Masters of Magic
Students develop a board game through the independent study program.
Miles McClentic ’24 has spent many a night sitting on the sidelines watching his friends play Magic: The Gathering. He's not an expert on the game’s complex rules and storylines, and doesn't fully understand the purpose of the more than 1000 Magic cards. Instead of mastering Magic, he decided to conjure up some of his own. He paired up with Clayton Lehmann ’24 to design a game with fantastical elements similar to Magic but is easier to learn and play. While creating a game requires substantial time and effort, the duo managed to play their cards right, earning course credit through Pomfret’s independent study program in the process.
“When we first decided to make a game, we weren’t considering doing so as an independent study,” said Clayton. It was Science Department Head Josh Lake who suggested designing their game for class credit after hearing their enthusiasm. The pair took their project idea to Gwyneth Connell, who coordinates Pomfret’s independent study program, and she was instantly on board.
Clayton and Miles studied the fundamentals of game design and game balance, drawing on some of the concepts Clayton had learned in the 3D Animation and Gaming course he took during his sophomore year. “In the course, I learned how to develop characters and incorporate their stories into the gameplay, as well as how to balance difficult challenges with fun and create engaging gameplay loops,” explains Clayton. These skills proved instrumental as he and Miles developed their storyline and forty-nine game pieces.
Their game, aptly titled Masters of Magic, combines components of Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Stratego, and Chess. “Our game has some dice rolling, knights, wizards, capturing of your opponent's pieces, and three game boards,” explains Miles. To help improve the likeability of Masters of Magic, the boys interviewed novice and experienced gamers to learn what components of game design players find most desirable. They used this data to enhance their game’s design. “People like a balance of randomness and skill. They don’t want something to be completely random that only requires luck, but they don’t want to spend hours and hours perfecting their strategy to win,” explains Clayton.
Having completed the rule book and first iteration of their game boards and cards during the fall term, Miles and Clayton plan to further develop Masters of Magic in a second independent study during the winter term. Their work will include additional play testing and game balancing. The pair also want to make a professional prototype complete with 3D-printed game pieces — something that is on par with the other games they have purchased. “We have a lot of friends and faculty interested in the game because it’s fun and replayable,” explains Miles. “It would be great if they could also have a copy for themselves.”
The completion of Masters of Magic and two independent studies doesn’t mean it’s game over Clayton and his love for gaming design. He hopes to study game design in college and even wrote his application essay on the subject.
“I have been making games since I was very young; it’s something I have always been passionate about,” Clayton shares. He’s enjoyed having an independent study dedicated to making this passion project come to life and having access to the resources to do so. “I would tell anyone excited about something that the School does not offer to take it as an independent study. You can truly learn more about literally anything you are passionate about.”
Pomfret’s independent study opportunity is available to juniors and seniors. After identifying a faculty mentor, students map out their exploratory goals and determine measures of success. Throughout the term, they spend approximately forty-five hours pursuing their project, before presenting the results of their study at the Independent Study Showcase.