The Daily Worker Placement

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

DESIGNER DISCUSSION : RETURN TO DINOSAUR ISLAND!

by | published Friday, September 25, 2020

Nearly four years have passed since Dinosaur Island exploded onto Kickstarter, becoming one of the most popular and successful tabletop games in recent years. Between the game’s two campaigns, Pandasaurus Games has raised over 3 million dollars to bring the original game and its expansion to life. Now, Dinosaur Island is back on Kickstarter with two brand new games – Dinosaur World and Dinosaur Island: Rawr & Write!

These two new games are designed by a trio of creatives – Brian Lewis (co-designer of the original Dino Island), Marissa Misura, and David McGregor. We had the opportunity to grill this design team with a handful of questions, and we invite you to eavesdrop on that conversation now!

DWP-JPD: Brian, Marissa, and David – Thank you for joining us for an interview! What brought the three of you together as a design team?

Brian: I met Dave through a gaming group that I started in Ann Arbor, Michigan about 10 years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long! Dave and I have always had similar tastes in games, so we’ve been gaming buddies for those 10 years. Dave started seeing Marissa about 6(?) years ago, and so we often get together to play games. Dave was there when I designed my first published game, Titans of Industry, and Marissa and Dave were there for Dinosaur Island. They have both always had keen insights into my playtests, and one night we designed a game called Fungeon Party (published by WizKids).  

Marissa: I met David at the school that we both work at. He mentioned his hobby was boardgaming, which I had no idea about. He invited me to join him at a meet up to introduce me to modern boardgaming and I was HOOKED! Brian was in charge of that meet up and had just published his first game which blew me away, and since then the three of us have gamed together consistently. 

David: Playtesting with Brian got me interested in design, but it is driven by my love of games. We’ve all known each other for nearly a decade, and we just enjoy each other’s company. Given how often we played games, and Brian’s continued interest, we just slowly lent our input, and that input took on a larger role. I am thrilled that Brian saw fit to keep asking me about his designs, because in the end it inspired something that I am truly proud of. 

DWP-JPD: I’m so curious about what’s involved in the process of designing as a trio! What are the benefits and challenges of balancing three voices in the creative process?

Marissa: I feel that we all have strengths that are different so we balance each other out in that way.

David: I think we have a knack for not getting in the way of one another. We just all throw ideas out there, and they somehow get polished into working ideas. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to design a game by myself. As an educator, I love collaboration and working together. It is so nice to have people to lean on. 

Brian: I love collaborating with other designers! I love the whole process: brainstorming, immediate feedback, playtesting, etc. The challenge of designing as a team is that someone someone wants to go in a different direction; sometimes it’s about compromise and the willingness to try something new even though it might not fit with one of the designer’s specific visions for the game.

DWP-JPD: Given the tremendous success of Dinosaur Island, it’s great to see the franchise expand to not one, but two new games! What can fans expect out of these upcoming titles?

Marissa: I love that my park feels so unique to how I want to build and tour it in Dinosaur World. And building up a route to score maximum points in the Rawr & Write is such a fun puzzle to figure out!

Brian: I hope fans are pleasantly surprised with the diversity that these two games offer. The Rawr ‘n Write is pretty thinky for that genre, and I think it does some new things that are fun.

Dinosaur World takes some of the aspects of Dinosaur Island and streamlines them, removes some elements, and injects new mechanics to make for a totally new experience that I think will resonate with fans of the original.

David: I really enjoy games with engine building elements. It’s not enough to ‘build’ something, but I want it to do something. I also love little spatial puzzles. Dinosaur World builds on the theme and some mechanics from Dinosaur Island, but allows you to activate your park in a more controlled way. The Rawr and Write, too, has elements of engine building that isn’t seen in many games in the genre. 

DWP-JPD: What is your favourite attraction we’ll be seeing in Dinosaur World?

