Thursday, September 27

The Changing Face of Codename: Vacuum

As I've mentioned before, when designing a game, you start out with a vision of what you want your game to look and feel like when you play it. You make a prototype (which turns out to be rubbish!) and then start making incremental changes trying to improve the game while keeping in mind your original goals.

My original idea for Codename: Vacuum was a deck-building card game set in space. Over time the theme has been tweaked slightly to being set in a steampunk-esque version of our solar system between the years 1900 and 2100. That's not a big change though, It's Alive! went from collecting different coloured candles to light a Menorah to being about collecting different body parts to build Frankenstein's Monster!

But the game components have changed during that time too. The initial plan was to have a pure card game (like Dominion), but as the game idea was fleshed out in my head I thought it would be good to add some wooden tokens. I added some coins to allow a more interesting trade mechanic, and some 'Explore tokens' to introduce another scoring mechanism/path to victory.

This box for an early version just about fits the cards and wooden bits, but is obviously not designed for getting pride of place on a shop shelf!

Box for my first prototype

In the latest version that I've just finished assembling over the weekend I've got rid of most of those tokens, and replaced them with with player mats and coin/explore tracks instead. The player mat allows me to reduce the numbers of wooden tokens by quite a lot (reducing cost), but also to justify a large box size (which makes sense for the game as it brings the box size in line with Race for the Galaxy, a game with a similar number of components.

Standard box sizes help for a number of reasons:

  • Cheaper manufacturing - the manufacturers already have all the tools for that size
  • Easier shelving - for gamers and shops alike
  • Expected MSRP - much as I don't like it, people expect a certain price based on the size of the box, not the number of contents, so small boxes rammed with stuff look expensive because they are in a small box compared to a gamer with the same components in a larger box

Also, making a proper size box with a normal looking box insert makes the game feel that much more real :)

New box for my new prototype

My initial plan was to have a turn overview, coin and explore token tracks and spaces for all your cards on the player mat. There's not really enough room for those things without the turn overview though, so that's had to go. Maybe I'll add some turn overview cards instead.

First stab at a player mat - very full!

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