Hi there! I'm Dave, game designer for Firefly: Fistful of Credits! My background is the video game industry and one of my passions is table-top games! I've been a QA tester, producer, and currently work as a UI artist. I've worked on a slew of big name console titles over the years and have become pretty intimate with the inner workings of game design. What makes something fun instead of boring? What makes it easy or hard? How quickly do players learn how to play? These are all important questions I've seen in the course of a product's development and key lessons I applied developing Firefly: Fistful of Credits.
To be honest, I'd never watched Firefly before. I remember hearing about it many years ago and catching a glimpse on TV once, but beside that I was a Firefly virgin. So, when Toy Vault reviewed my original prototype it was for a different themed game. It was jungle adventure game with four competing players battling creatures and collecting loot. But after landing the Firefly license Toy Vault asked if I could re-make it Firefly themed. Having not seen the show I was a little skeptical, but Project Director and resident Browncoat, Zac Pensol, was adamant it could work. That weekend I bought the show on DVD and binge watched the entire series.
The scene that kills me even to this day is when Mal tells Simon that Kaylee's dead and everything becomes super dramatic. The music becomes somber, the camera moves slowly and Simon (totally beside himself) races downstairs to the infirmary to see the patient he just "lost". But instead she's alive and well! Then cut. Mal, Wash, Zoe and Jayne are cracking up at the joke they just pulled on him. For a show from 2002, I wasn't expecting this kind of hilarious humor. And as I kept watching I wasn't expecting the richness of each character, the thrilling escapades and a universe oozing with authenticity. I "got" what everyone had been saying and now my goal was to capture that same spirit in the game.
After watching the show it was clear I wouldn't do the game (or fans) any justice without completely re-working my original prototype. If it's gonna be a Firefly game, it's going to be Firefly. With that in mind I started making a mental list of goals for what would become Firefly: Fistful of Credits:
Firefly let us peek into the lives of Serenity's crew as they pulled off heists and got mixed up in high adventure. The show (and the movie as well) excelled at raising the stakes and showing how resourceful each character was under the gun. These are the emotional touchstones I sought bring out through gameplay:
- intense gun slinging action
- racing against the clock situations
- roller coaster-like surprises
- saving the day moments
- cooperative "let's figure out how to pull this off as a team" strategic play
The last point was most important because, like popular board game Pandemic, I wanted players to work as a team to accomplish the goal while battling the board. Inspired by Descent, Zombicide, and Lord of the Rings the game also has multiple heists with different challenges, enemies, and objectives. These heists would focus on the more thrilling episodes and offer players a more intimate interaction in the 'Verse they've come to love, but also come away with their own story.
Originally, I pitched to have only a few crew members as playable Big Damn Heroes and the rest of the crew would be represented as Sidekicks. My feeling was that only the gun slingers should be doing all the work. But after some pushing by Toy Vault and realizing other aspects of the game, it became apparent that we are creating a sandbox for players. What happens if the game isn't going to be exactly like the show? That's okay! The goal is creating fun, not re-creating the exact episode. With that in mind we expanded the playable characters to all the crew members as Big Damn Heroes AND Sidekicks and then allowed for them to be paired up. This allows fans to play the episodes exactly as they were made, but also grants them the opportunity to re-imagine the heists with their favorites characters and put their own spin on who did what. Once you pick your Big Damn Hero and Sidekick and step into their boots, expect some fun roleplay as you fight, grab loot, fall into a trap or come to the rescue.
While there are many fantastic board games out there long setups and weighty rules, I sought a good balance. Something that any Firefly fan could quickly grasp and deep enough to satisfy a hardened board gamer. I wanted to create a game that was so easy to get into even Jayne would play and could teach to his own dear mom! Maybe it's my video game background, but I enjoy board games that move swiftly and jump right into the action! And that was my aim for Firefly: Fistful of Credits: everyone can get into it and not feel intimidated.
Hope you enjoyed reading this developer diary and stay tuned as we cover the Artistic Vision of Firefly: Fistful of Credits next time!