Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mistake 3: The Hand Passing Mechanic

Years ago, I spent a week's worth of inconsequential grad class sessions pondering the idea of a hand-passing game. The basic idea was that you had a hand of cards, each of which could be played to achieve some effect. At some point, you would pass your entire hand to the player on your left, thereby affecting their choices.

The Appeal
At the time I created this game, I was mired in creating game systems that had interesting interactions with the player, but didn't necessarily provide interesting opportunities for interactions between the players. I was finding ways to force this back in.

What a nice, fundamental way to affect someone else than to wholly provide them with all of their options. You would have to balance what you wanted to do against what you were providing them with. You could theoretically set them up with dangerous situations, different combinations of cards that might be disadventagous to their paticular situation.

The Office Idea
The original concept I used for this was that cards were tasks to be performed in an office. The board was, predictably, an office, with a series of spaces representing rooms. Each card told you a place you had to be, and a number of negative points (effort) that were incurred by playing that card. Your goals was to make a move that caused you to move onto another player's token, at which point you could shirk all (or some?) of your cards onto them, absolving yourself of the need to actually take on the negative points you would have gotten if you had played them yourself.

The Problem
Well, the basic problem was that there was no real game here. It was a cute idea, where I lept onto a conceit that took advantage of it, but nothing in terms of gameplay or fun really emerged.

More fundamentally, the problem with this mechanic is decision trees. You have enough on your plate worrying about you want to do, to have to get into another player's shoes, figure out what they want, balance not giving it to them against what you want. Its too much, especially in what is supposed to be a light game. It's not any fun.

Is the idea salvagable? I think maybe so, but I need:
* Very simple cards, which other players might be forced to use
* Your primary goal needs to be to mess other people up. If you're going to have to spend all this time looking at what the other players are going to do, that should be the main thrust. That's hard enough to play your moves, planning what someone else might do is really, really hard. It can't be something that you do as a side goal to advancing your own options.

I'm not sure what that would look like. I'm picturing something like Roborally, where you pass move cards to a player, trying to force them to hurtle into bad situations.

But how much control does the recipient have when they receive cards? If they can order 7 cards as they see fit, its pretty tough to really overtly enact your will on them in any effective way.

And is it any fun to have something forced on you this way?

My verdict for now: its an idea that sounds nice, but its flawed. Its a bad combination: you make basic choices, while another player makes the final choices. Trying to make that fun for the passing player is potentially impossible, and if you succeed, the recieving player is making false "final" decisions, and may not be having any fun.

Maybe its a thematic switch we need. Maybe you pass cards to a player who makes final choices with them, about *your* piece. But still, not all that fun.

Still a nice idea to have in the arsenal, just in case a situation ripe for it arises.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'm suddenly awesome at playing bass!

As far as games, still on the wiki mostly. Will make a proper post soon. For realsies.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Social Games (again)

Lest you think I'm slacking on my designerly duties, I've been dumping hours of work into a Social Games wiki Orion set up. We're using it as a place to flesh out a new game genre we hatched when I visited the Bay Area; its not public yet, but here's a bit of a preview.

- - - - - -
[From the intro page:]
Social Games are multiplayer games played as part of a social gathering.

The basic premise of a Social Game is that players arrive at a party, and are free to socialize normally, but a series of goals underlie the evening, and the actions of players throughout the party affect the result of the game. Ideally, the social and game parts of the activity support one another: the game inspires social interactions, while the social setting provides a rich mode of game playing.

The closest existing game concept to the Social Game concept is the How to Host a Murder series, or other murder mystery games, where a mystery-based game underlies a party. One or more game masters (usually the hosts) organize the game and distribute information and game materials to the players that are supposed to have it.

- - - - - - - -
[From one of my initial game sketches:]
In the Secret Amnesiac game, there are [[secret roles]], among which there is a single “amnesiac”, and no-one knows who. Specifically:

- The game is different every time you play it, perhaps using the [[combinatorial variation]] idea. Every time you play the game, the theme is somewhat different, the basic mechanics work a little differently, and the victory conditions are different, especially for a special player, called the Amnesiac.

- One player is the amnesiac, tasked with finding out what's going on in the game, who they are, what their victory conditions are (from among a set of possibilities, determined each game). Other players have partial information on these matters.

