Ben's Journal

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The Way Home

Wednesday, December 13th, 2023

map with a pen and dice

I released a new journaling game over on called The Way Home. You can find it here.

It's a game about traveling around an unfamiliar landscape and you play as a mouse who is lost and wants to find their way home. As the player you will use a paper map to find a route and keep a record of your travels as you attempt to make it back.

I don't really know exactly where the idea for this game came from, but some of it comes from the ideas I had for The Stars and Their Stories and games like those from Tiny Keepsake Jam insomuch as you use and alter a physical object throughout the game which then becomes a record of play. Maps are super interesting objects with their own stories, and I like the idea of being able to 'explore' landscapes you might never travel through in real life by using maps.

I decided to centre the gameplay around mice for a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted to allow for a few 'days' of game time if you only had a smaller map, for example a city tourism map, to play with. Secondly, I wanted the player to reconsider familiar landscapes from a different perspective - if you played the game with a map of your home town then how might it be more interesting. I think there's scope to expand and adapt this to other travellers, and I'd love it if folks end up doing that.

One of the more tricky things to design was the concept of 'homeward points' and which die size to use for them. I initially prototyped the game with a d4 and a few different points systems to decide whether you were on the right track home or getting more lost, but it didn't feel great. For this version I used a cumulative points system with a 'time limit' to make it home, which I think works better. I also switched to a d6, firstly because they're more common and secondly because it make the probability of success/failure a nicer number. You are much more likely to make it home in the game (I wanted it to overall be a relaxing and 'nice' game) but if you play it enough there will be times when you will fail to make it home.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the game if you try it and please let me know if you do! I am considering developing a nicer version of it for Zine Month if that's something folk would like.