Recently our group created a board game titled Deadlines: The Game. This is a real-time card game where you and your team work together to beat a deadline. However, it’s not as easy as it seems! There are many elements which go into collaborative projects, including seedy group members… Work together (or against each other) to beat the deadline and be the #1 student without getting too stressed out.
When creating Deadlines: The Game, our idea started with a theme. Our mutual hatred for group projects (and our own personal build-ups of stress) allowed us to stay on the same page from the day I joined the group. In the first week, the concept of hating group projects and deadlines was established without me. However, when I joined the group the following week I brought forward a few ideas surrounding gameplay.
In the first few weeks, we began ideation and prototyping. This started with a group conversation about what we love/hate about particular games, bringing us to a mutual agreement of what we wanted. From there, we started suggesting gameplay mechanics similar to other games, and we briefly played around before settling on what we loved. A lot of what I added to the group in this time was ideas, potential problems, and potential solutions. While I don’t have an eye for visuals, I have a lot of ideas and a lot of passion, which I feel was kind of guiding us in those first few weeks.
We collectively loved the idea of a liar or imposter, so we played games like Coup and Codenames together, though games like Spyfall and even Among Us really helped us in the ideation process. Initially, this secret hidden element of this game was thrown out completely, but I’ll get to that soon.
After some playing, we established the kind of game we were looking for and started creating something which resembles the spine of what we have today. When we had something semi-solid, we started incorporating the ideas from the lectures, thinking in terms of act and structure and looking at our game narrative.
The game became more solidified and we established a solid narrative, so we started properly playtesting. That’s kind of when we realised the loose strings were too loose, making it confusing and not fun. Personally, that’s when I realised the importance of specific rules within games. However as we continued playing the rough silhouette of Deadlines: The Game, we adapted the game, changing cards or occasionally rules as we went.
A few weeks later, I created a rough version of the game in my own home to play with friends. Because this wasn’t the exact game we had created, there were a few little differences I’d forgotten to include (which at times, drastically changed the gameplay). Through this experience, however, I unintentionally tested some alternate gameplay before bringing any possible iterations back to the group.
At this point, we needed more tension and decided to reintroduce the Stress-O-Meter and rethink our idea of an imposter. Rather than a saboteur, we decided to pin our players against each other (the Contribution Score) through other means: an individual point tracker encouraging players to screw over others to make themselves the highest point scorer (without completely ending the game!). After playing Kings of Tokyo in my own time, I was really excited to introduce the two dials to keep track of the two scores. This just eliminated the lots of pens/paper/trackers we had previously.
And that, more or less, is our process of creating Deadlines: The Game.
A lot of the inspiration for Deadlines: The Game came from the games I’ve personally played and loved, like Kings of Tokyo and 5 minute Dungeons (which was a huge inspiration to us unintentionally. We started in a different direction, though all feedback we received kept pointing us more towards 5 Minute Dungeons until we took a sharp turn and added the Stress-O-Meter and Contribution Score.)
Looking back, I feel that I was a huge part of the ideation, playtesting, and iteration process. My strengths in this project were my ideas, my eagerness to play, and my experience with board games. However, I feel that I wasn’t contributing enough research, as the only research I’d undertaken was my own play experiences, watching gameplays/reviews, and the subject lectures. While I personally really value my own experiences and opinions (as well as the experiences and opinions of other people), I found that I favoured this more than ‘proper’ research. One thing I do find important to note is that I did listen to a few podcasts about board games, I didn’t directly incorporate this into the assignment. I do wonder how much of that knowledge came through unintentionally.
When the game started coming together more officially (final designs and rules), the rest of the team took the reins and guided us on ’till morning, creating the design aspects and solidifying our actions with research.