Step # 1: Need
I came up with the idea for my project from playing a lot of games, and perceiving a need.
Probably my favorite game of all time is Battlestar Galactica. The "hidden bad guy" is such a fun game mechanic. But it, like may games of its kind, have three main problems:
1) They are long, and even worse, they feel long.
2) There is virtually no secrecy. Everything is done in the open, limiting what all players can do.
3) It's a lot to teach someone how to play.
Filling a need is key to making a good project. If you feel the need for something, others probably do to. A lot of people out there try to manufacture a need. Often, they just end up selling buyer's remorse. If you let the need drive the project, you'll have less marketing costs (among other negative things).
Step #2: Muse
For a long time, I tried come up with a solution to Step #1. I came up with that solution in one quick moment... all when watching The Thing. Here is the trailer.
I remember the idea hitting me like a lightning bolt.
It was Christmas time, and my family was in town. I love my family more than anything, and I don't get to see them as often as I like. Still, I grabbed a piece of paper and just started writing down ideas. My wife leaned over and told me, "Stop, you're sister is only here for a few days. Hang out with us."
She was right (as I'll talk about in a later post). Family does matter, but I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop until I finished my first prototype. That was because I came up with the solution to my need:
1) My game can be long, but because of the room movement, it NEVER feels long. It always feels fresh.
2) Also because of movement, you have secrecy unlike that created by any other game.
3) Since I based all game mechanics off story reasons, it's easy to learn. People can intuitively follow story; rules, not so much.
Step #3: Prototype
Even though it was an incomplete/untested project, I made it the best I could. People say "don't judge a book by it's cover", but they do. Oh boy, do they. Mechanics that clutter the game detract from the fun. Artwork and graphic design carry theme just as much as game mechanics. If I can't explain all elements, the game loses credibility (and so do I).
Then, once it was done, I gathered a few of my close friends. These were people who could be good judges, but also had my best intentions in mind. So we played the game, and to everyone's surprise, it was fun!
I can honestly say, without the enthusiasm of the people that played it that night, Planet Hysteria would have never moved forward.
Step #4: Revisions
The game has changed many times since then. I had to be comfortable with that. No. That's not the right way to say this.
I had to be comfortable with criticism. The first iteration is never perfect. Neither is the second, third, forth, or fifth. People's critiques are the road map to perfection.
Rarely do people know how to fix the problems in your project, so... when this happens, return to Step #2.
I'll tell you two main changes I made.
The first was the story. Since it started based off The Thing, I knew that had to change. I couldn't afford licensing. Besides, I didn't have the time to figure out how. But more importantly, I consider myself a storyteller. A friend recommended I tell MY story, NOT someone else's.
The second was by removing unnecessary cards. In the game's first few versions, players drew and resolved a card every time they took an action. This ended up taking twice as long to learn and play for very little payoff. Also, it would have almost tripled the price of manufacturing.
Step #5: Learning
There is only so much you can do with the skill-sets you have now. There's a lot you'll need to learn.
Through previous projects, I've taught myself a lot. For this project, I did the art, graphic design, game mechanics, story writing, trailer, marketing, research, ..............
And the list goes on and on.
I once thought my previous projects were failures, but when you look at all I was able to do "in house", it is pretty amazing. That all comes from previous "failures".
Step #5: Networking
Step #4 is good, BUT you can't learn everything. You don't have the time or money to do that. That's why you need to make friends that have different skill sets than you do. This allows you to trade work.
Luckily, there were people who believed in my project that had skills I don't. The music and filming were all done by friends with skills I didn't have.
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