Monthly Archives: July 2013

Game layout

We love it when our customers adapt our games and make them their own. We’ve seen bespoke invitations, badges, items, handouts and character booklets. In fact, I think that anything that could be customised has been customised.

 Of course, we’re slightly embarrassed that our basic layout isn’t a bit better. But we’re the first to admit that design layout isn’t our strength (our strength is, we hope, writing and developing hugely entertaining murder mystery party games).

Despite appearances, we do think about layout quite a bit. For example, we know that our games are often played in dim lighting by people whose eyesight probably isn’t as good as it once was. So we try to make sure our game materials are clear and easy to read. (Black text on a white background might not be trendy, but it’s clear and easy to read.)

Hollywood Lies Character Pack

A typical character pack from Hollywood Lies

Our games’ layout has also changed (and improved, we think) over the years. So we’ve combined the abilities, secrets and information into the main character files so reduce the number of different pieces of paper. (Unfortunately we still need to update the old games – there’s just too much to do!)

We’ve dipped our toe into the murky waters of “professionally designed” layouts with A Dead Man’s Chest. We have to be honest, we’re not completely convinced by the result. And sales are basically no different from before the change – which is encouraging as it suggests that the quality of our games is more important than how they look. But it has meant that we haven’t rushed to getting all our games professionally laid out.

Plus if the look of our games were “better”, it might take away our customers’ opportunity to be creative with the components.

In case you’re wondering how that works, we don’t use anything fancy for our layouts. Mo uses Microsoft Word and Steve uses Libreoffice and then we create pdfs from them. The big advantage of using a standard system is that we can provide the original files if one of our customers wants to customise their party. That’s not so easy if all we have is an Adobe InDesign file from a professional.

We’re occasionally talk about exploring other layouts for our games – but to be honest we’re unlikely to change the formula without good reason.

Steve Hatherley

Shape Up!

When I’m not making murder mystery games for Freeform Games, one of the other things I do is… make other kinds of games. (I may have a bit of a games problem. Although if you acknowledge it, it isn’t a problem, isn’t that right?)

So just lately I’ve been thinking about card games, particularly small ones that can be played in a family context – not too complex, but with enough interest and depth to make people want to try them again (and again). I am the first to admit that I have a lot to learn, and the games I’ve designed are not yet as good as I’d like them to be: but I have just had one published, so I thought you might like to take a look. Especially as it’s free!

Yes, the game’s called Shape Up! and you can download it for free from the publisher’s site, Good Little Games. Just print out the file, cut up the cards, and away you go. There are also several other good games on the site, all also free!

Here’s an example card from the game:
example_card
which is basically about assembling these different-symbolled cards in different combinations to score more points than your opponent.

Give it a go if you think it sounds like your sort of thing! – and Steve and I would love to hear what you make of it.

Introverts and our murder mystery games

I’ve just finished the excellent book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain. In it, Cain outlines the differences between introverts and extroverts and how society (American society in particular) values extroverts over their quieter brethren.

A couple of characters from The Karma Club

Introverts and extroverts enjoying The Karma Club

Now, I’m an introvert and so I found myself agreeing with much of the book. But I also found myself reflecting on introverts and our murder mystery games. Surely as in introvert I should hate our interactive murder mystery games? Maybe not.

I don’t particularly enjoy parties. As an introvert I find myself stuck for things to say – I’m hopeless at small talk with strangers. And I don’t particularly like large groups. So at a party I inevitably end up finding one or two people to talk to in depth – and then I worry that I’m monopolising all their attention. (Shyness and a dose of guilt – that’s very traditional introvert behaviour.)

However, I love playing in one of our murder mystery games. I have no problem talking to complete strangers in one of our games – it’s as if the very nature of our games (a fake situation, everyone has goals and objectives) removes my awkwardness.

In my view, the key to this is that I don’t have to make small talk in a Freeform Games murder mystery. We make sure that each character knows something interesting about two or three or four other characters – enough to start a conversation with someone else. So instead of making small talk, I’m either trying to find out something or I’m sharing information that I already know.

I’m not sure our games are suitable for all introverts – if you’re painfully shy you might never enjoy our games. But here are some thoughts on casting extroverts and introverts:

  • Introverts often suit characters that other people will seek out. I remember (inadvertently) casting an very shy person in the role of one of the producers in Hollywood Lies – and they found that the actors, screenwriters and directors were seeking them out because they wanted to appear in their movie.

  • I would tend not to cast an introvert in a role that required a lot of announcements or public speaking. Detectives and private investigators tend to suit extroverts because they require the player to meet with everyone – and they often have a solution to read out at the end of the party.

  • Allow time to wind down afterwards. I find our murder mystery games quite exhausting (both when I’m hosting and when I’m playing), and I need a bit time after the game to wind down.

  • Remember that everyone is different – you may know introverts that are happy to speak in public, so please note that these are guidelines only.

You can take the quiet quiz here and find out whether you’re an introvert or not.

Steve Hatherley