Trudvang Legends Delayed
Let us fill another page in our chronicle.
Backers, this is going to be a very long update today, and a very important one. We’re going to cover quite an extensive amount of information, so we ask you bear with us and read through everything.
From the beginning, we’ve mentioned that Trudvang was one of our most ambitious projects to date, and with that, it also saw one of our most dedicated Kickstarter communities arise since the launch of the campaign. Not only were people excited during the actual campaign, but that momentum has carried onward in the months since we’ve reached our funding goal not only in the comments but in response to each update we’ve posted about the creation process. It’s seeing that which makes the topic we’re bringing today even more difficult. There really isn’t any good or easy way to say it, so we’ll just say it and then we can discuss it: we’re delaying the delivery of the project.
Now, there are some facets to mention here before we get into the deeper specifics; we’ve delayed projects before, that is one of the natures of Kickstarter estimates and the process as a whole. But in this case, there are two primary points we want to make early: This isn’t a delay due to manufacturing complications or logistical reasons. This delay is happening solely on account of we are not happy with how the actual game was shaping up. We felt the final product that was emerging was failing to meet not only our internal expectations but was lacking the experience we wanted the fanbase to have as well. While this is never something you want to realize in your product, especially this far into the process, once you do, it’s not something you can in good conscious ignore. So, we had to take a big step back and look at the larger picture for the project and make some hard evaluations. We’ll talk about the specifics below, but the other point we want to make early is that, given the nature of this, we’re uncertain exactly how long this delay will account for.
Unlike production or manufacturing delays, which you can usually get reasonable estimates most of the time since it’s a mechanical process, a delay due to reevaluating the gameplay dynamics isn’t so easy, especially given the steps we’re taking (which we will cover in detail below). Given what we’ve already experienced with the project, we don’t want to give a timeframe, then rush and potentially repeat the same mistakes that got us here, to begin with, so speaking candidly we’re probably looking at possibly a 1-year delay.
Now, we completely understand that this is substantially a longer wait than expected, so before we continue we’d like to express our appreciation for your support and patience by adding a freebie to your pledges: 3D Points of Interest tokens. Points of interest are cardboard tokens added to the game board to indicate events or clues taking place in the story, but considering this unforeseen delay, and all support and love you have expressed for Trudvang, we thought we could improve these tokens for you. With that, every backer will receive with their pledges these very neat sculpted tokens to replace their cardboard counterparts!
Now let’s go over the specifics that led us here and, more importantly, the steps we’re taking to rectify it.
As we mentioned initially, Trudvang was one of our most ambitious projects. We wanted to bring a deep personal sense of storytelling and growth to our players while also delivering dynamic combat and tactical play, all packaged in an accessible game that wouldn’t require a doctorate in Trudvang to play. The core project goals, when looked at independently, were all manageable. But as time went on and more of the aspects began to mesh together, cracks and flaws began to appear. This is standard to the design and development process: you find things, you sort them, cut what doesn’t work, and move on. But Trudvang isn’t so simple, since one of the primary goals we set out to achieve was blending storytelling, personal narrative, and fulfilling gameplay. It became a very precarious balancing act. So we stepped back to evaluate how these things were ending up… And unfortunately, the results did not impress us, and if the project members weren’t happy with how it was shaping up, how could we expect the players to feel?
It’s a very hard realization. To balance out the various aspects of gameplay, each one had ended up suffering: the stories weren’t as dynamic as we wanted, the personal experience didn’t carry the “epic” feeling we wanted, some mechanics were very specific and isolated, harming what should be a natural flow of gameplay… We ended up feeling there was more potential here than was showing, and again, once you realize that fact, you can’t just let it go.
Trudvang could be better, and more importantly, the setting, fans, and backers deserved better.
It was after that we began the plans on how to rectify the various problems we encountered, once they had been discovered, and evaluate how long and how impactful would any required changes be. Again, this wasn’t an easy process, but once we, not only the project team but the company as a whole, evaluated the full situation, numerous steps were taken, which resulted in the addition of numerous individuals being brought in to the company specifically for this purpose. This in turn lead to the creation of a brand new overall Trudvang team, comprised of both new members as well as existing ones, each with a key role to suit the new needs of the project:
First, to address the story elements, new team members Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi, both veteran board game and roleplaying game designers were onboarded. Their works include games such as War of the Ring, Age of Conan, The One Ring, and Lex Arcana. After their full assessment, they believed that the narrative had become a bit too convoluted and was lacking a specific focus. Namely, while there were lots of little bits of interesting elements scattered through play, very few made a grandiose impact on things, and Trudvang is supposed to be entirely about your decisions having a far-reaching impact.
