It’s been a little while, but don’t worry – we’re still here (whether you like it or not)! We hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving, despite how different it may have been this year. Our Thanksgivings were filled with lots of Zoom calls, but there was thankfully still plenty of food involved.
Anyways, we have been hard at work on both the digital and physical side of The Stifling Dark since our last update. I’ll cover off more on the development/digital side of things in our next update, but for now I wanted to focus on the process of physical prototyping that we’ve started now that the components for the game are fairly solidified.
To clarify, I’m not talking about the very first prototype most developers do, which usually consists of a combination of Monopoly money, Carcassonne meeples, and various sheets of paper and cardboard. I’m talking about the more refined prototypes that are usually created once you’re farther along in development and have a good idea of what your game is going to look like.
Due to COVID-19 we haven’t had a chance to get together and physically play the game, but we decided it was time to get a physical prototype created to test out the gameplay in real life instead of in Tabletop Simulator. We’re not quite ready to order a prototype from an actual manufacturer, although we are in the process of getting prototypes of the flashlights since those are an integral part of our game and we want to ensure we go with a manufacturer that can do them justice.
The good news is that I have an excessive amount of “toys”, including a 3D printer (a slightly modified Ender 3 for those that are wondering), a Cricut Maker, and a color laser printer among other things. I’m also very thankful that Reddit, the Board Game Geek (BGG) forums, and other online resources have plenty of tutorials on the best way to do this.
As previously mentioned, the flashlights are one of the central components in our game so we wanted to test out the mechanic on a real table (as opposed to the simulated variety). It took a little while to find a relatively well-rated translucent filament, but the one I got ended up working well aside from being very brittle and breaking while just sitting there.
Each small flashlight takes around 45 minutes to print, and each big flashlight takes about an hour and a half. We wanted to create 5 prototypes, so that meant printing 20 of each flashlight. Once they were printed, I had to manually draw the lines on them using a template, a ruler, and a Sharpie. In hindsight, I should’ve just 3D printed a template with the lines cut out, placed it over the top of each flashlight, and spray painted it. Oh well, now I know for next time!
The next step from there was a bit easier (or so I thought). I needed to print out the cards and player boards, so I found a good tutorial on the BGG forums and rolled with it. The short story is that you print the fronts and backs on pieces of 32# cardstock, use spray adhesive to seal them together, and then cut them out with either a Cricut or a good old-fashioned paper cutter. Optionally, you can use thinner paper and put a laminating pouch in the middle to make the cards snap a bit better while shuffling.
Seems simple enough, but a couple issues I ran into included forgetting to mirror the layouts, not lining the front and back up perfectly while adhering them, and failing to cut them out straight on either the Cricut or the guillotine cutter. The first issue was easy to solve by paying more attention, the second one involved creating a jig of sorts to force the paper to line up when adhering, and the third one required some creative workarounds to force Cricut Design Space to do what I wanted it to do.
Of course I saved the “best” part for last – the game board and the tokens. Both of them are bigger than a single sheet of paper, so the plan is to cut the images up into smaller sizes so that I can print them out. The downside of that is I will have that many more things to line up correctly before cutting.
The punch boards are going to be especially daunting, as we have almost 150 tokens in the game at the moment. We’re going to try two approaches to cutting those out – one with the Cricut and one with a 15mm hole punch that Matt recently acquired. Matt’s hole punch will likely end up being more accurate, but it also has a 100% chance of causing sore hands by the end of the process.
Hopefully we’ll have a fully completed prototype ready by the time our next update rolls around, but I’m not going to make any promises because the game board and punch board are going to be quite the undertaking.
Wish me luck!