To get a quick primer on what Blockers: The Stacking Game is, please check out the Kickstarter page here, in which you can watch the gameplay trailer, and read some review quotes like this one.
Despite having already published Blockers: The Stacking Game, I have decided that the project warrants it own development blog post or two. Partly because I can be a little more wordy in one of these than on the more visual showcase pages on the site, but also because the journey isn't quite over yet. The manufacturing process for the units have finished and they are on their way over from China to the UK, but once they are here, there is the initial distribution of the units ordered by Kickstarter backers. Not only that, but I would also like to document my journey into getting copies on Amazon, in board game cafes, and selling them at conventions, as I think that could be interesting to learn from as a reader of this blog post. Anyway, now onto a comprehensive overview of Blockers: The Stacking Game, and the development journey thereof.
Blockers: The Stacking Game was my first endeavour into board game design, development and publishing. It was initially created as apart of a university assignment for my concept development module. It was met with great success among my peers in the classroom, when we would have playtesting sessions, once or twice there would be a line to play my game, and when the current player's turn had finished, they would make haste to the back of the line raring to go for another round. Near the end of the calendar year in 2018, my tutor for concept development suggested to me that it might be an idea to look into the cost of manufacturing the game... so that's what I did.
It's safe to say that the first campaign did not go well. It launched in late March of 2019, and ended 60 days later, only achieving about 25% of it's total goal needed. This was a due to a mixture of a lot of things, but primarily, this was a great lesson in how to, and how to not market your game. Due to my lack of experience, coupled with my gung-ho attitude aided by my tutor's ambition for the project, I hadn't properly prepared the brand or project ready for a Kickstarter release.
However, nine months, a complete visual redesign, 13 reviews, 2 conventions and an award for best board game design later, Blockers: The Stacking Game Relaunched on Kickstarter, and was successful, being overfunded by 10%.
As you can see in this image, the visual aspect of the design went through a whole heap of iterations (some of which aren't pictured). This was due to a number of different reasons, but the two main ones were regarding how modern the game looked (or more accurately, how it didn't look modern) and gameplay problems with regards to colourblind players.
The modern design was slowly resolved over time, it took a lot of iteration and a lot of throwing ideas at the wall to see what stuck. I am not a visual designer by trade, and it has been an aspect of my development journey that has been a constant hurdle, but something I have more recently begun to enjoy tackling, and I believe you can see that in, for example, my Food Time Battle in Space concept.
The honest reason why the colourblindness issue with the blocks and the cards wasn't fixed sooner, was purely down to costs. However, I made the decision that it would be more beneficial for the game to be as accessible as possible. The solution was simple enough, identify the most likely "problem" blocks, and add a pattern to them. The image above is an image sent by the manufacturers, as the blocks have just been freshly sealed, ready for boxing.
Speaking of, the manufacturing process has been very slick and smooth from my end, and it looks like from their end too. I have been receiving constant updates from them, all of which have been very professionally handled (which can be a rarity in the board game industry). Here's and image of the box.
Just to compare, these are some of the original designs for the box art.
To conclude... for now.
I've realised that I have sort of rambled on a bit for this blog post, but I think for people that are interested in the project, as well as just looking at developers original projects in general, they may find something interesting in this.
Thanks for reading, and hopefully I will have an update on shipping and conventions for 2021 in the next post.
Lonely Planets is a game that I created in the last 5 days as part of the Unreal Spring Jam 2020. I flew solo on this project, meaning that I did all the 3D modelling, texturing, blueprinting, level/mechanic/narrative design, everything that needed to be achieved to make this game possible.
Overall, the development on this game was relatively smooth, especially compared to some of the jams that I have worked on in the past. I would say that Vampire Dinner Party was probably slightly smoother, but that was because I was working with a great team. I put together a little gameplay trailer for the submission, check it out below.
As I knew that I was going to have to do quite a few assets by myself, I went for a very simple low poly art style with solid colours that I could create using the vector parameter in the material editor. This saved a whole bunch of time, I created over 20 assets for this game, of which probably took less than 20% of my time, which was essential due to the complicated physics system.
The way that the Mario Galaxy/Outer Wilds style gravity works in Lonely Planets is that, depending on which planet actor you are closest to, the z and x coordinates of your little guy you are controlling are always being aimed at the center of that actor. The initial system wasn't actually too difficult to set up, but blueprinting the checks and making sure the array worked as intended for hopping between planets took an extra 9 hours than was previously allocated for that task. However, it was essential to set the groundwork for the multi-planetary platformer that I want to create in the future.
The reason that I partake in game jams is for a few reasons, but one stands out above the rest. For this particular one, I was drawn in by the prize for solo developer, as it would be a considerable upgrade to my ancient computer, but I was also drawn to it because I put a lot of value in awards, and receiving one from Epic Games would be very good for my portfolio. However, like I said, one reason stands above the rest, and this is true for almost all game jams that I have taken part in, which is to start a project at a sprint. Because of the harsh time constraints, as well as the way the game jam is structured, it really encourages me to work flat out to make the game the best it can be. The progress that I have made so far on this project that I want to pursue in the future is leaps and bounds above the progress I would have made if it was just a standard week in the office.
Anyway, that's the blog post for the time being, like I mentioned just then, I really want to carry on working on this project and add a lot of cool physics mechanics that work well with the gravity system I have, so expect more blog posts in the future, goodbye!
Introduction to FTBS
Food Time Battle in Space is a fast-paced, restaurant, resource management game. You are a enterprising restaurateur trying to take advantage of a sudden and rapid colonization of the moon, the people have settled, but there is no where good to eat! Battle your rivals in space to be the first to achieve a five star status!
FTBS is a project I have been working on since late January of 2020. As part of my visual design module on my game design course at the University of Huddersfield, we were given the task of creating our own brief to follow, and we would be marked on it as such. If you haven't checked out the portfolio page in this website, check it here.
The aim of the product was to create a fresh yet nostalgic feel for an older, North American target market, as well as all people that love vintage in the 1950s. I also took on the strategy similar to Fallout, of mixing a more futuristic setting with a vintage time. I achieved this by basing the entirety of the art style on greetings cards and vintage space posters.
I would highly recommend flicking through the sketchbook for FTBS here. You will be able to see my thought process every step of the way and I use a bunch of show don't tell so there isn't much to read.
What Grade did I get?
To bring it back to what I said earlier, this project was originally for a university assignment, though I plan to take it further and eventually to a Kickstarter like I did with my previous project from university, Blockers: The Stacking Game. So, as it was for a university assignment, it would probably be best to talk about how I did.
Well in short, I got a 1st, which in the UK is the highest grade you can achieve at university level. This project specifically achieved a 94/100, which I am incredibly proud of.
Anyway, next month I will have some progression images of cards and the art in general, as well as hopefully some development on the design of the mechanics as that is currently the weakest point (due to the module being marked specifically on the visuals). Please add this blog to your RSS feed and comment telling me what you think of the sketchbook, and any criticism is welcome.
Hello, my name is Niall Crabtree, and this is my comprehensive blog showcasing all of my game development endeavors and successes, as well as essays on game design.
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