Designer Diary - Vivid
Sometimes games are inspired by a mechanical or thematic idea, but in this case Vivid was inspired by an entire category of games suddenly coming back into fashion. Brett and I were never particularly thematic designers, and neither did we really tend towards designing games with many complex mechanisms working together. We enjoyed making family-weight, streamlined experiences, which more often than not were fairly abstract. The problem with this approach is that there wasn’t much of a market for these games outside a few publishers – it was a long time since designers like Sid Sackson or Kris Burm could release amazing games that were composed purely of a few different coloured counters and a board.
Fast forward to Essen 2017, and the release of Azul. This beautifully produced, but still essentially family abstract game, was instantly popular and seemed to herald a shift in the fortunes for this style of game (Narrator: It did!). Brett and I were present at the fair, pitching a range of prototypes as we normally did, and subconsciously or not we noticed Azul and the effect it was having. Of course, as designers you take in all kinds of stimuli and they somehow mix together in your head to produce new games – in this case it was quite simple: we wanted to make a game in the same space as Azul, a beautiful, tactile family abstract game.
This was how Vivid started, in the early months of 2018, as a prototype called MAZE (we were trying to follow the Plan B/Next Move Games trend of calling their games with a 4 letter word, as they were a natural publisher to show our game to eventually). I personally like games with a sense of geography, and I put this into the very first prototype, requiring players to make connections between coloured termini on the edges of their boards using coloured pieces they would draft and place on different spaces. This aspect of the game survived all the way through its design and development, and can clearly be seen in the final product, but there were a lot of twists and turns beyond that! Many other aspects (shape of the board, scoring rules, tile abilities) came together quite quickly as well, and you can see that the progression of the game (seen in the images) was mostly fairly incremental – we were on to something!
We showed the prototype to many publishers at Essen in 2018, and at Nurnberg in 2019 (including Plan B of course!) but we didn’t have any luck with a publication offer. Maybe our thought that the fortunes for abstract games had shifted were wrong? I went to Gencon 2019 with not many plans to pitch – for me it was only my second time at this particular convention and I was taking the chance to enjoy wandering around (what a strange concept!) – but one of the few meetings I had planned was with Ben Harkins, founder of Floodgate Games. And thank goodness for that meeting – Ben was extremely friendly and very encouraging about Maze, and a few short months after showing it to him, Floodgate decided to sign the game!
This is the part in the story where Maze became Vivid, and this is really thanks to the tireless work of Ben and the rest of the team at Floodgate. I remember Ben mentioning in an email that they were considering a number of different themes, but one that stuck out was the idea that the player board represented our brains (inspired by the simple chance that the shape we landed on for the boards was vaguely similar to that of a brain!), and the coloured pieces were thoughts that we were trying to connect, like neurons. I think we might have thought it was a bit of a strange idea at first, but as time went on with development we saw how Floodgate moulded the game around this concept, strengthening the thematic and mechanical ties, and overall making an even better game! Of course, the moment we saw the sketches from Andrew Bosley we knew Ben had made the right decision – the whimsical notion of childhood memories fitted the game perfectly.
Overall, Vivid is a great example of a whole team of people working together – designers, publishers, illustrators – each lending their unique talents to contribute towards a shared goal. None of us could have come up with the finished product on our own, and it is the collaboration that has truly produced something that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Suffice to say, we are incredibly proud of the game, and are very happy to share it with the world.
Matthew Dunstan (co-designer of Vivid)