The Labyrinth: Remixed

Problem

Our old game, The Labyrinth of Tanaii was first created as a race to the end game, then remixed to become a resource collection game and once more it will now be turned into a full tabletop RPG without using dice.

The original game was about several factions of variable races that are trying to recover an artefact from the Labyrinth.  Players start at 4 corners of a board and must move around the board to move up levels.

This is a variation of what the board looked like, except there were coloured spots for treasures, monsters and chance spaces as well as the ladders to move up a level and the artefact in the middle.  The idea was to roll a dice to move spaces and get to the centre while fighting monsters and other players.

Gameplay Changes

First we need to remove the dice so that all that is left are monsters and equipment cards as well as the chance cards.  Since the cards that are face down add a bit of randomness we can add a few mechanics to remove ALL the chance from the game.  We can remove the chance and item spaces and add more monster spaces as and add rewards for defeating the monsters.  Defeating the monsters will give the player money and he can buy equipment at the store.

Since the players will no be using a die to move, they will all pick races at the beginning of the game  and each race will have its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Humans – Average, start with 3 attack, move up to 2 spaces per turn.  Access to almost every weapon and armour type and receive a 2x multiplier for cash rewards.
  • Orcs – STRONG! Start with 6 attack and gain a bonus when using heavy armour and weapons.  Can only move 1 space per turn.
  • Elves – FAST! Start with 2 attack and can move up to 4 spaces per turn.  Can only wear light armour and gain bonuses when using daggers and bows but get 4x cash reward multiplier
  • Dwarves – TOUGH! Start with 5 attack and can move up to 2 spaces per turn.  They can only wear dwarf armour and have a bonus attack for all weapons
The game can be played in a few ways
  • Race to the end – Each player must reach to the centre of the board to get to the artefact before anyone else
  • Survival – The game only lasts up to (XX) turns and the player with the most attack at the end wins
The new board will have 4 spaces
  1. Monster spaces – each level has its own monster with their own attack power.  They start at 5 attack for level 1 and gain 3 attack for every level you go up.  Defeating a monster will give the player a cash reward
  2. Treasure spaces – cash reward to buy items in the shop
  3. Magic Sphere – gives player magic points for spells to use in battle
  4. Ladders – let players move up spaces to the next level.  Must fight that levels monster.
The way battles work:
  • First player attack is calculated
  • Players can then play spells to buff  or de-buff characters or monsters
  • If the battle is a tie then the player moves back to his old position
  • If one player wins, they get kicked down one labyrinth level.  If they are on the bottom floor they get kicked back to their respawn point (corner of the board)
  • Player then gets a cash reward
Before the player moves to the next space they can enter the shop to spend magic and gold for items and spells.
The spell system will have battle and world spells.  World spells can only be used once a turn unless their effects say otherwise.  For example, a movement increase spell can only be used once every three turns.  Lastly battle spells can only be used in battle once.

Why This Will Work

By removing the dice and random equipment and chance cards every player knows what each persons attack, gold and magic are leaving no hidden information.  The dice and cards remove the chance of luck and magic spells can be used to give their previous effects.  For example, before there were chance cards that increased a players movement for a turn, now a spell would do that.

The game revolves around character development and player vs player conflict.  The development of your character is entirely up to you rather then rolling dice to move to spaces and picking up equipment by chance from  deck.

Thank you for reading

– Moose

Tic-Tac-RPG?

Problem

The original game of Tic-Tac-Toe is easily solvable game based on pure skill.  Chess is a solvable game as well, but the numbers of moves that can be played are so large that we cannot easily comprehend every situation.  My task is to add luck into this game and make it more playable for adults.  Adults like complexity, but I personally don’t find chess very riveting and fun to play. TO MUCH THINKING!  Adults like some complexity and depth, as well as drinking.  I have already seen someone go along the ‘drinking game’ route, so I might as well go with the strategy route.  Playing an intense game of chess at a party doesn’t seem like it will happen in anywhere but the Sims.

Thinking Out Loud

So, what is a fun type of game that includes strategy that adults would like? RPG’s.  The original Tic-Tac-Toe is a 2 player game, Tic-Tac-RPG or TTRPG  should be a group party game.  The original game of TTT is essentially a basic territory acquisition game, once someone acquires a bit of territory in a line they win the game.  Bingo has similar mechanics but it is enjoyed by older people.  In order to make this game fun for younger adults we need to add some social and team elements in there.

One team will be the X’s and the other the O’s.  Rather then rolling boring dice to decide on which team gets the right territory, players will use trivia cards.  These trivia cards will contain positions of X’s and O’s that can be attained by answering a trivia question or performing some action.

Gameplay Changes

TTRPG Trivia Cards

This would be one type of trivia card, where the back would be the space where the X or the O would go

As soon as one team member performs the above action they would be able to place their avatar on that spot.  For example, if one of the items was Planking, each team would tell one team member to start planking, if they manage to beat the other person then they can place their marker on that spot, if they lose then the other team places their marker on that spot.  This idea of risk vs reward along with the randomness of the trivia cards would be the twist this old game would need to play this game.

