Tempest: Origins

Tempest: Origins

by John Zinser, AEG CEO

“You make what you play.”

A wise game designer once told me that, and after 20 years of making games I tend to agree with that statement. There is no doubt that companies bandwagon for money, but many trends in gaming happen because game designers play new types of games and it inspires them to take that idea further or finish an idea they have not been able to get quite right.

I had played the standard Euro board games that all the standard gamers in the USA play. I had enjoyed them all, but was not inspired by them until going to Essen.

I spent my first two years at Essen just playing games. This is unusual for someone in the gaming industry, since trade shows are where we do much of our business. I went the first year to scout out the show, and then I came back the next year with fellow staffer Mark Wootton and we spent a great weekend playing games. It was during this weekend that I got addicted to Euro games.

Eurogames became what I played, and with that they became what I wanted to make.

While we were scouting for more games to play, we got to talking about what we were experiencing: a variety of excellent games, each in its own world. Unlike, say, developing trading card games, each new game had to start from scratch. New mechanics, new art, new everything.

Then we came across this one game that sparked a brainstorm. It had a board that was four feet to a side, and was exceptionally complex, almost like a Droste effect, or a fractal.

I looked at that and thought about a game that would grow like that. And it struck me: AEG does game worlds very well. Why not a game world that grew with each release? Why not tie together a whole line of Euro games, each one reflecting the game world like a Droste effect keeps reflecting itself? In short, why not a shared world for the style of board games we were playing?

Mark and I are both fantasy geeks so our brainstorm led down the road of a multi-game fantasy world, and eventually had quite a detailed outline.

When I returned to the US, I pitched the idea to our team at the home office. As is often the case, my staff realized that we had blended two very good ideas: a shared world Euro game world and a fantasy game which needed to be spun off into something completely different. So we split the lines and focused on developing a shared world and some games in it that would capture the elegant feeling we had while playing games at Essen.

It was easy to get started. We believe that a world fleshes itself out through the people, so we started with the people of Tempest. Very quickly, we agreed that the foundational concept for Tempest games is that they would be about the people, not just the places in the city, or the commodities that flowed in and out.

We built our brand guide and started contacting design friends and working on designs in office. That was a little over 4 years and two teams ago. Tempest has had its successes and its failures. We have shelved 8–10 game ideas that just did not quite make the grade, looked at over 100 submissions, and logged countless hours pushing wood to get where we are today.

It is always fun when a spark of an idea becomes something you can touch feel and love. Mark and I could not be happier with the end result of that weekend-long brainstorm. I am extremely proud of the Web Resource we launched for our designers and developers. We think it will really help designers give us their best games set in our world.

We are eager to bring Tempest to you, and we will be in back in Essen this fall to celebrate the launch of the first three games.

We hope to see you there.