If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to start a board game project from scratch, to grow that idea through blood, sweat, and tears until you have a product worthy to show at games conventions across Europe, then you have come to the right place. Ed Harrison’s first board game, Everdark, first came to my attention in early 2016 after seeing a picture of the game board on Twitter. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to visit Ed’s home city of York to play Everdark, something I will soon be remedying.
GR – Ed, I know that you are relatively new to the game design world. Tell us how you got in to it and how Walrus Games came to be.
Ed – Well, looking back at why I started this mountain of a project, I think I got a bit carried away. My colleague and I are huge board game fans and love to discuss new games and amazing ones we’ve played. I jokingly said we should make our own as we’ve got all the equipment we need. Of course, he agreed, but now I don’t think he ever expected me to seriously do it. So, around Easter 2015 I created the first prototype but sat on the idea until 2016. When I realised my career was going nowhere and the doors to all my dream jobs were locked, I decided to make my own ‘key’ and got on with my first game. I signed up to UKGE 2016 and forcibly locked myself into making Walrus Games a reality. Everything snowballed from there and I’ve been running like mad to keep up with all of the work.
GR – Have you had a long love for the hobby, if so what games do you tend to favour?
Ed – I remember picking up Risk as a really young kid on my first ever day of school. None of us knew how to play, but didn’t stop us from having fun. My father nurtured that enthusiasm by introducing me to Warhammer 40k, a now distant hobby of mine, but it all set the foundations. So yeah, you can say it’s been a lifelong passion of mine to play these games. I always prefer playing large board games that take hours to complete, the feeling you get from a long-term strategy paying off beautifully and sweeping your opponents aside. However, a cheeky bit of Star Wars X-Wing is my current gaming fix. I dare anyone to take on my HWK-290!
GR – As you know, I have seen but been unable to play your first board game, Everdark. Explain how it came to being.
Ed – As mentioned, I love games and wanted to make my own for my friends and I to enjoy in our evenings. I don’t remember how I got the idea, and I’ve been trying to remember for a while what inspired me. I guess I wanted to make something unique, and a map that evolved and challenged players was what started it off. Who doesn’t love a maze? So, I started on that path and thought of well-known examples. King Midas and his Minotaur was an obvious choice. With inspiration in mind, I wanted a game that mirrored the confusion and panic of those poor souls who entered that labyrinth. I decided to build off those ideas and put my own twist on it. Then all that’s left is to put my imagination into the mix to finish it all off, and thus Everdark was born. A simple maze idea on the inside with some very heavy theming on the outside.
GR – The board for Everdark isn’t exactly your standard folding game board. How did you come up with the idea, and how hard was it to get manufactured?
Ed – Once I knew I wanted to make a rotating maze, I had to work out how. I created many different prototypes, all were 2D and had too many problems: the rings got stuck, rubbed on each other, and I was never satisfied with the quality. My office is buried under all of these prototypes. I only had limited resources, so the solutions I could come up with were heavily restricted, so I don’t know if my final solution was the best. However, I can’t deny that the end result is impressive! Out of sheer frustration I built a platform for the game to separate the rings and prevent any further issues of getting stuck. I vacuum formed the 2 halves which was simple to do and gave it a whirl, no pun intended. When I stood back to see the result, I knew there was no going back, no matter the cost.
The cost. I will never forget that cost for the first prototypes. I got a company to make me more because my equipment was basic at best. In bulk manufacture it’s cheap as chips to produce and definitely the right decision for the game. However, for a guy with a dream, the 10 prototypes done professionally costs you all of your month’s salary. Ouch!
GR – There is a fantasy theme that is attached to Everdark, where does your inspiration come from to create such a setting?
Ed – My inspiration comes from myself as I’ve always had a vivid imagination. Anyone who knows me says I live with my head in the clouds. I daydream more than is probably healthy, but as a result I have many different universes and stories in my head. The world of Everdark is actually a sub-story to another universe I had created. However, due to isolation of the City in Everdark, it felt a perfect setting to build a game around. A single city in an eternal sea of darkness. Doesn’t get much more isolated than that, right? Seeing this game as an excellent opportunity to put my imagination into reality, I got on with designing it. I think it’s a really interesting alternative to writing a book. An interactive way of telling a story, and each time the game is played, a unique version of the story is created.
GR – Now that Everdark is tried and tested, what does the future hold for it? Do you see a crowd funding campaign, or will you go another route?
Ed – Crowd funding is definitely the only way I can see this happening. While I’ve been approached by 2 international publishers about them creating versions of the game in their language when it is finished, I wanted to maintain the creative rights behind the game. This is my universe that I want to give to the world. I would hate to see someone take control of it and not give it the same passion and love that I have for it.
