Pack Your Bags (and Sign the Waiver) – Fireball Island Design Diary 2

March 6, 2018

In the first Design Diary, we talked about the design of the island itself. Making it look cool was important. But Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar is a game, and we knew we had to make it great. But we had to start by asking ourselves: Who is this game for?

The original game was very much geared toward kids. Those kids are grown now, and many of them have kids of their own. Many of them are hobby gamers now too, and they expect better play—even from family or party games. The game had to hit all of these marks. It had to be fun when people play it with their kids and their co-workers alike. That meant revisiting the game’s theme and narrative.

We could have simply retread the original game’s story. However, that approach did not appeal to us for several reasons. We are always clear to point out that we make restorations, not reprints. If we were to keep the same narrative as the original game, that would foster false expectations in our customers. The generic adventure theme is also cliché at this point, now some 40 years after Raiders.

We decided to take a fresh approach. Keep the adventure, but put a modern spin on it, add some surface humor for the kids and embed some satire for the adults, brighten up the colors. We took a page out of Hitchcock by putting a common person in an uncommon situation.

“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”

Working from this viewpoint, we developed a narrative: What if the island were purchased by a large, adventure-tourism company, who, in their hubris, decided to turn it into a resort? Sure they were having a little trouble with the wildlife and the occasional fireball, but corporate was “on it”, they assured us. What better way to celebrate the grand opening than a sweepstakes for a lucky few to be the first to enjoy the island’s scenic delights? We knew we were on the right track when the details began writing themselves. Yes, there would still be lost treasures to discover, but you could also get an “ember globe” at the souvenir shop. You were no longer “mister adventure guy.” Now you could play Saul from Boca Raton.

Run, Saul, Run!

We announced the new version of the game on the Dice Tower Live show at Gen Con last year by presenting Tom Vasel with a giant novelty postcard that read: Greetings from Fireball Island. We handed out postcards at the booth as well. This was our test balloon, and people were eating it up. When we divulged a little more info, they enjoyed the freshness of the approach. This reinforced our decision.

Fireball Island Postcard - Skeleton Head Beach

Setting the tone….

Importantly, this new theme started driving decisions about play. Treasures would be a good measure for score, but souvenirs could offer in-game benefits. The satire came naturally: “We know you’re running for your life, but, per paragraph 2(b) of your user license, we need a few fresh pictures for the corporate Twitter feed before we can pick you up.” And suddenly we had our endgame condition. We had to keep some “take that” in the game, but we took that off the direct card play and shifted it to Vul-Kar himself. It all felt just right.

And if you like your adventure in a more traditional style, we’ve got you covered too in a fun way that incorporates the new theme. But more on that later. In the meantime, we know you want to hear more details about how the game plays, and we’ll do just that on Thursday.

The Kickstarter for Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar launches on April 3rd. Please follow us on Kickstarter and sign up for our mailing list on the front page of our site. The third part of this design diary will post on Thursday.