ON BOX OF DELIGHTS TOP 100 SOLITAIRE BOARD GAMES OF 2015!
One of BoardGameGeek's 2013 Best Thematic Solitaire Games for the Spare Time Challenged!
Adapted into an app game by HexWar!
As my first project for Victory Point Games (VPG), Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp by John Gibson was a significant test of my skills. Gibson was a first time designer from Canada with a lot of enthusiasm, but little idea of what to expect. I wasn't much better since I was still finishing up school, was new to the concept of solitaire games that weren't played with a standard deck of cards, and this assignment was really a test to see if I would get the job at VPG. In the end, with the help of Gibson and the team at VPG, Infection... was a great solitaire game, but getting it there was no easy task.
The first step was doing some in-house testing using the kit Gibson sent to VPG, which showed that the game had a solid premise and was enjoyable, but it had a ways to go before it would be ready for publication. Gibson and I traded game play reports back and forth via e-mail, tweaking pieces here and there and then going through more testing. Others at VPG joined in the testing as well, giving some great feedback on the game and the changes we were making. As things progressed I enlisted artists and graphic designers to start creating assets for the pieces we knew weren't going to be changing.
After a couple of months we felt we were ready to enlist outside testers, but this meant cleaning up the rules that Gibson sent in so they fit within the VPG format and were suitable for player's to understand the game without our assistance. I created the first draft of the VPG version of the rules, had Gibson and some of the VPG crew go over them, and following a few revisions put together the initial playtest kits.
Pictured above is one of those testing copies of Infection... we sent out. It's functional, but uses a lot of assets taken from the internet or generated quickly just to get the job done. Luckily, the testers were enthusiastic and pushed through the lack of visuals and really enjoyed the game. Most of them played at least a few times and provided some great feedback, with a few going above and beyond, playing the game many times and sending in reams of data.
Throughout all of this testing, not only were the original rules tweaked and fine tuned, but a number of additional mechanics were added. The two biggest were the inclusion of the Special Event Tokens and the introduction of a second side to the board with a harder difficulty. The Special Event Tokens added completely unforeseen positive or negative random events in the game and introduced another level of variability to the mix, since you randomly select 1/3rd of them for each play through. As for the harder difficulty, since Infection... is a solitaire puzzle/strategy game that becomes easier as you figure out the mechanics, the inclusion of a harder difficulty was seen as a way to make it so players could continue to enjoy the game even once they'd fully learned the game's tricks.
While testing was on-going I was working through the production side of things as well. We sadly lost our initial artist, Chris Kiser, to full-time employment, but some of the in-house artists stepped in to pick up the slack. Coordinating that work amidst the hectic release schedule at VPG was a challenge, especially since continued testing meant the completion of some assets had to wait until there would be no more changes.
In May of 2013 Infection: Humanity's Last Gasp was finally released after about 9 months of development; the first 4 months were done while I was finishing up my degree, so I knew I could step up the speed for my next project, but it was pretty exhilarating to have my first published game credit to my name. The game has been well received and there's still a small but dedicated fanbase, as evidenced by the image above, taken by a player approximately 2 years after the game was originally released.