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Michael Groll
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Hello everybody,
usually, when I am working on a new game I keep things under a cover until I really have either something nice looking to share with you or even until I have something that you can buy or print. For example: I am working on a card based worker placement game for over a year now but you won't find it here because I have no nicely layouted cards to show to you and you probably would not like to play a thematic game with lots of cards but without any artwork, right?

And still, here is a game that is not yet finished, so what is different here?

Impact Factor began its life as a small print&play game called SQUAR3. It is one of those small game ideas that took me only about 5 minutes to scribble down and just a few days to flesh out. So I took a break from my larger game projects and compiled a first prototype. The result looked like this:



SQUAR3 is a game about placing tiles in order to maximize the points your 3 playing pieces (wooden cubes) would score and at the same time minimize the points the other players will score. It could be over in five minutes or last for 30 minutes. And with only 27 tiles it was very easy to build your own copy.

So I uploaded a print&play version of the game here on BGG.

And then I started a BGG playtesting session. I've never done that before and was not sure if people would be willing invest some time to test my game, so I offered a few copies of a version of this game that I would later on publish via the Gamecrafter as incentive.
I had hoped for few helpful comments and the feedback I got just blew me away. Several geeks really took a lot of time to test SQUAR3 and helped making the game better.
If you are interested in that discussion you can find it here.

After several weeks I was able to upload a new and improved print&play version of the game which now looks like this:



All that was missing now was the Gamecrafter version of the game that i had promised to the playtesters. The easy way would have been to just upload the files and produce the game as it is. I like the look of the abstract SQUAR3 with all the hard lines and the many squares (wooden cubes have squares as sides, the game board consists of 9 spaces (3 squared), each tile is a square and to win this game you have to think about all three dimensions, making the game board a squared square) .
But most testers said that they would like the game even better if it had a proper theme and who am I to argue with my playtesters ?
Several themes were suggested and there was one that really clicked with me: Science.

I am a scientist myself and though I am not too involved in all that cuthroat competition for being the first one who presents groundbreaking research results, I still have my share of experiences with peer-reviewed publications, the dependency on external funding and the allmighty Impact Factor (which says which scientific journal is hot and which one is garbage). In many cases I will disagree with this kind of rating and making these rankings and ratings as important as they are today could harm the overall progress in science more than it could help it, but the procedures are in place and they are here to stay, so we have to live with them.
Interestingly, there are not many games dealing with this whole "science circus" and the mechanics of SQUAR3 would fit nicely to this theme, so I decided to go with it.

Which brings us up to date, more or less.

So, wellcome to the world of science, wellcome to "Impact factor".
And wellcome to this designer diary where I will show you the progress I am making before the game will be finally published via the Gamecrafter.

Have much fun gaming,
Michael
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Michael Groll
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A blog/diary would be of little use without posting something new, right?

So let me start right here.

What did I do during the last weeks? Well, I had a lot of work to do but you do not want to hear about that, right?
In terms of game development (and this game in particular) I had to decide how to implement the theme.
There are many differnet actors in the field of science - the researchers, the rsearch institutions, the authorities, the external donors, the economy. What role should the players have? And what role should the tiles and the spaces on the board have? These were some tricky questions that needed to be decided early on.
In the end I decided for the following setup:
Each player represents an investor - these can be foundations, government agencies or private enterprises. They are looking for research results that can be turned into money and they are looking for prestigeous projects which can be used for promotional purposes.

Each player has three player pieces which represent their investment.

Each space on the board represents a research institution - like a university.

And each tile represents several different things. The tiles represent different research projects from three different disciplines of science - ranging from smaller inventions to major breakthroughs (with the latter being more valuable to the investors thant the former). The three disciplines. Furthermore each tile has some modifiers which effect all neighbouring tiles - these are successes and failures that can take place - ranging from a newspaper article to a research grant to a laboratory accidient to a major scandal. And finally some tiles have special actions on them which represent (soemtimes dirty) tactics used by the players (= the investors) in their competition for securing the most lucrative research institutes (=spaces on the board) for their own portfolio.

