Co-op contest begins, Steampunk contest ends.

So a few important things have happened in the last two weeks. After the announcement of the new Game Crafter contest, I pulled together a few ideas that I was considering. I then made a post on Reddit asking for the opinions of random internet strangers. Although I won’t duplicate the post in its entirety, here are the three options I presented.

#1 On the Wall

Months ago I worked on an archery game that was tested and deemed “not fun.” I made some posts about it, so I’m not going to describe it here. The game was always a cooperative game, so it makes sense that I would pick it back up for this contest. I had devised a new and improved dice-rolling mechanic thanks in part to another Reddit post, so I felt like the game had potential. On top of that, there were parts of the game that really did work, and I had already done a good deal of the design work.

#2. The Founding Fighters (or America’s Founding Fighters)

On July 4th, I attempted to create a game in 24 hours. It didn’t go so well. But the things I did manage to get made were pretty cool, and the overall concept was, in my opinion, pretty solid. Although it didn’t have a title then, I’ve since decided to call it “The Founding Fighters,” although others have expressed an interest in the title “America’s Founding Fighters.” This is another game that I have already done a good bit of footwork on, and it has the most exciting theme of the three ideas.

#3 Untitled 2 on 2 Card Game

I’m not going to describe this idea because there basically isn’t much of an idea there. It was going to be a Bridge-style game where two pairs of players are competing against each other. The reason I was attracted to this idea was that I began to question the integrity of my other ideas, and the nature of cooperative games. I’m hoping to write a bit more of an in-depth exploration of this idea (the co-op thing, not the card game), so I’ll stop there.

Anyway, the response was pretty clear, whether on the internet or from people I asked in person: I should make The Founding Fighters. So I will. More on that later.


Finally, the finalists for the Steampunk Contest were announced. Some great games made it, and my rule-less submission was not among them. I was justly disqualified for, you know, not having rules. The best I got was that the judge said it “looked nice.” That’s about the highest praise I could have rightly expected. When I order the game (which should be pretty soon), I’ll actually be able to find out if the game works.


Reality sets in…

So there are only 15 days left in the RPG contest. 15 days to complete two games. Well shit.

I’m calling it. 1:00 PM, April 1st, 2012: On the Wall is dead. Of the two games, it’s more elaborate, more expensive, and requires much more work to be finished. I’m getting a bit of deja-vu from Gathering, except this time the dying game actually has a chance to exist outside of a contest. Mark my words: I will resurrect On the Wall in the summertime. Until then, here are some more art updates from The Estate.

The Duke is the primary melee character in The Estate. His dice are heavy on the attack symbols, demonstrating his great combat skill with his trusty cane. His special attack symbol is, well, still sort of in the works. For now, accept this stand-in explosion symbol. As for actual usage, his offensive specialty is a charge attack that can target any enemy, regardless of their position on the field (any day now I’ll post some stuff about the encounters). This character, when paired with either of the others, will very quickly reduce the opposing force to a group of whimpering losers.

As you can see from the combined dice, his defensive capabilities are not insignificant. On top of this, his defensive ability is a parry, in which the Duke takes any damage dealt, but deals the same damage back to the attacker. His two special abilities, when combined, can take out a sheltered enemy without going through the first row of enemies.

So that was a very rushed post. As I go back to my more leisurely update schedule, they will hopefully get better. Honestly, I’m more concerned about simply finishing this game than anything else right now. Updates be damned!

Archery card Layout (not art)

I’d like to once again say that this is not the art for the game.

Hopefully it’s clear what I’m aiming at here (HA). The colors and concentric elements are supposed to be reminiscent of an archery target, and in-game they tell you everything you need to know about the monster you are facing. For instance, this Rokkle has a “hit” value of 4, meaning you must roll a 4 or above to hit him. Doing this will cause him 1 damage, although some shots will do more. A monster which receives 3 damage is killed. The card also has a “kill” value of 10, meaning if you are able to roll a 10, he is killed immediately, regardless of damage.

The two orbiting symbols represent his special abilities. Each monster can have up to two of these, one that effects targeting and one that effects behavior. The bottom symbol means that this monster is “hearty.” Again, sorry for the terrible play-on-words (plays-on-words?). The Rokkle has, therefore, one extra damage capacity. The second symbol, and may I remind you that this isn’t the real art, indicates that this is a “flying” monster. Flying monsters must be damaged before they can be killed, meaning a roll of 10 as your first shot against this monster will only damage it.

That’s all I have for tonight. I’m still not even sure what this game’s fate will be, but I am warming to the new system, partly because of this new design. Over the weekend I will probably do the scanning, so there’s a chance that the influx of art will energize this project. Otherwise, expect more news on the other RPG.

Liars and Thieves

So this post has two parts. The first is the lying part. Specifically, my lies about doing a week of posts, and of posting a second time tomorrow.  I basically spent all of yesterday making one graph, which turned out to be completely pointless. Here it is anyway.

This is the expanded version of the last dice idea I had. This graph, though, shows all the possible additions, and associated probabilities, of a 4d6 roll. The legend on the bottom refers to the rank order of the dice (lowest to highest, A to D). And although this took me a long time and is mathematically really cool, it is far too complicated to be used. The 3d6 system is much easier to calculate at a glance. Either way, I had way too much fun faffing about in Excel yesterday, mostly because of the next part of this post.

