Amber: Hi I’m Amber Ambrose and this is The BusinessMakers Show. Today my guest is Neal Murthy of Nefer Games; good morning.
Neal: Good morning Amber, thanks for having me.
Amber: Yeah, in your house because you work from home.
Neal: That’s right.
Neal: That’s right; it’s the best place to work.
Amber: All right now, so it’s something we like to ask everybody at the very beginning of the interview and we just kind of want a snapshot, what is Nefer Games?
Neal: Well Nefer Games is a passion project actually more than anything else. It’s a game company obviously but specifically we’re focusing on tactile games, physical games. I think most people like to play those kinds of things but most people don’t play those things any longer.
Amber: You mean things that we can put in our hand and play.
Neal: Yeah, absolutely.
Amber: Maybe some of these.
Neal: For example this type right here.
Amber: That’s so weird, they’re just right here in front of us. That worked out so nicely.
Neal: So this is Sedis for example and it’s our first product launch, but we actually have about 20 something games under development right now, they are all tactile games, and the idea is really to sort of encourage people to get together and talk around a table or a living room as we happen to be here; these kinds of things.
Amber: Okay, and then by tactile you mean that these are made out of wood.
Neal: They are made out of wood, yes.
Amber: They feel nice and it’s not a video game.
Neal: And they clack, that’s right.
Amber: It’s an actual game. I know that you’ve compared it to some other things like dominos and playing cards so that they’re multi-purpose.
Neal: That’s correct. You can actually use – it’s actually what’s called a generic gaming device. It’s not a game per se; you can play games with it. Just like for example if I were to ask you let’s go play cards you might say well Neal is kind of cool and I’d like to play cards with him but you would ask then what are we going to play; are we going to play Poker or Blackjack or something like this.
Amber: There are just endless options.
Neal: There are many different options and Sedis is like that; you can play many, many different games. You don’t play Sedis but you can play with Sedis.
Amber: So Sedis is right now the main focus of what you’re doing at Nefer Games?
Neal: That’s right. It’s our first product launch, we’re actually launching via a Kickstarter campaign sometime probably at the end of March or early April is our target for that. And then that will run for about 30 days but then hopefully the company will last a little longer than that.
Amber: So is Sedis the main focus of Nefer Games right now?
Neal: Right now. It’s our first product launch and we have about 20 other games in development.
Amber: Are they all similar to Sedis as they’re an actual game piece and then you can develop multiple games off of the piece?
Neal: No, they’re quite different. The rest of them are actual games so they have specific rules to them and there might be some variance and such that you can play but they’re not this generic gaming device. We only created one, the first one in about 600 years since playing cards were invented, we don’t have to create more than one – at least for another couple of years I think.
Amber: Like in 600 more years.
Neal: Yeah, I think maybe then we’ll get there, I don’t know.
Amber: When you’re cryogenically frozen you can come back.
Neal: It’s possible, biotechnology is getting pretty far right now so we’ll see.
Amber: Let’s see how far off tangent we can get off this. So tell me a little bit more about Sedis. I would like to know how you came up with the first gaming device as far as you know in the last 600 years?
Neal: Well, it actually came to me in a dream. I know that sounds kind of odd but it actually was back in 2012, early 2012, I literally woke up and had this sort of image burned in my mind from a dream and I ran down 2 flights of stairs – I was living in a 3 story townhome at the time. So I ran down to my home office and I started sketching it out and after about 3 hours of sort of figuring out what it would be and it could be a system of tiles and things like this Sedis was born. So that’s kind of how it happened.
Amber: So that was 2012 and fast forward to 2017, I know you’ve had Nefer Games in some form or another I guess since you had the dream but now you’re just really starting to push it out there.
Neal: Yeah, in some sense it’s actually been almost 30 years. I was actually inspired originally to be a hobbyist game designer by my grandfather gave me a Pachisi set, which is an ancient Indian game, you know it as Parcheesi or it’s known in parts of the world as Ludo and things like that.
Amber: I just thought maybe you were mispronouncing it.
Neal: It’s possible, it’s possible.
Amber: No, you’re pronouncing it the proper way.
