Game Design Inspiration

posted in: games | 0

This week a tweet asked “What is a game that inspired you as a designer?”

I watched MythBusters’ Zombie Special with Michael Rooker with a segment titled Dead Heat exploring how likely you could “escape the horde” in varying densities of zombies.

I got a sense of angst no zombie movie ever evoked and wondered how I could convey that feeling.

Non-player characters can be programmed in OpenSim and Ener Hax built an excellent representation of Kowloon Walled City, complete with labyrinths and mazes, that would make a great zombie role-playing sim. =)

I sketched out the elements that created my angst and realised it was beyond my tech skills to do this online. Plus OpenSim severely limits who could explore it and costs $100 a month to host. =(

Around that time, I received Zombie Dice and loved its simplicity. I bought a copy for my daughter and made brains from Sculpey clay to use as counters.

That got me thinking about making a board game instead of something online. =)

ZOMBALAMBA was born, laboured over, prototyped, and play-tested.

A nifty “AI” for zombie movement, very little in-game text, hex tiles for the board, and multiple play modes gave it some variety. I was pretty impressed with myself. *rolls eyes* =p

The prototype even fits into a mini prepper camo bug-out bag (ripped off, err, inspired by Bananagrams).

I wanted it produced domestically but my prototype cost is $26 per game!

A Kickstarter and offshore production with someone like Panda is an option but I have issues with my game made in a country with no free elections, no freedom of speech, and possibly some deplorable work conditions. There’s a reason it costs so much less to make products offshore – cheap labour and little regulation.

I’m not terribly bothered that 99% of games are made like this – I just couldn’t choose this for mine.

So I started looking at alternatives to shave costs. There aren’t many US or Canadian companies that can do this, so I decided I could do it! o_O

And why not?

I’m not scared of doing menial labour and am no primo uomo (well, I may be snobby but I don’t mind saying I had to look up that phrase). =p

Rather than $4 for a custom bag, those wide-mouthed gripper jars are 69 cents . . .

Digging deeper into box alternatives, I ran across mint tins and while ZOMBALAMBA won’t fit in an Altoids’ sized one – it was too late – I had the game design bug.

It’s like a zombie bite – I had no choice but to create a game. Must make games!

I had no idea what but serendipity saved the day.

I went to lunch with Steve, a long time tabletop gamer, and I had two meeple and a pair of dice in my pocket (I mean, who doesn’t?). While waiting for burritos I tossed them onto the table to pass the time.

That day, we challenged each other to come up with a highly portable quick playing pirate-themed game.

A few weeks later we both had prototypes and attended our first game design meetup.

I was ready for full-on blind playtesting with 3 copies of my game. I had no idea what to expect and wanted to be prepared (I may be a tad OCD and manic).  =D

The meetup group graciously played my game and jotted down notes on the instructions. I took all their feedback to heart and Mint Tin Pirates came into existence! One suggestion was to Kickstart a pair of games so I took that to heart too! =)

Maybe it was naive to think I could design and publish a pair of games but I watched a lot of Rhado, devoured anything Jamey Stonemaier wrote, studied other kickstarters, and did it one small step at a time.

I think anyone can do the same – it doesn’t have to be the next Catan – just share what you enjoy and others will like it too.