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Kill your darlings

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ceethreepio
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Housing for Dracula
Burning down businesses
Police Investigations
The Times Newspaper
The final result

I find myself oscillating between two extremes as I design. It's slow change from one to the other - about a 6-12 months transition.

I'm now in the "Reductive" phase, rather than the "Additive" one, ripping out as much stuff as I can. I keep thinking back to the the writer's refrain, "Kill your darlings".

If you've not come across this before, it means "to get rid of your most precious and especially self-indulgent written passages for the greater good of your literary work". Whilst I am in no way a writer, I figure this likely applies to all creative fields.

And boy is it hard to do.

So, here's a few darlings I had to kill. I'm hoping posting about it will somehow make me feel better for the wholesale slaughter of some of my favourite ideas. Appealing for absolution perhaps.

Quick recap: My game is a 1890s-based war/area-control-game-ish, but with completely asymmetric factions. It uses characters and races from stories published at the turn of the 19th century. Like the Martians from War of the Worlds, the village of Innsmouth from Shadow over Innsmouth, Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes, and several others. It also includes Dracula.

Dracula's aim in the novel is to move to England and setup home. So, I went at that hard in the design .

I devised locations he could buy; Town-houses, Slums, Businesses, Stately homes, which he could rent out to unsuspecting people.

As a Landlord he would have easy access to unsuspecting tenants. And of course, he could eat them whenever he got hungry.

He could get Loans from Banks to buy houses, and get mortgages, and then he could simply burn the bank to the ground and destroy all the records!

These of course would be crimes (along with the murder of tenants). So of course there would be Police, gathering Evidence, trying to investigate and setup a prosecution.

Most of the cards would be double faced - no backs and would, at some point, flip. The common side would show the business or home bought, the Investigation, and a "revealed" side showing what happened.

There was (and I love this) the Times Newspaper! A Newspaper card would get drawn each turn revealing the latest news. Outbreaks of War causing some of your tenants to leave, Cholera outbreaks killing your tenants, Councils demolishing your cheap slum housing.

So much fun!

So, what did I keep?

"Dracula can buy houses by revealing a Human card, and paying £100. " (you can see the image).

That's it. *sob*

So, anyone got dead Darlings they wish to share?

Nick

(BTW, none of the card images are mine, all just Magic the gathering images from the net. Cheers WOTC!)

The Great Nothing
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Sounds like a great game idea

Sounds like a great game idea :) shame you had to cull some of it out. Good luck with the redesign!

Cheers

Matt

X3M
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Cutting out is sometimes for the best

When I removed the Exp. from my wargame. I removed so many obstacles as well. And sometimes you can only see these obstacles when you are doing without.

The proces for me is long. But since that I have started cutting in my game. I noticed the game feels much more like a game instead of a tryout.

I think you also might be familiar with the term KISS?

questccg
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I usually work the OTHER way around

In most of my own designs... I usually start with a "core" which is the basic "content" of the game including the mechanics that I will feature as the primary ones for the game.

Then when I have a TIGHT game (everything seems to work on it's own and together), I usually add some more LAYERS to increase the games complexity. Why? Because usually "cores" are essential to game play and are the primary function players will be performing ... But usually I find it is TOO SIMPLE for an "entire" game.

Take "Crystal Heroes" (CH). The primary mechanic is "Area Control". It's "core" is a dynamic board featuring twenty-five (25) Game Tiles. But aside from the board, I needed a "scoring" layer. So I added a Tactical Layer on top of the board which means that when you conquer a tile, it gets inverted and random loot is chosen and place on the reversed tile. Each reversed side has RULES as to what die rolls can capture one (1) of the loot on the tile.

And with this (and a bunch of fine-tuning) ... CH is pretty much DONE! We are currently focusing on artwork and finishing the game such that it will be ready to be made available to the public... Some time in 2021.

questccg
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However ...

When I first designed "TradeWorlds", I was solely writing my thoughts in a notebook... I had a bunch of IDEAS and thought that they all made sense (in the notebook). However, when it came to making a prototype, I realized that all those note were pretty much "useless". That's not to say that I did not keep some of the concepts (notably the types of cards) ... But for the most part my notes were not fitting properly with the game that I wanted to design.

