Every so often I look for talks about the process of designing games and only found a few. Maybe I’m spoiled by all the postmortems that happen in the videogame medium but I’d love to see something similar from boardgame designers, especially about working with IP or adapting games from one medium to another.
So when Gamedev Camp invited me to do a talk and let me pick the topic, I knew what I had to do! I went with the design process of adapting SUPERHOT from a videogame to a card game.
For the second part of the catch-up I’d like to talk about digital games. These don’t come up as much here because of NDAs but I do like to celebrate when they come out!
Cook-out: A Sandwich Tale
Cook-out was my main project at Resolution Games. It’s a cooperative game about making sandwiches in virtual reality, for the Oculus Quest and Rift S. It was really fun to work on because virtual reality is in such an early stage that there aren’t many standards on how to do things we take for granted in flat screen games such as menus, which suddenly become complex once they’re diegetic. If a floating menu takes space in the room, then it can also obscure the other players! Suddenly there are wrong ways to interact with buttons, such as from the back.
We wanted to avoid menus as much as we could, and on a multiplayer game this is even trickier because there are moments where players have to decide on things together like which level to play, if they want to restart and so on. That interaction was one of my favorite additions to the game. Instead of having “Yes/No” buttons you use your hands and do a thumbs up to vote “yes” and a thumb down to vote “no”. Once everyone has voted, the game moves forward.
We had to figure it out on our own and with luck, some of our solutions may stick around for future games.
Glimt: The Vanishing at the Grand Starlight Hotel
Glimt was a very interesting project as well. Our briefing was to make a more narrative-focused game for the Magic Leap. We quickly found that one of the advantages of the headset is that it allows you to walk around the scene to see it from different angles, so we thought that photography could be an interesting mechanic to use. Placing props and characters in a dollhouse set also felt very natural so we ended up combining the two: You are a psychic detective. If you can recreate the scene with your props you can look into the past and see what actually happened! Then you can take and bring back photos to prove it.
This time I was involved in the story as well, since it’s so connected to the gameplay. It was fun!
There was definitely a learning curve involved in learning how to use a Magic Leap. Finding our way around the limited field of view, figuring which minimum space would be acceptable, the ideal lighting conditions, only having a few buttons, working around the fact that dark colors just turn transparent…! That said, when everything works, it’s magical.
Empire of Sin
Now I’m in Ireland once again, this time in Galway. I’m now at Romero Games, working with a team composed of both friends and personal heroes! An offer I could not refuse.
Empire of Sin is a strategy game set in 1920s Prohibition-era Chicago. Slip into the shoes of one of fourteen bosses, assemble a gang, build and manage your criminal empire and defend your turf from rival gangs. I had never worked on a game with so many interconnected systems! It’s my first game on consoles, which is a big milestone.
Last but not least… I ran into my own games on Tabletop Simulator! It was a nice surprise, it’s very heartening to know someone cared about them enough to create these modules, especially now that Superhot and Blight aren’t that easy to find.
So much has happened since the last post, I thought I’d do a couple posts to catch up. This one is about my analog projects, in chronological order:
January 7th: I gave my first talk! I was one of the speakers at Run for the Border 2020 in Dundalk along with Jordan Bradley, Pete Mc Nally and Donal Philips. It was a short talk called “So, you’ve designed a board game. Now what?”. It was about the different paths you can follow in order to get your game published, with the suggestion of using print and play as a way to grow an audience before either showing it to a publisher or trying to release a full/premium version of your game.
I’m not used to public speaking so I must have made all the newbie mistakes but the reaction was very positive and I would like to do it again.
May 13: Agent Decker was featured by Shut Up & Sit Down! During the quarantine they’ve started looking at both solo and print and play games and they noticed mine! I’ve been a fan of theirs since their first video nine whole years ago, so this was an honor.
July 27: It was a long journey but I finally have my copies of Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker. Nine months after the backers got theirs so I might have been the very last person to get one. Board & Dice decided to make it a kickstarter exclusive after the campaign was over so unfortunately you won’t find it in stores but there is the option of getting the print and play version online.
