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Subject: [WIP] The Depths of Durangrar - A dungeon crawler played in the dark rss

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Jack Poon
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Hello BGG, I'd love to get your feedback on a game I'm developing called the Depths of Durangrar. Its a dungeon crawler where players play in the dark. Individual explorer character pieces light up and they must navigate through a 3-dimensional labyrinth. The catch is that there is a monster player whose piece does not light up. This player is wearing night vision goggles and is hunting down all the other players.
Here's some pictures of my current prototype (3rd generation)

How the whole board looks like when the lights are on.


What the explorers will see.


What the monster will see.


Edit: 8/3/15: Due to a naming conflict, I've decided to rename the game to The Depths of Durangrar.
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
I love seeing the development of all the games in Works in Progress forum and how they've evolved. I wish to do the same and start at the very beginning of my game. So here's the very first prototype of Maze of Monsters.

First prototype board.


First prototype character piece.


First prototype in action.


I was ecstatic. The idea worked better than expected. The walls blocked off the light from its surroundings and the character pieced lit up perfectly. Now it was time to buy some night vision goggles.
So I ordered one of these. http://www.target.com/p/spy-gear-ultimate-night-vision/-/A-1...

The first prototype was made on my Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer. All the parts are made from black PLA plastic filament. I modeled the designs in Solidworks. It took me about 3 hours to model and 5 hours to print.

I got the inspiration for the idea on a Sunday. I had been watching reaction videos of horror games like Slender Man, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Dead Space. I wanted to create a game that could capture the same thrill of fear that captivates so many people in movies, games and books. Being a hardware engineer, board games became the best medium. There's something about being able to directly feel and manipulate a piece that makes board games so much fun. That and being able to see and hear your friends reactions around you in person creates an environment in which I have many happy memories. So it started with the combination of light and darkness. Players had to feel their way through a maze. The goal was that players would start in the middle of the maze and have to work their way out. First person out wins. But there was no pressure other than winning to really get out. With no pressure, there's not really any fear of anything. So the monster character was introduced. But what makes the monster scary? In all the movies and games, the monster is always hidden until it can strike and is significantly stronger than all the others. So the best advantage I can give a player in the dark is the ability to see in the dark. They and they alone must have this ability so night vision goggles was introduced. And now I had the basis of the game.
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Manuel Ingeland
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Very nice concept!

Reminds me of an old project of mine:

Any adult variants?


Subscribed!
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John "Omega" Williams
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Looks neet so far.

There was a PNP contest a year or two ago and we bounced around ideas for light based maze games. One person had an idea for I believe it was spies.

My own idea was the reverse. With guards or robots patrolling with lights and the player striving to not get spotted.
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Hey John!
I've been mostly just focusing on the core concept of 1 monster vs 3 characters that play in the dark but I've had lots of ideas that pop up as the game moves along that could be possible expansion packs.

One idea was inspired by The Weeping Angels from doctor who. There would be several hidden monsters. They would teleport around the maze. Players would have to feel their way out without illuminating any of the "angels" or they would be killed or teleported back into the center of the maze. It was sort of based on the feeling of dread when you believe something is behind you but you absolutely do not want to look to make sure. I was also thinking something similar to what you have. There would be one player in a psychiatric hospital that had to escape with monsters patrolling and had to not get spotted by them. I thought it was too similar to the video game Outcast though. I'm hoping this game allows for a lot of variants, derivative games or expansion packs that add to the game but for now, I'm just focusing on getting the core mechanic to work. I'll have to check out that PNP contest thread though, it sounds interesting!
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
When I tried the night vision goggles, they worked great! I could see all around my room at night. So within 5 minutes of unboxing it, I was trying it out on the board game. Unfortunately, one thing that I did not account for was that everything displayed by the night vision goggles was monochrome shades of green. So while the character piece was quite visible, it was hard to see the board and the walls making it hard to grab the monster piece.

Here's a view of the first prototype through the night vision goggles.

So I guess the best solution is to make a white bottom with black walls to make it the most visible.

Here's a picture of the second generation prototype.

Now its plenty visible for the NV goggles to see the entire maze well. I've also created a holder that lights up to illuminate cards and the dice in the dark. Now I was ready for my first playtest amongst friends.

