I make board games because making video games takes FOREVER

I've been working on making an adventure game for some time now. Since I'm trying to do something a little nontraditional I need to ensure the idea makes sense to somebody besides me before I start work on the proper game and that actually takes some playtesting. So in the meantime, I'm making a card game.

How does this game work?

What I'm attempting to do is take the choose-your-own-adventure book format and adapt it into a multiplayer game. Instead of one person choosing their story as they read a book, a group of people work their way through a story using a deck of cards. This is made into more of a game by the addition of a goal set at the beginning of the story so that players will actually have something to compete for and make the game more active.

The mechanics themselves are fairly straightforward. One person would (although not completely necessarily) act as the storyteller while the other players were the adventurers. Each turn the players would make one of the choices on their card (or shared card), then the storyteller would read the result and hand them their new card. This process simply repeats until either everyone has lost or somebody has won. You know, how games typically work.

What is it about?

In making the game I decided that instead of making one story, I would make four and tie them all together with a common setting. In this case, a mysterious mansion. This format seemed the best since it helped to solve the problem of deck size being too large and the re-playability being too low. This way even if people didn't find much replay value in the game, or repeatedly played through it immediately, they would at least get four different stories out of it.

The stories themselves would revolve around ghost hunting, a murder mystery, an inheritance, and teen pranks. Even though they would all share a common setting, I chose scenarios that would allow me to write varying scenarios with different tones. I would say more but they aren't fully written and plus, the whole point of these things is the story and don't just want to give that away.

So you're just putting a choose-your-own-adventure book on a deck of cards?

That's originally the thought I had to do going into this. As it turned out there were considerably more time paradoxes involved in this project than I initially anticipated. A typical CYOA can have pages full of contradictory choices because those decisions only matter once. Once you have multiple players you need to start considering how every choice impacts every other choice. You can't have one person smash down a door and another person find it locked later. I mean, you could, but then you would need to start juggling all these “if/else” statements while sorting through a thousand cards and nobody wants to do that.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize I was actually writing the game this way until I had written a great deal of cards. I then had to go back and see which were ones were invalid because they wouldn't make any sense given past actions. It turned out this was most of them. So after writing and rewriting, I developed two important rules. The player must always move forward and two players cannot interact with the same object. There are situations where breaking these rules may not break the game, but just to keep everything as neat and logical as possible I try to obey them. Now that I've mostly finished my third scenario (after two botched scenarios that are now little more than outlines) I think I am finally beginning to hit my stride.

I will try to write up my progress at least once a week as a way to self-impose a deadline and because I like making games I want to tell people about them.

Also, even though I used the choose-your-own-adventure multiple times, that is actually a trademarked term and what I am technically making is a “multi-path” or “choosable path” story.

OK, so maybe I do make video games

Since I'm making my game in Adventure Game Studio I figured I should probably participate in their monthly game contest. The first I made was for their July "Fairy Tale" contest. I chose to adapt the Ant and the Grasshopper since it seemed the most practical as a game. I missed the deadline but making these is more about learning AGS than the contests themselves.

The download link is here if you want to try the game.

4 Comments
5 Comments
Posted by Perspicacity1

I've been working on making an adventure game for some time now. Since I'm trying to do something a little nontraditional I need to ensure the idea makes sense to somebody besides me before I start work on the proper game and that actually takes some playtesting. So in the meantime, I'm making a card game.

How does this game work?

What I'm attempting to do is take the choose-your-own-adventure book format and adapt it into a multiplayer game. Instead of one person choosing their story as they read a book, a group of people work their way through a story using a deck of cards. This is made into more of a game by the addition of a goal set at the beginning of the story so that players will actually have something to compete for and make the game more active.

The mechanics themselves are fairly straightforward. One person would (although not completely necessarily) act as the storyteller while the other players were the adventurers. Each turn the players would make one of the choices on their card (or shared card), then the storyteller would read the result and hand them their new card. This process simply repeats until either everyone has lost or somebody has won. You know, how games typically work.

What is it about?

In making the game I decided that instead of making one story, I would make four and tie them all together with a common setting. In this case, a mysterious mansion. This format seemed the best since it helped to solve the problem of deck size being too large and the re-playability being too low. This way even if people didn't find much replay value in the game, or repeatedly played through it immediately, they would at least get four different stories out of it.

The stories themselves would revolve around ghost hunting, a murder mystery, an inheritance, and teen pranks. Even though they would all share a common setting, I chose scenarios that would allow me to write varying scenarios with different tones. I would say more but they aren't fully written and plus, the whole point of these things is the story and don't just want to give that away.

So you're just putting a choose-your-own-adventure book on a deck of cards?

That's originally the thought I had to do going into this. As it turned out there were considerably more time paradoxes involved in this project than I initially anticipated. A typical CYOA can have pages full of contradictory choices because those decisions only matter once. Once you have multiple players you need to start considering how every choice impacts every other choice. You can't have one person smash down a door and another person find it locked later. I mean, you could, but then you would need to start juggling all these “if/else” statements while sorting through a thousand cards and nobody wants to do that.

Unfortunately, I didn't realize I was actually writing the game this way until I had written a great deal of cards. I then had to go back and see which were ones were invalid because they wouldn't make any sense given past actions. It turned out this was most of them. So after writing and rewriting, I developed two important rules. The player must always move forward and two players cannot interact with the same object. There are situations where breaking these rules may not break the game, but just to keep everything as neat and logical as possible I try to obey them. Now that I've mostly finished my third scenario (after two botched scenarios that are now little more than outlines) I think I am finally beginning to hit my stride.

I will try to write up my progress at least once a week as a way to self-impose a deadline and because I like making games I want to tell people about them.

Also, even though I used the choose-your-own-adventure multiple times, that is actually a trademarked term and what I am technically making is a “multi-path” or “choosable path” story.

OK, so maybe I do make video games

Since I'm making my game in Adventure Game Studio I figured I should probably participate in their monthly game contest. The first I made was for their July "Fairy Tale" contest. I chose to adapt the Ant and the Grasshopper since it seemed the most practical as a game. I missed the deadline but making these is more about learning AGS than the contests themselves.

The download link is here if you want to try the game.

Posted by SexyToad

The idea of the board game sounds awesome. But I'm confused about the gameplay. Do each person say what they wish to do then what?

Posted by Perspicacity1

@SexyToad: Think of it like this. When you read a choose-your-own-adventure book and reach the end of a page there is typically a choice of things to do. Each of those choices comes with a page number you turn to. In my game each choice someone can make comes with a card number they turn to.

Posted by SexyToad

@Perspicacity1: So the cards are the choices?

Posted by Perspicacity1

@SexyToad: Pretty much. But they also have the story bits on them too. They're like the replacement for the book pages to make it easier for multiple people go through the story and take different paths. This is basically the information you would find on a card, except instead of links leading to other pages there would be numbers that point to other cards.

I beginning to realize that maybe this doesn't make quite as much sense to someone who has no experience with the CYOA style of book. Which is good since making the instructions is one of the most important making any game.