Saturday, February 25, 2017

Day 101: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 101 - Lens 63: The Lens of Feedback
The player's feedback from the game comes from many things: judgment, reward, instruction, encouragement, and challenge. Use this lens to be sure your feedback loop is creating the experience you want by continuously asking these questions:

What do players need to know at this moment?
Looking at this question at this moment in development, but integrated over the course of the game will show a progression of things that the players want.

At the opening of the game players need to know the goal of the game. Then they need to know how to play the game. Then they need to know how to go about winning the game. Then they need to know that the game will end soon. Then they need to know who won.  That sounds kind of silly written down, but in the process of designing it is less clear.

What do players want to know at this moment?
At the opening of the game players want to know what it’s like. Then they want to know who they are in the game. Then they want to know what they can do. Then they want to know why they should be doing it… though they should probably know that sooner. Then they want to know where they are going. In the end they want to know what they have done and why it mattered.

I try to match the feedback that the game is giving the players to their wants and needs. Largely I use the esthetic of the game and then the narrative voice of the Teller in the instructions. I try, though this is hard, to make the shape of the game lend its self to helping the players form the above questions and then discover the answers to them. Given the dynamic nature of almost every aspect of this game and the limits of being a board game that will probably never be as effective or clever as it might sound.

What do I want players to feel at this moment? How can I give feedback that creates that feeling?
I want players to feel intrigued, then excited, then to feel mounting stress… though not to the point of discomfort. Then I want to punctuate that time of tension with spurts of fear and disappointment or elation. Then to feel determination, then suspense then relief and satisfaction with the outcome. (Hey, you asked)

The esthetics and mechanics of the game are intended to create those feelings… or I have watched those feelings emerge from the esthetics and dynamics and iteratively adjusted things to produce them as clearly and reliably as I can.

What do the players feel at this moment? Is there an opportunity for them to create a situation where they will feel that?
I think that the wants of players are les specific than the intended emotional payload of my game! I think that they want to be excited to find out about the game. Challenged by the moment to moment gameplay. I think they want to experience feelings of competence and mastery over the game. Possibly to feel superior to the other players. In the end players want to feel that they understand what happened. If they win they want to feel like they understand why, and that is even more true if they lose.

What is the player's goal at this moment? What feedback will help them toward that goal?
On some level it is to have a good time… by meeting the needs and wants above. The above affordances may provide that, if they don’t then the game is probably the thing that needs to change, not the needs and wants.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Day 100: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 100 - Lens 84: The Lens of the World
The world of your game is a thing that exists apart. Your game is a doorway to this magic place that exists only in the imagination of your players. To ensure your world has power and integrity, ask yourself these questions:

How is my world better than the real world?
The players have the autonomy to change the world, and a clear pah to try to do it. In most narrative ways the game world is dystopian and not at all better than the real world.

Can there be multiple gateways to my world? 
How do they differ? 
How do they support each other?
Right now there might be two gateways, the gameplay itself and the fiction found in the game documents. I want to expand that fiction and perhaps add art around the game and perhaps even music. All of these would be in the form of artifacts from the game world. The game is very different than the fiction of the world, however the fiction and the art of the world are similar. All of the aspects of world building are describing the same place and they all are structured to support the action of playing the game.

Is my world centered on a single story, or could many stories happen there?
Right now the world is centered on one story, but it's an interesting world and the possibility of more is at the very least implied.

Day 99: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 99 - Lens 6: The Lens of Curiosity
To use this lens, think about the player's true motivations - not just the goals your game has set forth, but the reason the player wants to achieve those goals. Ask yourself these questions:

What questions does my game put into the player's mind?
What are the other players doing?
Is the other player going to ally or fight with me in this challenge?
Should I (lots of strategic questions)?
What happened to this world?
Why should the city fall?
Who are the tribes?
Who was the Teller?
What does the "Read this iffin you win" message say?

What am I doing to make them care about thee questions?
The game related questions are given importance by the player's desire to win.
The world related questions are posed both by the game structure and setting and by the explicit writing of the rules and instructions, and eventually by the tribal histories. I try to make the world interesting and compelling by making the presentation of the game very authentic, by making it seem like a real artifact from a real place. I hope that will give it metaphorical as well as literal weight.

What can I do to make them invent even more questions?
Encouraging strategic table talk would cause more game related questions to be raised. Encouraging role play would raise more world related questions. I might be able to pose some of those questions as marginalia in the game documents which could put question asking into the players minds...

