Producing Fun #10: David Digby - Solo Mode Developer

Producing Fun #10: David Digby - Solo Mode Developer

Producing Fun is a podcast about making tabletop games from a product perspective.

David Digby is a game designer and developer based in the UK. As a developer, he specialises in developing solo modes for existing game designs. Within only a few years he’s established a very strong reputation for his work, collaborating with a string of famous names (including Martin Wallace and Reiner Knizia) to create 1 player versions of their games. In this conversation we do our best to cover all the critical elements of creating a compelling solo game product.

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I'm James, and this is producing fun, a podcast about making games from a product perspective.

Speaker 2


Welcome to Producing fun. My guest today is David Digby, a game designer and specialist developer of solo modes for a number of popular games. I first met David a little over three years ago at handy con, a small UK gaming convention taking place in the southeast. Now that time, he was demoing multiple game designs of his own creation, as a hobbyist designer on the UK convention circuit. Since then, he's become a fully paid professional part of the industry, with a frankly incredible eight solo games already under his belt. If you told me five years ago that it would soon be someone's specialist job to make one player versions of existing board games, I wouldn't have believed you. Solo gaming isn't something I even discovered until very recently, when I first found out about it, I was incredibly sceptical. After all, if the primary benefit of playing board games is you get to enjoy a collective real life experience with friends and family. What's the purpose of playing what essentially amounts to a $40 Deluxe Sudoku set, especially when many of the best video games are already powerful, high budget solo experiences. But it turns out my past self was wrong. Solo games are booming. And having now played multiple games solo myself, I get it. A lot of these solo games are way more enjoyable and fun than old fashioned puzzles, and they fit a particular niche that makes sense when you understand it. After all, these games are beautiful objects and beautiful objects are just fun to interact with. They give many of the same pleasures of video gaming, but without the same powerful dopamine loops that make those kinds of games addictive. They don't steal concentration in the same way. And I want people to play more safely when looking after small children. And let's not forget the solo modes of multiplayer games that you play one of your favourites when there aren't any other players around something especially useful in recent times. All of this, and the intellectual challenge of creating a compelling solo mode is a big reason I ended up putting one in magnate the solo mode actually got David to consult on the commercial arguments are increasingly strong here as well. Publishers claim that putting solo modes in games is uplifting their commercial prospects, perhaps by as much as increasing a Kickstarter fundraise by 10% Now when games don't have solo options, people will vocally complain in a way they would never have done before. These factors make a job like David's at one time, impossibly niche, a clear well defined industry role with a clear contribution to the bottom line. So as a subject I felt absolutely compelled to cover on producing fun. What results is a conversation with incredible practical value. David is a no nonsense open book character with a clear view on what works and doesn't work in the realm of solo modes. His considerable track record developed in no time at all by dint of his own furious productivity makes him a voice really worth listening to. If you're designing or publishing a solo mode, I implore you to listen to this episode, you can make no better time investment here. We join the conversation, just as David is explaining the auction system for the Martin Wallace game tennis trail. A recently republished game that David designed the solo for

Speaker 3


one of the things that we've done the redeveloped version. And the new version is the way that we've introduced the card play into the game, where previously it was rolled some dice, get some stuff, congratulations, you've rolled high well done you. There's now an element of card play and hidden information and the value of information. Yeah, I know it's gonna be in that area over there. auction that for five. Oh, what does he know? He knows about it. All right, must be good, then seven knows rubbish. But I'll just make probably seven for it.

Speaker 2


Oh, interesting. That sounds like quite a big departure from something that was just pure dice orientated for the sort of resources originally.

Speaker 3


Yeah, I mean, the way that we've added is very, very much Martin's concept. But the way that we've used card play to add in hidden information and give hidden information of value into an auction game was really interesting. And I was then able to use that card system. The fact that I had cards, and we were going to use cards meant that I went, Okay, well, now I can make this work for any player account. Because I can use the same card system that we're using to deliver some hidden information or partial information, I can use that system to make auctions work with two players. And if I can make it worth it to them, I can make it work at one.

Speaker 2


So that helped a lot in terms of designing this the two player the one player version.


Oh, yeah, yeah. Without the card system, it would not have been possible.

Speaker 2


Why is that of interest? Why can't you just like adjust the number of dice or something like that?

Speaker 3


But it's the it's the auction thing. How interesting is an auction between two people


fairy doll indie

Speaker 3


generally, just not very exciting. But by introducing a canned system, what we had is we had the, here's a little bit of information about this area, and the minimum prices for

Speaker 2


all. Okay, we've got to

Speaker 3


be at least four. But I only know that much information. Now that much information is good information. But what if the rest of it is rubbish? Is it really worth four? Yeah. Oh, no. Okay. Now, alternatively, I can play my card. And then I know 100% of the information, but I'm setting the minimum bid price, or our gamble. And I'll just draw a card from the deck and see what I only have that partial information. So that was the real key to making that work.

Speaker 2


So you said the auction obviously makes it more interesting. If, if this sort of system from a sound a bit like that, then you would have normally between two players, although I will say having played another Martin Wallace game is actually my favourite game of all time, which is railways of the world. The auctions between two plays and that are actually surprisingly tense. Because it's absolutely brutal it coming down, you have to pay pretty much work out exactly what the right price is. And if you go one step either way wrong, you can lose the whole game on that. So it can work. But But what we're interested by is how you manage the auctions that in one player because that there isn't, is there an auction in a one player mode? Yeah. Ah, okay. Curious. Tell me more about that.

Speaker 3


So one of the things that kept that that's in the original version tennis trail, is there's three resource dice with different dice distributions, right? And whenever you get a mind, you roll those three dice, and you go, I've got that much copper, that much tin and that much water. So you've got three asymmetrical dice with different distributions and different values between zero and four. Oh, look, I've got an I've got a variable auction system that works between zero and four, because I've got these does. Hmm. So what the bot does is that is that it takes the information on the card and goes right, okay, that's the base value. And now I'm going to beat a certain amount based on the roll of a die. Now, which of those asymmetrical dice are use depends on the how valuable the bot assesses to be that particular area? So if it goes, Okay, well, the information I have available says that the area is worth this much. And it's next to one of my other areas. That's good. And it's got lots of things in okay, I quite like that one. I'll roll the blue dye, which rolls higher numbers, and that will be added to my minimum bit.


Oh, interesting.

Speaker 3


Oh, it goes I'm not fussed by that looks rubbish. I'll rather white. Interesting, which has got a much lower distribution on it. Interesting. So

Speaker 2


it still says that makes the AI rules quite complicated for the for the which which die to pick

Speaker 3


  1. Yeah, it's not simple. I mean, there's a table that basically says if this pick that if this pick the other, right. It's a floaty arty guy. Yeah, makes sense. I mean, it's a it's an auction game. It's a Martin Wallace game. It's a fairly intense, sort of 60 to 90 minute Euro game. With spatial awareness with different different things have different value to different people. The solo mode for that was never going to be flipped the car, do a thing move on.