- Other players know that there is an amnesiac, but not who it is. Some of these players want to help the amnesiac, some want to hurt him - but all have other victory conditions that have nothing to do with the amnesiac, to drive the action. Each of these players is secretly assigned a role from a pool of possible roles when the game is run, and not all roles are used.

The “normal” players go about their business of playing the game as normal, trading, stealing, gambling, whatever - while keeping an eye out for the amnesiac.

The amnesiac tries to learn what they can, but most importantly tries to remain hidden. They should try to appear to be playing the game normally, maybe going so far as pretending to have one of the “normal” roles (though this has its own risks). This can be tricky when they know so little about the game, and it may be safer to try to find one person they think they can trust, who can tell them enough to get by on.

The problem with this game is that the amnesiac might be revealled very early on. The game will have to either be designed so that it can be played many times in an evening, or will have to continue to be compelling once the amnesiac is revealled (simply becoming a Bourne Identity-like game as mentioned on the [[secret roles]] page).

- - - - -

I don't know if that all works out of context, but I wanted to provide a taste. The wiki is actually getting quite robust - I'll get a guest account set up soon, so let me know if you're interested in checking it out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Social Games

I love the way that games, especially board games, have the power to provide a social experience. The giant joystick in this clip certainly got me thinking about that idea:

Part of why I'm down on video games lately is that, while they can provide a heck of an experience, its generally not a social one. That often makes the experience empty, somehow, if you ask me.

Mankind's earlier games, from board games to general acts of vaguely organized frollick, were inherently social, at very least by nature of involving one or more people. One could argue that this was out of necessity.

Let me back up a step: one major difference between a game and a non-game activity is unpredictability. You don't know what's going to happen next when you play a game, and trying to affect that outcome, and experiencing the results, is part of the joy of it. This is why we don't play games that are "solved", why we shun the broken strategy, why a game without depth loses its appeal quickly. We don't want to go through the motions, we want the thrill of uncertainty, and the challenge of affecting it.

So, early on, the easiest way to provide challenge and uncertainty was to pit players against one another. You want X, he wants not-X, conflict ensues, the outcome is uncertain.

But computers can do a bunch of stuff under the hood, can cut decision outcomes along time-discretions so fine that our performance is at the mercy of our more base reflexes, they can provide an uncertain outcome in our interaction with them.

And sure, a deck of cards for solitaire can provide uncertainty. A ball-and-cup game, through the finer points of physics can provide the unexpected bounce and twitch.

But for many people, the social end of gaming has become the exception.

Some people are fine with all this, I'd reckon. 'Gimme uncertainty, via a person or a magic box or whatever, I want to impose my will on the world. Thank god I'm not at the mercy of having other people around to get my game on'. I can't imagine anyone actually uttering that statement, ever. But you get the point, I don't think some people see the loss of a human element in games as a problem.

For me though, I feel like I need that social element. Believe it or not, this isn't even meant as some screed in favor of social interaction, its just what I'm finding I want from games lately. When I play video games, I strive for coop gameplay when I can find it. Even when I play a video game alone, I find myself looking for games that are going to promote social interaction after-the fact. I like my ownership-of-experience games (I don't think I've done my rant on this yet here) where I can tell someone a story of what I did that is different from the experience that every player has. I want something where I can compare achievements and high scores. Bioshock's coming out, and I'm stoked to play it, but its at least partially because I want to talk about (what's shaping up to be) a landmark game, with other game lovers.

Side note, I played the demo, god damn. An enormous, abandoned 1950's underwater city, ready to collapse under the weight of the ocean at any moment, filled with period propaganda, magestic architecture, and crawling with maniacs. Abandoned, underwater, 50's, metropolis. Jesus! Best video game atmosphere ever? So yeah, I'm still a sucker for the solo elements.

This comes into board games too. They're inherently social, but I'm finding I want to weild this in ways other than outright competition. Not just because of my game-based neuroses, though I'm sure thats part of it, I feel like there are other kinds of interaction that can be inspired by games than I-win, you-lose. I'd like more cooperative games, and even games that encourage creative expression, for example. That's a lofty enough goal, I'll stop short of games that let you share your feelings.

To get back to the initial inspiration, I love the idea of the giant joystick. It's collaborative, but furthermore, it allows people to choose their own approach to the collaboration. Its cooperative, but there's a negotiation there, I can imagine. Its a creative act, just playing it, just deciding how to play it, and one that multiple people participate in. All this despite being a video game. Delicious.

