Kicking off Questo development we were excited about creating a role-playing game experience that had a different feel than other projects we had worked on. We were thinking about the reasons that folks don’t play RPGs, or don’t play them as often as they’d like and we came up with three:
We wanted to make a game where these obstacles were laughable. It needed to be simple and social, and flexible enough that players could come and go as they please.
We began our process by making a “minimum viable product” (MVP). This is a Silicon Valley term that came into my lexicon from the Stop, Hack and Roll Podcast. The idea is that you make the simplest possible version of the game first so you can start testing and iterating as soon as possible.
We gave ourselves one afternoon to make the MVP, which meant we would need to make a lot of quick decisions. The first major design question was what is the role of the audience, both as individuals and as teams. We opted to cast each team as a single character on an adventure with the characters from the other tables. During the Quizzo-style breaks, the team members will huddle up to discuss/debate/derail their choice as the character they’re all playing together. Once back in the adventure the characters will be working together to overcome different encounters.
The game also needed a competitive angle to create tension between the tables and put some pressure on the decision making. The problem we were running into was how could we create dramatic risk for the characters without undermining the gameplay? If each character represented an entire table of people, we couldn’t risk having the characters get eliminated or separated without a plan for what we would do with that team for the rest of the game. We landed on a paradigm where the characters would succeed and advance between the encounters at the same time, but the question is how much does it cost them to do it, and who has the better story at the end?
The last major question for the MVP was what would our role be as performers and gamerunners? How would we frame our interaction with the audience? Here, instead of taking a swing at the best answer, we’re going into the pilot with a couple different modes in mind that we’ll test in different encounters. Sometimes we’ll operate as neutral gamerunners, other times we’ll play characters. I’m most excited to test out the version where we play gamerunner-as-character, rooting on the characters and pitting the teams against each other. We’ll see which mode seems the most fun during the pilot.
Another thing we’re testing in the pilot is how we can use the note cards that teams will turn in to capture their decisions. We realized we could have some fun by making them into kits of gear, to flesh out the characters and inspire the players’ creativity. At the beginning of the game, each table will receive a cache of items that their character has with them on the adventure ahead. The teams won’t know exactly what gear they’re selecting, they’ll simply have to choose one of the available monikers like “The One Who Rushes In” or “The One With the Keen Eyes” but for a little preview, I’d like to show you what one of the caches looks like. The team that picks the [redacted] moniker will get to take these fine items with them out into the wild world:
If you’re in Philly and you’re interested in coming to the Questo pilot, shoot me a line and I’ll get you the details.
images from https://game-icons.net/