Last year, indie publisher Greater Than Games, published two "meta-games" - by which they mean games that are self-referential and tongue-in-cheek. These were Deck Building: The Deck Building Game (about laying a new deck on the back of your house) and Unpub: The Unpublished Card Game (about making card and board games). The buzz was huge and the Kickstarter project was a sizable success.
This year, Greater Than Games have announced a contest to find the next meta-games to form part of their next Kickstarter project. The details are here, but in a nutshell, designers have been tasked to make a game called [Game Mechanic]: The [Game Mechanic] Game. It's going to be tough to top GTG's own Traitor Mechanic: The Traitor Mechanic Game (about car mechanics that betray one another), but I've been giving it a shot anyway. As I wrote in an earlier post, these kinds of limitations are often the best way to spark creativity. Here are some of the ideas that I've been throwing around, as well as the design I'll be taking forward to submit for the contest.
Paper and Pencil: The Paper and Pencil Game
That is, of course, a game about running a stationary store. Think a little bit like Rolling Japan/America or Quixx. This game has gotten no further than a vague idea, but I totally intend to follow up on it one day.
Spacial Reasoning: The Spatial Reasoning Game
This is a dexterity game, set in space. I started designing one about asteroids, but it developed in another, more interesting direction. It's now a game about drone strikes, weirdly, and it's another idea that I'll come back to one day. Being a dexterity game, it has peculiar component demands and isn't suitable for the contest.
Co-Operatives: The Cooperative Card game
This is a card game, similar to Hanabi and The Game, where players are attempting to arrange cards into specified orders. Thematically, players are undercover operatives, trying to take down a super-villain's empire. It will require too much testing and refining to be done in time for the contest.
Set Collection: The Set Collection Game
This is the game I am most likely going to submit to the contest. I'm not 100% clear on the theme yet, but I believe that players are going to be collectors, gathering artefacts that represent the Egyptian god, Set. Or maybe they are Egyptians gathering things to worship Set. Anyway, Set is the Egyptian god that represents disorder and deception, amongst other things - so this game is going to involve the players deceiving one another and trying to sow disorder, whilst gathering the cards they need. Expect a fuller write-up closer to the date of the contest.
- They cover a snapshot in time. Because the game maker has no control over the order in which scenes/locations are visited, the case cannot really evolve the plot over a single case, until the very end when the case is wrapped up.
- They are susceptible to wild plays by crazy players - players can simply take the map, pick a spot at random and visit it. This could potentially crack the case wide open if they hit on a vital clue early in the game.
- I've greatly expanded the map. Case 2 now uses 3 maps in total - the main Banks Settlement map, a map of the Noman Security HQ and a map of the Banks Mohole. Whilst doing this, I've tried to make things a little harder for the wild player (because there are so many locations now), whilst also making the maps more interesting to use - now there are locations that are not in the directory, but look interesting enough on the map for players to pick out and visit.
- I've included locations that are on neither the map, nor in the directory. They can only be found by talking to characters in other locations. This means that I can really reward certain lines of inquiry, and I can be sure that some locations will not be visited until a later point. Thus, I can have a plot that evolves during the case.
I'm already working on Case 3, which will stretch the mechanics of this genre even further, by using a timer mechanic which evolves the case as time goes on. The biggest hurdle will be how to offer different scenes in the same location as time goes on, but I don't want to elaborate too much on that in this Design Diary. Expect to hear something by next month, hopefully.
You can find Case 2 of The Martian Investigations here.
You can also get a twin pack, with Cases 1 and 2, here.
I hope you kind people know just how much work goes into creating a deduction game! After I released Case 1 of The Martian Investigations, to a lot of really heart-warming and positive responses, I started work on Case 2. A little over two months of occasional afternoons sat in coffee shops poring over maps and directories, here it is!
Case 2, Deep Fears, sends the players twelve kilometers under the surface of Mars, into one of the planet's enormous geothermic mines, to investigate a bizarre explosion that claimed four lives. Of course, things are not what they seem in this world of angry industrial workers, dark tunnels, and unchecked revenge.
Deep Fears has a greatly expanded world from Case 1, with maps of the Banks Mohole and Noman Security HQ, and an expanded directory, ensuring the players are challenged, engaged, and kept on their toes.
Case 2 is available here.
Cases 1 and 2 are bundled together, here.