Speaker 2


Right? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That makes a lot of sense.

Speaker 3


It was always gonna be flip a card, look it up in the rulebook work out? Well, this rule? Is there not don't do that, then do this. Don't do that, then do that. Do this, do that. Okay, that one. It was always gonna be like that.

Speaker 2


That's interesting, isn't it? I think that immediately makes me consider the limits, I guess of what you can do in terms of keeping certain parts Simple, I guess, right? In the sense that is this quite common then that you have to just accept a certain level of kind of flow. chattiness

Speaker 3


is very much dependent on the game on the solo experience you want to create, you have a design budget, or a crazy creativity budget. Hmm. This is how we look at the sort of solo design things as we go work out how big our creativity budget for this server, or how big the design budget. Great, it's a Martin Wallace game. It has a heavier audience. It's a fairly heavyweight Euro. It's been out before so people know the nuances of the game. They know how to balance the economies and things Okay, well, I budget really high because we can pack all of this in because what players want is a really realistic and interactive experience. And they will cope with a heavy ruleset flip the scale on his head, dice theme park. Now there any cap product, Kickstarter, the same period also has a solo mode. Solo budget, correct solo design budget, Tiny.

Speaker 2


Because it's a much lighter game, I assume it's the same kind of way to something like dice hospital.

Speaker 3


It's a much lighter game. It's heavier than does hospital, but not by much. But you know, it's a light to medium weight game. It's very, very low interactions. So you want a fast game that's all about your turns. We ended up not using an automated opponent even though I don't want that we chose not to use it. We went for a challenge based system where you're completing certain goals jumping through certain hoops so that the whole game is based on your turn nothing else, because the budget, the design budget is so small.

Speaker 2


Is the design budget the same thing as a complexity budget? Or it's not? I guess it encompasses some more ideas? Or is it really much the same thing?

Speaker 3


It's pretty much the same thing. Yeah, it's just whatever whatever terminology you knew you look at really. And publish is great. When you're, when you're commissioned by a publisher to do the solo mode, or more designers put you on board to look at it from a development point of view. They're really, really good at giving you a production budget. We have this much space left on punch board. And there's 18 cards left before we reach another printing, that is your production budget. Oh, wow. Cool. Okay, well, I worked with 18 cards, and a couple of a couple of inches square A punch board. That's cool. I'll work to that. No problem, vision, physical limitations. And publishers are really good at being able to give you that limit, because they know it all. Because, you know, you know, from yourself, from a publishing standpoint, you have a plan within those very tight margins, you know, two extra tokens, and suddenly the whole thing falls apart. I don't I don't think a lot of people really appreciate how careful that balance has to be for production.

Speaker 2


Well, I mean, that's a really good point, isn't it? I mean, he raised for example, things like tokens or cards, they're the way that cards are printed. For those that don't know is that there is a you have a certain sheet size, there's like a standard for a different kind of size, like whether it's a poker size, or a bridge or a bridge size card, there's X number of cards on it, you go over the sheets, that actually means you have to buy an extra sheet effectively of paper, which means that very practical form of an extra sheet of paper, just one card on is monstrously inefficient. And it's going to cost you way more money, it might cost more in setup fees, but it's going to cost you more in terms of the unit production cost. That's really fascinating, because that's what what you get is a kind of super exaggerated version of what everyone in games is facing. So we've got a few pipelines projects in the pipeline. And then there are games. With all of those, obviously, we think from the very beginning about production constraints in terms of components. So there's certain things you can and can't do. You're negotiating that with where the game weight is, and where it's going to sit in its market. Obviously, we've got a wrote about freedom, because early in the process, nothing is yet fixed. And it's and it could be that we could decide to make it a more premium product or a cheaper product, and then cut it to the cloth a little bit, but you're getting to the end and you're like right, you've got the rest of one sheet mate. Design me a compelling solo experience. Having that incredible degree of constraint was literally like you're down to these other components that you have David, that's it. Do you find that more rewarding or less rewarding than the kind of design what you were doing on your own games primarily before this?

Speaker 3


I don't know. But rewarding wise, I think it's probably the same. It's certainly a different way of thinking. Hmm. And in the era of TTS designers, and I take myself with this brush very much very much that as well. I've just got TTS crackers in terms of building prototypes.


Oh, that's interesting.

Speaker 3


Oh, hang on. I know. We're running out of them halfway through a play test. Okay, I'll just clone 30 more of them. That's no problem. Yeah, but that's just cost 18 pence per copy. Yeah. And then you suddenly you get to the end of the design process or not the end of the design process. But I point when the design process we go cool, right, I'm ready to write a sell sheet. And you go, Oh, bother. That's that's got a production cost of $30. I've designed and $95. Like Phil again, for families, that that's not going to work.

Speaker 2


That's so interesting, because I don't really use TTS for prototyping, to be honest. Because I've been very fortunate that obviously Jarrod and I've been continue to work together. And most of the products we've been able to do, perfectly happy testing it like to play account. And then turns out the rhythm of this whole situation has meant that when we've needed to test with more people, we've actually been able to, in terms of the timing very, we were very fortunate in that sense. So I've kind of avoided using TTS for any prototyping of my own projects, although I've played other people's. And I'd never considered that before that actually, there's a real risk that it could it actually makes it easier to become a bit lazier and not think about that real world constraint was if you have to go and print something off your printer and cut it out, your monkey brain almost is a little bit like no, this is bad. I don't want to do this. This is like extra crap. This is wrong. I've been confronted with how this doesn't make any sense.

Speaker 3


I think that's where I might have a slight advantage is that I am so rubbish with computers, that it takes me as long to do something on TTS as it does in real life. When I designed the game that's got 58 Polyana mo tiles in it, it takes me as long to draw them in InDesign and get them to work on TTS as it does to cut them out and getting them onto Mt. clever people would just go Oh, yeah, no, you can put this into a spreadsheet, turn into a CSV file and do a Data Merge import that as your tiles. Oh, great. Well done you.

Speaker 2


Yeah, it's not very constrained has actually benefited you here not actually feeling too confident with using all the tech has actually made you much more resistant to add random extra bits of crap into things. Yeah, because it takes


me so much time to do so. So

Speaker 2


you said it's not something more rewarding but it is different in kind of what ways would you describe it as quite Different kind of process.

Speaker 3


I'm someone who always writes design briefs, the one of the first things I will do is I'll go, ah, had a really interesting idea about a game that involves chickens. And within a few hours of having that idea and sort of forming all the ideas together, I will go, this is your design brief. It is a gateway game for one to six players with a campaign mode with this, that and the other a production cost of this that I've written a brief. And then whenever I'm doing play testing, whether I'm doing development, and especially when you're doing the sort of early start a play test, where you're just getting all the feedback, ever from everyone and writing it all down, is that you can kind of go, that feedback doesn't fit my design brief, gone. That feedback, fix my design brief, I'll pay attention to that. You've got some sort of constraint that's keeping you sane, because if you have nothing, then where does it stop? Suddenly, you're like family gateway game about chickens has got 490 miniatures?


