Audience & Scope Project X Development Diary: Part 2

Author: Matthew Aebersold
Posted On: 04-18-17
Project X

Project X Development Diary: Part 2

Project X got to the point where the galactic map mechanics were ready (on paper at least) and I was starting to work out things like economy balance, actions per turn, and how to throttle resource generation. This is where things slowed down for me. I still have to figure out how to persevere better through the uninteresting aspects of my game.

I was doing some soul searching the other night, and I decided that I would allow myself some time to consider a campaign component. Originally I wanted to do this, but I made the decision early on to view the campaign as a v2, and to just focus on the ‘skirmish’ mode for launch. As I started dwelling the idea of a campaign, the more excited I became, and the more things started to fall into place. Nearly everything I built for the skirmish mode could be repurposed for use in the campaign, which got me thinking about the idea of offering two gameplay modes for launch. The sandbox skirmish battles would be a single sit-down session, and the campaign would be geared towards a legacy style multi-session experience.

One thing I really want to impress upon any other game developer reading this is to not dismiss something just because you don’t currently have all of the issues with that idea figured out. I’m convinced right now that I’m going to have the campaign portion be the star feature of the game, and have both modes available in version 1.0. I don’t know, for example, how to save your ‘game state’ between sessions, how to mark down destructive changes throughout the campaign, or how every piece and mechanic will serve two purposes. I don’t let those unknowns worry me right now, because I’m confident that over time, testing the idea, and getting multiple people’s input, those issues will either solve themselves, or we will think of creative ways around the fussy parts.

Consider the Scope

Stating the obvious, Project X is still in the kitchen-sink phase. I am constantly getting excited about new ideas and features to add to the game. I get in the zone and start thinking about all of the cool things this game could be. I have to walk the line between actually adding these features to the game, and worrying about bloat. There's something genuinely inspiring and good about thinking this way, as long as it's constrained so that you can actually achieve these ideas, and that they actually make sense and add value to the game.

My approach now is to not worry about the ramifications these ideas will have on the game, but rather try to incorporate them, and not hold onto these ideas so tightly that I will have trouble trimming them if the need arises. There's been many instances already that something which sounded good in the beginning actually made things more cumbersome when tested. Those things are now gone. The process of iteration and refinement of the ideas that truly excite you are what makes a great game.

Consider the Audience

I was reading a very interesting blog post from Issac Childres, the creator of Gloomhaven. He was talking about how his goals with Gloomhaven were to make a game that's deep and engaging for experienced players, but which also appealed to the broadest number of general boardgame players. I think that's part of the reason his game was so successful.

This got me thinking about how I want to approach my audience for Project X. At this point in it's development, the whole package will ultimately be geared towards the more seasoned gamer who wants a challenge and is willing to put the time and effort into the game. Unless someone can convince me otherwise, I'm leaning towards excluding the general gamer on purpose and building a game that fits the more experienced and strategic player. Even though the general audience is large which can equal a fan base and ultimately sales, there's also something to be said for being more exclusive, and offering a top-shelf product to just a specific type of person. If Ferrari wanted to get cars into the hands of the most drivers possible, then seeing, owning, and driving one would lose it's allure, and wouldn't be as special.

This isn't for everyone, and I know the approach is divisive in this community. I'm trying to make a Ferrari game, at a Ferrari price, for a Ferrari enthusiast.