Pledge manager launching in the next 24 hours!
3 days ago
– Mon, May 25, 2020 at 09:26:38 PM
Hi everyone - just a very short update to tell you it's almost here!
We're really close to finally getting the PM open for all you lovely backers. We've been working on a ton of new add-ons and some of them are stunning. Our partnership with Artis Opus in particular has led to some incredible art materials which are basically works of art in their own right - perfect for anyone inspired to paint their own buildings!
Check this out:
This design is literally cut into the wood (I think by laser!). I had no idea this level of detail was remotely possible with such a process.
This won't be the only update for the next few weeks. The new company logos have been coming along really well too - I think you're really going to enjoy what we've come-up with. I am very excited to post them as soon as they're ready.
Watch out for those surveys!
All the very best,
Behind-the-scenes: Designing the employee cards (and a timeline update)
about 1 month ago
– Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 01:13:03 PM
It’s update time again! This is going to be a long one, not because the progress update is long (it's not) but because it incorporates a detailed look behind-the-scenes of how we are designing the employee cards. If deep game design discussion isn’t interesting to you, please feel free to skip it! But I suspect among there will be many backers who really appreciate a “peek behind-the-curtain”.
It certainly looks like we will now be shipping later than October. We’re still hoping to ship this year - but that’s not something I can 100% confirm yet.
Covid-19 has disrupted things for us more than expected on the manufacturing side: production lines have been delayed and quotes have had to be completely re-done after manufacturers have seen their own prices rise on various items. All of which has a knock-on-effect on us. We will still deliver the physical quality of product (the game has and will only continue to get better!) because robust early planning has given us a buffer to absorb these issues. But these issues will all take some time for us and our partners on the manufacturing side to navigate (I have a huge amount of sympathy for them right now too!). Issues around some new add-on pricing is why we still haven’t opened the pledge manager yet - but rest assured, you will have plenty of time to fill your survey. We will leave it open for a good while when we do.
As I thought it might last time, Covid-19 has also hit our ability to conduct some of the final sanity testing we needed to do for employee cards and the tutorial mode. We’ve had to find new ways to develop and test this content without being able to get people physically together given the social distancing rules in place in the UK. This turned out to be a bit tougher than we expected. Digital tools can help, but they don’t model the practical issues as well as a physical copy does. Luckily we’ve found some people who fit in our venn of a) a group of people who live in the same household b) have never played Magnate before (critical for the tutorial!) and are c) up for live streaming the whole thing for myself and lead developer Jaya! So the blind testing of that will begin very shortly.
I am also shortly going to be in touch with those particularly generous backers who named a neighbourhood or decided to put their face on a banknote. So watch out for requests for wording and portraits soon.
Thank you again for your patience with us. We’re moving this all along as fast as possible, but, as I mentioned before it’s very much our mantra not to compromise the long term product quality. As I have heard said “a delayed game is only delayed for a while. A rushed game is bad forever”. I couldn’t agree more!
Design spotlight: The employee cards
Given all of that though, things really are coming together well, if more slowly than preferred. In particular we are *very* pleased with how the final employee cards are turning out. So I thought you might find a behind-the-scenes look at how we design these cards interesting.
As a quick reminder, the employee cards are a 27-card mini-expansion available in the Tycoon pledge. Each round new employees are made available to players to hire for their company. By spending an action a player can gain one of these employee cards which gives them some kind of unique benefit for the rest of the game.
This type of content will be quite familiar to eurogame players - and for good reason. Special or asymmetric powers that players can select (whether they be themed as buildings, people, magical abilities etc) are nearly always fun. They change the game in interesting ways and make players feel a bit like a superhero at the table - who doesn’t want to have a unique ability that no one else possesses?
From a design perspective - trade secret inbound - they’re also great content because they make an easier addition to a game, than, for example, a full expansion. That’s because granting players such special powers don’t usually require inventing new mechanics, which - if they are interesting - inevitably bring with them all sorts of complex interactions with the core game and its carefully managed balance. Instead, expansions like the employee cards just let players manipulate what is already there; by bending rules and deliberately unbalancing aspects of the game in their favour to a tolerable degree that can be readily controlled.
A good and very simple example from Magnate’s employee cards is the Business Development Manager: The player possessing the card gets double the amount of money they usually would when they take the consult action. The consult rule already exists: any player can spend an action to take the current land price from the bank. But the empowered player simply has a superior version of it.
From a rules perspective this is very easy to implement because a brief piece of card text tells you everything you need to know about the card. We also already know how this will fit into gameplay more generally. We know what consult can be used for, how players feel about using it (suddenly getting a big pile of cash from the bank feels great!) and what the general impact of raising instant cash in a game of Magnate is for what kind of tactics or strategies then become viable (earlier buys, not being forced to liquidate assets for cash earlier). The part of the design process we can then focus on is just a) is this effect interesting enough - i.e. does it add new option space or ‘spice’ to a game? and b) is its power balanced - does it undo the existing balance in the game too much in that player’s favour?
