Okay, this might be the first of a multiple part series of posts, but we’re going to go behind the scenes on how we made and designed Builders!, how we approached marketing it, and all the things we did right and wrong for people to learn from.
Good: Design Spec
This was one of the things that we had right from the beginning. It wasn’t the first game for three quarters of the team, so we knew that there were some things that it just made sense to get figured out up front. We started pretty vaguely: we had been playing a lot of Hero Realms and other games, and we wanted to play in that space. Pretty early on we had the idea for the tableau very early on.
The cards that went into play throughout a game of various White Wizard games were interesting, but they were so often a fleeting thing. Over the course of a game you would build things only for them to so quickly be destroyed. We wanted to work on a game where you were building the game and creating more rules and effects as the game went on. (You’ll be seeing that same idea emerge in future games as well: Tyler is on a kick right now obsessing over players creating unique game spaces to create miniature narratives throughout the game).
From that origin, we quickly set up a basic design spec of the game: we wanted it to be relatively quick to play, a maximum of about 100 cards, and a price point around 20 USD. Then it was a matter of iterating and figuring out what else to do.
Also Good: Create it, Fail Faster
With that design space, we knew we had to get it to the table as fast as possible.
So we did. We wanted to build buildings, have players knock them over, and only have cards. It wasn’t too hard to figure out the other cards were staff, they’d be your deck that you cycled through to build things. The actual building of Floors was pretty much consistent from day one.
That first iteration could be played – it was a game, but it was too easy to destroy the work of other players, and it never made sense not to. This wasn’t inexorably a problem, it just meant that games were going to be longer. As we tweaked and honed, we found that it was going to make games a lot longer, and with the core activity being building, having people regularly trashing your stuff didn’t feel good.
The Bad: No Math up Front
This was a mistake we made in the development of the game; we didn’t add a mathematical equation underlying things as early as we probably should have. It would have been relatively easy to figure out the ratios that we probably wanted, and honed from there. Instead we fumbled with shooting from the hip for awhile longer than we should have.
Several iterations of testing were stuck with similar problems of things being destroyed regularly, and it not feeling great when that happened.
Ultimately, we set up an equation for how much each Employee should cost, based upon the resources that they generated, and a similar equation for the Buildings. Once that was completed, we were off to the races.
From there, we were able to iterate. And iterate. And ITERATE. That was the name of the game. We kept playing the game, bringing in fresh eyes, and tweaking things slowly and slightly each time. One change meant that it made sense to clear the Market every opportunity you had – thus you could only do it at the start of your turn. Another was that the players behind had difficulty getting the cards they needed to catch up – part of the solution was to increase the Market from 5 cards to 6. We kept select rules that we needed, and changed what we didn’t.
Also through this process? COPIOUS NOTES. So many notes. There are entire booklets that have since been destroyed in over zealous cleaning behind the testing and potential tweaks to the math of the game. Things that could have been, but weren’t.