Sooie!! An Interview with Pigpen Dev Team Kevin Kulp & Jason Tagmire

pigpenToday we're once again joined by our good friend Jason Tagmire. You may know him as the guy who designed Pixel Lincoln and Maximum Throwdown, but today he’s wearing a different hat: developer of a new game by Kevin Kulp, titled PigPen. And look! He’s brought along designer Kevin to talk about PigPen, and the roles that each have had in preparing the game to get it to market.

Jason, Kevin, thanks for joining us today!

So first of all, tell us about PigPen!
JASON: PigPen is a family friendly card game about pig-penning and pen-destruction. Each player is a farmer trying to contain his pigs, but his neighbors will do everything they can to prevent it from happening. He puts up a fence; they pull out a saw. Eventually the pigs come out and score points.
Kevin designed and self-published it a few years back and I always thought it deserved a larger audience. With Island Officials, I was able to help it make it to Kickstarter, and hopefully soon enough it will reach that audience.
pigpen cardsKevin, how did you land on a barnyard-competition theme for the game?
KEVIN: While in college and deciding to make a go of commercial game design, I realized I wanted to make board games.  I also realized I would need a diverse offering of game designs.  The family game eluded me it seemed, until walking around Philly one day waiting for an IGDA meeting.  As my mind sometimes doesn't stop thinking design, I really put my mind in to coming up with a family card game.  I had just played "There's a Moose in My House" and it got my mind thinking of its simplicity.  So I started with wanting an animal-based game, then thinking of what would be a simple goal for players; once I settled on pigs and pens the game came together rather quickly.  It also helped that I grew up around working and non-working farms, and had an aunt who loved pigs.
Jason, we know you have a thing for sausage link whips, and meat-based conflict resolution...beyond that, what drew you to this project?
JASON: Initially it was the way that it brought Kevin's family together. I saw them all at a convention selling the game and I was there alone showing off a game filled with puking turtles made of pixels. It was the complete opposite and something that I wanted to accomplish personally. My kids were very young at the time, but it stuck in my mind.
Once I played the game, it was closer to what I was doing than you would think. Silly sayings, meat references, etc... but behind that a really fun little game. With it consisting of just standard sized cards, it was a great candidate for the tabletop side of Island Officials.
Beyond your own titles, what recently released/upcoming games are you excited about this year?

KEVIN: Oddville, actually just picked it up. I got to play it at Metatopia and really loved how much game they packed into a small package.  There are games that really get my mind going toward design, and this was one of them. I love how the game mechanics work together. I can't wait to play this at my local gaming group.

