MetaBox 001 - "Work in Progress"



This is a new blog series that we'll be posting to share regular progress on our ambitions to develop a Meta Olympia Board Game, which we affectionally refer to as MOG.

The intention of Meta Olympia was never to be an isolated fictional news site; it was just a really great and convenient platform for us to world-build our 60-years-in-the-future-everyday in a real time way.  After months of continuous reporting and amassing so many great concepts and artwork, MOG was a natural branch for the property.

What's happened so far

In April, after doing our homework on the table top games market, we decided to whole-heartedly kick off a board game(s) agenda.  Not only are they cool and popular these days, but they are an actual physical thing that requires human interaction, which, in many ways, is a perfect contrast to the current form factor of Meta Olympia which is trapped in digital content and behind-the-curtain simulators.

Michelle and Yili have been driving the project from Vancouver. 

There were a number of main requirements we set going into this project –  We certainly wanted it to be about our Martian sports and to somehow capture the same tone of discovery and the 'coming of age' for a planet perviously devoid of non-essential functions.  Reflecting our backstory and world is, naturally, a key park of what makes it distinctively our own.

After weeks of brainstorming, we leveraged the help of another Vancouver-based game designer, Edward, to help advise on mechanics for the deck building component.  We wanted to incorporate athlete cards as a core component, leveraging the dozens of headshot illustrations we've created, so Edward was able to simplify our ideas and make a first stab at rules and interactions.

Could it fulfill our requirements? Would it be scalable to build into a whole game? Was it going to be fun? 

Of course, you can't expect a few weeks of brainstorming to magically result in a complete and functioning game.  It was, however, an essential pass to really ask those questions, regroup and iterate.  With everyone on our team coming from a design background, we are all aware that it's about the journey.  After all, you just don't know what is going to work until you've given it a go, so valuing progressive failure and embracing trail and error, especially when you aim to find something novel versus just adapting to an existing game system, is fundamental.

At this point, we've gone through 3 iterations.  Yili's been hosting game nights with an all-important wine & pizza budget to bribe/reward our testers.

The kinds of insights we are getting are indicative of where we are in the process:

  • "Too much luck is involved" – which was something that was carried over from the first iteration. The main matchup needs to be overhauled so players can have strategic play.
  • "How about factoring in skill?" – which was in earlier ideas, but was a different mechanic.
  • "Special compatibility characteristic?" – perhaps something that links certain players together to provide unique benefits/bonuses.
  • Playing your hands to determine matches resulted in too much mental accounting –not what we are after.
  • Daisy-chaining the play of cards is more fun, but slower for more than 2 players.
  • The athlete set result in too many draws. So we need to better balance in the deck.

Rather than just refining card play, I've challenged Yili with testing more concepts in parallel.  There could be broader aspects of the game that could resonate and affect how we will adjust or implement athlete cards. 

Regular play testing lets us scrap ideas early and pivot the game.  Thankfully there is no shortage of people willing to play.

Regular play testing lets us scrap ideas early and pivot the game.  Thankfully there is no shortage of people willing to play.

Diversifying to investigate parallel themes is something I fundamentally believe in.  We don't have a fixed timeline, so we can afford to ideate more before we get fixated on a single path.  Also, our baseline objective isn't to just 'end up with a game', we want to get the most out of the process of 'trying to build a game' because we believe it will result in actually making a game that we are proud of.

Take Aways

To wrap up this post, thought we share a few guiding principles.  Though these are absolutely generic in nature, they certainly apply to the MOG endeavour:

  • Committing to make something is hard
  • Cranking out anything can be easy
  • Making something you think is good is hard
  • Making something successful is something entirely different, often independent of being good or bad.
  • Only time can tell how things turn out

Next post, we'll delve deeper into some of these specific themes and share more updates about the Meta Olympia Game project.  Over the summer, we will share specific playable rules and downloadable content so that anyone can try out pieces of MOG for themselves.

If you would like to keep posted on our progress, follow us on social media.  If you'd like to somehow get involved in either upcoming play testing or contributing to the project, contact us!