Friday, April 9, 2021

Rolling Seas - Design Diary - Intro & Part 1

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So, I'm just a bit excited right now.  I just signed my first game to be published and I'm currently running a Crowd Sale for my Game Crafter edition of the game!  It's been a bit over seven years since I first put on the game designer hat and I can honestly say I've come a long way since.  

The first game I designed was because my wife saw the one-player puzzle game Zoologic by Foxmind at the store and liked the idea of it, but wanted something similar we could play as a family.  Until that time I had played games and had made a few house rules to games, but never considered designing a game from scratch.  But when she said to me "You're creative, you can come up with something like that," a spark ignited and I've been obsessed with designing games ever since.  That first one was pretty lousy, but they got better and better after that.  

Now I'm sitting on about 80 game ideas in various stages of completion, from notes jotted down on my computer, to partially made prototypes, to essentially finished editions available on The Game CrafterRolling Seas was born in late 2019, so it's a relatively new design, and it's now going to be my first published game!

I see a lot of other designers write up design diaries for their games and I've always found it interesting to learn about the process that a game went through from initial concept to publication.  So I decided to share the history of Rolling Seas so you can learn more about the game, how I made some of the design choices I made, and what my plans for the game in the future are.  It's a bit long, so I've broken it down into a few posts that I'll share over the course of a few days.

Rolling Seas Design Diary
  • Intro & Part 1 - YOU ARE HERE!
    • Coming Up With the Idea - Early November 2019
    • The Sailing Tests - November 12-14, 2019
  • Part 2
    • Finding a Sailing Solution - November 14, 2019
    • Bonuses - November 15-22, 2019
  • Part 3
    • A Prettier Game - November 23-29, 2019
    • The First Public Playtesting - December 3, 2019
  • Part 4
    • Maps & Crew - January-February 2020
    • The End of Playtesting, Sort Of... - March-May, 2020
  • Part 5
    • Nuts! Publishing & Rolling Seas Updates - April-July 2020
    • New Ideas - July-December 2020
  • Part 6
    • Second Edition & Getting Signed - January-April 2021
    • Crowd Sale - April 2021
Coming Up With the Idea - Early November 2019
A big inspiration
on Rolling Seas.

So, how did Rolling Seas come about?  It started in late 2019 when The Game Crafter announced their Staff Roll & Write Challenge design contest.  I had been playing a lot of Cartographers and really liked a few aspects of it, namely the idea that you create a map of a world throughout the game and then have a souvenir to take with you after the game is done.  I wanted to enter the contest and I was trying to think of other ideas that would give you that tangible reminder of your game.  Initially, I was thinking about a game where you would create paintings based on the values of different dice.  I actually wrote up rules for an entire game based on the idea of painting, selling paintings, and even collecting other players' paintings for your gallery.  I may revisit the idea someday, but the idea quickly grew too big for the contest.  

I kept coming back to the idea of maps though and creating a world to explore.  In Cartographers you create a cool map of an amazing world, but you don't really get to explore it.  I wanted to have a game with a sense of adventure.  I started thinking about making a dungeon crawler game where the dice would give you options for how to grow a dungeon that you could then explore, and monsters to encounter, and treasures to find.  But nothing I thought of really clicked.  So I went back to thinking about maps and exploring.  

I really liked the idea of sailing around, encountering various adventures, and telling your story.  I knew what I wanted the game to be (even decided on monsters, storms, trade winds - which later became currents, and rocks as the various things to encounter), but I pondered for a few nights how to work out movement.  Eventually, I hit on the idea of using dice to determine the direction that you would sail the ship, visiting the various adventures, and stopping at ports to tell your story.

The Sailing Tests - November 12-14, 2019

The first cards for the adventures
remained unchanged early on.

Coming up with the idea of how to populate the map with islands was pretty easy (though settling on the final shape of the islands took a little time, and then finally deciding on pre-generated maps and putting the islands into an expansion took longer).  The types of adventures were a very early decision, and even my very first cards have the same shapes for each of the adventures that the final game has.  I also knew I wanted players to pass their maps for opponents to help create the world, although in the first versions of the game all the adventure types were passed, and much more frequently.  Only 25% of the adventures were drawn on your own map!

The next thing I had to do was figure out exactly how to get the dice to work.  I knew I wanted the dice to dictate your movement around your map, but it took some trial and error (mostly error) to get a system that worked and then a little more to get a system that worked well.

My first idea was that you'd roll a d6 die and move that many spaces in any direction.  That wasn't working, so then I tried several dice (I think I had three d6 dice with values of 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, and 4) and then string them together to form a path.  So if you rolled 1, 2, and 4, you had to move your ship 7 spaces and each die could be for a different direction, but you couldn't change directions between dice.  Neither of the methods of moving I tried was very interesting at all and they were all either too restrictive or too flexible.  
I bounced back and forth between
various combinations of d12, d6,
and custom d6 for a while.

Thanks for reading!  Join me for Part 2 where I talk about how I found a solution to the sailing problem!  And be sure to check out the Crowd Sale before it ends!

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