Friday, December 9, 2016

What's in a MEGAGAME - Part 1

This November I opted out of participating in National Novel Writing Month and instead decided to scratch my creative itch by trying my hand at National Game Design Month (which has a WAY cooler abbreviation: NaGaDeMon). I've recently become interested in megagames like Watch the Skies so I started work on "Kaiju Crisis: a Monster Megagame." If you don't know what Watch the Skies or a megagame is watch this video by Shut Up and Sit Down.

A few years ago, I wrote a two part piece about designing Daikaiju Director. Here's part 1 and part 2 if you're unfamiliar with them, but they're not required reading for this series. In this post I hope to cover some of the basic challenges and inspirations of designing Kaiju Crisis. Part two will cover more general megagame design anecdotes.


My main inspirations for this game fall into two categories: games and movies. If it wasn't for Watch the Skies, I wouldn't know what a megagame is so that's definitely a big one. The similarities are readily apparent in the game/subgame structure, but there are some key differences mainly in the way kaiju play vs. how the aliens work. The science and united nations subgames are combined and expanded in the Anti-Kaiju Taskforce subgame. I feel that the tech tree provides much more concrete benefits and risks, but I'll let the eventual play testing decide that.

The other game that's inspired me to tackle this project is Daikaiju Director and all of it's previous iterations and ideas. While Kaiju Crisis is very different from Daikaiju Director, a lot of the ideas I was toying with in the early days of its design have found a home. Where Daikaiju Director focuses on monster on monster combat, Kaiju Crisis focuses on destruction on a global scale and humanity's reaction to the monster threat. It also takes itself more seriously than the "making a monster movie" theme of Daikaiju Director. That's not to say that the game is devoid of humor, it's just a disaster simulation instead of a tokasatsu simulation.

As for the movies that have directly inspired Kaiju Crisis, the game is definitely most inspired by Toho's 1968 movie, Destroy All Monsters. The global destruction caused by the multitude of kaiju attacking simultaneously around the world is just the atmosphere Kaiju Crisis tries to capture. I also tried to emulate humanity's evolving response to monsters over the course of years fighting theme as seen in the Heisei Era Godzilla films. I re-watched all of these films as inspiration for mechanics and tech tree items while I was designing this game. While watching these movies, I wrote some reviews which you can read here and here. I'll be posting my review of Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) next week.


Creating a megagame had a lot of challenges. Some of them I expected, and others completely blindsided me. (Which is part of the reason I didn't completely finish the game this past month)

First and foremost of these is that you've got to play a lot of games to design a game and unfortunately I haven't had a lot of opportunities to play a megagame. I greatly look forward to participating in Ohio Gaming Brigade's Watch the Skies event in January, and I expect that I'll make a huge revision to Kaiju Crisis after playing. I encourage anyone in the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky area to check it out. Chances to play a megagame in the US are few and far between unlike in the UK.

Second, HOLY MOLY, creating a megagame is a lot of work! Not only are you designing multiple games that need to accommodate 20+ players and cohesively fit together, there's page long briefings that need to be written for each player. All of these briefings are unique and require quite a bit of thought put into them. While this made designing this game take way longer than expected, it has been a very rewarding and fun process. I look forward to seeing Kaiju Crisis play out for the first time sometime next year.

In Closing

November Game Design Month has been a challenging and rewarding experience. Expect part 2 of this series later this month and until then, get your kaiju fix by checking out some of my Heisei Godzilla movie reviews. I'll be highlighting more of their influences of both Daikaiju Director and Kaiju Crisis in future entries. Until next time, keep the good times rolling!

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