The trivia and physical challenges can be any number of things.  For the History Trivia the other team would select one person to pick a question, if they manage to get the question right they get the spot, if they get it wrong the other team can get one member to try and save them to earn the spot.  If neither can get the question then the spot remains neutral.  This would add a spice to the game, players can try to mess up the other team but if they pick something too hard then they end up messing up their team as well.

Also, it would be helpful to add a few new mechanics to the territory acquisition. During a mock play test I found out the game can finish in 3-5 turns which is a bit fast for a party game.  There should be rules for contesting spots and fully capturing them.

TTRPG Territory

This is an example of ways people can contest and capture territories to make the game longer.  Each team can place their markers on each square up to 3 times, whoever reaches 3 markers first gains the spot permanently.  If both teams have an equal number of  markers on the spot, then it becomes neutral.  If one player has more spaces then the other, then they maintain control of the spot.  The first player to get a line wins.

Why It Will Work

The idea for making it team based with trivia will entice older people (18+) to try this game.  Strategy is involved in the trivia and deciding where you want to place your marker and teamwork is a huge part of the game.

I didn’t get a chance to test the game on a large crowd, but from what I saw the original TTT tactics were not in effect.  People tried to use them but the new contesting rule for the territories made them sway from that tactic and gave the other team several chances to fight back

TTT Original Tree

Summary

  • Make the game acceptable to adults
  • Team based gameplay
  • Trivia cards
  • Contest squares and let opponent fight back

Thank you for reading

– Moose

WAR! Needs More Skill

Problem

War essentially plays itself, as soon as the players shuffle the deck the game is predetermined.  In order to make this game more compelling and skill based we need to change the rules to allow for skill.

The main problem is that the players have no idea what card they are going to play next and every battle is decided by pure luck.

Thinking Out Loud

In order for the outcome to be determined by skill, we need to make the players make more meaningful decisions.  Instead of completely redesigning ‘War!’ and getting away from the core mechanic, I have a few ideas on how to keep that core with a some few rule changes.

I think the core of ‘War!’ is to become the victor in a battle between two people by presenting a better card.  In order to give the player some choice in picking which card he wants to play in the battle we need to give them a pool of cards they can see and choose what they want to play.  However, rather then playing one card at a time, I think that players should play between 3-5 cards per ‘battle’.  If we were to only let them play one card, the players would only be playing their highest card and there would not be much strategy involved, and the player that lucked out by getting higher cards in their part of the deck would have a huge advantage.

Gameplay Changes

By having more cards in each battle we can add special rules to give added value to lower cards to balance the gameplay a bit.  For example, players can play a variation of poker hands in each battle like sending armies out to a battlefield.  The type of army sent would be the poker hand.  For example, a group of pikemen can be represented by a 4 and a siege unit can be represented by a Jack.  If that battle were to play out the player with the Jack would win and then claim the others card in his pile.  However if the other player played three 2’s against the other players 1 Jack, the player that played the triple two’s would win because a triplet is stronger then a single high card.

Rule Changes

In order to accommodate the need for a pool of cards to play, the players must be able to create armies to send out.  The players should also get their own 52 card decks to make sure each person starts as an equal and no one has a clear advantage over the other.

Players should start with 5 cards, and then draw 3 every turn.  Players should also be allowed to discard any number of cards per turn only once to draw from their deck.  This rule would eliminate the positive feedback loop if one player continues to win in battles while the other player gets garbage cards.

One of the only rules that is the same from the original ‘War!’ is the resolution.  When one player runs out of cards he picks up and shuffles his discard pile and plays using that as his main deck, if the player completely runs out of cards he is the loser.

Rank of Poker Hands

Why This Will Work

By giving the player the freedom to play their own cards we allow them to estimate the value of each card and also let them weigh the risk or the reward for each battle.

When playtesting, I found out that people would not normally send out troops as cannon fodder for the other players stronger hands.  Instead they would discard them so that they would be able to use them later for a better hand.  People felt that this rule needed some tweaking but I personally felt that it was good the way it was.  Since the task was to make the outcome determined by player skill, drawing from the deck of cards seems a bit random and picking any card from the deck would put obvious choices in the game.  Players would obviously pick the best cards and it would be really easy.  However discarding cards  takes out winning by pure luck since every player can modify their hand each turn.

When playing the original ‘War!’ game, one of the great things about the game was how fast the gameplay was and it had a great flow to it.  This version slows down gameplay and makes the game last a lot longer for new players and people who like to create very deep strategies.

I also thought about adding the jokers in the game to act like super cards.  I debated on giving them either:

  1. If you play the joker you automatically win the battle
  2. The joker increases your combination rank by one.  If you have a flush and you use a joker, it ups it to full house.
  3. A joker is a blank card and can be used as a substitute
I thought 1 was pretty overpowered and 2 and 3 seemed to be viable options.  The third one seems fair like the white space in Scrabble.