Day 98: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 98 - Lens 5: The Lens of Fun
Fun is desirable in nearly every game, though sometimes fun defies analysis. To maximize your game's fun, ask yourself these questions:

What parts of my game are fun?
Challenges are very fun now. The moving and taking bases is engaging, taking someone else's base is fun, particularly if they are not expecting it. I think that the social aspects in general are strong. The fast pace makes the game engaging and the mechanical play allows strategy, but most of the fun comes from the social parts. Though the fun of executing a strategy and hoping others don't see what you are doing can be strong when it happens.

What parts need to be more fun?
The end game could be more fun.  Oooh! I rephrase that to 'Winning needs to be more fun.' I still haven't found the balance between it taking too long, and being over before it's begun. And between it not being important and it deciding the game every time.

It's interesting to see the times when players find one part of the game fun vs. another. It has depended on both the types of players and on the way a particular game is played. Players that like pure strategy tend to find those aspects of the game fun, and players that like social games, or just being social like those aspects of the game. Interestingly everyone is happy with the strategy aspects even if they don't love strategy.  In terms of specific games the social aspect really shines when there is at least one performative player playing up the social aspects.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Day 97: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 97 - Lens 8: The Lens of Problem Solving
Every game has problems to solve. To use this lens, think about the problems your players must solve to succeed at your game. Ask yourself these questions:

What problems does my game ask the player to solve?
There are a normal set of game problems posed: How do you optimize your resource collection, when should you attack your fellow players, when should you make alliances and break them. But there are also some less normal ones like how should you connect the parts of the play spaces to each other so that you maintain control over them in real time play when you are not near them. Or, what should you pay attention to in a game where there are too many things happening for you to track all of them reliably.

Are there hidden problems to solve that arise as part of the gameplay?
I think that most of the interesting problems are hidden. They are things that are not part of the rules but that players realize as they play the game for the first time. I often hear comments like "I thought this was a game about 'X' but halfway through I realized it's actually about 'Y'! The comment is usually said in a pleased way, the players don't feel tricked, they feel clever for having discovered a deeper understanding of the game.

How can my game generate new problems so that players keep coming back?
I think, hope, that players strategies will develop in ways that continually challenge the players to try new strategies and make the game very replayable. I have resisted adding more complicated layers of play to the game because I want to have the simple mechanics generate the complexity through interaction with the players. Having six players means that even a little added mechanical complexity would make the game vastly more complex. However, adding to the mechanics is always a possibility if the game as it stands now fails to generate enough strategic depth.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Day 96: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 96 - Lens 68: The Lens of Moments
Memorable moments are stars that make up the constellation of your interest curve. To chart what is most important, ask yourself these questions:

What are the key moments in my game?

  • Opening the game has become a reliable moment. Seeing that the game materials are all 'in character' seems to get people's attention.
  • The first challenge reliably changes the way that people are interacting with the game and each other. 
  • The first betrayal. 
  • The final challenge can be tense if several people think they have a shot. 
  • And for the right players reading the victory note can be good.

How can I make each moment as powerful as possible?
I think the game does a pretty good job at calling out those moments. There are natural pauses in those places and the reactions of the other players reinforce the experience.

There are other moments, but the game is so driven by player action that they vary from game to game, but almost every game generates stories.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Day 95: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 95 - Lens 61: The Lens of Virtual Interface
Designing virtual interfaces can be very tricky. Ask these questions to make sure that your virtual interface is enhancing the player experience as much a possible:

What information does a player need that isn't obvious just by looking at the game world?
Players need to know that alliances are between other players. This 'could' be hidden information, but exposing it through an interface allows for more strategic play and avoids rules mistakes.

How many warriors they have in their tribe.

What the other players will do next!

When does the player need this information?
You need to know the state of alliances constantly as it effects not just your direct interactions with players but also your movement through your allies territory, and the movement of your opponents through the territory of their allies.

You need to have a general idea of your warrior number at all times but need to be able to check it when you place warriors and when you are in a challenge with another player.

You need to know the thoughts and plans of other players constantly, but most when you are in a challenge with them.

How can this information be delivered to the player in a way that won't interfere with the player's interactions with the game world?
The alliance state uses tokens placed next to the player's base on the board to show his alliances.

