Commandment #1: Known Rules

This post is part of a series of articles detailing the BrainGoodGames Design Commandments. You can see the full list here.

Strategy games need something for the player to consider (re: strategize). However, humans are fantastic at immediately grokking patterns and finding solutions to problems, so it can be very difficult for your system to keep up in the arms race and remain interesting! Some games attempt to remain interesting by having a ton of rules or very complex rules (grand strategy games are a classic example of this). While this does give the player something to think about, I would argue that oftentimes what they are thinking about is not strategy. I would define strategy as more

a) How do I accomplish my goals within these limitations?

rather than

b) How do these systems work? What are my limitations?

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To that end, in order for the player to be more engaged with the types of strategic thinking I want, they need to know all the rules of the game (or at least the vast majority). This allows them to quickly understand their different options and weigh them against each other, as well as reach out mentally into future turns and still be able to process the chain of events that will happen.

TL:DR : making a carefully considered best guess as to what the correct move is when you know all the immediate ramifications will be is much more interesting than calculating out what those ramifications even ARE and then selecting the one that gives the highest number.

BrainGoodGames Design Commandments

I started BrainGoodGames last year because I felt a certain type of game was missing from the landscape. Over the years I’ve ravenously read watched and played as much varied game design thinking as I could, and I’ve come to some conclusions about the types of games I’ll strive to make. I call these the BrainGoodGames Design Commandments.

I may not meet all of these goals all the time, but they are the target that I’m aiming at. Also keep in mind that these are design guidelines for a specific type of game, and not applicable to all designs.

1) The complexity of the game should be in the strategy, not in rules comprehension (the player should know the rules!)

2) The game should have a clear win/loss state (match based play)

3) The player should be having the fun, not the designer (related to 1)

4) The game should always be moving towards its conclusion

5) The game will feature enough ambiguity to remain strategically interesting

6) The game will reward and encourage skill, learning and growth

7) The player should always be playing near the correct challenge level for them

8) The most interesting/fun way to play the game should also be strategically best

9) The game should not cease to be interesting without new content

10) The game should treat the player’s time as valuable

I plan to write a series of articles going into a bit more detail on each of these commandments, so stay tuned!

League Dev Diaries

Awesome to see devs thinking about design philosophies/changing and tweaking their games over time. League in particular moves extremely quickly making changes, but I think they probably have to because things are just basically guaranteed to break all the time with so many playable characters.

Basically, continual tweaking over time absolutely works, but is a pretty labor-intensive way to go about it, and ensures that your game has a definite shelf life of whenever you stop updating it. (Maybe it’s okay if the game features a revenue stream as long as players are playing it?)

Specifically, hearing Ghostcrawler talk about removing/tweaking false choices is super encouraging and cool!

Advance Wars Game Design

Today I was watching a cool video about Advance Wars map design. Makes me want to play some more Advance wars :).

In particular I really like the way randomness is handled in Advance Wars. For the unfamiliar, units all have 10hp, and when you get in a fight the system will tell you you will do 52% damage for example. This means you have a 80% chance to do 5 damage and 20% chance to do 6 damage. There are two reasons this is cool:

1) The variance is within a narrow range (i.e only one point of damage different out of 10). This means that you can normally account for both possibilities (unless you are far behind, which is fine), and often either result is fine, and will provide the same general outcome for the particular localized battle while…

2)  The different outcomes most often result in minor differences in the amount of hp surviving units are left with. This is moreso Input Randomness (more desirable) for later turns than output randomness in my opinion. (I still have to write an article outlining my thoughts on the distinction here).

In addition, Advance Wars even attempts and largely succeeds in playing with an effective and player-influenceable information horizon with fog of war (and some additional ambiguity with weather effects). Overall a very strong design achieved with a relatively low complexity in terms of unit types, terrain types and rules.

Day[9] and Single-Player Game Design

Was watching an old Day[9] video talking about single-player game design. He talks at great length about how “setbacks” are crucial for allowing long-term play and growth in most games. He uses the example of the Hearthstone ladder as a comparison point to building your city in a city-building game. He points out how on the Hearthstone ladder, you can lose and therefore go down in rank, whereas in City: Skylines, your city just continually gets better.

Interesting to see similar musings to my thoughts on single-player game design. Sounds like Day[9] might enjoy the single-player ladder in BrainGoodGames! Maybe someday…

You can find more of my thoughts on single-player evergreen games here

Minos Strategos Update 1.03a is Live

-Allowed you to view leaderboards when game in progress
-Added option to adjust Draft Mode rank
-Fixed bug with merging minotaurs not able to be attacked
-Fixed bug with merging minotaurs not getting golem buff
-Fixed bug with minotaurs spawning on top of player soldiers (edge of board)
-Fixed bug where a surrounded unit (that can’t move) was being highlighted during normal move
-Fixed bug with hydras sometimes not showing their path
-Fixed bug where leaderboards would swap when you entered bonus mode screen quickly

http://steamcommunity.com/app/577490/discussions/0/135508489637584578/