Exactly, yeah. Because someone


told you, you'd make more on Kickstarter. If you put miniatures

Speaker 2


with like different like, like a cyber, chicken, miniature and Zulu chicken, and a few other things like that, or medium resin, something.


Chicken, that miniatures legacy game, and suddenly you've got


the 20 pound family my game was turned into that.

Speaker 3


I think working within a constraint is a good thing for designers to do. And I think that's just magnified when you're talking about solo design. Sometimes you got complete carte blanche. And at that point, you sit there and you can kind of there's the element of sitting there feeling a little bit lost as you can kind of go, oh, I can do anything. Hmm, well, I'm gonna have a massive great big dice tower like construction that's made out of punch Borden, 48 carbs and a triple layered player board and then you just go now, pillock just use 12 cards on a dice.

Speaker 2


So that way, you can it keeps you very reined in. And so actually, it's not so different that says that you as a designer anyway, have your own games of creating quite a tight brief for yourself. I mean, I find that interesting, isn't it? What I do is well, what I tend to do is we tend to write a brief quite early, we'll have like an exploratory phase before we actually tighten that up completely. And then we obviously tighten it down quite a lot, because I think it's very helpful to do just to provide some constraint. So in some ways, you said I guess the sentiment is just like it is even souped up version, where there's even more guardrails? Does that not the times just get very frustrating, banging into the into the walls or those guardrails all the time? Not so much.

Speaker 3


Really. I mean, you know, my professional career outside of games is very much about problem solving and finding the right solution and making the right decisions and things. That's what I have to do for a living. This is running theatres, right, yeah, technical manager for theatres. And so it's very much that, you know, at the crunch point, within minutes that you've got this problem, then one department will come up and they'll say, I don't know the way we need to fix this, like this. And then somebody else, none of them, oh, that's rubbish, fix it like that. And then someone else goes, I've done this before, we'll fix it like that. And then what you need to do is you need to go 18 minutes till we'll do that. Oh, but Shut up, do that. It's that sort of pressure cooker style atmosphere, because it's very much about working to fix deadlines.

Speaker 2


Yeah, so you have to be very decisive in that situation anyway.

Speaker 3


I mean, one of the critical judgments when you get to the management level, is knowing when you have to make the decision. If you've got out as you can kind of go okay, well, you all go away and think about it some more, work out and have a bit of a test, and then come back to me when you finish. Or if you've got minutes, you just go down to the neck. Yeah, yeah. And it's knowing how much time you've got to make decisions. But it's the same as running a development job, in the sense that, you know, the publisher will give you a deadline, say, right, we need all of the component details by this study. And after that, or you can change the rules. Okay, so you can call it that's quite common, particularly with solo design, is that they'll give you these these when we need to send all of the art assets, all of the art direction off to the artist and the graphic design, because it seems like we're forever working around deadlines set by artists and graphic designers.



Speaker 3


You know, that's that deadline. But after that you've got another six weeks, we can completely change all the rules, there already confused.

Speaker 2


That I mean, to me, that almost seems like a trap in the sense that if you can, if you can change anything after the things have gone to press artwork wise, doesn't that just potentially encourage you to end up making changes that are just fiddling that aren't the real changes that are substantive ones? Because most of the time, right, you should be done on any substantive changes right by then, or are you actually finding that in that six week window after the arts been gone that you're finding genuinely like useful improvements that are being made off that point?


That's an advantage of being too busy?


Ah, okay.

Speaker 3


Here's another sort of, you know, hidden Pro to something I have so much work on, that I can't afford to muck about with stuff if I think it's already finished, I just have to move on.


He just got right. Yeah, oh, I

Speaker 3


wonder whether I could just No, you haven't got time. Got another three to finish in the next two weeks, don't dilly dally. And that's an advantage of of that situation is that? You know, again, if you're a hobbyist designer, I'm not saying that in a derogatory term whatsoever. But if you have no deadlines, and you have no component limits, and it's your baby, and you just want to make the best game possible, if it takes you five years, fine, it's not a problem, because you're going to enjoy the journey. And it's going to be brilliant. And it's all if you're paid by the hour, to do a job professionally, to a deadline, there is a completely different way of working. Yeah, completely. And that makes you very efficient. But the way that a lot of the solo design stuff that is done is it's a commission. So the faster ideally, the more money. But that doesn't mean I'm going to rush it. And that does mean that certain projects, you go back and you go when you look at the time that you've spent on them, and what you agree to do it for you go back and you go, whew, I wasn't very good per hour. Yeah, that's not an order. No. But you have to be completely happy with the products that you put out.

Speaker 2


If you give me an approximate number, how many per month in any one point? Are there games that are in your pipeline? Of those kind of things


at work in solos? Yes.

Speaker 2


There's i on the list at the moment is eight. And that's eight live projects. Whoa. And how many of you actually develop so far in total? In the last what I mean, because it's the last couple of years? It's been primarily you've been working

Speaker 3


on this? Yeah. So I think Chocolate Factory was the first one that I designed in February 2019. To think about. But that's, that's where all this started. I think I've hit double figures of games that are that are either funded on Kickstarter or a public.

Speaker 2


Oh, wow. Because I mean, if we were comparing that to let's say, someone who was designing games, I know there are obviously some people there are like certain big names that we all know, that are insanely prolific, and they make loads of full game designs. But generally speaking, I can't imagine that almost anyone would be to produce that number of normal designs in that time.

Speaker 3


No, I mean, David, Turkey is a machine. Oh, yes. He's produces loads with me. He's full time within the industry. He works incredibly hard. He's right. I mean, even if you just had a conversation with the blog, you can imagine how fast he works at things.

Speaker 2


Yeah. Oh, having had a conversation about solo modes. I know exactly what you mean.

Speaker 3


You can I can tell when I'm in a development channel, David can you know when he's in that is hit that sweet spot, he's found that perfect bit of design. And your phone cannot keep up with the notification, right?

Speaker 2


It's just there's a constant bars and rattle along the table. Yeah.

Speaker 3


I think think think think think think think think think think think think think? Because it's just this this phenomenal stream of really creative, really high quality stuff. So you know, he's kind of the exception to the rule. And don't we can design that, as he buys does not co design work? Well, he

Speaker 2


designs a lot of games as well, as well as solo notes. Right? My understanding?

Speaker 3


Yeah, I'm talking. I'm talking full game designs and their big, heavy game. It doesn't design much. They're enormous things like an Acolyte. Yeah. Locked in comparison to you know, you get to can you give tracking at tiny Sue's? You know, these games on beat?


Right? Yeah,

Speaker 3


you know, void for perseverance. They're all you know, the mind cash type is huge. I would guess that David does maybe six a year. Right? Yeah.


Makes sense. So long notes.


I would imagine triples that if does not quadruples it.

