Mar 28th 2017 by qxc00 • 75 Questions • 7938 Points
Edit: After nearly 12 hours, I'm calling it quits. Thanks for all the questions. G'night.
My name is Kevin 'qxc' Riley and I can answer faster than you can ask.
About me: I'm 27 years old and grew up on the north shore of Chicago and attended Harvey Mudd College where I got a degree in CS. So far, I haven't used that degree at all. While at university, I began playing Starcraft 2 pretty heavily. Not long after its release, I was competing in, and winning various online tournaments.
Upon graduation, I moved into the Complexity gaming house and played Starcraft 2 full-time. About 8 months later, I moved in with my girlfriend who's almost done with her PhD in mathematics. After that, I continued playing full-time for another few years.
While playing Starcraft, I eventually ran out of pages in my passport. I remember almost melting while playing in a non-AC convention in China, and getting caught outside during some sort of tropical storm in Korea while jogging. I played numerous events in Germany and even made it out to Dreamhack once. Sweden was like something out of a fantasy book. While in Korea, I all-killed one of the top Korean teams in a team competition. Not the best thing I ever did in Starcraft, but perhaps the most memorable.
In 2015, I took a few months off to let my mind clear. You may also know me as the keyboard smasher. I've always grappled with stress and anger issues as they relate to Starcraft. During my break, I began dabbling in board game design with my girlfriend. I returned to Starcraft later that year and performed well, for a time but eventually retired for good. Once I retired, I pursued my board game fervently. What began as a slight variation of a game we had played many times before, eventually became a coherent 1vs1 competitive game that stood on its own. After a number of cold pitches, I succeeded in finding a publisher, Action Phase, that was interested in what was then, a 1vs1 competitive game, but would eventually become the fully cooperative game, Aeon's End.
Last December, Aeon's End was finally released in retail. We were all incredibly excited to see our passion project hit shelves but had little time to celebrate as we had begun work on a new expand-alone for Aeon's End last June. I spent last summer living in Tokyo (benefits of being "unemployed") while my GF took a research position at a university there. We began designing what would eventually become War Eternal (newest expand-alone) there and hit the ground running with actual playtesting when I returned state-side in September.
About Aeon's End: It is a cooperative deck builder for 1-4 players set in a unique fantasy world. You won't find any elves, dwarves or dragons here. In each game you'll play as a different breach mage which has a different starting setup and ability. Many have likened Aeon's End to a 'boss battle' from RPG games. In each game you play, you and your allies will be working together to defeat a big bad nemesis that's threatening the last stronghold of humanity, Gravehold. War Eternal, which is the new set of content we just finished expands on the original by adding more of everything. I committed the same level of care to all of the gameplay in War Eternal as I did with the initial Aeon's End: spending ~40 hours a week working on the game for months and months. When everything was polished enough, we recruited dozens of blind playtesters and received feedback on over 400 games played externally. Last year, Aeon's End raised ~190k in our month-long KS campaign. A week into this campaign and we've already surpassed 200k.
FAQ: I played Starcraft 2, not 1. I will not likely be playing Starcraft: remastered
You can find out more about Aeon's End: War Eternal here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2012515236/aeons-end-war-eternal/description
Random other things I've been doing: Trying to figure out how to not overheat while doing sports
Trying to figure out if I'm addicted to sugar
Designing other small games
I cook ~90% of my meals
I'm really introverted. Like. a lot.
Spent a semester in Madrid. My Spanish is not terrible.
Spent a summer in Tokyo. My Japanese is terrible
Spent a month in Taiwan. My chinese is most terrible.
My Proof: Picture of me today: https://twitter.com/coL_qxc/status/846700020598521856
Proof that I am who I am: http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft2/Qxc
Right as you were getting some great results in Korea in 2011, you unfortunately left to resume your studies for a year. Do you ever wonder "What if I had stayed?"
Obviously your real life education should come first, but it seemed like a shame that you had finally found your groove and then had to give it up.
All the time. I wonder why I even went to school. By the end of high school I was so upset at 'school' in general, that I did not get the most out of university that I could have. My initial foray into Starcraft was borne out of a disillusionment with my classes in the first year there.
I learned a lot since retiring, more than I did while playing I think. The biggest thing was I didn't really know how to take care of myself - what foods to eat, how to sleep, etc... and I needed to be 'on my own' in order to figure a lot of that out.
The biggest thing was I didn't really know how to take care of myself
Most popular streamers I watch eat like total fucking garbage.
most people don't seem to learn essential skills like cooking. I certainly didn't until I was forced to and already an adult.
