Horrible Games Interview: Alessandro
I had a chance to interview Alessandro from Horrible Games. This guy is hilarious, and I am glad he took the time to answer a few questions regarding the brand and other irrelevant topics.
- Can you tell us a bit about Horrible Games? Also, I’m curious, Why “Horrible”?
We’re a small board game publishing house based in Milan, Italy. The company has been founded by Lorenzo Silva, who also founded and formerly worked with another Italian company, Cranio Creations. Our games catalog includes Dungeon Fighter, Steam Park, Co-Mix and Potion Explosion.
Why “Horrible”? Because if you buy one of our games and you end up not liking it, you can’t complain: the box warned you it was an horrible game…
More seriously, when he was a snowboarding youngster, Lorenzo and some of his friends dreamed about creating a stylish snowboard clothing line called “Horrible Clothing”. That dream never materialized, but when he left Cranio and he had to decide a cool name for his new company, “Horrible Games” instantly came to mind.
- With Steam Park making its way to Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop, what was the journey like during the process of developing Steam Park? How are things turning out at this point in time?
It was a nightmare! As strange as it may sound for a relatively simple game such as Steam Park, its development has been long and difficult. The game changed form many times during its two years of development, and finding the right formula took a lot of effort. Luckily, it paid off, and the Tabletop news is really exciting and satisfying.
We’re now developing an expansion, tentatively called Steam Park: Play Dirty, but one of the reasons we never did this until now, despite the success of the base game, is that it was a very exhausting experience in the first place. However, this is not a strange thing in game development. It happens, and you have to deal with it if you want to release that game.
Sometimes, on the other hand, the development of a game can also go as smooth as silk and be completed really, really quick. This was the case with Potion Explosion, for example, our latest game. When we had the final game though, we stumbled upon a new, horrifying kind of development hell during the production phase, but that’s another story that is now (almost) finally over.
- What are some of your favorite board games?
We play and have played a lot of games. For fun, of course, but also to stay in touch with the industry and its trends. We tend to like rather strange and crazy stuff, as you can probably imagine by looking at our own catalog, but we also like more “classic” experiences, spanning all genres. We’ll just reel off a quick list in random order, as they come out of our minds: Princes of Florence, Agricola, Shadows over Camelot, Smallworld, Warrior Knights, Alcatraz, Mansions of Madness, Concordia, Lift It!, Cyclades, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Last Night on Earth, Talisman, Pandemic Legacy, Ticket to Ride, Twilight Imperium, El Grande, Dixit… we could go on for a while.
- Have you had any board games begin development and not make the cut? If so, what was it and what went wrong?
We had a few, actually. Steam Park was almost one of them, as mentioned, but it eventually worked its way onto the market. There was a gnome-themed game with a sort-of memory mechanic, or a pirate-themed game with gems and a push-your-luck mechanic that was even supposed to be released instead of Potion Explosion, for example. The reasons a game idea can be shelved are many and varied, so there’s no unique answer to this question. The gnome game, for example, was not fitting in our editorial line (we tried to propose it to other publishers, too, but we learned that memory-based games are not that popular nowadays). The pirate one instead, was good, but not good enough. We wanted to make it better, but time for our Essen release timeframe was running short, and we had to take a drastic measure and put it on hold. Luckily, we released Potion Explosion in its place, and it went very well.
- I think it’s safe to say, Horrible Games has published some very unique and polished content. Dungeon Fighter, who’s idea was it to interact with the way we throw dice?
It’s been a long time to remember all the small details… what is sure, is that the input of our crazy, dear friend Beppe was absolutely crucial! There would be no Dungeon Fighter if not for him and a dart game we used to play all the time (that’s where the target comes from!)!
Our idea of board game design, starting from the early Cranio days and continuing into the present, is to always try to surprise gamers and release something unexpected.
- What’s the day in the life of Horrible Games?
Much less fun than what people usually think! There is a lot of regular business to do, just like any other work, of course. Then we have boardgaming brainstorms, that can be anything ranging from really fun to really painful. Then there’s prototyping and playtesting, that usually is really tiresome until the game starts to finally work… and that is a really great moment.
- Alone is a new survival game coming out in the near future, what is it about and when can we expect some updates and footage?
Alone is an asymmetrical dungeon crawling sci-fi game set on a distant planet. Comparing to the classic formula of several “Hero” players fighting against one single “Evil Mastermind” player, Alone has a huge twist: it’s a single Hero player that will have to face up to 3 Evil players who will scheme against him, trying to have him fail the missions he has to accomplish to safely escape the inhospitable planet he’s stuck on.
The game is still in development, and it’s been a lot more complicated to work on compared to our previous efforts: it’s our first dungeon crawler, our first game with miniatures… our first of many things, actually. And we absolutely want to make it right! Since we first announced it, the game has made huge steps forward: the gameplay is now at a stage we feel close to its final form, balancing is at a good stage too, and we are at the concepts stage with the graphic artist. In a few months, we’ll be ready to finally start showing something to the public. I would like to be give more precise details, but we don’t want to give dates we are not sure we can meet!
- What Superpower would you have?
It’s like being children in a candy store. Should we go for super strength? Flight? Telekinesis? Teleporting? Good-old-fashioned regenerating abilities with a metal-clawed addon? So hard to choose!