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Subject: [WIP] War in Paradise: Insurrection rss

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Warren Fitzpatrick
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War in Paradise: Insurrection

"At the beginning of creation, you are an angel investigating rumors of betrayal. Using resource management, unique player abilities and your wits, your angel delves into various Realms searching for the truth. The players use cards, teamwork and their Angel’s special traits to defeat the enemy. By defeating the enemy, players earn Manna (additional action points) that they can use to upgrade their character (stats, special abilities). That’s what happens with victory, but with defeat comes Despair which diminishes resources/actions. Additionally in the 3-6 player version, when a specific card comes into play, any Despair will lead to a Loyalty test where one of the players may now secretly (or openly) be working for the enemy.

"The Realms are represented by 3 rings of hexes that surround the angels’ home base (The Outpost). While the Angels push further into the rings/levels, the enemy pushes toward the Outpost attempting to destroy it, leading to a unique blend of simultaneous exploration & tower defense. Failure to defend the Outpost will lose the game.

"Winning the game takes more than just keeping your base of operations from being destroyed. Each level contains a Morza (mini-boss). The Angels must find the Morza, capture, defeat, and interrogate them to learn of the plan.

"And all of this happens on a clock because the PrimEvil is coming. The clock is a countdown mechanic, and when the PrimEvil arrives, it will destroy Realms and opportunities to win, forcing the player’s to directly attack the PrimEvil’s army in hopes of finding one that will reveal the last pieces of the plot.

"WiP:I is an intensely co-op adventure where going alone costs everyone. You must successfully explore to the edge of creation, defend your outpost, and stop the demonic mastermind. All of Creation depends on it."


The goal of this blog is to document my process over the past several years. I have kept my designer notes, and will be sharing them w/ the board to bring up discussions and keep everyone apprised of the ongoing growth to the WiP:I. It's been a LONG adventure, and something that was a bit more work that I anticipated at the beginning, but I hope that I'm getting there and hope that this thread will offer you insight into how. Feel free to comment, ask questions, etc. I've subscribed to it so I'll be sure to answer as I can.

wf

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Warren Fitzpatrick
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Before I go into the designer diary goodness, I wanted to share a small victory today. I've had a written a vague rulebook for the gameplay, but it was always left open in several areas. I would do playtests and adjust things on the fly as we encountered new problems.

Today, I completed the rulebook.

As w/ this entire thing, I'm sure it won't be what we go to print w/, but it simply felt good to type that last piece. The game has changed so much over the last 2-3 years. I've had mounds of frustration, harsh feedback to filter through, and hours upon hours of creating, recreating, creating something new because this other problem presented itself.

But I got to this point that the rules are understandable and the game flows, and it just feels good.

wf
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Mike Chipman
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warrenfitz45 wrote:

Today, I completed the rulebook.



Little victories are good things in this process. Congratulations.
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Warren Fitzpatrick
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Date: 3-1-2016

In early August of 2014, I introduced a co-creator from my comic work, Duane Perry, to the world of board games. As with most introductions, I started with a game that shared a theme we both enjoyed (Superheroes – Sentinels of the Multiverse). Duane had never noticed board games for “serious gamers” (an oxymoron if there ever was one), but this new world intrigued him. An artist and creative who had led Honor Studios to publishing the War in Paradise comic, Duane had spent years honing his artistic talents in the comic and animation medium. He found this new world fascinating. That fascination led to a question—

“If you’ve already published, then why haven’t you created a game using War in Paradise?”

I laughed because, though I had never completed a game using the property, my mind always ran back to it when playing games--

“The angelic theme really would fit this game mechanic.”

“What if I tweaked this mechanic, added that mechanic. It really fits the theme of fighting to keep a world, and their souls, together.”

My answer to Duane was an emphatic, “Absolutely!”

Though I had plenty of ideas, over the next month I began the arduous process of whittling down the various mechanics, putting the board together, writing out the initial rules, and preparing to play a game with angels as the theme. It was a whirlwind of ideas.

This gets us started. I will be back soon w/ more information on how the game developed and some artwork that we'd added.
 
