Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quick Article: Doc Designs a Boardgame. (Part 1)

Quick one today, as I'm struggling lately to not just write about video games all the time, since that is what much of my leisure time of late has been devoted to. (That, and getting a few books deeper into Vlad Taltos, which I already wrote about here.)  Since it seems that most of the (non-pornographic) content on the internet is dudes and ladies writing about video games, I try not to make this site "game review/discussion of the week or however often I'm updating now."  There is, however, one thing I've got going on that is about geeky stuff, what I'm doing at the moment that is directly related to being out of work, and that neither I or 1000 other sites are writing about at the moment.  I'm finishing design and development of a boardgame.

Before I started this blog, sometimes there were quiet moments between crises at my previous work when no students needed assistance, no paperwork had to be done or organized. In these rare times, I didn't want to risk disrupting a quiet and productive class by doing much of anything that would invite comment, which could really be anything when working with Behavior Disorder/Emotionally Disturbed teenagers.  With a clipboard full of paper and a bunch of ideas in my brain, I'd sometimes casually sketch out game design ideas.  One of these, a thematic (sometimes called "Ameritrash") style game about players controlling squads of mercenaries, each distinct characters with skills, personalities and the ability to level up along the way, started taking shape.  The obvious thematic influences for the game included popular strategy/rpg PC titles like the Jagged Alliance series and X-Com, as well as films like The Expendables, Delta Force and Predator.

I've bought each of the games in this series more than once, and I know
that my experience playing them will be reflected in the design.

Despite how close the game came (on paper) to being done, I never finished it. The expense and difficulty in getting a board game published made this not much but an interesting intellectual exercise.  Then, in the last year or so, something changed.  I'm talking about Kickstarter.  The crowdsourcing website for funding self-publishing of creative projects has changed the game for someone in my position, literally. I already knew an amazing artist/graphic designer, and my wife has been involved in editing gaming products for years now... this could actually happen. I dusted off my notes, started moving them from paper to computer, and cleaned up the design here and there as I transcribed.

What I have now is a little more than half-finished game design, with mechanics somewhere between a competitive questing game like Runebound, and a cooperative story-driven undertaking like Arkham Horror, all set in the wrapper of modern paramilitary action movie. I think that no one's quite combined this theme with these sorts of design ideas in quite this way before, and I'm really making the game that I, personally, have always wanted to play.  Each game should play out differently, with different combinations of the characters on each squad, with different equipment, fighting against a Warlord with different abilities and statistics.  Vehicles, resource capture and management, roleplaying style events and special cards playing out a story for each game, a story where deadly men and women use their varied talents and skills in the pursuit of cash.

Imagine between 2 and 5 players controlling squads of guys like this, setting explosives,
firing machine guns and throwing grenades in a "Questing" style board game. If that isn't exciting to you, we
enjoy very different things.

I hope to occasionally do a developer journal in these pages, as we move from "design" through "mockup and playtesting" to "prototyping and launching the Kickstarter to get this thing made."  I read somewhere that people only do things for two main motivations, out of love, and out of fear.  When answering the question of "What's Next?" for me, I know the last time I went back to work at my old job, it was out of fear. Afraid of what would happen if I didn't take the offer, afraid of the bills, afraid of running out of unemployment, afraid of feeling useless and worthless by turning down a job I knew I could do.  If this project makes my next career "game designer," I know it will be a labor of love. Please comment with opinions on this one, it is a subject dear to me.

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