JASON: There have been a few things on Kickstarter lately that I've been excited about. Council of Verona is a wonderful little gem of a game. The Agents looks like my kind of game and I'm really itching to try the print-and-play. Outside of Kickstarter I want AEG's Trains, more Smash Up factions, and Cube Quest from Gamewright.
Jason, you’ve been the designer on several titles recently; tell us about the difference between developing vs. designing?
Developing a game is really interesting. It's very different from designing in that it's less emotional. You are less tied to the things that you creatively fell in love with, and more willing to make changes that will better the game.
With Pigpen it has been a lot of clarifying rules and card types, testing out variations in the numbers on the cards, and seeing what breaks the game or makes it too long, too short, too easy, too hard...etc. These are things that I also do when designing, but it's nice to be limited to those roles for once. I'm able to focus on fine tuning the game without having to be the everyman that I am when designing.
pigpen pinsSo, how did you guys meet?
KEVIN: When I was college my game design professor pushed us all towards to IGDA meetings as part of our education.  It was in going to the meetings that I was introduced to Jason by Ryan Morrison (Island Officials). Jason was one of the only (that I knew of at the time) who was working on board games.  I remember having a discussion about what to do to start and Jason went down a list of sites and places to check out. From there we would see each other at IGDA meetings and really got to know each other through another friend and designer, Alex Strang.
JASON: I think the first time might have been at Too Many Games about 3-4 years ago. Kevin had his self-published copy of Pigpen for sale and his whole family behind the booth (which was really nice to see at a video game convention). We chatted for a little while and eventually ended up seeing each other around a lot more after that.
Is there a Mad Max-related card in the game—perhaps a Master Blaster...?
JASON: We probably don't want to give kids nightmares. Or adults. Or me.
Kevin, did you approach Jason about coming on board as developer? How has the game changed/improved due to having a developer?
KEVIN: I never asked him to publish my games, it was more of showing and telling him my vision for the games.
Alex Strang and Jason had started a monthly game night where I was going and we would pull out our game designs. Game designers, myself included, like challenges, and Jason or Alex challenged me to complete one full game in a month. My first month I made two games, one of which might be published by Island Officials next year. In particular, when it came to Pigpen, we played it one-on-one at a game night over at Alex Strang's house. We played, then I explained where I wanted the game to go, my vision and such.  From there the conversations started and Jason informed me Island Officials wanted to publish the game and possibly more.
When it comes to having him as a developer, the game has only gotten better.  He helped streamline the game and put a focus on continuity in gameplay. His experience of having some successful projects under his belt really came through in the final development phase of the game before kickstarting it this week.
Guys, tell us what is unique about PigPen when compared to other family style card games.
KEVIN: The humor and theme really set the game apart. I know playing it with my children they are always checking out the pigs, picking favorites, and always laughing at what they can do in the game. They love picking on me and doing their best to make sure I don't get the pigs. I saw this in playtests with adults also. Before Jason took up development I had it at Metatopia and this epic game occurred between two couples who had a great time playing the game. There was so much laughter and silliness in that game, that it convinced other players to sign up to play the game, the next day.
JASON: It brings out the life of the family. Many family style games are a little stiff, and Pigpen is the complete opposite. When your quiet little sister takes a hammer to your brick wall, sending your pig right into her fort of a can only laugh about it (and hopefully destroy that fort). Kevin also took the approach that this game should be enjoyable for all ages. The child/adult line is a very hard line to blur and Kevin did a great job with it.
Kevin, do you have any plans to expand the game, or will we find out more about that as stretch goals are met within the Kickstarter campaign?
KEVIN: There is one expansion already on the Kickstarter with the UFO. I can't say yet, but have another one we'll be adding to the Kickstarter soon. I have more ideas for the game, and depending on how well the game succeeds I'm sure we'll see the ideas coming out over the next couple of months.
Jason, how are your many other projects coming along? Anything new you can share with us at this time?
JASON: Pixel Lincoln is out! Haha, it's been a long time coming and finally in the hands of the Kickstarter backers and working its way to stores. It's been really awesome chatting with everyone about the game and the feedback I've gotten is very positive. So, I'm working on more Pixel Lincoln stuff. I've been communicating with Game Salute about how to get more cards out there on a regular basis and I should have some news about that soon at the all-new
Also working on a few other projects, but nothing that's far enough along that it would be interesting. I should have some prototypes at GenCon along with the release of Maximum Throwdown there. Can't wait.
Kevin, we get to see your lovely family at the end of the Kickstarter video for the game; are they all gamers too? Or is PigPen an attempt to bring them to the table?
KEVIN: I will have to admit they are more digital gamers right now; they love Minecraft, Terreria and Roblox.  I'm slowly breaking that down and exposing them to board games all the time. And having children is a great excuse to convince the wife those game purchases are for the family and not me. ;)  They of course get excited with any game I make and always ask me what my next game is.  Lately with Redakai being on sale everywhere I picked up a couple starters and we are playing that; also Jason introduced me to the Mega Man CCG from a decade ago and the kids have shown interest in that one.  Also Ticket to Ride and Bang is a big favorite for everyone, including my wife.

PigPenCoverFull5 Questions - 5 Words (to answer them)

Who did actually let the dogs out?
KEVIN: John Moller's mind-altering pancakes.
JASON: My allergies.
Let’s say you are Old MacDonald, and you could have one science fiction based piece of machinery... So as the song goes: “And on his farm he had a....?”
KEVIN: Thermonuclear powered diamond blade chainsaw.
JASON: Flux Capacitor.
Your reaction to hearing there will be new Star Wars films?
KEVIN: Joss Whedon commits fanboy sin.
JASON: Childlike excitement.
The Green Goblin, or the Hobgoblin?
KEVIN: Green, he made the money.
JASON: Hobgoblin's got style.
Favorite iOS app?
KEVIN: What is this IOS thing?
JASON: Super Hexagon.
Thanks so much for joining us, guys!
We've received prototype review copies of the game and will be posting our extensive Double-Take Review of the game soon! But until then you can check out the Kickstarter campaign for more information. 
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