Thursday, March 10, 2016

Broken Contract Game Designer's Notebook #1

A page from my day planner - this week's page actually.

This is going to be a new series of articles that details the process of game development. Sometimes it will focus on rules, but today we're going to talk about the process of developing a set of characters. Before I go too far into this I want to say that the notes above are going to change and we probably won't see the completion of these notes: from scribbled idea, to concept art, to sculpts, to finished product for about a year. The gears of development churn slowly. -Nick

If you've sifted your way through either the Breaker or Prod sections of the blog (the Prods soon to be renamed Black Squadron) and clicked on the characters you will see they were all part of the "Assembling the Cast" series. For an example here is: Assembling the Cast: Test the Gen-Mod Brute.


Trest - Breaker Gen-Mod

When I started developing that first wave of characters I started with names and a basic archetype they might fill. This was fleshed out eventually with a 2-3 paragraph mix of backstory and traits to give the character depth and personality. These 2-3 paragraph blurbs were sent over to John Gendall (predominantly) with a few other notes about equipment and the "feel" of the character. Sometimes he made changes on the fly and we messed around with equipment, usually to improve the impact of the character visually. It seemed like a fine way to develop a group of characters at the time and it did the job.

Breaker Faction Set Cards

In the above photo you can see the deck of cards that come in the Breaker Faction Set. Pictured above there are 36 cards including the cards for Talla Kellerman, who was an Add-On during the Kickstarter. If you remove Talla Kellerman's cards there are 31 cards. This is significant because a single sheet at my printer holds 32 cards. Therefore, I either lose one card, increasing the cost of each individual card by a fraction (and increase the amount of waste) since you pay by the sheet, or I have 4 cards too many and I either have to include the cards for another product or waste most of a sheet for 4 cards greatly increasing my costs. What I have learned is we all will benefit from superior planning and sets should likely be geared to have a deck of 32 cards, or perhaps combine two smaller releases equally on a sheet with 16 cards each.


Now we come full circle to the original picture. I'm guessing it's hard to read my scrawling so I'll break it down:

LOYALISTS   Rigid, weathered, skinhead-like.

FANATIC - Fervent, Pick Axe, Work Horse

BRUISER - Submissive, Lifter, Sledgehammer

BLASTER - Explosives Training, Dynamite, Rock Hammer, Breather

CREW LEADER - Demanding, Shovel

BRUISER2 - Submissive, Fist Fighter, Dull

5x Loyalist Cards

What does it all mean? Well, this is me sketching out a box set of 5 Loyalist models. This is a crew of workers loyal to FerrumSky who don't see a need for change and the disruption that Breakers cause. It would contain a leader, two basic fighters, and 2 specialists of sorts. I mapped out the overall feel with the words rigid, weathered, and skinhead-like, and more importantly I know that notes like Fervent, Pick Axe, Work Horse, etc indicate how many cards this pack of characters would require. In this case it would be 30. Ten Character Stat Cards (each Character comes with 2 of these), twelve Ability Cards (including the 5 Loyalist Cards), and eight Equipment Cards (Work Horse and Dull are the names of drugs). That means I have two cards left. The crew leader will probably get a hook hand, or something else distinctive and that remaining card might be another Ability or some added bit of kit one of the artists might add on. Regardless, I have a framework that I can work within. The final instruction will be to vary up the genders and look of the characters to represent the diverse future of Broken Contract.

These Characters will form the backbone of a second group of antagonists for the Breakers to face off against, while the models themselves would look generally like the rest of the Breakers and could be used to expand the line for characters players develop themselves. Maybe a year from now they'll see the light of day. ;)

Thanks for reading!
-Nick

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