Summary

  • Use two decks instead of one to balance the start of the game
  • Rather then playing one card at a time players can play a maximum of 5 cards
  • Battles are won using poker hands
  • Players draw 3 cards per turn and can discard and pick up cards equal to what they have discarded
While the hiding of hands and the flipping of cards is still considered random from the other players perspective, removing this element of slight randomness would make the other decisions meaningless.  Having an open hand would provide for obvious decisions.  The skill aspect of the game is knowing how to read your opponent and looking at their discard pile to see what cards they could possibly play.

Thank you for reading,

– Moose

Board Game Adaptation: Qix

Hello Reader!

Let me start by describing what Qix is.  Qix is a retro arcade game that came out in 1981.  It’s core mechanic is territory acquisition while facing an A.I. that prevents you from claiming the majority of the screen.

The player is represented by a diamond like shape that can only move up, down, left or right.  The A.I. is referred to as the Qix and is a majestic rectangle that motions around the screen unpredictably. The goal of the game is to create box like objects to claim territory over the screen until the player boxes take up 50%-90% of the screen depending on the difficulty.

While this game concept seems old, it is most notably seen in many games as mini-games to help progress gameplay in a unique way.


This example is from Bully.  The gameplay is similar to that of Qix, except there are several new additions that add more depth to the game.

Board Game Conversion

Qix Board Game
  • Now imagine each of the stars are a player on a corner of the board.  This is how we simulate the main character (diamond in Qix)
  • The board is a 6*6 grid to allow for movement
  • The way the players are dispersed is by a coordinate system (X,Y)
    • Red is located at (0,0)
    • Green is located at (6,0)
    • Purple at (o,6)
    • Blue at (6,6)
Movement and Enemy Explanation

This picture will be used as a visual aid to help describe the mechanics and dynamics of the game

Each player can move one position each turn.  Blue has completed their first turn, red their second, green third and purple fourth.  This has been done to show how turns can progress.  In a real game all players would have moved the same amount.

  • The point of the game is to gain territories of the board by outlining rectangles using your marker
  • The skull and crossbones is the enemy.  The position of the enemy is determined by a roll of a die, one for its X and Y position.  After reach cycle one player would roll the die to see where the enemy lands.  If the enemy lands on your “tail” then that entire tail is destroyed and the player must start tracing again. If the enemy lands on the player they must go back to their starting point.
Territorial Acquisition

The main way to capture territories is to close at least 3 sides of a polygon on the edges, and when in the middle, all four sides must be closed.

If another player were close that last side, they could steal the box you were trying to make.

This is in essence how I believe a Qix board game should look like, if it involved multiple players.  Granted we can make the grid bigger if we have another random number generator like a 10 sided die, spinning wheel, electronic device or mobile application etc.

My team and I also need to play-test the game to see how the player collision works and if it needs to be tweaked.

Liars Dice Changes

Liars dice, more commonly seen in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and the Red Dead Redemption Mini-Game.

After playing a few iterations of the game on an online flash game and from my time in Red Dead Redemption, there is a clear positive feedback loop.  If a player manages to call another persons bluff, the opposing player looses a die and then the person who called the bluff gets to start a new round first.

The way this positive feedback loop works is by making the lairs weaker, by removing their dice and making the game easier for the caller by letting him place easy bets that he wont be called on.  By giving him the most amount of die, he can make an informed decision to see who is lying and who is telling the truth.  Since the bets keep increasing, if you got caught the last round, not only would you have fewer dice to make a decent believable bet but you would be last in the round to make the bet.

In order to remove the positive feedback loop to help give the game move longevity and not be so one sided, I would let the person who got caught cheating go first rather then later so he has an easier way of making a bet.

The last step is to play test this example to test if it does make the game better.

 

Thank you for reading,
-Moose

Game Opinion: The Shelf Life of Video Games

Happy Thursday Reader,

This series of blog posts will be called “Game Opinion” where I vent my personal opinion regarding some aspects of the games industry.

Overview

I believe that each game has its own shelf life and play time (time of each play session) that the player imposes on the game at some point.  This impacts the development of any game just as much as its mechanics and dynamics but more importantly it should morally and ethically effect the developer/publisher of the game.

Rant

I feel that we can group all video games into 4 main categories: MMO’s, casual games, hardcore games and virtual reality and motion games.

First lets start with the easiest, VRG or virtual reality games.  These games are very interactive and are played by combining advancements in technology and motion capture devices to be played.  These games have a very short shelf life or play time due to their interactive nature.  For example, wearing a giant piece of headgear as your visual aid would be fairly cumbersome after half and hour or less of playing the game.  Motion games are limited by the amount of our stamina, someone can only jump up and down or perform action moves for so long until they get tired and need a break.

