So I have been keeping a couple secrets for more than a year now. And, no, this isn’t about the big expansion to Gloomhaven – that secret will continue to be kept for a long time yet.
But with this year’s Gen Con came two announcements that I am pretty excited about. In fact, they may have been the two biggest announcements to come out of Gen Con this year, which makes me feel like a bit of a rock star. Or at least it did. Now I’m sitting back at home by myself in my sweat pants, feeling very much like a normal person.
So what were the big announcements. you ask? Well:
- A digital version of Gloomhaven is coming to Steam early next year.
- I am working with Restoration Games to make a new version of Dark Tower.
This story begins uneventfully at last year’s Gen Con. I had received an email from Asmodee Digital directing me to their calendar form if I wanted to set up a meeting. I did so, then walked into that room and said, “Let’s make a digital version of Gloomhaven.” They were very much on board, so that was pretty much that.
You see, I had been thinking about a digital version for a while. Gloomhaven is so heavily inspired by video games, that it only makes sense that it would one day transition to that medium. A number of independent people had approached me in the past about making it happen, but I knew that it would either be more expensive than I could afford, it wouldn’t be good enough to fit the brand, or it would get stuck in development for ten years. Plus, it just wasn’t something I wanted to micromanage. I’d seen that Asmodee Digital was hitting lots of big names like Scythe and Terraforming Mars, and it seemed to be doing well with them, so it just made sense to hand the project off to them and see what happens.
I haven’t been disappointed yet. Over the last year, Flaming Fowl, the development studio, has been working diligently on the implementation. They are all Gloomhaven fans and are doing a stellar job at taking the mechanics and tone of the original game and translating them to the digital realm. What were once flat pieces of art are now fully rendered 3D dungeons, monsters, and characters. It is pretty awesome to behold.
And just as a point of clarification, it will be a true port of the board game. We are doing our best to capture all the mechanics of the original game, while still taking all the unnecessary bookkeeping of monster movement off the shoulders of the players. It will look and play like a tactical RPG with the card-based mechanics of Gloomhaven. To start, we will just have a random dungeon generator for early access, but the full campaign will be implemented, and multiplayer is on the priority list as well. It’s a lot of work, but I’m sure Flaming Fowl is up to the task!
So this story actually starts back when Gloomhaven first came out. I get contacted out of the blue by Justin Jacobson from Restoration, who apparently got the first printing of Gloomhaven, absolutely loved it and wanted to work with me on a game. At the time, I was super burnt out on publishing because fulfillment of the first printing of Gloomhaven had been such a nightmare. I thought, “Hmm, let’s try out this whole ‘design a game’ thing without all the other nonsense attached and see how that goes.” That is to say, I was open to the possibility, but two things clinched the deal.
First of all, I’d be working with Rob Daviau, a true inspiration for all game designers. And second, working with Restoration offered me a chance to add narrative elements to a game that would be augmented by technology. Now, I still can’t talk about specifics of the game because everything is still up in the air, and even if it weren’t, it is not solely my project, so I can’t speak as freely about it as I would my own work. But anyway, my very initial thoughts were, what if we could have an event deck similar to the event decks in Gloomhaven, that would be completely governed by an app? It would allow for near-infinite possibilities of branching and randomized narrative paths that could be experienced in a single game session instead of over the course of a 100 hour campaign. Of course, it has evolved much beyond that now, but I am still very much excited about the technology-enhanced narrative of the game.
And I know what you may be thinking: “You’ve been working on it for a year and a half and it is still all up in the air?” Well, yes. Restoration and I have had many other projects over that time frame, plus we hit a number of dead ends while trying to pound this out. I think we’ve found the correct path to head down now, though, and it’s moving up the priority list for everyone, so I’m excited to see where it will go over the next year!