Unfortunately, the development process was too advanced to just ‘fix’ a few things here and there, all the elements that make a game like Trudvang are intertwined in a cohesive whole, its game rules and story elements go hand in hand, so merely modifying existing content as an easy fix didn’t really work. It was there that the expertise of the third and fourth new team members came into play: Umberto Pignatelli, a writer of roleplaying games and, most importantly, dozens of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style books, was brought on as the new main writer for the revamped story. Completing the new team was Claudio Muraro, Claudio being a designated Trudvang Loremaster as well as a board gaming enthusiast. His role was to ensure that the game maintained accuracy to the established lore of the setting.
Together their role was to assure that the story progression and decisions taken by players were actually working in the way planned and intended, delivering the experience that we set ourselves to create. One of the first modifications that came into play was in the structure of chapters itself. Although the 1h hour experience separated across 30 chapters provide “easy to digest” stories, they were also creating a very slow progression, with just a little portion of the main story being explored in each one. This was something that needed to be fixed in order to have a “meatier” experience. The number of chapters are now a little shorter, but far are lengthier, providing many more options to players, and developing and advancing more of the story. With that, playing a full campaign – which contains the same if not more gameplay time than initially stated, became much more rewarding and a more complete experience, of highs, lows, and twists. In addition to that change came also the Side quests, that add more depth to game, but are completely optional, giving another layer to the players’ choices in the game. Players may opt to follow only the main quest, playing a more direct storyline, or explore other adventures that the world may provide. These are just a few elements that were added to game to deliver a more fulfilling experience to players, along with others such as the constant appearance of companions, class related moments and developments of the story, and others that, as we said, will be explored more later on future updates.
While that covers the narrative and storytelling elements for this update, there were still numerous gameplay elements that were not shaping up to our standards as well. In that regard, Jordy Adan of the existing design and development team (and more recently, Spiel de Jahres nominee for his game Cartographers) was moved to the role of Lead Developer, and has been working on incorporating all the new revamps to the narrative to make sure it meshes with gameplay, as well as tackling many of the actual design revamps as well. While we’re going to cover the changes to actual game design and development more in individual updates, we have some initial comments from Jordy on some of these changes:
“One aspect that dedicated time to reevaluate was Combat. We liked how it worked already: the rune allocation system worked and was fun. The push-your-luck aspects also made combat dynamic, but we found they were being too punishing at times, so we had to reevaluate some parts of that. One thing we didn’t like was how predictable the planning and resolution was for combat had ended up. Each hero had the same set of cards through the session and each monster did the same expected thing as described in their bestiary cards. That sounds fine, but once you found the solution to the “puzzle” of how your equipment/skills worked together, there weren’t many exciting moments-players tended to default to the same option each time.
Once we began exploring options to change this, we eventually settled on a deck of cards for each hero from which cards will be drawn at the beginning of each round. In some cases, you may draw exactly what you wanted, but in other cases you have to make just the best use of your available options.
The second change was to make monsters more unpredictable, giving them some “output randomness” and making them less “mechanical”. Instead of dealing a fixed amount of damage every time, now you draw a Monster Attack card every time they attack, which is basically a modifier to the base damage of the monster, but may also trigger some monster abilities. You can still make plans on how the monster reacts because you know in advance its base damage and abilities, but you can’t be 100% certain of what’s going to happen now. Don’t take this to mean combat is random, we’ve been very careful to blend a mix of tactical planning and predictability with just enough randomness to make things exciting. In the end we were very satisfied with the dynamic flow this now provided, rather than a strict “puzzle-solving” nature to encounters.
Now, to briefly speak on another change we implemented, and this is probably the biggest one: We felt that combat and rune-drawing didn’t feel integrated enough with the rest of the game. It was more of an “extra” thing that happened sometimes, rather than an integral part of the system. To make it flow better, the rune-drawing had to be something you were doing every round of the game, even when you’re not fighting monsters. So to achieve this, we created a key Phase of the game: After traveling, you always draw cards from your deck, and then draw and allocate runes from your bag. What are these runes doing when there’s no monsters in your region? Collecting Chronicle Points! Basically, instead of activating the ability from a card, you can use it to generate these Chronicle Points. This new “currency” of the game, that replaced the previous XP, can then be spent during some story moments and in combination with other abilities, leading to dynamic changes, but will also be utilized in a number of other new ways, such as preventing damage, acquiring new runes, exchanging for rewards, etc. I won’t get into too many specifics here, for the sake of time, but we’ll cover more of these changes later when we can devote more time to each topic.”
As a team, the most important thing we can stress is that we firmly believe in all of these actions and their resulting changes. Trudvang will arrive, though exact timetables are still being evaluated. But given the steps we’re taking, we’re confident that the actual final product will meet the goals we set out for the project and, more importantly, deliver the full experience we promised to our supporters and backers.
The legend goes on.