***

After deciding this basic implementation of the theme I needed to decide which scientific disciplines I would use in the game. There are three colors in SQUAR3, so I would need three differents fields of science as well. In the beginning I was looking for the Nobel prize winners of the resecnt years but their discoveries are so narrow in focus that it seemed not possible to use them in the game. Most gamers would simple have no idea what those breakthroughs are about.
That was why I was looking for some more well known discoveries. This way the game is less accurate and the timeframe it covers is a bit large (something like the last 70 years), but I think the gamers will appreciate it to invest into tiles they can somehow relate to.

From all the different disciplines I decided to use Physics, Biology and Chemistry as they form the basics of natural sciences, are well known to everybody, have that harsh competition element and all have their trademark discoveries that can be used in the game.

***

Now, that those things are out of the way, the actual layout process could start. Right now I am in the very early stages of this but I want to give you a first impression about how a tile could look like. Here you go:



Ok, that's it for today. Please let me know what you think about it so far and I will post more news as soon as I have more to report.

have much fun gaming,
Michael
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Michael Groll
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Hi everybody,
I certainly do not want to post daily updates here, but every game needs some kind of image players can relate to, so I sat down and designed the coverart for Impact Factor.

Here it is and let me know what you think about it:

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Michael Groll
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Allright, time for another tiny update - and this time a choice has to be made.

The problem with graphically layouted board game components can be thta the artwork/design is making the text difficult to read. In this case, a fellow geek had told me that the text for the modifiers might not be so easy to be read. I played around with different positions of this text but frankly, the current solution seems to be the best one. In order to increase the visibility of the text I added a glow effect to the text, making it stand out more. Please let me know what you think about this change.

Furthermore it was suggested to color-code the modifiers so that players can easily identify good and bad modifiers at a glance. I think this is a useful idea as it improves the playability. But I also think that adding two more colors to each tile might just ruin the visual appeal of the game. My initial approach was to keep the tile more or less monochromatic - blue for the physics tiles, green for biology and yellow for chemistry (I have not yet an idea for the game board, maybe red, or a mixture of blue, green and yellow, who knows). This would make, with the different player colors, make the game already pretty colorful and it has the advantage that each tile can clearly be recognized as belonging to one of the three groups.
But as I understand this wish for making the modifiers recognizable as well I played around with it and now I am not sure what to think of the results. What do you think? Would you prefer the tiles to be monochromatic or rather multicolored?
Please let me know how you like your game .

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David Ott
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Counting the example tiles from left to right, I would definitely say number four is the best-looking one, and definitely generates the desired effect without becoming chaotic with colour. Numbers one and three don't quite give enough indication of what's going on at a glance, and number two seems to have almost too much colour competition, to the point of none of the information being obvious. I say 'almost', because it still beats one and three for second best, in my opinion, and maybe with some tweaking of the specific tints being used, could work just as effectively-if not more-than number four. Not totally sure if my opinions would remain the same across the three different category colours, though.
On a side note, I gotta say everything's looking better and better with each update!
 
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Michael Groll
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Hello everybody,
it's time for another small update. Honestly, I have been busy with another game project during the last weeks but I still want to share some progress for Impact Factor with you as well.

I was not sure how the color coded modifiers would look on the tiles with different colors so I did one for Biology (green) and one for Chemistry (yellow). And it turns out that the green color for the positive modifier is still readable well enough on the green cards.

So, here come the other two colors, giving you an impression on all three colors in the game (blue, green and yellow):





Each color also features an unique symbol (the atom symbol for Physics, the flower of life for Biology and an Erlenmeyer flask for Chemistry) to aid color blind gamers.

Next up will be the design of the icons for the different actions and I guess next week I can show them to you.

All the best and keep the feedback comming,
Michael
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Michael Groll
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Hello everybody,
I've been busy traveling, so I am not as advanced with all the tiles as I wish I would be. But I worked on the different action icons and here is how a tile with one of those actions will look like:



Ok, that alone is not much of an update, right?

Over the weekend I was thinking about two additional elements that could improve the game. As the game will come in a big box anyways there will be plenty of space for tiles, cards etc.
So I am thinking about putting the following two decks of cards into the game:

1. Portfolio Cards: During the game setup one of these cards would be randomly selected and place face-up on the board. It will highlight some of the nine spaces on the board and each player who places one of his tokens on one of those places will get some bonus points at the end of the game. No big deal but it will increase the replayability and can be an optional rule. An alternative to this could be to give each player one of these cards as a secret goal.

