Inlingo’s Mafia card game: the never-ending project

Projects that drag on and on can be so disheartening. Just look at how much suffering there’s been since Half-Life 2: Episode 2 came out, how many people are waiting for a new Tool album, or all the expectations surrounding the upcoming Death Stranding. It often happens that a project’s duration ends up becoming directly proportional to the anticipation that builds up around it. So now, to be successful, Avatar 2 has to be holographic, or done in AR, or at the very least in VR—otherwise the whole project will just be swept away by the wave of reactions from the sick-of-waiting community. Even we, a localization studio, found ourselves faced with the same story of a never-ending project. For us, it was our Mafia card game. Of course, we didn’t have anything as extreme as the ten-year delays that sometimes happen with AAA titles. And we did eventually finish our project, as it was. Stepan wrote to me on Telegram that the boxes and rules were ready, and all that was left was the cards themselves, drafted by me, your humble copywriter. How did that happen? Let’s start at the beginning. It all started with horns. Our then-production director Nadia was browsing AliExpress and stumbled across some “cool-looking horns”. She sent them to Stepan, who also thought they looked really cool, and they decided that the whole office should do a Halloween photo shoot. Shooting 18 people was a two-day affair. We found a photographer who, for the sake of our project, came off maternity leave, hired a makeup artist, and chose Saturday as the day everything would go down. We would shoot the girls wearing the horns, but what about the guys? Nadia wouldn’t be the director of the studio if she wasn’t constantly coming up with a stream of awesome ideas. And so her next one was this: “Instead of just photos, why don’t we make our own game? Mafia, for example.” So what started out as simple Halloween costumes slowly slid into full-out steampunk craziness. We were incredibly naive, with no idea what awaited us. Joyful and happy, we rushed out to find steampunk props. We bought goggles and hoods, and whatever we couldn’t find, we sewed, knotted, and crafted together ourselves. Our enthusiasm knew no bounds. Instead of horns, the girls wore corsets, and the guys got goggles and fancy hats. Nadia’s nice black velvet coat did double-duty as the Commissioner’s jacket. Sewn-on sleeves from a carnival costume gave it the perfect finishing touches for that inspector look. We rented some of the props: some stuff came from Ikea, and our accountant’s husband kindly provided a fur coat and blowtorch for the maniac. As soon as all 18 costumes were ready, we started the two-day photo shoot. It turned out the femme fatale was too shy to show the right amount of passion, and the maniac looked too good-natured. But our photographer was really good at working with models, and was able to coax some awesome shots out of them. Nadia, on the other hand, had no problem taking on the role of the Mafia—on the day of the shoot, almost everyone showed up late, and so that bloodlust in her eyes was all too real. A month later, we got the final, edited shots. Now we just had to make them into cards. At that point, our designer realized that he had not yet experienced the most terrifying grin of all—the grin of impending “friendly” assignments. By January 2018, the whole team was exhausted. The templates were half-ready (with 3 different versions!), and everyone involved was feeling decidedly cool towards the project. It was then that I decided to jump in and prove myself, offering to help however I could. I decided to dust off my Photoshop knowledge, got the source material, and went for it. After another month, the texts had been written and the cards were ready. When everyone saw the preliminary version, it was like their belief in miracles had been renewed. We waited excitedly for the print shop to get back to us about pricing. The dramatic news completely dashed our hopes: the cost of one edition was far beyond our budget at the time, and we shelved the project for several more months. At this point, no one believed we would ever finish the game. At the office, we started using a new joke to cheer each other up in our work correspondence: guess what I’m writing about? MAFIA! Remote Inlingo employees at their computers the world over could be heard bursting into hysterical laughter as they read it. I was sitting and crossing tasks off my Trello list when I got a notification: we’re going to give out Mafia for New Year’s. I didn’t believe it: it was something like a myth, like saying that we’re going to collect 5,000 perpetual motion devices here in the office and give everyone one for New Year’s.  But it really happened. I rewrote the rules two more times (I hadn’t counted the number of times I did it before, but now everything seemed to be for real), Eldar the designer came around to making the box, and Nadia ordered pencils, hourglasses, and notebooks. The question arose of whether or not to make cards that players could use to identify themselves by numbers. We chose in favor of convenience, and the cards went to print. And so, after ONE ENTIRE YEAR, we’re finally ready to give you our game. All you have to do is follow the link to the drawing. Believe me, this is a game with history, and if you want to be a part of it, this is your one chance. I should also mention that the game is designed for hardcore players and those who want to play real parlor-style Mafia. We studied dozens of different rule variations and chose the best of them, then, with game balance in mind, wrote some of our own. So included with the game, you’ll find not only cards to help remember player numbers, but also minute hourglasses. Very grown-up. Happy New Year, and good luck 😉