Speaker 2


Right. Okay. It's like writing a focus module that sort of sits on top of an existing game that, but isn't just like how they come across. That's actually how that's what the development process looks like for it, basically. Yeah, that's interesting, because one of the questions I was gonna ask you was, what it was like, working with Martin Wallace on this. And I can imagine it or you're gonna step on his toes creatively, but it sounds like to be honest, it's almost a completely downstream process, that you've got the very, very fixed constraints, and then you're working within that. How much are you able to negotiate back the other way with Martin Wallace on what things how things

Speaker 3


should work? Martin was very easy to work with. Oh, fantastic. A lot of my brief came from Alleycat as the publisher, so they said, Okay, we're reprinting tennis, dry. Cool. We want it to play. It was originally a three player or four. So they said, We want to expand the player count to five, and two, if you think you can do it, and it will be a good game. And then I went, we want to reduce the randomness. We want to increase the production quality and have new art new graphic design, and we want to smooth out any lumps and bumps you feel in there as the developer. That was that was my brief. I'm not paying for the partnership.

Speaker 2


It sounds almost like Almost for every note, it's taking the product into the modern age in terms of what people expect, you because that must radically increase the potential market potential if it can serve as two and one players and five players, compared to just being a three and four only play a game, which is incredibly specific. Yeah. And as your production quality, and I think randomness as well, which is instinct is a hallmark of people's interest in a lot of this kind

Speaker 3


of years. You know, I think Martin was happy to get going signed with a publisher that he wants to work with. We had some initial meetings, where Martin explained, if he was in the position to be able to redevelop this game, this is what he do, he would introduce conflict, because when he did it as part of the tree frog line, the rule was no cards. And he really liked to introduce card play into the game. Oh, interesting. And he'd like that to be partially hidden information, partly open information. So the information has a value and has it as born within the game and becomes a present element. The development, which are the pieces that you add to your minds to improve things don't change, these don't mess with these they work, leave them alone, it's very narrow design space, the time the way that the game is used as you use work points, and you have a sort of time track type thing where the person who spent the least is first, he goes first. So don't change any of that, that all works, how does the scoring work, and I do a lot with that. Wherever we go with it, as long as the intent is the same, you're always better off spending money in the current round, and you are in the next round. As long as that intent works. On that there is an advantage to potentially having a supplier and there is interaction and that is part of each phase within the game and not just tacked on the end of a round it had to be to his dad or whatever. So and then we Alleycat spoke about well, from a Kickstarter model, we'd really like to include some expansions. Have you got any idea for expansions? Martin's answer was no, just go and do some research, see what you come up with. But that was his steer was research the history, research the subject, the thing that the game is about, and design the expansions from there. And that's very much Martin's design ethos and how he worked. So there my brief was to go away and research and I did loads of research. And then that was that inspired me to come up with two expansions. And then I put all those concepts together. And I pitched that to Alleycat. And anyone that said, Yep, sounds fun. And then I had to pitch that to Martin. And I had to sort of explain that this is how I'm going to make to play game work is soundcards work. This is how I think expansions would be I want this expansion about arsenic, which is this highly valuable, very stable resource, but it needs we need to represent the fact that it would kill off your entire workforce, because it was pre health and safety. And this is how I would choose to represent that and how we do it tactfully. And I think the thing that's really missing is the fact that these the skill of miners and how into our integral the Cornish the people were to Cornish mining route the beats. So here's the function is all about miners. I'm Martin just sort of went Yes, that's good. Okay, so then, you know, and then it was, and then the process kind of just Elon gates in this, you know, we went from talking to Mark every couple of weeks to talking to Martin every three months. So here's the finished game. Yes.

Speaker 2


I find that so fascinating that, that which bits of the process that the things that obviously he was really keen to say, Look, these are the these are the lines in the sand all the bits, you should really focus on that they were not necessarily things I would expect them to me, because I think if you asked most people to guess, all right, this conversation takes place, what things are likely to remain the same, I would have thought things like scoring, for example, might have been something that he might have considered be quite important. But in fact, in this case, it's like well, okay, is the kind of decision has been taken by the player at this point, still the same kind of decision. It's just this kind of intent concept. And then yes, it is. Okay, great. And actually, are you following the history? Yes. Okay, great. But actually, the specifics of the history or how those bit works? Not so important. And have you had a chance to work with other designers who are sort of like very well known, or quite big names have got really long track records like that. If your chance to see how their process differs in terms of working as a developer on that? Or is Martin kind of the best example you would have for that so far?

Speaker 3


I mean, this is this is where I, I have to try and I suppose answer your question and also pander to my own modesty. I just sit here and I reel off names. I'm going to sound like a complete

Speaker 2


Name drop your way through. Yeah, I don't mind I don't think the I don't think the listeners will mind either. So


Speaker 3


projects that I'm currently either doing a little bit of work on or paying or paying attention to, or starting out on or I'm finishing up on include designers such as Devi, taxi, Simone Luciani, Fabio Laviano, nesto, mango, and Brian Aconicio, Martin Wallace. That's probably all the big names.

Speaker 2


Fantastic. That'll be them in the room working with Ryan again. It's here as well. It's awesome, though very toxin.

Speaker 3


Oh, fantastic. Yep. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 2


Absolutely. And it's really cool, I think to see inside this because it's one thing when I get to talk to individual designers and hear about the kind of The process from their perspective. But the advantage that you have as a developer inside this process, I think is that you get to work with multiple different people and get a sense of how they work. Are there any commonalities do you think, to the design process that you would say you've seen that it's kind of common to the strongest designers that you've worked with?

Speaker 3


They're all quite different in their personalities, I think it comes back to that sort of project management thing. I think they're all very good at making decisions. You'll sit in a playtests, with maybe other big name designers, or just really clever people who are great play testers, or great developers, you know, we're not just talking about big names that go on the front boxes with all these sorts of things. There's a massive team behind all these projects. Oh, yeah. And you will sit there as a player and you sit there and play the game, you think that's really good. And then someone else will give feedback? And you got caught this really clever? Yes, really? Oh, yeah. It's really interesting feedback. Really smart. And the designer will just go Nope, doesn't fit because of this. Especially the Italians. They're really good at knowing what fits and what doesn't, within the design space. Now, whether that's because going back to that really clear, brief idea, they know exactly where they're trying to get to. So that they're really good at shaping that development process. And they're very quick to go, this works, this doesn't work, but also the range of experience that they've got behind. And you know, the fact that they actually they can answer that question really, really quickly, because they've had to ask it every couple of months for the last 10 years on 15 different designs? Yeah, I know, they know the answers, because they've got that level of experience. I think that's, that's an enormous resource to be able to tap into, and kind of sit at the end of the play test, and you're feeling brave enough, you can kind of go, why when everyone else has hung up. And it's just the two of you left on the on the call, as the designer and the developer or the guys doing leading the solo playtesting, whatever it is, and you can kind of just go, can I just take two more minutes of your time? Could you just explain to me why you've decided you've made this decision over this decision. And it's fascinating to get to unpick that sort of process from from these guys who have been, you know, hugely successful.

