Axes and Acres Patch 1.05

Patch 1.05 is live on Steam! It features a ton of balance tweaks and quality of life reworks, as well as a big leaderboard update and a second major end-game win condition in the Castle! Go forth and spread your buildings far and wide, and bask in the grandeur of your kingdom.

A mighty kingdom with you as king (or queen :) ).
A mighty kingdom with you as king (or queen 🙂 ).

Balance Changes:
-Chopped trees give 3 wood (from 2)
-Barbarians don’t walk on bridges at all
-Castle reworked:
-Gives 1VP/Worker die on construction
-Royalty VP face gives 1VP/5 player buildings
-Town hall card now gives 1VP/7 resources (from 1VP/6)
-Farms give 6/5/4/3 food, and are depleted at 3 rather than 2 (still gives 1 wood)
-Hunter’s Hut card “Move 2” -> “Move 5”
-Hunter’s Hut Spawn Rabbit ability now spawns a Rabbit within 3-4 spaces of a Hunter’s Hut (previously within 6-8 of a Home space)
-Killing Barbarian Spawners now gives 1VP
-Have a Church VPs: 4->5
-Have 2 Woodsmen VPs: 4->5
-Have 2 Masons VPs: 6->7
-Have 5 Roads VPs: 5->6
-Have 3 Farms: 7 -> Have 2 Farms: 5
-Fountain reworked:
-Added new ability to reroll “action objective” with Crusade face
-Fixed issue with Lumberyard Card (“Work then set to Gather”) rerolling die on board
-Reworked first phase scaling to cap out at 18 points (from 17)

Bugs/Quality of Life
-Added “Current BGG Update” link to Main Menu
-Added save corruption support
-High scores separated into two tables (“Current” and “All Time”)
-Rank updates on both tables when you win or lose, but “All Time” rank will never go down
-Top players page will show your global ranking
-Fixed a bug where quit popup would open multiple times if ESC was pressed again
-“Learn 0/3” text disabled if you’re past rank 1
-Fixed a bug where barbarian spawners would crash the game if there was no room to make a new one

As always, thank you so much for your help and support. Special thanks to Allan, Kenbutsu and K-Rez for awesome balance feedback, and to Gutsman and doiron5 on the Steam forums for submitting bug reports.

Leave a comment below or shoot me an email at braingoodgames@gmail.com with your thoughts and feedback. I’d love to hear it! Onwards and upwards!

“Imaginability” in Game Design

I’ve been doing some retrospection on the design of SkyBoats and Militia, and I noticed that at least for me, Militia seems to be more appealing for me to boot up and play. Note that I’m not saying that SkyBoats is less fun WHILE playing, but that Militia has some factor that encourages playing it.

I’m thinking that it comes down to the fact that it’s easy for me to imagine playing the first few turns of Militia, and deriving some satisfaction out of it. For example, I can picture in my minds eye attacking a row of enemies including a captain in Militia, and how that might be a fun thing to do. In SkyBoats, most satisfying actions are very nuanced (involving specific setups of boats and wind patterns), and difficult to imagine when not actively involved in playing the game.

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(It’s easy to imagine moves like this, and how they might be satisfying)

So I’ve been thinking a lot more about this concept of the “Imaginabilty” of games, and rating games on this axis. For example, It’s easy to imagine attacking with a bunch of creatures in Magic for lethal damage or pushing a ton of monsters into the water with Gale in Auro, but it’s more difficult to imagine what it might be like to play Agricola or Mount and Blade. (Note: I think this effect becomes mitigated as you become more familiar with a game).

Imaginabiilty requirements can be covered by even a small aspect of the full game, as is the case with last-hitting in Dota 2 (or League of Legends) or microing marines in Starcraft. The key is that the actions are:

1) Simple enough to be imagined in the minds eye and

2) Intrinsically rewarding in some way

Can you think of other examples of games with poor or exceptional Imaginability? Can you think of a better word for the concept? Let me know in the comments :).

-Brett

SkyBoats Released Today!

