Co-designers Maxime Rambourg and Théo Rivière take you on a journey through their game design process for The LOOP - a quirky cooperative game where players try to foil the plans of the evil Dr. Faux! The LOOP releases in August!
Théo: It all began on June 9, 2018. Fellow game designer Maxime Rambourg offered to show one of his prototypes to me and the incredible Sébastien from Catch Up Games. It was a cooperative deck-building game where players traveled through a timeline to stop a supervillain.
Max: After playing the game together, then Theo and I agreed to spend some time at his home in Brussels for our very first co-designing session. I think we spent the entire 4-hour drive from Strasbourg to Brussels talking about The LOOP. When we finally arrived at his place, we set up the game and started making changes to my little bits of cardboard.
Théo: In its current form, there was the hint of an excellent game, but there were still a fair amount of things that didn’t work well:
We discussed these issues and came up with two thematic solutions that made it into the final version of the game:
Max: We had another work session where we played back-to-back games from morning to night, with no interruptions. After each game, we spent a few minutes discussing what worked and what didn’t. We would make changes on the fly, then immediately set up a new game.
Théo: We worked on The LOOP for 12 hours a day for 2 days straight. The mechanics were reworked a lot and the graphic design was completely redone until we were content with the new version. Well, content enough to have a nice box to take a photo of and post on social media.
Max: We weren’t done yet though. The game used a linear timeline with 9 eras. This meant that if a player in the distant past had to travel to the far future, it was often impossible to complete. This frustration was felt too frequently, so we reduced the number of eras to 7. It was better, but it wasn’t perfect yet.
Théo and Catch Up suggested letting players go from the furthest point in the past directly to the furthest point in the future, which would create a temporal loop. The first time we tried a “circular” board, it clearly addressed the need to move more easily and it aligned perfectly with the theme.
Dr. Faux was also causing problems; he was sometimes too chaotic, other times not evil enough. Moreover, his identity as an evil genius, superpowered enemy, and extremely annoying menace felt lackluster. By giving players more ways to counteract his plans, he had lost some of his threat.
We started looking for a way to add some chaos back to Dr. Faux. We knew we didn’t want to roll dice, so Théo came up with a slew of ideas until he suggested this: “Okay, we’re not going to do this, it’s a terrible idea, but what if we had a tower we’d drop cubes in…”
We didn’t take it seriously, we even joked about it, but the idea had taken hold. We quickly floated the idea to Catch Up to see their reaction, specifically on whether making the tower was feasible or not. They were immediately on board.
I dabble in 3D printing and started creating some designs for the tower. I have no training in architecture, modeling, or physics… but I had to figure out how to make cubes fall equally in 3 different directions. It took several weeks and about twenty different prototype towers, in different shapes and sizes, until we figured out a functional base.
Once satisfied with the base version of the game, we started thinking about replayability. The different characters, cards, and missions added variety, but we wanted to make sure players felt accomplished and also wanted to play again -- even after defeating Dr. Faux. Eventually, we decided to develop different game modes that would spice up the experience and gradually increase the difficulty.
We came up with dozens of ideas, which we quickly pared down to 4 game modes. We needed the game modes to be different from the base game, without being convoluted. The difficulty also needed to be achievable, while forcing the players to reconsider their normal strategies. It was a challenge!
Théo: The game finally went into production and all we had to do was wait. This wait felt longer than normal. The game had become so much more personal to us than our other designs, so we couldn’t wait to see the final product. The first bits of feedback we got from players and press were encouraging. We can’t thank you enough for playing and enjoying the game!