deskdung

I’ve been playing a lot of this video game Desktop Dungeons recently. And while, yes, it has a rather silly name, it is actually super-fun and addicting. It’s sort of a rogue-like puzzle game where you go in these dungeons with a hero and try and figure out the best order in which to kill the monsters so that you don’t end up dead. It ends up being very mathy and tense at the same time.

The thing is, though, the game encourages you to play through each specific dungeon multiple times with different heroes to unlock new achievements and quests. There are also dungeons specifically designed for specific heroes where you’re forced to play to their strengths and downplay their weaknesses in order to win.

So I had a Gloomhaven play tester recently suggest that there be more incentive to replay dungeons, possibly by having events or bosses that activate in the presence of certain hero classes.

And I was like, “Yes, like in Desktop Dungeons!”

Now, I don’t know if it’s a great idea. I’d like Gloomhaven to focus on exploration of the new rather than replaying what’s already been discovered, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.

And the point is that playing this video game (and play testing, of course) allowed me to see Gloomhaven from a different perspective. Inspiration can come from anywhere and creators should always be open and receptive to it.

Inspiration can come from books, movies, games, pretty much anything and can help to build a theme or a mechanic or really any aspect of a game. Of course, there should also be a healthy nugget of original thought in a game – a board game shouldn’t be a Frankenstein’s monster of cobbled together ideas with no heart – but there’s also no need to reinvent the wheel.

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Like every other medium, board games are constantly evolving and everything is built on top of what came before it. There is no shame in using a mechanic or idea where it fits seamlessly into the overall design. Forge War was inspired heavily by Trajan, Tzolk’in and Yinsh, and I took those inspirations and created an entirely new experience out of them. And I can only hope that others are inspired by Forge War in their creative endeavors in the future.

I was definitely inspired by Dungeons and Dragons, Descent and Mice and Mystics when I decided to pursue development of Gloomhaven. I wanted to create a simple dungeon crawler that could be played without a game master but still feel like a free and open world with campaign play.

What’s weird is that I am constantly inspired to try out new things with it based on whatever else I am playing (usually video games). Darkest Dungeon, Legend of Grimrock – I play all these great games and I try to figure out what makes them so compelling and see if I can distill those compelling bits down and find some way to add them to Gloomhaven.

It’s a totally different game, so it doesn’t always work, but it’s a fun exercise and totally worth it when it does. For instance, after enjoying the tactical aspects of Darkest Dungeon’s battle ordering system, I realized I was failing to fully take advantage of the tactical nature of the dungeon crawling experience with the hero powers. My intention was to make movement and positioning matter, but somewhere along the way, that intention got muddled. But Darkest Dungeon inspired me to go back and make it work, adding in a lot more powers to change positioning and take advantage of positioning so it wasn’t just the heroes and monsters meeting up in the middle of the room and beating on each other until someone dies.

So, yeah, it’s funny. Because inspiration can be so helpful for the creative process, it’s almost like it’s my job to go out and play these games. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m in the throes of a video game addiction. You never know when inspiration may strike.