While the concept was well received, it played very poorly. The initial idea was that players would start in the middle of the maze and the first one to find their way out would win. To break ties, it would be whoever had the most gold so if you wanted a better chance to win, you would stay in the maze but you would also risk getting caught by the monster. The responses were very critical. The game was riddled with problems. There were holes in the rules, the characters were very unbalanced, and the game was too short. The game was so short that the setup time was longer than it took for one person to find the exit of the maze. The worst part was that with the white board and black walls, it was fairly easy for everyone's vision to adapt to the dark and see the entirety of the maze, defeating the original concept. This was my first major brick wall in the game development process. I needed the maze to be completely black so that it wasn't visible in the dark but then the night vision goggles would not be able to see the maze well. I needed a material or dye that would appear black under visible light and white under infrared light.
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Did you have two threads? I replied to this game but none of my responses are here.
 
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Hi Mike, yes sorry about that. I started with one in the general design forum and then made a similar one here to document the design process.
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Well one approach to that would be the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game approach where the maze is invisible to the players till they bump into it. Or in this case, till they illuminate a section.

Here is an idea I had that never got off the ground.

A sort of HeroQuest arrangement where the base layout of the maze is known to the adventurer players. But the monster player can set up blocks and traps that are not known until the adventurers can see that area.

So in your case, it might be something like the monster player can place where the exits and a few walls are that are only known when a explorer encounters them.
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Interesting, I never knew about D&D Computer Labyrinth game. Its a similar concept where players "feel" out a wall but using sound instead of light. The dragon is also a limited AI rather than another person. It sure make setup a lot easier when its computer based rather than the monster setting it up but it seems less intuitive. Sort of like moving into an illegal space is warned after the fact than physically prevented. One of the strongest points of the game my playtesters have mentioned so far is that it's fairly intuitive and attractive. While reading the rules seems confusing and quite a lot to digest at first, once they pick it up, its fairly straightforward. The maze and the darkness also draws the curiosity to explore further while the risk of getting attacked by the monster keeps it exciting.
Traps have definitely been something I've been considering but it initially felt like it cluttered the board more than it added to the game.
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Steven Tu
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Wow this is so insanely insane that it's awesome Production cost that would include Night Vision goggles in the box, batteries, custom precision moulded pieces (any gaps in the walls would probably show through with the light)...

I love it

Good luck in getting this to the next level! Ever thought of a digital version?
 
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Brian Compter
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Tuism wrote:
Ever thought of a digital version?


I was thinking the same thing. This may make more sense as a digital game over the Internet. Makes the need for goggles less of a barrier.
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
I've given a digital version some thought but having no programming experience, I've left it as a possibility way further down the road of design where I might be able to hire or pay for a digital version to be made. I've seen lots of successful board games eventually port their physical version into a digital version so I've just left it a possibility for the future while I focus on the mechanics.
Surprisingly, I've been able to do pretty well without super tight tolerances on the walls. Everything is structured so that everything fits at right angles that most things all slide together which helps drive the costs down. Electronics are solely the most expensive parts but thanks to the proliferation of cameras and LEDs, even then it's not as expensive as I thought so while it'll be one of the more expensive board games, it's not in its own category of board games. Maybe I'll make one out of solid gold just to get that category. The board game that's as expensive as a Lamborghini!
 
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John "Omega" Williams
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
There is a digital version of the D&D Electronic. Its in the files section.
 
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Hi everyone. I've seen a lot of threads about balancing and thought it'd be good to go over how I've been balancing my board game. I've had about 10 playtests so far and imagine myself doing many more. Playtests have been invaluable to me in learning what players find fun in my game and what needs to improve. By tracking those changes in google sheets, it's made my life much easier and prevented me from wandering around in circles.

