Monday, November 12, 2012

Interview with Derak Morrell, designer of We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre!

by Randy

Craving brains? I recently ran across Derak Morrell, the designer of We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre via social media. I saw the art of his game on Kickstarter and was very impressed. We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre is in the last week of its funding campaign and I wanted to talk to Derak about this game, game design and Kickstarter. Here we go!


Growing Up Gamers: Tell me about We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre. What makes this game
stand out among similar-themed games?

Derak Morrell: In We Are Dead players are turned into zombies before the game even
starts and from that their objectives have changed. Instead of a game
where you want to flee or fight the undead, you combat the fleeing or
fighting living. With this game we also avoided the hardcore horror that
can come with a zombie game and went with a more cartoon tongue-in-cheek
art style.

GUG: What came first: the theme, or the mechanics?

DM: I always wanted to do something with zombies. For most of my games they
are theme driven as theme will usually show me what I want the players to
feel or do during the game and then I use mechanics to bring that to life.
With 'We Are Dead' I knew from the start that I wanted the players to be
the zombies and from there used elements that would stage that event.

GUG: I am impressed with the art for this game. How did you find the artists
for the game?

DM: When the game was first being worked on in late 2011 I attended several
smaller comic conventions in Southern California "shopping" for artists.
When I went by Mike Morris and Mike Colins' booth at the Long Beach Comic
Con I pitched them the game and they were excited from the start. A few
emails later and we went into art production.

GUG: One thing I learned is that when you undertake a creative project,
whether writing or designing a game, you have to make tough choices.
Sometimes, that means abandoning a mechanic or sub-theme that doesn't fit.
What was the toughest decision you made in the design of We Are Dead?

DM: In the early versions of the game I wanted the players to control a hero
character and a zombie character, but it wasn't fluid enough for the game.
The heroes fit in better as part of the hand management and as quick
reactions on other players' turns.

GUG: Why Kickstarter? Was crowdfunding We Are Dead your first choice, or did
you try the more traditional approach of pitching the game to publishers?
Why or why not?

DM: I always knew I wanted to use Kickstarter. I love it as a vehicle to gauge
interest in a game and bring a project to life. Starting my own business
has always been my ultimate goal, and I have a roster of games that I've
been developing since I was working as a game designer in the video game

Kickstarter also allows people to have direct input on a project. The
feedback is great to get before the game is pressed and I wanted to offer
ways for players to be more involved. We have pledge levels where players
can name a card or even help design one for the expansion!

GUG: Who will most enjoy your game?

DM: Tom Vasel compared the feel of the game to 'Kill Doctor Lucky', which I
think points to the casual nature of the game. The game will appeal to
casual players who like to avoid downtime in a game, and of course, great

The game plays best with 3 or 4 players and is a great game to relax and
play. The turns are quick because you never know what another player is
holding; you never know which hero you will face. The game also allows for
aggressive and defensive play styles.

GUG: What is the most important lesson you can give to aspiring game
designers, especially those looking to self-publish?

DM: Do your research. There are so many different aspects to self-publishing.
Not only do you have to flesh-out the game design (which is a skill set
all its own), you have to be a producer. You will have to balance the art
schedule with getting quotes from manufacturers and at some point inject a
marketing plan and schedule. Once all that stuff is line up (after
financing) you have logistics, which if you don't plan for correctly can
ruin all of the effort you put into the other areas if it leads to a
financial burden or you can't get the game into the players' hands.


We're looking forward to trying out We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre, and hope Derak the best. I for one am hoping to see him hit all those stretch goals for the player miniatures! Please pop over and take a look at We Are Dead: Zombie Mall Massacre on Kickstarter, or join in the discussion on their entry on BoardGameGeek.

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