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Subject: Director's Commentary (Part 5) rss

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A. B. West
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Beech Grove
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The Deadline

Well, we've come nearly to the end of it all. I've covered the history, the components, playing the game, and ending the round. The game comes to an end when there are no clues left to discover - either because you've been successful with them or you've lost some (after losing your 3 bullets). This is where the game pulls up to a stop and invites discussion. You've got a series of clues. You know the set up for the mystery and now you can read all the questions for the case.

Originally, Deadline had a series of questions - usually around 5 or 6 - and each question was worth points totalling up to 100. This again is very much like Consulting Detective. But when Zev gave it a test, he asked how one knew you had really solved the mystery. I mean if you got 4 questions right, was that enough? Or was it only 'solved' if you answered all the questions? It was a really good point. So what we did was we broke the questions into two sets: the critical questions and the bonus questions. The idea then is if you can answer the critical questions, you've really solved the case. If you also answer the bonus questions, you've done even better. And we removed the scoring completely. It didn't help the game much at all really - maybe you could compare scores to someone else or rank your plays - but honestly, the game is about solving the mystery. That was the focus of the design. I've already discussed how all the mysteries are 'fair play' mysteries in that everything you need to solve the case is in the clues. But! It will be challenging! We've tested this game many, many times and it is very rare for players to get absolutely all the questions right. But it certainly is possible!

So back to the questions. You supposed to read them aloud and try to answer all of them before looking up the answers and the solution. It should be a time of debate between the players - everyone looking over what they've learned and trying to figure out how things happened. Again, players should be having fun - talking during play and then talking even more at the end. And then you open up the solution book and read the answers and the wrap up. The wrap up is like the wrap up in a mystery book - very much like Nero Wolfe. He presents what happened - bringing the details together, explaining why and how. It's a brief wrap up, but hopefully written well and comprehensive. And fun!

Then there's the rating. Is this necessary? We think it's a good thing - it gives you a sense of the lines of success. We of course want to emphasize the mystery, but I wanted to also reward 'good play' during the game. That's why the top level is you can fail 3 times, but if you still get all the questions right, you're a Master Detective. Now that is *really* hard to do by the way. You might be able to get all the questions right (as I said, that's difficult), but it is even more difficult to only fail 3 times during the game. It's going to be more common to lose a clue or two at least - maybe more before you figure out the game. And yes, you can lose a clue or two and still figure out all the questions (I think). It totally depends on which clues you lose - and that's a function of how you follow up on clues.

Another point here is in the case book, we tell you how you can play an easier game - by removing 5 specific plot twists. Not only does that simply give you less plot twists to clog up your hand during play, but it also takes away the effect of those plot twists - making the entire game easier. Now gamers will proabably scoff at that - they might feel they don't need the help. But beginners and more casusal players - we wanted to make certain they had a good experience right off the bat. We feel the game should not destroy you (unlike other co-op games that usually beat you most of the time). Deadline should allow you to pursue clues and follow threads. And in the end, you should get most of the clues (although most of the time not all of them). We're crafty in these cases! Some of the later cases make it really hard to get all of the clues - you'll see how!

Teamwork

Here we make it clear about our intentions with a co-operative game. You can and *should* discuss the case itself and gameplay strategies. We just state that outright - trying to relieve the guess work of what can be said and what can't be said. We provide a bunch of examples - really *encouraging* the discussion. If you don't chat during play, it's going to be really hard to play well. And the mystery will be that much more difficult to solve. So I hope people read this part and immitate what is said - it's stuff that we say when we've played the game. It makes the game more fun too!

Detectives

We have 8 Detectives - and as said, that was just a number. We just said, "Hey, 8 Detectives!" And we split them between males and females. I don't think I've said earlier, but Deadline has really been great to bring in all kinds of people. People just like mystery games! And I've had people who really don't play games - certainly wouldn't have wanted to play our previous games - but want to give Deadline a try. They hear it's a mystery game (that's the short explanation) and they say, "I'll play that!" That's fantastic and I hope this brings more people to gaming! But anyhow, the Detective powers are the interesting development. Some of these came about right away and were instantly (or nearly so) ready to go without any adjustments. Gloria Gramm for example has the ability to remove any 2 Plot Twists. It's a great ability, always useful, obviously so. Great power. But Tracer Shot - his power is one Dan never really liked. It's really odd I agree - you're kinda just starting over! So what use is that? And that's why we explain it a bit more - I reallly like this ability. And once you use it, you'll get it too I believe. It can be used to essentialy re-arrange all the cards. That comes in quite handy.

The other power that was changed many times is the one for Pete Lory. For awhile, he didn't even have a power. Then right before this final power, he had one where you could read a failed clue - which seemed kinda neat and unusual, but broke my design idea of wanting a power that you would use *during* the hand of cards. Remember we're trying to keep the decision space as wide as we can yet within the simple boundaries of our card game. So anyhow, it's a simple power for him, but meets the criteria of useful and obviously so. I really like *all* of the powers - and I like trying them in different combinations.

Plot Twists

Much like Detectives, we worked and worked these cards over many tests. It's the scariest part of the game - because these are the 'mean' things that you have to play on yourself. I said there was a really bad play test at one point that I just let the plot twists crush the players. We had some truly cruel cards that I wanted to see if they worked - and they didn't! Oh man, they sure did not. But still, all of these cards are cruel and hard on the players. Most like the challenges I think, but it's a really fine line in the design. But there just had to be tension and drama in playing and this is the way we achieved that. I personally like the decision of deciding which plot twist to play when you drop out or how you might actively avoid dropping out. And knowing when to play them and how to get rid of them - to me this makes great gaming moments. We also tuned it to make sure certain twists were not used with certain player numbers.

End Notes

I really truly want to thank our play testers. When anyone tests a game of ours, I always offer the opportunity to get their name in the rulebook. And here we list everyone who gave us their time (over a number of years!) and reactions. Many great ideas were offered and as with all of our games, we don't get to a game without countless tests. For that we need people willing to give it a go! You'll notice a number of family members. They've tested past games by the way, but this time I did include them in the list of testers. I feel a bit sheepish listing familiy members - many would argue they are not good testers. That's not necessarily the case. Dan's family and my family are never shy about what they like and dislike. They support us, but support doesn't mean coddling us. So thanks to everyone for their countless ideas and help! Deadline wouldn't be what it is without you.

My last thanks is to Zev Shlasinger who is such a great guy to work with. I can't thank him enough for his time and talent! He's spent many hours working with us to get this game as good as we can make it. I hope it finds its way to gamers who will enjoy it! And I hope this very lengthy explanation what it's about and how we got to the design will help. Thanks!
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Brian Baker
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Adam, I really enjoyed reading this series of posts. Thanks for sharing them. I played Deadline at Gen Con last year and I'm looking forward to seeing the final product!
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A. B. West
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Beech Grove
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Thank you very much! We're of course very excited too. It's a crowded market out there - we hope Deadline is seen and gets some love from gamers!
 
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Christopher McArthur
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These were very fun to read, thank you!
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