Friday, February 27, 2015

Daikaiju Spotlight: Space Hunter X

The 10th iteration of the most ruthlessly successful interstellar bounty hunter to specialize in bringing down giant monsters, Space Hunter X has come to Earth in search of its most dangerous mark yet. It was created through an aggressive mechanical-evolutionary process by aliens who's home world used to be overrun by tyrannical daikaiju, and it can adapt to any situation and always has some technique or tool perfect for capturing its quarry. After eliminating all of the giant monsters on their own planet, Space Hunter's creators hired out this deadly, sentient machine to anyone in the galaxy that had a particularly pesky kaiju in need of capture or extermination. It has continued to evolve and add strange new weapons to its arsenal. Space Hunter X is sure to be an insurmountable challenge for any other daikaiju looking to become the star of the show.

The development of Space Hunter X started just like the development of most of the other original 4 daikaiju: with a mini. The first playtest for FASFAC's Epic Games Contest was coming up, and I wanted a visually appealing demo that stood out from the competition. Until I could make my own minis for the daikaiju, I decided to use stand-ins that had a similar feel to what I wanted in the finished product. I found a few minis that I had lying around that looked good on the board I was using and created monsters around their appearance.

The mini that became Space Hunter X was a sentai-looking robot with a jetpack and a gun, so I started there. I started with giving it flying movement and a ranged special attack. That eventually got reversed and Space Hunter X ended up with a ranged attack passive ability and a flying activated ability. Then, I decided his role. I knew that I wanted each Kaiju to have a distinct play style after I made Fenrir, the first daikaiju I designed, a "Daikaiju killer." Since I didn't have much experience with sentai, I resorted to the tropes I knew.

Unless you consider the original Ultraman series to be loosely associated with the genre, I haven't watched any sentai series in this decade. To me super sentai represents a kind of space police, so I decided his twist deck should be full of neat tricks to subdue or apprehend other monsters. I gave him cards that stole energy from enemies, ensuring they won't be able to bother you with their annoying special abilities. In addition to that, there are twists in his deck that stop enemies from moving and even can make them skip their turn.

After the stats, abilities and twists were figured out, Space Hunter X's backstory grew organically. The name is a play on "Monster Zero" and "Monster X" from the Godzilla franchise. In the initial playtest, he varied wildly from being completely useless and too good. This largely depended on how the player playing him used his abilities and twists. If they stayed back, took pot shots at vulnerable daikaiju and controlled the set with Super Snares and EMPs then they could usually out maneuver and outgun the other players. This led to complaints that he was too fast when in reality, his flying ability only puts his move speed on par with Eelian's.

At the UD Con playtest, Space Hunter X wasn't played much, so I don't have too much data on how I should tweak him moving forward. The player controlling him never drew his good twist cards and only had the combat modifying ones to work with. This put him at a significant disadvantage. Moving forward, I'm scaling back the number of combat modifiers in twist decks and upping the number of cards with interesting abilities. I'm going to be doing a lot of play testing in the coming months and maybe I'll come up with some more changes to implement then.

That's all for this installment of Daikaiju Spotlight. Tune in next week for more information on Space hunter X's quarry: the mysterious Eelian!

Monday, February 23, 2015

UD Con XXII: Giant Robot Con - Punching Things in the Face Edition Play Test

Wow that title was a mouthful...

Anyways, this past weekend I held my second public play test of Daikaiju Director at the coolest Con in Dayton: FASFAC's 22nd annual UD Con! I got to see some old friends and meet some awesome new folks this year. On top of that I had a blast running all of my events. (Not all of the Daikaiju Director related) FASFAC always hosts a wonderful con and I look forward to going every year in the foreseeable future.

Before I get into the details of the play test, let me show off something I got in the mail Friday (just in time for con.) Behold the prototypes for the boxes of the first two sets of Daikaiju Director!

Now the images of the monsters will definitely change when the temporary standees are finally replaced by the actual minis of the monsters or possible even some art. Anyways, let's take a closer look at "Daikaiju Director: First Contact." 

The first set of Daikaiju Director will feature the dauntless Space Hunter X, the mysterious Eelian, the ferocious Fenrir, and the explosive Vulcanus. I'll tell all of you more about them in the coming weeks. This is the set I tested at Con, and everyone's response was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. I got some excellent constructive criticism from people much more experienced in game design than me. Let's take a look inside the box.

All four twist decks fit snugly in the box. As you can see, each monster has its own unique design for the back of their respective deck. There's also four slots for each of the monster minis. Right now the temporary standees are sitting in there awaiting the next game.

I'd like to give a shout out to my dad for not only surprising me by building these amazing boxes, but also for designing the cards, printing them out and cutting close to 1000 corners just to get all of this ready for me before Con. Thank you so much for making this past weekend that much more awesome.

Here's a closer look at the second set, "Daikaiju Director: Age of Monsters," but more on that later.

Here's a candid photo of me participating in one of the play test games. If I remember correctly, this was taken shortly before the other two players turned the tables and beat me. That's embarrassing. 

