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Designer Diary: From Edo to Yedo

Thomas Vande Ginste
Belgium
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Hello, everyone! Since we now know that our game Yedo will be at Spiel 2012 (and the rules are available on BGG), I want to give you a little insight on how the game came to be. It was a great but sometimes stressful experience.

We are both from Belgium. My co-designer Wolf Plancke is a teacher, and I work as a firefighter/paramedic in Bruges. Our journey starts in Kortrijk, Belgium in September 2007 when my cousin – Wolf – had a game day. He's a real game fanatic. That evening after another game day, his wife was a bit annoyed. She said, "Instead of playing games all the time, you should do something better with your lively fantasy...and make some money." And there the little seed of making our own game was planted.

The illusion of making money with it is long gone – but the feeling of having our own game in the shops is priceless. The prize is in the journey!

So Wolf started off with small papers, colors, little texts. He wanted to make a gamer's game with all the ingredients he liked in a game, so there are no brand new, world-shocking mechanisms – we apologize for that, maybe in the next game – but rather a solid game which brings together what we like, namely an appealing theme, different paths to victory, and a lot of fun. He called me and asked whether I wanted to make the drawings for the prototype. I like to draw, but have no professionel experience; even my gaming experience is not that big. But I liked the idea of trying to create something together. In the beginning it was only the drawings, but we became more and more of a team. Wolf helped me with comments on the drawings, and I tried to help with the mechanisms of the game.

First, I tried to draw things by hand. I had some time on my hands since I had to follow courses for my job, so the first sketches were in pen on small pieces of paper.


I had never drawn on a tablet before, but it seemed like it would be easier if we had digital pictures to work with, so I went to a German low budget store to buy a basic tablet. The first tries were really terrible. Looking at the screen while you draw requires quite an adaptation. Some pics:

First sketch, final icon for the prototype, and the castle icon

After some weeks we had our first playable prototype:


We were convinced that a nice prototype could only help us to find a publisher, so we tested, and tested again, and I drew dozens of drawings. It was a bumpy road because we both had to work with a program we didn't know – Wolf with Adobe InDesign, me with ArtRage. But as we went on, we found new ways of working. Some days we thought we finally knew how to do it; on other days we thought we would never finish the game. But we kept testing, drawing, designing, and enjoying ourselves.

By August 2008 we had our draft rules ready, and Wolf pasted all of my little drawings together in a nice prototype. First, I made small icons for districts, then we started off with the weapons and the districts.


Harbor and gate district: sketch and prototype

We made everything in Dutch since that's our mother tongue. Wolf also created a nice clan card for every player. The nicer the prototype became, the more fun we had testing and testing again.

Sample clan card

Finally we had our prototype. It was a colorful, lively map with a lot of hidden running gags. The man with the barrel is in every district and has a lot of bad luck. The priest and his friends are first popular in Japan, then a little later they are being sent away. We included those little gimmicks to entertain people when you have a co-player who likes to think for an hour before deciding what to do.

Attending church? Welcome and not-so-welcome parties

We also implemented a little story on every mission card. It doesn't make a difference for the game strategies, but it's good for the atmosphere of the game, giving background and context to things.

Now we had a nice prototype which we played with gamer friends, but also a lot with casual gamers and even with people who almost never played games. That way we could test whether it was too hard for any group. Most non-gaming people got a little stressed when we started to explain the game, but we always reassured them that they would be able to play on their own after turn four – and it always succeeded.

Definitive prototype

We decided to enter our game in the Hippodice game design competition in 2009. If that didn't turn out well, we would start to look for a publisher. The Hippodice competition was a cold shower. We didn't make the selection because the game didn't fit the profile of what they were looking for.

After being dissapointed for a day, we started to send messages all around the world to game publishers. We also had to make an English prototype. Luckily we had a friend, Frank, who's a translator, and he did a great job making the text sound more epic and spicing the stories a little more.

Fair Ingooigem: Luk Lombaerde
Evenings went by cutting and pasting cards, maps, and boxes. Now my wife became a little annoyed. We tried to attend fairs in Belgium, hoping to get in touch with people who could help us.