2. Company Profile Cards: There will be 4 player colors in the game and each one will represent a company investing in science. So, why not give each company a card with a special ability (which can be used once per game) and a special action (which can be used every turn but costs two actions)? For the sake of strategic decisions I could provide each color with two cards (representing 2 offices of the same cooperation) or with four cards (giving each player the same set of cards to choose from)

So, what do you think? Would you like to see those additions to the game?
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Michael Groll
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Hello again,
Its time for another update.

I've finished all the tiles - hooray, the first milestone has been reached.

Now I am working on the game board and as you can see it is progressing nicely:



The nine spots on the upper right side are the play area, just below them is the place for the Portfolio cards (they will be square too). On the left side you can see the spot for the deck and the three tiles on display.

The DNA-ribbon around the edge will become your typical Victory Point Track which hopefully helps to make the calculation at the end of the game a bit easier.

Finishing the board will take me at least another week and than I will layout the cards, player aids, the rulebook and the box. Quite some things to do but hopefully I will be able to finish this game this month. As soon as it is done I will order one copy to check all the components and to take a few photos for the back of the box and the Geek. And then, finally, after a long wait, you will get your copies, too.

Until then, happy gaming and remember:
I am always interested in your thoughts and ideas.
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Michael Groll
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And another work in progress update.
I was not too happy with the background graphic used in the last version of the board, but the graphics I had used for the cover just were not big enough. Today I decided to get rid of much of the clutter by upscaling the graphics and I like the result much better.

also, I included the game logo, worked on the Victory Point track and added the first two University logos.

The final board might pretty much look like this, so let me know if you do not like anything before it's too late.

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David Ott
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Lookin' good! Can't wait to play with a 'real' copy!
 
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Michael Groll
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Allright people,
I just finished the gameboard:



I hope you like it.

Next up are the portfolio cards, the cooperation cards and the player aids.
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Michael Groll
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Hello everybody,
this week I worked on the Portfolio Cards and on the Corporation Profile Cards. Both are new additions to the game and can be treated as optional components. I think I will offer a beginners game in the rulebook and add those two decks of cards in an expert version of the deck (and there will be two variants for both decks).

Here you can see the card back and one front of the Portfolio cards:



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Michael Groll
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And this is an example for a Corporation Profile Card and the card back:



As these are done now, I will move on to the Player Aids, the Game Box and the rulebbook.
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David Ott
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Really likin' the looks of everything, and all the new additions! Thanks for all the updates, as well!
 
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Michael Groll
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Hello everybody,
the game box and the player aids are done and now I am preparing the rulebook. Right now I am compiling the word-file (changing the nomenclature where necessary and adding the illustrations). This will take me the most part of next week and then I will import this layout into Photoshop to create the files needed for the printed rulebook. If everything goes well I will be able to order the very first copy of the game in two weeks. Usually the gamecrafter will need a week or two to process my order and than another two weeks are needed for the shipment to reach me. Once I have checked and proofed all the components the game will go live in the Gamecrafter shop and the playtester will get their free copies.

Until then: Here is the illustration for the base game setup:




Oh, and I already have an idea for a small expansion for this game, but I will tell you more about this when the game is out in the wild.
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Michael Groll
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The rulebook for Impact Factor has just gone live here on BGG. It is just a low-res version provided as a PDF and the final game will come with a (hopefully) nicely printed rulebook, but I thought you might like to have a look at the rules as they are now.
For the next couple of days it will be easy for me to change them (correct typos etc.), so please have a look and let me know if there is anything amiss.