You can asses your warrior count by lifting your tribe bag to get a general sense of how many warriors you have, and look into the bag when needed to get an exact count.

Your opponents faces are your window into their thoughts. Because this is a board game we have real human faces, and reading them is a time honored and engaging part of competitive games. Challenges pause primary play allowing the time needed for this kind of interface access ;)

Are there elements of the game world that are easier using a virtual interface (like a popup menu) than direct interaction?
I think the elements I identified were easier to indicate off of the game board. I could have done something more tied to the pawn for the alliances, Like having a washer of the alliance color that would slip over a bolt attached to the pawn... I 'think' associating the alliance with the player not the pawn is better... but it's something to think about.

What kind of virtual interface is best suited to my physical interface?
I think that in the context of a board game a 'true' virtual interface would be a secondary player board or character sheet. I have eliminated any need for those in my game outside of the alliance tokens and warrior bags. Because the game is real time those kinds of interfaces are just to slow and fiddly to be viable. So any virtual interfaces used must be very simple and fast to use and read.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Day 94: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 94 - Lens 43: The Lens of Competition
Competitive games can satisfy the basic human urge to determine who is the most skilled. Use this lens to ensure that people want to win your game. Ask yourself these questions:

Does my game give a fair measurement of player skill?
Yes, in that the game is symmetrical and involves no chance. The game rewards situational awareness and both tactical/strategic thinking and politics.

Do people want to win my game? Why?
Yes, in that players usually want to win a competitive game that they sit down to win. The game reinforces that though the course of play by setting up conflict situations where players act against each other and then later inevitably (or at least very often) sets up situations that allow revenge. By the end of the game players are often more interested in who is 'winning' a particular back and forth with another player than in winning the game as a whole. That is intentional and both reinforces my theme and allows players who do not win the game (5/6th of all players) to feel satisfied with their performance. One could call it 'facilitating the formation of secondary goals', or maybe just 'revenge is sweet'.

Is winning this game something people can be proud of? Why?
Yes, because it's difficult. The note that players read when they win points out all of the things that they have to have demonstrated to win the game, and that it's really something to be proud of. At the same time, the game tries to point out through play and explicitly in the victory text that the kinds of behaviors that allowed the player to win are not necessarily positive qualities outside of the game space.

Can novices meaningfully compete at my game?
Yes, particularly if playing against other novices, or working together with other novices against experienced players.

Can experts meaningfully compete at my game?
Yes, I think... I have not had a chance to playtest with the same players dozens of the times. But again the game is symmetrical and has no chance, so if if provides enough place for deep strategies then it will hold up to expert play.

Can experts generally be sure they will defeat novices?
One to one yes, though several novices working together would make life very difficult for an expert. It's possible that in more even matches, say three experts and three novices, that I could give a larger pool of warriors to the novices to even things out, or an extra ally token. But for now I am keeping things symmetrical.

Day 93: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 93 - Lens 85: The Lens of the Avatar
The avatar is the player's gateway into the world of the game. To ensure your avatar brings out as much of the player's identity as possible, ask yourself these questions"

Is my avatar an ideal form that will appeal to my players?
No? I mean the avatar is the Pawn, and the pawn and the whole game is abstract so it's not an ideal form of the actual player in the way that Link or Lara Croft might be. That said I do intend it to be something that the players project themselves onto in terms or imagining themselves as the leader of their tribe moving around the wasteland fighting and making alliances and bringing down the Last City.

Does my avatar have iconic qualities that let a player project themselves into the character?
Other than being abstract I don't really think that there are any relatable qualities to the avatar. Being a nut and washer makes it both like the players warriors and the citizens of the city and something more... but again, very abstract.

I do want to add short stories for each of the tribes that give background on why they are fighting to overthrow the City. I want them to make the idea of each tribe distinct. I don't particularly want to use the stories to create a better canvas for the player to project himself onto but rather to rather the opposite, to give the tribe and leader more character so that the players are asked to consider their point of view. I hope it will be a little uncomfortable and thought provoking.

Day 92: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 92 - Lens 75: The Lens of Simplicity and Transcendence
To make sure you have the right mix of simplicity and transcendence, ask yourself these questions:

How is my world simpler that the real world? How can it be simpler in other ways?
I feel like it's simpler in every aspect of the world that it represents. All of the things that you do in the game are very consciously simplified stylized representations of real world actions. While the game did not start out that way, the process of iteration and a gradually clearer understanding of what my game is about allowed the game to become a representation and model of its meaning.