Today (Aug. 23) SkyBoats is released on Steam! We are super excited for everyone to try it out and can’t wait to see what everyone thinks! If you want to discuss any of the mechanics or strategies in the game feel free to do so here! Happy Sailing!

Steam1 totally final absolutly golden perfect version 1

Tutorials

We are super excited to announce that SkyBoats is officially funded on Kickstarter! Thanks to everyone who has supported us!

Tutorials have proven to be an extremely difficult aspect of the game development process. In fact, I recently came to the painful realization that “tutorialization” is not actually a word. The tutorial for Axes and Acres was very basic, and a lot of players had trouble grasping the main concepts of the game without using outside resources. Now I think part of this was due to the fact that Axes and Acres had mechanics that people were entirely unfamiliar with. There was no point of reference or relation to help people understand. This was compounded by the fact that the mechanics might have been familiar in some way to people who play a lot of board games, but for “computer gamers” they likely had never come across that sort of thing.

One of our basic tenets of game making is that players should be able to learn and understand all of the rules to our games. This stems from us wanting players to be making strategic decisions, and the belief that you cannot make a proper strategic decision if you do not have all the information you are supposed to have. An example of this being done poorly is Civilization. The Civilization games are so incredibly complicated and even convoluted that it is unrealistic to expect players to have an understanding of all of the rules. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that the game isn’t fun, it does mean that the game is less strategic.

civilization

When you are making a board game, you can write all of the rules in a rulebook, and you can reasonably expect the players to read them and understand the game (Provided of course that the rulebook is complete and conveys the concepts clearly). We feel that computer gamers are less interested in reading a set of rules, and would rather jump into the game. Computer games are traditionally taught through tutorials. We have struggled with keeping the tutorial short enough for the player not to get bored, but also long enough to cover all of the information.

We spent a lot of time focusing on the tutorial for SkyBoats and are quite happy with how it has turned out. We played a number of other game tutorials to get an idea of what other games were doing well or doing poorly. We found the tutorial for Faster Than Light to be particularly helpful. After all of this we created a tutorial that we feel is more interesting, engaging, thorough and just better overall than the Axes and Acres tutorial.

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We are also using the early ranks to spread out some of the other game mechanics. We hope this will be a good compromise between extending the learning process and getting the players into the game. Hopefully players will have no trouble picking it up and will be able to enjoy the game immediately!

As always I would love to discuss anything here, so feel free to shout at me!

Thanks for reading!

SkyBoats Upgrades – Design Philosophy

(The Kickstarter for SkyBoats is live right now, and we just passed 95% funding! We’d love it if you’d check it out and consider backing!)

In SkyBoats there are a number of different upgrades that ships can start with, and that can be purchased at the SkyCities. These upgrades give boats different powers in place of a basic fuel providing cargo hold. The basic cargo hold in SkyBoats provides one fuel if used when empty or it can use the wind creation power of the good inside the hold. Most of the SkyBoats start with one upgrade.

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(Top to bottom: Clone, Magnet Grab, Blink)

When we were designing the upgrades we wanted to come up with mechanics that could be easily learned, but would provide players with a lot of different ways to use them. A lot of these upgrades are related to movement around the board. For example, the blink upgrade allows you to jump over a space, which can be useful to avoid a wind blowing a direction you do not want to follow. The blink upgrade can also be used to grab goods a little distance away and blow back to where you were, or to get yourself onto a long wind pattern to increase your wind meter! We aimed to create a number of different upgrades which can all be used in a number of different situations.

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Finally, we wanted the upgrades to function together to create even more interesting choices. We believe that this system creates a lot of interesting decisions to be made by the players, without adding a ton of complexity to the game. It is always a difficult balance between complexity and depth. I think the upgrades we have created do a great job of using up a small amount of complexity, while creating a lot of strategic depth.

Thanks for reading and as always I encourage anyone to share comments, questions, critiques etc.

