Published November 18, 2020
GUEST BLOG: Developing games during a pandemic
In 2019, the Indiana State Museum hosted “For the Win: The Hoosier Game Expo,” which featured a day of non-stop gaming and the opportunity to explore a variety of games, talk with Indiana game designers and more. We’re unfortunately unable to host the expo this year due to COVID-19.
We aren’t the only ones missing out on the gaming fun, though. Through guest blogs, learn how the pandemic has changed game development and the way groups game together.
By Chris Hamm, lead developer at Kolossal Games
My grandfather taught me checkers at age 5, and I won my very first game. I was forever hooked on games of all types after that. My gateway into modern board games was Settlers of Catan, and my current favorites include Imperial 2030, In the Year of the Dragon and poker.
Being a tabletop game developer largely means working on games from outside designers, making sure that everything works, and refining them into the best game they can possibly be. I have designed five titles myself, as well as numerous solo modes for games published by Kolossal Games.
Check out Kolossal Games at kolossalgames.com.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected game development at Kolossal Games?
A: The most significant adjustment that I have had to make to my process as a developer is finding ways to test games without being able to gather in large groups of people.
A big part of development is making sure everything works and refining the game. This is generally done by playtesting a game repeatedly through many iterations and making small improvements. As a result, we have had to move some of this testing to online platforms like Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia.
What was one of the most difficult things Kolossal Games (or the gaming industry as a whole) had to overcome during the pandemic?
I would have to say the loss of conventions. As I am sure you are aware, even Gen Con was canceled this year, and we do not know when we will be able to have conventions again.
Gaming is largely a social activity, and the opportunity to interact with the community at conventions and share the joy of playing games is sorely missed.
Everyone seems to be going virtual right now. In what ways did Kolossal Games take advantage of this, and are there plans to continue it as a part of a “new normal?”
As I mentioned, we have offloaded as much of our playtesting to online platforms as we can. We have adapted by having the entire team work remotely, which saves the company money by not having to rent office space.
We have participated in some of the digital conventions and created some online versions of our games, but I do not think that this will or can go on forever.
There is something special about sitting across from friends, family, and even strangers and playing a game with them. Although there are some amazing online ways to play tabletop games, it is not the same. Expansion into the online market is here to stay, but as soon as we are able, we will be gaming in person.
What have been some positives that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Obviously the pandemic has been challenging for people all around the world, often with tragic consequences. So, it is hard to talk about the positives that may have come from it. However, if I had to look for silver linings, I would say that it has brought many families closer to rediscover the fun of playing games together and that difficult times tend to breed great art.
I consider game design to be an artform. Tons of incredibly creative and talented people – either established in the industry or completely new to it – have had a lot of spare time on their hands to create amazing games. I cannot wait to see what they have come up with!