That design focus is great, but it’s still easy to make miss-steps if you aren’t careful. We still have 27 cards to balance and while its *very* easy to come-up with potential effects, only some of them will actually be interesting. Careful thought and testing needs to go into making sure they remain interesting over many plays as well. After all, we want Magnate to be a game people keep wanting to come back to.
The best way to approach all such game design challenges is to set some design goals. Outside the basic description (“a set of cards, which can be taken by players which grant them unique abilities”) it’s important to specify how you want the cards to play and feel. So after a very brief discussion and some very early conceptual testing, we set the following as goals:
- All cards should have some benefit that is very obvious - so players can start imagining potential uses for them immediately and are motivated to take them. We don’t want cards that require you to understand a game ‘meta’ before they begin to make any sense because this makes them unapproachable. Magnate isn’t that kind of game. The double consult value card example we used above certainly fulfils this.
- They should make you feel powerful - Cards which are powerful but don’t make you feel powerful fall into the trap from point a) - you won’t be motivated to take them even if they’re good. But they’re also bad for an even more important reason: they miss out on the fact that feeling powerful is just a great emotional hit in itself and a central reason people like asymmetric abilities. The double consult value cards gives you this hit for sure.
- They should actually make you powerful - Feeling good is great - but if a card turns out to be underwhelming it’ll be disappointing and not used again. We want players to actually distort aspects of the game when they use them - perhaps accompanied by the odd power-mad cackle! Our double consult value card gives you instant funds early-on when you are scrabbling round for cash. Later on, it can help you avoid needing to sell for expansion and waiting to sell your properties for a higher price. So it genuinely gives you power.
- They must have a meaningful cost - A cost doesn’t have to be an in-game currency like money, it could be time or actions or some other resource. Whatever it is, something significant has to be given-up: taking this means not potentially doing something else. If an option is free, then there is no reason not to take it - if you care about winning. Which actually means there is no real choice and no player agency - a key component of the fun we expect from modern games. This is why we settled on it costing an action to take a card. In Magnate, there’s always something useful you can do with an action. Because of the consult action it’s always worth at least the current land price to a player and in a short game with a high player count, you might only get 18 actions in total. Giving-up one of those actions meaningfully impacts your game.
- They must have high contextual value but a non-computable absolute value - This is a subtle but critical game design point which can result in the same player agency problem as above if not recognised and is something that is a problem even in some published designs. If a card 1 has one computable absolute value - i.e. it will 100% certainly pay out X benefit for Y investment and card 2 has a lower computable absolute value (it will pay out less) then the only rational thing to do to win is select card 1. And as soon as something is the only rational option, it is, as above, no longer a choice and no player agency is really being excised, which will leave many players cold. For some there could still be fun in calculating the value: some heavy eurogames draw heavily on this particular pleasure, for instance and it’s the fun of some kind of puzzles. But it’s just not as interesting as taking an option which requires that careful thought to select and can only realise substantial benefits from being used in a particular way through clever play. Achieving this goal with such an expansion is harder than it first appears because, by nature, many of the initial ideas will be more directly computable: precisely because they exploit existing mechanics in a simple way. One card we had to reject for example was an employee that gave you a fixed income every turn. Depending purely which round you were in, it was just too easy to decide whether it was the correct decision or not to take it. Our double consult value card, however, was a successful alternative: In general in Magnate, consulting a lot is usually a poor strategy because it uses-up actions that could be spent investing in buildings which will generate large returns. While this card makes it better, even if you get it early, it is very unlikely to win you the game on its own. To make it useful, you need to play against the game’s usual grain and use it to do things your opponents can’t: like avoiding sales (until later when they’ll make more money) or winning bids for turn order when critical land comes up for sale. The card is likely to give you some value whatever you do, but most of the value of the card is contextual - it depends on you using it in a smart way and on the game taking a particular shape.
- Effects of these cards should lead to emergent player behaviour - That means us designers cannot predict all the uses the cards might have. Ironically, the requirement to be contextually useful requires designers to think through the implications of cards enough to know that they don’t just have values which are too readily computable in any game. But for the game to have a long life, to allow players to express creativity and discover a richness in the game, it must be possible for cards to have unforeseen uses. Games of Magnate’s weight already lend themselves to emergence because they are relatively complex systems, but we can’t assume every card will lead to such emergence. The good thing is the potential for emergence is usually somewhat possible to intuit and correlates with how contextually useful it is; although only testing will tell you for sure. We suspected our double consult value card would have this property because it requires you to work in new ways. Testing showed us its effects could be subtle and varied, which gave us reason to believe others will find even more clever use cases for it.