So again, it's not that I had to CUT things and streamline the design a bit. It's that I had to RE-THINK the entire game. That's when I remembered a fellow designer who said something like: "Why don't you design something like Dominion?" Maybe a Deck-Builder would be a GOOD IDEA...

And from there came the 2nd attempt at designing a FUN game to play with a lot of DEPTH and STRATEGY.

BTW this "Vampire" aspect of your game does seem INTERESTING. Not sure the other aspects are more dominant ... But it seemed like you were on the right track... You could have maybe even CONNECTED "Jack The Ripper" with your "Vampire" Investigations... People disappearing... Where did they go???

Keep up the good work... Streamline if you must... But make sure you don't remove what keeps the mystery in the game. This whole aspect seems to be somewhat "mysterious" to me... Cheers!

ceethreepio
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I'm not sure you got my point

The Great Nothing wrote:
Sounds like a great game idea :) shame you had to cull some of it out.

No, it's a GOOD thing that I've culled this stuff. It's not a shame. They were fun things to design and play with, but they weren't essential to the game. My post was about finding those bits in your game that are in the "I LOVE this" and realising that, really, they need to go. :)

ceethreepio
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KISS Indeed :)

Quote:
I think you also might be familiar with the term KISS?

:) Software engineer here.

To be honest, I've found beyond even Keep-It-Simple-Stupid, is that laziness is a virtue in design. My motto in programming and design is "There must be an easier way" :)

ceethreepio
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questccg wrote:BTW this

questccg wrote:
BTW this "Vampire" aspect of your game does seem INTERESTING.

Thanks, Dracula is one of the factions, along with the Martians, The Deep Ones, Moriarty, The Necronomicon and the Mummy (factions tbd). As each side is asymmetric and unique it's like designing 6-8 games and trying to have them hang off a single framework.

questccg wrote:
But it seemed like you were on the right track... You could have maybe even CONNECTED "Jack The Ripper" with your "Vampire" Investigations... People disappearing... Where did they go???

Right, but it's not the focus for Vampire faction. The Vampire player's end-goal is to build a new Vampire Society across the world. So they need to build an army of Vampires on the map away from the other players. Focusing on the murderers and their crimes and locations would create a "city-level" macro focus where as the game plays on a global focus. Whilst I really really really liked my "darling" ideas above, (and they were nicely worked out) they all needed to go. Cut cut cut.

questccg wrote:
Keep up the good work... Streamline if you must... But make sure you don't remove what keeps the mystery in the game.

Streamlining is an absolute must for me. There's no mystery in this faction. If there is, then it's cruft and I'll find it and remove it :)

questccg
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Didn't know you were focusing on Global goals...

ceethreepio wrote:
Right, but it's not the focus for Vampire faction. The Vampire player's end-goal is to build a new Vampire Society across the world. So they need to build an army of Vampires on the map away from the other players. Focusing on the murderers and their crimes and locations would create a "city-level" macro focus where as the game plays on a global focus. Whilst I really really really liked my "darling" ideas above, (and they were nicely worked out) they all needed to go. Cut cut cut.

Hmm... I did not know you were focusing on GLOBAL goals. Isn't there some kind of "rule" that if you kill the ELDEST Vampire his followers will become Human again?! I've seen this is some Vampire storylines (I can't quote which... but I'm sure you get the idea). And while the Vampires are looking to establish a world-wide society... The HUNT for the Master Vampire could only be focused in London (for example). So while the expansion plot unfolds, the city focus is finding the Master... Could work ... Having both goals (macro and micro).

As a far as mystery is concerned... When it's tales of Vampires and bloody massacres ... Or people suddenly disappearing ... All that is entwined in "mystery"... While Vampires as a theme is DARK ... There is also a sense of "je-ne-sais-quoi" in this "noir" like theme...

