Elevator Interview: Sean Billson of Timeless Caverns

Here at BloodLetterPress, we’re all about supporting other designers and creatives like us in their kickass projects. One of the ways we do that is by interviewing these creators in the hopes that readers gain a deeper understanding of the ideas and the feelings that forged their work. But it’s also 2018, and we know that ain’t nobody got time to read a 3k word in-depth interview.

So here’s our solution; if someone can do an “elevator pitch” of a product, it’s also possible to do a carefully-curated interview in a similar time restriction; in this case, you can read this interview in the same amount of time it takes to get from the ground floor to the top floor of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in their super-fast elevator.

Our subject is Sean Billson of Timeless Caverns production studio. They are the lead designer for Fuel Priest, a game that was just successfully funded on Kickstarter! We gave them five hard-hitting questions about their game to inspire and excite new fans, and to spotlight more local creators in our community.

What aspects of other media or games inspired you in the process of creating Fuel Priest?

Definitely the concept of paladins, or holy warriors; the game Dogs in the Vinyard plays with the same idea, and I took some inspiration from that. Also the lack of cohesion I saw in other games; I’m talking about ludonarrative dissonance, between the game mechanics and the narrative. The most classic example is Dungeons and Dragons; I think the way it’s being played and the way it’s marketed to be played doesn’t line up with how the mechanics are built. It’s built as a combat game but marketed as a role-playing game. You have all these crazy cool options in combat, but talking to someone is just one die roll.

If Fuel Priest was produced as a videogame, what genres do you think would it work well in and why?

If I had to pick, you could either do the slow-burn character drama, or the high-flying action game. But I think if you were to translate Fuel Priest into a videogame, you would lose too much to have a cohesive experience. I don’t think this is unique to my game; in the act of turning a table-top game into a videogame, you lose the ability of spontaneity. Every action you take as a player in a videogame is constrained by things that other designers thought of.  

Imagine you just played an amazing session of Fuel Priest, and give me the highlights.

Oh, I don’t have to imagine! In one session someone chased down and flew into a cargo plane, grabbed what they needed and shot their way out the other end. Someone else performed a Miracle, exploded, destroying a giant sandworm and an entire city. One of my favorite moments is when someone misjudged their character’s strength on the ground, so they kicked down a door and got gunned down; they promptly learned how damage works in this game!

What do you think is a great asset of yours that you add to the Fuel Priest dev team?

I’m very pretty. *sparkles a bit* I’m also just very nitpicky in design. I feel like I’m good at talking to folks and being the token extrovert of the team, sort of representing us physically.

I’m also very pretty.

What do you hope players will gain or learn by playing Fuel Priest, and how does the game design help with that?

I hope that people who play this game will think about the ramifications of monopolies, and will look critically at how modern capitalism doesn’t benefit the working class. On the GM’s side, we provide tools to represent everybody’s struggles realistically and with respect. On the player’s side, in order to represent their lack of resources, the entire game is about resource management- of your own energy, and the materials you have.

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BLP sends their heartfelt congratulations to Sean and the rest of the Timeless Caverns team, and we’re massively excited to see what they come up with next! Also, as of the time of this writing, there’s still 7 days to back Fuel Priest on Kickstarter! The project’s campaign successfully ends on April 8th.

— Nagi