An experience in worldbuilding and game design with Agile techniques
“I am not a god. I create gods.”
Game design is one of the most fascinating and promising fields in the market today. From the games on your mobile phone to full VR experiences, it seems that technology enabled gaming to reach all sorts of public. It has allowed cross-platform stories and renewed even low-tech gaming, with cards and boardgames making a strong comeback in connection to streaming video series and online games.
To drive a cross-platform franchise, you must first create a world that resonates with the public and entices them to pursue all distributions of that story. This is worldbuilding, and hits like Harry Potter, the Marvel Universe, the DC universe, Game of Thrones, World of Warcarft and so many others are colorful examples of how rich and powerful worldbuilding can thrive in different medias.
Every now and then I am challenged to apply Agile and Lean to a techless subject, and this time it’s worldbuilding and game design.
A very close friend and brilliant writer came to me with some ideas and, while analyzing the stories she’d put together so far, we identified that it was impossible for her to bring all the plots, political schemes, magical conflicts and racial diversity through the books she had planned. The media didn’t support the broadness of that universe, and thus came the idea to build a role-playing game. Using Lean and Agile.
I asked her to come to my place, and treated the game as any other product: We defined a vision, and in an hour or so we had all the major historical events in post-its forming a timeline in my apartment’s wall. In a few more hours, all races were mapped using product discovery techniques, and more post-its defined their powers, weaknesses, social and physical characteristics. We defined a backlog so that by the first release we had:
- Available points per player to build a character
- Character attributes and grading
- Races scheme contemplating advantages and disadvantages and grading to allow us for subtle balancing the gameplay
- World advantages and disadvantages and grading, so that players can “buy” them and build their characters
- Combat scheme, with rules for sucess/failure and damage (and a quick combat playtest)
- Plot milestones for a first campaign
- Plot milestones for the 5 sessions of the first campaign
- Failsafes to enable master(s) to protect the plot milestones
- Non player characters’ charts for the masters to use
We defined a schedule for us to meet, and each encounter would be akin to a sprint. After every sprint, we shared the results with friends who play RPG and collect feedback. The backlog is updated and reprioritized at all times, and we have fulfilled all items necessary for Release 1.
The first playtest is scheduled for early January, and we’ll pivot as we gather feedback from the players.
Next time someone says Agile and Lean only work for software development, I’ll ask them to play a game. 🙂