5: A breakthrough!

What we know so far: ReGenesis is a game about restoring an ecosystem after nuclear fallout. Likely assymetric player powers that will not represent humans. Mechanically the board needs to visually change from disaster to beauty.

Howdy folks!

On of the most important parts of design for me, is getting some thoughts going and then letting my subconscious chew on them for a while.

Today, that worked! I’ve been struggling with the theme due to accuracy. I’m going to let that go for the moment. Why? Because currently it’s a crutch, that I can get back to later.

What I need to figure out right now, is how the game works mechanically, with the theme in mind, but not leading the charge. I always knew that, I wasn’t practicing it.

Today, (thanks to this poll https://twitter.com/GameMinimalist/status/1026092893105283072?s=19 I got to thinking about how to make the game board change? What existing mechanisms lend themselves to changing how a board looks, and what should players feel and have to do, in attempting such a task?

My answer to the poll, was that mixing the mechanisms is where the most potential for elegant games exists. Which clicked nicely with my question.

I want the game to start slow and build, which works best as an engine or deck builder.

I want players to excell at different things, which makes worker placement a possibility.

What if there was a deckbuilder, which allowed you to accrue things other than cards? What if you could use your resources generated by the deckbuilding to acrue different workers and then place them in specific locations to do their work?

Because of the cooperative nature of the game, players could even, acting as mother nature (see, I can’t help but think of theme as I build mechanics) build one deck, resource and worker pool?

I think that group of mechanisms will make for meaningful decisions (do I build the deck, or buy a worker?) And allow for resources to be utilized differently by players, which will create the moments that bring folks back to a game time and time again!

That doesn’t answer the question of how the board changes, but as I mess with the mechanisms, it will!

Next time, I’ll take a look at the deckbuilding portion.

What’s your favorite breathrough in your life?

Odin

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4: Getting back on track!

Eghhhh! It’s been over a month since last post. I’ve kindof lost my place, and am having to do more work to get back into the flow of ReGenesis than I would have to if I hadn’t let work at home and that pesky day job get in the way. My apologies folks. If it makes you feel better, I didn’t get much gaming in either.

To recap: ReGenesis is a co-op game about returning a habitat to livable after some sort of nuclear disaster, likely to need assymetric player powers It’s unlikely humans will be the avatars of the game. Mechanically speaking there will need to some kind of visual change to the board, from devestation to beauty. Experience wise, I want the players to be wondering if it’s doable.

I have to admit, I’m a little stuck. I’ve been doing some research into how Pripyat is recovering after the Chernobyl disaster, which is taking some time, because I really don’t know much about it.

What I’m trying to figure out, is how nature recovers from nuclear contamination. So far, what I’ve found is that fungus is the first visible lifeform to emerge. While I’m facinated by this, I’m not convinced most gamers will be. The latest wisdom is to move the start of the game to a place where meaningful decisions can be made. I’m not sure where that place is yet.

One interesting mechanic that came to mind is to trace the effects of radioactive contamination on the longevity of a family tree. At each branch, survival is in question, certain variables and resources change the viability of the branch, and a dice element for chance could be fun. This could also be a threshold type situation. Get enough of the right thing, and the branch survives. That might be a different game?

Till next time, may your mind focus on the game at hand, and you’re mechanics flow with ease.

Odin

3: Building From Wants

The list of wants, far from complete, but chock full of potential, gives me some direction. Two specific items on that list, are where I’m going to choose to start work, because they’re the most concrete. Wanting the players to work together, points to a cooperative game, leading likely to asymmetric player powers. Wanting the look of the game go from devastation to beauty, means that a key mechanic will change how the board looks. Each of these have their challenges.

The cooperative nature if the game, cannot really be figured out in any sort of thematic way, until I figure out how the transformation will work mechanically, so this is a necessary first step. How does the game go from the desolation of nuclear fallout, to being a livable place? What processes need to take place for such a thing to occur, and how does that translate to bits of cardbord, wood and plastic?

In the interest of starting where some action can take place, it makes sense to begin past the worst stages of radiation, to the point where multiple forms of life can exist. To know what that point is, I’ll have to do some research, both regarding the half-life of the radiation, based on what substance created it, and the what lifeforms are ones which survive and ones that begin the earliest processes of (for lack of a better term) ReGenesis. One thing I’m fairly sure of, is players will likely not be controlling human avatars.

