Harshness in Games

Some random game design scribbles!

Games can feel “harsh” for a number of reasons, and although seasoned gamers have built up a tolerance for certain kinds of harshness, it can be off-putting for newcomers. Musing about it a little, a game can feel harsh because of:

Randomness seems to have too high of an effect on your fortunes, making the game feel capricious or arbitrary
-The game could have too high of a degree of Skill Compensation, making the game feel overly judgmental when you make mistakes
-The game can combine a long playtime with high endgame swings of fortune, which can make you feel like you have “wasted” time
-The game can feature prominent directed confrontation, leading to feeling singled out or ganged up on
-The game can have a lot of snowballing (common to engine building games) which can make early mistakes (when the player might still be learning) feel too important/punished too much
-The game can have a perceived forgone conclusion, where the outcome seems inevitable or almost inevitable (mitigated in some euro games by hiding victory points), and therefore the game seems pointless to continue

Have a great Wednesday,

Brett

Solar Settlers 1.05b, Axes 1.07a and Coral Dice Game Progress!

Released patch 1.05b for Solar Settlers.

Patch Notes:
-Added race specific leaderboards
-In Weekly Challenge, Brain Worms now only uses this week’s card pool
-Fixed race condition with saving that sometimes would result in progress not saving properly
-Can no longer unlock the next race by using a random race
-Terraform World now must be placed on a world with no Habitats
-Added “Hardcore Mode” for testing (press up arrow 10 times on main menu to access)

(Feedback on hardcore mode here: https://discord.gg/UvyeDEN)

Also released a small hotfix patch 1.07a for Axes and Acres

Patch Notes:
-Fixed a race condition that made saves not work properly in some cases

And finally, on this mornings episode of BrainGoodBreakfast, I went into some of the changes recently made to the Coral Reef Dice Game to make the map more dynamic and interesting. Check that out here:

By the way, the current top contenders for the actual name for this guy are:
-Rolling Tides
-Coral Roller
-Roller Reef
-Rolling in the Reef
-Deep Sea Dice
-Coral Colonies

Do any of those stick out to you? Let me know!

Militia Tablet Mode, Solar Settlers Hardcore Mode and a Huge Thanks

I’ve added tablet mode to Militia in settings! Now’s your chance windows tablet users to sit back and slay some orcs. You can also toggle the threatened indicators in there.

Secondly, I’ve added a hardcore mode to Solar Settlers. It’s on the beta now (To access the beta right click Solar Settlers in your Steam Library -> Properties -> Betas then enter “solarsettlersbeta” -> Click Check Code -> Select in Dropdown -> Restart Steam).

The changes are:

  1.  Colonists now cost 2 oxygen per turn.
  2.  You start with 5 oxygen.
  3.  You gain 1 oxygen of production for each settled colonist (but no more than the # of active colonists)

The idea is to lower the number of active colonists on the board at very high ranks, encourage more early settling and to reduce match playtime. We’ll see how it goes! Lots of discussion about the design is going on on the discord if you wanna join in.

Lastly I just wanna give a huge THANK YOU to everybody who has joined the BrainGoodGames community over the last little while. It has been by far the most sucessful week ever for BrainGoodGames, and I’m just thrilled and inspired that I get to keep making them. You guys rock!

Note: To access Hardcore Mode press the up arrow on your keyboard ten times on the main menu.

BrainGoodBreakfast!

Hey everybody! I’m starting a new twitch stream every Weekday at 9am CST called… BrainGoodBreakfast!

It’s gonna be at twitch.tv/brickroaddx and I’m gonna be playing BrainGoodGames, prototypes, and other decision-makey type things and talking about their design. It won’t be a long show, just 30mins or so to get the day started right :).

If that sounds cool, stop by (or check out the VODs!) Can’t wait to see you there/chat about games (my favorite thing)!

braingoodbreakfast w info.png

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.

greenlight2
(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