Then we have the largest group, hardcore games.  When I say hardcore, I am referring to the RPG’s, FPS’ and action games we play on our home console (PC, Xbox, PlayStation).  These are games that have complicated rules and require significant commitment from the player.  While I do understand this is a HUGE group to bunch up together, I still feel that it was worth compartmentalising them into one group.  This group is already sub sectioned very heavily ie: RPG’s, Action, Shooters, Adventure.  However all these genre’s have similar play times, the only thing that defers are their shelf lives.  Games like Call of Duty have very short stories but the real fun is in the hundreds of hours people pour into the online mode.  Then there are games like Oblivion and Skyrim that have very well built worlds that allow for endless play in their single player modes.  Lastly there are games that go for quality of gameplay over quantity and have very well built and scripted stories that can be played and beaten between 18 – 48 hours typically.

Next we move on to the most controversial one: casual games.  Now what is a casual game? I would define a casual game as an entertainment item that has very simple rules and does not require any commitment.  The keyword in that sentence is commitment.  Games like Angry Birds, Pac-Man, Solitaire, Plants vs Zombies, etc.  These games are very easy to pick up and play for 5-20 minuets and after that they become fairly repetitive.  This is why these games are excellent for mobile platforms.

Lately people have been classifying Facebook games like FarmVille, Mafia Wars, FrontierVille and Dragons of Atlantis.  Now these are NOT casual games.  Sure some of them have fairy simple rules, but most of them require commitment.  Lots of commitment.  For example, in FarmVille the main way to advance is by planting crops and harvesting them to gain experience and money.  As simple as that is, the gameplay is in real time and once the player plants a crop they would have to wait however many minutes to hours in order to harvest that crop.  Once someone continues to do this they essentially begin to reorganise their life and schedule to get back on the game to harvest their crops to get more money and reach the goals that the game has laid out for them.  This is what makes the game not casual and even more hardcore then “hardcore” and sometimes MMOG’s.

This leads into the big one: massively multiplayer online game (MMOG).  These are games that take the mechanics and dynamics from hardcore games and add a “massive” new level of online and player interaction.  These games allow for millions of players to be playing the same game online and  are typically played on PC (for our purposes).  Most MMO’s fall under the MMORPG’s, MMORTS and MMOFPS category combining the RPG, RTS and FPS game mechanics with a gigantic online mode attached.  These games have endless shelf lives and huge play times because the developers are constantly adding new content to them.  Rather then paying $60 for a video game, many of the MMO’s have monthly fees or a free-to-play model with micro transactions. While the monthly fees allow for a good quality game, the free-to-play model is built upon making the player the play game for as long as possible to entice them to buying items with real world cash.

This leads me into my main point, people using game design for monetary gain and crafting meaningless goals rather then crafting an experience.  As a huge fan of this medium I love how people can design games to build giant and rewarding experiences that entertain the player.  They do this by setting meaningful goals that the player is self-motivated to reach, and in order to help self-motivate the player we try to immerse the player into the game so that they are having fun.  What angers me is when designers create a game that motivates players to continue playing for hours and hours with really meaningless goals and once they reach a plateau in gameplay and the only way to progress is by grinding for hours with repetitive gameplay.  At this point many developers create items and cheats that help the player advance by buying “exclusive” items with real cash.

Summary

Starting with VRG, these games shelf life begin to slowly erode away as time goes on.  The initial concept of being fully immersed into a video game is very entertaining but the most important thing is constantly setting new goals for the player to reach so that each play session is geared toward reaching a new goal rather then the same virtual experience every time.  If the goals are the same each time then the game begins to loose its spark very fast after the player has spent an hour playing the game.  For these games we must continue to create dynamic and worthwhile goals that the player wants to achieve rather then just simulating the real world.

Hardcore games are the bulk of the games industry and each game has its own ups and downs.  If you want a game with a long shelf life you would either go for a game with a extensive online mode or a game with a long single player experience.  If you want a quality experience with an excellent story and gameplay you are typically looking at games with a short shelf life but are very entertaining and rewarding to play.  As game developers our goal is to provide a full fledged experience utilising new technologies and graphics to help our gameplay mechanics flourish to bestow upon the player the best and most entertaining experience we can.

Casual games are meant to be enjoyed for people who are on the go and have time to kill.  These games are not meant to provide a full virtual experience with 3D sound and state of the art visuals, rather provide a simple and fun experience for people who don’t have access to a home theatre system at that time.  This is why as game designers we must create very simple and rewarding goals for the player to achieve that can be achieved through smaller game sessions.

MMO’s are tricky games to develop for.  First of, developing a game for the MMORPG market is futile.  As long as World of Warcraft exists no other game can dare to compete with its worlds vast size and content. It has been in development since 2004 as well as having released 4 massive expansion packs to extend the life of the game.

Closing Remarks

When developing MMO’s and other games designers need to ethically think about their impacts on the players.  By creating such vast worlds and forcing player immersion, what happens when the player is too fully immersed into the game?  What happens when the player logs 8 hours in your game every day and the player looses all social interaction with his friends to keep up with gameplay elements?

Sure these are choices that the player makes, but as designers we can’t be ignorant to these issues.  We need to place limitations on gameplay.  Nexon does this nicely in Vindictus by giving the player a maximum amount of tokens to enter dungeons per day to limit gameplay.

