Vaults, the first game by the 4Hogs crew, is a steampunk-themed card game about cracking safes. The “Hogs” were nice enough to sit down with me for an interview. Here’s what they had to say about games, design, and Nutella.
1. First things first. I need to know about the nicknames. Why Hogs? Why Scar Hog, Digital Hog, Grammar Hog, and King Hog?
Well, that’s a funny story. As there are four of us we went through a lot of different names for our team and the only one that we all agreed upon was Hogs. We are aware the name might sound funny to some people but we like it. Anyway, when we decided how we will call the team, Ivan (Digital Hog) insisted on nicknames as each of us has a specific role in the team.
The simplest nickname to come up with was for Ivan Kraljić as his surname in English literary means king and in most games he used variations of this for his nickname. Therefore King Hog or König Hog was born. Also, he bosses us around like a king sometimes.
Hrvoje has a scar above his left eye from a medical operation he underwent a long time ago so he became Scar Hog. He is also the one who scars every game mechanic with his overpowered ideas, over the top solutions and usually starts his monolog with „this might be a bit overpowered but it might work“. After that his ideas usually gets disassembled by the rest of us and mutate into something useful.
Grammar Hog aka Goran got his name for constantly and a bit obsessively rechecking our grammar. It goes so far that Digital started making mistakes on purpose just to annoy him. He is also the most grounded and keeps us from going too far with some crazy ideas we usually…constantly get.
Last and in no means the least is the other Ivan aka Digital Hog. There are a couple of reasons why he got that nickname. He does our graphic design, web, mathematics and statistics as he is a strange chap who likes that sort of stuff. Also, we sometimes don’t understand his ideas as he talks in this strange manner. We’re pretty sure he would be burned at the stake in the old times.
2. In a recent update for the Kickstarter, Scar Hog mentioned that he had “an itch for new and exciting games but nothing fills that need”. What were your gaming lives like up to this revelation?
We played various games but at that point we mostly played PnP RPGs. Since there is four of we naturally had our preferences. For example Hrvoje enjoyed card games, both Ivans were hard core on RPGs and Goran was sort of the all-rounder. There was one type of games he never liked and those were trading card games. After various RPGs we starter to mix different systems with new setups and after a while we started to work on PnP RPG of our own. That was basically the real beginning of our game development story.
3. I’m sure your backstory is more interesting than Scar Hog crying and Digital Hog talking in binary code. Can you tell me a bit about how you ended up doing a Kickstarter that was about vault cracking and not defending towers?
Well, we kind of started every project with one idea and ended with something else entirely. Scar Hog wanted us to create something that would be easier to publish so he came up with and created this, really bad and imbalanced, sci-fi mercenaries vs. mutants tower defense board game. After the initial prototype was done he wanted us to be honest about that game and we took it and him apart…mostly Digital Hog who honestly takes things a bit too seriously sometimes. When we say a bit we mean a lot as Digital hated that game so much he designed this simple hex-based game just to make Scar test it and suffer… Yes this sounds a bit crazy but that’s us, we argue, yell and scream…you could call it a creative process we have.
Anyway, Scar went back to the drawing board, still shaking from the torture that Digital gave him and he came up with the first version of Vaults. Scared of Digital’s “honesty” he showed it to Grammar Hog first and the second version of Vaults was born. Now it was time for honesty again, but this time Digital thought that the game was good and only needed to be less complicated. When we said that Digital talks in binary code it means that we usually don’t understand his mathematical reasoning (insanity) and that’s one of many reasons King Hog is here. He has this uncanny knack for translating Digital’s binary jibber-jabber into human language. We got rid of the tokens and made an action based system in Vaults version 3, then we introduced tools in version 4, had a big problem how to balance vaults and crews which was solved by boss cards in version 5.
Each version was tested by us (and rules were exploited by King Hog), but the true input we got was from our game testers. Tweaking of the game rules and mechanics ended at version 9. Now we have balanced game mechanics and means to develop this game further in multiple directions.
4. Speaking of Kickstarters, your first time Kickstarting Vaults didn’t fund. What lesson(s) did you take away from that experience?
