Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A typical game design routine...

I bike for approx. 45 mins to get to work, and (thanks to the bike-friendly lanes in Copenhagen) I can spend my time and mental energy tinkering with current game design challenges. I do this almost every time I bike, if I am not listening to game industry podcasts, that is.

Today was no different, but this time I thought it could be interesting (to me, at least) to write down the thought process. If nothing else, it shows a concrete example and a brief insight in how this particular Game Designer works and what is actually the core of what I work with...

Basically, I am working on a gangster deck builder / worker placement tabletop game, trying to weed out some complexity issues. In order to do so, I tried to alter the base system of the game, without ruining the already working game flow.

These were the considerations that went through my head:

You may play any number of location-specific cards as long as you have thugs (meeples) in that location (space on the table), majority or not. If you have majority (more meeples present than all other players, individually) when playing a location-specific card, you get the bonus printed on the card under Majority… but that means that cards must have twice as many benefits written on them, which may seem overwhelming to new player. This is the original setup for the game, by the way, tried and tested for more than a year, now.

So, a different approach would have almost the same as above, but this time I don’t present all the cards available for purchase right away, Dominion style. Instead, go Star Realms style and randomly display a few cards of each type for players to buy from… but that means that players cannot rely on longer-term planning as they have no idea what will come up in any of the deck types.

Or, what if you may play one location-specific card for each thug you have in that location… But what if you move Thugs out of the location, or they are arrested, as a result of your card play – when does it affect the number of cards you can play, and how do you keep track? Also, why would I bother focusing my attention on one location when it is so much more easy to different areas with your Thugs present?

Another approach could be that you may play location-specific cards as long as you have the required number of Thugs at that location. If you don’t have enough, you can always use the unfulfilled card to get more Thugs into play… but make sure that the cards don’t clutter up. Also, why are we fighting for majority? Is it location bonuses again?

Or, you may play any number of location-specific cards as long as you have thugs in that location, majority or not… But then the location bonuses must be more attractive, in order to incentivize players to compete for majority, which again means that cards that focus on Thug placement/attacks becomes stronger, as well as the play card to insert Thug feature.

Hmmm, or how about: You may play any number of location-specific cards as long as you have thugs in that location, majority or not. If you have majority when playing a location-specific card, you get the bonus printed on the location – one time per card… but that means that the value of the written benefits on the location-specific cards are diminished. In such case, the card benefits must be way better than the location benefits.

Or, how about the same as the original, but this time simplify the majority bonuses (eg. +1 $ or +1 Booze) written on each card, to not overwhelm players. This might actually work as intented, as long as the majority bonuses are varied.

My bike trip was coming to an end and another idea solution into my head:

To play a location-specific (colored) card for its benefits, you must have the majority, or shared majority, of Thugs on the matching location.

Once per turn, if you have the majority (NOT shared with any other player) of Thugs in any location(s), you may take the bonus indicated on that location.

To place a Thug, play any card from your hand, ignoring its content (text, color and symbols). Each card lets you place one Thug, anywhere, as long as you have it available (and not in prison).

This last one is more confrontational, as you get nothing if you don't at least share majority in a location. I think I will try that one on my next playtest session.

I know, I know, the various solutions presented above are not that different and could all work, with their individual minor flaws... but you want to get the right feel into the game and have it be as enjoyable as possible - whatever the parameters to tweak those are :-) 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Various work examples of casual social network games

 Most of my online social platform game design experience comes from building levels (and co-designing new features) for Cute vs. Evil, a neat hybrid game with both swipe-3 elements and bubble-shooter elements, combined into one.

