Saturday, December 24, 2016

Day 45: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 45 - Lens 34: The Lens of Skill
To use this lens, stop looking at your game, and start looking at the skills you are asking of the players. Ask yourself these questions:

What skills does my game require from the player?
Situational Awareness
Negotiation/Diplomacy
Spatial problem solving
Risk assessment (tactics)
Long term planning (strategy)
Physical small motor dexterity

Are there categories of skill that this game is missing?
The game has physical, mental and social skills. Moving the game out of the true real time range limits the amount of physical skill the game requires. I would like to add more back and restore a true real time mode, but I haven't succeeded to my satisfaction yet.

Which skills are dominant?
Mental and social skills dominate. I think the balance may be a bit to the social side, at least with some sets of players. If the social skills of the players are balanced then importance probably shifts back to the mental skills.

Are these skills creating the experience I want?
Largely yes... I would like to be able to apply a little more time pressure to the player to raise the skill level needed for mental and physical skills. Most of the 'fun' in the game comes from the social interaction at this point. Though skill focused players have liked the game enough to ask to play it without the challenges. I feel like the mental skills used, or the way they are used are not as juicy as I would like. There are a lot of strategic things you can do, but their outcome can be so uncertain that they feel less meaningful.

Are some players much better at these skills than others?
Yes, highly social players dominate play... but don't always win. Highly skilled players control the board but don't always win.

Does this make the game feel unfair?
The metric I watch to see if this is ok is whether the players report feeling that the outcome of the game reflects their performance. It has generally been ok, but I would like to make the outcome feel a bit more stable. That may just be a scoring change. I have considered adding the bases controlled back in as a part of the score. I can take the results of games and look at what the scores would be with several different systems without changing the rules in the meantime.

Can players improve their skills with practice?
Absolutely. However, I haven't had as much repeat playtesting as I would like so I don't have metrics on how much a player's skill can be expected to rise with each replay.

Does this game demand the right level of skill?
I think that the game is demanding, but if you have an inexperienced group of players it is fun regardless of your skill level. I think it would be much less fun with four or five experienced players and one newcomer. Having some kind of handicapping system in place for new players could easily compensate for that if I had score metrics for a large set of playtests of multiple games.