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Peak Oil» Forums » General

Subject: Peak Oil - From Published Game to PnP (PnP version designers' diary) rss

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Heiko Günther
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In the development thread Peak Oil - From PnP to Published Game Thread, we polled the interest in a designer diary focusing on "what happened until we published the game as a free PnP and found a real publisher" (Whatever happened after that has been "diaried" to some extent in the thread quoted above.) It seems such interest exists. Either because that is not a feature of polls, or because I am too lazy to find out, I am unable to identify the yes-voters and publicly denounce them here for making you read this. So, basically, there is no one to blame for this "diary".

Either way, to call this diary is funny at best. Sounds like we meticulously took notes and photographs something like years ago, because, yes, we knew, deep in our hearts, and as a fact cold and shiny as brand new rubber boots made from the finest crude oils, that one day, not too far away, we would want to publish said meticulous notes. Well. We didn’t. So this is more of a “Designer’s retroactively puzzled together story of how we prefer to remember the way we ended up with this game in our hands”. It’s maybe a bit more interesting, and, at the very least, casts a better light on our abilities as game designers. It is also very sketchy, and ignores a large portion of what actually happened. But hey, water down the river et al.

(Tobias and I decided to write this together. So I stop at this point to give him a chance to reply. While everybody else may of course post in this thread whatever they want to, we will ignore all of that and only answer to each other's posts, respectively continue the story where the other left off. Also, we know there are blogs. We just don't like them.)
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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Unlike Heiko, I have perfect photographic memory, so I can recall every tiny detail about the whole process. It’s like I’m a machine. A sentient robot. A neural net processor, a learning computer.

Ok, that may be a bit exaggerated. Possibly even a lot exaggerated. Or, actually, totally made up. The development of this game has been going on, intermittently, for years, after all.
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Morten K
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I voted yes in the poll. Blame me.
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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Tigrillo wrote:
I voted yes in the poll. Blame me.


You are hereby officially blamed. Your wish has been granted.
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Heiko Günther
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(image by mazout)

ÖL FÜR UNS ALLE

Roughly 2005 I was sharing a flat with Tobias, and also our weekly games’ night, an unhealthy obsession with nuclear tanks and a high-sugar diet. The perfect breeding ground for stupid game ideas. If you ever played bicycle-racing board games and gave all bikes large nitro tanks, flak guns and flamethrowers before, you probably know what I am talking about.

At least with myself I also shared my personal obsession with hunting “valuable things” at flea markets. Especially obscure board games rising from the ashes of time. So I proposed to the assembled games’ night folks to play this probably amazing game I just bought last Saturday. It had tankers, and oil, and drilling and pegs you put in holes and stuff.

A guy on the cover, with a BP logo crudely photoshopped (probably still in a real photo shop at that time) on his safety helmet lent further credibility to this Ravensburger title.
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Jim Parkin
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TobiasG wrote:
Tigrillo wrote:
I voted yes in the poll. Blame me.


You are hereby officially blamed. Your wish has been granted.

Morten, you are not alone.
 
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Gil Hova
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Now THAT'S a cover.
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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This obsession with getting obscure games from flea markets has, in my opinion, met with somewhat mixed success. At first glance, this game looked like an incredibly retro, and incredibly clumsy piece of marketing. The second and third glance did little to change that impression.
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Heiko Günther
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The "clumsy marketing" aside, we immediately liked the theme. One or two years before, the media had been full of images from the recent large oil spill on the coast of France and Spain. Obviously, this had to be a game about sinister large oil companies exploiting the environment, all for the greater good of making profit and helping the world economy grow. You probably would backroom deal with other players, try to forge tanker papers, sink enemies’ tankers and earn a shitload of money. Assumingly, Ellis or Ennis would have written the script, and you could play as any James Bond villain you liked.
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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It should, perhaps, be pointed out that what Heiko describes are things we absolutely love in games. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a Bond Villain? Who doesn’t want to poison vast stretches of pristine nature just to make a quick buck? It’s probably a basic human need, I guess.
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Jim Parkin
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Auric Goldfinger wrote:
Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He's fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor... except crime!
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Heiko Günther
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We opened the box and played it.

(image by moonblogger)

While some of our hopes were indeed, and surprisingly, and probably unintentionally, correct, most were not. You could move funky tanker miniatures with holes that held oil pegs around the board, and load off oil at refinery centers. Drilling was somewhat fun, at the fate of a die roll you moved pegs on a drill board deeper and deeper into the unyielding soil, sometimes to strike a rich vein, sometimes to no avail.

Another peg board was reserved for more cool bookkeeping stuff, and there was money and named oil fields from real life and shipping contracts and the north sea and, to be true, a roll and move game at the core that happened on a track suspiciously similar to Monopoly. Well, it goes around a board, a rectangular board, and there is a Start spot where you collect income.

The whole thing lacked some proper sort of ending condition, and after a few hours we decided that we had reached it all the same. We multiplied our red plastic chips with moneys and some other things happened and one of us had won. But still, cool tankers.
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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The biggest problem was that everything was terribly nice. There were no morally questionable things to do, no trade wars, and precious few ways to screw another player. The company you played was totally law-abiding, responsible, and honest. Which is a bit much to swallow in a game about Big Oil. Anyway, this was a huge pity, because many ideas in the game were pretty nifty.
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Heiko Günther
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A nondescript amount of time passed.

