Advice: 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.
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."
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.
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)