Star Thieves (2013 Board Game)
In the Spring of 2013, our Junior Studio class was assigned our first major project of the semester, in the form of a board game. Living the Dota craze, I conceptualized a tabletop iteration of a MOBA, (multiplayer online battle arena), sans the "O", obviously. Two teams of players would navigate across a hexagonal board, with the players of the respective sides moving their game pieces at once. The driving idea was that the board game would share in a MOBA's terms - for better or for worse - with all its beautiful balance, steep learning curve and bouts of frustration. The concept was rough, but had prospects of being developed into something better.
Immediately after we presented our concepts, the instructor dropped a bomb shell: we were all going to organize into groups of threes and merge our game concepts. My group turned out to include Ryan Brock, my close friend Tobias Phelps and myself. I cannot recall what style of game Ryan was aiming for, but Tobias was seeking to have a game about a heist. Additionally, we reached group consensus to have the game set in space.
With our heads put together, we looked to identify as much common ground as possible. We agreed that a set hexagonal board would be ideal, for a game about obtaining and absconding with a jewel. The game would be about thievery, strategy and duplicity, while maintaining the intensity and love-hate relationship that is tantamount in Dota. Likewise, players would maintain cards.
On the day of presenting group concepts, neither Ryan nor Tobias arrived. Therefore, I presented our project, with a name of my own choosing: Star Thieves.
During our next studio hour, I was relieved that Ryan and Tobias were very content with the final name. Moving forward, we decided that cards would be developed as three categories: Equipment, Action and PvP. The PvP cards would be accessible once the jewel - now dubbed the "Black Star Diamond" - were obtained. From here on out, the game would be less about thievery and more about open war.
The cards included the likes of: Ackbar Detector, Plasma Treads, Strategic Radiology Goggles, Tactical Precision Gloves, Teleportation Gun, Sack of Endowment, Utility Belt, Hack a Terminal, Medkit, Open Door, Set Trap, Airlock, Sleight of Hand and Stasis Cannon.
Meanwhile, the board itself was a design hurdle - and feat - in itself. As the team respected my initial concept of translating elements of Dota over, we looked to create a symmetrical, balanced board that would feature hazards for players to bypass. Taking a hexagonal template, we designated traversable real estate that would mimic the design of a futuristic space station, while also featuring turrets and doors. Of course, the Black Star Diamond itself would sit directly in the center of the board.
As more concepts filled in with cards and their associated abilities, so too did the board design change. First, we decided to rotate the board by ninety degrees, to terminate at a different lateral for aesthetic purposes. Additional turrets were added, to slow the pace of the game by at least a hair. We also added in airlock territory, where players could initiate the ultimate trump card by ejecting their opponents standing there into space. Likewise, we added teleportation points, for players to send their enemies against their will.
As the late stages of the project came to pass, I recreated the board and polished it up.
Testing and Final Product
To ensure that all was delivering in the ways we had hoped, we had the project tested by fellow Junior Studio classmates, as well as those from the Capstone Studio. During the first round of play tests, we used copier paper cut-outs of all the assets, save for game pieces-- those were simply substituted with crumpled up paper.
Reactions were very positive. Ironically, the winner of the first match of Star Thieves was Ryan Brock. This is ironic, due to the perception - maybe fact - that he is one of the kindest, softest individuals I have ever known. He used that to his advantage a wiped the slate clean!
After some successful initial runs, we committed to completing the finished, polished product. I created models in 3ds Max for game pieces to be printed. Ryan went to a print shop to print our full deck of cards... for the price of $150, which I still do not understand to this day. While I constructed a wooden structure for the board itself, Ryan had the board image laminated.
The board was complete - Star Thieves was complete.
We had another round of play testing and people absolutely adored the game. Once more, it was the nicest person at the table, our instructor, who won the game through the most devious of means.
We had created one of the most entertaining and balanced games anyone of us had ever played. For the first and only time, we had created something in school that we were proud of to such an extent that we wanted to see more come of it.
Unfortunately, nothing did come about from it. We all had one more year of school left, so Tobias and I talked during the subsequent months about doing more with the I.P. - to adapt it into a video game, perhaps. Ryan had the physical board at his home, so we would need to obtain it from him, to recreate it. I queried Ryan about the board and though he stated I could retrieve it when I would return to Idaho, the transaction never took place.
We graduated a year later and went our separate ways. I directed my short film, Alastair Tembylton, before returning to Alaska for the next three years. Tobias moved to Boise, to focus on his family and career. Meanwhile, Ryan focused on his relationship with Christ and has gone on missions, leaving me with no means of communicating with him.
We made the mistake of not having our files in one location. Therefore, reconstructing the game in its full entirety from before is impossible. Plus, it is almost a guarantee that Ryan no longer has the original physical board game.
However... The future for this I.P. shines brighter than ever. We found a new home - and medium - to reinvigorate our little creation and bring it to an infinite audience. With assets and rules lost, I have been able to create new components better than before, with capabilities we did not have at our disposal.
To be continued...