I have recently removes a section of end game mechanics that represented a logical part of the overthrow of the city but complicated the flow too much. I think that I might try replacing it with a simpler attack round that would have a similar emotional effect since removing it may make the game now end too abruptly...

What kind of transcendent power do I give to the player? How can I give them even more without removing the challenge from the game?
Leadership. The player has absolute power over their tribe and the ability to recruit new members, send them off to fight and die, to build bases and control territory and to make alliances or attack their neighbors.

Is my contribution of simplicity and transcendance contrived, or does it provide my players with a special kind of wish fulfilment?
I think that the simplicity and power of the game actions flows naturally from the theme and mechanics f the game.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Day 91: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 91 - Lens 26: The Lens of Functional Space
To use this lens, think about the space in which your game really takes place when all surface elements are stripped away. Ask yourself these questions:

Is the space of this game discrete or continuous?
Yes. Ok, that's a little confusing. My game features both discrete and continuous spaces. I seem to have broken all the rules when making this game. The playfield was once a set of discrete hex's but now it is a more complex hybrid. You can place your paths anywhere and position matters, so it's continuous. But, it is divided up into seven areas and whether your bases are in one area or another matters, so in that way it is discreet. The same is true for paths. They are discreet as being on a path makes you adjacent to other paths but it does not matter where on the path you are. But it is also continuous because if there is another player on the same path then they can block you, so position matters.

How many dimensions does it have?
Two. There is some stacking of pieces, but for the purpose of game play it's really just two.

What are the boundaries of the space?
The boundaries are marked on the board or are the edge of the pieces, but the board boundaries are loose and enforced by the scoring rules rather than by rules strictly defining them.

Are there sub-spaces? How are they connected?
Yes! Each path and base is a sub-space. And since the players can place and move these the play space is dynamic. It is defined in one way by the areas of the map which are static, but the movement of the pawn happens within the sub-space of the placed paths, bases and warriors. Sub spaces connect and disconnect as the players move paths and bases.

Is there more than one useful way to abstractly model the space of this game?
I think I want to draw out some diagrams of the connected points model and see if it shows anything about the game. I'll attach the sketches below after I finish them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Day 90: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 90 - Lens 53: The Lens of Balance
There are many types of game balance, and each is important. However, it is easy to get lost in the details, and forget the fig picture. Use this simple lens to get out of the mire, ask yourself the only important question:

Does my game feel right?
Saying 'mostly' doesn't feel very satisfying... saying 'Yes!' feels arrogant and overconfident. I 'think' that my game feels mostly right. I think that it needs to have a bit more tension. I think it's probably good that that tension can be lacking for players learning the game and that as players become comfortable with the mechanics that they will apply pressure on each other and that that will ratchet up the tension to the level I would like to see.

I have been messing with the end game a little and I think that removing the head taking makes the end of the game feel less well defined. I also think that that section of the game didn't add a lot to the game other than that sense of a defined ending. Removing it raises the point value of the other aspects of the game, which is good.  I think that with another couple of iterations on the end game mechanics that part will feel right. Probably It's just a mater of making the end of the game trigger when a player moves onto the last city... making the game end the following turn. Doing that would allow the other players to take the capturing players bases, but then not be able to challenge for the city, or to move to the city to challenge, which is what the head taking accomplished in a much more complex way.

So, I think the 'feel' of the game is right, but that I still need to iterate on some small details a bit.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Day 89: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 89 - Lens 31: The Lens of Action
To use this lens, think about what your players can do and what they can't, and why. Ask yourself these questions:

What are the basic actions in my game?
Place/Pick-up Path/Base
Place/Pick-up Guards
Move Pawn

What are the strategic actions?
Increase warrior count size by recruiting
Control movement by placing/picking-up paths
Collect Paths to limit movement control of other players
Control territories by placing bases
Increase recruitment capacity by controlling more bases
Take warriors from bases to increase Tribe size
Place warriors on bases to control them
Place warriors on bases to support allies
Weaken opponents by taking their bases
Ally with opponents to gain warriors
Ally with opponents to gain victory points
Ally with opponents to gain passage through their territories
Betray opponents to take their bases and warriors
Fight opponents to take their warriors
Capture the Last City to secure control of territories.

