#28: Special Guest Jared Barry (Mad Ape Games)

Holy smokes, today I have the privilege of sharing with you an interview with Jared Barry of Mad Ape Games!  Mr. Barry is the proud publisher of the gorgeous 2 player dueling game, Clash! Dawn of Steam, which funded back in July 16, 2014.   I recently reached out to Mr. Barry about Clash! and his latest projects, and he was gracious enough to give me a bit of his time.  Following are some great insights he’s picked up on his 1.5 year long journey to get Mad Ape Games off the ground.
 Mad Ape Games
I know you work in a print shop by day, but do you have any background in the game industry itself?
 I worked in a print shop for the past three years and just a couple months ago I was fortunate enough to transition into a position doing graphic design and marketing for a motorcycle company. This transition has allowed me to spend more time working on building up the studio, which has been just terrific.I don’t actually have any real work experience in the game industry prior to Mad Ape Games. Though I’ve been an avid gamer for the last 15 years, which may be an insignificant measure of time compared to some industry veterans, but considering I’m only 23 years old that’s more then half my life. I like to think about it like this, being so young I have plenty of time to build the studio and grow with the gaming industry. Everyday I wake up and feel so lucky to be healthy and to have the opportunity to make games for others to enjoy.
 See when I was 17 years old I found out jarringly that I had a rare form of cancer in my spinal cord, and that they would have to do emergency surgery to remove the tumor the next night. My chances of survival were very low (around 20%), yet I woke from the surgery in the ICU having suffered severe nerve damage but alive. Then I went through the gauntlet of chemotherapy, radiation, and physical therapy to fight off the cancer and get back to living my everyday normal life. I’ve now been living cancer free for five years proudly. The point of that back story is that when I was going through very hard times getting together and playing games with my friends pulled me through.
 That’s the magic and power of gaming, though many outsiders look at it just as some geeks rolling dice, for many it’s a great source of joy and positivity. If I can momentarily brighten up just one person’s world when they play my games then I am more then satisfied with spending the countless hours bringing those games to life.
 Clash! Dawn of Steam
Where did the idea for Clash! Dawn of Steam come from? How did it start? 
Well to be honest my first love is wargaming, but with the cost and room for error so high with regards to miniatures production I decided quickly that I wanted my first published game to be a card game.  Next I actually brainstormed what sort of mechanics I personally liked that I would want to put into it. I came up with the idea for a card game where one player lays siege to a city and the other defends it. Not an original idea by any stretch, yet, many of my favorite things included these types of epic sieges (Lord of the Rings, R.A. Salvatore books, Game of Thrones, Privateer Press, Final Fantasy to some extent etc). I really liked the idea of a fantasy world with no magic being suddenly hit by a storm and now magic is an unexpected reality for the people.
A lot of great questions stemmed from that concept, how would the different nations be affected? Surely some would be quick to embrace this “Dawn of Steam,” as the world is thrown into an industrial revolution fueled by magic. Others would be resistant to change like the Edenites in The Scuffle for the SS Rogue. So to answer the question I just became obsessed with this concept and tried to dig deep into this world of Asyria, that was the start in this case.
When did you KNOW that you had something special, here?
Well my first prototype for Dawn of Steam looked terrible with neon colors and the balance of the cards was crazy swingy, but the game had something I really liked about it. I think the thing I liked about it so much was that to me, the play felt reminiscent of an old Japanese rpg as players would watch what the opponent did then strategize how to outfox them most efficiently.
 Clash layout
Reading your descriptions of a huge world and the 2 decks in Dawn of Steam give the distinct impression that you have even more content waiting in the shadows. Why did you decide to move forward with these decks and characters, specifically?
I’d love to keep releasing 2-player boxed sets(as a matter of fact I have many plans to do so), thus really shedding more light on the world of Asyria. I am very much into story and narrative in gaming and though Dawn of Steam is a light card brawler I still wanted the fluff to be here for those interested. Honestly every game the studio releases will likely have some sort of narrative element whether weaved into the game or as a companion book.
I felt these factions represented the initial struggle to assimilate into this new world of magic really well. The Magister Praeta are religious alchemists who fight zealously for their god, the All Mother. Naturally they would be quick to industrialize, as it is a religious principle for them. Meanwhile the Salvation of Eden is a faction from the primitive island nation of Eden, they are hesitant to change. Prior to the Dawn of Steam Eden by location was safe from outside influence, as the sea was too treacherous for an army too reliably cross. With the invention of airships brought invaders from all corners of Asyria upon Eden, raiders eager to plunder the ancient treasures of the nation.
 At first the Edenites were no match for the technology wielding invaders and much pain and misery was inflicted upon the primitive locals. Cities burned, temples pillaged, many slaves stolen from their homes, and at the darkest hour the Primarch of Eden Zdeno Xao was poisoned and later went mad before being put to final rest by his people. Newly ascended cub Braeatak Xao was crowned Primarch of Eden, tears still in his eyes from the grief of his people, he vowed that this would never again happen. Guided by a human orphan who had been adopted by his people when she washed ashore many seasons past. The now adult Eve of Eden shared her insights as to how to beat the invaders by using this new technology against them.
 Together they wielded this new technology and drove the invaders from Eden. With Eden now in ruin they set sail with the remaining army to bring an unrelenting war to the main land, intent on rebuilding Eden by reclaiming all that had been stolen.
For those who are unfamiliar with your story, it took you 3 tries to
successfully fund. The funding goals and pledge amounts were wildly different each time. What kinds of changes to your approach of the campaign itself did you make each time?
 I guess you could say I’m resilient. Well I learned so much it’s hard to even find words to begin. I learned that everything needs to be ready for change, if a better solution is presented I’d be a fool to not at least consider it. This is the philosophy I adopted, and I posted all over the Internet trying to get as many minds to help me as possible. Some people will hate for the sake of hating, but most people in this gaming community really just want more awesome games to be released for the benefit of all.
 In this way I learned how great the community is and the value of sharing with any and all that would listen. I’m really glad that the campaign didn’t fund the first two times because it allowed me to refine the presentation that much more. My willingness to take good advice was the big change from then to now realistically, other then that just experience and coming upon the knowledge of James Mathes and his blog was hugely beneficial.
Were there any changes you made to the game? 
Many many changes were made, from mechanics to aesthetics to approach. It ties to the positive progression through feedback as mentioned above. I believe it’s important to be totally open to change, resistance is futile after all.
How much of your experience from Dawn of Steam is affecting your process with your next projects? Are there specific roadblocks which arose with Dawn of Steam that you are now planning / designing around? 
I wish I could say Dawn of Steam was perfect and that I was all knowing enough to foresee and prevent the little problems that arose, but honestly speed bumps did occur.  Mainly we printed the game here in California with a local print shop (note, not a game manufacturer). We thought the quality of the product would be through the roof with this approach and that the game would be done twice as fast as one coming from China, thus distinguishing our studio as a promising young studio.
Sure we knew it would be a big task to sort these games and fulfill them ourselves, but this was something I was willing to do for my dream of making games. This turned out to be a huge undertaking, not to be taken lightly, seriously other game designers don’t do this. I felt like if I did it this way just for the first game that it would give me a taste of the American dream, well I got more then a taste that much is certain. In the future we will be manufacturing with one of the Chinese factories, likely PandaGM. The quality of our American print shop was actually nowhere near as good as what was shown to us via samples and some of the cards were miscut after multiples send backs.
What can you do though but live and learn, I’m proud of CLASH! Dawn of Steam as our debut release at the end of the day.
Now that Clash! Dawn of Steam has been fulfilled and is moving into distribution, feel free to brag a bit about your next projects: Exfiltrate Xenos 9 and T. R. E. N. C. H. A Deep Sea RPG. 

