The Making of Dead by Daylight™: The Board Game (Part 4: Mechanics that Escaped the Trial)
Many of the mechanics in the board game changed significantly over the course of design, but eventually they “escaped the trial” and became the final form of Dead by Daylight: The Board Game.
In this blog post, I’ll reveal how some of those mechanics evolved. I already talked in the previous blog about Hidden Information. Some other key mechanics that underwent vast changes were Perks, Generators, Carrying, and Hooking.
Early versions of perks were based exclusively on the Prop System. These perks gave you new ways to interact with the existing props. Way back, boards had 30 or so spaces, and each space held one prop, so the ability to interact with a prop in two ways rather than just one was a pretty big deal. However, as the map became more condensed and abstract, the props became consolidated into a few large spaces, and players had plenty of choices to make each turn.
Beyond that, having to wait until you found the right prop to use a perk was a bit lame. You might go a whole game and not get to see your character’s special powers. So to better fit with the ubiquity of perks in the video game, we decided to transform these one-off abilities into persistent combo pieces that formed the character’s strategic identity.
The decision to power perks with Bloodpoints came fairly late, and we actually resisted a currency like this for a long time. However, too many interesting opportunities were hedged out by having not enough balancing levers. Using Bloodpoints allowed a larger and more interesting range of perks to make it into the game.
Generators persisted pretty much the same throughout the development. What changed was that Survivors became required to move in order to interact with them.
While working a generator until it’s finished is a tactic in the video game, sitting still and working a gen for 3 rounds doesn’t make for very entertaining play (or very smart play) in a game that is only 8-12 rounds long on average.
However, if you’re an objective-oriented person, it always looks like the right move. We found that game after game, players would stand still for several turns, get hooked, and then have a poor experience because they didn’t get to really interact with the game.
For this reason, we decided to force Survivors to move every turn before interacting. Though it’s got no basis in the video game, the constant movement makes play much more satisfying as a Survivor and more interesting as a Killer.
Often in board games, we find that directly preventing players from making bad or uninteresting moves dramatically improves the experience. You don’t want to tell a player “hey, you can move or not, it’s up to you,” when in almost every situation moving is the correct answer and the other option is just a trap.
Bloodlust is a mechanic in the video game where Killers begin to run faster if they’ve been focused on a Survivor long enough. This helps chases to end and helps close out games. In the board game, we played around with various incarnations of this mechanic, but it reached its final form as Killer Bonus Turns. If the Survivors have made enough noise (rolling skulls on skill checks or disturbing crows), or the Killer has used certain perks or props, they build up Bloodpoints. With enough, they can take a third turn, effectively mirroring how bloodlust speeds up their movement.
Carrying underwent significant changes through development. In early versions, the round could end with a player in the Killer’s grip. While it was fun to let them play a card and influence the Killer’s movement, or to let the Killer go around and continue attacking while searching for a hook, the situation didn’t really serve either side—Killers weren’t advancing their goals, and Survivors were getting taken out of the action and missing turns. It also put a very large focus (and a similarly large section of rules) related to a single Survivor’s situation that wasn’t really all that common or relevant compared to the other activities Killers and Survivors were doing.
In many older versions, there was also the concept of slugging (wounding a Survivor a second time so they have to crawl along the ground). But having 5 statuses (healthy, wounded, slugged, carried, hooked) was just too much detail for the scope of the game we were going for.
In the final game, we settled on just 3 states: Healthy, Wounded, and Hooked. When a wounded character is attacked again, they enter a ‘pick up sequence’ which either resolves with the Survivor getting hooked or getting away, all in just a single roll of the dice. This kept the game moving at a brisk pace, while greatly reducing rules associated with one of the most complex aspects of the source material.
I hope that this look at what made it into the game has been interesting! Next week, I’ll share with you some of the mechanics that got left in the basement.