Maybe it is just me, but I think it is in bad taste or bad moral fibre to manipulate the player into buying items for your own monetary gain.  While designers do need money to survive, there are better ways in getting paid for making games rather then cornering and attacking your players.

Thank you for reading

– Moose

Game Autopsy: Realm of the Mad God

Hello! Merry Weekend

I would like to introduce you to Realm of the Mad God. (RMD)

Overview

RMD is essentially a co-op fantasy MMO shooter browser based game made by Wild Shadow Studios.  The game is basically about surviving in this fantasy realm.  You pick one of 3 main starter classes (archer, wizard, priest) and in order to unlock the 10 other classes, the player must reach up till a certain level with each class.  For example, in order to unlock the warrior, the player must reach level 5 with the rouge, in order to unlock the rouge the player must reach level 5 with the archer.  The top level classes require you to reach level 20 with other classes.

Classes In RMG

The Hook

I saw this game while browsing through the Google App store, and saw some neat pixel art and looked at the overview and review tabs of the App store and decided to give it a try.  This was just around the same time when I was finishing my second semester of my first year in the game development program and I knew how difficult it was to create pixel art and this game looked like it had a good aesthetic to it.

Game Mechanics

The way I played the game was I waited at a server entrance (little cave like things) to be nearly full and joined it.  These servers allow you to enter the wilderness or Realm where all the enemies are.  The point is to go to this wilderness and kill monsters to gain experience and level up.  The game is easy to play for the first 5 level’s solo, however once you reach level 10, the monsters you need to kill are very difficult to fight alone.

Server Entrace

The reason why I wait for the server to get full is because its a LOT more fun to play with hordes of other players.  Since it is cooperative, there is shared experience but not shared loot.  So everyone wants your help to kill huge monsters, but the real game is running to get the final kill on the monster and grab its loot before everyone else does.

Basic Low Level Boss Battle

The key is to get into these things called “trains” and “hordes” to level up really fast and gain rank.  By levelling up to level 20 in each class you gain rank and that allows to to get better items in the shop and other rewards.  But the hordes are huge groups of up to 30+ characters in one blob shooting their attacks outward and in every direction hoping to hit the enemies.  These hordes have priests that help heal characters, warriors that stand in the front to deal damage, paladins to take damage and increase the packs damage resistance and then the mages and archers in the back firing their spells.  A train is a moving horde across a pathway, and being in a train is lots of fun.  The ability to run and try to lead the pack and get the first hit on many monsters is very entertaining.

Example of a Horde

As you can see, things can get very hectic in a horde and many people die.

The basic game mechanics are you click the mouse to shoot your spell, arrow and sword, while dodging the enemy attacks.  The enemy attacks are normally projectiles in different sprite shapes and sizes.  The main game element is survival.  Death means something in this game.  When you die, its over.  All of you items are dropped for other players to pick up and depending on how well you did, you gain fame that can be spent in the item shop for rare items.

Death makes the game fairly difficult because there are times when a player is at level 19 fighting the huge bosses in the high level area and one massive attack from a big boss can take away almost all their health and they would be dead.

Summary

The point of the game is to survive and live as long as possible to gain fame and rank.  You gain fame and rank by killing level bosses and big monsters.  The basic attacks the player can utilise are his main unlimited attack by using a wand, scepter, bow or sword.  Wands and bows are fast and can shoot multiple projectiles.  Scepters are stronger but much slower and swords are very strong but have a very low range.

Each class has a secondary attack that does different things.  The archer can shoot magic arrows while the priest can heal everyone within a certain radius.

Likes and Praises

The reason why I liked this game the most was because it was really easy to pick up and play for as long as you wanted.  Anyone could play for 5 min and level up and be content or they can put in about 45min and they could get a character to level 20.  Like many MMORPG’s on the internet, it takes months and many hours out of ones life to advance in the game.  This game can be played very casually and it would still be very enjoyable.

The overall aesthetic of the game is really nice.  everything follows the same pixelated art style and all the game assets come together to be presented very nicely.  For a free game you really get a good polished piece of work.

Teamwork!  A lot of MMO’s put you against every other player in the world, but this game really enforces cooperative gameplay.  You cant reach level 20 while having fun without a good group of team mates to have your back and buff you.

NO GRINDING!  Many MMO’s make the player grind for hours to reach level X and get $XXX so they can get this piece of armour.  The armour drops are all at random, or dropped by certain monsters.  The only way to get that armour is to be the fastest clicker and pick it up before anyone else.  There is also player trading.

Dislikes and Criticism

Very overpowered bosses.  While I do realise they wanted to make the bosses difficult and so that only packs of people can kill them, I find that there is no way to “be a hero” in this game.  If you try to rush in and do some damage you end up becoming the epicentre of the bosses attacks and even at level 20 with decent equipment you will die very easily.  I would make the bosses attacks do a little less damage so people can rush in without dying so quickly.  Most of the time I felt like a coward in these battles sitting at the back lines trying to avoid the enemies attacks without dying.