We decided that the tanker miniatures were just too cool and we needed to use them in a new version of this game, a proper version, with slush funds, weapon trading, black markets, oil spills, nuclear tanks, nepotistic regimes, general mayhem, and a real end. Over a few different versions, sometimes with a year or so in between revisiting the game, sometimes only days, we kept adding things we liked at the time and removing ones that didn’t work.

Regulars of our games’ night started to fear “the oil game”, and we had to come up with all sorts of annoying ploys to make them play it. Sorry guys, if you are reading this, that cousin of mine does neither suffer from a highly contagious blood disease nor did he lick all my games.
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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lee elektrik wrote:
A nondescript amount of time passed.


Let’s call it 1d+2 time units.

Quote:
We decided that the tanker miniatures were just too cool and we needed to use them in a new version of this game, a proper version, with slush funds, weapon trading, black markets, oil spills, nuclear tanks, nepotistic regimes, general mayhem, and a real end. Over a few different versions, sometimes with a year or so in between revisiting the game, sometimes only days, we kept adding things we liked at the time and removing ones that didn’t work.

Regulars of our games’ night started to fear “the oil game”, and we had to come up with all sorts of annoying ploys to make them play it. Sorry guys, if you are reading this, that cousin of mine does neither suffer from a highly contagious blood disease nor did he lick all my games.


Over time, this game has probably used most mechanics a game can use at one time or the other. We had, at various points, roll-to-move, fixed move, everything controlled by dice, diceless… What have you. Except a hex grid, that somehow never made it. Weird.
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Heiko Günther
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Version 1
(Version 1 board)
BLUT FÜR ÖL
The playtest for our great new game, lovingly dubbed “Blut für Öl”, was still a mess, but it was ours, and one we liked better.

Allowing each action to be taken in a more effective version, called “dirty”, which also brought the potential of causing a PR Disaster, made you feel like the bad overlords of oil dealing you were supposed to be. The roll and move track on the other hand decidedly did not. We kicked that out for the next one.
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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The roll and move track also cluttered the board, and was just ugly.
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Heiko Günther
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Version 2
(Version 2 board and cards)
ÖL FÜR BLUT
The drilling had been abridged to a simple die roll, and there were several spots you could “control”. To trade weapons, you needed to control cards (corresponding to spots) with at least one left (origin country) and one right (key market) half of an AK47. I can’t really be bothered to search for the rules on old hard drives, and, in fact, find it highly surprising I even found these images. To be true, I have no idea what the turn structure was in this version.

What I do remember is that you had secret accounts for especially dirty deals. They did not hold any money or anything, but if you were required to pay money from such fund, you just flipped one of your “secret account” cards on its used side. Control over certain regions (South America, I guess) gave you access to more secret funds. And some money laundering action allowed you to flip them back to their active side. Hm. Tobias, remember anything more?
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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The game was pretty complicated at this point, if I remember correctly. You could do a lot of things, but pretty few of them were simple, or even - gasp - automatically successful. I think it would have been very difficult to get into the game, unless you had been evolving it for months.
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Heiko Günther
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Version 3-5
(Version 5 board with some cards.)

V3 and V4 are lost in the haze that is the past. By the time of Version 5, the shipping routes had been opened to allow for less linear movement, and jockeying for good tanker positions at the refinery centers. If your tanker suffered a disaster, the place it happened was of great importance for the amount of money it cost you to get a hold on the ensuing PR Disaster. A havary around Europe or North America was quite the costly indulgence, whereas sinking your tanker around Africa or on the open Atlantic didn’t really concern anyone.

Drilling had been further abstracted into cards, and tankers had a “cool down” phase at the refineries, where you could not retrieve your tanker until all spots had been filled.

Oh, right, to make more profit, you wanted to first destabilize regions, and then take control of them. Stabilizing an opponent’s region at the wrong moment could really mess with plans. Mercenaries were a central part of every thriving oil empire. Also, building pipelines for the greater good (and a lot of money).
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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There’s still information overload in this version. Even with Heiko’s love for clean design and minimalism, there’s loads of different symbols and references and little fiddly stuff. The pipelines are a good example - you had to construct the things piece by piece, and the earlier versions were so difficult to complete that the whole pipeline thing was pretty much useless.
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Heiko Günther
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Ah, also, there was an, I think, really nice area-system, that allowed your general influence in a larger area to filter down into a specific control over one region in that area. I have to admit I introduced it somewhat secretly, bypassing Tobias, and he never liked it. In retrospect, I totally agree, but can also relate to past Heiko being incredibly annoyed at the blasé reaction of his to my great innovation. Also, they look good. Sucker.
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Tobias Gohrbandt
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/cough/ Yes, well, it was a really nice system. It just sucked. Seriously, I’m pretty certain that a lot of the sub-games from those early versions could be developed into full games on their own, actually. The area control part was something like that: an interesting new game, but too unwieldy to bolt onto this one.

Even so, I still think we should have a put a hex grid on the ocean, and added Attack, Defense and Move stats to the tankers.
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darsh97 darsh97
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TobiasG wrote:
We should have a put a hex grid on the ocean, and added Attack, Defense and Move stats to the tankers.


+1!
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Roger BW
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TobiasG wrote:
Even so, I still think we should have a put a hex grid on the ocean, and added Attack, Defense and Move stats to the tankers.
"To resolve naval conflicts, simply get out your copy of Harpoon 4…"
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