Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Unpublished Game Designer's Blog: Concept

Good Thursday everyone!

I come to you today with a new feature that over time in hope to add to with new posts. I'm temporarily calling it:

The Unpublished Game Designer's Blog
-By which I do of course mean that it's a blog post of an unpublished game designer, not that it's the unpublished blog of a game designer.

The aim of this feature is to give you all a little insight into how I have come about with what has so far been done with my game in works: CRYPTS.

Ok, I admit it, this whole pretence is very... what's the word? Narcissistic, and honestly it is not something I am comfortable with, but as you know I have called a temporary break on my actual game design while I get a few 'real world' issues sorted. Despite all of this I still have a need to share with you what I've been working on, which due to it's closed development status is very difficult.

With that in mind however, I do predict it only a matter of months before I go from closed testing, into open testing this is because by publishing our games via one of my podcasts I am indirectly revealing a lot of my secrets. The difference with that and the closed testing is that I can bounce ideas around without it being released to the public, so that if it's a massive belly flop I can minimise the shame.

And on that note we reach the first stage of my game design work:

That's right, with concept we're going back to the very beginning, how did I come up with the concept for this game, what influences were there and what tips can I give you the audience on how to come up with your own concepts?
bloody hell do I sound pretentious!

So, as you may know, CRYPTS is a dungeon crawler miniatures board game set in The Dark Below, a twisting cavernous system below a frontier town in 1885.

The town itself is called New Fairbank and acts as the main narrative for the game despite not actually being where the game play itself takes place.

Now, many of you may remember that this game started as an unofficial expansion for the game Malifaux by Wyrd Miniatures, but if I was to say that the world of New Fairbank was created for this, then that would not be doing the world justice.

You see, I've always been a fan of the Weird West theme, even when I had never heard of the phrase and I think it all began with the cartoon Bravestarr. As time went on my enjoyment of this theme expanded with Pen&Paper games such as Werewolf: The Wild West, films like West World and Wild Wild West and of course Back to the Future part 3! As time moved on I got to experience some fantastic forms of horror, possibly the most notable being the works of M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft both of whom I believe inspired me in my own short stories that you have no doubt found in this very blog.

This is you see the beauty of the Weird West Genre. It's an umbrella term used for anything 'wild west, with a touch of he fantastical'. By being Weird West you can tell a story that allows for traditional western characters, rubbing noses with steampunk inventors, Cthulhu style monsters, damned demons of hell, zombies, werewolves, ghosts and everything still being 'on theme'.

Weird West is essentially an excuse for a person's imaginations to go wild, and what have we seen so far? We've had Imps, Spiders and Skin Walkers, and just this week I introduced a new boss character called Mr Long Fingers, a humanoid creature with elongated limbs that draws children away in the middle of the night. Think of him as a monstrous version of the Piper of Hamlin, and believe me, Mr Long Fingers will be coming back in another story.


And so we reach a telling point, that for me the game of CRYPTS serves two functions; to create a game that I want to play, but also to give me an opportunity to tell a story. To reach out and draw people into this world, of the Sheriff, Frank Hodges and Eli Rush. Of the Dark Below, Last Light Tavern and the New Fairbank Chapel, of Blood Stones and the Winds of Blood, Bone and Elements and of course the machinations of Luth'Nak and the human elements that tie everything together.

And it is my belief that this is where the concept comes in.

If you want a concept for your game then you need to live it. You need to be able to reach into the back of your mind, pull out the characters, locations and events needed and tell the story through with your game.


Of course there is one major flaw here as I am only talking about narrative games here. You could not include the likes of Monopoly or Chess in this reasoning, but regardless, I find far to many narrative games are missing this 'X' factor, this storyline.

I'm not going to list any of them, but I've seen them. Sometimes even in prominent positions at events like Salute. I've seen the game seen the models and in some cases even seen the rules, and very often it's failed to grab me. Why? Because it's has used it's story as a secondary resource, rather than primary.


Did you notice what I did there? Gone is the word Concept and in has creeped Story.

You see with a narrative game, the two in he very first stage are almost interchangeable, for we are dealing with two types of concept; Storyline and Gameplay.

Perhaps I'm way off the mark here (after all these are the writings of an unpublished designer and writer) but I think without the concept for the story, you can not even begin to tie the gameplay into that narrative.


And on that note I draw this to a close, I hope you have enjoyed he first insight into my own game design process, and maybe as time goes on this little window into my mind will help explain why certain parts of the game are the way they are.

As always if you wish to take part n the closed testing please send me an email at or via twitter @doctorloxley

Until next time, stay safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley


  1. I love this idea and am looking forward to more.

    1. Thanks!

      If you have a preference on topics you'd like to see covered next, feel free to let me know.

      My next planned (but open to change) should be covering Attitude as in "why are you making this content and how that attitude effects the design process"