Samson F. Perret & Hugo Freyermuth
Please push “play button” above to listen to an audio version of this interview. (The designers ask forgiveness for their French accents! The interviewer asks forgiveness for the bad audio quality, as the intended better microphone did not work!). For the written version, see below….


Hello again, Explorers. I’m Anton, and we’re back with Part Two of my interview with the co-publishers of This Way!, the co-creators of the game I C E, Samson & Hugo.

ANTON :  So you guys have partnered with Panda Game Manufacturing to produce I C E — highly respected in the industry. What made you ultimately choose them out of all of the possible manufacturers available? Because I’m sure you guys went to a few, right? 

SAMSON : [For the manufacturer] we have clearly studied the market and asked about ten manufacturers, European and Asian. And at the beginning we were convinced that we could work with a factory in Europe. And we knew that the multi-layer tray was clearly a strong technical issue and that we needed a company that was very competent in terms of quality. We had a lot of internal discussions, mainly on the prices. Many things, about the fact that we wanted to choose between Europe and Asia. But when you look at the list of games made by Panda Games, the list is quite edifying, it’s clearly the top of the range.

A : It’s impressive! And how has that experience been so far, working with them?

S : Really really good. Because Tyler, the person in charge of the project follow-up, was a very precious help — both extremely competent, and available and quite sympathetic. I think we must have exchanged a hundred emails, and not short ones. 

A : So from the “inside peek” that I’ve gotten to see , you guys are doing an amazing job — it’s really hard to believe that this is the first board game you’ve created.  BUT — has there been any challenges that you’ve faced along the way that you didn’t expect?

HUGO : It is indeed the first game that we made. But actually on my side, I was working on small video games after my studies, until I started a bigger project with a friend, called Ubiquito. It’s a puzzle game for which I’m the programmer and level designer that I made at the same time as I C E. But after the success of the KickStarter campaign and the fact that we couldn’t find a publisher willing to finance Ubiquito, the project is now on standby. So [I C E] is not actually my first game. 

About the unexpected challenges we encountered on I C E… I think the biggest challenge I didn’t [think of] was finalizing the rules! 

A : [laughs]

From the I C E Kickstarter campaign

H : It was a real challenge! Making sure that the ICE rules are clear, concise and at the same time comprehensive. Not to forget anything, and make sure that the players can’t misinterpret any points of the rules. Indeed, I really didn’t expect the rulebook to be as long and complex!

A : Yeah it’s surprising how important that is for a game because a good rulebook — or a bad rulebook — can make a huge difference and impact on the final experience of the players.

S : You’re right. And the level for now is increasing a lot, I think ten years ago or twenty years ago it was not the same. Now the rulebooks are really clear… there’s a big improvement. 

A : Definitely!

S : For me the biggest challenge was to go the distance (over two and a half years), make the gameplay evolve as we go along, and to know how to remove the gameplay bricks that don’t work as well. We removed a lot of things and sometimes added them one year after. We also succeeded in agreeing on all the areas, some of which we discovered as the adventure progressed and in which we had to become more competent. 

A : So guys — for a first-time Kickstarter campaign, I C E was pretty successful! You guys had almost 4000 backers, I think? I just wanted to know, though, if there is one thing you could have changed about the whole Kickstarter campaign in general, what would that be?

S :  Well…. it’s about preparation! We changed the launching time, one time. At the beginning it was like the 16th of February, and we changed to May the Fourth.

A : Did you choose May the Fourth because it’s “Star Wars Day”?

TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved

S :  Yeah! AND also because we were not fully prepared. But even for the launching of May we had the graphic elements, the [FAQ] and the stretch goals — these things were not as well prepared as they could be. So we can focus on this for the next campaign.

H : Yeah, there are plenty of mistakes that could have been avoided or things that could have been done better of course.

A : Of course, I mean every campaign could be improved, but for a first time it’s great!

H : I guess so, but for us, because it’s our first campaign, we couldn’t have known all of that before we made those mistakes. But if I had to [change] two main points, I guess I will say: having a finished rulebook before the campaign started. This is a big thing…. a big mistake we made.

A : Yeah. People like to read the rules and know what they are getting into. That it’s a good game or not. So that’s really important.

H : Yeah, right. Actually they could with the PDF we put online, but… the PDF was actually unreadable — the rules were here but they were really messy.

A : Well, I will make sure that’s not an issue for next time, because I will be on you guys to make sure you have the whole rulebook fully completed, before launch. [laughs]

H : Yeah I hope so! Thank you! And because of you… for the next time, the second thing I was about to say… it was about [hiring] a Community Manager to help us. 

Anton Kawasaki – This Way!’s new Head of Communications

A : [laughs]

H : This was a question from backers.

A : Hmmm. Who could that be?

H : Yes… you can complete both of those points. 

A : Thank you.

H : And help us on both of them. 

A : So… speaking of the next campaign, you guys have teased about the next game — which you said will be a stand-alone [game] within the I C E universe. We know it has something to do with the guild members, correct? 

S :  Yes, yes!

A : But is there anything else you can tell us about it? Anything? Anything??!?

H : Unfortunately — I’m sorry, but it’s still a secret for now.

A : C’mon!!! Something! Give us some tease. Anything!