Speaker 2


It seems like there's a very strong kind of confidence of vision there. Right? There's that it's that sense of being quite sure of yourself in terms of knowing I've really thought about this, this is what the design is intended to be. So this this thing either works or doesn't. And that seems radically different, I guess because understandably, to the experience of most hobby designers, which I think is a good way to put it because it's anyone who probably who is just starting out, not so had something published is that I've noticed a lot of people are very unconfident about the designs, and they tend to be the moment any feedback comes in, they're like, Oh, my God, maybe I should change the game to that or something. And I guess these are these, maybe the biggest single differences I'm picking up is that these very experienced designers don't suffer from that kind of uncertainty, because they have a very deep, clear idea of what thing is supposed to be. So it's quite clear whether that feedback is either all there is actually quite a clever idea that we can incorporate, or it's not something away. Hmm, yeah, that sounds? Well, I guess that's part of this development of experience. But it also to me, seems to speak to that confidence being quite important to make the whole process work. Have you ever been interested in designing any solo specific games, because this has become a thing recently, I'm aware of in market in a way that even a few years ago, I don't think you saw that many solo only games.


it's not something I've I found myself doing. And I think they're different skill sets. I think designing a solo only game is a different skill set to turning a multiplayer game into a viable solo experience. So I take part, both sides of the both sides of the table by take part in the tabletop mentorship scheme, which is a really good scheme to run, you sort of do it for a couple of months, then it has a month off. And they do it for a couple of months. And this isn't different people. And my last mentee was doing a solo only designed for a big competition. That was about having a $20 Max solo only game, there was sort of design constraints, typical desert competition, brief talk. And it was fascinating to watch him go through that process, and how much of the information that I was able to give them and the sort of experience that I was able to impart to him in terms of a solo player experience, which is absolutely critical to designing a solo mode. And it's the question you always ask yourself is, am I creating the right experience for the solo player for this game is that I've only got that fit, right? That was all still relevant within the solo game. But the mechanisms that you use are different. The way that you kind of structure the game is different because it's not your turn someone else's turn, or jump through this series of hoops, because that's not the structure of the game. Here's how you eat, it's how you learn. Okay, but where's the owner? There isn't any because it's solo only game. You get it? Is it any different to designing a, get it out of the box, play it, put it away, again, game with a degree of replayability to a game that's got variable setup that's got a different degree of skills in terms of what you need to do to be able to design it, and then turning it into a campaign game is a different set of skills. And they're all right, we're looking at very small margins now in terms of the differences between them. But there are differences, I think I'm now relatively confident in my ability to do a solo mode. But in terms of my own design work, I haven't got the itch to design a solo only game, my back list of things on my drawing board. On solo, a lot of them will hopefully at some point have the solo modes. But even with my own designs, I design the whole game, and then solo.


So you're not even actually even in your own design. So you've made the set of nodes considering that much up front, is you actually for the same process as a developer. And you're saying, right, here's the completed game, he's incredibly tight component count constraint that I've got, I've got one token and X number of cards to work with, wherever it is. And these are the pieces I have. And even in our own product, you're doing the same thing. I find it interesting again, to me, this sort of speaks to the wider experience of this role. One of the reasons I want to talk to you today about being a developer that seems to be rather different to being a designer, because it's the way that you are responding so much to to much more precise constraints in a way that as a designer, you are by nature, working in a more amorphous world, at least the beginning, and you're having to define all of the constraints yourself. It's the

Speaker 3


difference between, you know, being an architect and being a builder. Yeah, oh, that's


a lovely comparison. I like that. You give the architect, you go, there's a piece of land, I'd like a house, please. I'd like four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, a garage, and a shed, shed, and the architect goes away, he draws it all. And he goes to, there's a house, brilliant. And then the builder gets, there's a pile of bricks, there's 60,000 pounds, there's a load of concrete, and there's a time constraint. That's what I want the house to look like, you need both bits. But they're

Speaker 2


very different. I mean, that I think that's very valuable. I love that comparison. That's not what I've heard before. But I think it seems to me to be one that describes certainly, from what I've seen so far. Describe that relationship really well. One thing we got from this one is absolutely tonne of listener questions, which I'm really excited to get to. First one is from Oliver, who asks, What's game sentiment that you worked on? are you most proud of

Speaker 3


the one point you've spoken a lot about tennis translate, and it was it was such a big project in terms of my career, that is understandable. We spoke about that a lot. But finally, cracking the solo mode for that was quite an achievement. Because I went through three complete

Speaker 2


iterations, as in like, basically free could be different concepts. Yeah,

Speaker 3


I threw it away two times, and started again, from scratch, to try and get that to work. So actually getting that to work and having that moment of having some really good and nice roots and really experienced playtesters. Come back. No, yes. Really good. It's fun. For the golfer that that was because there was a moment where there was pressure saying, Well, if you know, if it's still not good enough, then we won't put it in the box. And it'll be two to five players. And it's fine. And it's like no, people really enjoy the Super Game. Yeah, I'm convinced I can make a solo out of it. Yeah, yeah. And then the other. The other one that I will mention these distils, and I'll do a quick plug for the fact that that's, that's going to Kickstarter next week. That one allowed me to go back and chocolate factory was my first solo. And that came out came about very much by accident when the pump when I was asked to do a protesting for it. And the publisher said, What do you think of it, and I said, not a lot. I went, alright, I do better. And that's how it came about is I went away and designed something that I felt was better. And that's what ended up getting published. But distilled allowed me to go back and revisit a very similar gameplay style to Chocolate Factory. But with 18 months of design experience under my belt, and all of the information that I've tried to glean from other people in the industry and talking to people and listening to podcasts and reading blogs and things, I felt like I was in a much better place. And it allowed me to go back and correct all of the things that I would love to have gone back and corrected with chocolate factory, with it being my first and distilled the reception that's been getting. And I've just been kind of sat back and watching the kind of results have gone. Yeah, we've got that right.

Speaker 2


Yeah. Oh, that's wonderful, isn't it? That's such a great experience when people are talking about it. The seller mode very your case of selling it very positively. And that thinking yeah, we nailed this. Yeah, that's fantastic. So I've got a question from Mike, which is when is a solo mode right for a game?

