Feb 27, 2017

Minion Mondays 018 Knight


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: Knight


Type: Skeleton






Abilities: Slash, Spear, Shell, Strategy

DescriptionA Knight, being one who gives their skill and life in service of a cause, not just an individual, carries even greater power with them into death, power ready to be wielded by a necromancer if cunning prevails. Master of many weapons, skeleton Knights possess much of their proficiency in death, making them more than a match for any living opponent.    


Art by Matheus Graef

Feb 24, 2017

Unboxing Nevera Tales Comic Book (With Cats)


I am extremely excited to share with the world the unboxing video of our first comic book Nevera Tales! This is our first product and it was made possible by many generous backers on Kickstarter.

You can purchase the physical and digital comic book together now for $5 here!

Thanks to KrakenPrint for the manufacturing, Doug Hoppes for the cover art, and Marek Jarocki for the panel art. We are really proud and appreciative to everyone who made this possible. Now enjoy this little video of the unboxing (featuring my cats).







Feb 20, 2017

Minion Mondays 017 Chained


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: Chained


Type: Ghost





Abilities: Thrash, Bolt, Catalyst, Demoralize 

DescriptionAs behavior suggests, prisons develop their own ecosystems, and Chained ghosts are the masters of these domains. Such is the raw power of these entities, it has been proposed that these souls left their living bodies even before death occurred due to abominable treatment of the confined individual. Many powerful necromancers have not been a match for their malice.   



Art by Matheus Graef



Feb 17, 2017

Play-Testing Nevera Wars 1: Rhythm and Tempo


Rhythm and Tempo

This is the first official play test debrief of Nevera Wars. I have been fortunate enough to participate in several meet ups of board game designers in my area and now feel I have enough material to commit to a post about my learning. This time will be focused on rhythm and tempo.




Old picture of me using rhythm and tempo in another context

For this particular post, the tempo of a game is essentially its speed, and its rhythm is how much its speed changes or how often it changes. Different games aim for different values of these for different reasons, but ideally the goal is always to be fun, rewarding and engaging.

For Nevera Wars, my goal is for the speed to be quick and the rhythm to not change much. To achieve this I have made a few design decisions such as limiting the number of actions a player can take in one turn and limiting the number of creatures a player can control. There will be some slowdown due to players taking time to make strategic choices, but the goal is to make sure the game does not come to a complete stop.

After play testing at Victory Point Cafe with some generous individuals and fellow game designers, I gained a huge amount of useful feedback that will enhance my game. I will break the feedback and observations into two groups, negative and positive.


Negative

Card Text Volume
Clear feedback came early that the cards have a huge amount of text on them, which slows the game down when reading it all and trying to commit some of it to memory. This means that the learning curve for the game could be too high at the beginning, not because of difficulty but simply because of the volume of information to be digested.

The Whip Ability (Energy Bounce)
One ability that seems overpowered is Whip, an ability which deals some attack damage but also has a 50% chance to force your opponent to take one energy card from the board and put it back into their hand (also known as bouncing). Because the player may only lay down one energy card from their hand each turn, this means Whip is undoing an entire turn worth of progress with that vital resource.

Not a Random Bounce
In addition to the ability Whip requiring the player to take one energy card from the board back to their hand, the game practically stopped as the player picked up all of their energy cards to look through them carefully to choose which one to place back in their hand, as this choice was an important strategic decision. This was when the game slowed the most (several times).

Win Condition
Finally, the current win condition of the game did not seem to factor greatly in the play at all. This might be difficult to describe, but the win condition did not appear to fit the natural rhythm of the game itself and seemed rather... tacked on. But together we brainstormed some different directions to take the win condition that I am excited to try out, this will also hopefully reduce the game length a little.



Positive 

Card Types
One design choice which increased the game speed was to only have one card type. This means the player is only having to gain familiarity with one card layout, and this was generally appreciated.

Ramping Abilities
The players did also mention that the as the game progressed the abilities of the new more powerful cards were more powerful versions of the starting ones, and so becoming familiar with cards early in the game reduced the time to become familiar with cards later in the game, (more on learning curves in a future post).

Action Order
More feedback came that because the players were able to complete their turn's actions in any order it kept a good rhythm to the play. Possibly because they were not having to revisit a guide to remind themselves what order they should be doing things in, but it also kept the turn more free flowing and personal.

