Building a Better Treehouse--An Interview with Jason Kotarski

Today we’re joined by our good friend Jason Kotarski of Green Couch Games for a little discussion on what’s new on the Green Couch!

Jason, thanks for taking a few minutes with us today!

So, before we look to the future, let’s look at the recent past. Fidelitas! It’s been showing up at backers’ doors. We know it was a long road to get to this point; how’s it feel to finally have it in the hands of gamers?

It’s fantastic! I was able to get everything sent out by our expected delivery date and for my first game that’s a pretty exciting achievement. And the feedback from backers has been really good. Lots of games getting to the table!

What are your thoughts on the finished product?

Overall, I am very happy. The colors turned out great. I totally love the solid little box. I learned a lot, too, since it was my first time around. I’d like to learn more about card stock options in the future. I’m sure that sorta thing comes with experience.

What did you learn through the process, and how will that shape what you do moving forward as you release new games under the Green Couch brand?

I think I learned the importance of having everything in order far in advance. I think having the art mostly done ahead of time helped me as a first-time publisher show folks that I was for real, that I had thought things through. They knew what they were getting. I’m going to try to keep doing that moving forward. I also learned that I have to be okay saying no to backers when ideas don’t work out logistically or don’t serve my vision for the game. I mean, I can’t do this without a passionate community of game lovers, but having too many cooks in the kitchen can muddle the process. I love hearing backers ideas, I have to just remember to run that through the filter of “How does this serve the game and the campaign?” more often.

Now that you’ve got your first release under your belt, what’s next?

Well, we recently announced our next game, Best Treehouse Ever by Scott Almes! It’s a card-drafting game about….well, building the best treehouse ever. Players draft cards and place them to the table to form a tree, trying to keep like colors together and keep up with the colors the other players are placing so they don’t get too far ahead. It’s a quick game--like 20-30 minutes--so it fits our goal to release great little fillers. Compared to Fidelitas it’s on the lighter side but it’s been fun with gamers and the more casual types. I love it. This one is hitting Kickstarter on March 20th.

You recently got back from UnPub. What was that experience like?

It was amazing. I was joking with Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback and they said conventions like this are like “summer camp for grown-up geeks.” We get to see our friends and play all kinds of new games. So much fun. Attendance was way up this year and that includes game designers and playtesters. There was a steady stream of folks coming to play games at all of the tables. Sometimes there were lines. It was crazy.

It was a little different for me this year since I was there as a designer and a publisher, wanting to test my own stuff but also wearing my Green Couch Games hat, as well. I ended up spending most of my time demoing Best Treehouse Ever.

Did you notice any trends in the games you played while there? Perhaps similar themes, or a mechanism that kept popping up.

I think the biggest trend I noticed was that prototypes are looking awesome these days! So much love is put into these games before they even see publication. This used to be something that worried people. As though, if you put too much time into art and graphic design, you might just be polishing a turd. Can I say turd? [Ed. Note: Turd yes, you can.] But with as many designers as there were, it was nice to have something to grab people’s attention. And honestly, clear graphic design helps the function of gameplay anyway. I think print-on-demand services like The Game Crafter and are really helping the design community in a big way.

What are some of the other benefits of UnPub--beyond the games themselves?

I think for me, the biggest thing is meeting people. From super-famous game designers, new designers, to folks off the street who just wanted to see what was going on. I got to have dinner with Richard Lanius! I walked up on Mike Fitzgerald asking a retail vendor if they had a copy of my game, The Great Heartland Hauling Co. and that led to a 45-minute conversation with one of my game design heroes! I got to show designer friends my ideas and get great feedback. I got to watch people experience my new games and get a sense of their interest/excitement in a real life environment.There was such great energy all around. That stuff is inspiring. Showing up to this kind of stuff helps me feel connected.

How was the buzz around Best Treehouse Ever at UnPub?

It was really well-received. It got played by all kinds of different types of people and everyone especially loved Adam McIver’s awesome artwork. I was super excited that a bunch of people kept coming up and telling me they saw the game on BoardGameGeek, and that they were looking forward to playing it. It seems that the word is getting out!

Lightning Round

That ball droid in the new Star Wars trailer: Awesome or Jar-Jar? Awesome, until proven otherwise!

Favorite game you played at Unpub? I didn’t get to play a ton of games I didn’t bring, but I really enjoyed Matt Wolfe’s Rocket Powered Avalanche. It was a clever little race-card game.

Walter White or Jesse Pinkman? Pinkman for sure!

When was the last time you played Pirates of the Spanish Main? Two-years ago at Origins.That has to get back to the table!

Favorite obscure superhero? I’m a big fan of Mike Allred’s Madman (Frank Einstein).

Thanks for joining us today Jason! We're looking forward to Best Treehouse Ever!