In case you missed it, I recently submitted an entry to the annual Game Chef game design competition (read the original announcement). Each participant had to write a peer review of four other participants’ entries, and I just received the feedback for Lucidity, Inc.
If you’d like to read the game to see what it’s about, you can get the free download right here:
I was really pleased with the positive feedback I got. There seemed to be a few misconceptions about the game’s base mechanics — it uses Fudge / Fate dice but isn’t specifically a Fudge or Fate game. Some of the reviewers seemed to think otherwise, which means future iterations of the game need to either be more specific. I did mention in my previous post that I may flesh it out into a more Fudge-based game, but it’d certainly be closer to Fudge than Fate Accelerated Edition.
Other than that, there are a lot of really great observations and advice. I knew when I submitted the game that it was short on examples due to my word count limitations, and that definitely showed up in these reviews. I already knew future iterations would need additional examples, but these reviews give me a lot of good input about about what could use some more clarification.
At least one of the reviews mentioned it was their pick to go on to the Game Chef finals, which makes me proud. I’m not sure what all of the rest of the competition looks like, but I’m excited that all of these were positive. It gives me a lot of hope that the game will put in a good show.
If you’re interested to read these comments yourself, keep reading. I’ve posted them in their entirety below. Also, if you’ve read the game and have any additional feedback please let me know by posting a comment or using the contact us form. I’d love to hear from you!
Though very simple in it’s presentation and layout, I’m immediately drawn to the front cover. It’s not very original- but somehow, that lens flare on the black background immediately catches my attention. Though I do like the minimalist approach, having the author’s name or some other sort of text would, I think, set it off even more.
I did like the introduction- it made me realize that I needed to be a bit more descriptive in my own Foreword. It enables the author to distinctly address what ingredients they used, and the audience, without being blunt about it in the text, nor wonder if the text was sufficent to portray intent.
The same font used over and over again becomes a bit tiring by the contents- hopefully it is broken up a bit later. Again, a very good point to create the table of contents, and it goes to show how much the author put those finishing touches on their production.
The game seems to be writtenn in the form of a manual of operations for an agent- in universe. Even as the systems are explained, it stays in that tone, though it drops out at strange places to be omnicient. It uses the Fudge or Fate system- it would seem that if it was truly to be based on one of those ssytems, it should be more explicitly stated, to set the stage for the player’s expectations more effectively, especially as from the perspective of an experienced Fate player, some of the initial descriptions of the rules (keeping target numbers secret) are jarring and antithetical to the perceived source material.
We get back to the agent’s briefing- and an explanation of waht Lucidity, Inc is. It really catches me at that time. I might dispute the ordering, and think that the description of the company should have been before the rules blurb, but that’s debatable. But the idea is really inspired. I’ve seen it used before, but not as the entire basis for the game, and I love the description of The Dreamer.
There’s an interesting twist on the use of Stress in the game- it makes me start to think ahead of the text, knowing Fate as I do. This is a good thing- to keep the reader anticipatory about the rest of the text. I’ve seen games interweave in-game text with system text many times. It’s a hard skill to master. I applaud the author’s intent… but the weaving seems to be done less effectively than it could have, and it’s jarring when you come across system text.
Only down do I realize that the game seems based on Fate Accelerated Edition rather than any of the other iterations. I think that was a slip- it should have been more evident from earlier in the text, IMO. The Qualities are what gave it away for me- which are a bit uninspired in their presentation, especially interweaved with in game text as it is.
I like the fact that the skill list is lean and mean. It also seems more attuned to the use of a social worker rather than a combat oriented character- very fitting. However, the next section acts in opposition to the tone I’ve sensed, as the Affecting the Dream World section spends a bit of the time talking about finding weapons and such. How are those used? And what are they useful for? I’m supposing I’ll find that out later, though up to this point, in tone, I’d viewed this more of a survival/cooperative type of game, where you help your patient overcome the situations, so I’m not sure that it fits. Though Act talks about using weapons and such in the skill list, I just didn’t think it would be so overt. It’s a bit of a letdown.
I really like the The Dream Master’s Section. There is a temptation, since this is based on an existing framework and you need to allow for that, to fluff the page count with repetitions of rules. The Dream Master section stays away from this- conveying on the minimum of rules, while The Dream section continues in that vein after a short detour. It gives a good framework for tailoring the cases, and crafting goals. There is also a good example of play section, and a good section on the use of Metaphors. I now see that the game and dream master’s section isn’t as open as I’d thought. It’s made with a specific case in mind, and the Dream Master’s section is all about running through that adventure. It’s my own assumptions gone wrong, but it does feel like a bit of a letdown.
