Game Design: Changing Maths and Mechanics

The theory behind a game is as important, if not more, as the game itself. There are several important factors to consider when designing a game. The easiest way to see how these aspects interact with each other is through research and play-testing. The key aspect in a game is THE RULES. We learnt very early on that without rules, there is no game. The second aspect after rules is mechanics. What can you do and what can’t you do in a game. This sets the challenge for the player. Knowing these two main elements of game design, we had to change the maths behind a game of UNO. In a group of two, we decided to change the amount of cards each player picks up when they pass their turn. The hypothesis was that the game would take a lot longer to complete but the result was as the number of cards increased, from two to four, the games became shorter and shorter. The second task was to alter how the maths was applied in the game. We changed how the “+4” card worked by changing it from “four cards from the top of the deck” to “four cards from the opponents hand”. This resulted in us having to create new rulings for the game. In the event that the “+4” card is not your last card but, you have less than 4 cards in your hand, you are required to pick up another card off the deck as the rules state; “if a player does NOT call ‘UNO’ on their last card, that player must draw a card”. In conclusion, altering the maths of a game is a lot easier than altering the way the maths is applied.

Onto snakes and ladders, a game with little interest and unfair play-testing. The goal of this second exercise was to incorporate 3 things into snakes and ladders which would make for more interesting and fair play. The first was to add a “positive feedback loop”. This is best described as progression. It’s what makes a player strive to reach milestones in a game. In our version of snakes and ladders, we added a very simple mechanic which was; “when a player reaches tile #50 or higher, that player may use a D12 die instead”. What this does is accelerates the game and gives the player an advantage for reaching the halfway point. Because snakes and ladders is a game where luck plays a huge (possible only) role in the game, it is very easy for players to become disinterested. This is why a game needs a “negative feedback loop”. Best described as losers advantage, this helps players in last place continue to feel like they are part of the game and have a chance at winning. In our version, we made it so the player in last place rolls two dice and takes the higher number. This helps to speed the game along “from the rear”. The last addition is the most important thing in a game. Choice. This is what separates a games non linear story from that of a film or book. In our group, we ended up missing the mark a little on this. We made it so if a player rolls a 6 or 12 respectively, that player chooses how many tiles they would like to move (between 1 and the highest denominator of the die).

In conclusion, our version of snakes and ladders  improved on some of the problems the base game had but, overall we were unsuccessful in creating a non linear story. This has given me a good amount of insight as to what I need to work on for my future projects.


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