Recently I have developed a bit of an obsession with A Fistful of Kung Fu, just in case you missed it.
We have been really fortunate to have some time with the author, Andrea Sfiligoi! He was kind enough to answer some of our pesky questions and was approachable and forth coming with heaps of information.
Sprue Grey: First up, what’s your background?
Andrea Sfiligoi: I studied to be an illustrator but I’ve been writing for most of my life. I have worked on comics for a couple of years and in animation as a screenwriter/storyboard artist for over 12 years.
Sprue Grey: Were you always a gamer or did you come to it later?
Andrea Sfiligoi: I started when I was 12 and my mother took me to a comics convention where I bought an old issue of EPIC Illustrated. There was an ad for TSR’s Star Frontiers. I contacted TSR UK (closer to me than TSR USA) and bought the red box DnD [Dungeons and Dragons – ed.]. This was in the stone age before the internet, so it was all very complicated, there was no practical way to know what was available and sending money abroad was expensive and complicated. DnD got me into adventure gaming, I’ve been a RPG game master for over 33 years now…
Sprue Grey: In the FOKF manual, it states that you are a “lucky fellow who can claim that you are working while playing toy soldiers”. How did you stumble upon such a fortunate discovery and what were you doing before?
Andrea Sfiligoi: I’ve always been designing games, but I never thought I could earn a living selling them. My first board game was designed at 12 and my first RPG at 18-19. A combination of events turned me into a full-time game designer: the company I worked for folded and forced me to find a new occupation, and the explosion of internet tools that allowed self-publishing to become a reality.
Writing this stuff for a living means you are making a gamble — you write a game for yourself, the way you want to play, and hope that there are enough persons with a similar taste in the world. You do not need a HUGE audience to create a stream of revenue – about 1000 to 5000 people are enough to pay for a (modest) livelihood.
Sprue Grey: Bringing a pretty radically different set of pop culture iconography to the tabletop and not making it super confusing to play must have been a challenge. What do you use for inspiration for your rules? Where do you get your ideas?
Andrea Sfiligoi: Pop culture in general – I watch lots of movies, read lots of comics and books. And I read all the games I can afford – RPGs, miniatures systems, board games, card games etc.
Sprue Grey: What’s your favorite movie?
Andrea Sfiligoi: There are so many, for many different reasons. Remo Williams: the Adventure Begins, the Indiana Jones trilogy, Big Trouble in Little China, the LoTR trilogy, the original King Kong, most Godzilla movies, and most recent superhero movies.
Sprue Grey: Can you give us an exclusive on the next big thing? What are you working on at the moment?
Andrea Sfiligoi: I work on many titles at the same time, as I do nearly anything from initial writing and testing, to layout and illustrations and marketing. It’s like a constant flux of ideas and work. My next big project is Harder Than Steel, a science fiction generic set that should do for SF what Song of Blades and Heroes did for fantasy. And I’m working on a slew of projects for other publishers but I cannot divulge details at the moment.
Sprue Grey: Any advice for aspiring game designers?
Andrea Sfiligoi: Read what was done before, find a balance between familiarity and innovation, don’t assume you ideas will rock people off their feet, and finish what you started (I’m very bad at following my own advice, though, especially the last one). Build a personal relationship with your “customers”. Don’t give out too much for free. Don’t quit your day job until you see a constant stream of cash coming in. Don’t get in debt. As they say in Hollywood, the best way to make a million in this business is to start with two millions, and quit when you’ve lost only one 😉
Game design is not easy and it will become harder and harder as time goes by. Democratization of publishing through the internet and crowd funding are here to stay, but reaching enough people to become a player and staying relevant for some time is increasingly difficult. I have no idea what I will be doing in a couple of years — hopefully still designing games. But the multiplication of media fragments people’s time and money into too many little rivulets, so making a living in this tiny, niche hobby may not be possible in the future.
We’d like to thank Andrea for his time answering our questions. Given the strength of the game systems he has produced so far, we are sure that games like Harder Than Steel will be a massive success!