Anyways, I've some takeaways from this weekend include the following:

- Vulcanus is still overpowered, but his stats are near perfect. I need to consider revising his twist cards or how lava works; maybe both.
- Eelian is deceptively powerful.
- Fenrir can be a bit of a glass canon since he draws a lot of aggro really early.
- Space Hunter X has a lot going for him, particularly his ranged attack ability.
- I need to look into letting players spend energy to play more twist cards.
- Some twist cards have unforeseen side effects when they're all able to be played at anytime. Consider making some playable at anytime and some only on your turn.
- The game is simple enough to teach new players how to play in under 10 minutes.
- I need a more structured format for gathering player feedback.

All in all, everything went great and I want to thank the University of Dayton and FASFAC for letting me play test Daikaiju Director this weekend. We're one step closer to the finished product!

That's all for this installment from your direct source for everything Daikaiju Director. Tune in sometime in the near future for your introduction to Space Hunter X: the interstellar kaiju bounty hunter!

Monday, February 9, 2015

What's in a Game - Part 2

When I last left off with my "What's in a Game" series, I promised to provide some more concrete examples of the game's evolution over time. Well here you go:

I decided to revisit the "Giant Monster Battling Game" that I had started for last year's contest with some major changes. This year I felt I had the time to make something truly "epic." Work quickly began in the complete wrong direction. I decided that the coolest thing to do with a giant monster themed board game was to simulate the creation of giant monster movies. This wasn't wrong, but I didn't do it quite right. I started with something way to complex. I had to change and cut a lot just to get something barely playable, which taught me my first lesson in game design: "The easiest way for a beginning game designer to set themselves up to fail is to start with something too big and too convoluted."

At first, it was an actual movie simulator. Kaiju were directly pulled from movies and every game was a unique scenario based on that movie. This was impractical for game that had ambitions of actually getting published. Besides copyright laws and licensing nightmares, the rules would need to be specific to every single scenario. Also, there would be a ridiculous amount of unique pieces that needed to be produced that might not have a lot of reusability between scenarios. This could be solved by having generic, uninteresting pieces that could represent a variety of actors, props, or other things, but that's not very visually appealing. Therefore, I tossed out the scenario idea in favor of a more collaborative game building experience where the players made the game unique each time it was played. This required only a single rule set that revolved around kicking the other daikaiju's ass.

In this version, I had a game master, called the director, who controlled the set, military, and other things. They had a lot of control over each individual game, but couldn't win. They also had a lot of sway over which player eventually won the game because of the game altering power they held with their twist deck and military units. This wasn't fun and it took a lot of set up. The Director built a whole new twist deck for every single game and the multitude of military units were too tedious to keep track of. The twist deck was a cool idea so I give one to every player and got rid of the Director. The military is an interesting "faction" that could be implemented in a later version of Daikaiju Director, but it will require some major reworking.

That left me with something that very closely resembles Daikaiju Director as it is today. The set is built out of some "set tiles," which are made out of hexes and filled with props. There's 4 different monsters that players get to control on a city-wrecking rampage that ends with one Daikaiju becoming king of the monsters and the star of the show. Each player had a twist deck tailored specially to their chosen monster, which played differently than all of the others due to different stats and abilities. The resulting game was quick and easy to learn, while giving enough choices to give value and consequence to every action. Gameplay was fast and varied and after a few play tests and minor rules tweaks Daikaiju Director is well on its way to being a fun and interesting game that I'm excited to share with the world.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


First and foremost, I'd like to apologize to my one or two readers out there for taking over a month to update the Daikaiju Director blog. The past month has been particularly hectic with both developing the game and my personal life, but I promise to keep this site updated on a weekly basis going forward.

Things are looking very exciting for Daikaiju Director in the next couple weeks. The University of Dayton's Fantasy and Science Fiction Appreciation Club is hosting their annual convention February 20-22nd, and I will be hosting the second public playtest of the game there. In addition to that, I should be getting all of the new Daikaiju Cards and Twist Cards from my graphic designer. This will make play testing much easier and give the game a memorable look and feel. 

After the con playtest, I will start a series of posts outlining the backstory and development of the 4 monsters that are slated to be included in the base game. I greatly look forward to introducing all of you to Eelian, Space Hunter X, Fenrir, and Vulcanus. If there's enough interest I might continue the series to cover the 4 new monsters that are set to debut at the convention.

As I mentioned earlier, it hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows this past month. There have been some very annoying issues I've been working through with the development of the game. FASFAC's Epic Games Contest pretty much fell apart. There was a serious lack of interest in the contest so it quietly ended with no real winner. I was not informed of this until mid January, almost a month after the fact. At first I was very angry, but now I realize that I got a lot done because of this misunderstanding, and I'm happy that I'm now "free" of the contest's restrictions. This gives me more time to perfect Daikaiju Director, and I won't have to rush any aspect of its development at the expense of the game's quality.

Anyways, this post is running a bit longer than any intermission should so I'm going to end it here. Be on the look out for "What's in a Game - Part 2" sometime in the next few days.