Zombie, Zomba ! Raid is Dead !

Interview « CoolMiniOrNot »: Fel Barros

1/ A classic of ours: your personnal pop culture absolute reference ? And the one specific to zombie universes (if different)?

I am a big fan of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Zombie related I would say Resident Evil 4 for Gamecube, Dawn of the Dead in the movie department and World War Z for books.

2/ What kind of games do you like? Do you play Zombicide?

Before I started designing my own, I was a huge eurogamer. After my first design, I decided to broaden up and now I play everything but wargames. My favourite games are still the ones with heavy player interaction and where the players have a deep influence in the game outcome.

I played a little of Season 1, but I went all in after Black Plague as I’m much more into the Medieval theme.

3/ A bit more about yourself, in a few words; and how you ended working for CMON.

I’m 33, father of a 6-year old, game designer and developer, game hoarder and platypus enthusiast. As for CMON, I sold them two games I designed (Looterz and Gekido) and they approached me after to do some development work, in the end, they liked it, and I was hired a few months later

4/ These first developments, were they around your own games? How many games did you designed? Among them, how many did you sold?

No, my first few projects are still unreleased. The first big project I worked on was The World of Smog: Rise of Moloch. I designed 8 games, CMON, so far, bought two of them (Looterz and Gekido).

5/ Which one is your « favourite » (without the « there can’t be » card )?

Can I do a top 3?
Warzoo, about the book Animal Farm which was my first game and has a special place. Gekido coming out this year because I really enjoy fast paced interactive games and Space Cantina, a dice placement, euroish pretty heavy on theme. Honorable mention to Looterz that was released last year and has been published in some countries (including France!) with more to come!

6/ What do you do for CMON, and for which game(s) of theirs (since you are not on Zombicide)?

As a Senior Developer, my main job is to challenge the game designers and find possible flaws and balance issues that need to be solved. Sometimes we delve more into it (for instance, Guilherme and I did a lot for Masmorra’s coop). I also evaluate the new titles to see if there are good fits for the company. As for the games, I work on most of our big titles: The World of Smog, Massive Darkness, The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire, and Masmorra. Right now, I´m working on Rising Sun and pretty excited about it!

7/ Would you have any teaser for us about Massive Darkness?

I think Zombicide fans will love it. It doesn’t have many similarities mechanic-wise (aside from tiles and movement) and has this « Diablo » feel of lootin’, hackin’ and slashin’. It was our first collaboration with Guillotine and it was awesome. They have a pretty solid view of their games and a design philosophy that makes it easier to understand how they helped shape this big franchise that it is Zombicide.

8/ Anything yourself came up with about it and that you are secretly very proud of?

As for « secretly proud », we don’t have much in the way of ego or we couldn’t do our jobs, but I threw in some cool abilities for my favourite class, the Barbarian and helped create some pretty fun scenarios. Massive Darkness was a huge effort involving lots of people, and I’m just proud to be part of the team that helped shape the game into its final form.

9/ How would you describe a typical work day for FakeDutch? A week?

Development is done in a team. We are 5 now, each one heading a game. So we usually exchange a lot of feedback but a typical day involves playtesting, filling spreadsheets and keeping documentation of everything that we do. There is a lot of prototyping as well and skype calls and chats with the designers about some of our choices and trials.
Sometimes I will go and say « hey, I broke your game, sorry », and go back to fixing whatever it was hampering the progress. We try to play as much as we can, so a typical week would have us playing 2-3 times, following playtest sessions 2-3 times a week, filling logs and doing necessary changes after enough observation time.

10/ Do you work with Thiago?

Yes! Thiago is the producer and we joke that he is the one who puts a break on development dreams. Sometimes we go and ask « hey, can we have an extra token that does this? » « No! » Development is based heavily around the product and the producers make sure we are keeping the product intact and as expected. He is the producer for Rising Sun while I am the lead developer, so we are working a lot together lately.

11/ Is there a brasilian connection inside CMON, then? Beside the joke(s), do you think some kind of brasilian thinking influences the games you work on?

In Brazil, we have an expression called « Gambiarra ». The urban dictionary defines as:
« A brazilian expression. It basically means to use improvised methods / solutions to solve a problem, with any avaiable material. »
English equivalents would include « McGyverism », « Kludge », »Quick Fix », « Alternative Engineering », « Workaround », and so on.
I am not familiar with every culture process for development but in Brazil we tend to look more often to solutions than at the problems/be contemplative. Using Gambiarras, we try to solve problems as quickly as possible to be able to play again. Sometimes we will use a sticker instead of printing a whole board again or improvise some textbox to avoid reprinting cards, and we will do a bad design decision (consciously) just to be able to playtest something else in a shorter time frame.
The other important point about our culture is our natural ability to blend in and make people feel like long lasting friends after a very brief period of time. Some Europeans and North Americans find that « intimacy » a little disturbing, but in the gaming area, it is really helpful to make the work between us developers and designers easier and smoother.

12/ What kind of survivor would you be?

The same role I want to play in most dungeon crawlers, the bloodthirsty, crazy, zombie-killing machine that will probably die first (but I will take some with me!)

Time to come to an end, I really thank you for accepting and being both kind and precise.

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