Development Zaddiary #4
*Future Jonathan here. This dev blog was written before the Minnesota Protospiel update, but there's some fun information here about Zadarra before we started public playtesting.
MOVING OUT OF ALPHA
I am now moving Fate Weaver Zadarra out of Alpha and into Beta phase. This means that the mechanics are now frozen in place, the art is completed, and now it's time for playtester feedback. Even though I'm moving into Beta, this will be a closed Beta as I want to ensure the game is the best it can be before opening it up to the public. Anywho, let's take a look at where everything stands and what is necessary to take Zadarra through the closed Beta stretch.
Playtesters for a Living
Before sending the game out into the wilds of public opinion, I wanted to reach out to people who playtest for a living. There are a couple of board game testing services, and I feel it is worth the cost and additional effort to get their opinions on the game. As my first game on the Kickstarter platform, it is imperative that I try to do everything in my power to release the best project I can. Through my research I have found 2 testing services I like, and I will send Zadarra off to both of them. Once I get the feedback, I plan to post a blog about my experiences (this never happened as both services shut down).
F**king Fed up with Formatting
To send Zadarra out to these companies, I first need to get the game to a printable form. To do that I need to reformat the game's cards, icons, and rulebook with the changes I have made over each iteration.
I restarted work on the card frames to realize one of the assets shifted on all the cards. I fixed all 64 cards to then realize I never curved the border of the card face as I intended to do. So I had to fix that, and I am in the process of reformatting the 64 cards again. To even get to that point, I had to fix something I completely missed from the original source file.
One interesting thing I learned from the History Channel is that many ancient civilizations are underneath modern ones. We just keep building on top of old ruins it seems. I actually got to see this when I went to Seattle and saw the underground, which was cool. My point is, the original source file for the card face was layered with iterations, which were not sitting correctly, and thus, made some areas of the card line thicker than others. I had to do some card frame surgery to fix this, which took a lot of time.
Moving forward, I need to come up with a better system for creating iterations and layering those iterations. I have gotten much better with separating my assets for easy replacement, but this process has been mind-numbingly stressful, and the worst part is it is self-induced.
Fix the Folders!
All of my computer folders for Zadarra are a complete mess. This has made the process tedious as the game balloons to all the different avenues needed to get it to Kickstarter. The biggest issue is when I make sub folders for a platform and keep newly created assets in that folder only. If I'm making a trailer for the Kickstarter for example, if I need to make an asset specifically for the trailer, I save it in this sub folder. Where this becomes an issue is when I forget what the asset was for and how to find it. I'm working with hundreds of files now, so I don't memorize where everything is at. The Aftereffects files for the trailer are the most atrocious to find things in.
Each platform also needs things formatted differently. Gamecrafter needs files in a format different than Tabletop Simulator, which needs to be in a different format for printing, and web needs to be formatted differently. Don't even get me started about Tabletopia. What I plan to do moving forward is to never export my files without the bleed. I was doing this since I don't need the full bleed for printing, but it is easier to mask a full-bled image than it is to make the no bleed and full bleed files.
So how should I organize these files? I think from now on I will not make any asset or art piece outside of the main folder. If I use a piece of art or an asset for a particular platform, I will pull it into that folder, making a copy. I will also re-categorize the folders used for assets. I currently have folders for tokens, icons, templates, and art among others. For most of these things, I will put them into the mama folder of "assets." I can't tell you how many times I have had trouble finding what I am looking for because I can't remember if I considered something a token, an asset, or an icon. Or worse, I make the icon in the token folder, so I have to drag the asset out from the token to use it in everything else!
Basically, this is a learning process, and though I thought I would have this down by now, it's not until Zadarra has reached the end of the road that I realize how many different ways assets need to be formatted for various platforms. I will need to come up with a naming scheme as a date scheme just doesn't tell me much about all the files I am working with. Ugh boring stuff!
To get the game to these companies, I need to get the game components ready for print. Part of this is the aforementioned card formatting, but this also includes finishing up the rulebook and the tokens in the game.
The rulebook and the graphics were done fairly early on in the development process to get it out in front of people for a rulebook exchange. Since the game has seen changes, the rulebook needs to have a huge overhaul. All the example images need to be redone, the copy needs to become more concise, and the length needs another look. The rulebook is a little on the long side, but there are a lot of pictures. Ultimately, I need to find the balance between visual explanation and words. The rulebook is also a smaller size than the standard legal size, so I really need a printed copy to see how legible the whole thing is. Looks good on the computer, but I can also zoom in 1000% haha.
The last Zaddiary I mentioned the relics were getting revamped. The revamp was done, and the relics feel better for it. Originally, the relics weren't worth any Clairvoyance, but I wanted to encourage players to try and use them and not horde gold in an attempt to convert it all with the Alabaster Naga's Slithemani Stone. To encourage the relic usage, I gave them Clairvoyance values at the end of the game. For the sake of ease, I made the values the same across all the relics.
The issue with this is not all relics are created equal. Some relics are more situational, while others are more universal. I have no plans of changing their gold cost, since I adjusted the Fate Shard ability cost accordingly, but the Clairvoyance bonus should also reflect a relic's usefulness.
Relics with more universality will see a reduction in the Clairvoyance they give at the end of the game. In addition to universality, I will also look at usefulness with endgame in mind. Relics that are required for higher difficulty and endgame like Coberus will see a greater reduction in Clairvoyance than something like the Ethereal Scrying Eyes. The Ethereal Scrying Eyes has less utility in endgame than Coberus, which has the opposite utility curve.
Though the barrier to entry for each relic is the same cost in gold, you are purchasing these things to serve a particular need at any given time. The need justifies the cost to entry I feel. If I purchase the eyes, I'm purchasing that card because I don't want to take the risk in a random draw. Yeah the Ethereal Scrying Eyes and Coberus are the same price, but the cost to use their abilities and the perks they both offer are different.
Waiting on the Web
I started working on various web development projects for both the game and the Kickstarter page. I took a 2-week break from this to work on a secret project for the game during the Kickstarter. Now that the secret project doesn't need my undivided attention, I'm shifting my focus to sending Zadarra out to these playtesting companies. That also means the web and Kickstarter work I was doing is on pause.
Once I make the adjustments to the relics, playtest them, and finish the printing prep, I'll go back to the web work since I'll be waiting for these printed copies to come in. I'll send those out to the playtesting companies and expand the beta testing to some close testers around me. I'm painting the background for Zadarra's Tabletop Simulator game, so once that is done, and I'm happy with the results and changes needed from the playtesting companies, I'll open the game up to public Beta.