There is a skill sheet in the back, which is a welcome addition. I do not that there is a shift in font in the name section of the sheet- not sure why that happens.
Scored Peer Review
Use of Theme: 5 – making a game for social workers is an admirable goal, but I don’t think that as currently stated it’s actually made for them. I see nothing in the presentation of the game that is in anyway tailored for a social worker other than the fact that the agents themselves are the workers.
Use of Ingredients: 7- Dream is tightly integrated. Abandon and Stillness are peripheral in the treatment of the Dreamer, but not very integrated other than as overarching themes.
Completeness: 8 – one of the things about basing a game on other frameworks (in this case Fate Accelerated Edition) allows the designer more leeway to complete rather than design the game. As such, this game is pretty close to being a complete production.
Presentation: 7 – The cover is striking, though could use a bit of sprucing up in the way of title and credits. The layout is very well done, though there could be more use of fonts in breaking up the text. There is no imagery other than the cover. It is very readable, however, and has a very good curb appeal.
Playability: 8 – being based on FAE, it is a proven, playtested system. The only question I have is towards the use of stress without consequences. It seems to be made for a particular scenario instead of a more generic system, making it have less generic use of play. This is also integrated into the theme and ingredients, restricting it even more.
Appeal: 6 – Reading the concept and the first half of the book, I really wanted to explore the concepts. The second half cooled that down for me. It’s appealing, but only after hacking it up a bit and making it a bit less like standard FAE, and a bit more like the game I thought it was.
Originality: 4 – This takes a bit of a hit for reverting to your standard use of combat and obstacles, and of course, being built on FAE.
Writing: 8 – The writing is very polished, though the pacing and use of perspective, tone, and tense needs a bit of work.
Final Score and Thoughts
Final weighted score is 6.55 out of 10. I love the concept, just the execution tends to go more towards the banal that I’d like. I think a bit more attention to Lucidity, Inc, and to the cooperative aspects of solving issues would be just what this game needs- more Doctor Who than Torchwood. My nomination for the Finals
Your game seems to be the most complete of those I have reviewed. I feel I could take the rules to a group and sit down to play with no problems.
I liked the “Stress Track” and the way that players can interact with it. I think it is a very simple but effective way to create a visual representation of the dream state. I also liked the emphasis on the players working as a team.
I think you could work on the terminology though. Calling Lucidity Inc. “The Company” doesn’t mesh with the way the rules are written as it is written as if it is an employee handbook in most locations. I also think that calling the patient “the dreamer” is too dis-associative for such a setting. I also wish that your “qualities” weren’t so binary. You have quality combinations that seem to be at odds with each other. Can you really think of a person you would describe as Empathetic/Selfish or Empathetic/Judgmental? Objective and Judgmental also aren’t really a one or the other thing.
For the large part though, my criticisms are quite minor. Congratulations on the entry!
I truly loved this game. It is very creative and imaginative and very easy to play (it uses the Fate system, which I haven’t played yet, but reading the explanation it was simple to understand).
“Dream” is the main part of the game, but “abandon” and “stillness” are still in there, but are not a big component. These probably could have been used more (they’re just mentioned as part of a sample story for players).
I would definitely play this game. It looks very fun to play, and I like the layout. I love the idea of going into dreams and helping people with their problems.
Thank you for creating Lucidity Inc. for Game Chef this year. I’ve really enjoyed reading it. You’ve very put real thought and effort into this game and it shows. The design is a great touch that adds to the polish of the game itself.
I feel that you’ve made a good attempt at playing to a different audience. I like the focus on mental health and caring for others. I like your choice of character abilities; they make a lot of sense and I feel would allow for the creation of some interesting agents.
I recommend bringing in a wider variety of examples (i.e. fewer with a space focus) to show that your game can be played in any setting. The dream world allows for so many options; it would be great to demonstrate that. I understand that space is your chosen scenario to carry readers through the content, but I found it hard to separate one from the other because it was such a major focus in your examples.
The Stress level scale is counter-intuitive for me. It would seem that a +5 Stress level would be a negative thing, while a -5 would be the desired outcome (more stress versus less stress). This is a personal preference that may be just me, but is something to consider.
This is a solid game that I would play. I would like see gameplay broken down step-by-step as I believe this helps to ensure no one player “runs away” with the game, but I’m guessing that your game is also playable as is.