Oct 2: Recently I felt inspired to go back to Fortune Tellers. This is a prototype I was working on 7 years ago. At the time the mechanics had some issues but I was enamored by the theme. Now that I have a bit more experience I might be able to do something with it, even if it means I have to scrap the mechanics and start fresh.
I can’t stop thinking about this game. I don’t know of others like it, which makes me feel like I am on the verge of creating something original and that feeling is so great that I want to share the process with you. Step one was bringing the blog back to speed.
Here’s a recap of news that have been shared in other social media over the last months:
SUPERHOT: The Card Game has been released in China thanks to Super Banana Games! It’s amazing to see my games travelling to countries where I’ve never been.
Multiuniversum: Project Cthulhu was reprinted! When the Kickstarter launched it was meant to be exclusive, but it sold out rather quickly due to its great reviews. You no longer have to go insane looking for the last copies, just check Board & Dice’s shop!
One of my favorite things about print and play is that it allows (and even motivates) the players to get creative and if they love the game some players take their copy to the next level. Look at BGG user BulldogBite’s awesome Agent Decker build!
Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker
As for the progression of the development and design perspective, we’re almost there, and we can see a bright light there at the end of the tunnel. On that note, we’re working hard with David Decker while Zoe and Hideaki are waiting for their turn since we want to have a solid base game before inviting other agents on the mission.
Since working on a game with multiple paths is challenging and we had to develop our own tools to be able to work together from different countries. One tool allows us to access an editable version of the cards at any time, without depending on software licenses and the other allows us to save the game. Saving allows us to “load” the game from that point instead of having to restart every time, and helps us see which cards we picked on our most successful runs.
When the Kickstarter campaign for Blight Chronicles launched, Agent Decker had been downloaded over 10.000 times. On the download page there is the suggestion to donate 2 USD. Of those 10.000, about 40 people did so.
I am very thankful for those donations as they’re a serious boost to my motivation and the proceeds always go towards buying material to continue developing my games – so far, two sets of ink cartridges.
My fingers were crossed. Hopefully those people would see how much more content went into this version of the game – and they did! Blight Chronicles’ Campaign was a success, our goal was achieved and doubled, to a total of 264%.
The original game had a fixed sequence of five missions:
Agent Decker (full art version) by Sara Mena
For added variability SUPERHOT: The Card Game ditched the fixed sequence and instead had a deck of goals to draw from. The further you are in the levels, the more goals you draw.
SUPERHOT: The Card Game by Paweł Niziołek
Due to its heavier focus on story and progression, Blight Chronicles needed a new system.
First let’s clarify the terms: in this game “Mission” refers to the whole campaign, which is divided into “Stages”. Stages define the goals you’ll have to complete in order to progress through the Mission.
One of the challenges of letting the players customize their own deck throughout the game is that, depending on the player’s choices, some goals might become too easy and there’s even a risk of them being solved instantly once the setup is done. This, combined with our motivation to make the goals more challenging and engrossing, lead to the current system:
Multi-goal stage cards!
Blight Chronicles (work in progress), artwork by Ramses Bosque and graphic layout by Paweł Niziołek.
As you can see, the goal is “Discard 6 Mixed resources to jump over the fence”, but did you notice the 1-star requirement before it? That means you can’t complete it right away.
You see, before the start of the stage a briefing will inform you that you’ll need a pair of Night Vision Binoculars in order to keep a low profile when infiltrating the enemy complex.
Blight Chronicles (work in progress), artwork by Ramses Bosque and graphic layout by Paweł Niziołek.
As part of the setup for the stage the binoculars are in the Obstacle Deck and will eventually make their way to the line. When you manage to eliminate the Guard House you get two things:
The Night Vision Binoculars, an item that you can use from now on.
A star token (currently named Event), which is placed on the Stage Card.
Now that the requirement is met you can finally complete the goal!
I won’t spoil the other goals but I hope you can see the potential of this system! We’re having a lot of fun coming up with different ways to use it.
“Special Setup”? “Visibility”? What could those other icons mean? Stay tuned for the next Designer Diary!
Welcome to a series of posts about the design and development of Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker, the expanded official release of Agent Decker, published by Board & Dice.
