Annually, “Protospiel - MN” marks the first design deadline for the year. Though we have bi-monthly playtesting, our local Protospiel is where we get our games in front of other designers. This tiny convention is where we get to see how our games measure up (in the best possible way and in the best possible environment.) Our company is tiny so every convention is critically important; we vet what we’re taking to CaptainCon and Con of the North at Protospiel.
For those of you unfamiliar with “game design” conventions, Protospiel-MN is like Unpub where folks who make games and folks who like to see games in progress hangout for a weekend. People play lots of prototypes - some even being made on the spot. For the Twin Cities and Madison, that’s a lot of folks. This year’s attendance was in the 160’s a large percentage of which have published games. It’s a great way to meet the local publishers like Atlas Games, Leder Games, Floodgate and Adam’s Apple Games (also, folks who manufacture the games like Panda GM and Game Crafters.) If you’re a playtester, the whole weekend is $10 - that’s crazy.
We sponsor the event because we believe in it so much. Additionally, Fight in a Box was protospieling our new work in progress: “Processing - a game of serving humanity.” We were focused on the 5 & 6 player games of our game of surviving alien invasion. I’ll blog more about that later, but that weekend was invaluable in getting us to take the look of our game to the next level. The posted images are "before" and "after" of Processing game art reflecting playtester feedback.
Highlights of the event for me were: Trevor, Jake and Cody interacting with John Nephew owner of Atlas Games, the Aura of Fun coming off of Ben Moy’s break dancing game, and the dedication and improvement of the participants in general.
Trevor, Jake and Cody brought a very playable and fun resource trading game entitled: “Gilded” With a 30min-ish play time and up to 6 players, it was perfect for a Protospiel. The trio was enthusiastic, easy to learn from and open to feedback. Because of this, I came back to their table a few times to see how things shaped up during the weekend. One of these times, I brought John with me to give it a try. John has been through every crisis in tabletop gaming since the 90’s: the CCG crash, the Advent of WoW, and D20 boom/bust. He’s uniquely qualified to talk about what it takes to be an indie publisher of games. He had very concrete advice about the approachability of the team’s project, but moreover their interaction reminded me why nerds can be the best people. I love it when people help each other for no other reason than they want to.
Now, I didn’t get to play Ben Moy’s game, but the smiles on everyone’s faces as they left the table and the groove that emanated from his demo’s made my list. Ben has created a fusion between old school “Pass the Pigs” and DDR (Dance Dance Revolution.) Everyone I asked about the game said some version of “OMG, that game is fun.” The meeple rockin beats coming off his EDM game timer also pepped up my step. Ben was also just sorta fun to talk to. As an old school rave kid, I was sent to a happy place to see his addition to the crowd this year.
The new faces of Trevor, Jake, Cody and Ben had to measure up to the veterans. The returning crowd really brought it this year. Everyone stepped up and their efforts make the third item on my list: the overall improvement and quality of games this year. I didn’t play a single game that I didn’t think was fun. Though I’m notorious for being hard to teach games too (Sorry, Nathan), I found all the projects I got to playtest agreeable. There was marked improvement in games that I last saw the previous Protospiel-MN. Even the manufacture of the prototypes folks brought were of higher quality - Adam Rehberg wins with his “swords” from his latest. All-in-All, this made me feel like I was in the right the place, doing the right thing and surrounded by folks who made me better at what I did.
I’m really looking forward to next year and we might even sneak in another one before than. Protospiel-Madison has our attention.