Total Game Time
The total time for a game to be played was a little more than the target time for the final game. But it was close enough that I feel I can put it in the positive section of this reflection. The individuals play-testing were very familiar with this genre of game though and this fact certainly had an impact on reducing the length of the game.


Conclusion  

There are many elements of the game which work, which I am very proud of because many of them were devised in at the very beginning of designing the game, and many of them tie directly to the lore of the fictional world I am creating. This means that the need for a great many fundamental changes would have been a huge hit to morale. However there are many elements which do need attention to ensure the game can sustain its fun and engagement across the possible pockets of slowdown, and to make sure those pockets are as infrequent as possible. 

Feb 13, 2017

Minion Mondays 016 Shackled


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: Shackled


Type: Ghost






Abilities: Lash, Thunder, Ignite, Despair 

DescriptionMost likely due to longer incarceration in life, Shackled ghosts have more of a relationship with their bonds, resulting in an increased mastery of energy running through them. They are however more reluctant to leave their confines, and are much more inclined to attempt to imprison others with them, resulting in horrific nests of undead. 


Art by Matheus Graef










Feb 10, 2017

Game Design, Resources and Economy Part 2


What's It All Worth?

Last time I wrote about some features of economy in games, and the challenges of assigning value to the various elements of games. This time I will be writing about my initial attempts to implement those in my game Nevera Wars.


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 Nevera Wars. This might also be what you would call my vision.

1. For the players to be interacting with as few resources as possible.

2. For the players to have access to many different abilities that scale intuitively.

3. For a complete game to last less than 45 minutes.


Art by Matheus Graef


Starting Point

To begin with I set the players' life totals at 20, and then set the cost of inflicting 3 damage at 1 energy. This means that if the player only inflicts 3 damage per turn the game will last for 7 turns, and if the damage increases by 3 each turn then the game will last for 4 turns (3 + 6  + 9 + 12). This seemed like a reasonable place to begin testing the flow of the game (more on play-testing next time).

Sometimes with design projects, it is more important to simply choose a starting point so that there is something to test against, instead of over-thinking or hesitating. I try to have the attitude of "no matter what I do I will have to make a huge number of changes, so I should just choose some numbers that look good and get into the testing."


Cost Scaling

Once this standard ratio of 1 energy to 3 damage had been set, I could then scale this across different damage amounts, so that 2 energy equals 6 damage, and 3 energy equals 9 damage, and so on.
This then gave me a standard measurement against which to test the cost of other abilities. For example would being able to draw an extra card be worth two energy or three? Would being able to make a creature skip a turn be worth four energy or five? I estimated as best I could, again to get into play testing sooner than later so I could get real data on what needed to happen. What makes sense mathematically may be undone by human nature.

The way I estimated the value of different abilities was to project how much they would hamper the opponent or advance your own position. For example, in a standard turn you may only draw one card, so the cost of an ability to draw another card would be very expensive, because it would essentially allow you to double the effectiveness of your turn. Equally, you may only place one energy card from your hand to the board each turn, so the ability to force a player to take an energy card back from the board to their hand would be very expensive as it would essentially nullify an important part of their turn.


Risk Cost

Last time I wrote that a 50% chance of a successful outcome is worth less than half the cost of a 100% chance of a successful outcome. This is because despite the mathematics, humans will generally far undervalue a risky outcome than a certain outcome.

It was important to explore this idea in the real world with play-testers, as it would greatly impact the cost of many abilities in my game. As an initial valuing for drawing an extra card for example, I did this:

1 Energy = You draw a card and your opponent draws a card.
2 Energy = You draw a card and your opponent has a 50% change of drawing a card.
3 Energy = You draw a card.

And as an initial valuing for having an opponent lose a card for example, I did this:
1 Energy = Roll a die, on a 1-3 you lose a card, on a 4-6 your opponent loses a card.
2 Energy = 50% chance of opponent losing a card.
3 Energy = Opponent loses a card.

I realized this did not match the theory, but I wanted to study player behavior when presented with these options, and adapt based on those observations.


One Card Type

One of the biggest design decisions I made shortly before beginning play-testing was to only have one kind of card for the player to interact with. Instead of having resource cards and creature cards, I decided to have one card type that can be played face down as a resource card or face up as a creature card. This would have several advantages:

1. I would need to print fewer cards.

2. The players' deck size could be smaller (or still larger but with more creature variance).

3. There would be greatly reduced chance of resource flood or resource screw (having too many or too few resource cards in hand to do anything effective).

