Suddenly and without warning everything changed. The plan to finalise the rules for Wizard Academy over this month, finalise the art over the next month and launch in June is gone. The new plan is to start work on a new game, launch that in August and then go back to Wizard Academy for a December launch.
At this moment the people reading this blog can be divided into two groups of people, those with questions and those who don't care. If you're from the second group and hoping that the rest of this blog won't consist of me trying to anticipate the questions that people will ask you may wish to prepare yourself for disappointment.
Excellent question, if over-punctuated. There are a whole bunch of reasons for this: one of the most pertinent is that I didn't inform the art team of the styles I wanted a long time in advance. As I mentioned last week this makes it harder to get the artists that we want for the project, the delay will mean that the game gets much better art.
Another reason is that Wizard Academy has a lot of bits. We're looking at a pile of tiles, a big board, several decks of cards, a handful of character cards and associated minis, hundreds of counters and more! It's going to end up being a big box game, I believe it is an excellent one, but production is going to be complicated. Since this will be our first board game (Prime Wars was a card game) there's going to be a lot to learn on the manufacturing side. We'd rather learn those things with a simpler game before moving on to the more ambitious project.
Is there any way for me to play before December?
There will be more formal playtesting in the months leading up to launch. The game is still very much in need of blind playtesting, if the first project succeeds I'll have the budget to create prototypes and mail them out to people. I'll also keep the existing prototype on hand and play games from time to time at conventions or wargames clubs. Since the project is hibernation I can't really claim it as playtesting for work, but I enjoy the game in its own right I'm happy to break it out and play with people once in a while.
Are you going to suddenly move dates around like this a lot?
I imagine that this won't be the last time plans change - plans famously don't survive contact with the enemy. However I'd like to distinguish between development plans and delivery deadlines. I was in favour of this change because I think that it'll lead to a better game, a late game is late once, a bad game is bad forever. If money had changed hands and we'd promised a July date to customers then I would be very strongly against delaying the project to work on something else first.
Okay, so what's the new game?
All of this happened yesterday, so I don't have a new game yet. I did have an idea for one, but there are no guarantees that this will be the one I make. Here's the pitch:
"Each player is a robot, they were supposed to be three laws compliant but the ship got hit by an energy weapon so now they've got new laws. Laws are randomly generated using two decks of cards, producing laws like "Kill all humans" or "Hide all bananas". The game goes on for ten turns, at the end the robot that has satisfied the most of its laws wins, laws have numbers based on their difficulty that are used to decide ties.
Actions are simple "move left, move right, pickup, drop, use" but are programmed and then executed simultaneously as in robo rally. The consequences of using items depends on the item and the room. The battle between the ship and the enemy craft continues as the game goes on, it is rigged to always succeed, but can be sabotaged by killing human crew, hiding bananas in the missile rack or otherwise messing things up. If the battle is lost, then the ship explodes and everyone loses (except a robot with "destroy all robots")"
Is there time to make a new game before August?
Definitely, but I guess the real question is whether it can be made any good in that time frame. Working full time on a game means that progress is much more rapid than I'm used to and I benefit from being able to organise playtesting weeks in which I have testers 10am till 7pm every day so I can get hundreds of hours of playtests done in just a few weeks. On the other hand conventional wisdom is that designing games to deadlines is a recipe for disaster and development cycles need to be longer than this. I guess the answer here is "We're going to find out."
I'm not going to promise that I'm going to make a flawless game by August, since I try not to make promises I can't guarantee that I'll keep. Here's what I can promise: You'll get the straight truth about how it's going. I keep this blog honest, if the game suffers for being rushed you'll know about it and don't have to get involved. I'm also a big believer in sending out copies (or at least prototypes) to independent reviewers before launch so that people can make informed choices based on the strengths and weaknesses of the game. In short, I won't try to convince you something is a good game by talking to you about it, I'll try to convince you by making a good game and letting it stand (or fall) on its merits.
Who am I?
You're a hypothetical person who's there to ask questions. I'm afraid you only exist temporarily as part of a narrative mechanism. Real people might ask questions in the comments or by email but they won't be you.
Does that mean I'm going to die when you stop typing?
Will it hurt?
I don't think so.
Did I do a good job?
Yeah, of course.
I think I can live with that. Goodbye.