Design Diary (Part 1): Where Did It All Begin?
“Bloodborne? I mean, I’m familiar with it, but no, I haven’t played it. I do know the basics, though. The setting is interesting, and people like the mechanics… Punishing but fair. You lose, it’s because you messed up, not because the game cheap-shotted you. I can get behind that.
Board game adaptation? Yeah, I’d have some ideas.”
I’m not sure how long ago that was, time sort of runs together from the beginning of a project to its end (heh, end, as if we’re there yet!) But the beginning does stand out, mixed together with initial design and concept sessions, art briefs, and, in a unique case to this project, acquiring a PS4 and the subsequent eleven+ Full Completion runs of the game.
Looking back, it does still feel like we started this project only a few months ago- time runs together as I said- and it takes Eric (Lang. Might have heard of him) reminding me that it has, in fact, the specific event I’m remembering took place over a year ago, and that wasn’t even near the actual beginning.
So where did it all begin? Well, specifics of that are not really all that interesting, so let’s fast forward a bit to one of our initial design meetings, and show a snippet of just where this game was born. Sadly, I do not remember exactly which convention it was at, but myself and Eric were sitting down in the later hours at our hotel, literally the only available time for these things, given how frantic conventions tend to be. This was one of the rare opportunities where we were physically in the same part of the world, so we had to make these sessions count. Fixing myself a complimentary cup of hotel-quality coffee (black) while Eric procured a sugar-laden fruit juice (little known fact: Eric Lang is part Fruit-fly), we sat down and began to compile the snippets of ideas and thoughts we’d been sharing over the last week or so:
“Alright, so as I said before, you know something I’ve always wanted to do? A dice-less, card-driven dungeon crawl. Remove as many aspects of “luck” as possible. Make it so your choices are what determine success and failure. Just so happens, that also describes Bloodborne.” I said, in a completely natural “this was not written as exposition and intro” way (again, my memory sometimes warps events).
“Deck-building. If we’re going to use cards, then let’s go all out. Not just have cards be a part, but be an essential part. We have a chance here to make something truly unique. Aww man, I’m gonna be honest, I’m super excited for this.” Eric replied, pulling a notebook from his backpack and flipping it open. Unsurprisingly, there were already scribbled notes and bullet points laid out- thoughts and ideas collected over the last week, pulled from nearly two-decades worth of game-design experience.
Before long, we had come to realize our initial “light design chat”, had spilled over into 3am… This did not bode well for the next day, convention still in full swing… But as I mentioned before, these face-to-face sessions were rare, and what was a couple nights without sleep in the grand scheme of the project? It’s not like those would be the only ones- oh no, far from it. Even then, we both knew this would be the new “normal” if we wanted to make this the best we could- and we weren’t going to accept anything less than that.
But for now, we had the beginning of an idea… And, despite usually trying to remain neutral when it came to projects, I had to admit I walked away excited.
Returning to my room, I brought up Youtube on my phone. The time was 3:15am, the video, something along the lines “The Lore of Bloodborne” clocked in at over 45 minutes… But hey, what was another hour in the grand scope of the project?
By Michael Shinall