Agent Decker’s campaign is designed around a sequence of five missions.
The good part is that they give the players new objectives along the way, forcing them to adapt as they’re gradually forced outside their comfort zone. The bad part is that this only works once. Once you know the missions and how to beat them the mystery is gone and you can prepare for them in advance.
The design for Blight Chronicles started from that very problem and arrived at different solutions, for three reasons:
Story: While it seems subtle on the surface level it is an important part of the process because it informs the design of every card.
Progression: The feeling of progression where you’re gradually facing stronger obstacles as your gear (hopefully) improves.
Relevance: The original Agent Decker files are still available online and Superhot: The Card Game is in stores, so why would you play this one instead?
The obvious solution to increase replayability was to leave the obstacles deck untouched and simply increase the amount of goals you need to complete. Instead of a fixed sequence of 5 missions you would have multiple goals for each mission. During setup you shuffle their pile and draw one for each – face down so you can’t fine tune your deck in advance.
The thing is, this time I am not designing alone.
This is a co-design with Matt Dembek, who was so inspired by the original game that he wanted to expand it in pretty much every aspect. I can’t wait to tell you what we’re working on, starting with how we changed the missions.
Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker is coming to Kickstarter soon!
Board & Dice released a version of Agent Decker with brand new art by Paweł Niziołek. You might recall it was one of the stretch goals from SUPERHOT: The Card Game’s Kickstarter campaign and the fans are loving it online! It’s at 768 downloads at the moment. The number went up as I wrote this post.
Meanwhile the original version of Agent Decker has been downloaded 10.103 times from the itch.io page! What’s your favorite version?
Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker
My next project was announced and its name is Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker. It’s my first co-design, along with Matt Dembek from Board & Dice. I’ll be revealing more information about this one soon and you can get the latest news by subscribing to its BoardGameGeek page.
UK Games Expo was a lot of fun! Thank you everyone who came over, especially those who had also been there in previous game events. It’s always rewarding to see people interested in my games, and it feels even sweeter when they come back for more.
For four days I demoed SUPERHOT: The Card Game pretty much nonstop, until my voice was gone.
In my playtests I had focused on teaching just the game mode I was testing that time, but here I wanted to showcase the whole game. With practice I got better at teaching and unfolding the game, refining it in response to questions that had appeared in previous demos. In a way, I was playtesting the explanation, and at the end it was really good.
I was surprised to find myself adding jokes here and there, seeing the reactions and keeping the ones that worked, like I imagine a stand up comedian would do. It’s a good way to break the repetitive nature of demoing, and you bet I’ll do it again in the future.
It’s great to see all the backers getting their copies and posting about it from all over the world. As they start to play some questions are popping up on BGG, and I’m answering them as fast as my day job will allow.
A lot has happened since my latest post. Let’s do a quick recap, shall we?
Multiuniversum – Project: Cthulhu’s Kickstarter campaign was very successful. We asked for $7000 but our backers contributed close to $19.500 USD, funding it 278%!
Shortly thereafter it was printed and shipped to Essen Spiel, where it was officially released.
Last year I went to Essen for the first time and spent four days pitching my games to publishers. This time I was there to demo my first published game! For three whole days I taught the game to as many visitors as I could.
I have a lot of respect for anyone who’s demoing. The halls are very loud and you have to be even louder, but without sounding like you’re shouting! My voice held on during the first day, but by the end of the third I could barely speak. My advice? Drink plenty of water.
My demoing gig was cut short due to Multiuniversum and the expansion selling out! It was extremely rewarding, and it gave me the chance to see the other halls and say “Hi!” to friends.
After Spiel there have been a lot of new reviews and at the moment Multiuniversum is currently on 2320 in the BGG Rank.
The next print run will feature the rules in Spanish as well. Muy Bueno!
Meanwhile my new project has been announced:
SUPERHOT The Card Game is an adaptation of the popular videogame SUPERHOT. Its core mechanics are based on Agent Decker plus the concept of “Time moves when you do”! As a big fan of the videogame I’m doing my best to do it justice.
Speaking of Agent Decker, both the game and the rulebook have been updated for clarity and consistency due to player feedback. You can download it here.