That was a big blow for us but we didn’t want to lie down and die. You must understand that we want to make this our full time job and to do that we need to listen and learn, especially from our backers. The first time fail thought us about timing, social media, promotion, and all the things that actually have nothing to do with game development on which we focused most of our time. We were inexperienced and that was our biggest downfall.
5. Looking at the differences between the two Kickstarters, it looks like you actually took time to rework the project based on feedback and lessons learned. What changes were the hardest to make?
Well, we worked really hard to cover the cost of artwork and design in order to lower the goal. Also we decided to make a new video with new narrator and we asked Digital to make some new visuals for the campaign. We can’t say what the hardest part was really. It all melted in one pool of work we suppose…
6. In the most recent update, you mentioned being in Croatia. Do you think living there has impacted your design and publishing process any? How so?
Hmmm…Croatians can be very competitive and that posed some difficulties during the game development. For example when foreigners played the game they had slight concerns regarding private vault cracking. Croatian testers loved that part and even suggested more PvP elements for the game. When it comes to publishing, for now we feel that things might be less complicated in other countries of EU and USA since we are a very small market.
7. What advice would you offer new designers considering Kickstarting their game for the first time?
Listen to your backers but do not break under pressure if things get a little unrealistic. Keep a clear vision of your project and give as much information as possible…data, data, data one cannot make bricks without clay ☺
8. I read that you would like to use this project as a base for future projects. Is there anything you can share about possible upcoming projects?
We have a massive Pen and Paper game that was developed for 5 years and this game is a universe of its own. It is very complex and a too big of a step for us at this time but this world is a great pool of ideas. So drawing from this we have a plan for a few games. We can tell you there is a board game and a dungeon crawler card game in development based on this world.
And yes, we plan on expanding Vaults, giving the game even more depth with custom lore and game expansions.
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, who would you want to play a board game with? What game would you play?
Digital Hog: I never lost a game of Small World and would love to play it against its creator Philippe Kenaerts.
Grammar Hog: A few games of chess with my own clone. And I would accuse him of cheating every time.
Scar Hog: Gloom with late Robin Williams! I think would laugh for days.
King Hog: Clue against Ellis Parker!
2. What would constitute a “perfect” game day for you?
Digital Hog: 24 hours uninterrupted gaming time with beer and friends.
Grammar Hog: See above.
Scar Hog: Since it has been a while I would really LOVE to do a 24 hour Dungeons and Dragons run. I would even settle with a scenario in huge Dungeon filled with Dragons!
King Hog: Nice and easy gaming day with my older daughter followed by uninterrupted gaming evening with beer and friends.
3. What is your greatest gaming accomplishment?
Digital Hog: Never lost a game of Monopoly or Small World. Math rules!
Grammar Hog: I have never won a game of Vaults. Ever. Perfect record!
Scar Hog: Critical miss roll that resulted in blowing Digital into little pieces. Yes it pretty much ended our game but the look on his face was precious!
King Hog: I am still waiting for my moment. I just hope my wife will give me a Talisman rematch soon.
4. List five things you consider positive characteristics of the gaming community.
- Criticism (you learn the most from it)
5. Tell us something you like about the board game industry.
The best part about gaming industry is the fact that it really brings people together. We play PC games of course but it’s really not the same thing is it?
6. What do you think is a problem in the board game industry? How would you try to solve it?
Even with modern distribution channels and funding opportunities, games are still pretty expensive where we come from. Especially board games with many figurines and other miniatures games. Problem could be solved with 3D printing of such components where one would only need to buy digital “templates” of desired gaming components.
7. Name three things someone needs to successfully game with you.
- Bring snacks
- Bring beer
- His / Her own dice ( bad mojo to share dice)
8. How do you feel about Nutella? Do you have a favorite recipe?
Digital Hog: Yes open the jar and eat it, then repeat until the jar is empty!
Grammar Hog: Evil incarnated. The work of the devil. Stay clear. You have been warned. [Comment has clearly been mistranslated from Croatian and deleted to avoid confusion.]
Scar Hog: Let’s just say my girlfriend locks it away from me…Recipe? Nice thick spread on a hot bun sprinkled with white chocolate and nuts! Nutellitious!
King Hog: Mmmm…Braiiii…ehm…yeah best served with hot flapjacks
Links to 4Hogs Media