Proof of Life

Oh yes, this one starts off with a pun. Figured I would do something different this time, since the last few times have all started with apologies, and I find that increasingly lame. Although I did think of a joke while opening up the screen – I’ve always said that this is the diary that (almost) nobody reads, but over the last few months this has also been the diary that nobody writes. Heyo.

But I’m super pumped to share some quality updates. First of all, me and my intrepid playtesters have been putting some serious hours into playtesting Dungeon Quest : Adventure via the magic that is TableTopia. Doing so has put a lot of my assumptions into sharp relief, and caused them to get jettisoned. You see, when I design a game I like to try out a lot of different concepts, often all at once. For example, DQ:A had a card drawing system where you kept a card and drew a full hand every turn. This was a slight holdover from other deck building games that I have played. But it created a shocking perversion of the design intent in practice – namely that it encouraged people to play with decks that were 6 cards in total. Then they would just draw their deck every turn, and lean into the power of a couple of cards. It was…bad. And now that’s gone. Replaces instead with a single card draw per turn, and an action to shuffle where you take your turn off.

Things like that and things too numerous to really list out here, and often not interesting or meaty enough to require an entire post. But that bring me to the first bit of news. As of this weekend – the rules are locked. I’ll say it again for the people in the back

The Rules are Locked.

This may not sound like it means anything, but really it’s an achievement. You see, up until now the rules were not locked and were in a state of flux. Since things like turn order, enemy design, basic things like costing, card types and whatnot were not locked down and could change whenever playtesting revealed that they were busted or lame. That’s really what we needed though, so that the core rules and the core mechanics could have the edges smoothed and polished. I can say now that the core rules for Dungeon Quest : Adventure are tight. I would want to play a game with these rules even if I didn’t design it. To say I’m happy with them would be an understatement of absurd degree.

Which means that now we are onto the second stage of development – balancing. One of the truths of game design is that if a game is too easy, or too hard it stops being fun. The art of game balance is finding, and perfecting, that middle ground. Like in my perfect world players would defeat the boss of an enemy tier set with maybe 3 hits points remaining between them. But that’s not something that I could do if the rules were still variable. A card that says “Draw 3 cards” is way more powerful if players draw one card per turn, as opposed to draw up to 5. But now, that’s where we are, and I’m excited.

That also means that I more or less have a pathway from here. Or in other, less couth language, “shit just got real.” From here, me and the team start working to balance the cards and the strategies but that will not take up all of my time. In fact, now’s when I need to start looking in earnest for an art director. Or at least call up the one that I know. From there, we’re looking at building the KickStarter pitch. So yeah, SJGR.

The other bit of news (and in classic Star Frog Blog fashion – burying the lede and getting to the title towards the end) I’ve just sent off the art for a new playtest copy of Dungeon Quest: Adventure to the fine people at GameCrafters. It’s going to come in a box and everything. I’ll have pictures when it arrives, and I’ll have pictures for the game con at the end of the month that I’m attending. Want to do some playtests with some enthusiastic civilians, take some notes and tweak that balance.

It’s odd in a way. I’ve resisted printing out (on cards) DQ:A for so long. Felt like it wasn’t a real game somehow. But now, it feels different and I don’t know why. It’s hard to wrap my head around, let alone explain. Yet, soon I’m going to have something to show for all of this, carried in my case to conventions, sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be played. I’m excited. And stressed. But we’ve been here before.

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