 

The Most Fun Way To Play (And The Most Strategic)

(The Kickstarter for SkyBoats is live right now, and we just passed 50% funding! We’d love it if you’d check it out and consider backing! We would also love your support on Greenlight)

I think its been said before that the best way to play a game (strategically) should also be the most fun. I’m not sure who first came up with that, but I think they are mostly right. When most players sit down to play a game they would like to get into the world of the game and make choices they feel fit the game. I am sure there are some players who just think about the strategy, and don’t care about the world the game is set it, but likely most of us want to make choices that seem “cool” or fun.

It often seems that the most memorable gaming experiences are when you played a game and you did something that created a cool story. Some games do a lot to enable this sort of experience by creating extremely thematic worlds, so that almost any way the game is played it comes out as a cool story. For example, War of the Ring is dripping with theme, and it is hard to make a choice that doesn’t feel perfect for Middle-Earth. This becomes more difficult when you are playing a game that is less theme-focused.

war of the ring

There are also times where a certain strategy is very effective, but is also very boring. DotA 2 has this issue some of the time in high-level matches. The best play is often to sit back and farm, growing your advantage, but many players find this strategy boring and so they run into fights and end up losing an otherwise winnable game. Ideally, the most fun way to play a game would also be the best strategic choice. This is ideal because it would mean players are constantly encouraged to have fun.

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In SkyBoats we thought about this when we were designing the game. SkyBoats is exciting and gives you a great feeling of adventure as you fly around the map, and we’ve done our best to try and tie strategic choices to fun choices. One of the main mechanisms we used to do this was to reward players for making the plays we found the most fun. In early development we realized it was exciting to pick up goods in a far corner of the board, and find a way to sail them across the sky to a city demanding that good. Even better if it was the last points you needed on the last round! The game now rewards players for sailing along winds, and for taking goods long distances! I will discuss our wind mechanics in more depth in my next post!

I would love to hear what you think about how fun and strategy tie together in games!

 

Creating A New Mechanic/System – The SkyBoats Winds

(The Kickstarter for SkyBoats is live right now, and we just passed 50% funding! We’d love it if you’d check it out and consider backing! We would also love your support on Greenlight)

As a game designer it is a dream of mine to create a truly new or novel mechanic. This goal is incredibly difficult for a couple of reasons. Firstly, so many things have been done before, I often find myself coming up with what seems like a new idea only to realize someone already made a game using that mechanic (or something very similar). Secondly, it is difficult to think of something new when you have so many old mechanics in your head. It is difficult to think of new things, and not to just base your thoughts around the framework that already exists.

I have no doubt that old mechanics can be used in new and interesting ways, and there is nothing wrong with doing so. Many or even most games I have loved in the past decade have been based on other things, and have either innovated or improved on the mechanics used before. There is however something very exciting about the idea of creating a truly novel mechanic.

agricola

Many mechanics are based on real life systems. For example in Agricola players use various different actions to create their own little farm and family. The player with the best farm at the end of the game wins. Growing a farm and starting a family has many different parts which all work together. Agricola simplifies some of these, and sets them all up in such a way that you have to make many choices and prioritize your options. Finally, it uses the worker placement mechanic to allow for players to compete with one another. Real world systems are commonly used in board games to create mechanics. The representation of a system that works in a certain way is often strategically interesting.

When we started working on SkyBoats the conversation about a novel mechanic was again brought up and we went to work. What we eventually came up with is a wind-sailing mechanic which we are both really happy with. I don’t know if it is a unique mechanics that has never been seen before. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game using this mechanic. Either way, at the end of the day it is really fun and creates cool strategic choices, so I am happy with the outcome.

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The SkyBoats wind mechanic allows players to sail along winds based on the amount of glide each boat has. Winds are played by the players based on a number of different shapes that correspond to different goods. As your boat sales along the winds it gains “prowess” which makes the goods it sells worth more points or “glory”. This rewards players for making long journeys across the world to sell goods. We felt when we were first playing that long journeys were cool and fun, so we wanted to encourage that sort of gameplay. The winds played by the players also stay on the board for a couple rounds, so you can use previously played winds to sail your other boats along as well. You can even set up routes from city to city to create a sort of trade route.

The wind mechanic is one of the core mechanics of SkyBoats and we’re super excited for everyone to try it out!

As always I would love to hear any comments, questions or critiques!