Blog - Interview: Florian Fay for Misty

11.06.2019 By Chloé Girodon
Interview: Florian Fay for Misty

 

You’ve always wondered how your favorites boardgames are made? For the release of Misty, the latest of our Helvetiq’s Pocket Games, we had the chance to discuss with Florian Fay, the author of the game. Here are a detailed interview about his process of creation and the work with the publisher.

Florian Fay : the interview

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes 

Hello Florian, and thanks for answering our questions for the release of Misty.

Hello, and thank you, it is always nice to have the different actors around a game solicited. 

 

First, can you quickly introduce yourself, for those who doesn't know you yet?

Not much to say, I’m a math teacher, a job that I like a lot and that often serves me in creation; father of 3 children whom I also love a lot and who also often serve me in creation (especially for playtests) and mountain biker on Saturday morning. But today for this interview, I am a game author ;)

 

How did you get into board gaming? And what made you go from simple player to game author?

Hard to find patient 0: as a child, I was already creating protos by copying existing games or creating scenarios for Heroquest (which I still own!). It was the game Bohnanza that brought me back into the world of the "modern" boardgames quite a few years ago now. I quickly wanted to dissect the mechanics and try to create my own games. But it was encounters at times that really got me across the fence. When you've never published games, and people you don't know consider you seriously as an author or enjoy your proto as a player, it plants seeds that grow.

 

You’ve published very different games (worker placement in Arriala, cooperative narrative game in Greenville 1989, tile building with Wonderzoo). How do you create a game, where do you start from? Do you have an identical process for each of your games, or is it different every time?

So that's an easy question: I cannot answer it precisely. With each creation it is the complete mess in my brain: sometimes it’s a theme (a comic book, a movie), a mechanics, an object, a feeling that I would like to transcribe into a game... everything is a pretext for creation. Sometimes too much. I often get lost, go in many directions, give up and come back years afterwards. It take pleasure in experimentation, selfishly in my desires.

 

And precisely, for Misty (your latest one and your 10th publication, well done, that calls for celebration!), what were your desires? How did you come up with the idea of the game, and what came first: the theme, or the mechanics?

Thanks for the anniversary ;)

"Misty" means "embué" in French and it was the name of the proto at the end of the creation process. The idea came simply by seeing my children drawing with their fingers on the foggy windows. I thought it could be a really interesting theme to develop. From then on, the theme never changed, the mechanics did.

 

For us, Misty is particular because it is a family game (published in our Pocket collection, a range of games from 6 years old, with short games and simple rules), but it uses a mechanism that is more common in gamers game with a draft: was the combination of the 2 the combination of the two a will from the beginning?

A will from the beginning, no. But it's something I try to do regularly. For example with Arriala (released 10 years ago!), I proposed a game with action points for a family audience and a duration of 25 minutes without a big set up: a playful snapshot. The idea of proposing "gamer" mechanics for simpler games often allows everyone (little, passionately, madly, or even non-players) to enjoy themselves.

For Misty, at the beginning, in 2013, I had started on something dreamlike, a bit like "Dixit" (to quote the master game). I wanted to highlight the poetry of the theme, but I didn't find the right method: the "finger drawings" being very simple by definition, they didn't allow me to find an interesting balance between narrative and playful (which I found with Greenville 1989 a few years later). However, the fact that a car had to move forward, a balloon had to rise seemed important to me. Then it went in many directions.

 

Ten games and ten years then, double anniversary to celebrate! Can you give us some details about Misty's development process, from this first idea to the final version of the game?

There have been many attempts: for example, I’ve first created some character cards on transparent cards. There was a large window in front of all the players (a face-down rectangle of cards). Players moved their characters over the cards and at the same time the cards that made up the window were flipped to show drawings. Obviously each drawing had powers and you had to catch stars or hearts, while avoiding the monster, cars, etc. It was a kind of evolutionary "catch flag", but it didn't work either, too random, without challenge.

Misty, the new Pocket game, a card game from Florian Fay published by the Swiss game & book publisher Helvetiq

Then came a phase where the players each had their own window in front of them but they were "connected", i.e. my car card that went to the right, came out of my window to go to the opponent's window and the same thing to the left, down and above. It was funny, but very difficult to play for young players.

Misty, the new Pocket game, a card game from Florian Fay published by the Swiss game & book publisher Helvetiq

Finally I removed the passage between the windows. So all that remained was your own window to program. Because yes, in the end the game (without saying it) is about programming. There are many mechanisms for choosing cards: market, open picks, exchanges, etc. The draft (choosing one or more cards and passing the rest to your neighbor) is a mechanism that I really appreciate, and as I create especially to please myself, I have integrated it. Indeed, the draft has that something elegant: not only is it fast (all players choose simultaneously), it smoothes the chance of a pickaxe and with a little practice we know the cards that will come back and we can therefore refine our strategy. This allows you to have a "gamer" feeling on a small game. The combination of the two worked right away.

Misty, the new Pocket game, a card game from Florian Fay published by the Swiss game & book publisher Helvetiq

  

Once the creation is done, what phases did the game go through before presenting it to the publisher? Did you test it with your family, friends, or at fairs?

The question is asked in an interesting way. I think that once the creation is finished I have it tested by my entourage, my friends, then at a festival and last to a publisher. In fact, it is an iterative creation: the first circle for the first proto (usually very ugly) with family, very close friends; then the 2nd circle with a more accomplished proto and more diverse players, etc. I open with several circles. Not everyone is able to play with handwritten cards, rules that change in the game, etc. You have to identify who you have in front of you to know what to get from the playtest.