With the internal playtesting now complete, I am very glad to say we seem to be achieving these goals. Jaya, Magnate’s lead developer, has done an incredible job of devising lots of excellent cards and putting them all through their paces. So I have high hopes for the final sanity testing of this expansion.
I hope you found that interesting. That’s all for now!
Coronavirus update & pledge manager
2 months ago
– Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 12:26:20 AM
I hope you and yours are keeping well in this difficult time. I've planned to give you updates every month so it's about time for another one!
Preparation for printing continues to go well. The final testing of the employee cards is almost done and final little design tweaks are well underway. We're also hard at work on the tutorial mode.
I have to say, it's no easy task writing a good tutorial but I am personally very committed to getting this piece right and believe it will be worth all the effort in the end. Good rulebooks are amazing reference documents and we're so keen to have a great one that Mr Gaming Rules! himself - Paul Grogan - has been hard at work editing ours.
I would argue, however, that for the vast majority of people rulebooks are not the best way to learn a new game. I believe if you can replicate a good in-person teach, you are onto a winner. I suspect this is especially valuable in a game like Magnate that can look a bit intimidating at first, but is - according to many reviewers - a very streamlined design that just clicks once you're into it. Our goal is simple: give you the experience of being taught by a seasoned player at your dining table at home. So far, that's going to plan.
In less good news, we are now looking delayed into production and, therefore, a likely later delivery date than originally planned. Its very hard to say exactly how much by at this point.
It will probably come as no surprise that Coronavirus has massively slowed things on the manufacturing side in China (especially getting plastics moving - the longest leadtime component). There's a county-wide backlog right now and with some restrictions still in place, this will take some time to completely clear. I am currently a bit more bullish when we get to shipping of goods regarding delays, since I expect freight traffic to be less affected than passenger travel over the next six months.
We could also face some minor delays in our final "sanity testing" of game elements (like the tutorial) as where I live - London - starts to lockdown (just today a coffee shop I visited had become takeaway service only). Getting folk together for playtesting may get a bit tougher - and there is no adequate replacement for doing parts of this in person.
All in all that means delays that are not yet quantifiable. I will give you an updated forecast as soon as I have one myself.
A more minor effect has been I was, until very recently, waiting on final confirmation of some quotes for some great add-ons I want to have in the pledge manager. Indeed, just today, I've seen a photo of a Magnate customised paint brush set and it's AWESOME - can't wait to share that one!
Given our inevitable delays I've chosen not to open the PM just yet. But we will make sure that you have plenty of time to edit your pledges and confirm your address details before it closes. Thank you for bearing with us!
All the best,
The first progress report of 2020
4 months ago
– Sat, Feb 01, 2020 at 10:54:34 AM
I hope you had a great new year and a pleasant January. Amazingly the Kickstarter ended more than a month ago now! We've not rested on our laurels at Naylor Games HQ however... We’ve been hard at working getting the game ready for manufacturing, readying the rulebook (soon to be edited by industry legend Paul Grogan) and implementing the great feedback we've had from backers and reviewers alike!
The components have really come along:
In response to feedback we've made the small office chunkier, jazzed up the apartment to give it more of a statement building (note the Zaha Hadid influenced “birds nest” dome) and a new crash marker that should really capture the coming doom of the endgame better and crucially - that collapsing market.
We've also been hard at work on the employee cards - making sure their abilities are really balanced. I'm so excited to eventually share these - they really do lead to weird and wonderful new strategies! But you Tycoons will just have to wait to see the full 27 unique cards...for now...
Obviously things in China (where we’ll be making the game) are pretty disrupted right now. Our timeline isn't under threat yet but we wanted to make you aware that this is a risk factor. It's likely to disrupt the return to work from the national holiday which in turn disrupts manufacturers, partly because of the amount of casual labour - as we understand it - that is often involved. If it does become a bigger issue, I will let you know.
Pre-order store is open - Pledge manager coming soon
I know some of you have asked about this so I thought it would be good to do a full update. We’re still quite far off needing final quantities yet so it’ll be a long while before we’d need to close our PM, so you’re going to have plenty of time to adjust your pledges! Our plan is to get the pledge manager up and running in the next month or so.
If you're friends missed out on Magnate, the pre-order store is already open. So feel free to direct them there. It’s great to see people already getting involved!
All the best,
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! See you in 2020
5 months ago
– Sun, Dec 22, 2019 at 01:15:18 PM
I just wanted to wish you all the best for this season and let you know our availability over the holiday period.
You'll be glad to hear that this last week we've already started the process of getting everything ready for next year: Briefing in art changes, getting the pledge manager ready and gearing up on the manufacturing front.
We've decided to take a break over the holiday period itself, so please let me know if you have any urgent questions. From the 23rd of December to 6th of January, we're going to celebrate, relax with our friends and family before the hard work of bringing you the best game we can *really* gets going. As soon as we get back, we'll answer any comments or questions you may have left for us.
Thanks again for all your support and all the very best for 2020!