This week, we turned the dial back on playtesting a bit in order to spend some time on the more strategic aspects of game design, namely discussions about Kickstarter, artists, and community engagement. We’re quickly approaching the end of the year, which means we’re just as quickly approaching our desired Kickstarter timeframe.
With that in mind, we had some good discussion around how we wanted to handle the Kickstarter. Did we want to sign on a pledge manager, or did we want to try to handle that ourselves? How soon should we do X? When should we make a post about Y? These and many other questions were discussed this week and will continue to be discussed in the weeks and months to come.
Our artist continued to impress us with his box designs, and we’re inching closer and closer to a final cover that we can’t wait to share. Our Adversary artwork will be starting soon as well, and we’re excited to see how that turns out. We’re planning on handling some of the smaller art components such as tokens and icons ourselves, thanks to our resident junior graphic designer Ethan.
Lastly, we finally spent a decent chunk of time discussing our community engagement strategy and how we wanted to get more involved in the community. We had done a lot of reading on this concept but had yet to take any action, and I’m pleased to say we started to get involved in the community this week. We’re starting small by providing feedback for other designers on various platforms like Reddit and Facebook and will progress from there.
Even though I mentioned that we spent less time playtesting this week, that doesn’t mean we didn’t playtest! We actually had one of our most intense games yet, with it coming down to a matter of a single turn. As mentioned last week, we made some changes to the way objectives work so that any number of Investigators could escape through either objective and were excited to test those changes out.
Unfortunately for the Investigators, we weren’t able to test that change since we lost three out of the four of them before we even got to the point of being able to escape. The silver lining is that we realized one of the Apparition’s actions was quite powerful when there were three Apparitions, so we’re adjusting that power accordingly.
We’re coming up on some pretty major milestones between the tutorial version and our artwork, so stay tuned to see those once they are revealed!
Take it easy,
We’re back on track! At least for this week’s blog post, that is. We had another exciting week of playtesting, which has been the main focus over the past two weeks in case you couldn’t tell. We continued to learn new things about both the map and the Butcher, and we also continued testing new rules and strategies as a result of these new learnings.
Perhaps the main balancing / gameplay mechanic we are changing as a result of playtests this week is the way the objectives work. With the way the new objectives worked, players always had to perform both objectives if they wanted to escape since only two Investigators could escape through either objective.
After some discussion and feedback, we decided to switch it back to the old version, wherein all Investigators could get out of either objective. This will create a lot more variability in the end-game, as the adversary no longer knows exactly what’s going to unfold at the end of the game. We’ll be playtesting that change next week, so fingers crossed it goes well!
As we mentioned last week, we signed a contract with our board/box artist and we have seen some pretty amazing box art concepts already. We’re closing in on a design for the front of the box, which will inform how we design the rest of the box. Once we’ve aligned on that, it’s on to the board!
We’re also taking advantage of Joe Slack’s Board Game Design Virtual Summit, wherein industry pros give their input on various topics ranging from gaining a following to manufacturing and Kickstarting. The content has been great so far, and we look forward to watching the remaining interviews to see what else we can learn.
That about wraps it up for this week, but we’re excited that we’re progressing on all fronts. It’s hard to believe that 2021 is only a few months away, and we have a lot of work to wrap up before then. Here’s to many busy weeks/months ahead!
Catch you on the flip side!
Yeah, yeah, we’re a bit late this week. It’s because we were busy playtesting! You heard me right, we finally dusted off TTS and had a couple playthroughs for the first time in almost a month and a half. It took us a solid minute to get back in the hang of things (and to explain all of the changes to our playtesters, bless their souls), but it was smooth sailing after that!
As mentioned in last week’s update, we realized that we needed to revamp both our map and our main adversary and spent the majority of the past two weeks doing that. We ended up deciding to put the tutorial-specific map and adversary on the backburner for now and focus on converting our existing map and adversary to make those tutorial-friendly.
I think we underestimated just how much we were going to change the adversary, since they went through a complete overhaul last week. Our first couple of playtests with the revised adversary went well, and we plan on continuing to revise them as we get more playtests under our belt.
The map itself didn’t change all that much, but the way in which you progress through the map certainly did. In some ways, we actually went back to how the map used to be when we were first getting started. The map initially had two phases, where you had to complete the first phase before you could escape. We decided to go back to that playstyle and the initial results have been promising.
