Saturday, November 26, 2016

Day 22: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 22 - Lens 39: The Lens of Meaningful Choices
When we make meaningful choices, it lets us feel like the things we do matter. To use this lense, ask yourself these questions:

What choices am I asking the players to make?
All of them... this is probably the lens I had most in mind while designing the game. My thought was to give the player as many choices as possible at every point in the game. In my early designs I went too far... intentionally and to push the edges of the design space but still, too far.

'You are going to move on paths... ok, so here are 16 paths, choose 6 to use in the game.'

'There are 8 possible moves each turn, pick one!'

Most of the choice points I designed were reasonable and have continued to be part of the game, but there had to be a phase of cutting back to make the game playable, and then further cutting back to make it fun, then a little bit more to make it taught.

Are they meaningful? How?
So some of the choices, like path shape, turned out not to be very meaningful, or to have meaning that was so subtle that it would only matter to very experienced players and just got in the way of new players.

Most of the choices though I think are meaningful, they either shape the experience of the game, help to build dramatic social interactions, or influence the outcome of the game. I actually think, due to the complexity of the game and the unpredictability that the PvP structure of the game has, that the choices that the player has that effect the outcome of the game are the least clear and compelling.

All of the choices have immediate micro effects, which is good and satisfying... but they also have macro effects that are opaque to new players and uncertain even for experienced players. I 'think' that is good in terms of the long term health and replayability of the game... but it still feels like they are weaker or less compelling for not having that macro effect be clear.

Am I giving the player the right number of choices? Would more make them feel more powerful? Would fewer make the game clearer?
I think that given that the meat of this game is player choice and interaction that I make every choice meaningful. Given the current structure of the game every action is a meaningful choice... are all of those choices the right ones, or the most balanced or meaningful? I am not as sure, but I think only more playtesting or math that I don't have can answer them. So I'll be continuing the playtesting and tracking the choices and outcomes and making adjustments where I think they are needed.

Are there any dominant strategies in my game?
Maybe? But not that any players have found yet... I have run into a lot of, 'if everybody does this one thing and I do this other thing then I will always win.' There are even some strategies that if there was no social component to the game might be dominate, but an alliance of players acting together is always able to take down that leader making even the most mechanically sound strategy uncertain in the face of the social game.

I still worry that a dominate strategy will emerge that will ruin the game. I feel like the amount of playtesting needed to uncover that would require online play. I need to focus on getting the Tabletop Simulator version of the game done so that I can start gathering that data. I also need to look into what kind of metrics I can gather through tabletop simulator. Do I need to make a digital prototype to gather the data I need instead?