Developmental Reminiscing: Why Did We Choose Path C Again?

So I was listening to The D6 Generation podcast a week or two back (if you’ve not listened to them, they’re very enjoyable and informative; check it out here) and it started me down memory lane of some of the decisions made along the way.

The D6 crew were discussing various coming games and whether they were anticipating them or not and Leviathans came up. Now one of the guys (sorry, can’t remember which one) had some issues with the basic concepts/presentations of the ultimate form of the game. What was so fascinating to me is that at multiple times during the development cycle we’d had those exact same conversations.

Now I don’t want this to turn into a “justification” on my part, nor do I want it to spark a war of “what is better.” Instead, as with all my blogs these last two years, I’m just sharing the process I passed through with the community. Will it change his mind? Will it change anyone else that may have the same issues as they peruse the game? Likely not…and that’s okay. Instead, I’m hoping to simply show that we did consider these issues and ultimately chose a course after a lot of discussions.

So the first ‘turn off’ mentioned in the podcast is the hexboard. The comment being that for many miniatures player the visual feast of a table-top miniatures gaming board, with fantastically painted miniatures and the brilliant terrain, is all part of the experience. With a fold-out board, Leviathans inherently lacks that aesthetic.

We kicked around the idea some of going true table-top miniatures play without any type of board. However, looking around in the industry we saw a general trend across multiple companies/games over the last half a decade to have some type of board element to ease game play. What’s more, after playing the initial game it just felt ‘right’ to have the boardgame element.

So will it have that potential for a luscious look during game play? Not like other table-top games. After all, I just grabbed some Flames of War miniatures and rules this last Origins and I had a blast making some terrain and getting some games going. So I completely understand the concept of Leviathans missing that visceral feel of a commander watching over a “realisitc looking” battlefield as conflict unfolds. Instead we made a conscious decision to trade that for the easier game play and “jumping into it the first time” that comes with making it more a miniatures/board game fusion. Of course we hope the fantastic quality/style of the miniatures makes up for most of that, however…

As a final comment on this aspect, to be clear, it wouldn’t take much at all to make Leviathans a pure table-top miniatures game; a turning template and quick conversions for the ranges and you’re off and running. But it’s a valid point that the game isn’t ‘designed’ that way out of the box.

The second turn-off discussed was the visual look of the vessels. In other words, we’ve created an alternate universe that is very close to the real world, meaning all the real world physics still apply, most of the real world construction techniques and materials remain the same, even most of the design philosophies and aesthetics of the nations remain the same.

What all this means is that when you compare nation (faction) ships to each other, they’re relatively similar. In most table-top miniatures games the factions have wildly divergent styles, make them not only easy to tell apart on a field of battle, but also providing a very wild visual smorgasbord that can snag many different types of players. Right within the same game you can have a player that loves fantasy elements, a player who loves horror elements and a player that just loves guys with big guns all playing on the table together.

This particular concept is one I’ve discussed in depth for long, long years with various people. For those that remember the game, FASA Corporation published Centurion/Renegade Legion for a number of years. I know this may sound anathema coming from me and my long history/love with BattleTech, but I believe the Centurion game system was perhaps the best FASA ever produced. However after not that many years the sales plummeted and eventually the game was discontinued. I’d always wondered if a huge part of that was due to the fact that the Grav tanks that were the stars of the game simply all looked too much alike.

So heading into Leviathans, where we knew we would have a very narrow window within which to create, this aspect was a very real concern. As such, instead of instant recognition from a distant to a faction, we had to concentrate on subtle differences. So, let’s dive into looking at some illustrations.

The first two are what most of you have seen if you’ve been following my blogs…British and French Battleships. Below that are two sketches that you may or may not have seen (can’t remember how much I’ve leaked some days). The first one is a German battleship and the bottom is a Russian battleship.

British Class 4 Battleship_Preview.jpg

French Type 4 Battleship_Preview.jpg

German Battleship Sketch_Preview.jpg

Russian Battleship Sketch_Preview.jpg

Looking at them right in a row like this you can see both sides of the coin. They are all ships no doubt about it. Nothing drastically odd or different in the lot of them. And yet they have subtle but striking features for each faction.

In particular there are three areas of a ship (usually regardless of class/Type) that delineate it as a given faction: 1. the placement/style of the tanks holding electroid that keep the ships aloft, 2. the stern/ducted fan/fin assembly and 3. smoke stacks.

Now not all three are absolutely unique within all eight factions. Coming up with 24 unique configurations was simply pushing boundaries we weren’t willing to break as it would’ve required violating our ‘universe rules’ as noted above. But I think we managed it most of the time…

1. This is perhaps the one area we strove the hardest to try and create a unique/style and look for each nation.

  • The British have two stirrup-like apparatus that slings underneath the keel.
  • The French have one of the coolest, IMO, with a series of ball-tanks right above the keel that provide a peak-a-boo right through the ship.
  • The German’s move theirs to belly tanks along the port/starboard, confident their armor (the finest in the world) will keep their sips alive.
  • Meanwhile the Russions also have a belly-like configuration but use a canisters system; they don’t have the armor of the Germans, but those crazy Russians expect their crews to make do with what ever they’re given and make it work (which they usual do).

2. This is the stern/ducted fan/fin region of the ship. You’ll notice the German, French and Russian ducted fan regions are fairly unique looking, but the British has a lot in common with the Germans (cause German’s make some of the best propulsion systems as well), but still their own slight twist.

3. Finally, this one is arguable one of the subtlest areas but looking at them together like this you can begin to make out the unique differences that set each faction apart.

As you’ve seen from the galley section, there was a pile of iterations of art for all the various factions, with a large amount of that due to the need I saw to ensure that even if it was subtle, the ships had their own unique flavors.

Wow…shocking that I wrote something that was much longer than I expected it to be…but as ever, just wanted to provide a thorough track from A, to B to Zed of where we went with things.

Hopefully The D6 Generation crew don’t mind me providing some context for their discussions (and again, can’t recommend their podcast highly enough…check ’em out!).

See ya next duty shift!

Randall

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