In other exciting news, I used my 3D printer for the first time in what seemed like months to print out our first physical version of the flashlights! Aside from my terrible tracing skills, they turned out quite well and will allow us to perform our first physical playtests (safely, of course). Here they are in all their glory:
We also signed a contract with our board and box artist, so we’re excited to get some more artwork to share with everyone. We’re also still going back and forth with manufacturers on different aspects of production, so we’re continuing to progress towards our goal of launching our Kickstarter early next year.
We hope to have a tutorial version ready to send out soon, so keep an eye out for communication once that’s ready to go!
Until next time,
This week we spent more time focusing on the tutorial version of the game and got to the point where we are just about ready to start playtesting it. We aligned on the map layout and overall flow of the game, but still have a couple of things to iron out before we are ready to play.
One valuable thing we’ve learned from developing the tutorial version is that we will likely need to make some changes to our existing map and/or adversary in order to make them more conducive to variation. What I mean by that is that our current adversary relies heavily on line of sight, and our tutorial map is very lacking in that area.
Similarly, the adversary in the tutorial version is largely dependent on the ability to move through walls. This comes in very handy on the tutorial map, but will not be quite as useful on our existing map. Had we kept playtesting / fine-tuning our existing map and adversary (as opposed to taking a break and working on the tutorial version) we wouldn’t have found this out until much later in the process.
Our goal is to have multiple maps and multiple adversaries, so this was a very important finding. It means we need to go back and do quite a bit of rework, but it’s better that we found it out now instead of 2-3 months from now. Back to the drawing board we go! OK, not quite back to the drawing board, but we’re definitely taking a couple steps back.
We also finished creating the new flashlights, including their 3D models and UV wraps, so they are now ready for playtesting in TTS. We have made quite a few changes to the game since our last playtests at Gen Con, so we’re in for some potentially interesting games in the near future.
As the title implies, we’re switching it up a bit and we’re going to start providing weekly updates on our progress on The Stifling Dark. To be honest, this is just as much for us as it is for you. This will give us a timeline of how the development went leading up to the Kickstarter and beyond, while also keeping you informed of where we’re at. Hello future self!
Anyways, the biggest thing we focused on this week was actually an idea that first arose from some discussions we had during Gen Con. It’s hard to believe that was a month ago, but we’re finally getting serious about bringing it to life. Someone mentioned that we should have a sort of tutorial version for first-time players that simplified the game a bit so that it was easier for beginners.
We had gotten some other feedback that there was a bit of a rules overload at the start of the game, which is definitely a fair point. It probably didn’t help that we were trying to rush through the rules to start playing since we had a limited amount of time, but nonetheless we agreed that a tutorial version was an excellent idea.
After some more discussion between the three of us, we landed on creating a simpler map, a more basic Adversary, and easier objectives. That way the tutorial version would still introduce players to a lot of the core concepts while removing some of the extra rules to decrease the complexity. We’re also limiting how many actions the Investigators have in order to further decrease the initial learning curve. Don’t worry, we’ll still have the flashlight mechanic!
We’re planning on distributing this tutorial version once we’re finished so people who are interested in playtesting the game can get their hands on it (and so we can get some feedback). We want to make sure everyone’s voices are heard, since that will lead to a better experience for both of us. We’ll be sure to make an announcement once that’s ready to roll! See what I did there? I italicized it, so I really hope so.
Aside from the tutorial version, we also spent some time discussing manufacturing, shipping/fulfillment, warehousing, and other fun logistical things. We’re keeping a very close eye on our timelines to ensure we’re staying on track for a Kickstarter early next year, and we have quite a bit to do between now and then.
Lastly, we’re putting the finishing touches on the flashlight revisions that we discussed in last week’s blog post. As surprising as this is, we actually haven’t playtested since Gen Con since we’ve been so busy making changes based on the feedback we received. Once we finish up the flashlight updates we plan on getting back to playtesting so we can test how the changes are working.
That’s about it for this week, but stay tuned since we’ll plan on posting these updates weekly on Fridays going forward. We’ll still sprinkle in some other blog posts about specific aspects of The Stifling Dark or about game design in general, but they won’t be quite as often.
Over and out,