The Making of Dead by Daylight™: The Board Game (Part 2: A Functional Collector’s Item)
Welcome to The Making of Dead by Daylight™: The Board Game! In these blogs, I’ll share a few of the details on how this project came together. I hope you enjoy this inside look at how the board game was designed and developed. Make sure to check out Dead by Daylight: The Board Game on Kickstarter!
At Level 99 Games, we build games in two phases.
Design is where we do the planning and the concept testing. We make sure the rules and the big ideas of the game are just right.
Development is where we fill in the contents of the game and smooth out rough edges in the rules.
Throughout this process, we try to think about the game as a product that people are going to use. One of the interesting features of board games is that they have to be operated by players. In a video game, the platform (a computer, console, or phone) is separate from the player, but in a board game, the player is also in charge of understanding and enforcing all of the game’s rules.
Because of this, one of the most important tasks in design is ensuring accessibility. The game must not be overly complicated, nor should it be difficult to set up, teach, or learn. Furthermore, the game’s components must also follow this rule. It is always good to use fewer components, each with a clear purpose, and to organize them into fewer boxes. It was understood from the very start that the core game rules would need to fit on one page, though the form of that page changed a lot over the course of the design.
This goal is complicated by the aspect of marketing, because much of the value proposition of a board game is tied up in its components. As much as we are willing to pay top dollar for a great novel, movie ticket, or video game, most buyers in our market don’t recognize great board game design alone as being worth the price of admission the way they do in other media. A board game’s price is determined by the size of its box and the components therein more than any other factor.
Thus, we must build ‘the product’—the game as it is on shelves—by balancing the three competing dimensions of accessibility, material cost, and apparent value.
The catch phrase we pitched to Behaviour Interactive was a “Functional Collector’s Item,” and that became a guiding principle in design. Early on in design, we had initial plans for legacy modes and character growth, like what exists in the video game. However, we decided not to pursue these options because anything that would alter the game would go against the idea of the game as a collector’s item.
There’s a certain evil tendency in the tabletop industry to make more and more—even when more is less from a player perspective. Indeed, the prospect of making every DBD chapter into a separate small box was floated and eventually scrapped as an idea. There were similar talks for legacy, fully cooperative, and solo modes.
“Too big to play”, otherwise known as “Kickstarter bloat” is a common problem that plagues modern board games. With Dead by Daylight, we decided that making the best possible game meant making a game of the right size—one box with everything, at a reasonable price, without a ton of modes, variants, and options.
Our rule of thumb for cutting content is pretty strict. If 80% of tables won’t ever use this component/mode/character, then we’re not going to include it. Furthermore, if this component/mode/character doesn’t lead to a fun game experience 95% of the time, we’re not going to include it.
All of these considerations and more came together as we designed not just a game, but the product that would encapsulate it and deliver that game to your tabletop. I’m really proud of the final product the team has put together. It’s a great game, at a great price. But it’s also just the right amount of game–tons of replayability without excessive bloat.