What strategic actions would I like to see? How can I change my game in order to make those possible?
I have made many iterations of changes to end up where I am now. I think I have it close to right. I think that iterating on this question was probably the primary driver for most of my development.

Am I happy with the ratio for strategic to basic actions?
Yes. I think that the limited number of basic actions creates a satisfying number of strategic actions.

What actions do players wish they could do in my game that they cannot? Can I somehow enable these, either as basic or strategic actions?
Players have wished many things! Some would have made the game worse, and I know because I tried them. For instance placing warriors on paths. That made movement much more complex and didn't provide the territory control stability that players wanted. I ended up limiting the total warrior number to achieve that effect. Players wanted to do more on their turns, I end up letting them do everything, or recruit. That gave them a meaningful choice, and also a lot of strategic freedom. There are a thousand (or several dozen) design choices like those!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Day 88: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 88 - Lens 16: The Lens of Risk Mitigation
Because the sage always confronts difficulties, he never experiences them.
-Tao Te Ching

To use this lens, stop thinking positively, and start to seriously consider the things that could go horribly wrong with your game. Ask yourself these questions:

What could keep this game from being great?
I think that the biggest risk is that the strategy does not go deep enough, that either there is a reliable way to win, or that player actions do not have a strong enough or consistent enough effect on the outcome of the game to allow players to form meaningful strategy.

How can we stop that from happening?
More playtesting. Having smart strategic players pound on the game to see if it holds up and fixing problems when I find them.  Also to be fair learning more about strategic games to be better at assessing mine.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Day 87: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 87 - Lens 18: The Lens of Passion
At the end of each prototype, when you are carefully mitigating risks and planning what to do next, don't forget to check how you feel about your game with these important questions:

Am I filled with blinding passion about how great this game will be?
I like this game a lot, and it doesn't take much to get me excited about it, but development can be a long road and believing in something and knowing it's good can be as valuable as being passionate about it.

If I've lost passion, can I find it again?
I don't think I have lost passion, I think my passion is measured and subject to understanding what I want to accomplish with this game.  All it takes to relight my desire to work on the game is seeing one person play it and love the experience.

If the passion isn't coming back, shouldn't I be doing something else?
I think that depends. Producing art and craft can be hard and not always a work of joy and passion.  If you don't care about your game, then sure, go do something else. But sometimes you have to put in the un-fun time and make yourself work when you would rather be doing something else if you want to finish your game. There is a time for the art and passion to drive development, and there is a time for persistence and craft to drive it. The larger and longer a project is the more true that is.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Day 86: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 86 - Lens 86: The Lens of Character Function
To make sure your characters are doing everything your game needs them to do, ask yourself these questions:

What are the roles I need the characters to fill?
The teacher roll is filled by the 'Teller' NPC character. The 'Pawns', or leaders of the tribes are at the moment non-characters that are filled by the players. I don't think that the abstract strategic game needs them to be anything else. I plan on giving them character and background as an optional add-on for players that get caught up in the lore. They will give motivation to the players as to why they want the city to fall. It's a theme and secret purpose thing not a mechanics one.

What characters have I already imagined?
The Teller is pretty much fully formed. The idea of the Pawns is there but I have resisted making them specific because I think I need to find people with the right backgrounds to do that writing.

Which characters map well to which roles?
The characters exist to fill specific roles in my case.  I don't have any characters that represent the citizens... if I did I am not sure what role they would fill, but I should think about that.

Can any characters fit more than one role?
I am not sure, the characters are few and role specific so this may just not apply. Or maybe this kind of thing will become clear when I get to creating characters for the pawns. It's something to talk about with the writers I find.

Do I need to change the characters to better fit the roles?
Perhaps. I think about changing the teller to be The Teller, as in the first teller who created the game. And perhaps they were one of the actual tribal leaders that represent the pawns... that kind of thing. I don't know if I want to make the game smaller and more anonymous to make the game world seem bigger, or to make the game more important a part of the world.

DO I need any new characters?
Maybe the citizens. I have to think on what they would represent... guilt maybe? They would be ancillary in anycase and not mechanically important.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Day 85: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 85 - Lens 29: The Lens of Secrets
Change who has what information, and you change your game completely. To use this lens, think about who knows what and why.

What is known by the game only?
With new players the contents of the 'Read this if you win' note are secret, but nothing from the main gameplay.