What makes you decided that the Vampire Faction has to go??? What about some of your other Factions??? Just curious as to your philosophy. I'm just asking because you're saying you NEED to "Cut, cut, cut" but that this aspect/portion of the game is endearing. Could be the SAME for the Players playing the game... Just a thought. Cheers.

questccg
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Streamline if you must... But if something is GOOD... hmm...

ceethreepio wrote:
Streamlining is an absolute must for me. There's no mystery in this faction. If there is, then it's cruft and I'll find it and remove it :)

Again what makes this Faction less APPEALING than one of the others? Is it too simple of a GOAL or something without sufficient STRATEGY or DEPTH?? I just wanted to know your own opinion on the matter.

Vampires are like Zombies... There cannot be enough of those type of games "out-there" in the wild! (lol) I sometimes enjoy reading Fiction and one of my GOTOs ATM is Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. It's got Vampires in it... and in this particular aspect, the Vampires want the Hero "dead". It's the arching theme over SEVERAL books now.

So I would generally plea to "keep" the Vampires and see how you can AUGMENT their presence and STRATEGY/DEPTH. Again what motivates you to "remove" them???

Again interested in your thoughts and vision... Just curious! Cheers.

ceethreepio
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questccg wrote:I did not know

questccg wrote:
I did not know you were focusing on GLOBAL goals. Isn't there some kind of "rule" that if you kill the ELDEST Vampire his followers will become Human again?! I've seen this is some Vampire storylines (I can't quote which... but I'm sure you get the idea). And while the Vampires are looking to establish a world-wide society... The HUNT for the Master Vampire could only be focused in London (for example). So while the expansion plot unfolds, the city focus is finding the Master... Could work ... Having both goals (macro and micro).

Yes, the global nature of the game means the Vampire player will be fighting against players using the Martian faction, or the Deep Ones or The Mummy, or Moriarty (from Sherlock Holmes). The game is essentially a race to complete your objectives, which can only be done using and holding the Cities across the globe.

questccg wrote:
What makes you decided that the Vampire Faction has to go???

It's not. The Vampire faction is staying. It's just been slimmed down. What I killed was the mechanics around living in cities, having tenants, causing crimes, and reading newspapers. I really liked all those "darlings" but in the end they aren't necessary for the game. So they got canned, and thus the point of my post, which was about slimming stuff down and the pain of removing lovely lovely cruft.

ceethreepio
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questccg wrote:Again what

questccg wrote:
Again what makes this Faction less APPEALING than one of the others? Is it too simple of a GOAL or something without sufficient STRATEGY or DEPTH?? I just wanted to know your own opinion on the matter.

So, for the avoidance of doubt, the Vampire faction have not been removed from the game. The vampires are merely on a diet. My original point was that I've removed perfectly reasonable mechanics and fun ideas, that I LIKED, because, it made the game better. It's easy to remove rubbish stuff from a design. It's much harder to remove the sacred cows in your game.

I wrote this post because I was curious, given how much trouble I had, whether anyone else experienced the same problem, and if they have any "Darling Cows" that they wanted to "fess up" about?

Has anyone else had a awesome thing in their design that they've dreamt up, obsessed over, designed, polished, and then, in the end, chucked?

questccg
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TradeWorlds went thru something SIMILAR

ceethreepio wrote:
...Has anyone else had a awesome thing in their design that they've dreamt up, obsessed over, designed, polished, and then, in the end, chucked?

Indeed I have. In one of my earlier comments, I believe that I explained that "TradeWorlds" (TW) was originally a Notebook production ONLY. I spent over a month writing and designing stuff... Only to figure out that when it came time to MAKE a prototype... The game DIDN'T WORK. That was very hard to live... Because it had been OVER 1 Month that I had been working on the TW design.

So yes, I spend over 1 Month working on TW only to realize that some of the "BASIC" ideas were GOOD ... But that I needed a whole other and NEW design IF I was going to make and sell TW! When I mean BASIC were "Card Categories" like "Starship", "Crews", "Weapons", "Tactics" and "Missions"... That's really NOT a LOT. But that formed the basis for my mind-set on the production of the later version which was overhauled by OLG during their development cycle.

I understand working to produce something that "in your mind" is COOL. Only to find out that what I had produced was ALMOST un-usable.

