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Subject: Incorporated Designer's Diary rss

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Can Adatepe
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This is the story on how I ended up designing Incorporated:

CHAPTER 1

When I was a child, there was a board game I was quite fascinated with:


The name of the game was "Holding" which was published by a local Turkish publisher, and I remember thinking back then it to be a much clever variant of Monopoly. We quite enjoyed playing it, me and my cousins. I remember us thinking back then, that local publisher must have had quite clever designers...

Little did I know, that this game was nothing else than a re-branding of a classic board game called "Wealth of Nations" and the "clever" publisher was actually a cunning entrepreneur who re-branded the game for Turkish market in order to avoid royalties - in our defense, there was no such thing as internet back then, and Turkey was quite a closed country.


CHAPTER 2

In my university years, I was blessed by having the opportunity to live in my own flat. It was quite a luxury for a student, and my house would always be crowded.

It was during one of these days, when one of my friends was searching through old chests out of boredom, he found an old game box named "Holding". It was kind of a Jumanji moment. They were quite fed up from playing Pro Evolution Soccer on PS so they were instantly interested. When asked if I knew the rules (as there was no rulebook inside the box) I quickly gave them a walkthrough, making things up as I went (as I was the sole authority about the rules), filling the gaps in my memory by instant, instinctively made-up rules. We played the game, and enjoyed it so immensely that we decided to play another round. Then another. That went on until morning...

After this, it became kind of a tradition for us to organize "Holding Nights" once or twice each week. After finding the original rulebook, my friends all agreed that my version of made up rules were superior, so we went on playing the modified version. With my newfound authority, I continued to add house rules, patching imbalanced parts of game as I saw fit, quickening the game speed, adding variable player powers, changing the event deck, and so on...

This has led to the creation of a variant of the game called "Holding v2.0" with completely different board and set of components which I printed all myself. Our playgroup quickly embraced this new game, feeling it to be superior in every aspect to the original one. We went on playing this game for years. None of us knew anything about Eurogames or even Settlers of Catan. There was internet of course, but I knew nothing about board gaming, thinking it to be a dead hobby after the invention of computers. In my ignorance I thought Holding 2.0 to be the pinnacle of board gaming:


CHAPTER 3

After the university, I became somehow acquainted with proper board games which of course, I enjoyed immensely. Holding 2.0 became a nostalgia, something to remind me and mourn my long years of ignorance. One day, we played a game called "Megacorps" with my friends:


The game was, to be honest, quite poorly designed and was filled with holes in mechanics, but I couldn't help but get fascinated by it. Everything about the game reminded me Holding / Wealth of Nations. Acting on purely reflex, I quick-fixed some of the imbalanced parts of the game right on the spot, during playing.

After getting back home, it became some kind of an obsession to fix that game. It wasn't long until I decided that game was unfixable, so I scrapped it completely and decided to make a better version of it - Megacorps 2.0 so to speak. I added some deeper mechanics, like the ability for players to take on loans (on different interest rates), adding stability score to countries, adding the possibility of a crisis, and so on, because I wanted the game to be as realistic as possible to the real world economy.

This is one of my earliest prototype designs for Megacorps 2.0:


Afterward, I decided the game looked dull and placed the countries on a world map background. Here is how Megacorps 2.0 looks like after a few versions:


CHAPTER 4

In one of these days a friend of mine introduced me to what I consider to be the best board game ever designed (even on this very day):


After playing this game, I had such an enormous hype that I instantly bought it online with fastest shipping option, and introduced it to my original Holding/Wealth of Nations playgroup. They were so insanely fascinated by it, that it rekindled the long forgotten tradition of "Holding Nights" (even though some of us were now married with kids). We played around 500+ rounds of this game to this date (and we continue to do so, nearly every week).