I can only dream of a board game design like that: one that allows people to choose their own mode of interaction, while providing enough of a framework so that the whole exercise doesn't fall into disarray.

It seems impossible, but as if often the case with these posts, I'm warmed by the promise of the idea's distant glow.

The Euro RPG

I've worked out the begginings of a list of attributes for Chad's suggested approach to the drawing game. Perhaps I'll post it here for discussion in a bit.

On the subject of RPG's, one more time, I've been considering how RPGs, at least as I know of them, have been distinctly American.

That is to say, in the American tradition of fringe board games, often wargrames and fantasy games, there is an emphasis on ensuring that every case is covered, usually by piling on rules as needed. Meanwhile, Euro-style games demonstrate an efficiency of rules, even if this means streamlining away certain choices or themes.

Its strange to me the way that every RPG I've come across (and I've seen my share, just as research, if nothing else) is distinctly American-style. To some extent, in a game where any action is supposed to be possible, and you are up against a subjective game master, having rules for every case doesn't seem like such a bad idea. But there is this weird lack of:
- Efficiency in rules
- A willingness to allow for abstraction and improvisation
- A willingness to adopt an elegant solution that might provide slightly less realistic results
- Challenging, subtle decision-making during combat or other moments of crisis

There's a couple counter-examples: the luck-point system in Battlestations, and some improvements in 3rd edition DnD, but its not great out there.

The assumption in RPGs, shared with many 80's style American games, is that you want answers, even if the game's willingness to provide them hinders smooth, elegant gameplay. The fact is, I want a system where I can keep every rule in mind, without ever having to refer to a book or chart. If anything has been guiding my design process, it is that I don't want you to have to ever stop playing the game to look something up. Such moments are killers of board-game sessions, and I don't think RPG sessions are any different - RPG'ers have just come to accept them.

No! I say.

Maybe this is all nonsense to anyone who hasn't given any thought to RPG design, I reckon its an especially esoteric interest. Just to entice said folks, possible upcoming subjects:

- The pass-your-hand mechanic: its alure and pitfalls
- Scoring card/tile configurations: Rummy vs. Koi Koi vs. Scrabble
- A rant about shallow fantasy sports systems

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Twin Peaks

I just finished Twin Peaks, part of an impromptu scouring of Lynch's stuff I've been doing recently. I really disliked large parts of the 2nd season, but man, the last couple episodes really pulled it together, especially the last one. It's surely hyperbole to say that that its the scariest thing in the history of TV, but I found it pretty intense (albeit at 4am after a couple drinks), and can't think of anything offhand that matches it. While I couldn't quite call the final wrapup satisfying, I was somehow pretty stoked by it.

Just to give a little bit of game-oriented content, I found myself really inspired with regards to the RPG system / setting I've been working on, now and then, for the last year or so. It started as a swashbuckling kind of game, focusing on over-the-top acts of derring-do. But I find myself adding an undertone of pseudo-Victorian high-society, whose members include gatekeepers of places beyond reality. The players, as duelists, brawlers, inventors and great orators, seem powerful compared to the coddled controllers of the port towns they visit. But these patricians and magistrates know of realms long lost, and the forces that dwell therein.

It would be fair to call the concept Lovecraftian, but I'm thinking less about chaotic realms of unseeable geometry and more about Twin Peaks' subtly twisted dreamworlds, or House of Leaves' merciless infinities. I'm hatching icy worlds with internal logic stronger than reason. The endless streets of identical, stark white pueblo-style houses. The long, clean hallways, leading to the well-dressed artisan, who crafts hundreds of marble statues of you. I want to build worlds inside the world, and ensure that they have their own compelling consistency, however strange.

This long-term RPG thing is less of a real project than a mind-occupier for dull moments, an exucse to dump out world ideas without being constrained by devising elegant game rules. But Twin Peaks certainly did a great deal to make me think bigger, and provided some inspiration about how to tease and trouble.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Artist - Album (Favorite Song)

I don't really have a personal blog these days, so I guess this is where I have to let the music overflow trickle. These are right rocking me lately:

Los Campesinos! - Sticking Fingers into Sockets EP (We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives)
Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation (Sci-Fi Kid)
Genesis - A Trick of the Tail (A Trick of the Tail)
Dan Deacon - Spiderman of the Rings (The Crystal Cat)
Je Suis France - Afrikan Majik (California Still Rules)
Queen - A Night at the Opera (I'm in Love with My Car)
Ratatat - Remixes Vol. 2 (Glock Nines)

Edit: Fuck! We Throw Parties, The Crysal Cat, and Glock Nines make up my definitive 10 minutes of love transpastic right now.

