World Design panel

By Polar_Bear
In Events
May 25th, 2014
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Here, the first panel this morning is World Building.

On the panel we have Michael Shinall, Eric Kelley, David Preti, Red Terranova, and Eric Lang.

Ted: It is important to have constraints on what is allowed in the game. Example from Rivet Wars. Created just a soldier and then he had to create something to fight against. There was lots of research into the real world and finding out why there is conflict in the world. It’s a visual kind of sense, and that informs the player. It can’t look mashed-together. If so, nothing would be consistent. Maps are very important. This guides the building of the world and thus the game.
Playing Zombicide, you have an instant feeling of what is going on in the world, just from the widespread knowledge of zombie movies.
Constraint as we’ve talked about it seems like a positive, but at times it can be negative. Going against ‘stereotype’ can mean people might not know what to expect. From a marketing standpoint, it can make it difficult to sell. People don’t have the previous knowledge. We had to spend a lot of time just telling people what was going on.
But nothing is in stone. The world should be a living one where things can and should change.
The stakes are getting bigger, so coming in with a relatable product pitch is very important.
Always be talking to people about your world and your game. The world will be better when you get different points of view.

Eric: the first ting to think about is why do the players care about this. From there, things grow organically. In Arcadia Quest, it was creating the players fight each other along with the board as well. It’s different from a movie or book, because it’s not as character focused. It’s about the overall world.
When Tolkien created the world, it was started as a morality play about Frodo.
Zombicide is it’s own IP because it’s a zombie game, but with a huge pop-culture twist.
What is the scarcity in the world? This creates an ebb and flow of conflict.
The biggest hindrance to games is complexity, which can be created because of world-building choices you make. There is a lot of value in the ‘known’ tropes. But those are only a starting point. The twist is just as important.
Licensing is another way to gain a ‘low bar’ for entry into the game you’re working on.
The ‘elevator pitch’ can be your mission statement for the game to keep you focused.
As an exercise, take a super crazy like tag line and create a plausible back story for it. It’s good to expand your thought muscles.
Game type and the game world are very much intertwined. You can’t be creating one without the other. Game style and theme will grow and change together.
Like in Kaosball, the world we created where a world where such a sport like that is important. It made it so we had to create a backstory where politics had collapsed and the teams were more than just playing, but also fighting for an ideology.

David: I start with the map as well. This was done with both Wrath of Kings Ana The Others. Zombicide is made to be played with the idea that this could be in any city in the world at roughly the current time period.
In Wrath of Kings, it is well known that major characters can die, so we wanted to introduce that ability into the game world.
If you don’t want to use stereotypes, you can still come up with relatable equivalent. This would bridge the gap.
IP is somewhat important, but any type of game can potentially be made from it.
Art direction is very difficult as you have to delegate the right projects to the right people and make sure you play to people’s, strengths. But then sometimes you have to let the project go, when you have found the right people.

Eric: the start doesn’t really matter. Just start where you want to start and go from there. Fights are usually about resources. Find out how people are clothed and fed and you’ll find the sources of conflict. As you develop the world, you need to be talking with the designers, otherwise the things you write about might not fit the world.
80-90% of what you come up with May not ever show up on the page. Players learn much through the eyes of the characters.
All of this is being discussed for sale. When you create just for you, it can be whatever you want. The restrictions we’re talking about is for trying to make it relatable enough to explain to others.
Read outside the genre you want to create about. This will allow you to bring in new elements others have maybe not done before.

Mike: I think about the way you want the player to feel while playing. Is there a feeling of tension, or adrenaline, or excitement. Do you need to search for resources? Are you a superhero wading through enemies? This will determine the development of the world and the game. In many games, you have massive battles where nobody dies. That made no sense to me. We wanted to change that.
The twist on stereotypes can be too extreme, though. Be careful to not overextend the point too far.
Your player’s time is important, so give them something relatable to begin with.

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