Gladiator's Helm

Ludus Magnus – Gladiator Helm portion of Ludus Magnus Game Logo

What went right?

1. We made a board game!

We did it! We made a fully-fledged board game! To be truthful, I didn’t think it would be such a quality game. Being our first board game, I expected them to be at a quality maybe a toddler could play with, but the mechanics just got better and more in depth. Eventually the players had to really think their next turns through and to a degree they have the ability to keep secrets from each other throughout play sessions.

As part of the project, we were given creative limitations in which we must satisfy in the final game product. All of the creative limitations were taken into account and the game was successfully completed with satisfying all limitations. These set limitations were as follows:

  • The game must be designed as a 3 player game. It can be cooperative or competitive.
  • Each player must control no more than one token/avatar.
  • It must take approximately 20mins for the players to complete a game the first time that they play.
  • Stakes or intensity must increase over the course of the game.
  • The companion app must include, at a minimum;
    • Setup instructions.
    • Reference rules.
  • Game must still be playable with only one app device and with only one player using the companion app.
  • Each team will be given a unique map type and randomisation type that will form the basis of their design.

By our final play test, we were actually able to complete most of our play throughs in less than 20 minutes including the play testers reading the rules. This did not happen in all previous playtester sessions, only in the final one did we achieve this limitation. I am glad that we did, as we were always so close, within around 5 minutes of this goal, which would have forever bugged me if we never ended up conquering this limitation.

It has been a long process. In the 4-ish weeks we had to create this game, there were a total of 4 major revisions of the game, I didn’t count minor revisions, but pretty much every lesson in class we had, we would go home that night and update the documentation. It was a constantly-evolving game idea that would be improved with the feedback given by the playtesters in each playtest session and our amazing facilitators, who pushed us along in the right direction when it was needed. This continuous development of our game mechanics and dynamics were a good thing in the end, as in the final playtest of the final playtest session, Ralf Muhlberger, the Games Department Coordinator, after finishing his playtesting session, came to us saying that he would actually buy our game from a store and play it with his friends. This really hit home to us, that a product we make could be bought and played by anyone, anywhere in the world, and for them to find it interesting and ‘fun’ enough that they would want to invite their friends over for a board game night and have our game be played that night and hopefully be enjoyed.

So, my first board game is done and dusted! It has been a very fun and very full-on experience. It was new territory but the success of the project was due to the great amount of help from our facilitators. Without their constant push for us to better the game, the game would not be as great as it is, it would probably be as I predicted it would turn out at the beginning of the project, having simple mechanics that only a toddler would be interested in. When I make a board game in the future, I shall look back on all the notes I have written and the different playtest videos which I have saved from the Google Drive, as reference to and as a reminder of how great I can actually make a board game. I mean, there is always improvement, but the quality of the board game exceeds what I ever had hoped for, I was actually having fun playing it, and from the final playtest videos and the feedback received, it seemed like others felt the same way too!

2. Collaboration with Animation students

As part of our project, we had the opportunity to pitch our games to Animation students, in an attempt to hopefully entice some of them to come collaborate with us. We ended up with three eager Animation students, Brennan and Tyler who primarily work in 3D and Christian in 2D.

We had planned for two Gladiator models to be 3D printed as well as a box art and a game board made in 2D. Half way through the collaboration time period, we were told by Brennan that our 2D guy was missing in action so he would probably not be doing the 2D assets. We were provided with 3D model pictures from some 3D modeling program, and were part of the whole process of how the models would look like, down to the size of the base we wanted.


    Ludus Magnus – Gladiator 1 Model


Ludus Magnus – Gladiator 2 Model with base


It was such a great experience and seeing it come to life, being 3D printed by Ralf, they looked even better than what was expected. The models were a little smaller than what we would have liked, and some parts broke off during playtests but Brennan has informed us that he will be working on improving the models models over the next few weeks to print again before Exhibition week.

I was the main contact between Do Or Dice and our collaborators, with Brennan being the main collaborator contact. Brennan was very thankful that I was always there to answer his queries and give him feedback as Gareth and Andrew were not often there to help. Gareth and Andrew were both still chatting, but definitely not as often.

The reason why I was in constant contact with the collaborators, was mainly because we were constantly updating each other about the situation around what we were doing and what was expected of them. We were updated on the progress of our collaborators almost every day. It was great to see the models changing along with the game changing, seeing the models change like a timelapse of a mold being built. In future projects, I hope our collaborators are as involving in asking questions and providing us with updates, as that is the only way our collaborators will do what we want of them, if we can have constant contact. It will not be fully under my control that future collaborators be as involved in the process and that they will actually get stuff we assign them done, but I will try my very best to keep in contact with them and ask for updates when they have updates to show.

3. Andrew’s Art

Every since the Art Bible was first created, Gareth and I have been pushing Andrew to try drawing what we ideally wanted, as he kept saying how he doesn’t know how to do Ancient Roman-styled artwork, only being able to do school-girl-styled anime drawing and art. When he first produced art assets in the Art Bible, it was of very high quality and was exactly what we were looking for. Gareth and I made sure to always congratulate him whenever new art was created, and in the end, he surprised us. The day before the final playtest, he drew up artwork for all of our 40 different Gladiator cards, and they looked truly amazing! He also did the card back artwork and the juicing of the front of the cards, but we knew he was doing this. It was a nice surprise to see and it made Gareth and I really happy as it proved to us that we had made Andrew more confident in his art abilities.

