Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting Rolling

It's been three weeks since my last post. The major reason for this is that I've been asked not to be too forthcoming with details about the Railways of the World expansion I'm working on. This has put a crimp in my blogging style.

But I suppose I can get away with some generalities. For one thing, I was mistaken in thinking that the expansion would be mostly designed by others; turns out it's mainly in my lap. The board, the cards, the variant rules, all of it. I'll have help and advice from the publisher's developers, of course.

This is not how I foresaw my first publication contract! I thought I'd design a game, get it mostly finished, then get it licensed. After that, just playtest and tweak until the publisher is happy; the rest would be the publisher's problem. I didn't expect to have much left to do at this point. Instead I have to start almost from scratch!

Okay, it's not really "from scratch." The RotW system is well-defined and so are the Hammer and Spike features that I will be adding in; I'm not inventing a whole new game. But I still have to draw the map, define the cards, tune a scoring track (the scoring track in RRT/RotW is also the income track, so it affects the whole game economy), and fine-tune the H&S features (which, after all, were not originally designed for RotW). That's a lot to do. Fortunately I think it will be tremendous fun, and I've definitely been enjoying the process so far.

I've been told what part of the world the map must cover. Given that, I've been studying the history of the region, to see how the railroads grew there and what special conditions obtained. RotW is not a simulation game, so most of the historical detail is pretty useless; but I've gotten some ideas for the cards, and some notions on how to lay out the map (for example, the towns that were important to the railroads back then aren't always the ones that are largest or most important now). In fact I have more ideas than I'm going to be able to use. That's a good thing: it's better to have too much than to not have enough!

I've also been asked to try to make the H&S features into an optional variant that can be used with any RotW map, if you've got the rules and bits from my expansion. I've been testing that out on the Europe map, and I'm pleased to say that I think they will work.

Working on the board is going to be interesting. I've never made a prototype board this big before, and my usual cheap-and-dirty technique of printing it out on 8.5x11" sheets and taping them together may be too big a pain. I think this time I'm going to spend some money and have a print shop do it as a single big sheet, and then maybe have them laminate it so I can draw and erase on it easily. (No, it will not be as big as the original gargantuan RRT board. But it's not small either.)

Finally, and just to head off the questions: no, I don't know when it will be released. I just started working on it a couple of weeks ago! All I can tell you is that it will be a good long while, so there's no point in being impatient.

But yes, when I have it sufficiently developed, some of you will be able to playtest it. In fact, I'm counting on it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Publishing Update

Spatial Delivery
The publisher who has been reviewing Spatial Delivery has (after a year!) finally tested it, and tells me that they are currently looking for lighter games. They haven't quite said "get lost" and the prototype will be tested further at their main office, but the news is not encouraging.

I have contacts at a couple of other publishers who may be interested in Spatial Delivery. My home and life are going to be in some disarray over the next few weeks (we are remodeling) but after that, and if the current publisher hasn't changed their mind, I will build yet another prototype and see if I can get someone else to look at it.

Hammer and Spike
This one got licensed! It's not quite what I had envisioned, because it will not be published as a stand-alone game the way I designed it. Instead, some of its unique features will be folded into a game already being designed by some of the publisher's other developers. But I am not too disappointed: the license is the same as it would have been for a stand-alone game; my name (among others) will be on the box; and the combined product sounds very exciting. I am sure I will someday see a game of my own published, and this is a good first step in that direction.

By the publisher's request, I am giving no details about the combined product for now. I'll post more information when I can.

Update to the update: I can now speak a bit more freely. Hammer and Spike will become a new expansion for the Railways of the World (RotW) game system. RotW is the new (and re-named) edition of Railroad Tycoon being published by FRED Distribution. I've been asked to design an expansion that will merge the unique features from Hammer and Spike with the familiar RotW system. If you've been following this blog, you know that Railroad Tycoon is my favorite game, so you can imagine how excited I am to be given this project!