Speaker 3


And when is it wrong for a game comes back to the whole brief thing. So there's kind of a list of questions I've even gotten written down to there might be one of my blogs somewhere, which will be the list of questions that I kind of ask the designer or the publisher. Okay, great. You want to solo brilliant, what you want, and if they go, you can't go wrong. Okay, well, how good to play again, how spatial is the game? What's the decision path for a player What are the points of interaction? What do I care about on someone else's turn? And what do I not care about on someone else's turn? So you're looking for the core loop? You're looking for the interaction points, and you're looking for the overall experience. And if they come back to you, and they say, oh, no, it's really good two player game. There's there's this great worker placement thing where you put down one of your own workers and pick up on someone else's. You know, I know that sounds like Raiders, but I'm on the spot. Yeah. This is where the colonies really interact really good at tombs, really tight boards really? Okay, brilliant. Well replicate all of that. Do you care about what resources someone else has got? Oh, no, it doesn't really matter. I mean, they know there's different types of resources. So you need to know how many they've got that which ones they've got, it doesn't really make much difference, because it doesn't affect why she's so cool. Okay, well, then we'll create an only solo mode, that places and collect workers just like a player would, that has all the interaction points have to play a game, but it just counts how many resources it's got, it doesn't actually collect resources, it just goes, I've got three resources, I need to spend two resources, I'll spend two resources, completely abstract out the difference between the different types. Because you've, you've identified the core note, the interaction points, the strong bits of the game, and you identify what you can abstract out, because the last thing you want to be doing is going right, okay, bots term. All right, it's got four corn, three sheep, and a cow, right? Four corn three sheet and a cat rock, I put them over there in that player odd.


Yes. No, four

Speaker 3


done next term. So you need to find the bits that are important than the bits that aren't important.

Speaker 2


And that's the kind of way I guess zeroing in on that right is the zooming on what the important interactivity spaces which bits are required for the human players to do but actually aren't relevant because that you can abstract them away quite nicely, because the last thing we're gonna be doing is tonnes of admin. And just one thing you know, you asked a question about the spatial side of it. Is that just because I understand the the server approach, or is it because spatial spatial awareness is the hardest thing? Yeah, I thought this was this. This is what I found.

Speaker 3


Take undaunted, for example, the solo mode from daunted will come out in soon, actually, June sometime this summer. What another one another one you've created. Yeah, this is CO design between as a co solo design between me and David C for the undaunted series. And we went back and we did undaunted, normally, undaunted, North Africa, which will forever cause me nightmares, and undaunted reinforcements, which is the new box. So we've done in the new box, there will be solo support for every undaunted scenario there has ever been from both sides. So there is a common the numbers now there's like 40, campaign settings scenarios. And there's two sides on every scenario. So I've written 18 separate solo games.

Speaker 2


Oh, because you had to come up with the solo rule set for each one of the scenarios and each of the boxes, but each one of the scenarios for each side in the scenario Oh, and is that because there wasn't really a practical way with the the scenario based games to just invent a generic rule that will just work in the written iOS?

Speaker 3


Yep. If your rifleman always moves forwards, and then ships, there are certain scenarios where he will walk into a river and get pinned down by machine guns and die, right? Yeah, exactly. That's just stupid. Yeah, you get to do it. But it's the perfect thing to do in the next scenario when he's got to go and capture that for like, three months, when i i Written and I gone through all the scenarios, and I'd written all the photos. Each scenario was about four or five pages of notes. I mean, without drawing them, it was flowcharts. If your rifle minis here, do this, if not do this if not do this, if not the complete list followed every troop that every site in every scenario for the IT team at Osprey games, managed to fit all of those flowcharts on Tarot site cards. Oh, wow. Astonishing. They've turned scenarios that I was playing with four or five pages of Google doc to take the six cards out of the solar set and place them on the table next to the solar box player area. Follow the instructions on the cards more.

Speaker 2


They're kind of modular, are they? Where do they work? Oh, very clever. So you don't have to wander stereo?

Speaker 3


Yeah, that's brilliant. So you, you your squadron leader in scenarios 2345678 use this code. But in scenario one, and Scenario nine use this code, because it's got slightly different rules on it. And you just go down that smart Oh, my God, that guy, that brilliant job of putting that together? Because I mean, the rulebook would have been ridiculous, the thickness, you know, the amount of writing there was in all those flowcharts and I do boiled it all down, sit down, lay the cards, get the cards out, follow the instructions.

Speaker 2


Fantastic. That is very clever. To me, that seems like like an like a huge step forward in terms of the ability to do that to better modularize things like that logic. Fascinating. God made me want to get hold of the reinforcements box. Now I must admit I didn't love North Africa.

Speaker 2


I can imagine, by the end of it, it really wouldn't have been. But sorry, I just just very fascinated to see to see that in see how that pans out. Because yeah,

Speaker 3


you asked me to play a two player game of undaunted, I'd say, Cool. Let's get out. Let's get out one of the lights scenarios in North Africa, because they're really fun, as you said, Go away and design a solo mode for an asymmetrical war game with a modular map on six different troop types and different vehicle seats and different situational setting. I tell you where to stick. Yeah,


I quite reasonably from the sound.

Speaker 3


But I was almost bullied on by the fact that Anthony Hugo, who's who's the developer Ospreay has done all this wonderful work with the card system. And David curtsy who designed the original solo system. They were saying to me in development meetings, don't worry about North Africa. If you can't do all the scenarios, don't worry about it. It's not a problem. And I'm one of those as someone who played competitive sport I played, you know, village cricket for sort of 20 odd years. And I play golf and things like that. That to me is a regrettable. Yeah, of course. It's

Speaker 2


like, no way I'm going to do more. You know,

Speaker 3


don't don't worry about trying to hit it over that palms. Don't worry about it. Just lay up. No Pity over the pub. Oh, I can get all those scenarios. Yeah, completely. Oh,

Speaker 2


fantastic. That's so cool. And this is Rob had a question as well for us, which was, are there certain types of game that you wouldn't attempt to solo mode for? And I guess that kind of begins cross setting with that, right, which is, although in the end, you did make that work? It sounds like in general things like the war games, and there's loads of rich spatial interaction on natural places for settlements to go. Is that fair? Yeah, it

Speaker 3


comes back to that concept of design budget again. Is it a light 20 minute gateway area control game with lots of spatial awareness? Yes. Okay. Dumbledore is just not worth the effort, because the rules will be so complex. Is it a really deep, involved? steamatic big box game where you know, it's 3.54 on BGG? Cool. Yeah, we can miss out on over that, because you've got the budget to be able to put all those rules in, because you've either got to do it accurately, or you've got to do it randomly. randoms just a bit naff, when it makes so much difference. In a recent discussion with David, I think we were in a podcast for Ospreay. Again, he real nugget that stuck in my head ever since. Was the you know, when do you do a solo mode? When do you not do a solo? And he said, does the game have lots of interaction? Yes. Great. I'd like to do the solo mode for this, I think it'd be really interesting is the game only interaction? Don't do a solo mode


hmm, very interesting.

Speaker 3


So pick almost any Euro game off of the shelf, and you go, that's got lots of interaction, that would be really interesting solo mode for pick a party game off your shelf, and go this only interaction? How many copies of just one are you going to sell? Because you've got a solo mode for it. None, not. The game is all about the interaction.

Speaker 2


Exactly. It's it's it might as well do the cards against humanity. So don't strike me as I think that's just doing really I don't know, strike me as being very useful. Okay, I've got a great one we want to get there from from bears as well. I really like this question about thinking about the future of teaching games, because this is a really cool one. What do you think of the utility of on ramping players, I guess in terms of teaching them by starting them off with a solo node as a teaching tool?

