Give a huge mickybnovels welcome to Damien Lavizzo of the card game Novus.
Me: I’ve been following your facebook for a while now and when I saw your kickstarter and the depth of art and background that went into it I couldn’t help get involved. What inspired you to create the game?
Damien: Part of the inspiration behind it was I think modern science fiction, with a few exceptions, has gotten away from what sci-fi has always been about. Modern sci-fi focuses more on “magical” technology, wowing with visuals, or other things that don’t seem to have a lot of substance. I wanted to go back to having the “science” part be in service of the “fiction” part. When we started working on the game, we built a framework for the universe and the world, but the first thing we did was write extensive backgrounds for each character. Those backgrounds shaped a lot of the fictional events in NOVUS, since we had a grasp on how each character would react to things going on around them.
Me: I’d really have to agree with you about some modern scifi, and it really does come through that you have really thought the world through and put huge amounts of work into the universe Novus is set in.
Me: Have you always been into card games, and if so which was the first you ever played extensively?
Damien: The first card game I played was, like most people, Magic: the Gathering. I’ve picked up other card games throughout the years, but Magic has always been my go-to game and it’s the only other CCG style game I play now. I’m something of a hoarder when it comes to cards, so I have cards dating all the way back to Unlimited that I’ll probably never part with.
Me: Just from researching card games it came up how expensive MtG can be to play from what I’ve seen and heard online. Which is a great reason I love the premise of the ready built decks in Novus.
Me: I’m not really a card player but you said it can be played by someone with no prior play time. Can you talk me through a typical turn in laymen’s terms.
Damien: In NOVUS, a typical turn is broken down into phases. Your turn starts with the Ready phase, where you ready all of your characters in preparation for the turn. Next is the Standby phase, where you pay any ongoing costs. Next is the draw phase, in which you draw two cards. The Resource phase follows, and in this phase you can place any card in your hand face down as a resource. At the end of the Resource phase, you count the number of face down resources you have and that’s how much energy you have for the turn. After that are the Main and Combat phases.
While the rest of the turn is mostly setup, the Main and Combat phases are the heart of NOVUS – during the Main phase you use the energy you generated to deploy characters to the field. You can also play any Strategies in your resource Then, during the Combat phase, you choose which characters to send out against your opponent.
It sounds complicated on paper, but in play the phases move very quickly and gameplay is actually pretty intuitive.
Me: I like that kind of instant action which it sounds like it has in spades. I also like the fact that turns don’t take forever and a game will typically take 45 minutes to an hour. Which means you can dip in for a quick game.
Me: What is the one thing you would say you learned from the feedback or process?
Damien: The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that people are far more creative than they think they are. I’ve asked for feedback from a number of people while developing the game, people who have played card games and people who haven’t, sci-fi fans and people who could care less. Most people have ideas but need a lot of coaxing to share them. I think we’re all a little afraid that our ideas won’t be accepted if we share them, or that they’ll be “bad” in some way.
Me: I completely agree, I think in this day and age we are taught to fear speaking up with ideas because people are quick to criticize.
Me: I saw your interview with your co-creator I guess, what do you think makes your dynamic so good?
Damien: Phillip and I are something of kindred spirits. It’s a case of opposites attract, I think – I’m very “broad ideas” based, where he’s more detail oriented. We clicked almost immediately, and the design process has been simply inspiring. Part of it could be that we are so distant – he’s in Texas, I’m in California – so when we get a chance to speak we’re very focused on the product, rather than personal drama.
Me: I really could really see the dynamic even when your so far apart. A good example was the Nerd Nighter interview where you could see you had fun. Even when he said you were Bull-headed, Which I agree with lol.
Me: I was impressed with the thought you had put into the game, how long do you see NOVUS’s future?
Damien: That really depends on the fans, I suppose. If people like what we’re offering we’ll continue. We did put a lot of work and thought into the characters and what drives them, but if people don’t respond to that we’ll move on. Our chief goal is to entertain. The universe we’ve built has a lot of story potential simply because it’s so big, there’s a lot of room to stretch out and explore the themes we’d like to.
Me: I did get that and I know fans have asked about graphic novels, RPG’s and the like. Which can only be a good thing.
Me: I’m going to be really cheeky and ask do you have any other games in development or is it a trade secret?
Damien: We have some ideas for other types of games and a few things not in the NOVUS universe, but we prefer to focus solely on one thing at a time. There’s some other genres we’d like to explore, eventually.
Me: I understand… no spoilers I’m afraid folks. Damien remains tight lipped lol.
Me: Going a little off on a mad tangent here, your game deals with magic and spells to some degree. What power of magic from Novus would you love to have? And how would you use or abuse it?
Damien: I think of all the powers that we explore in NOVUS the power of the mind is the most useful. To be able to read people’s minds or alter their thoughts, convince them of things. Not exactly ethical, but if I had to pick one of the powers that’s probably the one I’d go with. I’d like to think I’d use it to help people or at least influence things in a positive way, but I’m sure the temptation would be there to use your power for personal gain.
Me: Absolutely. I’m with you mental powers all the way. I’ve always said I’d use Jedi mind trick to rob banks. That, “Put the money in the bag” (waves two fingers on hand). I’d be soo bad!
Me: So, tell me a little about Damien Lavizzo?
Damien: I don’t know if there’s much to tell, really. I’m far less exciting than the characters in NOVUS, for one thing. I’m pretty basic, I like sci-fi, love the cinema. I love fantasy – the fact that human beings can imagine things that don’t exist and literally make up worlds in our heads. It’s something that’s uniquely human.
Me: That imagination has led to some amazing inventions. So no dark skeletons in the closet lol.
Me: What is your favourite sci-fi book and author?
Damien: If I had to pick just one, depending on the day it would be either Frank Herbert or Isaac Asimov. Isaac Asimov wrote a book called The Gods Themselves that I highly recommend to anyone who wants an eye opening look at what sci-fi can truly be.
Me: Oh my god I love Fran Herbert I grew up with Dune. I have to say the movie spoiled it mostly for me later in life. Especially the radical ending where it rained; because as we know that would kill the worms, which would then decimate spice production.
Me: What piece of advice would you give someone wanting to get into the card or board games? Or maybe design their own?
Damien: The biggest piece of advice I would give is if you have an idea, pursue it. Don’t worry about people judging you or making fun of you, just go for it. People said the iPad was going to be a failure, and look what happened. So, if you have an idea and you think it’s worthwhile, pursue it.
Me: Absolutely and you never know you could have the next big thing.
Well I want to say thank you to Damien for taking time out to do the interview with me. I’ll add all the links to his kickstarter and facebook pages below. As always it’s really been a pleasure.