Lockup: a Roll Player Tale
Lockup, designed by Stan Kordonskiy and published by Thunderworks Games, is a worker placement game with elements of bluffing, set collection, and resource management. Collect and play tome cards at the right moment to get the upper hand. Each player's crew has members with different strengths and abilities. Knowing when and where to use each member of the crew is key to success in the cutthroat dungeons of Kulbak.
When Thunderworks Games needed balancing and playtesting turned around on a tight deadline for Lockup: a Roll Player tale, they worked with me to create an accelerated development plan to meet their needs. A series of focused playtests acted as discovery research, letting us quickly achieve a shared understanding of where issues might lie in the game.
Rigorous mathematical analysis underpinned balancing efforts — avoiding time spent with "trial and error" balance playtesting. Seeing the power of our underlying mathematical model, I proposed and designed a new game mode that gave each player a unique starting position and tied the game back to their existing Roll Player franchise.
"John did an amazing job with the final polish phase of the project. His extensive playtesting network was invaluable, and his design sense generated a lot of great stretch goal ideas for the Kickstarter for the project. I plan to leverage his services for many projects in the future." — Keith Matejka, Thunderworks Games
- Playtest Coordination and Analysis
- Gameplay Streamlining
- Solo Mode Design
- Mathematical Balancing
- Product Development
Case Study: Traits Advanced Setup
Playtesting revealed that players had a desire for the crews to have some variation between them. Why would the Goblins have the exact same capabilities as the Insectoids? With only weeks left to design and test that content, developing variable player powers would have put the development cycle over its timeline.
The solution: leveraging the mathematical model built for balancing the items to give players asymmetric starting positions, allowing for the crews to feel different, but dramatically cutting down the time needed for balancing. Each crew's game board flips over to an "Advanced Setup" side printed with a unique starting position. Players further differentiate by then choosing one of two Trait Cards which grant additional resources. The traits come from the base Roll Player game, tying Lockup back to the existing franchise and allowing the re-use of art assets.
Praise for Lockup
"The level of interaction and tension is very high...I'll never play without the advanced setup" — Tom Vasel, The Dice Tower
"The solo mode shines with the hidden guard placement and where the most interesting decisions occur." — Jamie Jamison, 4.1.1 Reviews