Is there a particular aspect of an earlier design that you wish had made it into the final version?
Jay:We were trying to give each Monster different levels, as that’s a core concept in the app. Since our game has players placing cards from their hands to the board and breeding a new Monster, we knew we couldn’t affect a specific Monster (with stickers or paper clip type things). Instead we had a system where a player leveled up. Once you were leveled up it opened up new opportunities for you. Only level 2 players could pick up 2-element Monsters (previous versions had players picking up the Monster that was placed previously. This was back before EVERY location allowed you to breed). In the end we found that it just was a blockade or a restriction that didn’t add a puzzley fun element to the game. It just slowed the game down and halted players’ progress.
Sen: While I love the scoring system this game has (it’s so fun to leapfwog over your opponents!), I really wanted a more organic game end condition – one that fit with the app’s theme. For me, the upgrading of castles would have made such sense in tracking who was the winner… first player to build a Paradise Castle is the winner! But let me tell you – the scoring in the game is super fun and engaging. It is almost always right down to the wire, so I’m glad we went a different route than intended, to be honest. It’s always good to try different things and avoid getting so locked in one direction that you fail to see the other options that present themselves. Game design is an organic process of building, testing, and reiterating. Playtesting is key to the art and science of making a good game better!
Was there a gameplay element that you wish you could implement but it just wouldn’t make sense for the game or the audience? Maybe something that you noticed through playtesting that players just weren’t getting?
Jay: A twist answer to this question: we originally designed the game with all 5 islands. We playtested it with gamers and tweaked it until it was great. Then we played with non-gamers, and they were totally confused. Even though the 5 island version of the game would be considered entry level for today’s strategy gamers, it was still way above the level that non-gamers could handle. One of these playtesters made the remark, “Can it not just be one island?” Being a good playtester I thanked them for their feedback and wrote it down, but in my head I was perplexed – how or why would you make a worker placement style game with only one location?!? It can’t be done!! But we tried it…and wouldn’t you know it – it did work. The timing of completing your music cards and the timing for scoring makes even the 1 island game a fun game for families – and a lot more accessible! It was from this that we thought about adding more islands and growing the game with your family!
Sen: We’ve already talked about music and how we had to remove that from the game; we also talked about how we had to modify how some things like decorations work to make them fit the core play loop of this game vs. the app. Given that this game’s audience is slightly different than the app and given that the mode of play (multiplayer competitive) is very different from the app, there are several things that we wouldn have liked to add in but didn’t. We noticed during playtesting that players were at a good level of flow – this means that their skills with the game were at the right level for the amount of challenge offered. If challenge exceed skills, players often become anxious. If skills exceed the challenge, they become bored. We wanted the game to scale with player skills, so eventually we were able to figure out the order of how islands presented themselves so that each additional island built on pre-exisiting skills without a huge gap in knowledge or ability.
That said, I would implement the Dipsters in a heartbeat if I could figure out a way to do it in a simple way that still had their core intact! They’re so cute!
With an IP geared towards kids, is this a game that young adults would enjoy?
Jay: I think the perfect storm for this game is someone new to the world of board games, and has only played traditional games like Clue and Uno. This is a step or two harder than Uno – so it’s very easy and straightforward. But the fact that it can train you (and your family if you want) to play more complex games, that’s what makes this game really shine! I can see gamers who have kids really loving this as it could be used to train your family to play more complicated games as they get older. That said, you can play this game at any level for as long as you want! If you really enjoy playing with only 2 islands – you can do that forever if you want!
Sen: I mean, I’m an old adult and I enjoy the heck out of this game! I’m a bit biased, of course! I think that young adults who grew up playing My Singing Monsters on their phones as children will be enamored by the nostalgic value and the huge table presence of the game with the miniatures and the diecut islands, etc. but they’ll be pleasantly surprised that the game holds a lot more strategy and tactics IF they’d like it to be at that level. Since we were able to scale things, young adults who know some classic games could pick up My Singing Monsters: The Boardgame and start with Island 1 and maybe add in Island 2 with no problem. As they mastered those islands, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Island 3! I’m sure a lot of families with younger players may stick to 2-3 islands for quite some time as their children gain mastery over those islands. Young adults may add more islands quicker as they find that the game appeals to both their love of their childhood favourite and their competitive spirit and desire to master the system!