H : Yeah, but actually we need to make more progress on this project first. And just maybe one thing you could know is that the next game is going to tell more about what’s going on in The City and the balance of power between the guilds. And… that’s all!

S : Oh that’s not all. One major thing is: that you will love it!

A : [laughs]. Of course!

S :  It’s clearly a different game from I C E, which was like… more expert. [In this next game] you will have more player interaction. (Even so, there is some in I C E). It’s more like a social game.  And it’s a much faster game that can be played in, perhaps, 20 minutes… I’m not sure now. But up to six… maybe seven players.

A : That would be amazing. I’m voting for 7, because I have a very big gaming group. [laughs] We need games with big player counts. And, you know, there’s [at least] 7 guilds, right? So it just makes more sense.

S :  Yeah, for now there is only 7. But… maybe more.

A : Will all the [This Way!] games take place in the I C E universe — or are there other worlds you hope to explore? What can you tell us?

Smilodon attack!

S : In the short term we want to develop the universe around I C E, because we work a lot on this; on the lore, on the artwork with Léonard. Afterwards, as we wish to publish other creators in the next years, there will be other universes. 

A : Cool!

S : Perhaps we also want to develop games on some universe like… a licensing universe. We love the Dune universe [even if there are plenty of games nowadays about it]. We also like, for example, the “Windwalkers” [from Alain Damasio], it’s from a french novel “La Horde du Contrevent”.

A : Ah, ok. I was going to say, I never heard of that!

S : Yeah, it’s about a group in the Wind World, and they need to move forward and to reach the extremities, which was the beginning of their world. It’s really intense, and immersive, and quite fantastic novel. And it can be a really cool universe for a board game. 

© Alain Damasio / The French Publisher’s Agency

A : Oooh, that sounds cool. I’ll have to check it out. Maybe there’s an English translation out there somewhere?

S : Yeah, I think so.

A: Well that sounds great. Are there any final words of advice that you can give for other aspiring game designers out there?

S : Yeah! The advice… even if the advice you can give is not all the time good (because it depends on everyone). But the one thing… it’s about commitment. The fact that you need to, at one time, to decide what you want to achieve or what is your objective. For example: to have a marketable board game? And then don’t think but just move forward and commit yourself on this project. 

A: Yeah, commitment. That’s important for anything.

S : And the good thing is that in the ludic [gaming] community you can go fishing for answers on social networks. And this community is just wonderful in its openness and availability.

One of many board game groups catering to designers!

A : Yeah, it’s amazing. I always say that about the board game industry — it’s just so full of super friendly, helpful people. You know… they’re not always so competitive. And it’s great. It’s wonderful.

S : As soon as you have a question on a subject you can ask people on the forums or Facebook groups. We learn a ton of things in those groups. It’s really amazing. 

H : And about [that], I haveactuallya little story I want to say…

A : Yes, please! Tell us…

H : Before working with Alexis, our graphic designer, we had another one — another graphic designer called Romain Libersa who is a Graphic Editor at Ankama (a big game company in France). And I remember that at the beginning of our adventure he gave us a lot of good advice on making a game and launching a crowdfunding campaign. And there was one piece of advice that I found especially relevant and that helped us a lot. That was: When you create a new game, and especially when you are a beginner, you [can’t] be afraid to make your creation public. And everybody…. we tell ourselves that our idea could be stolen. Maybe we are also afraid of the opinion of other people, and it is a natural reflex!

A very early prototype of the game I C E

A : Yeah, it’s absolutely natural. And I see it all the time from first time designers. They are always so scared that someone will steal their idea. And that’s just not the case at all.

H : Yeah right. And both of us, Samson and I, it was our first reflex too. However, if there is one thing you should absolutely NOT do, it is to keep your ideas for yourself…

A : Agreed.

H : …and thinking that you will reveal your project to the whole world only when it is almost finished. On the contrary, I think you should share it as soon as possible. Playtest it, and discuss it with other players and creators.

A : I agree, absolutely.

H :  And I remember once sentence Romain telling me. It was like: It’s already so long and difficult to create a community, that if we choose to stay in our corner for fear of having our idea stolen, it’s a bit like shooting ourselves in the foot. So don’t do it! 

A : [laughs]

H :  And if I have one last piece of advice to give, it’s to share your ideas and projects. And games are meant to be shared and played with others. So moreover we are lucky to be in a field where the community is, as you say, especially invested and friendly, so… just  go for it! Go share your project!

A : Great advice!

Playtesting the game with family

S : Just perhaps one last thing: About the fact that the game is not just…. There’s not just two designers, like Hugo & I. It’s a story of co-creation with all the playtesters. It’s a series of iterations and you need this feedback to have a good game. You can’t do it by yourself.

A : No, no. You can try but it won’t be very good! [laughs]. 

S & H : Yeah, right.

A : Well, thank you guys so much for your time in answering all of these questions — this has been amazing.

S : Thank you Anton!

A : My pleasure! This has been Hugo & Samson from This Way! I’m Anton. Thank you so much for all of this. I’ve taken up waaaay too much of your time with this, though, however. So I know you guys have a game to create! Well… you created it, you just need to now finalize all the details, right?

S :  And thanks to you, Anton. Thanks for joining the team and being part of the core team of This Way!

A : Thank you guys! Very happy to be here. Well that’s it! Until next time, byeeeee!

S & H : Yeah, bye bye!