The 2013 ENnies nominations have been announced and voting is now open. I caught up with Justin Halliday of Hero Forge Games. Hero Forge Games’ role-playing game for kids, Hero Kids, was released last October and is up for a Best Family Game ENnie. Since then Justin has released seven adventures, as well as extra hero characters and an equipment pack. Voting begins on Monday, July 22 and runs to Wednesday, July 31. The ceremony itself will be on Friday, August 16, in the Union Station Grand Hall at 8 pm with the cocktail reception beginning at 6:30 pm.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your company.
Justin Halliday (JH): My company is Hero Forge Games, and it’s actually just me! I’m based in Melbourne, Australia, and I’m a professional videogame designer, producer, and manager.
My first RPG was a D&D variant called Heroes Against Darkness that I decided to create after playing a lot of D&D, from Basic to 4th Edition. Around the time I finished Heroes Against Darkness my daughter was just old enough to get interested in RPGs so I had a look around at some of the options to play with her. None of them really grabbed me; they were too simple, or too complicated, or too scrappy, and because of my design background I decided that I’d make my own game instead.
MT: Why should voters vote for your Hero Kids? What sets it apart?
JH: My goal with Hero Kids was to design a game that could be played by kids from 5 to 10, and would give them good foundation in the fundamentals of role-playing games: combat, exploration, and role-playing. Since its release, I’ve continued to support the game, so if someone buys the Complete Bundle, they’re getting 281 pages of materials for the game for just $15.
The other aspect of Hero Kids that really sets it apart is that it encourages the kids to use their imaginations to engage with the stories, to solve puzzles, and to have exciting and fantastic adventures. The game doesn’t pander to or talk down to kids, I prefer to use more advanced and evocative words and imagery (without profanity or overt violence) because kids at this age absorb so much that they’re exposed to.
MT: How do you feel about the state of the gaming industry today?
JH: I’m really an outsider to the industry, so my perspective is probably very different from that of people working in America. From the outside I can see the maturation of the big RPGs like D&D, which has led to a an explosion of small press and self-published work, especially with sites like DriveThruRPG that sell PDFs.
MT: How hard is it for a game publisher in this economy?
JH: I imagine that it’s very hard for a company that’s trying to compete with the big publishers with print products. But advances and quality improvements to print-on-demand mean that companies can offer print products without the large up-front costs they would have had in the past.
MT: How has Kickstarter changed or influenced your business model, if at all?
JH: I’m based in Australia, so I can’t technically use Kickstarter for my games. The trick with Kickstarter is to already have an audience that you can sell to. There’s not much chance of success for unknown companies trying to launch ‘groundbreaking’ new products.
MT: What’s next for your company?
JH: I’ll continue to support Hero Kids while there’s demand and interest in the game. At the same time I’m working on another RPG system that isn’t just another variant of D&D. :-)
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
JH: You can read all about my work on Hero Kids at the game’s blog and you can get Hero Kids from DriveThruRPG.
MT: Anything else you’d like to share?
JH: Just that Hero Kids’ recognition wouldn’t have been possible without the ongoing support of you mums and dads who’ve bought the game to share with your kids and to raise a whole new generation of role-players. And if anyone wants to support Hero Kids, they can buy a copy or even vote for the game in the ENnie awards Best Family Game category.
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