The following is a cross-post of the Dev Diary for Highways & Byways from my blog, Brandon the Game Dev.
Pack a cooler, fill up the gas tank, and grab a 20 oz. styrofoam cup of coffee. We’re going on a road trip!
I’ve just started development on a new board game. It’s called Highways & Byways. It’s a board game about college students dragging their beater cars across the nation in search of all places beautiful and forgotten. Every road referenced in the game will be a real place that you can actually go. You can read more about it here on the game’s website.
I’m keeping gameplay-specific details close to my chest for now, but I want to make sure you know two things:
- I intend to fund this game on Kickstarter once I’ve completed most of the development…but I’m going to take my sweet time to make it great!
- I’ll be documenting my whole game development journey through a series of weekly updates. That’s the purpose of the Dev Diary.
I talk a lot about game development on this blog. That’s the blog’s raison d’être, after all. Yet as much as I’m proud of my high-level advice and cheerleading, I want to do more. I want you to see the specific challenges game devs encounter and conquer. I want you to learn from both my successes and mistakes. I want you to see the emotional highs and lows. I want you to see why I make games, so you know whether’s it’s right for you.
Now I’ll do what I’ll be doing most weeks: briefly covering the progress I’ve made over the course of the week. My progress has been focused on two primary objectives this week:
Objective 1: Set up a social media and blog system like I did for War Co.
Just this week, I’ve set up a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook page, and weekly blog for Highways & Byways. Whereas War Co. is all about sci-fi art and dry corporate dystopian humor, Highways & Byways will focus on gorgeous travel photos and wanderlust. The social media I’m running for Highways & Byways, like War Co., will not be used relentlessly to advertise, but rather to share things on the Internet that are really, really cool. As I find out what people like to see, I’ll tweak my approach while remaining within the theme.
In addition to the social media, I’ll also be running a weekly blog article on the Highways & Byways site that highlights a scenic road trip in the United States. These are real places you can really go to. I’m even including a map. If I’m going to spend all this time doing research to make a game that is both fun and accurate, I may as well share the fascinating things I’ve learned with you!
Objective 2: Continue mapping out the board.
With a robust social media and blog presence already set up and requiring minimal maintenance, I found myself free to do what I really wanted to do: develop the game itself! Highways & Byways is, from a physical perspective, a game based in geography. I’m essentially making a map of scenic roads. I started with a big map of the United States and I’ve started superimposing red lines in the shape of scenic roads. I have about 35 red lines on the map right now, but I’m aiming for 70.
Where do I find these scenic roads? I use a variety of resources, including the Federal Highway Administration website, My Scenic Drives, my own memories of thousand-mile drives, and Google searching when all else fails. Some states are really easy to find scenic roads. Some are excruciatingly difficult – I’m looking at you, Texas. I have a pretty complex vision of what I want the board to look like, but it’s going to take a lot of research and work to get there. I’m putting my head down and working, for I have this detailed vision that I find too difficult to articulate. I have to speak through my actions.
Once I complete a map of byways, I’ll connect them with highways. Then I’ll start self-testing to see how long it takes me to cross the map. This early data will give me a sense of how the game needs to be structured and at what levels its objectives need to be set in order to be balanced.
It’s going to be a long journey, my friends, but I’m glad you’ve come along for the ride.