More inventory and elements for free players.  There is only one treasure chest with 6 item slots for your character to save loot in.  Also you only get one character slot to start.  Unless your want to dish out money to conform to the free-to-play micro transaction model to get more items, inventory space and character slots.  The game emphasizes on the micro transaction model way to much and it breaks a lot of the immersion that the game play builds up on.  Granted that the inventory slots and more character save slots are not needed.

More RPG aspects.  The base of operations where you pick your server and store your items is called the Nexus.  There is an arbitrary store there that you can purchase items with fame and real money.  However it would be nice if there were more NPC’s that gave you quests and had item shops.  More RPG elements would help the immersion a lot.

Closing Remarks

There really is not much else to say about this game, but it is worth checking out.  Who knows you might spend 5min to 30min playing this game.

 

– Moose

 

Midnight Munchkin Madness

Hello Mr./Mrs. Reader,
Game OverviewToday I will be going into a review of the board game Munchkin

  • Card game for 3-6+ players (expansion packs allow for more players)
  • Role Playing Game
  • Play time: 1hr+
  • Set up time for new players: 10 – 20 min
    • Need a large table or surface to play
    • Need a pen and paper to record level and token count or any other method (iPhone Munchkin Application, phone note taking application etc.

Game Rules

Essentially Munchkin is a dungeon crawler.  There are two decks of cards, a treasure deck and a door deck.  You play the role of a level 1 human dungeon crawler.  The point of the game is to kick open doors (draw a card from the door deck) to find out what is in that room and to be the first to reach level 10.  You will encounter one of three things when you open a door: a monster, a curse or a buff.

If you encounter a monster you can fight it and if you beat it you get a level and you get to draw from the treasure deck.  If the monster’s level is too high then you can ask for help from one person and other players can play curses and buffs to aid or backstab you.  If you can’t beat the monster then you can flee, depending on the monster you may die, loose a level or have a negative penalty of some sort.

If you encounter a curse then the player has to submit to the effect of the curse.

If you encounter a buff you can keep it or play it immediately.  Buffs can be anything from a race (elf, dwarf and halfling) to a class (thief, warrior, wizard and cleric) and other bonuses (raise a monster’s attack by 5, loose two cards etc.).

A players turn begins with the door kick, then a combat phase if they fight a monster.  Followed by the looting phase where they get the monster’s defeated loot or they draw another card from the door deck if a monster was not encountered.  The player can also summon a monster to fight from their hand to fight if they did not normally encounter one.

Munchkin Items

Likes

  1. Very entertaining once the player is able to learn the rules.  All our group members were fully immersed in the game and had a great time playing it.
  2. The balance for the player levelling system is mostly fair.  There are plenty of ways to increase your level and decrease your competition’s level.  There were many times when two players were near to winning the game and everyone ganged up to backstab the player in the lead to keep the game going.
  3. The social aspect of the game was also very fun.  Since board games are meant to be fun social experiences, Munchkin did this through the use of their class and combat system (Thief’s can back stab other players to create obstacles in their battle).  You can form alliances and bribe your friends with items that are not in the game.  At one point I formed a secret alliance with another player and it was our goal to team up annihilate the other team mates because we were both clerics and the rest of the players were thieves.
  4. The game can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be.  If the players would like to play a simple game where they would just draw cards and play free-for-all, they can do that.  Whereas, if they wanted to players can form alliances and gang up on their friends while creating obstacles for others, they can also do that.
  5. The level of simplicity is probably one of its best points.  While the game may seem complicated at first the actual gameplay is fairly simple.  A player’s turn can be finished in 10 seconds e.g. open a door, fight a monster, collect treasure.  If others were to interject, then the turns would last longer going into alliance agreements and player’s asking for help and what not.  This makes the game flow nice and quick at times while the other players are not waiting a long time for their turn to come.
  6. The art style of the game is also very enjoyable making it both graphically and aesthetically pleasing.  The names of the cards and the pictures on them are along the lines of comic-mischief making it seem like you are playing a game with the characters on your Sunday morning comic paper
Chicken on your head

Dislikes

  1. The rules were a bit tough to pick up for very new players.  The rulebook is essentially a small pamphlet that could be turned into a more graphical and easier to read book.  The pamphlet is informative and it seems like it was meant for players that were ecstatic to be playing Munchkin and familiar with these types of games.  For new players it was a bit like drinking water out of a fire hose.
  2. The coin and monetary system was very useless and didn’t serve such a good purpose.  The description for it could have been better in the rule book.  If there was something to change in a future version, this could be it.  The game does not include tokens to use for money, it simply states use whatever you want (poker chips, tokens, real money).
  3. There should be more classes and more variety.  When our group was playing, we had 3 players playing as thieves that coordinated their backstabbing ability with other players to annoy them.  This was a bit demoralizing to those players and it felt like they were losing interest in the game because of trouble advancing.  However there are expansion packs available for this game that you would have to purchase elsewhere to solve this issue.  However given that the price of the game is about $30, there should be more content considering it only comes with about 170 cards and one die.  Not the best bang for you buck.
  4. More items!  It would be nice if there were more physical items, like figurines, visual aids and some other physical devices players can have to increase immersion.
  5. The levelling reward system for killing monsters was a unfair.  If you managed to kill a level 16 monster and you are level 5, the level boost should have been greater.  I don’t think players were rewarded enough for great efforts in killing higher level monsters.
  6. The classes and in-game combat could use a bit more depth.  It felt like sometimes it was over to quick.  Since this is a Role Playing Game, it would be nice if it came with a history book or something advanced players could read to pull off more moves in combat.  For example, if you were a cleric and you were fighting a vampire or an undead monster, the history book would show that if they defeat that monster they are allowed to take a specific item from a treasure pile.  Something along those lines to give the battle and classes more depth.

