself. Once I felt like I had something decent I then went to a couple of conventions with a small fraction of cards in two pre-made decks and let people play it and give me feedback.
I was also as able to get the feedback of college students who play a lot of D&D and Magic the Gathering. That source for feedback was really easy for me to obtain since they were all my students that I teach at the Art Institute of Washington.
Everyone’s reaction and feedback was invaluable. The game has changed so much with the feedback of everyone who played the game before the official release.
When it comes to promoting my studio and my game I am online on all the major social media sites. I have a separate website for the studio and the game. But for the most part I go to a lot of conventions throughout the year. I am a firm believer that it is better to talk to someone face-to-face then over the computer. It is just more personable and to be honest people get to see just how enthusiastic I am about Dark Legacy and that normally gets them pretty excited about the product.
BG: That is a really great point about promoting your games in person. Good luck on your continued efforts! Do you also complete all of the artwork for Dark Legacy yourself? What are the inspirations for your designs?
BT: I did 80% of all the art on the cards and then any other work for promotion of character designs I did myself. Some of my friends In the end stated that I was looking a bit tired and could use some help so they did a couple of cards for me.
I am a big fan of ninjas and robots. Most of my art has something with that in it. I love being able to combine fantasy with Sci-Fi and it seems like the game of Dark Legacy is going to give me every opportunity to continue to do that for a long time.
BG: It’s clear you are a very talented artist. Are you interested in being contacted by publishers to do artwork for other games?
BT: Sure. That would be fantastic. Would love to work with other companies and publishers.
BG: Are there any other card/board-game related projects you are working on right now?
BT: Yes. I am currently working on the next set for Dark Legacy since the hardcore players of the game are telling me that they need more variety in cards. So I am working on giving them just that.
Also I have a party game in the work called The Way of the Ninja. See I told you that I like ninjas. The idea behind this game is to have become the master ninja by completing all the tasks that are required to become a ninja master, such as wisdom, strength, speed, durability, etc. I think this will be a pretty fun game and very interactive because the game will force you to get out of your seat.
BG: Do you have a guiding game design principle? What is it?
BT: I do. The game has to be fun. If you game isn’t fun then it doesn’t have re-playability and as a game designer you want people to play your game again and again. A question that I always ask myself is: would I play this game and have fun with it? I do that because if I like the game, first, I am going to be more enthusiastic about the game, and, well, that just comes out in the game design and the game play. Two, It is safe to say that if I would like to play it there are a plethora of other people across the planet that share the same likes as I do, so they are going to like the game as well.
BG: In your opinion what are the three most important elements of a great game?
If your game is played over and over and over it doesn’t matter what the art looks like. It doesn’t matter how deep your story is. It doesn’t matter if you have made millions of dollars. If the people who have bought you game love it so much to keep playing it, then you have created a great game.
BG: In your opinion, what is the most important skill for a game designer to have?
BT: A great skill for a game designer to have is the ability to listen. There are people who you show your game to and they see something that you have missed and if you choose not to listen to it then you game just won’t be as good as it could be.
I know that that might not sound like a bit of advice that is powerful, but I say that because, I would like to believe that I have this skill. At a convention I was promoting my game as a CCG and Ken Pilcher from Spoils came by my booth and listened to my pitch for the game and said “you have something good here, but you are promoting it wrong. You are not a CCG, you are a Role Playing Card Game (an RPCG if you will), and that is the way you should be promoting your game.” From that moment on that is what I have been doing. Had I not listened to what he said I would have still been trying to promote my CCG and being crushed by the big guys. Now I have a niche in the industry that I get to mold into something special.
BG: Is there anyone who has been a big inspiration or help to you in your game design endeavors? If not, why do you like to design games?
BT: There have been two groups of people that give me all the inspiration that I need to make games.
My family who are the best support group of people anyone can have. Without them I don’t know if I would keep going through all the work to make the huge games. They are very important to the artistic creation of everything I do with games.
The second group are all the haters. I strive for a good challenge and there is nothing better than a person who says that what you have envisioned for a project just can’t be done. I love proving them wrong. It is another driving force for me.
BG: If you could redesign any game, either graphically or from a game design standpoint, which game would you redesign and what would it be like?
BT: Wow that is tough. Hmmm…. let me think. If I could redesign any game… you know what I never thought of that. I will have to get back to you on that. Maybe this will be a lead in to another interview, nudge nudge wink wink.
BG: What do you think is the future of board game/tabletop game design?
BT: I think that game designers are going to keep pushing for imaginative game play elements; such as things that combine elements from other forms of entertainment. I think that there are going to be more and more elements from games that are going to combined with other elements from other games, thus making a whole new way to play a certain type of strategy game. In my humble opinion that is what is going to keep the industry fresh.
BG: Anything else you would like to highlight about your projects? Any links/pictures you would like to share?
Dark Legacy Preview on YouTube
BG: Thank you to Bryan Tillman for taking the time to talk with us about his perspective on game design and his games! Good luck on all your design efforts!
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