2020 Year In Review
Well, it’s finally over. A year that has been described as unprecedented, exhausting, and relentless, among many other things. We at Sophisticated Cerberus were fortunate to have kept our day jobs and stayed safe and healthy (for the most part), although the same can unfortunately not be said for many of our friends, family members, and fellow humans around the globe.
With vaccines starting to be distributed, there is hope on the horizon that we may return to some semblance of normality at some point in 2021. Even though 2020 was a train wreck of a year, we did our best to take advantage of our extra free time and use it to work on our business. This post will walk through some of our accomplishments this year and provide a sneak peek at what we hope to accomplish in 2021.
I suppose we should start at the very beginning, since we officially started our company in January of 2020. We had a number of discussions and working sessions before then, but nothing was official until January. We were working on a space-themed game for the first few months but then switched to The Stifling Dark in March, right around the time that COVID-19 hit our area.
What started off as a simple idea for a horror board game turned into our full-time endeavor, as we spent many weeks developing the core mechanics of the game and performing countless internal playtests to see how the game was progressing. The game looks much different than it did nine months ago, but each change we make moves us one step closer to our final design.
Perhaps our biggest achievement in all of 2020 was our last-minute decision to participate in Gen Con. We had done zero marketing and had only playtested with our friends up until that point, but we figured we’d give it a shot. After all, the worst that could happen would be that nobody would sign up to play our game. Little did we know all of our events would fill up and we’d have the busiest weekend in our company’s (short) history!
The amount of interest that was shown in a prototype game from a no-name company was quite surprising, but was certainly welcome. We had the pleasure of playing with over 30 strangers across 10 different sessions and got a lot of great feedback that we implemented in the months following the convention.
Fast forward two months to the end of October, and we released our official demo version of The Stifling Dark on the TTS Workshop. We’re still working on gaining more exposure and getting more people to play it, but we’re happy we finally got the official demo out there for anyone to play if they happen to stumble upon it.
Throughout this entire time, we’ve been working with our artists and have finalized the Adversary and Investigator artwork. We’re also getting close on the box artwork and will be starting the board artwork soon. As of now we’re planning on creating most of the cards and tokens ourselves, although we might ask for a bit of help from a graphic designer to make sure everything looks good.
As mentioned in the previous blog post, we’re also working towards creating a couple of physical prototypes to try out once it’s safe to do so. COVID-19 has made it a very unique game design process since we’ve been virtual for the entire development of The Stifling Dark, but we’re eagerly awaiting the ability to get together and playtest it in person. There’s just something about playing in-person that can’t be replicated no matter how good the digital platform is.
Looking forward to 2021, we plan on attending more conventions (whether they be physical or virtual), starting out with Con of the North in February. We’ll definitely be participating in Gen Con again, and we are also looking into a number of other conventions.
We’re also expecting to finalize the other map and Adversary in the first half of the year and are hoping to launch our Kickstarter later in the year. We have quite a bit of networking and promoting to do before then, so that will also be a major focus this year.
That about sums it up. It’s crazy to think that we’ve come this far in the past year, but the best is yet to come! We look forward to another great year of game design, and hopefully a much better year outside of work.
We wish you all a healthy, safe, and happy New Year!
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,
An Update on the Weekly Update
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!
Weekly Recap - Week of 9/27
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!