Community Connection: Rick Hou and the Masters of Charms Interview
For the inaugural Community Connection, I'm talking with Rick Hou, a very talented game designer I met at Protospiel San Jose. Rick has designed many games, and his game Masters of Charms is due out this February.
JF: Tell us about Masters of Charms.
RH: Masters of Charms is a 2 to 4 player Set Collection and Spatial Movement Puzzle game. It’s designed for the “mid-core” players who are looking to have lots of meaningful strategic decisions and enjoy reacting to the changing nature of the game board.
JF: Can you walk us through the development process for Masters of Charms?
RH: I came up with the core mechanics a little while back. I have a background in video game design as well, so it was initially going to be a part of a puzzle app. In the last 5 years, I’ve seen a tremendous growth of interest in board games and decided that I would repurpose the idea as a board game instead. The rest is really trial and error until it feels right.
JF: We met at a Protospiel event where you were playtesting Maters of Charms. How was your experience there, and how important are events like Protospiel to the evolution of the game?
RH: Protospiel has been hugely helpful. Not only do I get to expose the game to other players, but I’ve also made some pretty valuable connections as well. It was incredibly helpful to chat with other designers. In fact, I implemented some of your suggestions, and it definitely improved the experience!
JF: Your prototype for Masters of Charms looked like a final version. Are all your prototypes this polished by the time they hit playtesters?
RH: It's definitely not necessary for every designer to bring their prototype to the production level before they demo their game. But I like to provide as much of the intended experience to the players as I can. And fortunately, as an amateur designer, I don't have the pressure of a release timeline and can afford to indulge a bit on that front.
JF: You’ve done all the art yourself on Masters of Charms. What are the advantages/disadvantages of wearing both the artist and designer hat?
RH: I don’t do all the artwork for all my games. But because Masters of Charms is a set collection game, I think I was able to get away with the more minimal aesthetics. Having that said, I don’t think the game design and artwork are entirely separated stages of the creation process. Even when I don’t do my own illustration - which happens a lot - I still feel responsible for selecting the aesthetics and tweaking the UI of the game.
JF: How long was the development process, and how did you know the game was done?
RH: I am not sure a game can ever be "done done." But I try to optimize my game experience for the intended audience. For example, if I am making a "worker placement" game, I'd make sure that people who like that would really love the experience. So given that, I try to evaluate the "completeness" of my game by looking at its core gameplay loop, aesthetics, playtime, and the general player satisfaction level. Honestly, it feels like alchemy, and I still haven't perfected the exact methods.
JF: You’ve designed several games, what made you decide to have Masters of Charms as your first outing into the world of Kickstarter?
RH: There are a few reasons. But the main one is that I am new to the printing and fulfillment process. While I’ve done a ton of research and have already selected vendors that will help me, I still want to start with something that t is relatively small in scope to minimize any risk for my backers.
JF: What advice would you give to aspiring designers looking to self-publish a game on Kickstarter?
RH: I think the skills needed for self-publishing games are similar to self-publishing movies or books, and it takes a while to master all aspects of the business. While the passion may drive the game creation process, it’s just as important to figure out the logistics of how you intend to produce and deliver the game. Don’t be afraid to show people ideas, and it’s ok that not everything turns out to be a blockbuster.
JF: How can we learn more about Masters of Charms and Brickhouse Games?
RH: Look for us on Kickstarter in May! In the mean time, you can find us on Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1889602074488330/), instagram (https://www.instagram.com/brickhouse_games/) and our website (https://www.brickhouse.games/).
JF: Thank you so much for your time Rick, I'm excited to put my pledge down come May!