November 17, 2015: USAopoly Talks: Designing Munchkin: The Nightmare Before Christmas
The USAopoly team shared some behind-the-scenes info with Steve Jackson Games on the game development process of Munchkin: The Nightmare Before Christmas, including game creation challenges, favorite game rules, and the importance of working together as a design team.
Casey – Game Designer
Danny – Head Illustrator
Bonnie – Illustrator
Kami – Head of Content & Rule Creation
SJ Games: What was exciting about designing Munchkin: The Nightmare Before Christmas?
Danny: For me the most exciting part of this project was the fact that it was Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas! I'm a huge fan of his work and I love every element of that movie. I had to capture the character illustrations just right to do right by the fans who love it.
Kami: As the content creator, I was excited (and terrified) to look for hidden nuggets from the film to showcase. Sometimes, it would drive the illustrators nuts because I'd base a card around something that was shown for less than 10 seconds in the whole movie.
SJ Games: How did you prepare for the game creation?
Kami: Watching the movie, repeatedly. I would fall asleep at night with the songs running through my head and would still be singing them the next morning. That was my inspiration for the Trap cards. I knew I had to incorporate those lyrics into the game.
Danny: I watched the movie probably 50 times and looked at as much concept art from the movie as I could -- and drew a lot!
Casey: Definitely watching the movie repeatedly, looking at fan art and forums and, of course, playing Munchkin.
SJ Games: Were there any interesting design challenges with this game?
Kami: My biggest challenge was making my favorite characters from the movie into the monsters! I didn't want to have to fight against Zero as a monster, but what's a Munchkin: The Nightmare Before Christmas game without him? In my own mind, I compromised by making him a Monster but giving him a unique Bad Stuff effect. If a player can't beat Zero, the bad stuff is "zero," as in nothing; there is no bad stuff. But if a player can defeat Zero, the player has the option of taking the single Treasure or keeping Zero as an item. Personally, I always keep him!
Danny: My biggest challenge was the feeling I had big shoes to fill in terms of the illustrations. I had to keep the character design consistent and bounce back and forth between Christmas Town and Halloween Town characters and objects. It definitely kept me on my toes.
Bonnie: One challenge we had as illustrators was that some of the objects we illustrated were shown for maybe five seconds in the film and obscured by heavy shadows, so we had to use our imaginations and figure out how Tim Burton would have visualized it and illustrate from there.
Casey: One of my challenges was that most of the artwork, frames, backgrounds, etc. had to be created internally, and it all had to be made to feel like it belonged within the Nightmare world. We had to create diversity among each card type and make each set look unique with a dark color palette, but in the end I think we pulled it off.
Kami: One of my favorite cards is Making Christmas. Each player has to choose a hand item and pass it to the player on their left. [This card rule] felt true to the movie because sometimes players are gifted a card that doesn't help them.
SJ Games: What made working on Munchkin: The Nightmare Before Christmas special for you?
Danny: Kami did an amazing job of creating the content and pushing me to illustrate some of the most random or obscure things that add so much depth and detail into the game. My co-illustrator, Bonnie, is an amazing collaborator; she did an amazing job of bringing my designs to life, and her insights/ideas/suggestions were invaluable to me. And Casey's design sense, attention to detail, and crazy hard work tied everything together to create this beautiful game. I'm so thankful to get to work with such super talented, creative, insightful, and hardworking people on a daily basis.
Kami: The subtle humor and the beautiful illustrations. This game was so much fun to work on and bring to life. Hopefully, people will have as much fun playing it as we did making it.
Thanks to the USAopoly design team for answering all of our questions!
-- Anna Meade
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