Game design is more listening than writing. Listening is a skill. Like any skill, if you dedicate yourself to practice, you improve. The universe is full of answers. Are you in the right place and the right frame of mind to understand and apply them?
Persistence kept Processing alive through eight years of intermittent failure, but listening brought it back to the top of the game development pile. David, our project manager from Panda Game Manufacturer, had shown interest in the project at GenCon 2017. I had told him I’d show him the game when we met again at Pax Unplugged.
I took a look at the build from 2015 with fresh eyes and a desire to edit things down to the most elegant version of the fun. I thought it was still pretty fun to have vegans and aliens secretly fighting over whether or not cows should go free. I knew the conveyor belt traps all needed to go, but I had yet to figure out a replacement.
Chris from Awesome Industries co-wrote the first couple of builds for Conquest Princess Pew Pew Pew, and we were collaborating on a couple of other projects. I decided to show him my current version of Processing. (I’d changed the name sometime after GenCon.) About 80 seconds into the conversation, he said something like “Oh, so you have these groups on the conveyor belts, and you have the players vote on what happens to each.”
“What?!” I was stupefied. In under two minutes, Chris fixed a collection of issues that had built up and been worked around since 2009. “OMG, that’s perfect. Thank you!”
Chris had more to say as we sat on my front step, “Also, the idea of people processing people is a little too dark, that might be a turnoff.”
“What if aliens are forcing you to do it? And, instead of generic people, we’re processing hipsters?” I asked.
“Yep. That keeps it dark but gives people a little room.” He replied cheerfully.
Everything fell into place after that. I worked up a version for the next playtesting session and was pleasantly surprised when things tested well. We continued to fill out, refine and unfetter the game over the next few months.
Atlas Games took us along to PAX Unplugged in Philly. One of the most amazing things about working with Atlas is having access to the mind of Jeff Tidball. Jeff was leading the crew to this particular show, and I made him play the improved game more than a few times while we were there. In addition to having David play (that taught him to ask for something - see pt 1) we ambushed unexpecting con attendees. “Would you like to turn Hipsters into sausage?” Feedback was very positive. We received an email from one of the con-goers telling us it was their favorite experience of the convention.
Now I had to listen. We planned the Inevitable Machine Revolt, the End of the Line expansion, to be our Kickstarter for 2018. Atlas, who was and is so good to us, was crowdfunding a robot-themed game in 2018, Cogs & Commissars. There was no good reason to confuse our release with theirs. What we wanted and planned for was not what was best, so we switched gears and put Processing on the calendar for 2018 instead.
Continued in "The Road to Processing pt 3"