Compounded—An Interview with Designer Darrell Louder

a9139fd6a72c5a9a688c060af796a10b_largeToday's interview is a preview to tomorrow's Kickstarter Weekly. We're chatting with Darrell Louder, the designer of Dice Hate Me's Compounded, which is chugging right along on Kickstarter. Hey Darrell! Thanks so much for taking a few minutes to sit down and give us the answers that inquiring minds want to know!

First let’s start off by having you tell us a little bit about yourself. My name is Darrell Louder (yes, last name is my birth name.) I’m a 33-year-old graphic & Web designer—I guess game designer now as well. Father to a handsome 2-year-old named Ethan, and husband to the greatest woman in the world, Lesley. I work for Game Salute as their Web site administrator and a member of their graphic design team. I also tend to do freelance design for a few people when the need arises.

Compounded is your first game design that's getting published; is this your first ever attempt at a game design, or have you been beating down doors trying to get published for a while? Compounded is my first game, period. I never had the desire to make a game before, as I was totally content playing the games that my friends would bring over. Compounded only came about because my friend John Moller started a ‘revolution’ called the Unpublished Game Festival, now known as Unpub (, in 2011. Four days prior to the event, I was concerned he wasn’t going to have enough game designers in attendance, so I made Compounded. It was received pretty decently, and I was urged to continue working on it—so I did. I kept working on it that year, bringing it out every now and then to playtest, but that was it. It never left my hands or our play group.

So...a game about science; how did you land on that? Are you a science geek, or did it just sound like an interesting premise for a game? Well, this is a funny story. Initially Compounded was going to be about mad-scientist alchemy. Same mechanics, but instead of Hydrogen, Oxygen, and the lot, it was rat tails, snakes, etc. Before I built it out though, my wife questioned it. She pretty much said to be original, and that the alchemist track would be "white noise." She is an AP English teacher at the local high school here, so she immediately recommended using real compounds and elements. That was it. It was one of those EUREKA moments! My grandfather was a zoologist, so I was raised knowing about science and nature. So there was no questioning it; I had enough info from my childhood and schooling to get started on it. Add in a bit of research and BAM! It was just a perfect marriage of ideas and my childhood.

How long have you been playing games like this? And what made you want to design one of your own? I had been playing a little game known as Magic: The Gathering for about 15+ years. So I shunned all other games, as I was one of the ignorant Magic players that thought all other games were cheap and stupid. Turns out, I was the cheap and stupid one. I gave in one day and tried Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings, and I was hooked. Then came Catan, Carcassonne, and the usual lot. I still stuck with Magic, but my eyes were opened to the entire hobby of gaming. As I said above, I only designed a game for Unpub. Before that, I had no desire to do it, as I thought all others have done well enough.

a71da75228cceb9cf8b446084569305b_large Tell us how you ended up with Dice Hate Me. Then in the fall of 2011, John took it down to North Carolina with him (at my request) to playtest it with Chris and Cherilyn of Dice Hate Me Games. Now, this wasn’t to pitch the game to them; this was just for feedback. I had made friends with Chris and Cherilyn over the course of a few months through Twitter. They have very similar game likes and dislikes that I do, so I thought their advice on gameplay would be helpful. I honestly wasn’t looking for publication—heck, the game was only 6 months old! So anywho, John came back with the game and suggestions from them. I did those changes and liked the improvement of the game. So I ran with that for 6 more months to Unpub2. Chris and Cherilyn came up for the event (this was the first time I met them in person), and within 30 minutes of meeting them they asked for the rights to publish Compounded. So, really, I got incredibly lucky. My path is incredibly rare, and I am incredibly thankful for them for making my first design so easy!

Who is your favorite scientist—living, dead, real or imaginary... Wow, great question. Knee-jerk I have to say my Grandfather (Darrell Louder Sr.) but you probably mean famous, so I have to go with Michael Faraday. He's known as the grandfather of science, and is credited for giving so much to the field.

Give us your top 3 games and why you like them so much. Wow, this is a tough one. What do I base the three off of, games with lots of players, games with small players, different mechanics, there are many directions on this. Hmm... I’ll side with games that I get the most excited for when they are on the table. In no particular order:

  • Alien Frontiers
  • Stone Age
  • Road to Canterbury

What are some of the benefits gaming provides us? What are some of the downsides? Brain food. Gaming is problem solving and strategy practice. My wife is trying to bring gaming into the classrooms because of this very reason. Sure to dive into our level of gaming is like jumping into the deep end of a pool with only the doggy-paddle to survive on. But once you get a few down you can swim laps. So I think (and I would love to see a study on this) that gaming actually increases your brain power, social awareness, and makes you look better. Okay...maybe not the last one, but one can dream. :) The downside, beside the dreaded gamer-stink (seriously, SHOWER when at conventions) I would say distractions. I get distracted a lot wanting to play a game or work on a design. So I have to fight that urge to get my job done first.

Yes, friends don't let friends leave the house with gamer-stink... Wanna give us a spoiler on the third stretch goal for Compounded? What can I say. Let me say this: Chris and Cherilyn (of Dice Hate Me Games) care first and foremost about the quality of the games they put out. So the first thing you’ll notice with this KickStarter campaign is that there are no "KickStarter Exclusives," and there are no bags, mouse pads, coats, cars—everything goes 100% toward the game and making the game components the absolute best they can be. The third stretch goal will continue that trend, and will be great. Out of all the goals, I can honestly say the third one is the one I am most excited for, and the one I really want to see become a reality.

Ok, here’s the One-Word Answer section: Answer the next 5 questions with only 1 word or phrase.

Favorite Muppet? Grover

Last Vacation destination? Outer Banks - Kitty Hawk, NC

If you could own a REAL ship from Star Wars, which one would it be? A-Wing

Yes or no, have you ever gone around banging two empty halves of coconuts together? Yes, very much so. I ain’t ashamed of it either.

Apollo or Starbuck? Neither. Not a Battlestar fan, sorry.

Darrell thanks so much for taking time to tell us about Compounded!

You can find Darrell on Twitter at @GetLouder, and you can check out Compounded on Dice Hate Me's site right here and the Geek right here. And come back tomorrow for more about the Compounded Kickstarter Campaign!

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