A New Frontier

So, it’s official. I have parted ways with PopCap so I can pursue board game design on my own. I love the people of PopCap, and I will miss everyone there. It’s been great, but now it’s time for me to follow my oldest passion.

To dive right in: last week was my first week working on my own. I’ve been working on a card game that’s based in outer space. Players play as futuristic package couriers trying to build their reputation as the best delivery company in the galaxy. But they don’t have to deliver every package: they can open them up, see what’s inside, and use the contents to modify their ships. Think thrusters, missiles, hostages, and frost shields.

I started the week off by playtesting the game in its latest incarnation — using playing cards to represent the many packages that ships can pick up. The playing cards reference game abilities in spreadsheets on our computers.

The game turned out to be mildly OK, but pretty much missed the mark of what I was going for. I’m really trying to push hidden information as a game mechanic, as well as the guessing games that should go on in players’ heads as a result. While disappointing, I had to remind myself that early playtests almost always go this way in some regard. It’s just part of the creative process.

Early in the week I headed over to Card Kingdom to meet up with friends and play games. I met a bunch of new, nice folks — we played Saboteur a couple of times which was a lot of fun. It’s a Werewolf/Mafia type of game with hidden roles. I received Saboteur from my good friend Francisco Souki, through our Friends on Play Secret Santa last year.

Following the (informative) playtest earlier, I used the rest of the week to restructure the game to focus on hidden information and deduction. Espionage seemed like a more natural theme for the desired game mechanics than couriers in outer space, so I changed a bunch of the language to accommodate my new spy friends. I also added a bunch of standard spy abilities that can be performed regardless of what they’re carrying.

On the more businessy side of things, I started looking for office space. I toured Indie Ballard and the Hub, which are both coworking spaces. Indie Ballard ($350 a month) is a quaint but polished studio. The Hub ($300 a month), located in Pioneer Square, is more of a bustling creative atmosphere. The Hub seemed more my style, but I’m still looking around at other options — including the very attractive FREE option of just working with friends in apartments and coffee shops everyday.

I met up with a few other friends this week. We chatted about modern marketing on the interwebs, founding game companies, giant old ladies and the Japanese homophone “sake” (it’s both an alcoholic drink and salmon). I was previously going to look into renting a booth at GenCon (40,000 unique attendees), but it sounds like the mega-giant Essen (Spiel) convention may be more up my alley (145,000 unique attendees). My friend tells me from experience that GenCon is hobby-game focused, while Essen accommodates a large variety of games. I’m also going to look into attending GAMA to meet some industry folks.

Over the weekend I playtested the spy game a few more times, eventually printing the cards instead of using reference cards. It’s turning into something fun!

Oh, and someone special made me a white chocolate pound cake for my birthday: