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.
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 :).
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!
Axes and Acres patch 1.03 is live today! We are bringing some new and exciting changes that we think you guys will love. Patch 1.03 brings the Rank Leaderboard to Axes and Acres. Now you can see how your rank stacks up compared to the very best strategists playing Axes and Acres. If this sort of pressure bothers you, don’t worry, we are also introducing a practice mode so players can fool around and try out new tactics without worrying about their rank.
With all this focus on the ranking system we have also made a couple changes to the way rank difficulty scales. As you make your way into the highest ranks phase 1 will now have a cap on the number of Victory Points required to get to phase 2. To compensate for this phase 2 and 3 will increase in difficulty at a faster rate than before. We feel that these changes will help deal with phase 1 being the most difficult and that all phases of the game will now being equally challenging.
These changes should make the tier 3 buildings even more important than before, and as such we have tweaked the numbers on the Castle. The Castle will now cost only 6 stone to build and will provide 8 VP when finished. Get building master masons!
We have also made a number of small quality of life tweaks, from the ability to undo moves, to altering the way some of the objectives appear after specific events. We have also added visual queues to assist with long distance movement, and to remind you which buildings provide you with points in the buildings tabs. Finally we changed the build farm objective to give one more point, and changed the bridge to provide a victory point on construction.
We hope everyone enjoys the patch, and can’t wait to see you all play! Feel free to let us know about any issues or bugs you find, or just to let us know what you think about the new patch!
PS SkyBoats is coming to Steam on August 23rd! You will be able to check it out here when the store page goes live: http://store.steampowered.com/app/510780
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.
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.
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!
(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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!