Dev Diary: 03/17/17

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Pack a cooler, fill up the gas tank, and grab a 20 oz. styrofoam cup of coffee. We’re going on a road trip!

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I’ve been hinting and hinting and hinting and hinting at a new board game project for a while. Today, I’m making it official!

I’ve just started development on a new board game. It’s called Highways & Byways. It’s a board game about college students dragging their beater cars across the nation in search of all places beautiful and forgotten. Every road referenced in the game will be a real place that you can actually go. You can read more about it here on the game’s website.

Highways and Byways website

I’m keeping gameplay-specific details close to my chest for now, but I want to make sure you know two things:

  1. I intend to fund this game on Kickstarter once I’ve completed most of the development…but I’m going to take my sweet time to make it great!
  2. I’ll be documenting my whole game development journey through a series of weekly updates. That’s the purpose of the Dev Diary.

I talk a lot about game development on this blog. That’s the blog’s raison d’ĂȘtre, after all. Yet as much as I’m proud of my high-level advice and cheerleading, I want to do more. I want you to see the specific challenges game devs encounter and conquer. I want you to learn from both my successes and mistakes. I want you to see the emotional highs and lows. I want you to see why I make games, so you know whether’s it’s right for you.

Now I’ll do what I’ll be doing most weeks: briefly covering the progress I’ve made over the course of the week. My progress has been focused on two primary objectives this week:

Objective 1: Set up a social media and blog system like I did for War Co.

Just this week, I’ve set up a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook page, and weekly blog for Highways & Byways. Whereas War Co. is all about sci-fi art and dry corporate dystopian humor, Highways & Byways will focus on gorgeous travel photos and wanderlust. The social media I’m running for Highways & Byways, like War Co., will not be used relentlessly to advertise, but rather to share things on the Internet that are really, really cool. As I find out what people like to see, I’ll tweak my approach while remaining within the theme.

Are you into travel? I have only a few days of content up, but you’ll like what I’ve got so far. Please follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

In addition to the social media, I’ll also be running a weekly blog article on the Highways & Byways site that highlights a scenic road trip in the United States. These are real places you can really go to. I’m even including a map. If I’m going to spend all this time doing research to make a game that is both fun and accurate, I may as well share the fascinating things I’ve learned with you!

Objective 2: Continue mapping out the board.

Highways and Byways State Route 1
State Route 1 = Version 1 of the Game

With a robust social media and blog presence already set up and requiring minimal maintenance, I found myself free to do what I really wanted to do: develop the game itself! Highways & Byways is, from a physical perspective, a game based in geography. I’m essentially making a map of scenic roads. I started with a big map of the United States and I’ve started superimposing red lines in the shape of scenic roads. I have about 35 red lines on the map right now, but I’m aiming for 70.

Where do I find these scenic roads? I use a variety of resources, including the Federal Highway Administration website, My Scenic Drives, my own memories of thousand-mile drives, and Google searching when all else fails. Some states are really easy to find scenic roads. Some are excruciatingly difficult – I’m looking at you, Texas. I have a pretty complex vision of what I want the board to look like, but it’s going to take a lot of research and work to get there. I’m putting my head down and working, for I have this detailed vision that I find too difficult to articulate. I have to speak through my actions.

Once I complete a map of byways, I’ll connect them with highways. Then I’ll start self-testing to see how long it takes me to cross the map. This early data will give me a sense of how the game needs to be structured and at what levels its objectives need to be set in order to be balanced.

It’s going to be a long journey, my friends, but I’m glad you’ve come along for the ride.

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