Do you consider your Mudd degree pointless since it doesn't sound like you're interested in pursuing a CS career.
What was disillusioning about your first year?
I would like to eventually move into video game development, at which point I will be very thankful for that degree. While I don't actively use the degree now, I still learned a lot about the process of learning that's useful. I also met a lot of people that were like me (weird). In the real world, I don't meet many people I can relate to.
As for disillusioned. I went to a private high school that felt like a college factory. Many of the decisions I made in high school were just 'to get into that school' which goes so far against what education should be. It was less about learning and more about beating the test. I really hated it.
I actually like learning a lot more now that I can focus on the learning part.
From a fellow Mudd alum in tech: your HMC degree is worth more than you think if you ever find another Mudd alum hiring manager. I've hired 3 HMC alums and the only test I ever gave them was taking them out to food/drinks with the team to make sure they could fit in socially - your HMC degree proves you can do the hard work, and hiring managers throughout the industry already know that.
Nice. That's good to know.
Salary was ~$500 a month for 2 or 3 years I think. Plus a thousand or two per year in coaching plus a few thousand per year in tournament winnings. Something like that, you can do the math. r/frugal was my life and still is.
Doubt there's a pro-gamer who was a contemporary of Idra that would answer no to this statement.
On a scale of rural Illinois to Lake Forest, how lucrative is board game design?
is there a place I can live that's cheaper than rural illinois?
Will non-Koreans every be as good as Koreans at Starcraft and if not, why not?
It would take a serious concerted effort by upper management to make non-Koreans able to compete with Koreans. The basic issue comes down to lack of infrastructure and decentralized areas of competition. The more people around you doing a thing, the more likely you are to do that thing. The more people doing a thing together/in competition, the more likely they are to improve, build tournaments, team houses, all the infrastructure that makes further improvement easier. The western world just lacks the widespread interest in many games, and also the cultural acceptance that makes being a pro-gamer more easily accepted.
Hey QXC, glad to see you around again! Been a fan of your SC2 play from the very early days and was a semi regular stream viewer for a long time (bigbangsc and other aliases). Which leads to my question. Do you have any thoughts or future plans regarding streaming? SC2 or even Aeons End related stuff?
I believe there are many who would like to watch you play games, even games that aren't Starcraft. Take it easy dude. n_n
I probably won't stream. I tried streaming full-time shortly after retirement and found that I didn't really enjoy it. The amount of time I'm willing to stream consistently is far lower than the amount of time I would need to stream to make a 'thing' I could persist off.
I'm really introverted and find the high level of social interaction needed while streaming to be too draining.
What's the best board game shop I'm the Pittsburgh area? Any good gaming bars for people to hang out and play?
Games Unlimited on Murray is the best board game store in Pittsburgh. Good selection, great staff, very accommodating.
As for gaming bars, you could try game nights at crazy mocha or ham bones
<3 board games, <3 terran, <3 qxc
Have you gotten a new mouse yet? :P
Currently using a razer deathadder. Bought it a few weeks ago.
There is two types of card selections in deck buiding : tableau (Dominion, Train) or river (Ascension, Tyrants of the Underdark).
Gameplay-wise, why did you choose the tableau type ?
I find that tableau style lends itself to a deeper level of strategy. I'm not a fan of the majority of trade-row style deck builders because they are far more opportunistic in their strategy rather than allowing for more in-depth/long-term planning.
One thing that's great about trade-row style though is that it keeps the game fresh on repeat playthroughs.
I find after only a few games of, say, dominion with friends, we quickly identify 2 or 3 powerful strategies that you can go for pretty much every game, so cards that don't fit in there go by the wayside.
How do you mitigate that in your game?
One thing is that there are more modular components in Aeon's End. In dominion, you have 10 market cards, and that's the only thing that changes from game to game. In my game, you have 1-4 mages in each game, a different nemesis, a market setup and the composition of the nemesis deck. All together, these can come together in far more ways and creates a more consistently varied experience.
As someone who has never play any fantasy board game (Sorry if my terminology is incorrect), how would you recommend getting started?
With aeon's end or just in general? Aeon's End isn't the easiest game to start with, although many have commented that the rules are easy to learn. Gateway games for board games are more typically things like settlers of catan, carcassone or ticket to ride.
Day went to Harvey Mudd too. Have you guys ever met and/or discussed that?
Yea, we have.