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Warren Fitzpatrick
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Starting off, I pulled up a list of questions to consider as I designed the game. I knew I wanted a co-op that allowed the players to control an angel character during the start of Lucifer’s betrayal. I was leaning toward an Ameritrash-styled game that focused on the theme. These questions helped flesh it out slightly. These questions helped guide me as I made various design choices.

What kind of design goals should I be considering?

- What is my target audience? What kind of “fun” am I trying to make?

Given War in Paradise: Insurrection is cooperative, I wanted to create a tense game that’s primary decision points revolved around cooperation. I wanted the player to recognize the value of working together, but I also wanted the cost of doing so to be high at points. I wanted players to decide if it was worth the resource expenditure to help now or later. I thought that would lead to some of the game’s tension.

More importantly, I wanted a traitor element to give the feel of betrayal to the players, but I didn’t want this setup in the beginning – I wanted it to happen as a part of the game’s story. After a recent test, a player made a poor decision, pushing beyond their capability into the harder areas. After this action, the game’s Loyalty Test came up. That player’s angel fell, turning to the Insurrection. The player noted how he loved the storyline that developed – an angel going too far on its own and falling to “the dark side”.

I loved Ameritrashy dice games and so wanted a good deal of chance to play into it. I took the Ameritrash version of the game to Protospiel Chicago. Protospiel is known for being a bit pushy for Euros, but I went there and said, “I’ll do anything, but I won’t give up the dice.” Day 1 test went excellent. People were engaged, laughing and having a good time. Day 2 test was all designers. They laughed and had fun, but noted how the dice really didn’t allow the theme of betrayal to work. They wanted an easier way to deceptively influence the game. They gave tons of reasons for this, and at the end of the day, I had to agree. You couldn’t really impact things deceptively with the randomization of dice.

It was back to the drawing board.

Afterwards, one tester went to dinner with me. I’m a strong person when it comes to accepting feedback on my work (it’s been drummed into my head over the years of writing comics, prose and my day job). However, taking away the dice, I had lost my basis for several elements of the game’s fun, all in favor of strengthening the betrayal, the traitor element so crucial to the game’s planned experience. We talked, and by the end of the night, I had a plan to use some of the dice elements, but using cards instead.

Some members of my home testing group have still not forgiven me, even if they have to agree that the cards work better.

I learned my first major lesson – kill your darlings (in game design too). Everything must serve the desired experience.

- How many players will the game support?

Original plan was 1-6, but after initial testing, I scrapped solo play for purely cooperative. It took several iterations until I could come back around and see the game in 2 fashions – 3 to 6 player with all elements and a scaled down version for 1-2 players.

- How long is the game?

Initially, I wanted it to be an hour. Looking back, I’d overshot by a lot. I started with (I kid you not) 126 separate zones that the player would search and then frequently have a challenge. It took some realizations on my part that such a game would take longer than old-school Risk. I quickly diminished that, and continued to do so to the current 27.

Another area of growth was eliminating certain challenges. Originally in the game, each Infernal faced had multiple challenges the player’s needed to meet. It was somewhat thematic, with the Infernal attempting to persuade the Angel to their side followed by some sort of combat. However, it added undue amounts of time. I held onto this darling for awhile, but eventually, I had to recognize that it didn’t build the experience the player needed to have.

My goal was to make the game more accessible to non-gamers who might be pulled in by the unique theme and so 1 hour seemed to be a good idea. However, the experience wasn’t a quick one to have. It took time to build towards a potential climax. I bumped that 60 minute goal up to 90, and after many, many playtests, I think for most groups, a touch over 2 hours is a sweet spot that allows the experiences to have time to develop with the character’s improving in stats and abilities.

What’s the playtime for first/learning games?

The game’s learning curve was typically high at first, but once the players understood the basic flow, it quickly caught up. One of my proudest moments was during a weekend of testing the game at the University of Dayton. I had a friend who playtested it the first time on Friday night. On Saturday, we got into another game and I started into my spiel. I didn’t go long, because he took over and was teaching it to the new players. And did it CORRECTLY! On Saturday’s 2nd game, I didn’t even bother to give the spiel, allowing him to take over.

