Alumni Report: Chronicles of Skin

In the aftermath of Game Chef 2012, we’re continuing to check in with a number of Game Chef “alumni” to see what their post-contest experiences have been like and how their games have continued to develop. Today we spotlight Sebastian Hickey and his Game Chef 2011 entry, Chronicles of Skin.

Tell us about your game.

Chronicles of Skin is a game about two cultures in epic conflict. Using cards, doodles, and short stories, you explore a civil war. Think of “the war” as the chief protagonist — it gets its own character sheet.

What state was your game in at the end of Game Chef, and where is it now?

When I finished Game Chef, there was so much unwritten fun. Compared to the written rules, I was playing a very different game at the table. To get it to print, I had to learn about the game I was playing at the table and get that game into the text. I stripped away half of it, rearranged the remainder, and created a custom deck of 72 cards. With that latter change, I was able to put some of the information onto the cards, lightening the load. Chronicles of Skin is now available from good hobby stores or the internet.

How has the development process gone for you? What have you learned from it, either about the game or about other things?

Developing Chronicles of Skin transformed game design into product design. It taught me a lot about the “dull” stuff that you never need until you need it (taxes, customs, distribution, etc.). One day, the thought, “I’ll just use a custom deck!!!” bursts into your mind with the weight of three exclamations marks and suddenly you’re discussing the core quality of a 14pt playing card with a printer in Noida.

What are your ultimate goals for the game and how close are you to meeting those?

My ultimate goal was to make a pretty game. Done.

What advice would you give to other Game Chef alumns who are thinking about developing their game further?

I am a finisher. I finish things. The problem for me is that finishing is destructive. If you want to know how to develop your game practically, don’t ask me. I develop weird stuff. But if you want to know how to develop it emotionally, take heed.

If you are obsessed, honourable, and proud, you will probably finish your game. You will hate what you’ve accomplished. You will work when you’re supposed to play, you’ll think when you’re supposed to work, and you’ll blather when you’re supposed to think. You’ll transform your hobby into a chore.

Not all designers design like me. They separate themselves from their work. They have more than one project going at once. They manage criticism for what it is. They enjoy the collaborative process of refinement. Of course, there’s work involved, but they see it as fun. They recognise that they are choosing to design. It’s their passion.

Separate passion from duty. Don’t feel obliged.

What advice would you give folks thinking about participating in Game Chef for the first or second time?

I love the people I’ve met through Game Chef, so here’s my Game Chef by-law: make one other person’s Game Chef experience incredible. How do you do that? You’re the designer, you figure it out.


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