First to react was a Dutch publisher at a fair in Holland where we went and presented our prototype. Everyone got 30 minutes to present their game. We were there way too early, but we didn't want to miss our appointment. When we opened our box and put the prototype on the table (A3 map), the representative of the firm looked a bit strange. He said he was used to seeing basic prototypes and had the impression this game was almost ready. (You should have seen the smiles on our faces when he said that.) He did enjoy the game, but it wasn't really for their company because it had a lot of components, stories, and so on.

He redirected us to a Dutch sister firm. We sent them the prototype, and again we got the same answer: We like it, but it's big with a lot of components that will be expensive to produce (which is a risk in the small Dutch market).

Anyway, we didn't lose confidence because no one said the game was bad – they all had mostly practical objections – so we kept on writing to firms like Queen Games, Fantasy Flight Games, and so on. American firms mostly reacted by telling us we needed an agent to get into contact with them, but we wanted to do it ourselves, so we didn't take one. We did put a little PDF teaser with our messages and gave them the chance to ask for more info if they were interested.

The first real proposition came from Australia. They wanted our game in the t1000 system, which is a bit like Kickstarter in that the publisher prints the game only if he has one thousand buyers. But this was a very long shot. In our opinion, our prototype was not good enough to print right away – and paying for a professional graphic designer ourselves without a guarantee of publication was a bit dangerous since we had already put some money in the game (prototypes, computer, programs, etc.).

In May 2009 we finally got the message we were waiting for: "Hello, Wolf, we like the teaser. Is it possible to send us the whole rules so we can assess the game better?" That led to an appointment at Spiel 2009 where we would meet eggertspiele. Again we appeared way too early. We had planned to look at other games first, but were too stressed. In fact, I don't think I remember any game we saw before that meeting. We were spying on the eggertspiele booth a little and trying to find out who would decide our gaming future. We thought we were looking at them almost invisibly, but now I think they recognize new trembling game designers from miles away.

When it was our turn, our hearts jumped up and down. We heard that we were in the running with five other games to be eggertspiele's next "four paw" game – that is, the most difficult or challenging game – for 2010 or 2011. It was a nice meeting with friendly open people. We went home happy that we finally had a good chance.

Some weeks later, the long awaited good news arrived. Our game was selected to be the "four paw" game published in 2010. A dream come true! Wolf even changed his license plate to "EDO 007" since our game was called Edo and he's a Bond fan.


Since Peter and Philipp at eggertspiele played our prototype a lot after having previously only read the written rules, they wanted to meet us in Hamburg. They wanted all of us to play the game together to see whether we played the game the same way they played it according to the rules they read. This led to our first business trip.

Since the prototypes, stamps, ink, and everything else had already cost a bit, we tried to find a cheap way to go to Hamburg. Eurolines from Brussels to Hamburg was the way to go, we thought. (When we look back, Eurolines wasn't the way to go, but it was at least cheap and an experience.) We didn't sleep at all on the bus. Twice police boarded the bus to check everyone's identity passes. Every hour all the lights went on to let people on or off, and we had a driver who listened to German schlager music all the way to Hamburg. We thought we would not be able to do anything after such a horrible night – but adrenaline took us straight through the day.

When we left Brussels with Eurolines...

Early in the morning we arrived in Hamburg where Philipp was already present to pick us up. They offered us a great hotel room, and we discussed the game right away. We played the game twice with Peter and Philipp. It was fun, and apparently the rules were clear because we played the game the same way as they did.

Wolf at the eggertspiele office
We had a great time in Hamburg. The only downside was the news that they moved the game to 2011 because an American firm was interested in joining the project. Time was too short to finish everything in 2010. We were not too disappointed, though, because having another firm in the project was good news.

They also promised us that they would try to get one of the finest graphic artists for the game because it needed an epic look. That the artist would be Franz Vohwinkel was more than we ever expected. He made great sketches, and it was an honor for me as an amateur to be able to follow the work of a real artist. The cover came alive and the board looked great. When we thought a drawing was ready, they'd send us a new version with even more depth and color.