Tests are a part of the creative process. My big question is when can I present the game to a publisher? If it is ultra-complete, a publisher may not be able to project himself and add his style. If the game is not stable and the publisher is not willing to/can't develop it, the chance is lost. I always have in mind that I can only have one presentation of the game to a publisher. No need to come back a year later with the same game, even if it is different (but I may be wrong).

 

How was the encounter with your publisher: did you send it to many publishing houses?

As I wrote above, I have a job I like and for which I’m payed every month. The creation of a game is a plus, with no obligation, no need to sign to pay off my loans. However, I do not consider myself as someone doing a more or less lucrative hobby but as an author, maybe not quite professional but at least semi-professional. So I try to do everything I can (from creation to communication once the game is published), and to defend the status of author as much as possible at my level. But this "financial freedom" in game creation also allows me to take the time (even if I often relaunch publishers ;) ), in other words, I offer my game to 2 publishers with whom I would like to work and for whom I think the game is the target. And every time I get a negative answer, I propose it to another publisher or I give up because the feedback is very relevant and it would be useless to continue to propose it to others. In further details, I recently signed 2 games with only one publisher for each and I currently have prototypes tested by only one publisher because I remain convinced that it is made for its range. We'll see if it works, but what's certain is that it takes time and you have to be patient (which I'm not always). 

As for Misty, a "child-targeted" publisher did not accept it because it was not easy for the youngest for example, so finding a family range was perfect. After discovering Bandido, I thought that my game could really fit in this beautiful range, next to other great authors. I simply contacted Helvetiq, in particular Hadi, to offer him a video and the rules of the game. At the same time I met Julien de Wilson Jeux, Helvetiq's distribution manager in France, at the PEL festival (Paris Est Ludique) to make a "live" presentation. It's always better to be able to talk about a game face to face.

 

Once the game found its place at Helvetiq’s, how did the collaboration with the publisher go? Did the game changed a lot after that?

Helvetiq’s team asked me to change a few things here and there. I made a lot of micro-changes: the idea of the game remains the same, just a different scoring, or a little spider added, etc. Finally, we got back to the first version of the game. The changes were all interesting, but not more than the initial game.

The only modification we did was switch from a 3 by 3 window to a 4 by 3 (or 3 by 4) window: it adds more freedom in the construction phase, lasts a little longer, but mostly, the draft (which is now 2 times 6 cards) gets back to the player with therefore a fienst possibility to choose the cards. The double core of the game draft/programming is now reinforced. We kept the 3 by 3 mode for children or beginners. So there was not a lot of changes after all: the idea, the theme, the sensations all stay the same.

Misty, the new Pocket game, a card game from Florian Fay published by the Swiss game & book publisher HelvetiqMisty, the new Pocket game, a card game from Florian Fay published by the Swiss game & book publisher Helvetiq

Before / After 

And the name also changed, right?

The game was called Buée (“fog” in French) from the beginning. At some point, I tried “F.O.G.: Fog On the Glass”, but the players still called it Buée. I kept Buée, and it’s Helvetiq who changed it [Publisher’s note: to keep the same name worldwide, we choose the english version of the title]. It is not a really well-known English word, and I fear that it would refer to the Mistigri on France. But it should do it anyway ;)

 

How long did it take from the creation to the release of the game?

Looking up the dates of the first files on my computer, they are from July 2013, and the game is released in June 2019… 6 years. But I did not spend 6 years looking for a publisher, I spend 6 years creating and developing it. Actually, I’m really versatile, I have an idea, here it was the theme as already explained, but it doesn’t work out. I drop it, let it mature, sometimes I have the desire to get back to it, sometimes one of my testing friends asks me where I am on this project. In that case, I tell myself that the game is probably interesting somehow and I get back to it. It is then very difficult for me to quantify the time that I spend on a project. Fortunately, some prototypes are more "obvious" to create and if I find a publisher quickly it can go faster.

For Misty, I contacted Helvetiq on May 21, 2018 for an appointment at the PEL fair (Paris Est Ludique) in June 2018, and we signed the contract in October 2018. 

 

The release of the game is imminent, and now it’s in the hands of sellers… and players. How do you feel when your games come out? 

Impatience, pleasure! The impatience to have "my" box, to have the players' feedback. The pleasure of seeing my work transformed, my game come to life on its own. I have a little distance now and I take the bad feedback less head-on, I focus on the good (or very good) ones and try to make the most of them.

For example, for Greenville 1989, the publisher suggested that I come to Cannes, I spent more than 4 hours a day on their booth and as the game is very popular, I stayed there much longer. I took advantage of it as much as I could alongside the SorryWeAreFrench team (the game's publisher). 

 

And now… what’s next? What are your next projects?

I’m not sure what I can say or not by the time this interview is broadcast. Let's say I have 6 projects in the pipeline that should lead up to 2021.

The most surprising one is this summer's one, I'm staying on the Swiss side with a game that will serve as a "goodie" during a festival. This will be the game of the festival, I answered a call for proto that I won, this festival is the Fête des Vignerons in Vevey, an extraordinary festival that takes place every 20 years and is part of the intangible heritage of humanity. I am very curious about all this.

For the rest, projects alone or in co-creation, different things but always the same line: pleasure first and foremost.

 

Any final word?

The End? It's hard to close an interview alone like that, thank you for the questions, thank you to those who have the courage to read me to the end, and thank you again if you liked what I wrote.

I look forward to meeting and talking around a game table.

Thanks again Florian. To find Misty, go here or to your favorite game store :)

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