Designer Interview: Ben Moy Discusses Breakdancing Meeples
Today, we're interviewing Ben Moy, the designer of Breakdancing Meeples. He shares the origins of the game, what it's like to demo for retailers, and transitioning the game from turns to real-time.
Whether you're interested in Breakdancing Meeples for its gameplay or development (or both!) we think you'll learn something from Ben. Be sure to follow his Facebook page for updates on his upcoming projects.
Where did the idea for Breakdancing Meeples come from?
The mechanic of dropping meeples came to me while blind playtesting a friend's prototype; I had fun seeing the different ways they could land - flat, standing, on their sides, or on their heads, and thought there should be a game about it. I've always admired the physical feat of breaking (breakdancing), and after doing some preliminary research I didn't see any published games that combined this theme with this dexterity component.
How did the game change as you developed it, either before or after you signed with Atlas Games?
I'm proud to say the core of the game has largely remained the same since its creation; I knew I wanted players to have a crew of meeples to toss around, and that they would commit them to routines for scoring. However, the first "Break It Up A Notch" was played in standard turns, where players rolled all their dancers once, placed who they could where they wanted, and lastly rotated all their routine cards to simulate crowd anticipation.
It was sort of a game of hedging bets against an artificial clock but left too much to chance, and my first playtest group and I elected to incorporate real time into the design that would feature the most exciting part of the game, rolling meeples.
After the game was signed with Atlas, the biggest "change" was rebranding it to the more direct "Breakdancing Meeples"; as much as everyone enjoyed the pun [in the original name], I'm sure, the meaning was a bit of work to get across. The gameplay largely remained the same, with only minor, surface-level tweaks.
What is something that you thought a lot about during development that might not be obvious?
I am often asked by players if the routines are real dance moves and if I breakdance; *laughs* I have no choice but to break their hearts and tell them that I made up all the names and that I breakdance only in my dreams. Though I have been issued a personal challenge by Atlas to learn how for an upcoming convention..
On my end, the game was simple enough that following the changeover to real-time there was relatively little development work required. Although I did actually create the track for the timer app using Handbrake, which is a fun piece of trivia. Thanks again to James (my friend whose game sparked the idea) for putting a prototype of it online!
Tell us about an unexpected challenge or setback, if there was one.
As with anything, life is really the only setback I can think of; one example that comes to mind is a face-to-face meeting with the app developer, and I was planning the weekend trip (since I am out of state from Atlas Games). A few days later though it fell through, which was a bummer for me because I was excited to learn some of how all that comes together, but everything still got done and looks and works great.
Was there any lesson from this game that you'll apply to future projects?
Not a lesson in the traditional sense, but when coming up with the concept and discovering that it was "uncharted territory", I felt a sense of validation that carried me through the life of the game; because I was proud of it, I could passionately show it around, which ultimately led me to Atlas. So I would say to pursue the projects you believe in. :)
Any thoughts or takeaways on demoing Breakdancing Meeples at the GAMA Expo?
I wish I thought to take any selfies in the Exhibitor Hall! *laughs* I love demoing in general, but it was really cool to hear from retailers directly how confident they were in the product and which regulars they were going to show the game to.
What's your favorite dance routine? Or, what's your favorite crew?
I think my favorite routine is one the Atlas team added, Walk The Baby. As for favorite crew, my favorite color is yellow, so any day I get to play Yellow There is a good one. Though the Green Pool tanks make me so happy!