Blight Chronicles Designer Diary 2 – Your Mission

Agent Decker, Blight Chronicles, boardgame, boardgame prototype, crowdfunding, designer tips, game design, Superhot

Missions are a key part of Agent Decker.

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!

Blight Chronicles Designer Diary 1 – Expanding Agent Decker

Agent Decker, Blight Chronicles, boardgame, boardgame prototype, crowdfunding, designer tips, game design, Superhot

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.

– From “SUPERHOT: The Card Game – Designer Diary 3

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.

Simple!

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!

SUPERHOT: THE CARD GAME – DESIGNER DIARY 3

boardgame, boardgame prototype, crowdfunding, designer tips, game design, Superhot

superhot_setup

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.

Being a print-and-play game the players would have to assemble it before playing, so I wanted to keep the card amount fairly low. Instead of adding more goals I added a high score system. The first goal is to beat the campaign and the second, if the players want to, would be to beat their previous high score.

This lack of replayability was one of the first things I wanted to address in SUPERHOT: The Card Game.

In the original videogame the main objective is to kill every enemy in the level. That’s where my design started, but I quickly ran into three problems. First, it’s easy to lose track of how many enemies are left in the deck, and I didn’t want the players to stop playing to flip the deck over and count.  Second, being a deckbuilding game there was the risk of a player simply adding all the enemy cards in his/her deck in a previous level, preventing the completion of the next one! Third, having a single objective got very repetitive, even if the enemy total would increase throughout. It nudged the players towards building one specific type of deck, ignoring everything else you could do in the game.

To fix this I had to steer a bit away from the original game. Varied goals were added, aimed at exploring the game’s mechanics and obstacles while keeping within the focus of the game: manipulating the level, the enemies and the flow of time. The goals can now be shuffled to give the players a different sequence every time, keeping players on their toes.

surrnder3-1030x579

This meant I had to rethink each goal’s difficulty. Agent Decker’s fixed sequence let me control the pace at which the difficulty increases. This system doesn’t. The goals have to work whether they show up at the start of the game or further along, when the challenge is meant to have ramped up.

The solution was simple: more goals!

  • Draw 1 goal for Level 1
  • Draw 2 goals for Level 2
  • Draw 3 goals for Level 3

The difficulty comes from the time flow mechanic and the bullets.

The core structure of the game had to change as well. Once a planned sequence of goals where from time to time new cards are added to the deck, now the obstacle card had to be designed for versatility.

To extend the replayability that ramp had to be replaced by a more open design. The cards became a series of dots which the goals ask you to connect into different shapes.

SUPERHOT: The Card Game is on Kickstarter right now! It was funded in the first three hours and is currently at 703% of its goal.

SUPERHOT: THE CARD GAME – DESIGNER DIARY 2

boardgame, boardgame prototype, designer tips, game design, Superhot

In the last post I wrote about the time flow, one of the main mechanics that bring SUPERHOT to life in the card game. Now let’s talk about the glue that holds it together: the bullets!

Bullets are an ever present threat in the original videogame. Pick any random moment in the game and the odds are you’re reacting to a swarm of bullets flying in your direction. If a single one hits it’s game over and you have to replay the level.

What can you do?

superhot_press_screenshot_09-1030x579.png

The most intuitive solution is to dodge, but you must be careful. Time advances with every step you take and dodging a bullet can mean three others just got closer.

Time goes hand in hand with the bullets, but how do they work in the card game?

At the end of the turn the enemies in the Line will shoot. These bullets will go to the objectives discard pile. That’s right! The bullets don’t go straight to the Line. Just like the original videogame, you have some time to deal with bullets from distant enemies before they come back to haunt you.

superhot_bullet.jpg

When the obstacles deck runs out you shuffle their discard pile to form the new one and from this point onward bullets will sneak into the Line.

If a bullet leaves the line it will go straight into your hand – and stay there. This is a big problem because it has no use, takes up space and blocks you from drawing new cards at the end of the turn. If you get hit by four it’s game over!

superhot2

You might notice it takes four bullets to die when in the videogame one is enough. This is where I had to bend the rules. In the videogame you push a button and the level instantly resets. In a second you’re back in the action. In the card game you would have to separate the cards and go through the setup again. Three minutes, maybe?

That’s too much. It’s punishing and it makes the players dwell on their mistakes rather than give them the will to try again. Making the bullets a growing hindrance instead of the end game also let me bring a key aspect from the videogame, but I can’t mention it without spoiling!

SUPERHOT: The Card Game is coming to Kickstarter very soon. The campaign preview is already up, and I’d love to hear your feedback!

SUPERHOT: The Card Game – Designer Diary 1

boardgame, boardgame prototype, designer tips, game design, Superhot

SUPERHOT is a first person shooter in which time only moves when you do.

I’d like to tell you how I brought that core mechanic to SUPERHOT: The Card Game.

If you look at it closely, SUPERHOT is pretty much turnbased already. The super slow motion gives you time to look around and plan your next move, and the choice of when to speed it up is in your hands.

The mechanics in SUPERHOT: The Card Game are based on Agent Decker, whose core systems are deckbuilding and mission progression. The main thing that didn’t fit the theme was the Alarm, which is the main threat and the source of the hardest decisions.

