Tagged - 'DESIGNER DIARY' 'GAME DEVELOPMENT' 'AGENTS IN TIME' — To go to full site, visit www.mangosgaming.uk
Every story has to start somewhere, so here goes... some of the narrative may have been changed through a lack of proper recall, or for the purpose of good story-telling, but the gist is still there... ;-)
CUE: Eerie, weird, syntho-timewarp music to simulate travelling back in time... ending in a Countdown-esque DA-DA DA-DA, DADA-DA-DUM...
— March 2017: Travelling Man, York —
Two of my regular gaming colleagues (Ocean and Stephen) wanted to gauge my opinion on their brilliant idea for a boardgame, and arrived a little earlier than usual for our weekly gaming session...
Their eyes ablaze, they had broad grins plastered across their faces and seemed full of beans... crowding around me, they fumbled in their bags, emptied their pockets, and started throwing scraps of paper onto the table: amongst all the copious scribbled notes and half-hearted attempt at a world map was the germ of an excellent idea...
"Okay, so we've had a wild idea: we're going to make a game! A time-travelling game. And it's going to be brilliant, with a map of the world, and objects lost in time, the ability to create time paradoxes and have them ripple through time, and there'll be loads of other craziness going on, but it's going to be great fun!"
Well, as a pitch, that certainly has a lot of 'ooomph' to it, so I was at least intrigued...
"We want to make a time travelling game that'll have you as an agent in time, and you'll have to go back into the past and stop things happening to fulfil your mission objectives. Ideally, you're trying to make the world a better place, like taking all the conflict and war out of it, but then there'll be all these other knock-on effects which you won't have realised, and that'll mess everything else up, so you'll then have to go back and fix those things as well, which'll have more knock-on effects, and then..."
"Whoa! Hold on, slow down, guys, let's take a breather and start again... What's this game about? Is it co-operative, or is every man out for himself?" I asked, hopefully.
"Well, actually, I think it ought to be co-operative, but Stephen thinks players should be in teams competing against each other," said Ocean.
"If they're in teams, does that mean they'll have different objectives, so you'll have 'good guys' vs 'bad guys' or something similar? Will players be split into two teams or all working for the same one against something else, some kind of mega-corporation?" A reasonable question, I thought...
"Um... we're not really sure, but look at this brilliant world map and board we've got, and all these great objects..."
And so the conversation continued, with some loose ideas about game structure, how turns might work, and further scraps of paper revealing some of those fantastical events and objects that'll be in the game: The Ark of the Covenant, The Spear of Destiny, The Holy Grail, The Maltese Falcon, Excalibur, Patton's Colt, 'Hitler Dies Early', 'The Manhattan Project Fails', ''WWII Postponed', 'Titanic Successfully Sails To The US', 'Sputnik Fails To Launch', 'JFK Survives Assassination Attempt', etc — Yup, they really had put together quite an eclectic mix, although most of it did seem to revolve around conflicts of some form or another...
"Okay, so I think there's the core of a good idea, here, chaps, but you need some form of structure before you can turn it into a game... How is it all supposed to work?" I asked.
"Well, this is what we were thinking..."
And so it began...
One of the early ideas that did stick, at least initially, was the concept of players placing their pieces on a separate space on the board to indicate their intended action, without committing to any particular date or location, the idea being that players could decide this afterwards (or cancel completely) based on the outcome and decisions of the other players.
Another one that stuck was the ability to paradox events and stop them happening, thus triggering some form of consequence elsewhere (not necessarily related, time being "a funny old thing")...
This last one, of course, eventually formed the crux of the game as it stands today, but we'll talk a bit more about that another time.