Vince Pavey spoke with Allard Laban, chief creative officer at Jackbox Games, to find out more about Jackbox Party Pack 10, their latest pack of game night essentials. Here’s what was said.
Hi Allard! For the benefit of our readers, what does your job typically entail on a day to day basis?
As the chief creative officer at Jackbox, I get to work with a bunch of talented folks across different teams. I’m like a creative cheerleader for our art directors and creative directors, helping them bring their ideas to life for both our games and marketing campaigns. I also work closely with our leadership team to map out the future of Jackbox, brainstorming ways to make it the best Jackbox it can be.
How would you describe what a Jackbox Party Pack is to someone that’s never heard of it before?
The Jackbox Party Pack is a series of party games that transform your smartphones or connected devices into controllers, bringing the party into the hands of up to 8 players – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the game. These hilarious, mostly absurd games are fueled by the creativity and wit of the players themselves, who become the stars of the show.
What do you think makes people keep coming back for the new Jackbox Party Packs each year?
In this weird time of screens and continued social distancing, Jackbox games are like a warm, completely platonic hug from a friend. They bring people together for shared laughs and good times, which is something we all need more of these days. Laughing together is way more fun than laughing alone – and less creepy too!
Do you reckon Jackbox competes more with board games than other video games?
Jackbox Party Packs are like the love child of video games and board games, and they take the best of both worlds. Computers handle all the complex stuff, like keeping track of scores, revealing secret information, and managing the overall game logic. This lets us focus on making the gameplay itself as fun and engaging as possible. Just like a board game, everyone at the party can play Jackbox, even if they’re not tech-savvy.
How do you reach new consumers, and ensure that your brand keeps growing?
At first, we wanted to make Jackbox as accessible as possible, so we published our games on as many platforms as we could. We also noticed that a lot of people were playing our games on Twitch, so we started tweaking our games to play better there too. We’ve learned that the key is to be where the players are – because only one person in a group of Jackbox players actually owns the game, everyone else is a potential buyer. It’s like built-in product sampling and virality!
When doing a sequel to a game (like with Tee K.O. for Jackbox 10) how does the team decide where to expand on things and add new wrinkles and twists to the gameplay?
When we work on a sequel, like Tee K.O. 2, we take a different approach than a simple content update. Sure, we’ll add more questions and game types for something like Fibbage 2, but with Tee K.O., we look at it more like improving a tool. We want to make the overall experience better, so we focus on things like pacing, the bracket system, and the drawing and painting tools.
What is the approach to designing a brand new party pack game? Does everyone get to pitch in a game jam-y sort of way?
We try to include a little bit of something for everyone in our Party Packs. Every employee at the company is welcome to pitch a game idea. We then have a group of employees, including some leadership, designers, and developers, review the pitches and provide feedback. The goal is to finalize the games for the next party pack around the New Year, which gives us only a few months to develop, test, and launch them.
How difficult is it to innovate?
Innovation isn’t always a sudden stroke of genius. It often builds on previous work and experiences. For instance, our phone-as-controller idea didn’t come out of nowhere. It evolved from various projects we’d worked on before. It wasn’t until we had the first prototype of Fibbage that we realized what we had created. Once we had this new context for innovation, we could start pushing boundaries. Our latest Pack 10 game, Dodo Re Me, is a great example of how we’re continuing to innovate within the phone-as-controller concept.
What would you say is Jackbox’s greatest contribution to gaming?
What I love most about our games is how they can be enjoyed in so many different settings. Whether you’re playing Quiplash with your friends, co-workers, or family, you’re guaranteed to have a great time… or at least a weird time. Our games are versatile and adaptable, making them perfect for any occasion.
What have you learned from developing Jackbox Party Pack 10?
Developing The Jackbox Party Pack 10 has taught us a lot about how to improve our games for the future. We have a thorough post-mortem process in place to find places we can tweak to improve. If there’s one big takeaway from this pack, it’s that big risks are worth taking with a passionate team behind them. Dodo Re Mi was a super cool innovation for the Jackbox series, but the team’s passion for the game convinced the decision-makers to give it a chance.
How has the audience reception been? Are there any new fan favourites?
We’re thrilled with the positive reception to The Jackbox Party Pack 10! Players are finding all sorts of creative ways to enjoy the games, and we’re particularly excited about the response to Timejinx. It’s a thoughtful and creative take on a seemingly mundane topic, and it’s quickly becoming a fan favourite.
I asked this in my last interview with Jackbox, and I’m asking again … When are we getting more You Don’t Know Jack?
We base our pack lineups on a combination of data and player feedback, and we’ve got a ton of popular games that could make for great lead titles in a future pack. That said, we’re aware of the dedicated You Don’t Know Jack fan base that’s been patiently waiting for its return since we released YDKJ Full Stream in The Jackbox Party Pack 5. While I can’t give you a definitive answer, I can assure you that Jack always finds a way to make a comeback. So, don’t count it out just yet!