The effects of Imperial on me was so deep that I completely altered the mechanics of Megacorps 2.0, and by the addition of country shares, the game became an amalgam of Megacorps 2.0 and Imperial. This was the first stable version of the game:


This version of the game had no turn order and was played simultaneously. It created a chaotic atmosphere where everyone was buying/selling shares during gameplay, like the way it is on a trading floor - and while it was fun, my play testing friends were quick to warn me that it wasn't THAT much fun, and that simultaneous gameplay mechanic is something best suited for party games, not economic simulation games! So the idea was scrapped.

This has led to my longest period of revision, I flirted with different mechanics, and finally I created something which was far different than Megacorps 2.0 and Imperial. It was so different in every way that I had to call it with a different name: "Incorporated" - some sort of amalgam of Imperial and Megacorps. This is the first stable version of Incorporated:



I started to play test this version of the game extensively, and quickly realized this version was way more stable and fun compared to previous versions. I continued to scrap unnecessary and overcomplicated parts of the game, reducing realism but improving gameplay experience - regrettable (as I wanted the game to be as close as to the real world economy as possible), but necessary steps.

On top of that, in real-life, I was doing poorly in my job (I'm a money manager) - as most of my predictions about the economy and markets didn't come true (as the central banks kept intervening at every economic turn, which led me to a very long series of small but tolerable losses but I was bleeding slowly every day - it's a long story). But the flipside of this, I had more time for playtesting the game.

After few months of extensive testing, I had the gut feeling that the game was quite all right and stable, but I just couldn't get it from concept/prototype design to reality. There always was some additional fine tuning needed. I had no intention to join the Spiel fair at all.

CHAPTER 5

One day, out of the blue, my father flatly informed me that he had fed up with my "fancy of children games", and needed to finish this "pet project of mine" ASAP in order to get my mind back into my more important business of money management and that without consulting me, he had arranged a booth for this years' Spiel 2016 fair and that I better get my shit done by that date. There was exactly 38 days until the fair when this conversation happened and I wasn't even remotely satisfied with concept design.

Being unable to finish the game would lead to a huge embarrassment, the abandonment of the project I spent years to finish, and the waste of the money paid upfront for participating the fair. This is where I learned sunk costs are a huge motivating factor

Working around 10+ hours a day, I quickly arranged a graphics designer to finish the graphics while I was working on the final fine tuning changes. It wasn't before long that I discovered the graphic designer I paid huge fees upfront was talentless at best and a fraud at worst. Out of options, I had no choice but to write this thread in BGG forum:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1636102/looking-graphics-de...

Sebastian quickly answered me and assured me he could finish the graphics in one week (I had exactly one week to finish it and rush it to printing house). For the rest of the graphics, I was forced to search through stock photos.

Sebastian did a fantastic job on board design and box in such a short time, while Cem, an old friend of mine and professional graphics designer (also an irregular of our old traditional playgroup) helped me to mop up the rest of the graphical components such as cards, card backs, and various components. And this was the final version of the game:




CHAPTER 6

Preparing for Essen in such a short time period led me to an existential and confidence crisis. I had ZERO expectations about how the game would perform. I was hoping that at least I would sell one or two copies. I was mentally prepared for the worst disaster possible in the history of board gaming.

The first day, there were nobody near my booth for the first hour and I was in such a bad mood that my worst fears were coming true (in reality, the gates were not open at that point). After a while, first people started to drop near my booth.


It wasn't long before my booth became overcrowded and we were sold out in few hours. Barring few copies I reserved for reviewers I had zero copies left, from the first day.


That Saturday, I somehow managed to bring the rest of the copies I left in Turkey. They all were sold out the very same day as well.
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Thibaut Palfer-Sollier
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Wow, incredible story Can.
Incidentally, I talked about Imperial when discussing the game inside my gaming group.
By the way, you should try Imperial 2030
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THE REVENGE OF THE GOLDFISH
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Great article,me and my "best" friend(inside joke)
we're waiting our copies to arrive.
 
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Fab'
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The Imperial reference is indeed obvious when you open the box and find these nice share tiles !

But a very different game. Can't wait to play it again !
 
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Keith B
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LOL, your dad is both an ass (meant in jest) and awesome. What do you think he will say when you tell him your children's game was a small hit and now you may be tied to it for some time?
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