I am Jordan Roberts, the graphic designer behind a board game that raised over $93,000+ on our first Kickstarter which became a staff favorite. Emergence was my biggest design project to date and I wanted to share how we allow players to become a permanent part of the game by creating their own custom map and thematic backstory.
In Emergence, players are a member of the majority A.I. team or the minority Human team. Players must traverse the city collecting data, as they look to gain knowledge for their team and identify the secret humans among them. With the city being a main factor in replay ability, we know we wanted to include custom ideas that would change the feeling of the game each time we replayed it.
With Emergence, an early design idea was to create a hexagonal game-board, much like many other games (such as the Settlers of Catan), that would allow players to re-arrange a city layout. Not only does this drastically add to replay-ability but it gives players a sense of ownership—which we thought played well with the social aspect of the game. Players can create cities with specific strategies based on the layout: choke-points, specifically placed data compilers, small pockets of rare resources, narrow passages ripe for conflict, all of these would create a different experience each time they play. We also quickly realized that resource collection (one main aspect of the game) would benefit from a hex-based map that gave players more movement options. Alongside the mechanics, we decided that we wanted to create a game with the theme and backstory that matched those mechanics (Evolution is a great example). We figured a game that players could contribute toward strategically and creatively would be something they were vested in. By flushing out the dystopic A.I. vs Humanity theme, custom cities weren’t merely player-created maps but, instead, became something integral to the story behind the game. Testing labs now underground tombs, mutated forests now riddled with valuable bio-data, manmade monuments turned resistance strongholds—by giving players a context, we would hopefully give them some inspiration to participate.
And that is when we came to our City Database idea. After some play-throughs at a local game store, we realized people were interested in creating a map of their own. So we decided we would create a space on our website for people to contribute their city designs along with a backstory. It was a way for players to form a community around the game and really take their sense of ownership to a higher level. Their creation and story could be out there for the world to see… and play! What’s especially cool about the Database is it allows us, as the creators, to let the people be heard (aka sit back and be lazy). While we still enjoy creating maps of our own (which can also be found in the Database), it’s even better to see what the fans of Emergence have come up with. Plus, we like to give our fans some shine. What better way to start a game night by exploring a city (with a backstory) you can tell your friends that you personally created?
So far, we’ve been slowly receiving submissions from all over the world, most of which we try to play test among our design-team before we post to the Database. We do encourage people to at least play the game a few times before jumping into city-creation as people will quickly find how tough it can be to make a balanced, playable map. And if you just want to make a city shaped like your sister’s head…that’s cool too.
Check out the database here.