Speaker 3


It's in that list that list of questions. So the questions I asked a publisher or a designer, when we're doing the concept is, do you want the solo mode to teach you how to play the multiplayer game? It's kind of one of the concepts that you can bear in mind with part of the design. So an example of that it's not something I've worked on, it's just something I play cooperrider heavy Euro game, really, really tight design. And me and a friend of mine, we played it two or three times to play. And we were both rubbish at it. We were scoring like 12 points in two and a half hours of Euro game going, Oh, well, this can't be this difficult. Surely, I went, why am I playing the solo mode? And I kind of went from 12 points to 20 points to 25 points to 30 points to 35 points. I've got it. I've got it. I've worked out to play this game, because the solo mode taught me how to play the game. Interesting, not teaching me in terms of put this cube over there and then do this. But in terms of strategically how to play the game, because I watched the way that they had built that solo. And I went, do you know what? It's concentrated on two actions? I'm pretty much ignoring everything else. And I try and do a little bit of everything. That's clearly wrong. Okay, I need to concentrate on two things. And I need to concentrate on the two things that the bot isn't concentrating on. Got it. Oh, no loss. Okay. I'm gonna concentrate on one of the things the box concentrating on on one of the things it isn't smashed it fascinating. That's how to play the game, share a strategy with your opponent and have a different strategy than your opponent and do them both better.

Speaker 2


And that was an insight into the dynamics of that game around how competing for effectively a strategy works that if you don't compete with someone to let them have everything they're gonna win or get steamrolled, right,

Speaker 3


but you also need something of your own that you can fall back on with the Internet. And it was just that sort of, you know, that very slow, fade up with a light bulb. It wasn't a thing like little moment, it was a gradually getting brighter, light bulb moment. But just that level of realisations, you can't right now I've got this, and there are games, I'm by no means a savant, these type of things. You know, just because I've worked with in the industry doesn't mean I win every game. Yeah, but there are games that I'm good at. And there are games that are not so good. And games that I'm good at, a lot of them will have solo modes that kind of reveal the strategies to you in the way that they work. And therefore by playing it solo, I will get that pop up that step up, as you would do where you're playing a game with someone who's really experienced, but they're teaching you the game, and it's a dedicated learning game. And they're really going no, no, no, no, no, you don't want to invest in that company. Right now, what you want to look at is you want to look at the company, that's next going to be on top of the share market that's going to buy this, it's going to do this, it's gonna do the other. And you kind of go Ah, now I get it now great, because someone is helping you through that solo mode, can you can build a solar mode to do that.

Speaker 2


And do you think that that could be more explicitly positioned as a utility potentially, or maybe maybe not so useful as a way to teach people games,

Speaker 3


I think it's an interesting space to explore providing it's right for the product. If you put it in a game that's not going to have a strong solo uptake anyway, then, it might not work because you might be losing out. But if the next day, the turkey game says the best way to learn the game is to play it solo. when you ought you're already selling it to almost every solo game on the planet anyway. Right? Yeah. Because it's. And they'll and they'll go after David says he's brilliant. Yeah.

Speaker 2


So that that's really interesting to think about there being an audience now for solo games like that, because I think even just a few years ago, didn't seem like that was the case. They seem to be more like, oh, you can pick up and maybe you can pick up a bit extra business if you do. If you'd have a solo mode, how important you think it is to products commercial success these days,

Speaker 3


comes back down to the product. Are you putting your game on crowdfunding? Are you relying on internet marketing? Is your game big, complicated difficult to teach? Then you need a solo mode, you absolutely have to have one because the reason so let one of the reasons behind solar most taking off is that is the blossoming Internet communities and your your Facebook's you read it's your Twitter's your PTG forums, all of that sort of stuff, is there is now a solo gaming community, who never see each other. And it's that community that has really fueled solo gaming, that's where a lot of the market has come from is because solo gamers now feel included. And for whatever reason that they're not going with other people. They now have a community that they can be part of you got the latest game that's got this solo, oh, yeah, I'll get that many points in it that Oh, really, I'm not tried that strategy. I should try that strategy. Next time I play. Suddenly. Now. It's a social experience. And it does all of those brilliant things that we love for games to do, and it connects people and brings people together. But it's doing that it's doing that with a solo mode. If that's your market, then you really have to look to do it. And we can all see within hours of the Kickstarter launching, if it hasn't got a solo mode. And it probably should have one comment after comment after comment will be either solo, I'm not backing it with that solo. Also dividing the expansion or No Not interested.

Speaker 2


I mean, I don't think that's one of the developments that anyone would have predicted five years or six years ago. It was like that's where but as you said, it seems to be such a big community. I mean, I've heard figures like people putting as much as used to be saying 10 or 20% to a Kickstarter is revenue, but it sounds like it could even be more than that now, but for some titles, if it's particularly for some products, as you say they're like, quite big complex games.

Speaker 3


Yeah, 10% is the figure offered 10% If your game has got solo play then about 10% issue is based on solo, which is not a lot and when you're fighting for I'm really need these extra components to make the solo word work. I really need another two weeks worth of playtesting and you're up against the publisher who's looking at the bottom line and they're saying it might it's it's 8% of my sales I'm just not interested it's just not worth it. But you know, then it is kind of you kind of go Yeah, but that's my percent.

Speaker 2


Yeah, exactly. It's the bit that you're a part of it

Speaker 3


is 100% to me, because that's all I've got multiplayer games, not my problem. So in this amount mode out is what you've hired me to do. So that 8% is everything. If that 8% drops by 2%, then, you know as 25%, I've got wrong. So yeah, that's where I can fight back a bit.

Speaker 2


If you're giving any advice to anyone who wanted to get into doing solo development, what would be the best starting place you'd tell them to go?

Speaker 3


It's a mix between playing as much as you can, and learning from them. And try and do that at the same time as designing something or developing something. And you'll end up with this horrible, messy hybrid thing that probably doesn't really work. But that's how you're going to work out what works and what doesn't work. So you could almost go, Okay, well, I'm gonna get Rondell flowchart mechanism out of an accurately and title method out of two, can you and you know, a card flip system out of perseverance, I'm just picking on 30 Games, because we're not talking about two and a small deck system out of this guy with a big deck system out of this game, right? Okay, there's five different David's 30 solo designs. And here's my here's my design, and I kind of want to design a solo for it. Okay, well, let's try a small deck first. No, I didn't work big deck. No, I didn't work rumble. Yeah, oh, Rumble works. Okay, let's try rumble for a bit. And just kind of discover it. And it can take me a reasonable amount of thinking time and thinking times great. Because I can do it when I'm driving or while I'm supposed to be asleep or out for a walk, or whatever it is thinking time is easy to find. It can take quite a long time to kind of get hold of that system and go, What I need is 18 cards with this information there and that information there and this and then you shuffle in the reading. Right? Okay. That's the stats, the right system for this guy. But 30 just goes I just do this that Nilla Well, oh, yeah, yeah, no.

