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Subject: Designing a game - pt. I: Background rss

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Miika Miinin
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What's this all about?

I'm going to write a series of articles about my game development process. My goal is to get a printable version of the game published here on BGG, this will happen simultaneously with the last part of the article series. In these articles I will tell you about the progress of an game idea evolving to a playable and hopefully enjoyable game - I also welcome all the critic you can give and by the time I hit a dead end I hope help from you guys!

In this first part I'll walk you through the backgrounds and the games that have already had an influence on my upcoming game - I will also tell the first few steps that already have been taken and the direction I'm be heading.

The idea for the game came up during a dull moment at work - my mind was wandering and I had - once again - the idea of creating a board game. For so many times have I've been excited about making a game, but not once have I got anything finnished... This time I decided get it done, really!


Here it all began

There are few things that I really enjoy while gaming, such as backstabbing, mindgames, strong theme and multiple usages for the components - I decided to narrow these as the main goals for the first version of the game... I pondered about games that had these mechanics and what makes them so great and what are the parts that I disliked. I checked my collection from BGG and listed the ones that had 'em and could be considered as sources - yeah, didn't get much work done that afternoon...


The games I listed were:

Citadels - for the backstabbing and mindgames. The problem I found with this game was the fact, that it is really mean and can easily scare the people away - so my game should be more tender for the players, but there should definately be mindgames and backstabbing!

Race for the Galaxy and Bohnanza - their clever usage of cards for both paying stuff/marking the points and playing 'em is just something that I adore - this was something, that I had to get for my game. Wait, now I had established, that my game used cards, that's a start, isn't it? But paying stuff with cards is old news and recreating it would be just plagiarizing... There needs to be something totally different about multifunctional card useage...

Agricola - theme is a really big thing for me and I enjoy playing a game much more, when I feel that I'm not just laying tiles or playing cards, but rather exploring the galaxy, expanding my dominion or trying to survive as a farmer. The theme was something that had to be strong and something that people liked...

At this point my game was going to be something, where people would bluff their ass off, read their opponents and then backstab 'em with multi-usable cards - all this with a strong theme... Sounds about as cool as wearing a sock as a glove... Then it hit me: Werewolf. A game of paranoia, backstabbing, mindgames and weird kind of co-operation - there's a lot to take from! One thing I really love about Werewolf is that it really doesn't matter who wins or loses, but that everybody has fun and the atmosphere is great... I think that the elements I would like to borrow for my game are: "winning isn't that important", "co-operation w/ betrayal" and "undisclosed roles"... And that feeling of paranoia, when you just can't know if the guy next to you is a werewolf... "Maybe I just burn him to be sure!"

Okay, now I needed a theme to get forward - I didn't want this one to be a fantasy nor a scifi game... Maybe something medieval? Co-operation and betrayal... How about inquisitions? (Spanish inquistion! You didn't expect it, did you?) There would be inquisitors and heretics in the playing group, but no-one knows who they are. Trust, mindgames, bluffing and player interaction would be in a major role, sounds about right!


The next direction

I've never played Shadows over Camelot nor Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, but I really love their idea - or what I consider to be their idea based on reviews and what I've heard about 'em. I wanted my game to be a co-op game, where everybody had one common goal - in addition some players might have different goals, that can only be achieved, if some or all of the other players can't fulfill the common goal... You would have to work with people, just to get to your goal and then get rid of 'em fools! Or your goal might even be to get rid of 'em... (At some point during this process I had left the work - I'm not quite that bad an employee!)

What would be a common goal for heretics and inquisitors? Err...Staying alive (ah, ah, ah, ah, aaa-aaa)? But there quite wasn't any life-threatening danger that troubled the both groups... Maybe I needed to rethink the theme? I needed something to get two or more groups of people to work together - a greater force, that didn't let you choose who you are co-operating with to survive... War? Plague? Zombies! Probably the inquisition is more original theme and there aren't about million games about it, but I simply love zombies and there is no intention to gain any money from this - so why wouldn't I go with 'em?

At this point I had a game, where cards are used, people with undisclosed roles co-operate to survive the zombies, but some of the group might be trying to survive alone, or get one person of the group killed - or maybe be the hero and die to get others to safety. No one knows if they are all just trying to survive 'till the sun rises - or is some of them a person that shouldn't be trusted? Paranoia rises!


Sneak preview to the next article - "Game mechanics"

On the pt. II I'll tell about the mechanics that I'm planning to use. But to keep you interested I'm going to give you a little preview: I've been talking about using cards for different purposes and here is the one of the things cards will do: The basic goal of the game is to survive the night - when the game begins, it's 9 PM and the group of survivors need to make it trough the night - they are total strangers to each other but they have to co-operate because the town is flooding - with zombies! Some of the cards have a clock icon and whenever a card with that icon is played, the clock is turned one hour forward - when it's 9 AM the rescue comes and the game ends. The catch here is that most of the cards that have the clock icon are the zombies.

Basically there are two types of people in the game - the ones that just try to make it through the night AND the people who try to make it trough the night and get the others/one of the other killed. Even the traitors need the others (atleast for some time) because all alone you are more likely to get killed. Hench the traitor(s) need to act like regular dudes for as long as possible to get the benefit of the group and when the group is no longer needed, betray the group for personal benefits. Here is the first place of balancing: when can I do the backstabbing and still survive the night? How can I undermine the group to make the final blow more easy - and not get cought doing it? If they find out that I'm a traitor will they still need me to fight the zombies or will I be kicked out of the group, killed or even be thrown to the horde as a zombie feast?! Players must constantly try to read the others and find out what's their goal - and play so their own cards so, that they are trusted by others.

Okay, I got a bit carried away there - this was meant to be a short preview... But about the clock icons::for the "I just wanna survive the night" -type of people playing a zombie card is a problem, 'cos the zombies might eat them, but playing 'em is necessary, 'cos it brings the morning a bit closer - for the traitors playing a zombie card is a problem, 'cos they turn the clock forward and there is less time to get others killed - but playing 'em is also necessary, 'cos it's the most subtle way to get the others killed... So basically both groups want and simultaneously don't want to play the zombie cards - but for the opposite reasons.

Now it's time for your critic, ideas, feedback and ideas, thanks for reading!

EDIT:
The pt II is here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/3116926
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Almarr Ormarsson
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Re: Designing a game - pt. I
I like your idea very much although I'm not a big zombie fan... can't see another theme though that would make a similar game, well not at the moment at least. But it sure sounds like a fun game if made right!

Ok finding another theme isn't that hard, I'm just way to tired to do so now... I'll check this post back tomorrow!
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Eric Jome
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Re: Designing a game - pt. I
It is so much fun for me to read this as I have an identical series of articles on my hard drive that I've held off posting for years. Remarkable how similar they are in style, even if the games they are working toward are completely different.

Bravo... and good luck.
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