Let’s paint

As I mentioned before, my wife is an amazing artist and graphic designer. She installed Corel Painter on my computer and lent me her drawing tablet. After a quick tutorial I was on my way. It took over 100 hours for me to complete the art for the game. Good lord, I had no idea that it would take that long!

I am a bit of a perfectionist for many things and this did not help hurry things along. I also didn’t know much about Corel Painter and after using it for about 10 hours I found a different technique that I liked. This required me to go back and redo all of the art I had done up to that point. Unfortunately this happened three more times and there are some pieces of art that I worked on five times (the yellow claw is one)!

Though I did almost all of the art myself, I must thank my wife for supplying invaluable experience in Photoshop and setting up the files for print. This would surely have taken me another 100 hours and I don’t think that Mutation Wars would have survived.

The epiphany

It was during a run that I figured out how to solve the two fundamental flaws in the game.

I like to eat and drink and I don’t have the best metabolism, so to make sure that I can continue to do both of those and stay relatively healthy I run a lot. About 4 km (2.5 miles) per day is about right for me and only takes about 30 minutes (with some stretching). I do a lot of thinking on these runs and have come up with lots of what I think are good ideas.

In this case it was a definite game changer – pun intended! By adding a few cards and changing one rule I solved both of the main problems – the lack of up-and-down play and players getting stuck.

I was very excited to try the new rules and called some friends to set up a game. It went better than I could have expected and the player with the weakest creature for most of the game actually ended up winning. Perfect!

The gambling edition

I really wasn’t happy with how the game was progressing. I just couldn’t figure out how to alter the seemingly “stairway of advancement” that all of the players followed. By round three all of the players had two bodies, round four all of them had three bodies and so on. Everything was too equal, too boring!

If I couldn’t fix the problem perhaps I could change the game to make it more exciting in a different way. Maybe I could add betting to the game… Don’t most people like gambling and betting on (or against) yourself?

This would require adding some randomness to the battles though. The only way I could think to do that would be with a dice. I really didn’t want to make Mutation Wars a dice game but, what they hey.

I invited over some people to test the new game and we might have had a few too many bottles of wine/beer before starting to play. Perhaps it was because the rules weren’t thought out enough or they weren’t explained well enough or we had too many beverages. In any case it was a phenomenal flop! And so ended the Mutation Wars – Gambling Edition.

The next editions

I played a few more times and decided I needed to bring in some real players. A shout-out to Vince, Steve, Brent, François, Valéry, Jean-Marc, Samuel, Sean, Philippe, my lovely wife (Marie-Pierre) and many others for enduring endless hours of game play.

Over the course of many months the game evolved. There were countless changes to the rules, statistics and card effects. For those helping test the game it must have seemed I was changing the rules every time we played — and often I did — even during a game!

There are still a few fundamental game problems that I just can’t seem to fix. One time we played François just couldn’t get the cards to move past the first body — a definite flaw. I tried a couple different solutions that worked but they added a bunch of new rules and the game play was more… complex.

The first edition

With the idea for a card game fresh in my mind I went to work making the game. I found a bunch of empty cereal boxes and leftover cover stock (from my wife) which I cut into card-sized pieces and triangle bodies. It took about two days of cutting, drawing and brainstorming before the first edition of the game was ready.

Though I am a computer programmer now, my first university degree is a Major in Zoology (chosen by default as it fit the requirements to graduate). I took almost every type of class offered – paleontology, anthropology, genetics, Egyptian hieroglyphics, calculus, economics, medieval European history – to mention just a few. It is a great degree for playing Trivial Pursuit but I never thought I’d use it much, until now. In the development of Mutation Wars I referenced a bit of my zoology degree!

I played by myself (as four players) and after a few turns I had to adjust some of the statistics and rules. I’m not exactly sure how the game will end yet. There is a flexible ending but I don’t love it.

I also find that players are all advancing in the same steps and there is very little up-and-down play — where the person in last place can quickly jump to first and vice versa. This is what I want and something needs to change.

Mutation Wars is born!

Driving late into the night as we returned from a family trip to Yellowstone National Park, the vehicle was quiet as everyone slept but me. The air-conditioning and music were on to keep me awake but it was still getting difficult to keep my eyes open. My mind wandered as I tried to think of things to stay vigilant. In the next few hours the idea for Mutation Wars was born.

I am a computer programmer and I like my job. I find that my work is similar to the logic puzzles I loved when I was younger. I have two great kids – twins – and I love playing with them. When we go on “adventures” I try to come up with little problems, riddles and games that they have to solve. As they grow and the adventures become more complex I find that I like them more and more. Maybe I could make some games for other people as well…

I decided to try making video games. It didn’t take long to realize that a one-person team was under-equipped for the level of games I had in mind. I could handle the programming and functionality of the game but the amount of art required was mind-boggling. I had hoped that my wife – an amazing graphic designer/artist/photographer – could help me in that aspect of the game but she is already very busy and has a lot of her own personal projects. With a whimper my video game dreams faded away.




So now I am trying to make a board game.