Goal to help the learning curve was to keep the rulebook light and rules streamlined and similar so referring to the rules wouldn’t be necessary - everything you would need would be in front of you. I’m still working that out, utilizing the various pieces (the hexes that make the “board”, the player’s board, the ability cards, the randomized Conflict deck, etc.

- How complex do I want the game to be?

Given my favorite games were largely single mechanic that fit the theme, I wanted a similar style. Unfortunately, I’d never created a game so expansive and much like my goal for time, I overshot it and made it exceedingly complicated.

Players could earn cards in zones (I called those zones “Realms”). Those cards could be used as a basic resource, specific ability, and damage counter. It would have a pseudo-deckbuilding dynamic added into it. Seemed simple enough, but I quickly realized that such a mechanic bogged things down. Players got overwhelmed, and this was only the first element.

That idea was scrapped, replaced with a much streamlined bag building of resources dynamic. Those resources would be used to activate individual character abilities as well as mitigate dice results (prior to dice being eliminated). The resource morphed again when I eliminated dice to become a sort of Action Point expenditure. With this, the resources became how the angel’s stats improved, used abilities, and did most actions during the course of the game.

I also had several countdown mechanics. I had one that recorded the number of rounds remaining before the game’s Big Bad showed up (Big Bad referred to as the PrimEvil). I had another that counted down as player’s succumbed to persuasive attempts, leading to a Loyalty test (where betrayal could happen). Which brings up another aspect – when the players failed in an Infernal challenge, attempts at persuading impacted the group’s countdown to a Loyalty Test and all other Infernal challenges impacted the Angel’s draw bag directly.

Again, this was streamlined. All damage (whether from a persuade attempt or otherwise) placed useless tokens in the player’s bag. I called these useless tokens – Despair. That eliminated the persuade countdown. I placed the Loyalty Test into part of the Big Bad arrival countdown so when that card flipped up, if any Despair was on the table, a Loyalty test would be conducted. So far, that’s worked amazingly well and much simpler to manage.

- How much, and what type, of interaction do I want to have between players? Is it passive or confrontational? - How much politicking / table talk do I want players to engage in?

If you’ve read this far, you know a major goal of the game is ongoing cooperation. Lots of cooperation! Being a co-op, it wasn’t confrontational, at least not until one of the angels betrayed the others. Even then, I didn’t want the game to become a slugfest but more of the Insurrectionist angels complicating the game for the loyal angels. That remains so, and though a Player vs. Player challenge is a part of the game, it’s not a major element with so many other options available.

As for table talk, I’ve seen the game played quickly with minimal talking, and I’ve seen it played where it took 5 minutes to decide on an action. Both styles have fun, though the talkers/laughers are more of a hoot to be around.

- What types of choices or dilemmas do I want players to face?

The goal here was mostly risk/reward. Do I “push” when injured? How often do we help one another? Is this costing too much? If I help this angel, will the next player in line require aid that I can’t give? The other aspect tied directly into the betrayal element – can I trust this person to help me?

- How much randomness / luck do I want in the game?

Dice rolling and card draws led to a good deal of randomization. The dice results could be mitigated with using the game’s primary resource, but once I switched to exclusively cards for resolution, I tried to move the same plan over. That didn’t work, killing yet another darling. With the Conflict card, the player’s used a central deck to decide challenge results instead of dice. To help mitigate the luck factor from card draws, players could purchase the cards into their hand using the resource. This seemed to work much like with the dice, keeping the same feel but more control.

- How abstractly do I represent the theme? What are the essential parts of the theme to represent?

No abstract, and the essentials are the reality of the Insurrection. Angels are battling demons, either through combat, persuasion (or avoiding the attempt to persuade) and another area not as easily defined. Angels can be turned, and if they do, the player will switch roles from helping to antagonizing the player’s plans. There was nothing abstract save the Action Point Resource.

- How do I make the game standout in the market? What makes it marketable and different?

This was easy to think through. When I looked around for unique worlds to game in, I found quite a few, but the idea of Angels seemed primed to be marketable. And the angels we wanted to present much more in common with the video game Diablo or Japanese anime than it did with renaissance era painter depictions. We wanted to push the envelope in ways that hadn’t been tried before. Add to that the reaction when people learned of the game’s theme, and it became even more evident. We were on to something. To this day, the first praise to the game comes in the way of its thematic elements. The mechanic serves the theme well.