What to change

If I was able to design some parts of the game differently I would choose between changing how the monetary and coin system worked, to increasing the depth of the combat system.  The combat system currently is fine for new players.  However, if you were playing with more advanced users, it would be nice if there was a history book or extended rule book that had class, race and item profiles that gave a nice twist.  This way when a character is in a pickle fighting a high level monster they could pull off some expert move and get away safely without losing items or dying.

For the coin and monetary system, I would create a shop where it holds decent items and other things the character can buy.  Also after each monster kill you would be awarded treasure and coins.  This would give the player more cash flow.  Not enough to amass for a level increase every turn, but enough to get cheap items to use.  This would give a more RPG feel to the game and give players more cash flow.  Otherwise the old way to get money is to trade items in.  However items are very valuable and are worth more in your hand then gold is.

Questions

To get some feedback on this post here are some questions that I hope you take the time to answer in the reply box below:

Those who have not played Munchkin before:

  • Do you think that board games like Munchkin offer a better social experience then an online console game (Call of Duty, Gears of War, Starcraft, League of Legends etc.) or Facebook social game?
  • Would you rather pick up Munchkin for $30 bucks or spend that money on a video game? If you pick the Video game, write down which video game and why.
  • Do you still play board games? Which one if your favourite?

Those who have played Munchkin:

  • Do you agree that Munchkin is a fairly simple game, or do you think it is really complicated?
  • How do you feel about the level system? Do you think it is balanced? Should players be offered greater rewards for killing monsters?
  • Do you agree with my idea for a small in-game store that with a few items?  What would you do differently?
  • If Munchkin came with a history book, would you read it and plan out advanced strategies to use with your favoured class or race?

Also feel free to criticise and comment on whatever else you would like, the questions are just guidelines to help formulate an answer.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose

Game Autopsy: Dragons of Atlantis

Good Wednesday to you,

I am planning on creating a post-mortem analysis for some games I have recently played or enjoyed and felt that it was worth blogging about.

Overview:

To start of let me introduce you to Dragons of Atlantis (DOA) made by Kabam.  Kabam is a developer of “Hardcore Social Games” using a free-to-play business model.  They mainly release their games on Facebook, but also have a playable client on their website.  They mainly make strategy RPG games or Real Time Strategy MMO’s that can be played in a browser.

The main point of DOA is to build an empire while finding and raising dragons.

4 Playable races that govern the art style of your buidlings

The Hook:

The way I was introduced to this game was via the Google Chrome Application Store.  Since I rarely play video games (<10 hours month) due to classwork, I am always looking for quick games that I can play for 10-30min that offer a quick and entertaining gaming experience.  From the past I have been able to find these types of games on the Chrome App store, which is why I browse the game section every now and then.  I find the Chrome App store a good place to find some quality games without going to Kongregate or some other free online game site with thousands of flash games.

The first thing that attracted me was the dragons.  At this time I was stoked that Skyrim was coming out and developed a 6th sense that made anything with dragons and Skyrim terminology pop out.  Without reading the description I installed the application and got distracted and left it in my App collection.  After a few days when I took another procrastination break on the internet I remembered that I downloaded an app for this game and decided to give it a try.

A high level city

Game Mechanics:

Essentially the point of the game is to gather resources (lumber, metal, stone, food and gold) and build an army to conquer wildernesses (lake, hill, mountain, forest,  savannah and plains) and indigenous enemy camps. You use the resources to create and upgrade your buildings (level 1 – 11) and army (Conscripts to Minotaurs to Giants etc.).

Resources can be gained by creating fields (lumber mills, quarries, mines and farms) or by looting and pillaging camps and cities.

Buildings are what your city is comprised of.  The buildings like garrisons allow you to build your army and a science centre allows you to research new technologies.  There are many other buildings for different purposes like a house to increase your population and a theatre for increasing the overall happiness of your population.

The player is governed by a level and power.  Power is essentially what most other games use as experience.  Power is governed by the size of your army, level of all your buildings and a few other insignificant gameplay elements.  The only real benefit to having a high level and power is to join stronger alliances (guilds) to get higher in the leaderboard ranking.  Some gameplay elements like building an outpost and unlocking other dragons are locked if you do not meet the level requirement.

