Break out the spreadsheet! ITS GAME DESIGN TIME
Worked on a Tutorial for Solar Settlers all day today! Got just a few things left to touch up before getting some playtest feedback! Can’t wait to have you guys get your hands on the game! 🙂
P.S Solar Settlers is still on greenlight and could use your vote here.
Really cool video by Keith Burgun about how strategy game designers can use design patterns from Legacy games (like Pandemic Legacy) to incrementally introduce complexity to players, and therefore enable them to make a more complex (and more deep) game without sacrificing initial accessibility.
Considering something like this for Solar Settlers now… :thinking:
Like it says on the tin! You can grab it here:
Go forth and repel the Minotaur hordes!
I think one of the fundamental things that can make a game feel overwhelming while learning it (or even while playing it later) is a long list of “default” actions available to the player at all times. I was recently learning the board game Through the Ages (by the excellent Vlaada Chvatil) and was presented with this!
Note the long list of actions listed in phase 3 (I count 13!). The main problem I find with this is that it is hard for the player to compartmentalize all of these actions together, so frequently you will have to iterate through the list one by one, think about whether it’s a viable action to take, and then move on to the next one, comparing each subsequent action to each previous one in the list. If the list is long enough (and I would assume 13 is for most players) by the time you get to the end of the list you very likely could have forgotten your assessment of action #1!
So as not to harp on Through The Ages, lets look at another example from Android: Netrunner.
On the right you can see the list of default actions that the Runner player can take on each of his turns (limited by the resource “clicks”). This list is of a much more manageable size than that of Through The Ages, and there are some other benefits here as well. Drawing cards, gaining money, and playing cards from your hand (option 3 and 4) are very common game type actions, and easy to shorthand in your mind (there is no branching complexity in terms of gaining a dollar!). Another advantage is that the final action “Make a run” is fundamental to the game of Netrunner and done frequently over the course of the game, helping the player to remember it and develop heuristic shorthand about situations in which it might be useful. However, I would argue that that 5th action: “Remove a tag” is much easier to forget because a) it is not used very often over the course of an average game and b) it is not a core/fundamental/defining mechanic of the game.
Some takeaways about default actions:
1) Try to keep the list at a manageable number (7 is probably a good max).
2) Actions that are common to lots of games are easier to remember (drawing cards, gaining money)
3) Actions that are inherently simple are easier to remember (gaining money)
4) You can get away with a few more complex entries, if they are fundamental to the play of your game and/or used very often!
You can grab SkyBoats on sale here.
I’m currently working on a new mode for SkyBoats in an attempt to cut down on the time each turn takes, and generally smooth/speed up play. At the same time, I want to preserve as much depth as possible, while making it “breezier” to play! Enter ‘Breezy Mode’
Breezy Mode will be available in a sub-menu for now, and has its own ranking system attached to it. It is currently experimental and has no tutorial implemented, but if it is sucessful enough, it may be swapped with the main mode to be the new “Ranked” and appear on the title page. At this point the old “Ranked” will become “Classic” and will be moved to the Bonus menu.
The current changes for the mode are listed below, but if you’d like to become a part of the process, we’d love to have you on the discord to hear your feedback! Just click this link to hop in: https://discord.gg/UvyeDEN
Breezy Mode Changes
-Fuel removed from boats. Now the leftmost unused cell is always used to move
-Goods value only based on quantity for first round (random every round thereafter)
-Boats down to 2 (may go back up to 3 at higher ranks)
-Reduced board size
-Removed gold bonus for selling goods far from their origin
-Removed refuel from shop
-Replaced with “Refresh city demands”
-Allow moving out of cities for free
-Each city can only be visited by each boat once per turn
-Wind meter bonus reworked to be 1VP/5 meter (from more complicated chart)
-Modified Carrot pattern
-You can now pick up items mid-glide (dropping other goods if full)
-Added “goods” abilities to boats as default upgrades
-Two goods spawn at the end of each round
-Remove end of turn wind meter decrease
Keith Burgun, Fabian Fischer and I have started curating a site of game design content (blogs, videos, podcasts and whatever else). The goal is a) to promote more of this writing to take place and b) to show how game design principles inform actual games as they are made!
You can check out and subscribe to GameDesignTheory.org here.