By Jeremy Hogan (University College, 2003)
1 Game Designer
1 Graphic Designer
A soupçon of credibility
A penchant for late nights
A-level French (optional)
It all began during a quiet spell between projects at the video game studio where I worked in London. I had been experimenting with different ideas for years, after an initial plunge into board game design while living in Oxford just after graduating. I started with an innovative scoring mechanic from a past design that I really liked and combined it with a theme that I thought was perfect: Oxford University through the ages, with all the people and stories that I had heard during my three years at college, soaking it all in.
STEP 1: PREPARE
Remove all packaging and immerse in warm water (with book).
I knew I wanted to build the game out of the theme and not bolt it on afterwards so I decided on a few key basics. The players had to be colleges, which works nicely as they are naturally in competition. The many greats of Oxford’s history must be central to the game but they must appear only during their own era for realism. And it must include historical events to tell some of the most interesting and amusing tales.
STEP 2: MIX
Lightly whisk until no lumps remain but do not over beat.
It was time to start experimenting, which meant a lot of work in Excel, printing, cutting, playing with ever-patient friends and then starting again. It was clear from the start that it was fun to build your college out of tiles, use great scholars, deal with events and boost your reputation — but only by iterating could we find the best arrangement of these elements. The elements themselves also developed. The scholars each got unique and aptly-named abilities. Clever scholars.
STEP 3: COOK
Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven and cook on a low heat for 2 years.
With the design settled, Jessie and Amber began on the artwork. We wanted to conjure up the feel of Oxford, its colours and the graphic style of the 4 eras: medieval, enlightenment, imperial and modern. In video games, it’s common to keep the designers away from the artwork; we basically don’t have a clue but are known meddlers, which is dangerous combination! So, it was nice to work on Dreaming Spires and see the art evolve.
STEP 4: SERVE
Garnish appropriately and place in the middle of the table with a serving spoon.
The final phase was presenting our creation to the world. The medium: a video in Kickstarter. We jumped on a train to Oxford hoping for clear skies. Thankfully, we had expert help and the product of a long day’s work was well worth it. We also partnered with Game Salute, experts at everything we needed help with: Kickstarter, manufacturing, shipping, etc. Our funding campaign — now live — lets people order Dreaming Spires at a big discount, and the money from that will be used to pay for the production. We’ve had a great start so far, but hope we can do even better. Dreaming Spires is available to order on Kickstarter until 30th November.
Jeremy Hogan is the designer of Dreaming Spires and a graduate of University College. He likes games, history and cooking jokes.