Here's an screen cap of how I balanced the distribution of cards players would draw. I wanted cards that would give players some gold which counted towards the win condition, some buffs that would aid them through their adventure and setbacks that they would have to adapt to. At first I felt a distribution of roughly about a third for each would be fair. After the first few playtests, it became obvious that wasn't the case. Players actually felt the cards were working against them and would have preferred not to draw at all. They felt gold was particularly scarce.
Following that, I changed the distribution to include a lot more gold. About 50% of the cards would give the players gold. The next few playtests I found that players thought the cards were too favorable. Why venture deeper into the labyrinth if gold is so abundant in the cards. The monster player felt discouraged because all the gold he laid out to bait the explorers went unclaimed. But now at least I had a range. Somewhere between 30-50% was a sweet spot for just the right amount of gold. I'm currently at 38% and I'm thinking of reducing it further.
Each change had led to better and better play-throughs. I used percentages to track the odds of drawing a specific card which helped greatly in seeing how the addition/removal of cards affected all the other cards. Color coding the outcomes also helped a great deal in understand how I wanted the game to feel and matched that with how the players responded. Did they have more fun when the game became more of a challenge or did I make it too hard and make it impossible to win? While playtesters can't tell me exactly what they'd like, they certainly can let me know the direction I want to go in. Balancing the odds in google sheets helped me get concrete numbers.
 
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
It's been a while since I've posted but a lot has changed over the past few months. I've been having a play test with friends about once every two weeks and they've given me a lot of good insight.

First biggest change. Explorer's no longer roll to see how many action points they have that turn. In another thread I had in the board game design forum, I was told it was a mechanic that would be greatly frowned upon by Tom Vasel and quite a few other BBGers agreed. I also tested it with some of my friends and they also found it frustrating if they rolled poorly. Instead, players all start off with six AP per turn. Their number of APs is reduced by how much gold they carry (lose 1 AP per 500 gold you carry). This has led to some interesting dynamics with some players choosing to abandon or avoid gold for the sake of staying nimble.

Next biggest change. Players can now alter their own stats. At first I gave players their own designated stats but a lot of players found it desirable to at least have the option of choose their own stats. A couple prefer the glass cannon strategy of maximizing their attack at the cost of their defense. While at first I thought this may introduce undesirable outcomes in the game such as game breaking or frustrating or confusing game play. However, after a couple of sessions, it actually turned out quite well. It's also led to two very interesting emergent elements: adaptation and evolution. Since player stats are not set in stone, you won't find out what another player can do until you encounter them, forcing you to adapt your strategies on the spot. Also, since players and monster can respawn, albeit a limited number of times, they can choose to re-stack their stats to new strategies to counter the ones they just died to.
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Benj Davis
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
mechapython wrote:
It's been a while since I've posted but a lot has changed over the past few months. I've been having a play test with friends about once every two weeks and they've given me a lot of good insight.

First biggest change. Explorer's no longer roll to see how many action points they have that turn. In another thread I had in the board game design forum, I was told it was a mechanic that would be greatly frowned upon by Tom Vasel and quite a few other BBGers agreed. I also tested it with some of my friends and they also found it frustrating if they rolled poorly. Instead, players all start off with six AP per turn. Their number of APs is reduced by how much gold they carry (lose 1 AP per 500 gold you carry). This has led to some interesting dynamics with some players choosing to abandon or avoid gold for the sake of staying nimble.


That seems wise. If you were going to roll for it, I'd say one roll for everyone would be a good idea, so everyone's equal, but there's variablity from turn to turn.
Or roll a die for each player as a pool, with the lightest player getting to pick their die first (ties broken by precedence, or some other such method), so there's variability and variety between players, but it's not totally arbitrary.
 
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Yep. My original intention was to have variety and some luck to the survival aspect. I liked the idea that while the monster had a consistent reliable number of moves, the explorer if stuck in a hard spot really needed a lucky roll to get out of it which would add a lot of tension and excitement to the game but in play tests, it was mostly just frustrating. Changing that element resulted in a lot more positive feedback. I also read in quite a few dungeon crawler threads that players were primarily looking for a strategic, grim and serious game and luck was a big turn off. I was able to find just as much tension and excitement I wanted in the new system as the lack of perfect and complete information created the tension and the pressure of making the right decisions created the excitement.
 
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John Nelson
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Wow, when Jack stated in one of my posts he was building a dungeon crawl I would have NEVERRRR thought of something like this.

GJ thinking outside the box, I would play it, just not sure what the cost would run with the added night vision, but the concept is by far in a class of its own and to that I tip my hat off to you.