Well these new projects have me giddy like a school girl, the first Exfiltrate Xenos 9 is an engine building points grab type board game in which players each become a different mutant waking up with amnesia from cryosleep in a creepy prison set to detonate. Mutate to survive as you try to learn as much about who you are as possible before the prison goes up in flames. This one is a blast and play testers have enjoyed it much so far, I’m excited to show the game industry what a young studio can do with the launch of this game.

T.R.E.N.C.H. is a roleplaying game set in a future where all land mass above sea level has been destroyed, as such civilization carries on at the bottom of the sea. People live in giant Sanctuaries on the bottom of the ocean, here only the bravest venture out across the open sea in ships called Vessels. An rpg about exploring a world of peril that aims to crush you. More to come on this subject in the future.

Any other thoughts? Advice?
My main advice to others who love games or aim to make games, just do it. Nike paid me to say that, seriously though, put equal parts passion and problem solving into the process and you will make it happen. Pay an editor or let your backers proof your game. Other advice pertains to being active in the community, this is an age of the internet, go make friends with others who share similar interests via facebook groups or bgg, or even in person at your local game store or convention.  Thanks again for your time my friend,
Thank you so much for your time and wisdom, Mr. Barry!  Wow.  This guy is going somewhere and doesn’t mind sharing how.  If you are interested in finding more information on Mad Ape Games you can find him on the the web HERE; his Kickstarter campaigns HERE, HERE, and HERE; on Twitter HERE; and on Facebook HERE.  Please, check him out, follow him, and thank him for taking the time to talk to us 😀

Let me know what you think