Every now and again I briefly recall that in my first post I promised that this blog would talk about what it’s like to go from being an academic to a full time game designer and all of the experiences that I’ve had along the way. It seems that in general people enjoy my broad and unsolicited advice on the subject more, but today there’s a chance to do both. I ran a stand at a big convention for the first time ever this weekend!
I talk about the theory of game design a lot and I’ve been doing some fairly rapid iteration on a Wizard’s Academy scenario recently so I thought that it might be a nice time to work through how that process has gone to give some sort of illustration of what happens when theory meets practice.
I’ve been playing a lot of Legendary:Villains lately and have been having a good time with it. I really enjoy the feeling of progression in games, starting with something relatively weak that works poorly and building up towards having something epic. I definitely got a buzz out of dealing Graham’s number damage (though the legality of the move hinges on whether discarding a card, shuffling it back into your deck and reclaiming it and discarding it again counts as “discarding two cards” or “discarding the same card twice”) but that was met with a slight disappointment that there was no target that justified that quantity of firepower.
So there’s this conversation I keep seeing on game design forums:
Enthusiastic_Newbie “I’ve come up with a great new mechanic for my game!”
Old_Hand “There are no such thing as new mechanics, what is it?”
OH “That’s been done before in (Game) (Game) and (Game). Perhaps once in a generation someone comes up with a new mechanic, the odds that it’s you are millions to one.”
OH “Don’t try to invent new mechanics.”
Unenthusiastic_Newbie “Oh, okay. Thanks I guess.”
I’m getting a lot of questions about the Wizard’s Academy Kickstarter and minis. I’ve been asked why the game has minis in PMs, on BGG and on the Reddit AMA (which is a good read, it’s nice to see what people who’ve played the game have to say). The answer boils down to “Because it makes the game better and it makes sense for a 3D art company” – but I’ve also had questions about the economics of minis, particularly an add on mini, that I’ve held off answering because I needed a long form answer – this blog is all about the long form game design discussions so let’s do this thing!
I tried, I really did, to write something interesting and insightful about game design today – but I just can’t do it. We’re launching a Kickstarter tomorrow that’s going to have a huge impact on my career as a games designer. If things go well then we’ll keep making games and I’ll immediately get to start working on the next one, perhaps the several next ones. If it goes poorly then 3DTotal is likely to make the sensible economic decision to get out of the game making business and I’ll be out of a job. Hopefully I’d exploit other options I have to design more games, but it’d be a major step backwards in terms of the resources that I could leverage to keep building games.
The point is that I’m really not having a lot of success thinking about anything else, so if you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on game design then I’d ask you to please bear with me for just this week while I talk about something that’s important to me. Next week will be business as usual.
Today I’m working from home in preparation for doing an interview with BluePegPinkPeg, who look at games from the perspective of couples and families. That’s got me thinking about how different games handle player counts, a lot of games seem to display player counts that they can’t really handle. I’ve got plenty of games in my collection listed as “2-6 players” that are totally unplayable with two, so I wanted to take a minute to talk about how different games deal with varying player counts.
So I’m presently losing sleep over how to price pledge levels for the upcoming Wizard’s Academy kickstarter. Fundamentally the problem is this: I would like to charge the lowest possible price that leads to the game still shipping, to maximise the number of people who get to enjoy the game (This is my main motivation for being in game design, over industries in which people actually make money and don’t get talked down to at parties). However after a point a lower pledge level makes the campaign less likely to succeed in which case nobody gets to play the game, so today I’m going to review the things that go into setting the price of the pledge level and talk about some solutions that I and other creators have used in the past.
I’ve always found that games that enable players to vote on giving each other victory points can run into a lot of problems. I think it often comes about when a game’s rules invoke the following conflict:
1) The rules say that I should vote for whoever I think is best.
2) The rules say that I will win if I vote for whoever has the least points.
I’ve been playing the new Hearthstone expansion recently and I’ve not had a particularly good time with it. I’ve noted before that I’d enjoy Hearthstone more if they deleted every card with the word “random” printed anywhere on it and this expansion seems to be pushing towards more cards of that nature (A brief aside: There is a difference between “I don’t like this” and “This is bad” – I think this is actually going to be a good direction for the game as a whole). The thing is that there are other games which involve more randomisers than the average game of Hearthstone, because what bothers me isn’t the presence of the random factor, but the timing surrounding it.