Shortest Month, Longest Game – Design Challenge

February 1, 2013

Campaign length games are pretty uncommon among Indie community games, I’d like to see that change.

The Premise: Design a game meant to be played in regular sessions over the course of one or more years with an Indie community sensibility to it, meaning that your game should have a system that matters, and matters in new ways over the course of months and years of play.

The Challenges: To spur your creativity and make this challenge more interesting, I’ve worked out five challenges. You must pick at least one challenge as part of your design, but you can attempt as many as you like, even all five. These are also the criteria under which the games will be judged.

  • Flexible Footprint Challenge – a common criticism of long form games is that they represent a significant social footprint, requiring folks to commit to regularly attending many sessions over months and years with each other. The challenge here is to turn this on its head, being flexible about who attends, how long the sessions can be, and the ways in which players can contribute to the game, all to adapt to changes in player lives and schedules.
  • No Advancement Challenge – the most common campaign arc for RPGs is the advancement arc where characters accumulate power, wealth, or skill over many play sessions. The challenge here is to not fall back to this approach, to let characters change but not to simply make them better, but keeping an engaging evolution.
  • Indie Extrapolation Challenge – hacking one game to build the foundation of another is an essential part of the Indie community. The challenge here is to take a short form Indie community game and build and translate from it into game which spans a year or longer, while still retaining some of the essential nature of the original game.
  • Self-Transforming Challenge – during long form games the rules of play often evolve as the players build their own play culture, often solidifying into traditions and house rules. The challenge here is to support the evolution of your game into a system unique to the particular group, while keeping this transformation from coming to an end or hurting the player’s enjoyment of the game.
  • Pure Innovation Challenge – some folks look down on innovation for its own sake, I don’t. The challenge here is to discover or re-discover largely unexplored design territory within your game, while still making sure your game works.

The Ingredients: In addition to the challenges here are four terms to use in inspiring your game. For the initial draft, choose at least three and for the revised draft you must keep at least one of these ingredients.

  • Fever
  • Tree
  • Occupation
  • Fool

Milestones: As a departure from most design challenges in recent years, the Longest Game occurs over two months, February and March. In February you will come up with your design inspiration and write a basic, albeit possibly incomplete draft of your design. During March you will develop your game, doing micro-playtests and other analyses to understand what your game does and to decide which parts might work and which definitely do not. By the end of March, you complete a revised draft, ready to be playtested for its full-length. Along the way I (and others if they wish) will be helping you by providing feedback and assisting in development where possible.

  • February 1st – The Challenge Begins
  • February 15th – Deadline for Game Summaries: a 30-second plug line, a brief description of what play looks like, and a brief plan for the system. If you get yours in by this point, I’ll get back to you with feedback on it by the next weekend (in person if you’ll be at Dreamation).
  • February 28th – Initial Drafts
  • March 15th – Development and Micro-Playtesting Reports: let us know how your development process is going and where you need help.
  • March 31st – Revised Draft, ready for proper playtesting

7 Responses to “Shortest Month, Longest Game – Design Challenge”

  1. […] some kind of lineage to link their characters together. (This dialogue was specifically inspired by Wormwood’s Shortest Month, Longest Game challenge.) The idea of building a character off your last one seemed to appeal, so I’ll […]

  2. bringerofpeace Says:

    Where do we send our submissions? 🙂

    Best Wishes, Manu

  3. What do you mean with “a 30-second plug line”? You just mean a quick summary of the game?

    • wyrmwood Says:

      Right, just a quick summary. Although I suggest trying to focus on what is most exciting/interesting about the game to you.

  4. MrPurple Says:

    Hi, I’ve just seen this. Is it too late for me to get involved?

    • wyrmwood Says:

      It’s not too late, you can always join in along the way and either start hitting the milestones as you can or start fresh with the next milestone.

      The goal of the schedule is to help make the revised drafts ready for serious playtesting, not to limit people from participating.

  5. Rafu Says:

    I’m not abiding to the rules of the challenge (well, maybe to some of them, but I’m definitely not respecting your deadlines!), but between “tree” and “fool” and the idea of a long-form game I got inspired to design a remake of Everway — called “Tree of Worlds”:

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