Rushing to the Rescue: Joe Hopkins on EndangeredApril 28, 2020
Ryan talks with game designer, Joe Hopkins, about his new co-op game, Endangered.
Joe, thanks for taking the time out to do this interview. For those that don’t know you are the designer of the co-op game, Endangered, which just came out. For those that may not know about the game could you tell us some about it?
Joe: Endangered is a game where the players work together to save a species from extinction. The retail version comes with the tiger and sea otter scenarios. The panda expansion is already available.
Endangered is a dice placement game. Instead of fixed actions, the players build a tableau of actions that any player may use by placing their dice on the actions. However, the die you place must be larger than the dice already on that action. So the players have to cooperate to avoid blocking valuable action spaces.
To win the game, the players must influence Ambassadors to gain their votes. Each Ambassador cares about different things, but at the start of the game the players don’t know which Ambassadors are available. So your win conditions are revealed as the game progresses.
The game plays 1 to 5 players and takes around an hour.
What drew you to this theme for the game?
Joe: The environment has always been important to me, so it was pretty easy picking a theme where people work together. However, it took me 7 years of game design before I decided to try to make a co-op game. I’m glad I finally did, though. It’s been fun designing a co-op and even better that it’s a theme I am passionate about.
How much research went into Endangered when it comes to the theme?
Joe: Oh my gosh, a lot. At least a few hours on each scenario. I looked at the threats each of these species faces and what’s being done to protect them, so I could accurately portray them in the game. I wanted to be informative as well as fun. Each threat card has a flavor text explaining what it is.
You (and the publisher) teamed up with the Center for Biological Diversity. What role did they play?
Joe: The Center for Biological Diversity played the game and checked our facts. They gave suggestions on art and animals for future expansions. One of the pledge levels let backers donate a copy to the Center to distribute to schools and learning programs.
Let’s talk about the educational factor of Endangered. What do you think it teaches or reinforces and how can it be used in a classroom environment?
Joe: Endangered not only teaches about the threats these animals face, but also the efforts being done to protect them. For example, in the sea otter scenario the players face an oil spill. Many of the cards are things like skimmers and booms that conservationists use in dealing with oil spills.
The game highlights the importance of cooperation in conservation efforts. It also shows government’s role in protecting these species, because without legislation we cannot hope to see long term recovery.
We also first made sure the game is fun. Students will always be more engaged if it’s fun regardless of the topic.
What was the most surprising or cool thing that stuck with you when researching the theme for Endangered?
Joe: I think the thing that surprised me the most was in 2016 giant pandas were removed from endangered status. Pandas are one of the iconic species people think of when talking about conservation. They have a lot of threats facing them and even though they are not endangered there is still work being done to protect them.
I was not expecting that to happen. I had already created the panda scenario and signed the game with Grand Gamers Guild at that time, so I didn’t know what to do. We decided to keep the scenario. It highlights that recovery is possible. It’s not always doom and gloom.
What are some other animal scenarios you’ve been working on and will we be seeing them in the future?
Joe: have a whole bunch in various stages of development. Whether we produce them is going to depend on the success of the initial game. I do hope we get to do expansions. I have a working scenario for:
Devils Hole Pupfish
And a few others
We also have a Celebrity player deck and campaign cards. I’ve been working with DAI’s Prevent program in Peru to create a Jaguar/Tapir scenario.
Is there an animal module that you really like out of those that you hope gets made as an expansion?
Joe: My wife convinced me to do a Devils Hole Pupfish scenario. They are the rarest fish in the world. I like the way it turned out. The publisher is skeptical, but I hope we do that one. It has some fun mechanics.
I also hope that the partnership with DAI works out so we can do a scenario with them, too.
Before we go, in your opinion makes a good co-op game? What advice do you have out there for anyone that may want to design a co-op?
Joe: I love co-op games of all sorts, but the ones that really stand out tend to lead to nail-biting games. Those are the games where the players are right on the edge of both winning and losing at the same time. That kind of balance is difficult to pull off, but to do it the win and loss conditions need to be independent.
If my win condition was to get 20 animals and my loss condition was get to 0 animals the game wouldn’t be fun. If you are at 18 animals you know you will win and if you are at 2 then you know you will lose. That’s boring.
You need ending states that are independent so that players are close to both winning and losing. To facilitate this the game needs to offer both offensive and defensive actions and a timer. Offense moves you closer to winning. Defense prevents you from losing. If players are too offensive, the board gets out of control and they lose. If players are too defensive, the timer runs out. They have to have a balanced strategy and leads to a lot of fun games.
As we do come to a close, is there anything else you like us to know about Endangered?
Joe: I just want to thank everyone that backed the game. Buying games on Kickstarter is always a risk. I am proud of the game we created, and I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks for talking with me, Ryan.
Thank you for taking the time out to share with us some about Endangered.
If our readers would like to purchase a copy of Endangered they can by clicking here.
For a limited time (last day April 29, 2020 23:59 EST) you can receive a 20% discount using the link above.