We knew early on that the flashlights were going to be one of the main selling points of our game, so we also knew that we had to make sure they were unique, fun, and comprehensible. It turns out they were also one of the most complicated things to develop. Isn’t it funny how that works out?
The flashlights have been one of the most-changed aspects of the game so far, both in number of times changed and in the magnitude of the changes. If you’ve been a diligent reader of our blog (we see you), you’ll remember that we initially started out with a square grid on our map. We started out sketching our ideas for the flashlights to see how they could work.
There was a lot of debate about the right way to handle line of sight with the flashlights, as well as how many different flashlights we should have and how big each of them should be. After much discussion, we developed our first digital versions of the flashlights. Those bad boys looked something like this:
Despite looking like they belonged in an 8-bit video game, they got the job done. That is, until you wanted to point the flashlight in any direction other than directly up, down, left, or right. Seeing as we didn’t want to limit the direction the flashlights could look, it was back to the drawing board. At first we tried to make alternate versions that worked diagonally, but we decided we also didn’t want to have two different versions of each flashlight.
We eventually realized that a square grid probably wasn’t the best option for what were trying to do. Ignoring the brief stint we had with hexes, we ended up going with circles that were arranged in a hex pattern. Once we landed on the map layout, it was time to start sketching yet again.
Now that we had a map pattern that was conducive to rotation in multiple directions, it made designing the shape of the flashlights a bit easier. A couple triangles later, we had our shapes. That was the easy part, though. Now it was time to figure out line of sight.
As seen in the previous images, we initially had both horizontal and vertical lines drawn on the flashlights to help with line of sight. The horizontal lines were meant to illustrate where your flashlight beam ended based on which section the obstacle intersected, and the vertical lines showed you which spaces would be deemed visible.
The flashlights looked rather busy, so we thought long and hard until we realized the horizontal lines weren’t necessary because the obstacles themselves could act as the horizontal lines. In other words, no spaces after an obstacle were visible. All you had to do was trace one of the flashlight lines back to your character without hitting an obstacle, and you were good!
These are the only flashlights we’ve used since we began playtesting publicly, and overall the feedback from the players was pretty good. The people who played the Adversary, however, had a slightly different opinion. It was a bit too easy for the other players to coordinate and cover huge areas with their flashlights, so we very recently decided to trim the flashlights down a bit. Here’s a sneak peek at one option for our new and improved small flashlight:
One additional thing I want to discuss is when players are allowed to use the flashlights. Up until now, flashlight usage was limited by which actions you took. Certain actions, like picking up or using an item, prevented you from using your flashlight.
This forced the player to choose between grabbing a potentially useful item or protecting themselves with their flashlight, which was a choice we really enjoyed. However, it also led to a lot of confusion around when you could or couldn’t use your flashlight, and it was somewhat common for there to be some rounds with no flashlights on the board at all.
After a great suggestion from one of our playtesters at Gen Con, we decided to work on revising flashlight usage to tie it to a new charge system. The core concept is that you can use your flashlight pretty much whenever, but each time you use it you have to spend a charge. This way it’s a simpler concept, allows more flexibility, and is more realistic. We’re excited to see how these changes pan out in future playtests!
Oh, and one last thing before I sign off. I couldn’t leave without acknowledging our favorite flashlight that [n]ever was. I present to you, the 180-degree flashlight:
The picture doesn’t do it justice, but that monstrosity you just saw was one iteration of the square grid flashlights. To be honest, it didn’t take long to rule that one out. If we were having problems with our smaller flashlights covering too much ground, I can only imagine how annoying this beast would’ve been. Good riddance!
See you next time,
PS: Sorry Ethan, I know you really loved your 180-degree flashlight. It’s time to let it go.