Hi ! How did you worked with Indie Boards and Cards Cards & Action Phase Games ? Have they modified the gameplay of your game ?
Indie B&C takes more of an upper management role in Aeon's End. They help with more high level decisions like "what content goes where" and "what should the KS offer". I work closely with Action Phase on Aeon's End. During development we meet for a few hours almost every week going over changes we want to make. I fight tooth and nail against any gameplay decision that I don't agree with and we mostly get along.
OP doesn't exist. Skill is all that matter. Even if OP does exist, there's no sense considering it. That mindset will only make you weaker.
You said you have issues with anger, so I gotta ask. When you played, what was the most rage inducing unit to play against in starcraft?
broodlords. Especially broodlord infestor. That was cancer and they took forever to fix it.
Did you already thought about a campaign system for Aeon's end ?
I have done some preliminary consideration. I also asked the community for BGG for suggestions. https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1711896/how-would-you-imagine-campaign-mode-working
It's possible that the next Aeon's End will be more campaign centered. Not sure yet though, there's one other big idea I kind of want to explore first.
Are you the author of the Aeon's end univers too ? What was your inspirations ?
I am not. I did virtually no work on the theme or art of the game.
Hi, any advice for wannabe board game designers? What unexpected challenges did you face going from board game idea to retail product?
The last 1% takes as long as the first 50%. Or more. Going from a game that is mostly done to a game that is actually done is... more work than expected. The biggest advice for making a game is just that you need to test it often. Make changes. Test it some more. Repeat. Don't expect it to be good for a long time. Don't expect it to be even really playable or a 'game' for a while. Making something good is a long process.
So many comments/questions about StarCraft and so few about Aeon's End! :(. I get why and I loved following your Starcraft career, but I'm excited about your game. I have plenty of questions, but am unable to put them in words. You doing an AMA is awesome and I love reading your insight. Have you considered trying to make an expansion that allows 5 or 6 players? I know it's hard to balance 2 vs 4, so adding in another player would make it that much more difficult.
I'm not as concerned about balance as I would be about promoting a game in a variant that I don't think would be fun. Aeon's End is relatively long at 4p and 5/6p would only make it longer.
That said, I did briefly think about how 5 players might work: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/25210029#25210029
Glad for the scene, but I doubt I'll play sc personally. I much prefer sc2
When we were in Korea in the team house, we spent a fair amount of time watching each other practice. It just so happened this day, I was watching teammate, Moonan finish up a ladder game. We were all waiting on him in order to go grab food together and his game turned out to be a long one. Him and his opponent were down to just a few buildings and it looked like it would be a draw. In Starcraft, you lose if you have no buildings left - it's rarely relevant, but it was in this game.
Moonan only had one building left, a bunker. Bunkers can be salvaged for resources, which destroys them. Of course, a silly thing to do when it's the only thing keeping you in the game. We were chatting about what he should do, figuring out if it was possible for him to win. When I had a good chunk of his attention I yelled, "Salvage that bunker". Without thinking, he salvaged it and lost the game immediately.
I even wrote a little story about it: http://www.teamliquid.net/blogs/244513-salvage-that-bunker
False. No one is a bigger noob than Oresama.
How has your anger issues changed since retiring from hard core gaming? Do you believe that gaming was the root for most of these issues?
The root of the issue is my failure to handle stress which was borne out of an insistence of 'doing things until I broke'. I've had zero problems in this area since retiring as I've found a much healthier schedule that allows for a better life-work balance.
At what age do you think you were performing your best in SC2? Did you skills plateau or drop? If so, why do you think this happened? Did you find yourself aging an impact to your SC2 performance? Did you lose interest in SC2 at any point? If so, why?
I never felt that my age impacted my ability to play Starcraft. The only age related issue was that I didn't have as much experience because I started playing so late compared to many others.
I'm not sure exactly when I played best, but it had far more to do with managing myself, being well rested, not stressed etc than anything else.
I only ever really lost interest in Starcraft when I was super stressed or right after retiring. I was so distraught that I just didn't want to even think about it for a while.
What was your apm?
Whats that special thing that starcraft 1 and bw had that sc2 lacks?
200+ Not sure exactly.
The biggest thing that BW has over SC2 is that the competition wasnt nearly the same. SC2 was killed by other games that were better able to monetize and take advantage of the market.
Game-wise, the units in broodwar were a tad more interesting. Dark swarm, spider mines, arbiters. Also, BW sounds are hands-down better than starcraft 2. I don't know what they did, but whoever the sound engineer(s) of broodwar were, they should've done sc2 as well.