Random long-held passionate game desire:

Man, I want a decent game that revolves around drawing things. I think it was looking at the latest posts on Mary's blog earlier today that reminded me of how strongly that is the case, and how it has haunted me for years. There are certain ways that playing games and drawing are at odds with eachother, but I feel like there's overlap that lingers just outside my grasp.

I don't want something quite like pictionary, where someone draws and everyone else watches. I think I want something where everybody draws something and then presents them towards some end. I want more drawing time than 1 / (numPlayers) of the time.

And not something where your drawing abitility necessarily gets you the win, as should go without saying. I want to reward creativity, though that's no small challenge, no?

- - Motivation - -

To backtrack my motivations, as they become clear even to myself, what I really want is a game that encourages people to be creative, and to revel in eachothers creativity. To let people share their ideas with one another, to enjoy having their ideas appreciated, and to enjoy appreciating others' ideas.

This already exists, its called conversation. But I think there's the potential for a game to spur people on, to encourage interaction and participation, and even creativity (von Oech reminds us that restrictions spur creativity). I don't want a situation where the game is "The rules say you have to invent something right now!" - it needs to seduce. So I think of those vocal-style parlor games (or my growing repatior of no-materials car games), but that's not quite it - though somewhat in the spirit, perhaps.

Drawings appeal to me much more. There is that explicit phase of thought, creation, elaboration and adjustment, where an idea can be developed in private, before being revealed onto the others at hand. And besides, we talk plenty, and draw far too little. Finally, I like the idea of a record of the game, the fact that the drawings can persist.

- - Competitive? - -

But I don't know of any game that gets it quite right yet. I think the hardest decision is how formal to make this. I feel like some sort of reward system is in order - some concept of success to be achieved. But I don't want something overly competitive either; I expect the game is going to be pretty subjective, and I don't want to necesarily reward the besty artist unduly, and hurt feelings need to be avoided at all costs - a recipe for minimal winner-declaration.

I think that Apples to Apples is a good analog here, where points are gained, but nobody really tracks them or feels a strong sense of victory upon acquiring the most.

- - Success Measures - -

Ah, but the hard part. What do you draw? What makes one drawing better than another? So right now I'm working under the high-level model of "everybody draws, then presents their drawings, some notion of success is assigned". I don't think that having a set judge of the drawings (theApples to Apples model) is quite right, its too flippant for the amount of work a drawing is (vs. throwing out a red card). I also don't quite like the idea of everybody just voting, it seems too subjective still somehow. And yet, I don't quite like the just "Yay! We're all winners! Lookit our radsome drawings!" model either. I think a little bit of structure is needed to inject some drama into the situation.

A nice semi-subjective approach is still the "can I successfully convey something with this picture" measure, as employed in pictionary. You need to motivate the guesser and the drawer, and I vastly prefer the informal pictionary model of "correct guesser gets to draw next" / "a point to the guesser, a point to the drawer, upon success" - as opposed to just putting the drawer and guesser on a team as with pictionary proper.

- - The Taboo Effect - -

I think of the most satisfying pictionary moments I've had, and many of them revolved around a certain amount of outside the boxism, where people go "I see what you did there! Delightful!" The latter part not so much said, as implied by the curious, outright glee that squeaks out in these moments. The party game Taboo is a word-based game that accomplishes this nicely. Sometimes people tiptoe around the forbidden words with various synonyms and do ok. But the game was much more fun when people would just come at the problem from outlandish, personal angles. "We had a great one of these at June lake... - Cobbler! Hey man, nice... - Shot! Being one of these totally sucks ass! - Pilgrim!".

I don't necessarily want to find the direct drawing analog, but I like the way this encouraged creativity and quick thinking by knocking people out of their comfort zone. They couldn't take the road, so they had to improvise. I think a similar factor might be at play in trying to encourage creativity and avoid over-rewarding the best artist.

- - Some game sketches - -

Multiple word, round-robin guessing
(somehow) each player gets 3-5 words from a very large pool of possible words. A timer is set, and everyone draws. Time runs out, everyone reveals, looks at eachothers pictures for a bit, ideally laughs. Time to analyze player A's picture. The player on their left says one word, and if it's one of the drawer's designated words, the guesser and drawer get points. Then, continuing clockwise, each player says a word, trying to guess the drawer's words.