In addition to Duane’s artistic flair developed via comics, we added other artists who could add digitally painted work to what we were visually bringing. I’ll be sharing more of this aspect in the coming days.
 
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Warren Fitzpatrick
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3-25-17

Shifting Victory Conditions (My first playtest at CABS – Columbus Area Boardgame Society)

WiP:I has a lot of similarities to online games like World of Warcraft. Now, I’ve never really played them, but I played the games that led up to them in the old days of video gaming where “grinding” to improve could be essential to surviving later rounds. If you moved into that next level without updating, you were dead. The term grinding dealt with the process of beating smaller monsters to upgrade your character to face tougher monsters that upgraded you faster to face tougher monsters.
I knew my game had an element of that. It was somewhat intentional as, when you upgrade is also when you can do the color special abilities and that synergy starts to take hold. (Synergy means that what your character does at one point positively impacts other decisions so the abilities build on one another.)

I was nervous taking the game to CABS. I’ve done TONS of playtests – at this point, I’ve done so many that I truly don’t know how many I’ve done. And if you count the ones I did personally to test the base mechanic before unleashing it on anyone else, it’s even more impossible to track. So I’m not scared of feedback of any sort. Most critics are simply trying to bring the best out of your project. However, the thought of placing it in front of a group of designers who are published or consistently worked with those who are published was a bit daunting, especially after the experience at Protospiel Chicago where I went in with a plan and left with having to gut most of the game’s design (even after several public tests). I truly didn’t know what to expect.

So I took WiP:I with the hope of getting it played. A designer friend signed it in the queue so I was fairly certain it would get a look. It did, though due to the number of designers, we only had 3 people to run it through. That was disheartening, but as you’ll read, it didn’t end that way.

“I felt anxious”

This was the first bit of feedback. That thrilled me! The challenges led to uncertainty if the players were going to pull it off.

devil “It was so difficult”

I may still have to lighten up, but the difficulty is an ongoing adjustment. I do want the game to be hard, with at most a 66% victory rate, and if the player’s make mistakes, that number should drop dramatically. However, hearing that it was hard meant that I’d correctly adjusted from the University of Dayton’s feedback of it being easier (at least in the 3 player version we tested).

“The base mechanic is solid.”

Here is a designer who confirmed that I’d succeeded in accomplishing my goal. The game just worked on a basic level.

“Wash, rinse, repeat.”

That was the base phrase used to describe the “grinding” experience. Not that the game wasn’t fun, but as you pushed forward, it felt like more of the same. For some people, this might’ve crushed their spirits, but all it did was challenge me to give you (the potential customer) more of an experience. After all, that was what the designer was requesting – give me more of this wonderful story!

At dinner, we chatted about what that would mean. In essence, I needed accomplishing a level to mean more than a better character, cooler abilities and a “victory point”. It needed to lead to the next stage. I went home, knowing that sleep wouldn’t easily come, however, being exhausted, I collapsed in bed.

And my mind ran nonstop.

shake

Ideas jumped out at me and so I got up and wrote them down as fast as I could. After getting the initial surge complete, I could rest.

snore

Until 4:30 in the morning! I woke up with the rest of the necessary changes.

soblue

That was the bad news, the good was, I’m leading into my next playtest this Saturday with an idea.

The game will foundationally shift with this change. The base mechanic stays the same, but the victory conditions adjust. Previously, the players’ goal was to defeat the “mini-boss” (called Morza) for all 3 levels before the Big Bad (called PrimEvil) made it to the players’ base. Now, the players still need to defeat the Morza, but doing so at the first level opens up the map more in level 2, revealing a part of the game’s storyline. Defeating the 2nd level’s Morza reveals the next layer in the plan, giving the players information about where the problem generates and what they must do when they get there. And defeating the 3rd level’s Morza allows the player to know exactly where the problem is located on the map so they can win.

It adds a layer, but it’s not adding much in the way of complexity, just in story. If you would like to know more, feel free to reply or PM us and we’ll get the rulebook to you when the updates are finished.
 
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