Caroline Hobbs is a game designer and artist. She plays and designs story games, paints sassy sea creatures, and probably knows too much about the Silmarillion.
Caroline’s newest project is Downfall, currently on Kickstarter. She answered a few questions about the game and her design work for Gaming as Women.
Please give us a short description of your game, Downfall.
Downfall is a story game about a hero’s failure to save their home. In the end the society always collapses, but the end isn’t caused by a bomb or an earthquake, or an invasion—it’s caused by an inherent flaw within the society. Greed, Pride, Faith—in Downfall these are the things that cause our doom.
In Downfall players first create a world together and then destroy it. It’s a role-playing game for three players and it usually takes around 3 hours to play—no dice, no GM, no prep.
What inspired creating a game about the collapse of a society?
Breaking things is fun! Actually when I was doing some concept photos for the game before I settled on the final art style, I went to the beach to build a dreamy sandcastle. The idea was to take photos of the building process and then the destruction process. While we were building the sandcastle, a kid, maybe 8 years old, came up and asked if she could help us knock it down, all smiles. That’s what the game is all about—scratching that destructive itch. But while monster-stomping is fun, I wanted a game that was also really personal and tragic. And that’s Downfall. When you play you get into the heads of this society that’s on the brink of collapse and it can be quite poignant.
What was your favorite part of the design process?
Playing with people was hands-down my favorite part of working on the game. When you design a game you spend hours and hours thinking and tweaking and typing. It can be really isolating and draining. But then you sit down with a group of people and pitch the game. The growing energy while people play and everyone collaborates—that’s when everything pays off. Even when a playtest reveals things that need fixing, the fact that my game brought people together and sparked their creativity is everything.
Did designing Downfall have any unique challenges?
Oh my goodness, yes. I wanted Downfall to be totally open in terms of setting. I love world-building, and I wanted a way for players to create a really rich sandbox to play in. Not only do you need a physical setting to play in, but you also need a cultural landscape. I had to tweak the process so many times to get the optimal output in the least amount of time possible. Now world creation usually takes about half an hour, which I think is enough time to get really into it, create a really awesome and unique world, and then move on.
What type of gamer do you think will enjoy downfall the most?
Downfall pushes players to both role-play and narrate a lot. Because it’s a three-player game you have a third of the screen time. If you’re like me and you get impatient waiting for people to take their turn in bigger games, I think you’ll like the narrative balance in Downfall. It does a lot to make sure everyone contributes equally. It features some really neat key phrases that help you get into the heads of the characters, which I really enjoy as well.
You reached your kickstarter goal in less than one day (congratulations!), do you have any plans for stretch goals?
Kickstarting has been amazing! There are so many gamers out there looking for new games. It really has been inspiring to see such an outpouring of support for Downfall.
As far as stretch goals go, it’s really important to me that they are just icing on the cake. I’m already including everything in Downfall that’s essential to the game. The current stretch goals involve the creation of guides, which are kind of the equivalent of playsets for Downfall. They aren’t pre-generated settings, but they are engines for players to use to build a setting geared towards a specific genre.
Do you have any plans for what you’re designing next after Downfall?
Before I began Downfall I started working on a game about rumors and lies. At the time I was interested in exploring gaps in player-character knowledge to create dramatic situations. I might pick that up again or I might work on something totally different—we’ll see!
Thank you Caroline! Remember to check out Downfall on Kickstarter for more information.