UnPub 7 Recap: Part 1 Designer Day

Last Friday morning we went to Baltimore, MD for UnPub 7. This convention is aimed at game designers looking for people to playtest their unpublished games. I signed up to go last year, but didn’t end up going because I didn’t have a prototype ready to go in time. This year I did, and was preparing to take Astroventure. If you remember my visit to the UnPub Mini at Bethany College, that was to prepare my pitch and my ability to demonstrate my game before going to UnPub Prime.

Friday – Designer Day

We got in right before 5 on Friday. Friday is Designer Day, where designers and VIP playtesters can come together and listen to some panels, play each others games, and participate in a silent auction. By the time we arrived, most of the panels were finished. But we did get to hear the UnPub update which included information like the UnPub network is now an official non-profit entity recognized by the IRS, when UnPub 8 will be next year, and that UnPub Midwest will be coming this November to Grand Rapids, MI. That’s very exciting because it’s closer for us to get to Grand Rapids than it is to get to Baltimore. I was also talking on the way there about looking for a fall gaming event to go to. So now I’m waiting for May when the registration for that opens up.

After those announcements we met up with a couple of designers that I know and in particular Matt Wolfe gave me some tips on pitching and selling the game since this is the first time I’ve really had to do that. We had a light dinner and then they held the silent auction. While the results took a long time to get through, I can’t really complain, because it raised $2,361 for Dravat Syndrome research. Mike Mullins, the secretary of the UnPub organization lost his son last November to the disease so they made sure every last cent that they could send from the auction went to the charity in his son’s name.

After the auction was over (I didn’t win anything, but I did get one of the games that Matt won from his giant stack of games), we got into it, and a few designers tested out Astroventure. The game moved at a pretty decent pace, clocking in at around 90 minutes for a four player game, which is a new record for shortest time. More importantly, it’s on track with my desired playtime of about 60-75 minutes for a 4 player game. They sat around and gave a lot of good feedback. I haven’t had as much feedback from designers which proved to be incredibly helpful. Having designed games before themselves, I got to see problems that I was blind to from inexperience. Flow issues are not an inherent downfall, but a common problem with game design that needs to be accounted for. Some of the feedback I got was small enough to be incorporated this weekend, but some would have to wait until I got home to work on.

After that we played one of Drew’s games and talked about how it could work better. It’s a neat concept that needs some decisions made about the approach, but I think it’s got some good promise for a successful design. Rachael and I then went back to the hotel room, talking about the ideas that could be done and getting ready for the next day (read: passed out rather quickly).

I had plans to continue this into the rest of UnPub, but I have so much to write I think I’m going to spread these out so that it’s not just one huge wall of text. I’ll have part 2 up very soon.