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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Thoughts After Protospiel.

So, over the course of this weekend, I was at an event called LFG Sydney - basically a boardgame convention, that runs once a year. And as part of that convention, they hold a workshop called Protospiel. It's for board game designers, where they can bring along their prototype, show it to other designers, playtest together, and also do a quick pitch to publishers, get some feedback, etc.

There were about twelve of us there who were designers, plus a few extra playtesters. I think mine was one of the freshest - I'd been working on my game since about the end of March, whereas some of them had been going for years. Though one did have a game that they'd done in the last six weeks! And their art was incredible. (They did it themselves. Advantages of being a graphic designer/artist as well, I guess!)

Firstly, it was a lot of fun. I got to meet a bunch of other game designers, who were mostly a little older than me, see a bunch of cool games, play a few of them, and get my game playtested. It was the first real playtest - I had done a quicker one with my brother earlier in the week, but that was really just trudging through it to see what worked. I also met someone else later in the day who, after playing their own prototype, was interested in having a go at mine. It was then that it was confirmed for me that Septimus is absolutely terrible as a two-player game. For the earlier playtest, there had been four players, and it had been quite fun; this wasn't fun. For the first little while, it was okay. But then, it got tiring. Hard. A bit after we got into the middle, we both called it quits.

But this is good to know! And that doesn't surprise me too much. Often in two-player games, you'd choose heroes that were on opposite sides of the board - so you're not going to go anywhere near each other (unless you're trying to) until you're right in the middle. And even then, only really if you want to. Even three players could mostly be by themselves. When we had four, they started interacting fairly well, but they still wanted that a lot more. I think the optimum number for the game would be five. I also think it could get cramped with seven, but I'm not sure.

But I got a lot of good feedback from that playtest at Protospiel. Even though there were some things that didn't work too well, they still generally enjoyed the game, and each of them could certainly see potential in it. Which is encouraging, considering how young it is! However, it really felt too much like a solo game a lot of the time. You were just doing your own little thing, and the little bits of interaction weren't really meaningful enough. And the choices you made didn't seem to matter, a lot of the time. And all the numbers in the game really worked against the story aspect of it.

And on reflecting a bit after this, I realised that what they were saying actually made rather a lot of sense. I had built the game around a particular story that I had constructed in this fictional world, where seven Heroes are sent into a Maze, each starting at different corners, all trying to get to the centre. And, in that story, they wouldn't really interact much. That's not the point. I mean, they are trying to get to the centre first. But they can't see how anyone else is doing - it's the Middle Ages, there aren't trackers or anything! It's just them and the Maze. Which isn't really that great if you're trying to do a multiplayer game, strangely enough! But could be really interesting for a single-player experience.

But then, I've also got this world that I've already put a lot of effort into building, and these seven factions, the Septem Septimus, and the different flavours, playstyles, etc., that they have. (It's really rather similar to the MTG Colour Pie, for those who play Magic.) And that was certainly one of the points that different people all really liked, and thought was interesting. So that's a world that I can create other experiences in, other games in. Maybe a seven-player co-operative game. Maybe a simpler, smaller game for a few people. Maybe quite a few different games! I don't really know yet. But there are a lot of possibilities that arise from that.

So yeah. Don't have any plans just now. I've been intensely working on that over the last week - well, and further back than that, to get it ready in time - so I'm going to take a break from it for a bit, more than likely. But I'll come back to it before too long, and then we'll see what we come up with :)

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