3
Apr

Game Designers Are People Too! Interview with Rob Schwalb (Part 2)

Jumping back in from part one of our inverview, let’s finish up learning about Mr. Schwalb and what he eats for breakfast, and what’s coming for him in 2014! Read on!

In your opinion, what is one of the coolest things in gaming you’ve seen so far in the past year? (game, art, mechanic, widget, whatever)

I’ve been intrigued by the growing trend in game systems that have players roll all the dice. I’ve been designing stuff for Monte Cook Games and Numenera’s underlying system is really interesting. Taking dice out of the GM’s hands puts the onus of risk on the players. It also encourages the GM to tell a good story rather than just have the dice propel the narrative. I know Monte’s game and other games, Dungeon World, have been using this approach with great success and I find that exciting. What this tells me is that there is an appetite for story-driven games out there and an even bigger appetite for game systems that encourage a story-first approach. The trick is to maintain that balance between something gamers can recognize and still open up new space for innovative design.

So, what DO you typically eat for breakfast? Is it a bowl full of monsters?

I have the same thing for breakfast every day. A pot of coffee, one banana, one slice of Ezekiel bread, one Boca veggie patty, and an egg fried in 1/2 tbsp of cold pressed olive oil. That’s 363 calories of mmmmmm mmmmmm good. 

What’s the typical style of clothing in Mr. Schwalb’s Closet (sounds like a second hand store), and what kind of shoes do you wear?

Heh. So I just purged a mountain of clothes. Since I’ve been on my healthy kick, I’ve dropped about 45 pounds. Pretty much everything I was wearing last August is now way too big for me. For the most part, I have t-shirts in one color—preferably in a somber color to convey my perpetual seriousness and dedication to evil. I have a few band shirts: Danzig, Queensryche, Floyd, Slayer, and Sepultura. I never quite left the 90s, so I still have plenty of flannels too. I no longer own a suit or dressy pants. I’m down to a few pairs of jeans. Shoes? Doc Martens. I picked up a pair of the Triumph 1460 boots a few weeks ago and I like them a lot. Yep. Still firmly in the 90s.

Other than Guild Wars 2, are you into any other video games? Do you own any of the major consoles?

The last console I owned was a Playstation 1. When I went back to college, Civ2 on my old Sony Vaio was my weakness to the point where I fucked up my GPA (Civ2 cost me magna cum laude by something like 0.001 point). After that semester, I put aside video games for what I thought was for good. About a year and a half ago, my overlords at Wizards pretty much told me to start playing video games. The reason? Video games have strong story content, have great underlying game systems, and are damn fine sources of inspiration.

 

 

With great reluctance, I bought Diablo 3 and played the hell out of it. A few months later, Jeff Grubb got me all excited about GW2, and Bruce nudged me just enough that I hopped on. So, right now, that’s about all the time I have for video games. When I drop another 20 pounds, I’m probably going to pick up a PS4. My Blu-ray player is a giant piece of shit, so why not?

 When the obviously impending Zombie apocalypse comes, what will your top 5 essential items for survival be?

1) A rather plump, heavyset, and slow person (you don’t have to be the fastest, just don’t be the slowest)

 

2) A bar of soap

 

3) A towel

 

4) Some sort of firearm with enough bullets to take out the zombies and still have one left to put through my head

 

5) A handle of scotch.

Aside from British mysteries, do you have any other guilty TV pleasures?

Ah. Sure. Let’s see. None of these are guilty pleasures. I’ve been watching Psych since it started. I love True Detective, Mad Men, Walking Dead, Luther, and stuff like that. I am always happy to watch the Science channel (Through the Wormhole is pretty good). I used to watch the Sunday morning news shows, but I discovered it wasn’t healthy for me.

 Do you like stand up comedy? If so, who’s your favorite comedian?

I like stand-up, but I don’t really keep up with it. Louis C.K. is my favorite. I like Patton Oswalt too.

What kind of car do you drive? What kind would you prefer to drive if your current ride isn’t up to par?

I drive a Nissan 350Z. It’s my mid-life crisis car and it’s pretty much the style of car I like to drive. I like cars a lot. I’ve driven a great many shitty cars, so it’s cool to have a car that runs. If could have any car, it would probably be a 1970 Pontiac GTO. In black of course.

Are you an insomniac like the rest of us or do you keep a tight sleep schedule?

I frequently suffer bouts of insomnia. I used to live by a strict and punishing schedule. (Up and at it by 5am and continue on until midnight.) Now, I might sleep a couple hours a night for a few days, crash for 12 hours, and then go back to being sleep deprived.

 Planning on seeing any of the big upcoming blockbusters? (Guardians of the Galaxy, Godzilla, etc?)

Yeah. I’ll see all the comic book films in the theater. I consider comic book films a very guilty pleasure, but whatever. I don’t care. They’re fun. Looking forward to Winter Soldier probably most of all. I liked Captain America a lot. Not sure about Godzilla. Probably will see it.

2014 is a relatively fresh year, any big plans?

This year we get the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Since I was involved in the design, I should be doing some support for the game. (I’m a guest at Dragon Con this year, so I plan to run games there, and at the Animation Celebration in July.) Work is winding down with Wizards of the Coast for me. So for the first time in 5 years, I am chasing down freelance work. As I mentioned, I’ve been helping out Monte Cook Games with Numenera products. I contributed to the Character Options book and am now working on Sir Arthour’s Guide to Technology book with Monte and Shanna.

If the stars line up, though, I should have a pretty big announcement in October of this year. We’ll see.

I hope you enjoyed our time with Rob, be sure to check out his personal site to keep tabs on all of this rantings, ravings, and excellent editorials on gaming!

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