Note #1: I probably LOST that notebook. It was Letter-sized and featured "graph paper" so I could draw lines and such. It would be probably cool to find and re-read it... Just to see the IDEAS that I had and what the END-PRODUCT looks like! (lol)

Note #2: I said one (1) Month ... But in truth it could have been 2 or 3 months. At the MINIMUM it took like 1 Month... But because I'm not sure about the time, it may have taken longer!

Stormyknight1976
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For me

For me it was quite a few chapter decks in my Dymino Monsters game. I have chucked 9 of the ideas but through out the development I have kept three of them. I changed one title , brought the second title for the upcoming storyline, the third. That was at least 4 years debating to keep or not.

A lot of the small problems were, does it fit the story, can it fit the game?

Can I bring it back in to another part of the game? With the 3 titles, yes I made it possible due to thinking, analysis and making it worth while to fit the storyline. The other 6, the titles were to corny. At one point sure, if I didnt change the story. Luckily I did.

In our Beyond The Horizon 4th wall comedy series, there was one entire episode that we had to scratch due to talking about the upcoming scene due to the characters involvement only to find out that from episode script 9 had to be scratched. 45 pages worth. We were bummed but my nephew had luckily got the entire mistake and it wouldn't have worked at all. Good time memories in dual writing full manuscripts.

From manuscripts episode 11-21, I did all of them myself. My nephew and I had a challenge to see who could write 10 episodes the fastest. He was working on the spin off series title Beyond the Stars for quite some time now.

questccg
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Oh yeah... I forgot to mention this

Sometimes a CONCEPT seems fantastic in the IDEA stage. And so you INVEST an amount of time working on the concept by investing more time in describing what the details are. But again this is ALL "Notebook-ing"... You're WRITING the concept from a basic idea.

I find that I do this with ALL my designs: a writer-phase ONLY to start.

And whatever happens with the "writer-phase", it's goal is to get me to the "prototype-phase"... Where I can TRY out the concept and see if the IDEAS hold TRUE or fall apart.

Usually what happens is that the FIRST prototype sucks-sh!t. Pardon my French... But it's TRUE. And one of two things happen: 1> I start to re-work the design and try NEW ideas or 2> I shelve the design until I get some fresh and NEW ideas at a later time.

Much like Jesse (@StormyKnight1976), I too have some designs that have been around for nearly a DECADE. Like "Monster Keep" (MK) and "Crystal Heroes" (CH). Those two (2) designs have been in development for a good 5 PLUS years. And there were unclear "borders": what I mean is this mechanic for MK or CH ... Or are these concepts better for MK or CH?!

Those two (2) games got REVERSED: CH became MK and MK became CH. Why? Well it became apparent that a Tile game was NOT appropriate for MK. MK was supposed to be a DUEL game with cards only. The design got wrapped up with a BOARD and TILES and more importantly "crystals" ... That it made a lot of sense to switch that ENTIRE concept over to CH.

And this was good... Because NOW MK is now a mathematical dueling game that is unlike no other of the "DUEL" games out there. AND CH is a Tile Area Control game which is very different from all the other games in the market too. Although I have been seeing an increase in Tile games... CH is still very unique especially with it's awesome AREA CONTROL mechanic.

So that's the short-version of the story of TWO GAMES! (lol) That got intertwined and inverted ... Because quite honestly that's what needed to happen...

Another small remark is... My own Artist who was DESIGNING cards for MK ... Got a bit confused(?) about the change in direction to CH. It took a few months ... But I think she's finally more in agreement that CH is the design we are trying to submit to people (think gamers) soon (in a moderate amount of time)...

Note #1: If you think about it... My Artist did an AWESOME job of designing the LOGO for MK. I was pleased, she was pleased and on we went continuing to design and make more illustrations. But when I realized that the games needed inversion... It took a while before my Artist came around with the NEW CH LOGO!!! She evidently LIKED the MK logo that she had designed for MK...

Note #2: I just went back and learned that the first Blog entry of "Monster Keep" (MK) was September 10, 2013. So it's not exactly 10 years... It's been 8 years to be exact. And that concept is NOW "Crystal Heroes" (CH). Because of the inversion of names (as mentioned above).

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