Speaker 2


I guess he's a special kind of talent, isn't he? That's the thing. That's when you find the people who've got those kinds of very unusual, just ability to just do it quite naturally, or at least it seems that way anyway. And then for publishers, what are your kind of top three tips for them in terms of creating? If they decide, right? Well, actually, we started, our game would fit a solar node, if they believe that first, I guess, what are the top three tips for them? I'm guessing one of them has to be this getting this really tight brick frame, which is good practice anyway. But it seems like defining that really tightly seemed critical for the selo mode as well.

Speaker 3


Yeah, it's kind of getting that I would, I would say what you really want to focus in on is this, the solo experience you want to create, don't necessarily get pigeonholed into AR, we must create an AI opponent, it must be an auto solo mode. Don't start from there. Get there. If it's the right answer. field from the What experience do you want that solo gamer to have? Do you want it to be an experience where they there's nothing much on telly, but they get it out and they play on the coffee table and they pack it away? And they put it away? And it's distracted them for 20 minutes? Or do you want them to turn their phone on Do Not Disturb for eight hours? And stay at the gaming table playing this until like, What experience do you want that solo player to have? Answering that question will then answer a lot of the other questions for you. But that yeah, it's working out production limitations, I having a limitation. And the constraint is better than not having one. Having complete carte blanche can lead to very bloated solutions that don't really need to be there. playtesting SoLoMo just difficult because there's a there is a limit on how much you can play test a solo mode. And knowing when you when you're approaching that limit. I'm still learning that but I know now when I hit my limit, but I'm still learning where I leave myself short of my limit.


Why do you think it has such a limit to it? Because you get too good at it?

Speaker 3


Can you unpick it too much? And the difficulty gets harder and harder and harder and harder and harder because you keep tailoring it to how you're playing? Right? Yeah, completely. And then suddenly you hand it out, you hand it over to someone else. And they play it from the robot. I mean, you know, blind play testing someone playing the solo game in front of you. Brilliant.

Speaker 2


Yeah, that that's the gold standard really, ultimately for that stays relevant, isn't it,

Speaker 3


and they just get absolutely annihilated and have a miserable time playing the game. And you go, Oh, yeah, if you've done that, and you've done that, then if you don't miss that, and they don't let the other that's not fun. Because you've made it too hard. Because you've played it too much. You need to find the point where you can where you can still go back and test it when you need to. Because if you reach that limit, and then you make some changes, we've had our play testers, we get that feedback or something in the multiplayer game changes and it comes back back at you, you still need capacity to be able to play test it yourself. And I have had projects where I've just gone can't play this anymore. I'm done. And now I have to go and find play testers every time I need to play to something. I can no longer play test this game. And it's it's being able to sit below that ceiling. So you've got a little bit of wiggle room.

Speaker 2


Essentially you say this, because that is a problem that I think we encountered a bit with the magnetic one was that DJI would play it so much. There were times when it would be like I think we're doing this too hard. That's going to be very, very challenging to play against sometimes for new players. I guess that's not normally a problem in normal playtesting because you're playing with new people and you're new you can see See how they're managing with it all the time. So you never get this thing of like, Ah, this is all terribly easy, because it's not that everyone is finding it easy. There's always somebody who's not finding it easy. Whereas on your own, you're just you don't know that you're, you can't see your own skill curve going up, and you're just making this thing tougher and tougher.

Speaker 3


Yeah, I mean, providing you've given yourself enough sort of moving parts or Levers as the kind of term that we use, Brian, you've got enough levers within your soul. And it can get really, really hard providing you've still got an option to present a base game version, going back to distil distil has got a developer on it chap called Richard Woods, who worked so hard, and he's so small, a huge amount of respect for the work that we've just done on this. Richard has played in the solo mode for distilled over 150 times play rate is phenomenal. I would make it real change, or I would update some cards at midnight, and I wake up at six o'clock in the morning. And Richard played it four times. And he's found all the problems in it already. And it's just like with this you brilliant every Richard, but I obviously had to end up building a Richard mode, because he was beating it on standard difficulty, but like 30 points, and it was like, Okay, well, I'll just keep turning the difficulty up turning up turning up turning out until which he's going to lose. And there's now other people playing that set of Richard difficulty rules, who are going, Oh, no, we might not come up with another variant to make it more difficult. And yet, you if you were to throw that as someone who's playing the game for the first time, they just go, oh, yeah, he's asking me to do what, in seven rounds, you're gonna allow off. So yeah, being able to tailor that difficulty in a kind of having nice, clear cut difficulty levels is quite similar. Suddenly, it's quite important to get.

Speaker 2


Well, I mean, David, this has been absolutely fascinating. I've really enjoyed this being able to spend that time time with you working through this, because there's so many interesting things I think to consider. But maybe from a product perspective, which I noticed that you're thinking caps coming comes around to just great. I just want to ask you what we should expect from you. What we should look out for from stuff that you're working on soon. I mean, you've obviously got a things in the pipeline, that's maybe too much, but bearing in mind that this episode will be out in the middle of July. What kind of things should people keep on that? Keep their eyes peeled out for?

Speaker 3


And don't it should be coming up fairly soon. That's the reinforcements box, which will contain backwards compatible solo modes for with the flowchart system for the autonomous stuff. Yeah, cool. Yeah. So that's coming up tennis trials, you'd get two backers. So that was development as well as solo design on that one. Ruthless, that will be quite a quick turnaround. Ruth has got a new expansion. I think I think the crowdfunding for that is just finished, they didn't use Kickstarter, they use their own website that includes a new new solo play version for that. scrumpy will probably arrive at some point that's got my solo mode in it. That was a six for Kickstarter a few months ago just deal with mentioned a couple of times that goes to Kickstarter next week. Fantastic quests as a product by think Luke Ames that includes, one of my sola modes in then you got the Alley Cat stuff that was kick started at the beginning of the year. So you have dice theme park, we have eternal Palace, both of which feature my solo mode. Bright Eye Games are a new publisher spawn that are some of the people that are involved with PSC, some other UK publisher, they're relaunching a new version of Michael dance by Mike Nance. And the follow up game that's all about termites. They're a straight to retail release later this year, they both got my solo modes in, you know, there's like another three or four that within the next couple of months, you'll kind of find out about an hour to talk about it more openly.

Speaker 2


I think that's great, because what it means is that people can see the kind of result of the thinking that you've put in if they're interested in playing some of your games as well, which I think is always really valuable to connect up the final product with the kind of mental process by which it was made is I think is always fascinating and interesting for them. So on that note, then thank you again, for having a conversation with me. This was really fascinating, and I'm sure everyone will find it very useful when it comes to solo games.

Speaker 1


Producing fun is produced by naylor games. if you enjoyed the show? Follow us on Spotify, Stitcher or other major podcasting platforms. Remember, producing fun is also a product and it thrives on feedback. So please leave a review wherever possible, or simply send me your feedback directly. You can message me on Twitter at NaylorJames or write me an email Until next time,


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