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Subject: Designer Diary part I: The Faceless rss

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Martino Chiacchiera
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GENESIS
Magnetism is something really fascinating, a force as invisible as powerful ... almost magical.
As children, we have all played to mess the compass needle with a magnet ... didn’t you? Well, we did!

The Faceless
was born with this insight; to give to the players the almost magical power to influence a compass needle simply by moving and rotating distant magnets.

In 2015, Guido from a public library sent the first video to his friend Martino - many other videos followed - showing a very big and ugly compass and some magnets. Luckily enough, Martino felt immediately in love with this idea, and we immediately started to work together on a game to let the players enjoy this gimmick as well.
The game was born since the begins as a cooperative game, maybe due to the fact the compass is only one! Over time we have also evaluated to design a competitive game, or Team vs Team, but in the end the cooperative concept seemed to us more appealing: all players together against the great invisible force!
The first setting was seafaring because compass = ship! Then, we added some relics to recover, and a pirate ship that wants to catch yours, and the game is done. Almost.

Picture of the first prototype.

FIRST PROTOTYPES AND AIM OF THE GAME
At the very beginning, the game was called Crazy Compass : Escape from Bermuda.
There were 8 magnets around the board, and the miniature of a ship with a compass attached moving on the board. Some islands and relics were randomly placed on the board as well. The goal of the game hasn’t changed: players cooperate to move the compass-ship on the relics in order to recover them all, avoiding to crash against the islands.

As in many cooperative games, there is an event deck that triggers negative effects and you have to keep different aspects of the game under control in order to reduce risks and avoid losing. However, in contrast to many other cooperative games, the “Bad events” and the cards that players draws and play are the same!
In fact, players do not draw blind, they instead draw from an open display to reduce the potential risk of specific threads, along with taking the cards of the desidered color.
The funny thing is that for the prototype we always used a real deck from the card game Amerigo (dV Giochi, 2008).
The cards of Amerigo, in 5 colors and values ranging 1-3 are used both by players to influence the colored magnets and to move the ship, and by the game itself to trigger bad events.

Bad events might occur during the game! Watch out!

The prototype costed us a lot of time and a lot of effort, not to talk about the money. The small compasses were recovered by cutting them from bells for bicycles while for the magnets we used some powerful Geomag.

It was very difficult and expensive to make the 3D models for the prototype miniatures, and all in all not really necessary: but they looked so cool!

We used geomags and special 3D miniatures with a hole for the magnets inside the cilindric base.The models of the prototype (i.e.: sun&moon, kraken&mermaid, tornado&shark, and the two ships) were created assembling and customizing models you can find at: www.thingiverse.com


Another hard part was the board. We had to adjust the size of the board as a function of the magnets that we had, and the dynamics that we wanted to create.
This aspect was very crucial, due to the unique mechanic that emerges.


Core mechanic: the compass-ship moves toward the direction the needle is currently pointing at. This might change at each movement due to the magnetic field conformation.
Players play cards in order to orient and/or move magnets around the board, trying to influence and adjust the orientation of the compass needle. However, since there are 4 different magnets, in different positions and with a different orientation, the resulting magnetic field is not only invisible, but also sometimes hard to figure out. This means that the needle of the compass-ship might slightly or even totally change its direction while moving the compass-ship, if you do not plan carefully your path.


The red arrow shows where the compass needle is pointing, and thus where the ship would move. In the bottom-left picture, after one step, the needle will probably change direction.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME
The game worked well since the beginning, but it required us tons of playtesting in order to tune and balance all the various aspects. To give some examples:
- At the beginning there were 8 magnets, and in the following playtest they became 7, one of which was in the middle (the pirates that chase your ship!). After other playtests , we reduced everything to 4 magnets (3 around the board, and 1 on the board that chases you).
- A lot of stuff has been changed several times: the special ability of each character (one per player), and the powers of the relics that you collect, and the negative effects that are activated during the game, and the victory and loss conditions.

Some characters of our final prototype.


FINDING A PUBLISHER

Finding a publisher was super easy. The game has always picked up the favor and attention of anyone who has tried it. After the excellent experience of Martino with Barbarians : The invasion, and given such particular components (miniatures, magnets, and a miniature with a compass!) of The Faceless , we decided to opt once again for Kickstarter. The project immediately convinced AlterEgo games, and we rapidly started working closely all together. First of all we adapted the game and the setting to the type of product they had in mind, and then we developed stretch goals that could add both quality components and gameplay at the same time. It was a great team work, especially with AlterEgo Editor Marta Ciaccasassi!
It took a lot of time and effort, but looking at how much the game has grown compared to our little initial idea, we feel really satisfied, and cannot wait to see the Kickstarter funded! We hope it’s the same for you!

Almost final Cover artwork
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Gergo Tothmihaly
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Sounds like a really great concept!

The creepy setting and art direction this will have is usually not my cup of tea but for some reason I really dig it here. Maybe because the mechanism makes thematic sense...?

I fear the gameplay will be a bit too abstract to my taste but I'm also curious to find out whether that's really the case.

A question: what about replayability? How will game sessions differ from one another?
 
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Marta Ciaccasassi
Italy
Perugia
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thanks for pointing on me ^_^
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~Meow
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Hi and thanks for the input!

The variability and replayability is guaranteed from the random setup (the island can be moved around, the starting location can change, the display setup is different) and from the mechanic that is brand new, thus it will require some games before you fully understand all the potential and strategies that lies in the game.
In addition to that, there will be different level of difficulties so you can test your skills upping the difficulty from game to game.

I cannot spoil too much, but let's say that if we reach the funding, almost all the stretch goals will be to upgrade variability and replayability

Hope to see you Friday 13th for the launch of the campaign, where most of the details will be unveiled!

And check out the Designer Diary part II coming out later today!!

Thank you for sharing your feedback,

Marta
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Gergo Tothmihaly
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Cekkins wrote:
Hope to see you Friday 13th for the launch of the campaign
That is pretty much guaranteed

Thanks for the additional info, looking forward to the new diary pages...
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Korvin
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Cool, that it first was a sea-themed Game (even if I really (!) Like the creepy Themen now).
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Marta Ciaccasassi
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Yeah it was an hard choice to make but in the end we are really satisfied with the final result! Billygoat gives a really tense vibe to the whole experience!
 
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Drew Olds
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tmgergo wrote:
Sounds like a really great concept!

The creepy setting and art direction this will have is usually not my cup of tea but for some reason I really dig it here. Maybe because the mechanism makes thematic sense...?
Yeah, it seems like the perfect mechanism for a "lost in the haunted forest" or "try to resist as the demon compells you to your doom."

Also, the theme has such a great balance of creepy and cute (like Coraline). It is beautiful.
 
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