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!
Well folks, here we are! The demo version of The Stifling Dark is now live in Tabletop Simulator, just in time for Halloween. We made a huge push on Tuesday night to finish up our remaining items and were able to get the demo version published that same night. We made the official announcement on social media yesterday, so we’re hoping to get some new (and old) playtesters in there to try out all of the updates.
“How do I find it” you ask? Simple – either search “The Stifling Dark” in the Steam Workshop for Tabletop Simulator, or just click on this link. The demo is free to play, and we encourage you to share it with your friends and family. While the demo version is really meant for five players, you can make it work with 3 or 4 by having people play multiple Investigators. We’ll come out with official rules for 3 and 4 players prior to Kickstarting next year, don’t worry!
Oh – and if you need a few extra players (or you have a full crew but want to play with the developers) all you have to do is hit us up! We’d be more than happy to play with anyone that’s interested, we’re just an email away.
We’ll be revising the demo version as we make modifications to the core game, so make sure you keep an eye on the change notes in Steam in case there are any major updates! Now that we’ll actually have some free time outside of the demo version, we’ll also be working on replicating the custom rotation values we saw a few weeks back and will implement those once we get them working on the flashlights in our test version.
Coming out of the demo version, we’re turning our focus to developing the next map and Adversary. We already have quite a few details worked out on both of those fronts (and even have multiple ideas for maps and Adversaries beyond that), but we have yet to play a game with either of them. There are still some technicalities and minor details we need to work out with the Adversary, and we haven’t built the demo version of the map yet either.
Now that we’ve been through quite a bit of balancing and have a solid framework for our existing map and Adversary, we’re hoping it will make the development process that much faster for the subsequent maps and Adversaries. Obviously there’s still going to be a ton of playtesting and balancing we need to do, but rather than developing in a void we have some guardrails to bump up against this time.
Getting the demo published was a huge milestone for us, and we’re looking forward to many more milestones to come. Overall, I’d say it was a pretty successful week!
Surprising hopefully nobody, we spent the past two weeks continuing to refine our tutorial version and are almost ready to release it to the world. Keep an eye out for an announcement sometime soon, just in time for Halloween! Who doesn’t love a good horror board game on Halloween?
We have been hard at work creating artwork, updating card templates, and refining the tutorial rulebook. I should clarify that when I say we, I mean Ethan and Matt since I’ve been slacking off a bit lately (with good reason, trust me). The good news is that they haven’t run into many major issues while doing so, and they haven’t had any surprises come up either (aside from running into the occasional card that was five versions behind what we have in the design document).
As mentioned in an earlier post, some of the images in the tutorial version will be placeholders since we’re still working with our artists to get finalized versions of some artwork. The most notable placeholder pieces are for the Adversary and the board. Not to fear though, both of those projects are in flight and we’ve been in touch with both artists to ensure things are moving along smoothly.
Once the tutorial version is out there, we’ll be putting more of an emphasis on assembling a physical version of the game for playtesting purposes. As crazy as this sounds, we have yet to perform a complete physical playtest of the game thanks to coronavirus. Before you freak out, don’t worry – we have 3D printed components and paper/cardboard cards and boards that we have created, measured, and tested. We just haven’t actually used them in a physical game yet!
Reverting back to the digital world, we’ve implemented a number of “quality-of-life” improvements in TTS that our Gen Con playtesters mentioned a few months back. These improvements include things like naming cards and putting them in a deck so the Adversary can’t see them and adding some nifty TTS shortcuts to our TTS Player Aid, among other things.
We’re still working on replicating the custom rotation values that we mentioned in our last post, but we will roll that out as soon as we are able to figure it out. Even though we’ve spent hundreds of hours in TTS we’re still finding new things to improve the experience, so we’re all ears if you have a suggestion!
Lastly, we’re still keeping in close contact with our potential manufacturers to make sure we’re aligned on our vision for the game and are taking steps to cover off on all the big topics now rather than waiting until after the Kickstarter. The more we do now the less we have to do later!
That about wraps it up for the past two weeks, and I’m hoping we’ll have some exciting news to share before I’m back with the next bi-weekly update. Until then, we’ll be hard at work putting the finishing touches on the tutorial version and making sure everything is ready to roll. See what I did there?
Talk to you later,
We've been a bit light on the content lately since we're heads-down creating assets, so we decided to switch up the cadence on the weekly updates to make them bi-weekly for now. If we have a particularly eventful week we'll throw in a one-off post, and we'll return to weekly as we get closer to our launch date since there will be much more newsworthy things happening at that point.
And no, this does not count as a weekly update. Have no fear, we'll be back next week with a real recap and will proceed bi-weekly from there!
Our main focus this week was continuing to get our game ready for the tutorial version, so we spent the vast majority of our week in Photoshop updating cards and creating assets. We are making temporary artwork for cards, tokens, and maps to hold us over until we get the official artwork from our artists, and we’re also making sure all of our reference material is up to date.
Speaking of artwork, we received updated versions of our box art and initial previews of the Adversary artwork for The Butcher and the Cone Snail. We’re looking forward to finalizing the box art soon and will plan on sharing that once all the logistics are taken care of. The initial versions of the Adversary artwork looked good and we can’t wait to see the final product!
In other news, while we were playing some games in Tabletop Simulator we stumbled across a game that allowed players to freely rotate objects around a character (as opposed to being limited to 15-degree increments). This was the biggest downside of TTS for us and we didn’t think it was possible to get around that issue but now we’ve seen it and plan on trying to replicate it. There will be many hours of scripting and trial and error in our future!
On the manufacturing front, we’re working with potential manufacturers to get samples for some of our more unique components such as the flashlights. A lot of the components are pretty straightforward, but since the flashlights are such a huge part of our game we want to make sure the manufacturer we go with is able to produce them the way we’re expecting.
That’s about it for last week! I know this was a bit shorter than usual, but we really did spend the vast majority of the week updating assets and there’s no use in me boring you with details. I promise these will get more exciting once we get closer to the Kickstarter!
Have a good one!