GL on this, hope the best for you.
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Thank you!
Yea, I'm trying to get the cost down as much as possible. It's going to be in the high range of what most board games cost but nothing in its own class. It's miniature based and a lot of miniature games I see are about 60 to 100$. Recent advances in technology has made electronics cheaper and more efficient to use so hopefully they've advanced far enough that this is feasible as a board game that doesn't eat anyone's wallet up.
 
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Here is the latest prototype with the addition of the character sheets for tracking each players stats. Red pegs are used to indicate your maximum default stats and grey pegs are used to indicate your current stats. For example, red can indicate your max health is 7 points but your current health indicated by grey could be at 4. The way skills are distributed is that all players start with a set amount of skill points which they can spend to upgrade different stats. As the game progresses, players can spend gold to upgrade those skills but at the cost of falling behind on their goal. Health only costs 1 skill point to upgrade, attack costs 2, and abilities cost 3. Action points for the monster costs 3 while players start with a set number of action points that decreases depending on how much gold they are carrying.



In the past couple of play tests, players have been really receptive to being able to change their stats. At first I was worried that some stats if min/maxed would be unbalanced but I seem to have hit a good balance. Very early on I noticed that certain stats were more valuable than others, the most valuable being movement and special abilities. Special abilities give you a unique power that only that one player can use to their advantage. Players who left one particular stat neglected to power up another would find themselves at an advantage in some scenarios but at a severe disadvantage in others while more balanced players could weather through most scenarios but not with ease. My concern with balancing was that with minimaxing, it may be possible to dominate in one scenario and avoid all the others but in these past couple of play tests, players felt that it was quite fair. While being especially good at once scenario, they certainly felt the price of neglecting the other stat. One player's strategy of being a glass cannon worked particularly well against the monster but he found himself an easy target amongst his supposed allies.
 
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gerard kerr
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
Just a thought. If you used infared leds in the monster you would be able to see it with your phones camera. Prob easier than night vision
 
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
jazzman32 wrote:
Just a thought. If you used infared leds in the monster you would be able to see it with your phones camera. Prob easier than night vision


A lot of modern phone cameras now include an infrared filter as it produces sharper images when outside in the daylight. Also, my main objective with the night vision goggles isn't to keep the monster hidden but rather to give the monster player a very physical skill advantage over the other players instead of just giving the player a stat and special power advantage. I feel it really sets the dynamic that there is one player that is set at a stronger level than you and adds fear to the fact that it is also hunting you.

It is a very interesting idea and might be possible to incorporate in someway in other elements of the game. One idea I played around with as a character or animal companion that could see/smell things other people couldn't the way this could be executed was with UV ink and having the character or animal made with a UV LED. That way other visible light LEDs would pass the ink unnoticed but the UV LED would fluoresce the symbol. The implementation though has left this idea on the drawing board for now as it added a lot of complications to the game without adding that much more fun to it.
 
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Mike MacDee
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
I agree that having the monster player use an app to see in the dark would be more accessible than requiring the inclusion/purchase of night vision goggles -- pretty much everyone who would play this has a mobile device, and getting the app would be pretty cheap and easy. Players who really want to use the goggles could get a pair themselves, and you can always recommend it in the rulebook.

This is a wicked idea for a game though.
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Jack Poon
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Re: [WIP] Maze of Monsters - A dungeon crawler played in the dark
I do agree that mobile devices are very common as well as phone cameras are almost ubiquitous to all phones but they physical capability to see in the dark is lacking. Phone cameras mostly have a LED for flash but no infrared LED. Some newer phones may have a infrared LED to emit signals so they can function as a remote but those aren't nearly bright enough to illuminate the board game for the camera and often aren't pointed in the same direction as the camera.
Lastly, most cameras also have an IR filter installed so even just including a cheap IR flashlight wouldn't work for some and I would want the game to work for everyone who bought it. It'd be as shame for someone to buy it expecting the app to work well on their phone only to find their specific phone doesn't work. I am working very hard on driving the cost down. I'm trying to find if there could be even cheaper NV goggles made that still have the functionality and quality I want. Some NV goggles I found come with extra features and I believe that may be adding to the cost so if I strip it all down to just the night vision of close ranged objects, I might be able to drive the price down to something well affordable by all who are interested in the game.
 
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