Why do I like this better than a single word? First of all, it means that multiple people can guess and participate in the judging. Even if one person guesses a word, others remain to be guessed. Also, I like the idea that the drawer has to create a drawing that sums up more than one word, that has to incorporate more than one concept.

The main pitfall here is, of course, that people will just draw 3 different sub-scenes, one for each word. Ideally it would be something cohesive. Several possible solutions. There could be an initial vote for which scene is most cohesive, the winner getting a bonus, anyone failing to get at least one vote being ineligible for the (big) got-all-your-words bonus. Not great though. The answer might also be in word selection - that is to say that you get some mix of nouns, actions, settings, moods, styles, background events, whatever, lending the proceedings towards a single scene trying to evoke many angles. Or there might just be an honor system of trying to make a cohesive scene of some kind.

I feel like its not quite right, that its still going to lead to score-mongering and precision rather than innovative approaches. This might work as a seed of an idea though, or when combined with some of the other ideas below.

Also, its probably too hard, perhaps people get multiple guesses, or the words are kept simple, or its multiple choice, or you're allowed a caption, or - not sure, would have to playtest probably.

(Splashier scoring)
The first time one of the designated words is said, both players get 1 point. The second success awards 2 points to the guesser and drawer, the 3rd 3, and so on, with a possible non-linear big bonus for guessing the last word / getting all your words guessed. So guessers are rewarded more strongly for getting the less obvious words, and the rewards to the drawer ramp up for great success.

(Cooperative Gameplay)
Man, I love cooperative gameplay. In this case, it might be a nice way to bring drama and inspire performance, but without the negative effect of competitiveness and bitterness. What theme could a super-round of guessing-each-player's-pictures-rounds be couched in?

I love the idea of a simple board where the players (individually, or a single group token) are represented in a dreamlike world, where only their ability to create otherworlds that evoke the correct notions can allow them to escape eldritch horrors that pursue them. The handicaps I discuss below could play into this too. I see a scene where the players have moved across the dreamworld board, are near the end, with darkling creatures in pursuit, and know that they need to have X much success in communicating their drawings to one another if they are, as a team, to escape and win. Maybe that's just Mary's blog talking, though. I can't quite articulate it, but I have an image in mind that is extremely compelling to me right now.

My initial thought of drawing rounds as holes of golf (surprisingly frequent as my initial thought in games), seems downright stupid by comparison.

Some editions of Pictionary have a dice that incurs handicaps, like drawing with your off hand, drawing with your eyes closed or not lifting your pencil. I've always liked this idea, and have flirted with incorporating it as "injuries" in my cooperative swashbuckling pictionary/charades game.

In this case, I like the idea of a deck of cards, each with a penalty on them. I might add to the above list such things as: no curved lines, no stick figures, reduced time, smaller piece of paper, big fat crayon as tool, random portion will be obscured upon completion (I have a couple mechanisms in mind), viewers can only see it for a moment before guessing, guessers can't hear eachothers' guesses. You get the idea.

As cards, they have a lot of power; they could be used in a number of ways: Maybe you draw one at some point as a penalty for everybody on a given round. In the competitive game players might get them and be allowed to keep them face down, to be incurred on another player, handicapping the target for a single round. They might be automatically evoked on a runaway leader, distributed as special rewards, or given to a losing player as a consolation. In the cooperative game, monsters might attack the players, causing a given handicap to be incurred on one or more of the players, rachetting up the tension and forcing people to improvise.

But broadly, why do I like these? I like that they put people outside their comfort zone. They will sometimes (hopefully) result in drawings that are delightful in their clumsy, clever attempt to work around the restriction. They help to keep the game from getting predictable.

I especially like them in the cooperative version, where trying to overcome adversity and still have a productive round of drawing and guessing could be quite dramatic, I think. At its most ridculous I see it like "Oh no! The spitting lizard of self-doubt caught up to you, and has sprayed you in the eyes! Can you still convey your thoughts without your ability to reflect on them? Draw with your eyes closed this round."

They might be really obnoxious, and be more frustrating than they are fun to work with, but its an idea with promise, I think.

