After developing a good back story for my noir game, it needed a name. I started looking at old movie titles and asking around on Twitter and various social networking channels. Many people offered awesome ideas, but Twitter friend Jesse Catron (he designed Salmon Run) came up with the winner. It was an obvious winner the moment I saw it.
So, the prototype has a name… before I even playtested it. It conveys the theme and tone of the game perfectly while also nodding to my addiction to wearing awesome fedoras. I’ve tested dozens if not hundreds of of prototypes over the years without names. Some without themes. This one needed a name. Not because it’s instantly publishable… but because I needed a way to talk about it. I needed it to be something in my mind to push development forward. Earlier this week I whined about how I’m not inspired by the game, then a simple back story helped me suddenly get into it. Giving it a name and making up a quick “cover” image really helped solidify it in my head as a project I intend to develop further.
And I did test it.
The first test went pretty much exactly as I imagined it would. We only played through one round and that was all that was needed to start making changes to the game. That doesn’t mean it didn’t work… quite the contrary actually… but there are some snags that need resolving and we didn’t need to keep trudging through just to see what would happen. This is the benefit of the Rapid Prototype. I kept all the player powers to a minimum. I kept the amount of game-engine craziness to a minimum and just tested the core mechanic… the draft. I wanted to see if the draft was engaging enough to present interesting decisions, and I believe it was. Now that I understand how the core of the game works, I can build on this foundation. If I had spent time trying to develop on untested ideas, I’d likely have a mess on my hands with no certainty of what fixes are needed to fix which aspect of the game.
During the test, I drafted very defensively. This means I almost never failed to pass the tests on the leftover cards. Some of the testers kept failing and I had to explain the draft a bit, but after I did, they immediately saw what I was talking about. The compelling portion of this draft, to me, is an offensive/defensive decision. Do I take the Revolver to permanently boost my Combat or do I take the Flashlight I don’t need just because I can’t deal with the Bribe on the other half of the card? I never got a solid answer out of them as to whether they thought it was compelling, but I enjoyed the decisions.
So, there are things I want to change for the next test:
Turn Order – I tested with the standard “Pass the start player token to the left.” It works, but barely. As the rounds continue, it’s obvious that there is a distinct advantage and the winner will likely be in the middle of the initial draft order somewhere. Matt Worden already fixed this problem for me, but I haven’t worked it over enough in my head to talk about it. My post GenCon reports will cover it, I’m sure.
The Layout – The cards are terrible. Even with hand written cards I could have made the layout work much better. Right now, you have to add up all sorts of numbers on a bunch of cards to get your total. I’m going to replace the math with a Character Sheet that has sliding tracks for each skill. Some cards will be permanent boosts to these skills, some skills will be boosted as long as you have a piece of equipment, other cards will be one-shot use.
The Numbers – This is a numbers game and as it stands, the nubmers aren’t quite working out yet. There are a few cards I’m going to cut completely for the next test because I’m not sure there is a way to fix them… and there are a few other cards that will be tweaked slightly. After the system is solid enough that I’m not changing it constantly, I’ll run the math by a few friends who are much smarter than I to make sure everything is mathematically correct.
I’ll have this one on hand at GenCon and will likely be testing and tweaking it throughout the show. I would have loved to put together a newer prototype version, but I procrastinated too much and I am cramming to get stuff done in time… if you see me scribbling on some blank cards with a sharpie, this will likely be what I’m doing. Stop by and help me give it a test!