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Sep 25

Design Diary For Strife: Part 2

With the Kickstarter for Strife:  Legacy of the Eternals just around the corner (Oct 1st. Yes shameless plug!) it seemed as though I should get around to writing the second installment of my design diary.  After all, there is nothing like an impending deadline to get the juices flowing!  For those of you who missed Part One, it can be found by clicking on the link.  In the Part One, I covered some of my background in gaming and a number of the various inspirations that lead to the creation of Strife, as well as my reasoning for making it the type of game that it is.  In Part Two, I plan to cover more of the evolution of the game over the nearly year-long development process and thank those who helped make it a reality.

The Journey

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This a rough look at the journey from the first homemade prototype, an attempt to only use names for abilities, a refinement, the first V3G prototype with placeholder art “borrowed” from Paizo, and the version we demoed at Gen Con!

This picture doesn’t show the first version which was only in a notebook, or the final version with revisions following our demos at Gen Con, but it give a fairly clear picture of what a long journey Strife: LotE has gone through!

As I said at the end of Part One, I had established the basic idea of the game:  Two Player, Identical Champions, Simultaneous Reveal, Ten Locations with each tied to a champion, and all champions having both Battle Abilities and Legacy Abilities, but I really had no idea what direction to go from there.  My first thought regarding a theme was to go with the Greek Pantheon of Gods.  It is a subject with which I am very familiar and thought I could easily create 10 Champions with unique abilities that would be strongly thematic and immediately recognizable to even those with a passing interest/knowledge of Greek Mythology.  Rest assured that somewhere, there is a notebook with abilities for Zeus, Athena, Hades, Hermes, Poseidon, Hera, Hephaestus, Apollo, Artemis, and Ares.  However, given that there are more than 10 useable Gods, and it seemed to greatly limit the possibility of future sets, I opted to go another way.  I briefly fantasized about the possibility of obtaining the rights to Marvel Comics characters, and have a number of the Avengers and X-Men created in the same notebook as the Greek Gods.  In the end, I opted for classic fantasy as it is readily identifiable to the vast majority of the gamer community, essentially no rights exist to obtain, and it is expandable to a virtually limitless degree should it be successful.  It is always good to be optimistic, right?

Once I settled on fantasy it was relatively easy to decide on what arch-types to use, but significantly more challenging to balance them.  After all, how do you make a Champion with a base power of 0 and one with a base power of 9 roughly equal in battle?  Surprisingly, this mechanical challenge helped to lead to thematic expression.  The champions with higher base power became more like blunt objects with powerful, but straight forward abilities.  For example the: Barbarian, Knight, and Warrior.  The champions with lower base power would require powerful abilities that could be even more impressive when used subtly in conjunction with others or at just the right time such as: Monk, Necromancer, Assassin, and Wizard.  Lastly, the middle range champions would have utility abilities that in some instances could be among the most powerful in the game such as: Druid, Ranger, and Paladin.

When you consider the traditional roles of many of these champions in literature, movies, and games it makes a lot of sense how they found their base power and abilities.

  • 9 Barbarian (Orc) Physical strength, looting and destroying.
  • 8 Knight – Powerful warriors and highly mobile due to being on horseback.
  • 7 Warrior (Dwarf) Strong fighters, often immune to magic, fights underground.
  • 6 Druid (Elf) Above average in battle, powers over natural order and lands.
  • 5 Ranger – Decent fighter, disrupting tricky champions, and terrain mobility.
  • 4 Paladin -Decent fighter, spiritual aid, and defensive magic.
  • 3 Wizard- Weak in a straight up fight, nigh invincible when using abilities.
  • 2 Assassin – Weak in combat, sneaky, very dangerous when backstabbing.
  • 1 Necromancer- Weak in combat, strength from death, and manipulate spirits.
  • 0 Monk – Pacifist, only fights to the level of opposition, and disrupts abilities.

While some of the champions began with slightly different names or had their base power moved a little, thematically they remained virtually the same from day one.  However, their abilities, and the language of those abilities changed countless times over the last year.  It is amazing how tons of playtesting and limited space for text can alter things from their original form.  Even following Gen Con, I needed to clarify language that seemed clear to me, but was repeatedly misinterpreted in the same way by numerous players. No matter how precise I thought the wordings were, clearly they were not, and the tweaks were made!