Neal: The Indian way I guess. So he gave me this 18th century Pachisi set that had been passed own generation to generation, it kind of inspired an interest in games. And also my family has played things like Poker and Gin Rummy as a family and also an extended family and friends and things like this for many, many years.
So I’ve been focused on just sort of gaming, game design and things like this for a number of years and I’m actually, by almost pure happenstance, I ended up doing my undergraduate degree, my college degrees, in Game Theory and game mechanics and those sorts of things, but understanding them from a perspective of mathematics and economics and these sorts of things as well. So none of that actually fed into developing commercial games until only the last few years or so.
Amber: That’s interesting because you have used strategies similar to game design in your previous entrepreneur life.
Neal: That’s right.
Amber: In Haven Holdings and some of the things that you’re doing at University of Houston.
Neal: So finally we have this company now called Nefer Games but the original name Nefer, from my perspective, came from my very first company which was called The Nefer Group. And The Nefer Group was a management consultancy that focused on using principles of game theory and things like this to understand behavior of people within large organizations and things like that sort of thing. So now it’s kind of come almost full circle in the name as well.
Amber: Right, back to the actual games.
Neal: Yeah, actual games, that’s right.
Amber: And so are you still doing some of that stuff or it’s kind of taking care of itself?
Neal: To some degree. I still do advisory; so for about a decade I did it with large businesses and then for about a decade I did it with startups and small businesses and now I’m kind of moving away from that but I still do advisory. I sit on advisory boards of startups both in Houston as well as around the world and then just continue to do that. It’s fun; one of the things I say often is it’s my mission in life now – I’ve been saying this for probably about 6 years now since I’m about 35 and I started realizing I was getting a little older – is just to meet fun, smart, interesting people. So doing that within the context of Nefer Games, but also doing that within the context of startups and nonprofit work and things like this as well.
Amber: So we’ve already kind of hit on Sedis a very brief overview and then hopefully you’ll be able to see more in Kickstarter that you guys are going to put out soon. But you said there’s 20 additional games that are being developed right now, so I’m intrigued; can you hit on one or two?
Neal: I can talk a little bit about them.
Amber: As much as you’re comfortable with.
Neal: A lot of them are abstract strategy games. Those are games that are similar to things like chess or checkers or something like that, in which in some cases those games you can see everything that’s happening on the board, you know what all the possible strategies are and these sorts of things and it’s just a question of whether or not you can outwit your opponent. So we have a number of games like that, one game that we actually have that’s very similar to chess that I can be public about is called Raptors and it’s a game that’s similar to chess in the sense that you have 16 pieces per side and you’re trying to eliminate your opponent, but it has some intriguing differences from chess that make it interesting I think and a bit more challenging in some ways.
Amber: Sure, and so this is all like a physical game.
Neal: These are all physical games. We do have some designs for a digital game, what you call digital games and virtual games. In fact while I’ve been a hobbyist game designer for 30 years or so, my business partner – his name is Mike Krupp, he also happens to be one of my best friends, we met at the University of Houston about 22 years ago – and he and I originally started the notion of a commercial game development company not around tactile games but in fact around building a multiplayer online game.
And we have somewhere in storage in this house about 6 or 8,000 pages of what’s called game design documentation around that and maybe one day it’ll get to market too. But our focus is really now on – one of the things we’ve realized over the last 7 or something years is that people – there are a lot of digital games out there. There’s a lot of games that people can play on your mobile devices, that you can play on your laptops, etcetera, etcetera, and they all have value but there’s also value in the social interaction that comes with playing with people in a physical space with physical games, and that’s what we’re focusing on right now. If you look at things like Kickstarter, board game development, tactile physical game development is actually on surge, so to some degree we are sort of riding that tide upward but at the same time we hope to be driving it as well as a company.
Amber: Well good luck.
Neal: Thanks, I appreciate that.
Amber: I look forward to playing Sedis one day. Well let’s keep track of you and see where you’re at in a couple of years.
Neal: Appreciate that.
Amber: Thank you Neal.
Neal: Thank you very much Amber.
Amber: Appreciate it. I’m Amber Ambrose, this is Neal Murthy, look out for Nefer Games, it’s coming.
brought to you by