What is known by all players?
The state of paths on the board. The number of citizens remaining in the city. The number of ally tokens that each player has. How many guards each player has placed.

What is known by some or only one player?
The number of guards in your tribe bag. In a challenge, how many guards you have committed and which side of your challenge token is up.

Would changing who knows what information improve my game in some way?
I think that this is a good balance, however knowing those things is dependant on players situational awareness and not all players will know all the knowable things at any given moment. That can make the game seem unfair to less observant players. The skill can be learned and is an important part of the game, but I worry about it ruining the game for new players.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Day 84: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 84: Lens 36: The Lens of Chance
To use this lens, focus on the parts of your game that involve randomness and risk, keeping in mind that those two things are not the same. Ask yourself these questions:

What in my game is truly random? What just feels random?
Nothing. There is no randomness in my game. Everything that feels random is actually the behavior of other players that a player fails to predict.

Does the randomness give the players positive feelings of excitement and challenge, or negative feelings of hopelessness and lack of control?
Both I think. I have tried to make the game forgiving enough that suffering from the actions of another player doesn't ruin the fun of the game, but at the same time give the actions of players weight so that they feel that they can have a meaningful effect on each other. It's a tough balance and I may not have gotten it right yet.

Would changing my probability curves improve my game?
There are no probability curves, but I can adjust things like the rewards and penalties for specific actions in the game. That has a similar effect on the feel of the game as adjusting the probability curves on a game with randomness.

Do players have the opportunity to take interesting risks?
Oh yes. Just because there is no randomness does not mean that there is no risk. But rather than their being the risk that you will randomly fail the risk is that you have misjudged the possible actions of the other players. I think this is much more meaningful, but I recognize that it can also be much more frustrating because you can not blame your failures on chance or luck.

What is the relationship between chance and skill in my game?
There is no chance, so there is a complete dependance on skill in terms of the unexpected effects that you encounter in the game. That said sometimes players take non-rational actions and anticipating those is hard. Failing to do so can feel bad, and that's a problem that I am not sure that there is a complete solution to other than mitigating the consequences to within players tollerence for their own failure.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Day 83: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 83 - Lens 12: The Lens of Resonance
To use the Lens of Resonance, you must look for hidden power. Ask yourself these questions:

What is it about my game that feels powerful and special?
I think the gamespace that it creates. The real time nature of the game gives it a kind of focus that creates a strong 'magic circle' or sense of a playspace. The social rules of the game enforce the theme of the game and color that playspace. So I want to say that the 'experience of play' is powerful... or perhaps 83 lenses into this excercise my head has worked its way up my posterior...

When I describe my game to people, what ideas get them really excited?
'Post-Apocalyptic Real Time Strategy' does a pretty good job. I think it varies a bit depending on what the players like.

If I had no constraints of any kind, what would this game be like?
There are two answers to this I guess. As a board game it would be of authentic components, I would make it as available as possible to play with as much ceremony and theme as possible, running it at cons and things like 'Wasteland Weekend' with a booth and costumes etc. I would get artwork and writing to support the fiction of the tribes giving them deep history for players that got into it, raising the thematic stakes of the setting of the game.

The second answer is that I would develop the AR game that inspired the game. That game would be very different, but I think that the strategic bones would be the same... though the theme would have to be very different, either Cyberpunk or alternate reality.

I have certain instincts about how this game should be. What is driving those instincts?
The desire to make an elegant game and the desire to make a meaningful game. Also the desire to make the game the best that it can be and to hone my design skills against it.

Day 82: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 82 - Lens 25: The Lens of Judgement
To decide if your game is a good judge of the players, ask yourself these questions:

What does my game judge about the players?
Ruthlessness, honesty, capacity for social manipulation. Tactical planning. Strategic planning. The desire to win vs the desire to be a hero.

How does it communicate this judgement?
By putting the player in a position where they must exhibit the capacities or make the moral decisions.

Do players feel the judgement is fair?
I think that they feel forced into the situations when they are aware of them. It's either 'Ah, I see what you are doing here.' or not knowing how they are being judged.

Do they care about the judgement?
Perhaps not as much as I would like them to. I think that they care about the social judgment of the other players. I think they internally feel the judgment of the game in terms of how well they do. In the end game choice I want to point out the judgment and give them one final clear choice that I 'hope' they care about...