This was the perfect time to bring in SUPERHOT’s core concept: “Time moves only when you do”.

superhot_line

At the center of the table there’s a line of six cards. They represent where you are, what you see and which enemies are there. Using the cards in your hand you can destroy or knock them out, changing the line.

In the following example you have used two cards from your hand. This means the last two cards in the line will be discarded at the end of the turn.

superhot_line2

The remaining cards will scroll to the right and the line will refill back up to six cards.

It’s up to you. Use one card and the line barely moves. Use your whole hand and it can change radically. Time moves only when you move.

This change worked in both a mechanic and thematic thematic sense but without the Alarm we needed a new source of tension. Something to make the players think twice about scrolling the line at maximum speed. Something that is coming in your direction.

I’ve got just the thing: bullets!

superhot_line3

The final piece of this puzzle creates interesting dilemmas, which I’ll cover in the next article.

SUPERHOT: The Card Game is coming to Kickstarter very soon. You can stay up to date by subscribing to the newsletter.

What if there were no bad cards?

designer tips, Multiuniversum

pic2926763

The game is almost over. It’s your turn and this time you have a chance of winning. You draw a card and – oh no! Not that card. That’s not the one you need. Your opponent takes the victory. Again.

We’ve all been there.

Every designer has its own process, but the starting point seems to be a big point of contention. Do you start with the theme (setting) or with mechanics (how the game plays)?

For Multiuniversum, it started with a question:

“What if there were no bad cards?”

Every action card has all the possible actions in the game, shuffled around. You can find them on the left half of the action cards. Each action is in a slot with a color and a number, which corresponds to the computer stations on the center of the table.

The computer where your character is defines the slots you can use.

P1090328s

For example, in the above image you’re at Computer #1, so you can do any of the actions on the first slot of the cards.

If you use the “Move” action on the leftmost card, you can walk your scientist over to any other computer. If you move to Computer #3,  you’ll be able to use the actions on the third slot of your remaining cards.

This is the core of the game. That action you really need? You’re holding it in your hand. The challenge is to figure out how to chain the actions to make the most of what you’re dealt.

With three actions per turn, this creates a tree of possible choices for the players to explore while they wait for the next turn. It gives the players the feeling that they’re in control, and the solution can be found somewhere in their hand.

There’s no joy like seeing a silent, focused player unleash a mighty “Eureka”!

Multiuniversum will be published this June by Board & Dice. If you want to keep up to date with all the updates and awesome art, please consider subscribing to its BoardgameGeek page!

Designer’s Guide to Essen Spiel – Part 3

designer tips, event, game design

P1080458

In Part 1 and Part 2 we talked about how to prepare if you want to pitch your games at Essen Spiel. In Part 3 we’ll cover handy tips for the event itself, and what you should do after it’s over.

2. AT ESSEN SPIEL
Cloakroom and lockers
You can find these right at the door and they seem really useful but keep in mind there will be massive queues when the event closes. Get there earlier and you could save up to a whole hour. 

The event itself gets pretty tropical, so my advice is simply do not bring a coat.

AEG bags
It’s likely you’ll be picking up games during the day and the room in a backpack runs out pretty quick. If you get a game at the AEG booth, whatever the size, they’ll hand it to you inside an enormous bag. Handy!

Wellbeing
You’ll be talking a lot so be sure to bring water and lemon drops. Also, learn where the bathrooms are!

 

MEETINGS
Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for! Don’t panic.

A. Get there early
You want to cause a good first impression so get to the booth a few minutes before the meeting.

B. Remember the names
If you’ve scheduled the meetings by e-mail, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to identify the person who you’ll be talking to. You’re going to have to ask someone so keep that name handy!

C. Start with the sellsheets
Setting up the game takes time and space, and good publishers will tell you right away when they won’t even consider it. Start by showing the sellsheet and only bring the game out if they ask for it or you want to show a particular detail.

D. Bring an extra prototype
If they really like your game they’ll want a copy to play with their team. If you’re meeting other publishers on the same day, bring more than one copy!

E. Take notes 
Did they ask for a digital prototype or the rules? Don’t leave that to the end of the day, especially if you’re having a lot of meetings. Write that down as soon as possible so you can free your mind and focus on the next one. 

 

3. POST-ESSEN
Follow-up
Read your notes from the meetings and send all the follow-up e-mails you said you would! Even if they can’t read them right away they’ll be right there for when they can.

Read the notes
If the publishers were interested in your games, they might have suggested some changes that they’d like to see in order to consider publishing it. Use these notes to guide your game’s next steps.

Take it with a grain of salt
Don’t worry if you’ve left Spiel without a signed contract. You’ve started conversations, sent out prototypes and soon you’ll get more feedback. You might have even heard some things about your games that you don’t agree with.

Taking criticism can be hard but hopefully now that you’ve had time to cool off a bit you’ll be able to see it from their point of view. The publishers know what they’re doing and there are a lot of different elements that can factor into their feedback. The biggest one seems to be their line of games and production. Even if your game is great, if it doesn’t fit their line, the fans will find it odd and likely off-putting. If it requires exotic components they’re not used to making, it ramps up the production costs so much that it might not be worth the risk.

Now you have an idea of what they’re looking for and you can use it to update your games and even take it into consideration when starting new ones. 

Good luck!

P.S: How did it go for me? Very well actually, and there’s a hint in this very post. Stay tuned!