Research will help deepen the theme, which is important, but doesn’t necessarily address what needs to happen mechanically by the players of the game, in order to complete the transformation within the game. In my mind’s eye, I see multiple changes needing to occur on each space of the play surface in order to make it habitable.

This is where theme and mechanics start to negotiate back and fourth. Mechanically, the ways to change how things look, usually involves flipping cards or tiles, covering something, partially or fully, or removing something to reveal what’s underneath. Are there other mechanics that transform the play surface of a game? Is the key mechanic for ReGenesis within those listed, or is there potential innovation waiting to bubble to the surface of my thoughts?

More questions than answers come right now. Removing the radiation could be a subtractive process, taking things off the playsurface, while rebuilding could be additive. (This seems unnecessarily component heavy) Do I want players to work towards going from one side of the board to the other? Modular change that spreads to meet and hopefully cover the board? I have an inkling of a time based spreading mechanic, that will I need to further consider.

What is your favorite transformative mechanic?

May your theme and your mechanics meld seamlessly to create a memorable player experience,

Odin

In Idea Sparks a Wildfire

Every game starts as an idea, often vastly different from what the game looks and feels like once it goes through the design process. Some designers come up with a sweet mechanic and build around that, others claim their start is usually a theme that interests them. Most will agree, regardless of what comes first, their guide eventually becomes what they want players to experience. How do I want players to feel when they play the game?

Nucleostasis (which I called a working title, but it’s not really working for me, so I’m thinking I want to change it to ReGenesis, assuming it’s not already a thing) as with most of my designs, starts with theme. It’s a game about returning a nuclear winter to a livable environment. At this stage in the game, that’s all I know. (Cheery huh?)

Usually at this point, my brain is going much faster than I can note anything. I’m making arbitrary decisions knowing I may very well go back and change them, and I’m missing stuff. I don’t really worry about it too much, it will usually come back around. What I’m focused on in all the noise, are the signals about what I want, knowing full well some of it will get cut.

  • I want the game to be hard!
  • I want players to look at the beginning state of the game and wonder if it’s doable
  • I want the tension of knowing they could lose, and the triumph if they win, or wanting to play again as soon as they are done.
  • Visually I want the board to transform from devastation to beauty, and feel the same as the game state.
  • I want the players to work together.

From here, I will build.

May you achieve in your game, to include the many things you want, AND have a great game,

Odin

The Experiment Setup

https://twitter.com/codeNCardboard/status/1002233144127307776?s=19

In the above tweet storm, with a some great folks, we discussed, among other things, a need for comprehensive notation of how a tabletop game comes into being, from start to finish.

Among the tabletop gamesverse, a fair amount of literature on the broader industry, specific mechanics, various and volumous design concepts and how to physically design components, by some super knowledgeable and experienced people can be found (some links in the notes section). However, so far as we are aware, there is far less that specifically addresses how a game goes through the entire journey of design.

The industry is by no means new, but the design process is one full of variables, and by extension variations. There are as many ways to go about designing a game, as there are game designers. Many of them open up about some part of the process. Most do not record their entire process.

Nucleostasis is going to do just that, go through the entire design process, from ideation, to a game complete enough to pitch to publishers, or reach the decision to shelf. No guarantees on it actually getting published. The publishing is not really the point .

What we want to examine, are why decisions are made? How feedback, both direct and indirect from playtesters informs and adjusts the design. What the game looks like at the beginning, and how much it changes by the end. Why and how does this change take place?

Nucleostasis is a notation experiment that may result in a fantastic game, but will absolutely examine and explain the design process for this specific game. Hopefully we all become better designers on the way.

Cheers, and may your game ideas come only as fast as you can design them,

Odin

Some great resources about game design.

www.boardgamedesignlab.com A podcast about specific topics on board game design.

https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter/how-to-design-a-tabletop-game/ Jamey Stegmaier’s blog about all things boardgame.

http://www.jamesmathe.com Another comprehensive blog on a ton of board game related topics, by a guy who has decades of experience in the industry.

I’ll share more resources as the journey of Nucleostasis unfolds