4. It would add a new layer of decision making for the player as they would have to decide each turn which cards to use as resources and which cards to use as creatures. 

The interesting element of this design would be to see if and how eliminating standalone resource cards would affect what resource cards were worth, and possibly break the game instead of improving.



Next time I will be writing about my play-testing experiences, so stick around and follow one of our social media places! (buttons at top right of the page)

Feb 6, 2017

Minion Mondays 015 Wight


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: Wight


Type: Ghost






Abilities: Freeze, Force, Conceal, Torment

Description: Enjoying some more stability in the physical world, Wights are free to be more predatory and vindictive in their behavior. They also have more finesse with ice based magics, and the temperature suddenly dropping can often be the only warning that one is nearby. Wights also can exert a great deal of magical force on objects and people, making encounters highly unpredictable.  


Art by Matheus Graef










Feb 3, 2017

Game Design, Resources and Economy Part 1


What's It All Worth?

This time I will be talking about a select few economy elements within game design. By economy I mean deciding how resources are used within the game. Many different games use resources in different ways, and so it is important to decide early what you want players to experience and what you want players to have their attention directed towards. 


Art by Matheus Graef


Diversity of Resources

One of the first key decisions of a designer is to choose how many resources you want the player to have access to, how many resources you want the player to have to manage. Some players are very good at managing different resources, keeping many different variables in their mind at one time and the relationship between them, how each one gets them closer to victory. However for some players this does not come as naturally and can inhibit enjoyment of the game if they feel they are always overwhelmed. 

It matters that a designer has a target audience in mind when making these choices. The designer must also decide what resources can be traded for other resources, and when. All of these elements need to be clearly defined and chosen with purpose.

For example in Magic: The Gathering the player can play spells and creatures before AND after the combat phase of their turn. This was a specific choice made by the designers that give the player more tactical options in how they use their turn. Also in the Pokemon Trading Card Game, energy cards are attached directly to the creatures (equipped), instead of floating in a pool of resources, which severely limits the player's tactical options and forces the player to consider carefully how and when they use their resources.


Linear Scaling Costs

Once the value of one basic ability is established, it is a simple matter to then scale the costs of similar abilities. If inflicting 3 damage is worth one energy card, then inflicting 6 damage should be worth two energy cards, and inflicting 9 damage should worth three energy cards (unless your game has a very particular curve).

There can always be exceptions for this, but they need to very purposeful. For example in a resource game, having 1 coal could be worth ten gold, having 5 coal could be worth fifteen gold, and having 10 coal could be worth eighteen gold. This would simulate a plentiful resource driving down prices in a realistic supply and demand economy, but could also force a very specific handicap to make sure one player does not get too far ahead of the other players.

For example, in Ticket to Ride, placing one track scores 1 point, placing three track scores 4 points, and placing six tracks scores 15 points. This creates an important curve when considering how to use the resources in the player's hand.


The Delta of Randomness

Borrowing a great deal from the Extra Credits YouTube videos, part of the Delta of Randomness refers to the idea that having a 50% chance of achieving something is not worth half the cost of definitely achieving something.

So for example, if being able to draw a card costs six energy cards, it does not follow that a 50% chance of drawing card (for example on a successful coin flip) is worth three energy cards. The randomness involved simply makes the ability worth less than half the cost, the risk is too great.
This means that when costing certain abilities, I will need to ensure that if abilities have an element of randomness in then I am costing them carefully so that players feel that as many abilities as possible are seen as valuable.  

Please check out the excellent Extra Credits video for a more thorough look at how to price randomness in games.


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. For the players to be interacting with as few resources as possible. I would like for the players to be devoting their focus to their strategy and tactics, instead of managing and remembering many different resources and the relationship between them.

2. For the players to have access to many different abilities that scale intuitively. The players will have many different abilities with which to build their strategy, and part of having an accessible game that is welcoming to new players is having as many elements as possible feel intuitive and un-obtuse, including how elements are priced.


3. For a complete game to last less than 45 minutes. It is important to me that the players feel like they have had a satisfying experience in much less than an hour, and that there was enough drama, enough story, enough positive feedback in that time that the players might want to play again, or at least not feel weary of the experience. The cost of abilities and options will be very important factor in this.