PaintedGB_Front2

The game is set up like a dungeon crawler, looking a lot like Descent or Zombicide. Before you landed on the RPG angle, did you consider any other styles? Maybe something like Pandemic?

Some of the early versions were going for a nice card game, where we would take some of the classic tropes of card games, but they weren’t hitting that sweet spot of “I’m a Ghostbuster and we’re busting ghosts and we’re tracking down a big villain at the end of a fight.” When we were first looking at it, it was a one big map type of a game and you fought your way through it and that was that. That’s the end of it. We could create lots of different settings and scenarios and game types, but it didn’t feel like, at the end of it, that you had progressed to a point where the game felt like it could keep going on after that. For me, that’s what Dungeons & Dragons is all about. The feeling that the game is never over, that your characters can always do more. Unless your Dungeon Master kills your characters. You could always feel that “After that, what’s next?” as opposed to “Let’s try that again in a different way.” We wanted to find that space where you felt that if you kept playing this, will it feel like I’m just starting over again or will it feel like I’m just continuing the storyline.

A lot of the game’s mechanics, like being slimed, are directly inspired by the movies. Did you just watch them over and over again and make a list of things you knew had to be woven into the game? How do you translate stuff like that into satisfying game mechanics?

Luckily, we already had the movies at the forefront of our memory when we started, but we did sit down to watch it over and over again. We would stop at certain scenes and make notes and talk about it. How can we capture that flavor without being a mirror of exactly what it is? One of the first things we arrived at was that we didn’t want to make a recreation of the movie. We didn’t want it to be “Remember that scene where the Ghostbusters did that thing? Now you’re doing that thing!” Because we know how that plays out. When video games do that on-rails effect, you feel like you can’t possibly lose. Instead, we wanted to build a creative storyline, working with Erik Burnham who does the IDW comic books, which we took a lot of inspiration from. We worked with him to figure out a plot. If these four Ghostbusters were back in the world, what would their motivation be? Their goals? Why are these ghosts dangerous and why do we need to bust them? From there, we were able to create situations that were similar to ones you saw in the movie so you’d have that nostalgia feeling without having a step-by-step reflection. We wanted you to have something new that still felt like you were in the same universe. Luckily, we also had the toy lines, TV shows, comic books and even the video games to touch on and pull inspiration from.

I think a lot of people who consume entertainment have a very basic idea of how film directing and screenwriting work, but most people don’t know anything about board game design as a process. How does the job work, exactly?

I take a lot of inspiration from movie and TV and entertainment in general. I look at certain beats. A movie’s beats is trying to take me through an emotional journey and put me in the shows of a character. Show them growing and overcoming obstacles and things like that. We want to represent that as well. Instead of just saying here’s the game and try to get from point A to point B, we’re trying to build memorable moments throughout the gameplay and put a spotlight on those. When I play a game and talk about it afterwards with my friends, it’s not every little thing we did. It’s the big things and the memorable things and dramatic things. So when we’re looking at the game design, I’m looking for those emotional impact points that I can poke at over and over again until we reach a crescendo. Then it plateaus and we have a steep drop-off and then we can take it back up again. It’s like a roller coaster or a wave of feelings.

PaintedGB_Back2

The actual mechanics and minutiae process of it is like any kind of writing exercise. You sit down and make up a skeleton of what you want the story to be and what you’re trying to express and then you break it down by how much time each things take. If some things take too long, you have to have a discussion about what’s more important, the mechanics or whether [players] understand what they’re doing. If we have a really wonderful idea we want to express but we’re having a really tough time expressing it, then we have to change the way we’re describing it or change the thing itself. Most of the time, we try to make the way we’re expressing it shine out better so we can keep the great element of the gameplay. For Ghostbusters, we wanted make sure it was an episode and in a campaign mode. We wanted each scenario to be around an hour so you could have one hour at a time or four hours for an entire gameplay session. For my old D&D times, four hours was pretty average. Sometimes eight, if we pulled an all-nighter. With Ghostbusters, we wanted to make sure we had those same touchstones, like those moments in a Super Mario Bros. level where you hit the flag in the middle of level and it’s like, “Cool, we can take a breather here,” and then keep on moving from there.

We had so many things that we wanted to cram into the game and Kickstarter allowed us to make a great retail game to begin with and really build on it by taking the script that we had and instead of just stopping where we felt like the movie would end, we could keep going and keep building. We would use Excel sheets and Google docs to share information between all of the departments to make sure that everyone was in line with what we were trying to spell out. But a lot of it was just iteration. You roll the dice. How does that feel? The play testers give us the feedback that we need. If we put down the expectations that we want them to do a certain thing and they go a different direction, we have to weigh that. Is that more important? That they had more fun doing it the wrong way? Or is it more important that we had to remind them over and over again how to do it the right way. A lot of the time, we tried to do it their way, even if it was our wrong way. We would just try to make it the right way. What’s nice about Kickstarter is that in the comments section, people can read the rulebooks and look at the scenarios and give us their issues with it and we can fix them on the spot. With a retail game, if something goes wrong, you don’t hear about it until months after it comes out.

Continue Reading Ghostbusters: The Board Game Interview >>

Cool Posts From Around the Web: