I store fruit next to my computer, but the chocolate is in a cupboard downstairs. This is because I know that I’m lazy and greedy but would prefer not to be. I can have chocolate or I can refuse to get up, but if I do one I can’t do the other. I’m not sure I could successfully fight my vices alone, so setting them up in opposition to each other seems like the way to go.
There are lots of people who play games, but let me tell you about someone special, the perfect player of games. She is characterised by two things, the first of which are her capacities. Intellectually, she’s second to none, as soon as she’s skimmed the rules she’s learned them, by the time setup is finished she’s a dozen idea for good strategies and by the end of the first game she’s well on the way to mastering it. Woe betide you if you seek to beat her at a game she’s put any real time or thought into.
I like money. If you offered to give me some money, no strings attached, I’d take it. I imagine I’d feel better about that the more of it that there was. It is, however, singularly useless. I can’t eat it, live in it or construct anything more elaborate than a particularly poor paper airplane. It has value solely expressed by the things I can do with it, I don’t see five thousand pounds as a large pile of coins for my Smaug cosplay, I see it in terms of the millions of things that I could possibly do with it. Showered with riches I think I’d spend my life making games, the act of creation has value for me, so the coin has value for me.
One of my favorite games of all time is Fallout 2. I’m sure that this is at least in part because I happened to be at an impressionable age when it came out, but I still think that it did a lot of things very well. I enjoyed the feeling of freedom, while I often give up that freedom and play the game “in order” the fact that you can run straight to the penultimate area from the start of the game made those decisions meaningful rather than something the game forced me into doing. On top of all of that, the game had style.
I sat alone and unprepared as uncertainty raged on. It was a day lacking in inspiration and the task loomed ahead, the computer was repaired and there was no excuse for not resuming regular work. It was Monday. There had to be a post. Inspiration was absent but then a voice spoke from the heavens, filled with certainty and light and bade me consult its wisdom.
The best games give players a constant feeling of choice. I personally enjoy being confronted with options such that each one feels like an excellent decision, but involves sacrificing other equally good options. I like the feeling of mastery I get out of making a tough decision and seeing the rewards (and penalties) associated with that decision later in the game. It can also make the off turn more exciting, if the decisions that other players are making are more interesting and trying to derive what hidden information (e.g. the contents of their hand) can be inferred from them making particular decisions. Choice is great!
Last week I wrote about the decision to use models in Wizard Academy and received a number of nice comments on the work so far (which really should go to the artists). One of them mentioned how nice it was to see models falling outside of established tropes, which was lovely but possibly somewhat generous. I not only use tropes, but I use them a lot!
I’m fairly confident as a game designer, while I’ve still got a lot to learn I’m very happy with the work that I’ve done and have good reason to feel that I’m writing rules that make for an enjoyable experience. On the other hand I’ve only been in games publishing for a year and feel that I’ve got much further to go in this respect so I tend to use this blog to write about design topics rather than publishing topics. Today I’m going to break that pattern and write about a publishing decision: The inclusion of models in Wizard’s Academy.
I ran a playtest of Wizard Academy last week, in which the group played a good portion of the rules incorrectly. I think that the problem was that we started quite late in the evening, when people were a little tired and that a rules confusion during setup strung out the setup sequence to take a very long time. By the time the game had started nobody had much patience and the group had played the basic game before, so skimmed the advanced rules and just got on with it.
This week I’ve entered a four card blind Magic tournament, which is an interesting spin on an existing game that might have some neat design lessons in it. In Magic players usually use 60 card decks, starting with a hand of 7 random cards and drawing one each turn. The game continues until one player has used their cards to defeat the other or someone runs out of cards, at which point they lose. Much of the skill of the game is in deck construction, coming up with a combination of cards that can ensure victory whichever order it is drawn in.