GATEKEEPING PLAYABILITY: INTERVIEW WITH PRODUCER AND AD JERE KASANEN
”It’s all about playability,” Jere Kasanen begins. We are discussing his roles in Agemonia. Jere refers to himself as the “man with many hats,” which is an apt term. Titled AD, Developer and Producer, Jere has a lot of responsibilities in the game design process.
“Clearing clutter, as I was saying,” he continues on, “is about the fact of whether you’re having fun playing the game, or just working to keep it going. Playing board games divides people in a sense that while I have seldom met people who have not played any, the ones that do not do that a lot usually drop off the wagon at the rules,” he says. “If the rules are complex, if the others know them and you don’t… it’s usually a case of ‘oh I can skip if it’s complicated’, which is a situation I want to get rid of.”
“Agemonia is a game with incredible depth,” he continues, “but we want to make Agemonia a game that is easy to start, easy to play, and easy to keep going, without constantly having to dip into the rulebook to check this or that.” Jere says. “Away from the ‘this is the game board, it is what it is’ situation, but rather a dynamic user interface where we bring new things into the map changing it as the game progressed. And of course, there are dozens of game board maps in Agemonia.”
Jere is a Bachelor of the Arts (Visual Media) by trade, majoring in graphic design, and while his background is in visual design, his expertise comes from a long career in creating board games. “Creating games has been a huge learning process, and I think the best way to learn board game creation is to do exactly that; create them.” Jere has been creating board games for almost a decade now, and his work is indeed invaluable and vital to the project. Before Agemonia, he has worked on projects like Nations, M.U.L.E, Amul, Flamme Rouge, Honshu, and Serpent’s Tongue, but his biggest notable project is without a doubt Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy. “Eclipse was quite a large haul, especially since we didn’t have a large studio but rather, well, only a few people, me in particular, working on the project. And now Agemonia, of course,” he says.
Jere has many tasks, from visual design and graphic design to productization: What kind of a product should the game be, what things should it include, what is its function. “We’ve had so many wonderful ideas in creating Agemonia, but also streamlining them for a better experience has benefited the project. We started out with five sets of evolving dice, which was a very expensive thing to also make, so we ended up with two sets of specific dice, with cards adding things,” Jere says. He especially likes the design concept of “always getting something” from dice throws.
“It is a bit problematic in some games, where you throw a dice and either succeed or fail. When designing Agemonia I presented Max with some games made by Adam and Brady Sadler, and now we have the option that dice throws always give something, and you can act based on the result and have various options to choose from: Decide to spend stamina to succeed, reserve to have another go, do something completely different… the possibilities are broader, which makes for a more compelling experience!”
“The ‘I didn’t accomplish anything this turn’ -scenario is something we want to avoid completely, since it takes away a lot of the fun in playing games.”
Jere is passionate about ease of play. “Things like accessible design. It is a basic concept but very essential, and sometimes it gets overlooked, unless focused on. Like in Eclipse 2nd Dawn I had to set up plans to ensure that planets don’t look indistinguishable from one another if you’re color-blind, or by having the wrench icon in the brown resource to distinguish it from say, grays,” Jere says.
Jere especially likes the solo adventures and solutions in Agemonia. “They’re like these personal choices and small sagas for individual players and heroes, which you can then tell the others about, ‘this is what I did’ -type of thing.”
Kickstarter of course brings its own challenges. “All pieces need to fit together. Kickstarter sees a lot of games with beautiful graphics and sculpted figures, but which are a lackluster in functionality. Like I said, it’s all about playability and how fun the game is.”
Jere is also an avid gamer like pretty much everyone working with Agemonia, with a background in both roleplaying and board games. “It goes back since the 4th grade on tabletop RPGs, and board games for over 15 years. I remember back in upper secondary school it was always gaming after class with friends until late at night, with some hours of sleep snatched in between and back to school at eight!”
So what games do you enjoy? “A big personal favorite is Robinson Crusoe, for its awesome puzzles. I’ve played it for ages, and while the rules were a process to learn, let me tell you, it is definitely worth it,” Jere says. “I like communal games. It lightens the ‘intellectual load’ of single individuals, and you can do things with a team. This is something which is very good in Agemonia as well.”
“My big idols in game visual design? Well definitely Ian O’Toole and Daniel Solis. Every time they make something, it comes out awesome and brilliant. Solis has also done a ton of tutorial videos to help beginning visual designers and people interested in visual design; definitely an awesome creator.”
Agemonia is progressing very nicely, the iteration process chugging on. Jere is busy with work, preparing for the upcoming Kickstarter. “It will be awesome, rest assured,” he says.
-Ville-Eemeli Miettinen, Digital Marketing Goblin