Developer’s Diary #3 – Initial Design and Publishing Goals

If you have a passion for games, chances are you or someone you know has expressed the desire to create their own game, envisioning the joy and recognition that comes with a successful and cherished creation. The daydreams of crafting the perfect game, pondering its mechanics, and predicting its universal appeal have likely occupied many hours of your time, but the reality of game development is undeniably challenging—exceedingly so.

Before delving into the intricacies of game creation, I’ll note that I won’t reiterate advice on the do’s and don’ts of making a game. Stonemaier Games’ blog, featuring some of the best-written articles on the subject, covers this comprehensively. Take the time to read them; they’re invaluable. Instead, we would just like to use this forum as a chance to share our approach, for right or wrong.

Often, individuals come across a game and think, “I could make my own version of that.” Whether it’s fixing the various balance issues in TCGs such as Magic: the Gathering, creating an improved Gloomhaven, or challenging the abundance of worker placement games, competing directly with established and popular games is akin to pushing a boulder uphill.

Even before conceiving Sudden Conflict, I had an entirely different idea for a game—a concept that bore no resemblance to our eventual creation. Hours spent immersed in games like Hearthstone and Battletech fueled my imagination, leading to an initial notion of an autobattler I could play on my phone. This wasn’t even a board game but rather a digital realm where I could design teams, customise loadouts, and paint digital miniatures. Ironically, years later, Mechabellum and Moonbreaker would be released, fulfilling many aspects of my initial dream.

The pivotal moment arrived when Jack allowed me access to his whiteboard to spill out my ideas. It came with a crucial question: “If we wanted to make a game, how could we do it with the skills we possessed?” Instead of determining the specific game, we discussed mechanics we enjoyed from various games, identified missing experiences in the market, and evaluated the general accessibility of games.

Our love for casual Magic: the Gathering games at our local game store & basement bar (the now closed Games Laboratory) sparked an idea. We envisioned a casual miniatures game experience akin to our relaxed Magic sessions. Observing Warhammer players with their elaborate setups, I wondered, “Why can’t we have games like theirs without the hefty investment and complexity?” I craved a casual miniatures game that we could play in the same way that we would when we met to play Magic.

So, we set our sights on that market niche—creating a more casual miniatures game for Friday night enjoyment. Simple, affordable, and accessible. The night was spent researching manufacturing costs even before finalising the game concept. We wanted to ensure the game’s design aligned with the manufacturing budget, creating an accessible product for people to enjoy over a beer or two.

In hindsight, it seems surreal that our initial vision involved cardboard standups in a compact box similar to Epic Kingdom games ( But, it was a starting point.

Having experienced Kickstarter fatigue with overwhelming stretch goals and excessive content, I aimed for simplicity. No expansions, just a Core Set that offered a complete experience. Our concept was clear—a small miniatures game for two people, multiple core sets for diverse experiences, and minimal packaging.

The next hurdle: How do we get it published?

The options were clear—either sell it to another company or do it ourselves. Self-publishing was expensive, a fact we acknowledged from the start. Stories of individuals without the budget to market and publish their games were cautionary tales. Setting a budget for both development and marketing early on was crucial. My unwavering stance was to follow the film production model—half the budget for development, half for marketing. What was the point of creating a game if no one knew about it?

At the end of that fateful night, the foundational elements were in place. My task was to design a game within these parameters, and by the next day, the prototype was ready. After the first playtest, the realization hit us—we were onto something special. Our playtesters thought our idea to follow the Epic model was mad, they craved the minis that came along with it.

And thus, Sudden Conflict began to take shape, initiating a phase of extensive testing. A phase that consumed us with countless rounds of meticulous examination—a topic I will delve into in our next discussion. In the upcoming conversation, I’ll elaborate on our initial aspirations for Sudden Conflict and trace its evolution through the rigorous process of playtesting.

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