I hope to kick-starter it soon, and Spieleschmiede approached me directly about using their services to help fund my project, which is fantastic as it reflects the industry’s confidence in my creation. I had originally specified July/August as a campaign date, however, I wanted to work on the game some more and hope to have it up and running by November. I hesitate to give specific dates as I don’t want to let people down and disappoint them with false hopes.
GR – As I am all too aware, designing and developing a game takes a huge toll and requires innumerable hours of time and effort. How much of the project have you done yourself, and what if any, have you looked for help with from others?
Ed – I have done almost all of it myself. I found a couple of great artists to help do a few odd jobs. My illustrator, Filipe Ferreira, in Portugal has created 2 pictures I have of a Guardian and the creatures that attack the players. I also asked a 3D modelling artist, Rodolfo Hernandez, to produce the player pieces for me. If I can’t manufacture a part myself, I send off the order to manufacturers. It’s costly, but the overall quality of the prototype is worth it. Money is a major issue for me as none of this is cheap, so I pay for things when I can afford it. To overcome this problem, I have taught myself everything I need to design and make this game. All of the work (besides art), designs, and ideas behind the project is all me.
GR – What has caused you the biggest headache during the project?
Ed – Everything, absolutely everything. To meet the deadline of UKGE, I had to work really intensively to get it ready for UKGE 2016 in June. I pretty much waved goodbye to my social life. It was so hard.
Balancing the rules is also a huge task. Finding fresh people to help playtest is difficult, and when small and apparently insignificant tweaks can majorly upset the balance, there is no end to the headaches there. The process needs to be repeated, and more testers must be found. I have a full time job on top of this game, so changes from each test can take over a week to implement, and it all goes so slowly as a result. However, I love doing this. If a headache is the end result, then bring it on. I have no regrets.
GR – I see that you were lucky enough to attend the UK Games Expo recently. How was the experience, and what if anything did you learn from such a large event?
Ed – Absolutely mind blowing and really humbling! I had an advisor at the start of the year who has experience in the industry. She rightly said that I will find this hard because in the eyes of the industry I am “a nobody”. So, to go to this UKGE 2016, my first public outing and reveal of the game as a nobody, and to get the reception that I got was just incredible. People deliberately hunted me down and told me that I was the game they most wanted to see. For 3 days I never stopped talking. Stood in the shadow of companies like Fantasy Flight and Mayfair, competing with incredible games like Scythe and Dark Souls, and people wanted to see me? The organiser of UKGE himself said I was the game he most wanted to see. I’ve created something that is beyond my expectations, and it’s my duty to get this right. The pressure is unreal and really daunting. I am genuinely scared to release a game that fails to live up the expectations, and I am proceeding with great caution.
So, what did I learn? I learnt that I need to take a step back and slow down, to do everything in my ability to make sure this game is as polished as it can be! I am not going to rush this, and I am going to do all of the game’s fans proud, I promise! I delayed the campaign and am working with some great people to make sure this does as well as it can.
GR – Will we be seeing you at other events in the near future?
Ed – I will be attending:
- Spiel ’16 in Essen, Germany 13-16th October 2016
- Game Fest 22nd October 2016
- Gaelcon 28-30th October 2016
- Dragon Meet 3rd December 2016.
A busy few months ahead, to say the least!
I will also definitely be making a return to UKGE in 2017 with a sellable game and will try to take on the big guys!
GR – Where do you see Walrus Games going from here? Can you see a second, third, or maybe fourth game in the future?
Ed – Yes, most definitely. I got too many ideas but not enough time and not enough hands. It’s only me after all. I was working on a card game at the start of the year, but Everdark became too big and I had to push it to a side. I also got a horror sequel to Everdark planned based around the security force that needs to protect the streets of the city. I want it to be a game where players can have multiple strategies, each with unknown consequences as the map constantly changes around them, more like an RPG. I am really excited for this idea, but I think it’s a couple of years away. In total, I have roughly 6 games in my head that I have fleshed out and could begin work on if I had the time. Each game is completely different and aimed at different players. However, let’s get Everdark finished first.
That was Ed Harrison of Walrus Games, indie designer, developer, and the driving force behind his game, Everdark, that will hopefully be coming to Kickstarter in the near future. Check out Ed’s website HERE for more information or follow him on Twitter @TheWalrus_Games, also look for him at the above mentioned events where I know he’ll be happy to answer questions and give you a play through of Everdark.
Meanwhile, I will soon be previewing BadCat Games new tabletop ElemenZ, and reviewing the hugely anticipated Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu.