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Archive for North Star Digital

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Evolution: The Video Game is launching on Kickstarter today. A look back at some ideas we trashed to get here.

Nick Bentley
United States
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Today, we launched Evolution: The Video Game on Kickstarter.

We've been working on it for nearly 3 years. We could have made almost 4 babies in that time! Instead we've been trying to craft the best digital tabletop game ever made. Life is exciting when you shoot for the moon, so we're shooting. Some features:

fully cross-platform for Steam, iOS, and Android
fast and fluid: you can play a game in 10 minutes
beautiful animations that enhance gameplay instead of slowing it down
online multiplayer mode that matches you with similarly skilled players
campaigns offering new ways to play that don't exist in the physical version of the game
a learn-by-playing tutorial that makes learning effortless

We've come a long way. We've posed hundreds of design questions and answered each dozens of times, always looking for a better answer than the one that came before.

In celebration of our launch, here's a look back at our progress through the lense of just one of those questions: how should a species be represented onscreen?

We started with two design maxims, diametrically opposed:

1. All information needs to be present when it's necessary; nothing is hidden behind a click.
2. The screen needs to have high over-the-shoulder appeal, meaning somebody walking by would say "that looks pretty".

We came up with 64 different solutions before finally settling on one. I won't show you all 64 because I'm not insane, but here's a chronological sampling:

First, the beginning. A screenshot of our first full-screen mockup:

This was as close as we could come to the look of the tabletop game. It immediately revealed a problem: the scheme wouldn't allow for more than two players. There wasn't enough room onscreen to add more species for the left and right players.

Another problem: early testers didn't look at the mix of population, body size, and traits, and see a "species". They just saw a hodgepodge of stuff. We wanted players to identify with their species and understand it as a creature. We begin experimenting with putting a picture of a species in the center of each species to tie all of the information together. Enter the species “badge”:

This helped tie things together and also allowed traits to be smaller. But in making the traits smaller, we realized we should emphasize the outline of the creatures on the trait cards to make them easier to distinguish from one another:

We also had the challenge that for population, a player has to know how many population are fed and how many are unfed. So we added population markers:

We wrestled a lot with how to best show this mix of fed and unfed population:

The above is the one we settled on for the first working prototype of the game. Population was represented by the bubbles on the left. This design carried us all the way through to the second version of the game, complete with production code:

The transition to 3D resulted in another variant of this badge, complete with a dynamic body size label that grows as the size increases:

Then we took it to our first public showing, at PAX East, and quickly realized we had two major problems:

First, players didn’t like counting lots of little pips.

Second, it wasn’t intuitive that the population pips are a “hotspot”. To add a population, you needed to drag a card to exactly the population area of the badge. A line of pips didn’t make an obvious target to drag to.

With that, once again we dove into another round of trying to get perfect mix of each of the elements of the species: population, fed and unfed states, body size, traits, and clear target hotspots:

The “Stone”

The “Paw Print”

Having a number for population, and displaying the food eaten, proved particularly difficult.

The “Flower”

The “Slash”

The “Smile”

And finally, a mere 64 versions later, we give you...drumroll please...

The Claw!

The absolute perfect mix of art, user interaction, and information, in an elegant package. Hope you like it. If not, no problem, no doubt Mark, Bree, and Jesse would love to crank out another 64 versions. Otherwise...

back our Kickstarter campaign!

(among other things, it's the only chance you will ever have to get in on the game during its beta stage)

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Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:05 pm
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LAST CALL - Free Access to Evolution Video Game

Dominic Crapuchettes
United States
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North Star Games designs party games that don't suck! Play them with your non-gamer friends over the holidays.
First there was Hearts, then there was Spades, and now we bring you Clubs. The suit of clubs finally gets some respect!
About 3 years ago, I convinced one of my MBA classmates to leave a cushy job at Intel to create a digital division for North Star Games. Our goal for North Star Digital was simple: to set the quality bar for digital board game conversions. Not just to set it, but to blow it out of the water! Scott Rencher sold his house in Oregon, moved his family across the country, and prepared for what is turning out to be the wildest ride of his life. Then he hired a team of experienced coders and artists from Hasbro, Booz Allen Hamilton, NBC Universal, Microsoft, and Wizards of the Coast. And they also left their cushy jobs to join us for the ride of their lives...

We had to make room in the office before the new team could get to work, so Scott gave my 4 year old son a sledgehammer and a bag of Halloween candy. Then he invited everyone else in the office for a "tear down those walls" party (ie HR's solution to pent up office politics).

Industry Previews
The initial response to the alpha version has been very positive from video game reviewers. Brett Nolan from AppAddict says "Evolution Will Be My Next IPad Board Gaming Addiction."
        - App Addict
        - Gameosity

Free Access to the Alpha
Now we're ready for widespread feedback! Click on the link below if you're interested in getting free access to the Alpha on Steam (or potentially on your iPad). Your feedback will be greatly helpful to us as we put the final polish on the game.

        - Tell Me More -
        - Sign Me Up -

        - April 22nd:         Final call for Alpha testers
        - Spring 2018:      Widespread release

Follow the Journey
Subscribe to North Star Digital's blog if you want to an insider's peak into the process and timeline.

Graphics Montage

Concept Sketches to Final: Card Design

Concept Sketches to Final: Darwin Host Character

Concept Sketches to Final: Species Board

Variable Foilage Graphics

Showing the Alpha at PAX East

Still Here?!!
What are you waiting for? Your last chance to get free access to a game that might set the new bar in the industry ends on April 22nd. Help us make this happen. Cheers!

        - Sign Me Up -

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Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:15 pm
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