I had believed Andrew could do it all along, it just took him a while to realise that himself. Gareth and I consistently told him that the work he was producing was of a standard that was better than expected and that he is a really good artist overall. This pushed Andrew to try things that made him uncomfortable, as the whole Gladiators theme did, and in-turn, he became a better artist and more confident in himself because of it. I shall aspire to be like Andrew, trying out new things and bettering my abilities by trying these new things. Stepping out of my comfort zone is something I don’t do enough of, it isn’t that I don’t want to try it, because I love learning new things, it is that the new thing will take up too much time to learn and less time can be spent on the project because the new thing has taken up a lot of time to learn. In future projects though, I know I can learn some really cool things, seeing current Studio 2 and 3 student’s projects. In the holidays, I am planning to do an Advanced Unity Crash Course and learn as much as I can without the limitation of time to complete a project.

What went wrong?

It was mainly documentation that went ‘wrong’ this project, with all the below documents talked about, at a state that was less than complete.

1. Schedule / GANTT Chart

This project was the first project I have used my Schedule creation in a group environment. The Schedule in question is a Google Spreadsheet that I had initially created in my first project of Studio 1 and worked great for my first project, but when moving it over to the group project, I realised a lot of it had to be rewritten and a lot had to be added to make it work for a group situation. I have been actively working on this Sheet during the project, whenever I had spare time in between working on Ludus Magnus and talking in group meetings. What I should have done, was use the bare basic refinements I did at the beginning of the project to make it group-orientated, and then use the time I spent making the Sheet better, to actually update the items in the Schedule more often. I am going to make the Sheet a lot better in the holidays but in the meantime, I shall use what I have created so far for my next project.

Not updating the schedule is a bad thing, especially with a project that constantly evolved and had a forever changing pipeline. This was the sole reason the schedule didn’t get updated very often, because we would just have to reschedule stuff again after the next lesson. Sure it wasn’t surely that reason, because the things that would be updated would be ‘update documentation’ and ‘refine game idea’, so I am going to say that it was also due to business and the lack of drive to update it that allowed the schedule to remain untouched. I have learnt the importance of a schedule, and understand that it is a great tool to have when collaboratively working on a project. It is an especially important tool to have when working with collaborators outside of the games discipline, as it is harder to give definite deadlines verbally, and the schedule would provide a format that can be changed, seen and remembered by everyone. Allowing everyone to see the document, therefore see each other’s deadlines, will create a more real impending deadline feeling as other people know exactly when you said you would have something done by, and if it isn’t done by then, there may be trouble.

2. High Concept Document

I set myself the task of creating and maintaining the HCD. Through the many iterations of our game, I updated it and rewrote all sections in the last week of this project. The HCD was never complete though, as the Player Story section was very undefined until right near the end, and by then, I was busy working on the fine details of the game and didn’t ever fill in that section. I had commented in it that I was waiting for the next playtesting session to get a real player story from that, putting a section in the questionnaire that would fill this in for me, but either I didn’t write the question well enough that they couldn’t give me an in-depth enough response, or literally no-one wanted to go in-detail enough to write a story about their playthrough, like I tend to do.

The Player Story was never completed as the relied-on player story from play testers never came. It was totally my fault that the section wasn’t ever done, I should have known that humans suck, both for relying on them to do something, and for them making something that will tell other humans to do something (me creating a questionnaire that told play testers to write a player story basically). I should not have relied on play testers doing such a thing, even though I thought they could do it in like two minutes, just talk about what happened in their playthrough, but they either forgot what happened in the playthrough which would be our fault for not making it memorable, or two minutes writing a Player Story is still too much to ask of our play testers. In the future, I will be more upfront about asking them to write about their play though, and if I do not receive any responses back, then I will make up one, which will quite possibly not be as good as it wouldn’t be genuine. Either way, I will get the player Story section of the HCD done next project.

3. Technical Design Document

The groups were informed that they would need to write a Technical Design Document for their projects, and as each group had a programmer in it, us programmers were inclined to do the bulk of them. The problem was, I never actually created one for my group, I am not so sure about the other groups, if they created theirs or not. I do regret not creating one, but it was a similar situation to the HCD, but with the app, where the app was more important to get done in the limited time we had to go. I do understand that it wouldn’t have taken very long probably to create one and if I did 30 minutes on it each day between being notified that we need to do one, and finishing the app, it could possibly have been done, but there was also the element of the unknown. I had never created a TDD before. I understand that there was a template document for TDD creation, so I am glad that is there for reference for when I do the TDD next project.

Ahh, the TDD. It was totally my fault it never got written. I am the programmer and it is mainly my responsibility to create the TDD, at least do more than half of it. The TDD was never created for two main reasons: 1. I have never created a TDD before, so learning how to create one was time which I did not have, although there is a reference document available that could have helped me finish it faster. 2. The time we had spare was minimal, we were pretty much non-stop refining the game idea and updating the documentation we did have. The TDD was for an App, which had minimal features and would definitely not the size of what a game TDD would be, so I should have assigned time to at least attempt to make a TDD, as small is a good size for beginners, and beginning would mean beginning learning as well, so less time next project would be spent on learning how to make a TDD. I do regret not attempting to create a TDD, next time there will be one and it will be done to my best ability. I promise (I need to get the LOs so you know it will be done 😉 ).

This is Daniel Jochem, signing out.