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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
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Wisconsin
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From gallery of milomilo122


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:

From gallery of milomilo122


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”:

From gallery of milomilo122


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:

From gallery of milomilo122


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:

From gallery of milomilo122


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

From gallery of milomilo122

From gallery of milomilo122

From gallery of milomilo122

From gallery of milomilo122

From gallery of milomilo122


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:

From gallery of milomilo122


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

From gallery of milomilo122


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”


From gallery of milomilo122


The “Paw Print”


From gallery of milomilo122


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

The “Flower”


From gallery of milomilo122


The “Slash”


From gallery of milomilo122


The “Smile”


From gallery of milomilo122


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

The Claw!


From gallery of milomilo122


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)


From gallery of milomilo122
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