Brian: My favorite attraction is the Velociraptor Culinary Experience (which appears in both games; I thought it was hilarious and that why not use it in both?) In my mind you visited this restaurant where animatronic velociraptors wearing chef hats would cook or service your food. I have a weird sense of humor. 🙂

Marissa: My favorite attraction is the Incubator – whenever I see it I am transported to the moment in Jurassic Park where you watch the raptor being born. Plus, you get to build a dino for cheaper!!

David: Early in the design for the Rawr and Write, I had this idea of a two phase game. One phase you design your park, and the next you attempt to stop the dinosaurs from escaping. In my mind, the dinos were marching towards exits on the island, and escaping on jet skis. The whole concept was hilarious to me, but it proved to be a very difficult design. Tracking dinos all over a hand drawn park was a mess, and it just ruined the beautiful park that you made throughout the game, so it had to go. In the end, we were able to add a T-Rex Jet Ski Park to both games, where you can now live your fantasy of a T-Rex riding a personal watercraft. 

DWP-JPD: Thinking of roll-and-write games with a polyomino element, many will want to compare Dinosaur Island: Rawr & Write to popular games such as Cartographers and Silver & Gold. What makes your game unique to those titles?

Marissa: We brought in a worker placement aspect that I don’t believe many other roll-and-writes have (if any roll and write has it). 

David: We also included an engine building element. Every other round you fling open the gates of your park and the patrons provide you money, security, and DNA to invest further. I think in many ways it feels more like a Rosenberg inspired euro than a typical roll and write. 

Brian: I can definitely see people wanting to make a comparison; all I can say is that people should check out the game and see for themselves how it is different. I think people won’t be expecting this type of experience from the roll and write genre.

DWP-JPD: As a professional musician myself, I was thrilled to learn about Brian’s musical background, and how composition helped inform his game designs. For David and Marissa – what experiences outside of the gaming world have had an impact on your design work?

Marissa: I am a math teacher, so I can definitely lend a hand when it comes to balance, probability, number-y type fun. But also the teaching aspect brings a level of patience to game design that I feel can be important. Things aren’t going to be perfect right away and so the patience required to try again, again, and again and not give up is really important. 

David: Like Marissa, I am a highschool teacher. I think the career is similar in its creative options. I am constantly thinking about my lessons, audience, and how to best leverage the material. You always have to adapt and improvise. My strengths are “selling” an idea to a bunch of teenagers, and those same ideas can be brought to design. So much about design is about leading players into the game, and allowing them to experience the excitement of creativity. That is how I run my class, and I think that is the feel we have weaved into both designs. There is a sense of discovery and creativity for the participant, as any good lesson/game should have. 

DWP-JPD: And Brian, given your experience designing Dinosaur Island, are there any lessons learned from that journey that have been applied to the creation of Rawr & Write and Dino World?

Brian: One thing I’ve learned is that your game is never going to please every player; there will be some very vocal opponents that want you to create the game THEY want to play. While feedback is important, evaluate the feedback and see if what they are saying is true for all players, not just them. I design games I’d like to play, and I know that not everyone likes the games I like, so now I just put out there what I like, and if it resonates with people, that’s a big plus.

DWP-JPD: One final question – what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given that still affects your design work today?

Brian: But is it fun? 🙂

Marissa: Keep it simple.

David: I am inclined to agree with Marissa. However, just as important is to have a good editor. Aim for the stars, but be content with the top of the nearest hill…as long as the hill is comfortable and has a good view of the stars. This isn’t settling for mediocrity, but realizing that there is often a simpler and more direct solution, and the more people see your work and provide meaningful feedback, the better it is. All the more reason co-designing is so much fun. 

DWP-JPD: Thank you all for your time today. We’re excited to see what surprises you have in store as the Kickstarter campaign evolves!

The Dinosaur World and Rawr & Write campaign is on Kickstarter until October 16th. Special thanks to Pandasaurus Games for arranging the interview opportunity!


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