- - - -

Most of this came to me just as I was writing what was meant to be a single paragraph. Not sure if any of this is quite what I'm looking for. But I think the power of games to nudge and inspire, and the power of drawings to express and delight, have not yet been symbiotically harnessed to the fullest of their potential. I sense there's a really original, interesting game out there somewhere.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Six 2-player monter game approaches

Here's six quick sketches of idea for a 2-player monster-in-the-city game, as described below. No rules in mind yet, just broad directions.

1. Simple dexterity - City player usese blocks to build buildings and defenses in some fashion. Monster player gets some turns to flick a monster token into them, or otherwise do something dexeritous to try to knock them down. Carnage! Fun!

2. Channel-Based Dexterity - A little trickier to describe, but the board would have some channels in it, little lowered grooves, that the defender uses to flick units onto the board, from the side. These would be layed out like streets, with raised, vulnerable buildings between them. The monster player tries to flick along the flat surface, avoiding the defenders that have been flicked into place, to knock down buildings. Seems like the gameplay might be too simple for the expense of producing some insane shit like this.

3. Flick/Magnets Dexterity - The monster player flicks the monster around on the board, while the defending player uses a magnetic stick to control his units from below, trying to impede the monster's progress. This might even be real time!

4. Closed-eyes drawing - One more dexterity one, these sort of lead one to the next to the next. There's some board game that uses this for ship navigation. Basically, the monster player closes their eyes and traces a path across the board, as their move. Depending on what the City player has done, this might present some negative effects, places where the monster player's turn might end, or allow the city player to screw with the drawing process in one way or another. I like the way that the monster might be stiffled for turn after turn, but then just bust out and wreck everything in one splashy go.

5. Memoir 44 Lite - Now lets move into non-dexterity ideas, just a couple for now. The city player has cards that allow them to activate different kinds of defenses, in different ways, in different parts of the city. For example: each plane unit on the board can move any number of spaces in a straight line; move any tank squad up to 4 spaces; fire a big bomb on any space (damaging the monster and any surrounding buildings). The monster, meanwhile, has a series of basic and special moves. For example, move 5 spaces in any one direction; knock over an adjacent building; grab an adjacent unit and throw it at any other unit in sight, destroying both.

I generally like this card model for these reasons:
- A way to differentiate and balance asymetrical sides
- Limiting a player's options on a given turn, allowing for many possible effects with a mimimum of anaysis being possible.
- Similarly, allowing for a wide variety of moves, by being able to summarize their effects on the cards.
- That does-he-have-the-card-he-needs-to-wreck-me calculations.

That last one leads me to the big sub-decision of this approach, whether to have a predictable deck or not (see previous post). There could be big splashy decks with lots of splashy effects, but ability to strategize about your opponent's possible reactions would sure be hurt, especially early on.

On the other hand, it could be sort of a compelling strategy game with set decks, where you had to reason whether your opponent could reasonably be holding a 9 or 10 card, after all the chances he had to use one in the last few turns, for example. Not sure what predictable decks would look like in a game like this. Perhaps something like this for the city player:

- 3 each of Tank-1, Tank-2 and Tank-3. Each allows you to select and move the appropriate number of tank units and attack with them. Similarly, there would be Rocket and Jet cards, 1-3. The 1 cards might provide some bonus to that one unit, to allow for those cards to be more tactically interesting.

- 2 each of 2 kinds of special cards. Bombs, which hit the monster and wreck everything nearby, and Assault, which allows you to choose any 4 units, move them each one space, and attack with each.

You could do a monster deck this way, with move cards 2-4 spaces, charge in one direction cards 4-6 spaces, jump 3-5 spaces, with a couple specials, but it doesn't feel right. It seems sort of boring, especially because you only have one guy to work with. There could be some hybrid solution, where the city player has a hand of 5 fairly standard cards, from a 30 card deck. Meanwhile, the monster player could have a 2-card hand, basically 2 choices on a given turn, from a mere 10 card or so deck, and the city player has a reminder sheet about them. And each provides an effect with far more options left to designate afterwards.

I mean, we are getting deeply asymetrical now, but I think building this concept around a clean-as-possible core could provide a really interesting experience, doing justice to how different it really is to be a rampaging monster, versus a general in charge of the defending army.

Aside: Pacing Philosophy
I wanted to raise 2 underlying principles when I think about this design, at least with regards to its non-dexterity versions. I like the idea that the City player will eventually win, if the game goes on long enough. They just need to thwart the monster long enough, until either the monster is slain via accumulated damage, or some timer harkens the arrival of magic technology or a savior defender monster, or whatever. So they try to contain and control the monster, while the monster makes increasingly desperate gambits to destroy the key building, or break through to the other side of the board, or otherwise achieve some goal that might be achieved at any moment.

