Creating Content

Week 2 - Content and First Playtests by Bob Jamison

Okay, so we've got a game.  This should be easy, right?

Our in-person design-a-thon time had run out, but we'd gotten from a bunch of vague "wouldn't it be awesome"s to a real thing people could play.

We'd decided we wanted to put the game up on Kickstarter, even before we started designing in earnest.  So what did we need to do to pull that off?

Our initial checklist:

  1. Flesh out more content.
  2. Put together a prototype.
  3. Playtest.
Comments in Google Drive

Comments in Google Drive

We spent most of the week just brainstorming new content.  My process was to sit down on the couch with my laptop, put on a crime movie, then visit each card type and toss in new cards.  Google Drive has a great comment feature, so we reviewed each other's cards as we went.  If I didn't understand a mechanic of one of Josh's cards, I'd toss in a comment and he'd re-work and "resolve" the comment, and vice-versa.

Everything went pretty smoothly, in just a couple of days putting in a few hours after work, we probably had more cards than we needed for the final game. 

HCCD Cards

HCCD Cards

I found a great project online that would allow you to generate card layouts based on a CSV file, called HCCD.  Since we'd be working remotely with each other, I setup a Google Drive where we collected all of the card text into spreadsheets, one tab for each card type with a column for different bits of info on the card (name, abilities, flavor text, etc.).  I could copy-paste the card details into a CSV and generate card layouts.

That made it much easier to tweak and just print out a whole new batch of cards.

Cutting the cards is a real pain in the ass.  I tried to tough it out with scissors but needing to make several prototypes with hundreds of cards pushed me to hit up an office store and buy a paper cutter.

To make shuffling the cards a little easier, I grabbed a box of blank cards and card sleeves off of Amazon.  That taught me about different card sizes, as I'd printed off poker-sized cards (2.5" x 3.5") but unknowingly bought smaller "bridge-sized" blank cards (2.25" x 3.5").  Save yourself a lot of time re-cutting paper and double-check the size of cards you're using.

For tokens, player markers and such, I grabbed a bin of 1,000 assorted color cubes for $27 that I could get shipped same day.

Now to playtesting.

Josh and I each cornered our respective gaming groups to give our game a run.  This turned out to be tougher than it seems.

Firstly, people are busy and asking them to try a game "you and a buddy made" is not necessarily the most appealing way to use their free-time.  We were pretty proud of where we were at, but who wants to tell another person their baby is ugly?

Josh's group was the first to play.  It was the first play-through with a 3rd player and we were worried about how things would balance with more than 2 people.  

First point of feedback was we needed to work on making the game easier to play.  There were a lot of mechanics and players lost track of what they could do.  It was also hard for new players to decide what to go for, they were bewildered by the potential actions.

Influence Locations

Influence Locations

Second, a new mechanic we'd added called influence needed some work.  It evolved out of wanting to add a new kind of win condition and also provide some flexibility for the players to move cops.  We started with a new location, "City Hall", that would let the players buy an influence token.  The tokens could be cashed in to move cops, corrupt them, move players to jail and we added a win condition based on the number of cops corrupted.  Problem was that the effects weren't that useful and the win condition was too hard.

Third bit of feedback, the heat effects were unbalanced.  His roommate pretty quickly fell into ignoring the heat cost of actions because the detriment was usually minor.

Our Broken Healer

Our Broken Healer

Lastly, he found several over-powered cards and strategies.  Assorted things like leveling up characters was too powerful, and a "healer" lieutenant we'd made caused it to be very difficult to counter.

On the good side, the players tried a good mix of strategies, most of the content and mechanics were relevant and useful.  Balance was decent, most strategies had ways for competing players to counter.  

3 players definitely changed the tempo of the game.  With 2, the game unfolded more slowly and required more planning.  With 3, the players were competing for locations pretty quickly and plans had to pivot frequently to adjust for new conditions.

And they liked it!

We'd accomplished our goal of creating a full stack of content, created a prototype and had our first playtest.

We went to work on tuning balance...


See you next week,