Zong-Ger's Designer Diary for Taiwan Night Market
Hello everyone, I'm Zong-Ger 蔥哥.
Thank you for your support all along. Here, I will mainly write about my development experience and insights from Taiwan Night Market.
Taiwan Night Market was first developed around 2012. The initial inspiration actually came from the famous Facebook game, Restaurant City. I saw customers coming and going, and there was a chance that they would enter the restaurant owned by the player. This led me to think about setting up a row of restaurants, where players would have to bid for a good location. Once a customer is fed, they will not go to the next restaurant, forcing players to pay a high price to bid for a good location.
The first playtest was naturally a disaster. The customers at the time moved 10 spaces each time (difficult to calculate), and the players had to decide where to place the customer in order (tedious). As the game progressed, the later-purchased stalls became too strong (early stalls became rubbish...), and players could freely trade land to create giant-sized stalls. But trading took too long, making the game quite lengthy.
The picture above is a very early version. The number on the customer token indicates how many people are in that group. Each stall can accommodate 1-4 customers, depending on the level of the stall. The stalls coming out later in the game are stronger, similar to the power plants in Power Grid. The rules of loans at this stage have different interest rates. The player who draws the customer decides where to place them at the entrance. This caused a lot of downtime during the setup phase.
A lot of problems in the game, but I didn't know how to fix them at that time.
Soon after, because I was also developing other games, Taiwan Night Market was basically frozen for a while. Fast forward to 2019, I have published more than 10 games, including a few popular titles in Taiwan like Throne of the World, Hero is an ATM, and Fight for 50 Billion. One day, I came across Nuomi's "Cat Boss's Street Vendors" artwork series on the Internet, and I was speechless. I really wanted to make a game out of the amazing artwork, and then this night market game came back to my mind again...
Although the game was not yet well optimized at that time, the design experience accumulated over the years made me know which games have potential. If you can find the uniqueness and fun elements in a game, everything else is just a matter of math... (probably)
After Nuomi agreed to work with us to make his artwork a boardgame, it came a long journey of playtesting and development. At that time, I had a regular playtesting group with a French designer Romain Caterdjian (Dive, Ouch!, and many more) 1-2 days per week. Romain always pointed out the problems of my game. I felt that we had a consensus on the design ideas. We simplified everything that needed to be simplified.
Here are some changes along the way:
- Instead of moving 10 spaces each time, the customers now simply move to the next area.
- The circular map was changed to a one-way map, enlarging the difference in strength between each stall, and creating asymmetric stall values across the map.
- The unlimited bidding was changed to two-round bidding. Every round there is a chance that someone gets 1 more stall than others, which significantly amplifies the tension in the bidding.
- Instead of drawing and placing customers, they are now set to enter from a specific entrance, reducing downtime.
- Instead of having stalls of different levels, now they become stronger when connected together to form a Franchise. Players will want to have as many connected stalls as possible to strengthen their position.
Around 2021, I had a conversation with Smoox Chen from Taiwan Boardgame Design (we are acquaintances for years) about the possibility of bringing Taiwan Night Market to the international market. After playing the game with the TBD crews, we received a very positive response! Smoox also suggested that the game should be more "rich" in strategy paths and replay values. At first, I was a bit conflicted upon hearing this suggestion because the core of Taiwan Night Market was designed to focus on the pressure ignited by players' bidding war. But I can understand what Smoox means, especially if we want to push the game to a bigger market.
After another six months of hard work, we finally came up with a satisfactory solution for ourselves and for players. We added a reward system for each round, allowing players to enhance a specific ability or attract customers to certain stalls. This made the game more diverse, no longer limited to increasing income by increasing the number of customers. This became the Night Market Booster Expansion and I am so happy that we unlocked it during the Kickstarter campaign. Now you can enjoy the simple bidding fun with the base game of Taiwan Night Market, and you can also have a cutthroat bidding war with the Booster Expansion. I am happy that Taiwan Night Market can serve casual players and hardcore gamers with some delicious decisions in their games.
Last October, we brought the prototype of Taiwan Night Market to Essen Spiel to display. Everyone who passed by the table stopped and asked if the game was available for purchase. Nuomi's artwork is so beautiful and I'm proud to make it a real boardgame now (almost).
Now the game is on Kickstarter for the final 42 hours. I'm glad that I can share some thoughts with you. Thank you for reading, and thank you for supporting us on Kickstarter!