Limited spaces and visibility for multiple target platforms, including older phones, made some interesting but fun level design challenges. I am pretty happy with the results, so far :-)

To try out one of my levels, go play on Facebook
or click HERE (maybe in new browser session).
Smoothie Swipe and Baby Blocks are two differente entities from The first is a true swipe 3-casual game while the other is a destroy-similar-blocks-to-make-a-path puzzle.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Into The Fire - tablet game

currently Work In Progress: My Into The Fire tablet game. Fast, casual game where you move a tiny but brave firefighter through a burning complex (each level is a new floor), fighting fire, navigating obstacles, avoiding hazards and rescueing trapped civilians. It all plays pretty fast and you have to prioritize what to do and where to go, in order to score the most points without having the building collapse on you!

GameGlobe level design

I did a huge amount of levels of all sorts for GameGlobe, the build-share-play title I worked on for many years at IO Interactive and Here are just a few example screen shots:

 This is a challenge where the player must recognize the pattern of invisible floors phasing in and out of visibility, in order to cross them safely. Trick is, once they are invisible, players will also fall through them, plunging to their death!
The level was used in the main campaign of the pirate treasure hunting adventure game.

This pinball inspired puzzle is quite different as the player must activate floor switches to turn temple elements in order to lead a permanent flow of point balls through the maze above and down to his/her own position.

 Here I did a classic murder mystery adventure, set in an old mansion, of course :-) Quite fun as I had to add character dialogue and set up their behaviour so that they did not attack you on sight - at this point we had no civilians to control in the game, so all characters were present to fight the player character on sight.

My take on a classic battle scene from a beloved sci-fi movie :-) Everything moved and worked as in the movie, but it was all built with pieces from the pirate adventure pack as we had no sci-fi elements at this point. I even added the Imperial Theme as a soundtrack (had to set up the music keys from scratch).
 This time I took the pirate village stuff and made it into a Rubrick Cube like puzzle where you had to turn all parts of the small world into place in order to complete the level (connect the world).
 This was a fun exercise :-) I took various Aztec Temple pieces and put them together and then added effects as well as controllers and triggers. The result: A boss level where you have to fight a huge temple monster!
 There are side-scrollers, top-down shooters, first person shooters... and now also bottom-up shooters :-) I inverted the controls and put the camera below the character who was running around fighting enemies on a frozen lake. Just for fun, I also added the occasional schools of fish that swam between the camera and the character above.

Champions of Midgard prototype and final game board

 Thought I wanted to share some pictures of my hybrid worker placement/dice combat board game, Champions of Midgard. Published by Grey Fox Game who did a very good job in the finishing touches. I am very happy with the result - and so are the reviewers, it appears. This one earned me my second Dice Tower Seal of Excellence award :-)

Prototype version of the game being played. Viking ships on their way into glorious battle!

Game setup, prototype version of CoM

Final board for CoM.

Final, published version of CoM being played.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Space Bugs prototype done!

In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Scream... frantic orders to your team mates!

Space Bugs is a light, fast and fun game about defending a space station against invading space bugs. The bugs (custom dice) enter the space station through alien space ships (modified dice towers) and the players have only 30 seconds to draw random crew members (wooden meeples) from their individual crew bags and place these on the bugs of the same colors.

If the bugs aren't defeated when time runs out, the stace station takes damage. Should players find the time for it, they can cooperate to repair the space station - but it requires the right kind of crew members to do so.

Beware, however, because each bug needs TWO crew members on it to eliminate it.

To spice things up in the more grown-up version of this otherwise family-friendly game, special cards are handed out each round. These change the elements of the game in simple manner, for example by having blue bugs deal more damage or cause more panic (useless meeples) to be added to player bags if a certain part of the space station is not cleared of bugs. Simple changes for one round only, but not so simple to communicate and deal with when you only have thirty seconds!

Simple and fun game, lasting about 20 minutes, for 1 - 4 players (the more the better).
Police Precinct 2nd edition (due end of 2014) awarded "2013 Best Co-Operative Game" by Club Fantasci.

Here is the cover for 2nd edition, featuring clarifications, fixes, art improvement, an extra city map to play on (!) and other cool stuff!

A preview of (one of the two) game boards for second edition: