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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Divergent Thought

United Kingdom
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Context: Divergent Thought

Greetings and Salutations!

If you're a regular reader, you may have already noticed some irregularities about this post. There's only one image and it's in the wrong place compared to my usual style and it doesn't make any sense. The context link is going to some weird place that's not 3DTotal or TPO like pretty much every other post. I'm talking to you like some sort of excitable yabbering machine and falling into different linguistic patterns compared to my traditional articles.

Allow me to help this make sense.

There's something that I really want to do. It's simple, but I hope that it'll be powerful: I would like to spend time designing and testing games to a professional standard and then releasing them for free. To anyone who wants them.

It should be obvious why I'd want to do that, but there are two obstacles in my path: Firstly, games are typically not free to manufacture and ship, that funding has to come from somewhere. Secondly, if I stop doing paid work to put enough time into this to do a really good job of it I am likely to cease receiving food and shelter, which I am told (but have not verified empirically) would ultimately lead to my dying earlier than is presently planned.

The manufacturing/shipping obstacle is dodgable. My audience already has games and those games already have parts. What I'm going to aim to do is create some rules that get the same accusations of innovation as my other stuff, but that use components that players will already have. The core of my first project will be a chess board, a deck of cards and some D6 - though I believe a creative person could make substitutions for any one of those.

The "needing to do paid work" thing is trickier. The lottery offers terribly poor odds and I'm simply too honest for crime. However, if I could persuade a quarter of the people who'll give me $15 on Kickstarter for a game that they want to give me $1/month on Patreon then they'd be paying a days wages each week - which gives plenty of room to progress the project.

So that's why everything about this post is odd! I'm writing more as myself because I'm not employed by anyone in this role and so feel I'm not impacting on anyone else's demeanour. Patreon only allows a post to include one image and that goes at the top. That image is about work I'm doing on a game I've never told you about, which is why it makes no sense. The new context link goes to my Patreon blog rather than one of my other project blogs (though those are still going well and will still be updated as normal).

Now, on to the meat of the post: You'll never guess what I've been doing...

...wait, in explaining the odd format of the post I pretty much made the post. Whelp, let's get down to why I'm posting this here today then:

I've got two reasons. The first is that I wanted to pull the Patreon posts into this aggregate blog I have on BGG - which required laying the groundwork so that you folks know what's going on when they start showing up over coming weeks. Or at least so I've got an explanation to link to in the future. Job done - I can check that one off my list.

The second is that I wanted to put out some feelers and get an idea for how people feel about my trying to do game design in this way. I don't really feel ready to email the few thousand people who've already supported me just yet, but I want to do some sort of reality check. I figure that you - one of the few dozen people who read my thoughts on game design on a regular basis - probably have a closer understanding of my approach to things than most people would. I'd really appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

The link is here.

To be clear: I'm not looking for supporters just yet. I don't feel like I've done enough to deserve it or have enough to offer. I want to get the first game - Divergent Thought - to a place that I'm confident in its gameplay so that I have something to offer back to people who offer their support.

I've put some of my own money into this project, funding the time I spend working on it for the first year. I don't really intend to actively push it until later in the year, with an eye to trying to make it self sustaining into next year so that I can keep doing it. However, I've also been dedicating 1/5th of my working week to it since January and I think I really should get some external feedback. So let me know what you think.

That's a lot of words with nothing to break it up, so I'll wrap up the post soon - but I wanted to give a quick rundown of the game I've been working on to act as a flagship project first:

It's called Divergent Thought.

It's a skirmish board game, played on a chess board, using models from other games. The plan is to have lots of different factions that you can play as, with the intention that most gamers will already have a few choices. Then if you love it enough that you want to buy into a new faction you get a shiny new game along with it.

I'm acknowledging that balancing with points is really fucking stupid (for reasons I've written about before). Instead the game uses a bidding system with advantages and disadvantages to even up the game. That lets you do neat asymmetric things like "3 warriors hold a bridge against infinite zombies, if they last long enough they win despite ultimately being overwhelmed"

There are a bunch of other cool things about it. I'm sure in future weeks I'll geek out over how no-facing chess style movement allows for tactical positioning other games can miss or the nature of competitive dice pool rolls and how they intersect with cumulative probability or why I've done something really weird with the initiative system that's super quick to do and adds a new gameplay dimension. I do a lot of behind the scenes work to try to make games more enjoyable in ways that don't require the players to actively manage them.

If you think it's interesting and want to hear more - just keep reading this blog. I'll post about it every Friday. Thanks for reading, I hope that the world is treating you kindly this fine day.
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