Recently my wife daughter and I headed up to visit my brother and his family in Minnesota. We brought along Alien: Fate of the Nostromo and well it was a surprise hit with the family. We played it a couple of times and my wife and Sister-in-law, they loved it. We also did a review of it here and its worth checking out. I hope you enjoy this interview I did with Scott Rogers who designed Alien: Fate of the Nostromo and also designed Rayguns and Rocketships.
Hi there. I'm Scott Rogers, a game designer of the video and board game varieties. I've been designing games for over 25 years (many of which you have either heard of or played), I've written books on the subject (Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design and Swipe This! The Guide to Great Touchscreen Game Design), I've worked in VR and for Disney Imagineering, I've been featured in a movie about board game design (Gamemaster, 2020) and I just had my most recent board game design - ALIEN: Fate of the Nostromo - published by Ravensburger games.
How did you get into the wonderful world of game design?
I've always loved board games, played board games, and made board games since I was a young child. In 2015, I took a design that I was trying to make as a video game and turned it into a board game called Rayguns and Rocketships. I was quite pleased with how it turned out and so I pitched it to IDW Games who published it. I had such a good time making it, I wanted to make more. What is your favorite game to play? It's more appropriate to ask "What is your favorite game to play at the moment" as I love all types of games. I will play anything at least once. Some of my current favorites include The Quacks of Quedlinburg, The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game, Flamecraft, Marvel United and The Downfall of Pompeii.
Alien is an iconic horror/Sci-Fi movie, did you find it hard to honor the movie in your game design? I didn't find it hard at all. I am a huge fan of the original movie - I've seen it dozens of times - and "all I had to do" was make a game that an Alien fan such as myself would want to play. The publisher had some requirements as well, but I welcomed the challenge. Was it hard to come up with the final mission cards in a way that felt like it fit with the movie? Again, it wasn't hard, it just required me to know the movie. Each final mission is based on a scenario from the movie; had it played out differently. For example "Cut off every bulkhead and every vent" is a quote that Dallas says. Had everything gone according to plan in the movie, then they would have trapped the Alien in this way. Was it difficult making a family board game with the IP of a horror movie? It was a challenge to make a horror game with no player elimination and no betrayal mechanic - two mechanisms that are common to horror games - but it was easy to make the player afraid of the Alien and not want to be around whenever it showed up.
What is your favorite game mechanic in Alien? I really like the abilities of all of the player characters. I'm proud that I was able to capture the feel of each unique character through their different abilities.
What did you find was the most difficult part of the design process? The most difficult part is the wait between when you've pitched the design and when the publisher gets back to you. As a designer, you are super-excited about the pitch and want to hear back from the publisher as soon as possible. But the publisher, in addition to getting several pitches, are also making dozens of other games and have many issues to deal with. Once you realize that, you get a little more sympathetic to the process and learn to become patient. What was your favorite part about the design process? I really enjoy the entire process. Everything from the unfettered freedom of dreaming up new game concepts, to crafting the sell-sheets and presentations to make the pitch. I love the craftiness of making prototypes and playing with the physical pieces. I enjoy playtesting the game with others and polishing the game design through the iterative process. I even like interacting with fans of the game once it has been released!
Do you have any advice for up and coming designers? As a teacher of game design, I always have advice! Anyone can come up with a design for a game, but it is meaningless until you build it as a prototype. Don't wait for anyone to "invite" you to the party, just go and do it for yourself. You are what makes your game designs unique - lean into your special talents, interests and passions. If you really want to do this for a living, don't give up. For every published game, there are at least two ideas from the same designer that never got made. What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow? The airspeed velocity of a (European) unladen swallow is about 24 miles per hour or 11 meters per second.