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Development in two stages: Then and now

By co-designer Argyris Poungouras

In our previous designer diary, I explained how we created the game, after combining the initial ideas and experiences we had with Nick. You can read more about this gamification here. Today we will tackle the development of the game.

In my experience, the more thematic your game, the easier the design. Once you know what your game is about and how it plays, theme drives a lot of your design decisions. Though our initial views of the game’s presentation were different, Nick and I settled down to the final idea pretty quick. In fact, the very same day we made our first meeting about Back O’ Beyond. You have the island, you visit the locations, you do things. What locations should be there and what they do was intuitive. We just needed to implement their function into the rules. And this is, usually, when you cross the threshold between design and development. Although these two overlap and you’ll indeed go back and forth several times until you have a finished game, once you cross the aforementioned threshold, you are (or you should) be confident about your game and move on full speed to its completion.

During this phase a lot of things were tweaked and balanced out. How much should the crew cost and how strong should it be? How much time must one spend in each location in order to visit it? How strong should the merchant ships be? How does climbing up the reputation track affect your actions? All these begin with an initial design and are balanced out through constant playtest. After a few months on working on the game, we reached a state were we thought it was good. We were happy with the outcome and decided to leave the rest to whichever publisher would pick it up. And it almost got picked up a couple times.

Back O’ Beyond was designed a few years back. In the meantime, life happened and we separated for a year, until both ended up working at Mythic Games, where the company’s huge projects demanded full time preoccupation. Long story short, Back O’ Beyond was shelved as we didn’t have much time to pitch it to a publisher. Fast forward to today, Nick and Helena founded Fabled Games and Back O’ Beyond was revitalized in a, more or less, self-published form. As Fabled Games would be the publisher, that meant we had to do the final development ourselves.

We started playing the game again, internally, and decided we needed to do some more refinement. We wanted some “wow moments” that we felt were missing from the game. We also wanted a climax for the final round. Enter the free visit with your captain to certain locations, the temporary scoring cards that can boost your infamy when capturing merchant ships and the dreaded Man-o-wars, the level 3 ships that appear in the final round, which hit hard but reward greatly. The last one, actually, was taken from a discarded expansion we had planned but couldn’t make it work properly in that form. In the end, no good idea is wasted!

Next time we will talk about a big aspect of the game, the combat, and our love for rolling dice.

If you like what you see, then make sure you follow the notify me link on Kickstarter! We are launching the campaign on February 28th, 5pm GMT/ 9am PST!


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