Does the judgement make them want to improve?
I hope so... both in terms of their gameplay, how they interact with others and their moral stance... that's a lot to demand of players, maybe too much. But I think it's the real point of the game.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Day 81: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 81 - Lens 77: The Lens of the Weirdest Thing
Having weird things in your story can help give meaning to unusual game mechanics, capture the interest of the player, and make your world seem special.  Too much weirdness, though, will render your story puzzling and inaccessible. To make sure your story is the good kind of weird, ask yourself these questions:

What is the weirdest thing in my story?
The post-apocalyptic setting is pretty standard at this point. But maybe making the players the savage tribes trying to destroy the last bastion of civilization is weird.  Having the narrator be dead and communicating with the players through the notes he left behind is a little strange.

How can I make sure that wierdest thing doesn't confuse of alienate the player?
Establishing the communication between the player and the narrator (The Teller) has been a bit challenging. I tried being clever and labeling the first letter that is the tutorial for the game 'Read this 'iffin I'm dead.' And players were consistently confused and did not read that document first. I think I have to be super clear and just label it 'Read This First'. Things seem to largely go well once that connection is established.

If there are multiple weird things, should I maybe get rid of, or coalesce some of them?
I think story wise, all of the weird is closely tied together with the story. It's all part of the setting in a way that is mutually supporting and makes the game more interesting. How much detail to add has been an ongoing question. I think that I might want to have more setting materials be stretch goals, and maybe have a higher pledge level that includes them and an add on that collects them for other players.

If there is nothing weird in my story, is the story still interesting?
I think it's safe to say there are weird things. As to whether the story is interesting enough... I think it serves it's purpose as a frame for the game and the game rules. I think I can add more color for people who are interested, but that I should be careful to keep it from muddying the game and rules for people who are not.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Day 80: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 80 - Lens 108: The Lens of the Pitch
To ensure your pitch is as good as it can be, ask yourself these questions:

Why are you pitching this game to the client?
In one case my client will be the Kickstarter supporters, in another it would be a publisher. In both cases I need to get either money or distribution from them. I want people to be able to play my game. To do that I need the money to produce many copies and the awareness of the game that will allow me to sell them to cover the production and distribution cost.

What will you consider "a successful pitch"?
For kickstarter I will consider it successful if I can generate enough backers and funds to do a first printing of the game. If I can do that then in a pitch to a publisher I would want to first get the game published and second get as wide distribution as possible.

What's in it for the people you are pitching to?
For the backers, the game. Possibly art used in the game. T-Shirts are a possibility. For a publisher hopefully a compelling game that they can sell.

What do the people you are pitching to need to know about your game?
It is real time!
It is played after the apocalypse!
It is a six player game where it is always your turn!
It's a very social game with diplomacy mechanics.
It has a strong theme and esthetic.

Day 79: FotLC through the 113 lenses from The Art of Game Design

Day 79 - Lens 98: The Lens of Community
To make sure your game fosters strong community, ask yourself these questions:

What conflict is at the heart of my community?
Strategy sharing is probably a big one. Hopefully like in Chess or M:TG the strategies of players are deep and varied enough that people want to talk about how to deal with them.  The competition within a game is very strong, but establishing some way for players to rank themselves would be good. Maybe total VP gained in wins / number of games? Provide a log book as part of the game and encourage sharing ratings on a forum/leaderboard. I could have a google form where you could enter your scores and a page that displayed the rankings...

How does architecture shape my community?
The fact that the game requires six players means a large number of players to copies of the game ratio.  I think that the game plays very well in public so having regular tournament play at game shops could do a lot to make the game a social event. Having a listing of places to play on the website to facilitate that kind of play could be important.

Does my game support three levels of experience?
Yes, I think it does that pretty explicitly. The question of whether is continues to be fun for new players to play with mid/upper level players is still open. But the game needs teachers so upper level players should be engaged with that part of the game. Building tools for tournament play would give advanced players another way to be involved.

Are there community events?
I think that there should be. I want to facilitate that. I think that I can start that as I move into the Kickstarter by holding games both on twitch and using Table Top Simulator, as well as at some local gaming venues.

Why do players need each other?
In the game players need each other as allies in order to maximize their victory points.  You really want six players to play the game so that is a built in need. The game is not PvE so there are fewer co-op elements or group puzzles/challenges. However one alliance deciding how to address the actions of another requires that kind of cooperation.