Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here:
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Where the hell have you been?

United Kingdom
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Original Post

That's a fair question. I've updated the blog every work day without fail and then suddenly and without warning, I miss two updates in a row. Still, this has been a very exciting weekend for gamers and other assorted malcontents in the UK. We've had the UK games expo, MCM and Empire all on one weekend, so you can see why someone who loves their games and geek culture in general might be super busy!

But I love you all and if I'd been doing those things I'd have updated this blog and let you know what was going on, what was awesome and how it can be inspirational for game design. What I've actually been doing for the last four days is lying in bed, initially I spent my time screaming and hoping to die soon, but because I have lovely housemates I soon swapped over to contemplating how great diazapan is and sleeping fifteen hours a day.

I'm getting better or at least better enough to spend 70 minutes failing to complete the 25 minute walk to work, collapsing into the nearest building, getting dragged home and being told not to be such a damn fool again. To be absolutely clear, Tom (my boss) encouraged me to take as long as I need to recover and has applied no pressure, but I personally think that he's underestimated the magnitude of the task we've undertaken in trying to break into the board games market as a arts studio with few to no board game contacts and this encourages me to keep trying to push myself harder to get things done. At this point I'm willing to acknowledge that there might be a smidgen of wisdom in taking things easy for a few more days.

On the other hand, my job is mostly thinking. Sometimes I watch people play games as an aid to thinking (I call it playtesting) and that's a very necessary part of the process, but a lot of the thinking I can do is manageable from my bed. Not all of it is high quality thinking, but I can write everything down and sort out the details later. I have a lot of trouble expressing the amount of pain I'm in to people who've not had chronic pain and the fear I have of never being able to walk again to people who don't live with that as a realistic possibility every time they go to bed. I figured I'd experience that from the other side and read about experiences that I couldn't hope to grasp from my position of relative comfort. I've been reading 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' but that is too difficult to read while doped up and I'd not touched Maus since I received it as a Christmas present.

However, every single game I came up with that is based on this book was definitely a bad idea and should almost certainly never see the light of day. Though there might be room for it some time - I like that computer games are dealing in more serious subject matter these days and I think subverting popular or unexpected mediums to have conversations that we (as a culture) are afraid to have is a good idea (which is pretty much what Maus is doing) but I don't think I have the skill to pull something like that off yet. It would be an extremely fine line.

I have been contemplating some other game related ideas that I'd like to share, if only to get some feedback and help classify things between "This is a drug haze idea that you should throw away" and "That might actually be pretty cool"

The first is a mini expansion for Monkeygame. Perhaps even something that'd fit well as a kickstarter stretch goal. I call them Anomalies. The notion is to include a few cards in the events deck that when drawn influence the game in some way and then are replaced with a new draw, as such they don't change the game's core mechanics so shouldn't upset the balance I'm playtesting towards too much. They might have effects like "All orders involving a direction will be reversed this turn", "Broken machines can operate normally this turn" and so on. The key point would be that they are something that the player can react to and change their plan around, rather than being things that happen to the player. Hopefully that'd make them an interesting (but optional) addition rather than something that just made the game really swingy.

The second idea was based around something I've been knocking around a while. I like the look of Risk:Legacy (and still want to play it, especially after the positive mentions it got after the last time I updated this blog). I'd love to take the idea of a board that changes every game towards some final state, but merge it with a more robust war game than Risk. Perhaps using an order counter system in the manner of Game of Thrones? The main thing about the game would be that the armies that fight are conventional but there are a number of scars in the world that connect to someplace else and through which players could summon powerful supernatural allies. Everytime they did this they'd manually lengthen the scar on that space with a marker, as they reached certain sizes or crossed territorial borders they'd unlock special rules that changed the game for future plays. I can think of a bunch of fun ideas I could throw in with that, which could be implemented as the game developed and so wouldn't cause an initial learning problem but might make things interesting. It could also be good to have sealed slips of paper that one player opens, reads and then burns so they know something about how the game will develop one or two games before it does. If I'm stuck in bed for too long I might spend a while nailing down these ideas to some actual mechanics.

The third thing that I've been batting back and forth in my brain is an idea for a heist game. Inspiration here is based on Monaco and Chronos Conquest (A great idea for a game that will fail due to a badly managed kickstarter. Sadface). In some games containing egg timers we sometimes hit problems where a player will turn one before it has finished counting down, which is a really hard to correct mistake. What if a game were based on doing that on purpose? The notion here would be to have a co-op in which players are robbing some place, there's one egg timer and while it's counting down each player can make one move. At any time any player can flip it to allow everyone to make their next move, obviously the best time for this is once everyone has made their move for this flip and shortly before it runs out of time to maximise the turn for next time. If it ever runs out of time the thieves are caught and everyone loses. If it moves too far the police show up and everyone loses. Some events (lockpicking, disabling security) might require a player to solve a minigame (see Space Cadets or Mansions of Madness) which would be in real time and cost them as many turns as there were flips of the timer before they're done. Again, if I'm stuck in bed for ages I'll grab a notepad and solidify this into some actual mechanics so that when I'm up I can prototype and playtest it.

Really what I need to do is get the Monkeygame technical spec written and send off to manufacturers, but I kinda need to be in the office for that. For now I'm probably best off trying to recruit playtesters and running a few from home before attempting that journey again.

I hope this read like a blog post and not a stream of consciousness, I've got that "cotton wool in the brain" feeling if you know what I mean.
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