The second principle stems from this, and that is that the City player should never be truly sure that their line or formation or plan is safe. They might feel like they have set things up pretty well, but should be saying "as long as he doesn't...", and must strategically decide which risks to take. Perhaps this might be enacted with a 15 card monster deck, 5 of which are removed from the game, and the game is over after 10 turns, when the monster has used the remainder. For example, just a thought.

6. Asymetrical Robo-Rally - After that marathon, one last one. Each player has their own deck, draws some number of cards, chooses some subset of them, and commits face-down, in order. Each player, then reveals their first card and enacts them simultaneously. So, yes. Roborally.

Philisophically, it is similar to the previous suggestion, in that each side has a very different deck, and wondering what cards your opponent has can be cause for worry. It also adds an additional level of outguess each turn, and it allows for more big, splashy turns, improving on the inching-along, I-move-a-little, you-move-a-little, feel of the previous direction.

Not sure what the deck composition would be here, but it would likely be fairly predictable, with a couple splashy special cards worked in to keep people on thier toes. Certainly, each player should have some reasonable notion of what is in their opponent's deck, and what they need to worry about.

I think there might be a good game here. Some of the dexterity games could be fun, but sort of trashy, lacking in depth and replay value, as least out of the fairly primitive things I've come up with so far. There are still a lot of little details to square away in the more traditional approaches, and it might be difficult to keep those designs elegant in the face of such a tantalizing thematic situation, but I like both of those directions in some intuitive sense. Asymetry is fun, if you can pull it off.

Sports-Golf 2 - Grid or Not?

Getting back into action after a weeklong getaway. A couple quick posts planned.

Here's the fundamental difficulty I'm having in designing this golf game; whether to go with the discreet or continuous model, as I've started thinking of them. In the continuous model, a given hole of golf is depicted as a simple image, with each pixel representing a given location on the course, and the color of that pixel determening if it is fairway, green, rough, in the hole, etc. The player's ball is at a given coordinate. When they decide to take a shot, they pick a game, a winner and an angle, to the nearest whole degree. Then, math is used to get to the new location, with distance determined by the scores, and angle deviation caused by the wrong team winning.

The problem with this approach is that figuring out where the ball's new location is, and visualising locations, are difficult. I'd really like this game to be really painless, since you are ideally supposed to be playing it every day. Ideally, you would just make your picks, and the rest would happen. But now, we've introduced a math equation of mild complexity. Furthermore, just knowing the coordinates of your opponent's ball doesn't provide a really satisfying depcition of its location, its sort of something you have to hash out. I could write some kind of web app to handle all this, but it seems against the spirit of the exercise somehow.

I suppose this approach could just be a slightly more complex exercise, your daily experience with it would involve calculating the result of your last shot, possibly locally drawing the results of your shot and your opponent's, and making your next guess for your next shot. It wouldn't be all that much more involved than taking a turn of play-by-mail chess. Actually, that could be the model, a jpeg that is emailed back and forth, where each player charts their progress via a line drawn on top of the course map, so that there is a shared artifact, however electronic, that is passed between. Heck, I could make up an excell spreadsheet that could do all the requisite maths for you without all that much trouble.

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I actually think I've talked myself into this approach, and might be seeing a way to do it that would be doable, which is the sort of outcome I suppose these posts should strive for. Just for reference, here's the short version of the discreet model. In short, I wanted to make something with easier maths, and easier visualization. Basically, I wanted to up the granularity, so that you were working on a grid of spaces, much larger than the pixel levels. There would be no angle caluculation maths, you would somehow just end up at a space. This grid would be course enough that you could say "I'm at space 5-H" and your opponent could look at the grid and reasonably visualize that.

Instead of angle selection, you would choose a target space, your options limited by the sport you chose, and would deviate from it based on score difference and winner picking. For example, if you want to target a space really far away, you need to pick a basketball game, where your chances of deviation are greater due to the higher scores. If you want a baseball game's consistency, you aren't allowed to select a space more than X spaces away. You might even be limited to choosing certain sports when trying to hit over trees or other obstacles, or when hitting out of the sand or rough. Its a little more coarse, as an approach, but it might be a lot easier.

I suppose now I'm not quite sure which of these directions I like better. Comments appreciated.