Today was a day of 1 step forward 2 steps back. We realised very early on in the lesson that our game was not interesting or fun. We needed to change our idea. We came up with several ideas only to drop them before they could really take off in any significant way. We attempted to think of games that had mechanics that we liked but to no avail. In the end we went full circle back to our original idea. What we needed was constraints. Too many ideas all at once was making it difficult to focus on any one idea. We decided on two concrete things that we need for our game. This removes any temptation of changing it. We are going to make a card game and it will incorporate a risk reward system. There are a few games that use this mechanic well but the one we had a lot of fun with was the game Coup. We already liked the idea of roles and having the element of mystery in our game. We will need to create the prototype by Friday so simplicity will be key.
Last week we began our first assignment for the course. In groups of 3 we were tasked with creating a paper prototype for a game centered around an everyday activity. Our everyday task was walking the dog. Initially we struggled to get a concrete idea as a group but we managed to come up with something reasonably simple and ‘playable’. We based our idea on the card game ‘Spoons’. The players start in each of the four corners of the board and receive a random task. Only you know what your task is and it is your job to complete the task and make it to the center of the board first. To add a system of choice or randomness, we added another set of sabotage cards that each player receives as well. These can be used to force other player to perform an action in an attempt to slow them down. There were a few mechanical problems with our game to say the least. The first was that we initially planned to make it so that if any player completed a task, anyone could get to the lamppost. The problem with this is players can camp by the lamppost waiting for someone else to complete their task. This is countered in the game of spoons by having two win conditions. Players are occupied with the pace of the game and completing the original task of completing a set of 3. This distraction is what our game lacks and to make the game playable we will need to rectify that. Once the game has been play-tested we will know how much more is wrong with it.
I am not too worried with the final result of the game. I do not plan on putting too much extra effort into this project as I feel like it is more useful as a failure that we can learn from. Time constraints on other projects are also a bigger priority for me.
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.