2008-08-31 : Killing Darlings
Once, a long time ago, I watched my little brother play Vampire: the Eternal Struggle. This was a game I'd played a lot of, but was not any good at. Glen too. Watching him play, though, I was removed from the urgency of it and I could see how his caution (which was my problem too) wasn't serving him. Like, he (and I, when I played) worked to preserve his resources in the game. Watching it, able to see it objectively instead of distracted by whether I'd win or lose, I could see that what you have to do is expend your resources. Otherwise, you get no return on your investment, right?
So that's a thing.
For the past ten years or so I've had a board game in mind to someday design. It's about the old emperor dying or going mad and who gets to be the new emperor? It's quite an extensive game, which is why it's been "to someday design": it has several different resources, a range of military units with different values, characters whose values change depending on whether you install them as officers of your army, as courtiers in the emperor's court, as administrators in your home provinces, or as priests and priestesses in the temples; it tracks fully a half dozen different values to resolve outcomes, all the way up to who wins the game. Every time I've tried to actually build it, for a decade, I've stalled out on the extensiveness of it. A potential game, not a real one.
Cool things about it!
1) The old emperor lives on a 4x4 grid, with "going insane" across the X-axis and "Dying" down the Y-axis. He starts in the top left, at only a little bit insane, only a little bit dying. Over the course of the game, sometimes he steps to the right and gets crazier (with game effects), sometimes he steps down and his health fails (with different game effects), but either way he gradually marches toward his end. If he falls of the right edge he's mad, if he falls of the bottom he dies, and that's when the game ends and we find out who's the new emperor.
2) When there's a battle, the outcome could depend on a) the compared mights of the two armies, b) the compared tactical minds of their two leaders, c) which one of the two the emperor supports (with his own troops), and/or d) the will of the gods. Each of these are known and static at the moment the battle starts - we might know, for instance, that your army and your general are better than mine, but the emperor and the gods support me. To resolve the battle, though, we determine randomly which actually matter. So it might be that in this battle, the mights of our armies matter a little, but the will of the gods carries it - so I win, at a cost. The next battle, maybe only tactics matter, and you win handily.
3) At the end of the game, there are actually three win conditions. One person becomes the new emperor, one becomes the new high general, and one becomes the new high priest. If one player wins all three, that's a pure win. If one player wins two and another player the third, that's a win with a runner up. And if there's a three-way win, that's a three-way win, with everyone else losing.
Anyhow so that's the second thing, this game I've had in mind for a long, long time.
Then a few days ago I played a board game in development by this guy Slash. It was a cool game, but not perfect. He's in a position I know well, probably we all do: he's just as close to his design goals as his chosen techniques are going to take him. Now he has to decide if it's close enough, or if he's going to go back to the drawing board and redesign from the ground. I didn't quite come out and say this to him, but I found that as we were talking about bringing his game that last 5%, to really nail his goals, we were talking about some fundamental changes. Tweaking with the turn order, committing then revealing, stuff like that, will bring him a hair closer than he is. To 96% let's say. To really nail it, though, he's going to have to tear down some significant design work and rebuild.
So I'm driving home from playing and I can see so clearly in my mind the kinds of changes he'd have to make.
And I'm like, so, Vincent ... anything you feel like learning from this?
Two days later I gutted and redesigned my old game, making a prototype as I went. This was Thursday. We played it today, twice. Between the first time and the second I tweaked some stuff and brought it from 98% to 99%. Friends? It rules. Everything I described above, playable in an hour, suitable for ages 8+, every moment engaging for kids and grownups alike.
The step to 100% will be all in production.
I'm bragging! I can't wait to show you this game. It's a good one. But also I'm trying to say something, maybe tell you something you'll find useful. Something like: you have to learn how to kill your darlings, you do. But you can practice on someone else's.
1. On 2008-08-31, Willow said:
2. On 2008-08-31, Meguey said:
3. On 2008-08-31, Christoph said:
4. On 2008-08-31, Vincent said:
5. On 2008-08-31, tonydowler said:
6. On 2008-08-31, Porter said:
7. On 2008-09-01, Vincent said:
8. On 2008-09-01, Gregor said:
9. On 2008-09-04, Sydney Freedberg said:
10. On 2008-09-04, Vincent said:
11. On 2008-09-05, SDL said:
12. On 2008-09-13, Joshua A.C. Newman said:
13. On 2008-09-13, Vincent said:
14. On 2008-09-17, Slash said:
15. On 2008-09-17, Joshua A.C. Newman said:
16. On 2008-09-17, Joshua A.C. Newman said:
17. On 2008-09-17, Ben Lehman said:
18. On 2008-09-18, Matt Wilson said:
19. On 2008-09-25, Corbin said: