Developer Dialogues: Hitman Holiday

We're absolutely thrilled to bring you guys this edition of Developer Dialogues. Today's conversation is with Dominic of Medieval Lords Games, who comes to use with the very first Singaporean board game to appear on The Care and Feeding of Nerds! His project, Hitman Holiday, is an innovative and engaging take on deduction/secret roles games. 

Imagine knowing that another player is out to assassinate you, and just you. Meanwhile, you are preoccupied not just with your own assigned target, but with the nuances of daily life (albeit life in an idyllic vacation locale). This is just a taste of what Hitman Holiday has in store and Dominic gave us considerably more to chew on. 
Tell us a little about yourself. What prompted you to want to become a developer?
I have been a game designer for more than 14 years now, but I was always in larger teams. This is the first time I am trying to venture out on my own. My passion started a long time ago when I was a mere seven year old in school. My friend and I would make board games using just dice and boxes. We would theme everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to He-Man.

Once you decided to put on the developer’s hat, what made you choose a deduction/secret roles group game? Why did you feel this style was a particularly good fit for your vision of Hitman Holiday?

I chose to design a secret role game because this is was going to be our debut game. It had to represent the core of what Medieval Lords intends to be - we want to be very unique and different from the rest of the newer board games appearing everywhere. There are plenty of new games that are mere copies of previous games, with 1 or 2 rules tweaked and then a change of art. Hitman Holiday is kind of a testimonial of what the brains behind Medieval Lords are all about - being different. Not just this game, but all future potential games will also be going via very interesting themes and mechanics that are rarely seen or even exist in the tabletop universe.

The game is touted as being extremely easy to learn, but a highly satisfying overall play experience. How long would you say it takes people to pick up Hitman Holiday and what demographics do you think would most enjoy the game?

I wouldn't know about it being 'extremely easy' to learn. Honestly there is a reason we do not call this a party game where people could just pick the game up in seconds. It is a strategy game that can handle up to as many as 10 players, but it is no party game. I have already hosted more public games than I can count to spread awareness of Hitman Holiday. Each time the explanation was approximately 10 to 20 minutes. The game is really very simple, with only 3 things you can really do in your turn, but it is not 'extremely easy' to be taught the gist of the game.

In other words, the game takes time to explain, but once done it is very rare that people would still come up with questions. Age is not really the demographic here. It is more of player genre. I would not expect silent and conservative groups to enjoy this game. This game caters to those who really like to shout loudly in accusations, pretend or act in ways so that they can trick others into doing or thinking things that go in their advantage. It really is a game for fun loving extroverts or actors. I think it is pretty safe to say that folks who enjoy Mafia, Werewolf or Battlestar Galactica will find this a refreshing way to play their favorite genre of deception and deduction.
There's no camping a spot on this gorgeous board

The deduction/secret roles market is pretty competitive with both major publishers and indie developers in the field. What would you say makes Hitman Holiday distinctive from others in the genre?

None has ever featured having to cater to daily needs in realism (going to toilet, taking meals and naps). None! And this mechanism was not introduced just to make the game unique. It had its design purpose of preventing camping on the map as well as giving other players opportunities to perform their kills on unsuspecting victims. And none in the tabletop universe have ever had the 'Traits and Clues matching' system to deduce who one's potential killer is. Again, none! Hitman Holiday may not be the BEST game in the world, but it certainly is UNIQUE and different from other games. Further design flavoring decisions such as making the assassins not look like the usual James Bond serve to make the game all that much more fun and distinctive.

The artwork and overall aesthetic of  the game is very visually striking. What was your inspiration for the look and feel of the game?

Since it was decided that we wanted to do an assassin game, we had to come up with a locale. A very interesting one that would totally spike up the usually gloomy mood of such dark games is a beach holiday resort! We chose to host the site of the assassins' 'tournament' at the world's most beautiful beach resort, aptly named Paradise. The setting is deliberately Italian, and we wanted the original flavor to be there, so we even got an Italian artist! It should be very colorful and give a Hawaii-like feel of a happy vacation, then peppered with the deadly intent hidden at every corner. Again, this brings the game into a whole class of its own in terms of being unique.

What do you feel was the most enjoyable part of developing Hitman Holiday and, conversely, what would you say was your biggest challenge?

The most enjoyable part was playing the finished product with friends who enjoy acting and bluffing. We had blast after blast of fun, openly declaring and accusing one another. It was a great sense of satisfaction that the game was finally playable after one and a half years of development! The biggest challenge is to bring the game to market, which since we do not live in the USA, disallows us to demo our games at important conventions etc.

Let’s say your Kickstarter campaign goes smashingly well. Would you be open to continuing to develop Hitman Holiday? What would your first improvements to the game be?

YES! We actually were just talking about it the other day that there might possibly be a small expansion to add another 10 assassins and another map so players can alternate locations! We were thinking of the place being a huge abandoned castle in Europe.

Is there anything else that you think potential backers and players should know about Hitman Holiday?

If you are a collector of games, this could be a must-have for you. I don't mean just the game play itself, but rather the collection value of it. Owning this game makes you a part of history, hah! It is the FIRST ever Singaporean board game that is on an international coverage via Kickstarter.

What to know more? Check out the Kickstarter page for Hitman Holiday right now! You can even pick up the print-and-play demo version of the game. The campaign will continue until March 12th.

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