23 October 2018
Blood Rage creator’s involvement in ambitious concept cut short by joining CMON
Blood Rage and Rising Sun designer Eric Lang started work on one of the first ‘unique games’ – Fantasy Flight’s ambitious series of one-of-a-kind titles that includes card-battler KeyForge: Call of the Archons and survival board game Discover: Lands Unknown – before having to abandon the project early on.
That’s one of the intriguing details revealed in a lengthy insight into the creation of the ‘unique games’ concept posted by Fantasy Flight founder and Twilight Imperium designer Christian T. Petersen, who recalled he first started discussing the idea of a game where every copy is different in 2015 with Lang.
Petersen noted that Lang “floated” the idea of unique games, before the pair discussed potential ways of making the contents of every players’ box individual – among the methods considered were procedural 3D generation and 3D printing of unique game components, before being dismissed as too low-quality and expensive at the time. (Petersen added that the cost of 3D printing remains unfeasible, three years on.)
Growing the idea from making a single component different to applying the idea of unique contents to almost every facet of a game, Petersen and Lang eventually began to develop the algorithmic method of creating varying combinations of elements such as cards that would ultimately be deployed in KeyForge and Discover.
As Petersen began to explore the “science and cost” required on the business side, Lang began gradually designing the first game alongside his other projects.
Over the next two years, Petersen said that Lang’s game would exist only in a “high-concept” form as “core ideas and play pattern” – it would never progress past this early stage of development, as Lang was required to leave the project behind by his joining of Zombicide and Rising Sun studio CMON as director of game design at the beginning of 2017.
“Eric’s job with CMON would preclude him from working on competitors’ projects, including FFG’s,” wrote Petersen. “This meant the “Unique Game” design from Eric would not be forthcoming after all. Sigh.”
Although Lang’s involvement in the concept had come to an end, the idea of a ‘unique game’ would later be married – with Lang’s permission – with a separate concept of a ‘persistent’ exploration board game first raised in 2014 by Star Wars: Rebellion, Eldritch Horror and Mansions of Madness designer Corey Konieczka that featured legacy-like progression across playthroughs, but could be endlessly reset. That game would be adapted into Discover: Lands Unknown.
In early 2015, Magic: The Gathering and Android: Netrunner creator Richard Garfield pitched his own idea for a game that would feature completely unique copies and use procedural generation to create completely individual names and images, a card game initially called Technic that would become KeyForge: Call of the Archons. Garfield, who had separately developed the similar idea to that explored by Lang and Petersen, would end up signing the game to Fantasy Flight, making it – alongside Discover – one of the first two unique games to make it to the tabletop this autumn.
While Lang’s unique game project with Fantasy Flight wasn’t to be, Petersen suggested that the designer could create a game with similar unique properties in the future – and gave his support.
“I expect (and hope) Eric will create his own vision of a ‘Unique’ game one day, be it with CMON or otherwise,” he said. “I can’t wait to play it when it arrives.”
Read the full story of the making of Discover: Lands Unknown in our exclusive interview with Corey Konieczka in the November issue of Tabletop Gaming magazine, available in shops from October 31st.