Gen Con Online was an incredible experience, and we’re extremely thankful we were able to jump in at the last minute and have our game played by over 30 people. In this post I’ll walk through some of the things we learned last weekend, both about our game and about Tabletop Simulator (TTS).
For starters, we were very happy to receive overwhelmingly positive feedback for the game. We know our game is far from finished and nowhere near perfect, but it was reassuring that there weren’t any glaring issues or super negative feedback.
Our playtesters generally said the game was unique, fun, and (perhaps most importantly) tense. Remember that phrase I’ve been saying over and over? No? I’ll say it again: The Stifling Dark is a horror board game designed to bring true tension to the table. Don’t just take it from me though! Here are a few of the comments from our playtesters:
Positive feedback is always great, but negative / constructive feedback is even more important. We heard common themes that we should update the names for both the Victims and the Stalker, which we will be doing. There was also some confusion around the Adversary’s abilities and movement, so we will work to make that more transparent.
It also came through loud and clear that there is a fairly steep learning curve to start the game, which we very well may have lost sight to with how many times we’ve played the game. One fantastic suggestion that we will be implementing is creating a “tutorial” version of the game to try on your first playthrough that limits the rules while still introducing you to the core mechanics and preparing you for the full game.
There were a host of other comments and feedback that we will be reviewing over the coming weeks. Some of the feedback were things we had actually already discussed (like weapons to fight back against the Adversary or additional maps / Adversaries), but many of the comments were things we had not thought of before. Either way, all of the feedback was helpful and will be a huge asset going forward.
The feedback wasn’t just about our game though – we also learned a lot about TTS! We learned about the Search ability within a deck, which means we don’t need to lay all the cards out face-up anymore and try to hide which cards we take from the Adversary. We also learned about the Team Chat, which will give us a way to communicate without the Adversary cheating - I mean listening. PS why is there no strikethrough option on here?
Another great TTS nugget we learned was that you can hit U to force an object underneath other objects, which is super handy for flashlight placement. This is quite useful when you have a bunch of players near each other and you have to place a flashlight on top of them. No more flashlight juggling!
Scripting was also discussed a bit, and we’re honestly still on the fence about that. We fully acknowledge it would make the TTS implementation go much more smoothly, but at the same time it might hide real-world problems. Since we can’t playtest in person at the moment, we want the TTS version to match the real-world version as much as possible. As such, we’re leaning towards leaving scripting out for now but adding it in for the official digital version when that comes out.
All that said, we want to thank the team at Gen Con, the folks at Double Exposure, and all the amazing people that tried out our game. While we wish our company’s first Gen Con experience could’ve been in person, this was the next best thing that could’ve happened and we are thankful for that. We will definitely be back next year, online or not!
Gen Con was something that we had hoped to go to some day, but when we saw the news that it was cancelled due to COVID-19 we filed that idea away for next year. To be honest, we hadn’t even talked much about going to Gen Con this year since we had just started working on The Stifling Dark so it wasn’t too much of a disappointment.
What we didn’t realize was that only the in-person portion of the event was cancelled and that Gen Con Online was taking its place. That was a bit of a miss on our part. And by that, I specifically mean Ethan. It was all Ethan’s fault.
Thankfully, I received an email from a coworker that Gen Con Online was happening. Unfortunately, that email came on July 10th. For those who aren’t familiar with Gen Con timelines, that was 3 days before event registration opened. Cue emergency company meeting.
After much discussion, we decided to submit for eight events throughout the weekend and see what happened. The Gen Con team was kind enough to let us list the events for free instead of the regular $2 charge because we are still in the playtesting phase, so off we went!
Little did we know that over half of our events would “sell out” within the first few hours of registration, and that all of them would be full before registration even closed. Based on the level of interest we saw from these registrations we also signed up for the First Exposure Playtest Online (FEPO) option.
For those who are keeping track, we went from having zero knowledge of Gen Con Online to having 12 four-player sessions and being booked virtually all day every day, all in the matter of a week. Needless to say, our workload had just gotten a bit bigger.
The next few days were spent discussing schedules – who was going to be available to lead each session, how many of us should be in each session, etc. Oh, and then there’s this thing called our day jobs. Spoiler alert: this is not our full-time job (as much as we wish it could be). We decided to take off work the Thursday and Friday of Gen Con to make sure we could all be present throughout the convention.
As mentioned in our previous post, we had already been playtesting the game, but we had to step it up a bit. We had been playtesting about once a week up until this point, but we have since upped it to 3-4 times a week in preparation for Gen Con.
We typically have two different “tunings” prepared for each session so that we can feed two birds with one scone. There are still some mechanics we’re working through, particularly for the Adversary, so it’s very helpful to be able to test out two different options in one night and then talk about them during our next meeting. Side note – if you want to blame someone for that scone quote, blame my coworker, not me.
Speaking of playtesting, we also had to revisit our note-taking process. We had been doing a good job of keeping detailed feedback from our playtesters, but we weren’t collecting a ton of stats about the actual game. We collected the basics like game length, winners, etc., but we didn’t get super detailed.
Since we were about to have 48 strangers play our game over the course of three and a half days, we decided we needed to beef up our notes a bit. We migrated to only using a document to also using a spreadsheet, which tracked a number of lower-level details, such as how many times the Adversary took certain actions (and in what round they were taken). This new data will allow us to perform even more analysis on how things are panning out and will help us further balance the game.
All that said, we are super excited to participate in our first Gen Con and look forward to many more in the future. If you are one of the people that signed up to play, thank you for being willing to try a board game you’ve heard absolutely nothing about! If not, we’ll forgive you. Just this time though.
See you in (less than) two weeks!