Thanks.
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David Ott
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Hope this is in soon enough!
The rules look awesome, so far! I found a few things, most of it piddly, but better to catch it before that rulebook goes to print than live with it forever!
1. I always find it's easier to learn a game if I have a clear mental picture of what all the components are named and where they go while I'm reading the rulebook, so I was thinking it might be a good idea to include pictures of the components in the component list, or-probably easier-put the "Tile Overview" section after the "Game Setup" section. 
2. In the "Game Setup" section, under #5, in the second sentence it reads "...teams and they...", but should say "...teams and their...". 
3. In the detailed explanation of the Media Coverage tile, you say that it multiplies by 2x or 3x. Is this because there are tiles that modify differently? Or can you choose 2x or 3x? May be nice for clarification, but also may be unnecessary. 
4. When an end game condition is met, does the final round begin immediately after the action which triggers the end, or would the current player be allowed to finish their turn if they triggered game end with their first action? Is it even possible that having an action after, instead of before, the end-game condition would be beneficial? 
5. Under "Winning the Game", under #5, you refer to the "...bonuses given by the 2 to 4 adjacent tiles...", but it is possible (although only in the quick variant) for the game to end and a tile be adjacent to only one or no tiles. 
6. The tiebreakers may be difficult to remember, especially if players aren't thinking ahead for the possibility, during scoring. It may be a good idea to include a warning in the scoring section to keep that in mind, or to perhaps have players simply place the Investment Markers that they pull off each stack on the score track as they score each stack an appropriate number of points ahead of their last one. This way, they can not only see how many total points they scored, but how many stacks they scored and how many or few points each stack was worth. 
7. Under "Example for an End Game Turn," in the second sentence, 'modifier' is misspelled, and the fourth sentence should start with "Player 4," instead of simply "Player".  
8. A few random things I noticed in the "Calculation Example" section:
a) Player 1, Investment Marker 1, in the last sentence, 'he' should be replaced with 'the'. 
b) Player 2, Investment Marker 2, first sentence, the word 'the' should be added between 'on' and 'right'. 
c) Player 3, Investment Marker 1, the bonus for having all three colours is listed as "+2", but should be "+3". 
d) Player 3, Investment Market 2, third sentence the word 'it' should be added after 'on' and before the comma. 
e) Player 4, the heading "Investment Marker 1" is listed twice, and "Investment Marker 2" is not listed. 
9. In the "Portfolio Cards" section, in the third sentence, there should be a comma instead of a period after the word 'calculated'. 
For now, that's all I found. Hope it helps, and isn't too nit picky for ya! 
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Michael Groll
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Thanks a lot. This is exactly the kind of feedback I am looking for.
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Michael Groll
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Hello everybody,
it has been a while since my last post here, so I think it is time for a brief update.

Thank you all for your feedback on the rulebook. I have implemented most of the suggested changes and am ready to transfer the document into the Photoshop files required for the printed version of the book.

But this last step of the whole design process will have to wait just a little while longer as two days ago our second child (a healthy girl) was born and I have to finish a research project proposal until the 8th of August. This means that my extremly limited time has to be dedicated to my dayjob first and all my game project will have to wait in line.

My plan right now is to complete all the files in August and get my proof copy before the start of September.

And the ideas for a possible expansion (including support for 5 players) are getting more and more detailed in my head and I am exited to explore this game a bit more in the future.
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David Ott
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Congrats!
 
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Peter Loop
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Congrats as well
 
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Michael Groll
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Hello everybody,
I got good news for you - and some bad news.
The good ones first: I just completed the rulebook and uploaded the files to the Gamecrafter. As all the files are good to go now I can order my first copy of the game to proof all the components before sending it out to you and making it available for purchase.

The bad news is: There are no white Halma pawns in the Gamecrafter shop. White is one of the player colors and those Halma pieces will be used as Investment Markers (I know, not too fancy, but the options were pretty limited). And without those I cannot order the game. This means that I have to wait until they are back in stock before I can order a copy of the game. I hope the wait won't be too long.

I will keep you posted as soon as I know more.

Cheers,
Michael
 
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Michael Groll
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Hello Everybody,
I had contacted the Gamecrafter and today I got an answer (though it is not a pleasing one):

"We've had a number of unexpected large orders of these parts that depleted our supply. These parts are on order, but will likely not be back in stock for another 4-6 weeks."

I will keep you updated aout the status of my order. I am sorry for this unexpected delay but I promise that the delay will not as long as for some of the notorious Kickstarter projects

On the bright side, this gives me time to finish up my other two game projects (Alchemy Dice and Arcane Duels). Shipping all games together will save me a lot of shipping costs.
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Michael Groll
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Ok, it's done. The white Halma piece is back in stock and I just ordered my copy of the game. As soon as it is in I will post some pictures and check everything. If all looks good, you can expect your games to be ordered within the next month.

Thanks again and happy gaming,
Michael
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Michael Groll
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Today I got a letter from my local customs office. The parcel has been processed and tomorrow I can go there, pay the taxes and fees and finally receive the first printed copy of Impact Factor (and my other two games).

It might take me a couple of days to take some proper photos but within the following week you should be able to see the game in action and read my components review here on BGG.

Hooray, the journey is almost over now .
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