Do you ever miss being a progamer? What did you like about it?
Yea, I do miss it. I think about it often. Maybe even most days. I just really like competing. More than basically anything else. I liked the freedom it offered and the ability to travel and go to different places to compete. I especially liked being on stage, having fans. If I had done better, I'd still be doing it.
I loved watching you play at the highest levels of Starcraft. What advice do you have for newbies other than to just practice more?
Practice better. Don't play if you're not feeling well. Don't force it. Pretty decent rule is: Play until you lose 3 times. Or play until you lose 3 times in a row. Once that happens, take a break for a while or for the day.
Did you make good money? I had a buddy that played CS and made a few thousand but he wasn't anywhere near top 200.
When it rains my box gets wet.
What would you say to someone who wants to get into the gaming business in general?
First thing is: don't. It's not that profitable, hard, unpredictable and a ton of work. If that doesn't dissuade you then you at least have a chance of being successful.
The gaming business is a pretty big category. Are you thinking of being a designer, a programmer, a PR person... what?
How are you liking Gwent? Also, how does it feel knowing you're a top player in a game? Does the community some times look up to you and expect a lot?
Gwent is so good. SO good. So fresh in a world of hearthstone clones. I aggressively dusted my collection so I can only play monster, but I can play almost any monster deck without spending $.
It's really awesome to know you're good at something. When someone says you're not, you just say "1v1 me" and that's the end of that.
The community looked up to me, sure. They also expected the world. Some people want you to stream 24/7 while some people want you to win every tournament. You have to disappoint some.
How did you end up getting a degree in Counter-Strike? Also, where do I sign up?
Just post your email address here and I'll sign you up to the newsletter. You should expect to hear back soon with an application.
Hey! I want to give sc2 a shot and terran looks like oodles of fun. Any tips on what a new player should focus on to start improving?
Just build units. Always be building a worker. Keep your money low, doesn't matter much what you do with it. The hardest part for new players is 1) building enough workers 2) spending money fast enough. As you get better at the first, you'll need to improve the 2nd.
Hey 3 questions here. 1st what was it like to compete on that level? 2nd how are you able to keep track of so many things going on in game at once and be able to effectively micro in so many places at once? 3rd and final is what board games are you working on?
I'm not sure what you mean by your first question. 2nd question is just practice. practice. And more practice.
I'm working on Aeon's End. you can find more info here: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/191189/aeons-end and here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2012515236/aeons-end-war-eternal/comments
You say that you've been designing other small games, are you at liberty to discuss any of them? Are any of them remotely close to being released? Or are they just for personal pleasure and not commercial release?
They might eventually be released. Nothing is under lock & key, they're just really close to being done.
One game has the players trying to escape the maze while giving clues to each other to figure out how.
The other is a drafting game.
If we continue to test them and they're promising I'd like to release them, but I don't want to release them just to release them.
Is War Eternal the same as Aeon's end but with a whole new everything (cards/mage/nemesis)? Is there a point in buying it if I haven't played with every Aeon's end mages and nemesis yet?
Being able to mix everything together is really fun. So even if you haven't played all the old aeon's end content, you can still mix in the new content as you're playing to get a more varied experience. We've also make some more interesting mages and player cards in War Eternal as we're able to build on our experience with the original.
Shouldn't this be on r/boardgames to promote the current kickstarter?
I just found out about Aeon's End and I'm considering to back the whole deal (the original game + expansions and the new base set + expansion).
My question is: Do you actually feel like the finished product is still 'your game' with all the changes and different theme chosen by the publisher?
Probably. Ama's have to be scheduled there and I didn't realize it. Was planning to just x-post. Maybe I'll do one there as well.
Aeon's End is my game, for sure. The skin put on it, while not mine - doesn't affect the core gameplay and the gameplay is what I really made.
Do you prefer open-ended type games like D&D or warcraft or do you favour things like fluxx or chess?
I prefer more focused games like chess or go which offer a lot of strategy and are more gameplay oriented. I'm not really a story person.
qxc, I love the story of "I'm qxc, maybe you've heard of me" with Day9. I used to watch you stream all the time. glad you're doing well!
You say that all-killing the Korean team was not the best thing you ever did - what was? What would you say were your greatest achievements/accomplishments?
Why did you settle on Terran?
Picked Terran in brood war and never looked back. Too hard to change race.
There isn't really a single proudest moment for me. I never really achieved the big tournament win that I hoped for. Mostly i had a lot of disappointing events.