Now the time for preparation is over. We have used in-house playtesting, outside playtesting, demos at cons, and feedback from other designers to make Strife: LotE the tightest game we are able.  Our Kickstarter launches on October 1st and I am nervous and excited in ways that I have not been before.  I have dreamt of designing  games since I was a little kid and to know that it is on the verge of being a reality is truly the fulfillment of a life long goal!

From this process I have learned a great deal about what goes into making games that the boy dreamer in me never could have imagined.  Certainly how much work is required, but especially how much help is needed from others.  While Strife: Legacy of the Eternals, is most certainly my creation, it is all of the other wonderful people and their unbelievable contributions to the making of this game with which I would like to close.

Jake Leeman and the entire V3G crew!  Jake’s undying enthusiasm as well as the hard work of the unbelievably talented V3G team have been instrumental in taking “Legacy Wars” from index cards and turning it into the gorgeous Strife: Legacy of the Eternals!  As Jake and I stumbled our way through the contractual process, due to it being their first outside game and my first game period, we worked together in good faith to prepare in time for Gen Con secure in the knowledge that we would solve the legal issues.  This speaks loudly to obvious nature of Jake’s honesty and integrity.  I am not a trusting person by nature, but I never felt a shred of unease working with him in this unsecured manner.  Jake is scholar and a gentleman, and I am grateful for our friendship, and that we have gotten to work together!

Jonathon Powell, the wonderful artist that brought the Champions and world of Aerim to life in truly beautiful fashion!

Tomek and the rest of the gang in Poland from Cube Factory of Ideas, who purchased the E.U. publishing rights at Gen Con and will be taking the game to Essen.  Thus, ensuring that Strife: LotE will see the light of day regardless of the outcome of our Kickstarter!

The entire Indianapolis Tabletop Game Design and Test Group.  A terrific group of guys, whose input and testing helped me hone Strife: LotE greatly.  Thanks to Greg Shoemaker, Bryan Daniels, Wunji Lau, Carl Klutzke, Cory Dawson, Philip Young, Nick Little, and anyone else I might have unfortunately forgotten for all of your help with playtesting, ideas, and suggestions!  A special mention goes out to Travis R. Chance, who simultaneously played the roles of devil’s advocate and protective fairy godmother.  If you were to ask him, he would swear that I ignored all of his advice, but nothing could be further from the truth!  He just messages so fast on Facebook that he cannot remember all of the advice he offers and therefore cannot keep track of all that I have taken.  His concern for me and passion for my game, in which he has no stake, has been truly appreciated!

My hardcore crew of gamer friends that took the time to playtest with me and help out when there were definitely much better games than early versions of Strife: LotE that we could have been playing!  Bootch, Jeff, Devin, Jim, and Baker all offered valuable feedback and advice that helped give shape to the game!  However, an unbelievable thanks goes out to my friend and lead playtester, Nick Garwood!  Nick and I have probably played over 60 games of Strife: LotE against each other and we still have a blast with each new game.  The Ranger’s Battle Ability, and adjustments to the Wizard’s, Monk’s, and Necromancer’s base powers were all either direct or indirect results of his suggestions.  Couple that with the fact that he gave up nearly two full days of Gen Con to demo Strife: LotE in the V3G booth, a sacrifice that still boggles my mind, makes any show of gratitude I could offer seem inadequate.  As a result, we have an agreement that, just as soon as I have “Richard Garfield Money” I am to send a little cash his way.  Sounds fair to me!

Thanks you to anyone who backs or buys my game.  I hope that playing Strife: LotE gives you even half the joy that I get from the knowledge that you are playing it!

Lastly, I want to thank my wonderful wife Heather for all of her amazing support!  She has been a huge part of my public outreach, as for some reason people seem to like her more than me.  I don’t get it either, but there is no denying the truth!  I am sure that accomplishing one’s dream alone would be an amazing experience, but to be able to share it with the love of your life is the most wonderful thing I can imagine!

The Strife:  Legacy of the Eternals Kickstarter is now live!  If you are interested in backing it, or just learning more, click on the widget below.  Thanks for your support!

 


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