Jan 30, 2017

Minion Mondays 014 Shade


The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Shade


Type: Spirit






Abilities: Night, Cyclone, Fuel, Constrict

Description: 
Like their weaker cousins, Shades are loosely composed of humanity's more ignored aspects. However their form is noticeably larger due to intensity or time, and appear much more purposeful in their nature. As a consequence they have access to much more powerful dark magic and can easily smother opponents if underestimated.   

 


Art by Matheus Graef










Jan 23, 2017

Minion Mondays 013 Phantom


The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Phantom


Type: Ghost






Abilities: Hail, Sonic, Sneak, Dement

Description: 
Relatively poorly formed in the physical world even for ghosts, Phantoms are common but dangerous due to their affinity for ice magic. They are difficult to detect and come and go swiftly. Phantoms are also occasionally blamed for the loss of senses or wisdom, and can lead to poor decisions on the part of the victim or even incapacitation.  
 


Art by Matheus Graef










Jan 20, 2017

Game Design, Luck and Skill Part 2

Design Choices in Nevera Wars

Last time I wrote about luck and skill in games, I realize now that I wrote about them as if they were opposites and that having more of one means having less of the other. However this is not true and luck and skill have their own values in games; you can certainly have a lot of both or a little of both and have certain parts of the game be all about luck and certain parts be all about skill. With that mentioned...


Goals For My Game
So going into the game design for Nevera Wars, I knew I had three goals for what I wanted my players to experience when playing my game:

1. To include enough opportunity for skill so that players feel powerful, intelligent and in control when making decisions and choosing from their options. So that when players win, they feel they won because of the choices they made, not only by chance.

2. To include enough luck so that sometimes players with a little less skill can be victorious, so that newer players are not turned off by being resigned to losing their first 100 games.  

3. To include enough luck that sometimes players who are part way through a game and losing  can turn the tables and victorious (or at least create tension and drama). It is important to me that players who have a less than ideal first few turns are not then resigned to losing.



Concept Art by Márcio Farias


I can now address elements within my game Nevera Wars and how they were chosen to aim at these particular goals.


Deck Construction
My first decision is that I was sure I wanted to create a deck construction game. Deck construction means that you create your deck before the game begins, like with Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon TCG (deck building games are games where you create the deck during the game, as with Dominion). This fulfilled the goal that games would be won based on a large element of player skill in how they chose to construct their decks.

I decided that each card would have four abilities, drawn from a large pool of abilities, with no two cards sharing more than two of the same abilities. This meant that each card would be different enough to be significant and that players could make meaningful decisions when creating their decks and have the freedom to pursue different strategies. 


Card Variance
Each creature has four separate abilities which can be activated. Normally a physical attack, a magical attack, a buff and a debuff. However there are four copies of each creature in a deck and each version of that creature has a slightly stronger one of those abilities. For example a Dryad 1 has a slightly stronger physical attack, Dryad 2 has a slightly stronger magical attack, Dryad 3 has a slightly stronger buff and Dryad 4 has a slightly stronger debuff.

The desired result is that the player can reliably draw a Dryad at any given time, but which version they get will be up to chance and possibly help them out of a tight situation or force a change in strategy. This level of chance and variance I am hoping will give players who are behind in a game a boost or a way forward in way that doesn't unbalance the game too severely.


Draw Phase
The main element of luck would come at the draw phase, where at the beginning of each players' turn they draw card from their deck to their hand. Which card they draw will give them different options, strategies and decisions. However it was important to me that this part of the game not hinder the pace and rhythm of the play which can happen in games where there is a likelihood a player might draw a card they have no use for or cannot use.

To this end, I decided that all cards in the deck would be creature cards, which could be played face down as resource cards (a design choice used by Duel Masters and Kaijudo). By doing this instead of having dedicated creature cards and dedicated resource cards, it would minimize the chance of drawing a resource when player doesn't need one or a creature when a player doesn't need one. It was my goal that players mostly lose because of what they do with their cards, rather than what cards they draw.


Turn Scope
The number of possible actions a player can take in a turn can be said to really determines the amount of skill being asked of them. If a player has to choose one of three possible actions there is little skill, insight and judgment being asked of them. However if a player is being asked to choose ten actions out of a possible twenty, then each one has to be considered and weighed against all the others in a kind of messy matrix of 184,756 possibilities (which some players love by the way, again it just depends what your design goal is).

In my case, I restrict the play to having a maximum of three creatures on the board at any time, each creature has four abilities, and players may only use one ability from each creature each turn. So players are restricted to using three abilities, each of those being from a pool of four, resulting in 64 possibilities (4 x 4 x 4). I feel comfortable with this as a starting point for complexity to be analyzed through play-testing and a good demand of skill that does not yet feel oppressive even for newer players. Feel free to throw fruit at me if my math is off here.