Thievery came into play when I tried to work on the archery graphics. I recently received a sizable stack of monster drawings from a friend of mine, and I had planned to scan them and begin tracing them in Illustrator. What I had forgotten was that the scanner I was planning on using had been involved in a little burglary incident that happened while I was away. The strange part is that I had the scanner in front of me. And the television, the Xbox 360, and all of the other valuable things in the house. That is because only the power cords were stolen. Seriously. It’s like the thief was more interesting in trolling us than with financial gain. This happened over the summer, and for almost a year now we have been continually forgetting that the Xbox and printer/scanner, though present, are totally useless. So that de-railed my artistic plans for the day. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go to a computer lab on campus and scan them sometime this week.

Other than that, it seems like the archery game is pretty stalled right now. Even the name I chose is rapidly falling out of favor with me. It’s unclear where this game will end up.

More Archery (now with a proper name!)

The archery game has been the focus of most of my attention recently. It’s an idea that I really like, and yet somehow cannot bring to life. I thought, foolishly, that the first design would be sufficient, but I was wrong. Here’s some documentation of my wrongness. Above is a really rickety version of the game played with about 200 index cards. Although we didn’t set it up perfectly, you might be able to see the look we were going for. A diagram might help with that.

Honestly, this setup was the greatest success of the design. Although the cards we played with didn’t have any art on them, it was easy to imagine the colorful “wall” of index cards as a rampart and the blank white cards at the top as a forest. I think with some simple graphics this could look really great.

What didn’t work was EVERYTHING ELSE. Well, not everything, but most of it. Turns out rolling 8 dice every turn and then doing a bunch of math is not only annoying, but somewhat difficult. In playing 6 rounds, we let 8 monsters hit the wall, which was not the success rate I was hoping the players would have. On top of that, one character turned out to be over-powered, and we ended up relying on her to hit all the difficult targets. So all in all, it was a failure in execution. But both Alex and Liz agreed that the central premise was good, and that they genuinely had fun playing despite the hang-ups. This leaves me in an interesting position. With the contest deadline in less than a month, I really need to be wrapping these games up. This is not an ideal time for a complete redesign of mechanics. That being said, I still like this game more than The Estate (this may change), and the playtesters had some excellent suggestions, one of which I have explored further in an excel file called holyshitwhatthefuck.xlsx. This file name may tip you off to how incredible it is. Here, for instance, is one of the spreadsheets I was working with.

Holyshitwhatthefuck indeed. What you see here are all possible rolls of 3d6. The top row shows the value rolled if you add the two lower dice. The middle shows the value when you add the two outside dice, and the bottom shows the value of the two higher dice. Although it isn’t shown, I did some more analysis and found that the averages are, from top to bottom, 5.5, 7, and 8.5, with the standard deviations being 2.2, 1.9, and 2.2 respectively. Creating a histogram (fancy name for a bar graph) of these values gives you this lovely graph.

Aw yeah, maths. As you can see, the lower additions bunch up on the left side, but do have some presence on the right. The exact opposite is true for the higher values, which make a mirror image of the first. The middle one is, well, in the middle, and follows roughly the probabilities you would expect from a simple 2d6 roll (roughly).

What I may have stumbled upon here is a better way to trade “aim” for “power,” not only mechanically, but thematically as well. In the past, your character made a choice of how hard to hurl/shoot/cast/throw their rock/arrow/fireball/chakram by deciding how many dice to assign to power or aim. But even if you decided to roll 5 power dice, you could still roll a very low number, which makes no sense. If an archer draws their bow back to full draw, it is going to fly fast. For the purposes of gaming, we’re going to ignore that tiny chance the the string snaps and the arrow flops over the wall, falling in a wobbly arc down to the ground where it bounces harmlessly of the helmet of an oncoming orc, annoying him mildly but in no way stopping his rampage. What should be variable is aim. Even with the smaller draw, an archer could still misjudge the wind or the distance and miss. This is why a system where only one value is rolled makes more sense. Before rolling, the player will decide a power (high, medium, low) and will add the dice according to this decision. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to say which method goes with which power.

The second error this corrects is difficulty of addition. Rolling and adding 8 dice while taking into account the bonuses of the shot got really old, really fast. This way, it’s much, much simpler. Instead of totals ranging from 2 – 30, they range from 2-12, a set that gamers are very comfortable with. And last but not least, it gets rid of the “impossible shot” scenario. In the old design, different power and aim decisions meant that certain numbers were literally unattainable. If a monster had 25 armor, you were given no choice but to roll 5-1. As you can see by the graph, though a roll of 12 is unlikely in the lowest addition method (you would need to roll a 6-6-6), it is not technically impossible, and this is before any bonuses or special effects are added. Hopefully I can balance the cards and characters so that players feel that they can make strategic decisions instead of being handed them by the game.

This is pretty much everything I’ve done for the archery game. There are some monsters things that I’m still a little shaky on, so later in the week, after a little bit of fiddling, I’ll post those as well. As for the name, which I guess I promised at the top, I’ve decided to call it “On the Wall.” As I type that, though, I have my doubts. Oh well, I’ve already tagged the post with it, so it will stay for now. I’ll probably ask some friends for suggestions before I make the final decision. Until tomorrow then.