But there's no two without a three. In 2011 the game was delayed again for one year because the deal with the American firm wasn't done yet. Now this delay did hit us harder because we had really expected to be able to present the game at Spiel 2011. We had booked a hotel room on Saturday in Essen for our wives and children, too, and a lot of friends would join us on Saturday to see the game at the fair. Thus, we cancelled it all except for one room for us. We did go to Essen and had a great time – two guys at a game fair during the day and with Pro Evolution Soccer on the PS3 at night.

There was also still a lot of designing work to do, so the game could only become better after being delayed for another year.

When the game was playtested with other people, it appeared that some people didn't like to be hit too hard in the game, which could be harsh sometimes, so we shaped the game a bit more and changed some details here and there. There were even two rule versions implemented so that people could choose between the harsher and the softer game. Viktor worked on the rulebook, cards, texts, and more – and since there's a lot of stories and texts, he had a hell of a job. (Not to mention that he had to answer all of our messages: "When will it be ready?", "Will it be there in 2012?", "Is everything going fine?", and so on. Maybe now is a good time to apologize to Viktor for all of our whining, but hey, it's our first game, so our nerves are streched to the maximum.)

If we thought bad luck was over, we should've thought again. A real cold shower came some months ago. Wolf send me a message that Edo was on BoardGameGeek – but not our Edo. Apparently Queen Games had reshaped the setting of Altiplano and renamed it Edo. That was a knife straight through our hearts. (Remember the license plate.) We mailed eggertspiele, but apparently there was nothing we could do. It was doubly painful since our Edo was supposed to have been in the shops since 2011.

Cover sketches from Franz Vohwinkel

We had to look for another name even though we were Edo; Edo had been our name since 2007. It was really hard to get that name out of our heads. Every time we see the name Edo on BoardGameGeek, it's a stab in the heart. (We did send our info to Queen sometime in 2009. Apparently our game name and setting remained somewhere in the back of someone's head, but don't get me wrong – I wish them all the luck with their game. I contacted Mr. Malz to explain the situation and wished him luck. He didn't know about it, so no hard feeling. It's just an unlucky situation.)

All the graphics were ready, and we had to change things again. But the hardest work was finding another name. We thought of hundreds of names, but none got the same good feeling as Edo – but then eggertspiele came up with the solution: Yedo. It's the real pronounciatian of the city, and it was written that way a long time ago. That way the name sounded familiar for us, and the changes wouldn't be that big. We got used to the name. Now in 2012 there will be an Edo and a Yedo. Luckily they're totally different games. Sometimes things go the way they go.

And again our misery wasn't over. The American firm which we were waiting for finally couldn't publish the game because of a situation we didn't expect, one in which we were powerless to change things. Again, the project was in danger, but finally eggertspiele and Pegasus decided to publish the game on their own. That was the greatest news we had in weeks, so now finally the game will be at Spiel 2012.


Of course we hope te get good critics and good sales, so the game will be published in more languages (hopefully even in Dutch), but first of all we hope you all enjoy the game! It was a great journey with ups and downs, but our dream of having our own game on the market is realized. So again we want to thank eggertspiele because they believed in our game and they've put a lot of work and effort into it. I really hope they get rewarded by the public because they do not underestimate the gamers. We also want to thank all of our friends who played the game with us and helped us make it the way it is right now.

All drawings presented here are my prototype drawings except for the cover image of the box, which is drawn by Franz Vohwinkel, and other images labeled as being from him. Great thanks to Mr. Vohwinkel!


Layout of the game board by Franz Vohwinkel, along with a section of the finished work

It's also great to see interviews like the one below from Cliquenabend and other stuff about our game. (If you look closely, you can see the more-or-less definitive version of the board, cards, and other components. Still a prototype, mind you, but close to the final thing.) Thanks to all the people who make films, reviews and other stuff. The game industry lives thanks to you.


If you have questions, you can always write us on BoardGameGeek, on Wolf's website, or by email to info@necrolupus.be or Thomas.vande.ginste@telenet.be. We are always prepared to help you with the rules or other matters. (Send the difficult questions to Wolf, please; he's the smartest )

Many greetings,
Thomas Vande Ginste

One of the five clan boards, by Franz Vohwinkel
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