Distribution
Finally I decided that I would distribute the game as entire blocks of approximately 300 card sets. Fantasy Flight Games calls this model a Living Card Game, and others sometimes call it an expanding card game. This means that players can acquire complete sets of cards, with no random booster packs or rare cards.

This was partly because card games which attempt the booster pack model often do poorly, as it requires too much player investment and turns players off (other than the few juggernaut titles). But this decision also levels the playing field more as all players new and experienced have access to the same cards with which to build their decks, meaning new players can expect a reasonable chance of winning the occasional game against more experienced players.  

Jan 16, 2017

Minion Mondays 012 Captain


The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Captain


Type: Skeleton







Abilities: Spin, Cleave, Strengthen, Peril

Description: It requires a fearsome and ruthless individual to command throngs of chaotic Pirates and Raiders, and it takes  a powerful necromancer to dominate such an individual. Stoic and merciless, Captains 
must regularly keep their position by force, and as such their weapon skills are near peerless. In death, that skill might be yours to direct. 
 


Art by Matheus Graef










Jan 13, 2017

Game Design, Luck and Skill Part 1


How Much of Each Makes a Compelling Game?

When I began designing my game Nevera Wars, the first judgment I had to make was how much luck should be included and how much skill. I knew I needed some of both, but how do I balance them for the kind of game I want players to experience?


Working Definitions

Luck is the idea that an individual can win or lose a game based on pure chance, and their choices make no difference to the outcome of the game. Because their choices make no difference, there is no way that being more skilled at a game can improve their odds of winning. For example, the game Snakes and Ladders (or Chutes and Ladders)  relies purely on dice rolls, and the player's path is entirely set by what numbers appear on the dice. The player simply moves forward, up, or down depending on the kind of tile they encounter.

Skill is the idea that the better someone is at a game and the more knowledge they have about the game, the more likely they are to win. For example with Chess, the more strategies a player knows, the more moves ahead a player can determine, and the more options they are able to compute, the more likely they are to win. There is very little luck or chance in the outcome of playing and winning Chess

Concept Art by Márcio Farias


Possible Issues

The issue with games which rely too much on skill is that they are not much fun for beginners or people with different skill levels. If I play Chess against someone who is definitely not as skilled as I am, I can expect to beat them almost every time, which is not much fun. Likewise if I play Chess against someone who is definitely better than me, I can expect to lose almost every time, which is also not much fun. It is hard to convince new people to play because they know they are going to spend a huge amount of time frustrated and losing, and there is not much opportunity for surprise and drama.

The Issue with games which rely too much on luck is that there is not much of a positive feeling when the outcome of a game is positive for a player, because that player had no control or influence over what happened. If I win a game of Snakes and Ladders I might feel good because I won, or if I win at Roulette I might feel good because I gained money, but there is something missing with these games. What is missing is the positive feeling a player gets when they chose an action or option because they determined it was the best path to take and it resulted in a positive outcome. The fancy word for this is agency, feeling like you have control or influence over something, which makes it meaningful.


Goals For My Game
So going into the game design, I knew I had three goals for what I wanted my players to experience when playing my game. This might also be what you would call my vision.

1. To include enough skill so that players feel powerful, intelligent and in control when making decisions and choosing from their options. To include enough skill so that when players win they feel ownership over that win and rewarded for their time constructing a strategy.

An example of this is Magic the Gathering, where the time and energy spent constructing a deck of cards that works well and has a methodical strategy is rewarded by being having a better chance of overcoming an opponent.

2. To include enough luck so that sometimes players with a little less skill can be victorious. This means having enough balance to the game elements that no one can be so powerful based on skill that it is impossible for them to lose.

An example of this done well is Poker, where players who are less skilled still have a chance to win occasional rounds based on what cards are revealed, leading so surprises, tension, drama and stories.

3. To include enough luck that sometimes players who are part way through a game and losing  can turn the tables and victorious. There are many games where if a player has a bad starting hand of cards, or a bad first turn, then there is no way they can overcome that disadvantage and are almost totally set to lose. This can be very demoralizing, especially if the game takes a long time to complete.

An example of this is Tic Tac Toe (or Noughts and Crosses) where the first player can reliably win or draw every time. With these goals for what I wanted the players to experience, I began designing. 

Jan 9, 2017

Minion Mondays 011 Dryad


The world of Nevera is overrun with necromancers and undead, all other forms of magic have been lost to time and only small pockets of humanity remain. Each Monday we will be showcasing a new undead minion from the diverse fauna of Nevera, which you can battle and control to increase your own power as a necromancer. 

Name: Dryad


Type: Spirit







Abilities: Crack, Landslide, Protect, Tendrils

Description: It is unclear how much of a Dryad is a spirit of the forest and how much was once a human life. Regardless, there is an unmistakable nature of vengefulness and territorialism in their every movement. These minions are very elusive and sly, however once dominated they are just as deadly outside of their forest environment as in it.



Art by Matheus Graef