This month we interviewed Philip duBarry, designer of Revolution! and Kingdom of Solomon, and his daughter Isabel duBarry, designer of Tiger Stripes nearing the end of its Kickstarter campaign this week!
Bellwether Games: So, you’re currently promoting your daughter’s game, Tiger Stripes, which is on Kickstarter right now. Could you tell us about how this game came about?
Philip duBarry: A few years ago, my then 8-yr-old daughter came to me with some scraps of paper she had cut out. She said it was a game she made about a tiger with no stripes who got his stripes by eating food and finding jewels. So we played it a few times, and I thought it was pretty neat. I made a nicer copy on my computer. Our family and friends all seemed to like it. So in 2011 Isabel had 50 copies printed through Blue Panther. She then sold enough to make a profit on her investment.
A while later I mentioned my daughter’s game to Dan Yarrington of Game Salute. He requested a copy and seemed to be interested. They decided to publish her game professionally.
BG: What do you like about working with Game Salute on this project?
Philip duBarry: The Game Salute people are very professional and great to work with! They have access to great artists and have a good handle on the whole process, from game development, production, marketing and distribution. The new version of Tiger Stripes looks amazing!
BG: How does Isabel like the updates to the artwork for the Kickstarter?
Philip duBarry: She is super excited about how it all looks!
BG: I know you have an interesting story about how your first game got published. Could you describe how you “got discovered” as a game designer?
Philip duBarry: My experience is similar to Isabel’s. I designed Revolution! in 2007 and began playing it with friends and family. They seemed to enjoy it (a much different response than I was used to!). This encouraged me to pursue publishing the game myself on a limited basis. I used my connection with a local printer to assemble 30-40 copies of the game by hand. One of these was sold to Phil Reed at Steve Jackson Games. I had never heard of him before, but then he called me up one day asking to publish my game. They did a great job with it, and it’s done quite well in the hobby market.
BG: Which of your designs is your favorite and why?
Philip duBarry: Revolution! is still probably my favorite so far. I just enjoy playing it. Plus, it’s so accessible to even non-gamers. I can get new people playing in five minutes.
BG: Do you have any guiding game design principles? What are they?
Philip duBarry: More and more, I start with a specific feeling. I ask: what do I want to experience as I play this game? I spent a lot of time writing down ideas before I make a prototype. My next step is to refine the game and get rid of anything that doesn’t contribute to the experience or that adds too much time. I’m working on a few longer games now, but I still feel the need to cut, cut, cut. My favorite “feeling” to go after is controlled chaos—maybe not so surprising!
BG: What is your favorite game that gives you the feeling of controlled chaos? Any other feelings you have been focusing on recently?
Philip duBarry: Definitely Innovation. Love that game. I also like a bit of engine building, but I still want some wrenches thrown in every now and again!
BG: In your opinion, what is the most important skill for a game designer to have? Do you have this skill?
Philip duBarry: You have to be a good listener (and observer). You have to be able to sift through playtester comments and know which to keep and which to politely ignore. You have to note how people react to different parts of your game, even if they don’t say anything about it. I’m getting better at this!
“More and more, I start [a new design] with a specific feeling. I ask: what do I want to experience as I play this game?” -Philip duBarry
BG: Why do you design games?
Philip duBarry: I design games because I don’t think I could go very long without designing one! Even when I was a kid, it’s just something I have to do. It feels so natural to me.
BG: Anything else you would like to highlight about your projects? Any other links/pictures you would like to share?
Philip duBarry: This is shaping up to be a big year for me. I’ve had a game published every year for the last several years. However, this year looks like it might see a ridiculous number of my games published or kickstarted. Some of them include:
Family Vacation – currently being printed in China by Jolly Roger Games
Skyway Robbery – this is a steam-punk heist game with loads of theme by Game Salute
Hitler Must Die – a gritty cooperative game about assassinating Hitler (also Game Salute)
Battlecruiser – a microgame with big customization by Tasty Minstrel Games
Spirits of the Rice Paddy – a longer, meatier euro with an unusual water flow mechanic from APE Games
Fidelitas – a small card-based game designed with Jason Kotarski
Finally . . . there could be a surprise addition by Steve Jackson Games this Fall . . .
BG: What was the hardest thing about making Tiger Stripes?
Isabel duBarry: Figuring out how to add choices to it. It’s not a good game if there’s only one thing to do. That’s why we added the Jewel cards and, later, the adventure cards.
BG: Any other game designs you are working on right now?
Isabel duBarry: Not right now, but maybe sometime!
BG: Hopefully we’ll see some more soon! What do you like about designing games?
Isabel duBarry: I like the different things you can do—different themes and such. You get to play your game a lot, and you get to change things as you go.
BG: What do you want to be when you grow-up? (If not a game designer?)
Isabel duBarry: I don’t know. Maybe a photographer.
Thanks to Philip and Isabel duBarry for chatting with us and good luck finishing up the Kickstarter project!
Interested in more featured designers? Check out our Fellow Travelers page.