Researching also plays a huge part in the gameplay.  In order to get better troops and be able to train a greater dragon to fight in battles, the player has to sacrifice resources to research certain technologies.  For example, the player can increase his lumber production by researching Woodcraft.  If the player would like to train Longbowmen he would have to have Woodcraft lvl 5 in order to research Weapons Calibration to create the Longbowmen.

Each player starts of with a basic dragon keep at level 1. At level 1 the player starts of with a dragon egg.   The more they upgrade it the larger their greater dragon grows.  Dragons are very powerful and require lots of resources to advance in level.  Once the player manages to find 4 pieces of dragon armour by attacking enemy camps he is able to research Aerial Combat and have his dragon fight with him in battles.  The idea is to bring your dragon into battle so she can find other dragon eggs for you to expand your empire with.

The penultimate game mechanic are the troops. Essentially you can group all of them into 5 categories (5th is dragons):

  1. Pack mules – These are somewhat the “bitch” troops that only exist to carry your spoils of war (resources).  Once you defeat someone in battle you get to loot their place.  Normal troops cannot carry too much weight and make up for that in combat skill.
  2. Speed Troops – These are the faster troops (Swift Strike Dragons, Spies etc.) that are used for killing ranged enemies.  They are also good for farming for resources because they can reach areas fast, kill quickly in large numbers and return to your city with the spoils of war.  This would be faster then sending out an army with many pack mules.
  3. Ranged Troops – From what I have noticed these are the strongest troops able to demolish the enemy if deployed in large numbers.  They seem to be very effective against melee troops.
  4. Melee Troops – These are the cheap cannon fodder troops that are easy to build and effective when used in very large numbers.  However there are stronger melee focused troops  like giants and ogres.

Battling is pretty much the last part of the game.  In order to start a battle the player picks a target: wilderness, AI enemy camp  or another player city.  An attack is simply initiated by selecting a General (can use a Facebook friend to be your general) to lead your army and then selecting however many troops to send into battle.  If the player attacks a:

  • Wilderness –  They are able to place an outpost on that wilderness and get an hourly resource increase proportional to its level. For example, a level 2 hill would give a 10% increase to stone per hour to the player whereas a level 8 lake would give a 40% increase to food.  The reward for defeating a wilderness is a small number of resources of that wilderness type, the only reason to attack a wilderness is for the hourly bonus.
  • Anthropus Camp – The indigenous camp can be attacked for a substantial amount of food and a minimal supply of other resources.  The camps are a good place to find items and if the player attacks level 5+ camps he is able to find pieces of dragon armour.
  • Player City – These are the other players in the game.  Attacking them is the biggest risk of all.  Cities have the most amount of resources however they could have the strongest defences.  If a player makes the mistake of fighting someone much stronger, they can loose their army and entice a counter-attack.  Worst of all if the player attacks a city in an Alliance, he would have 5 or more other people teaming up to fight him because of his initial unprovoked attack while the victim’s guild fights for revenge.

Summary

Overall the point of the game is to expand your empire by finding other dragons to build cities around.  To find other dragons the player must train his main dragon to fight in battle.  In order to train the main dragon the player must procure resources.  In order to attain resources faster, the player must construct more buildings and train an army to loot and pillage camps and wildernesses.

Likes and Praises

I have been playing this game for about a week now and I believe it is a fun casual game.  Since I do not have the time to sit in front of my wonderful gaming set up (55″ Plasma and 5.1 surround with my Xbox 360) and play Skyrim/Dead Island/MGS HD Collection for hours, this game fills a bit of my gaming appetite.  It requires about 5-10 minutes of thought in deciding on what troops to build and what to upgrade then you wait for the command to execute while to get back to your previous task.  I found this helpful for time management since I would upgrade an item that would take an hour to complete and then send all my platoons for an attack.  After an hour or whenever I remembered I would come back and do it again.

What  DOA and most Facebook games do well is addicting you to the game.  You become compelled to create a gigantic city and gather all these dragons to reach a goal that you don’t know.  You end up adjusting your schedule to comprise for the wait times in the game so that you can create another task as to not waste time.  This is where the line of a “fun” game and a game “addiction” begin to cross.  When you are setting an alarm at 4:30am just to wake up because your Weapons Calibration Lvl 6 is done and you want to start researching Mercantilism lvl 3 so it will be done by the time you start class is when the game begins to take over your life.  Surely this might not have been the designers intention, but nonetheless it is a problem.

I think the best part about this game is the presentation.  There are many games that have pretty much the same content as DOA like Tribal Wars and TRAVIAN however DOA does a fairy good job in its aesthetics. While these browser games won’t bring anything special to the table in terms of graphics (Good technical rendering techniques) however DOA’s overall aesthetic is very good.  The game elements look every well put together with a nice colour palette and bright colours.  Also its not like some other browser games where you are loading web pages, it seems to be presented using flash which allows it to have animations playing.  I played Tribal Wars a few years ago and I remember how terrible the aesthetics were.  While graphics may make games looks pretty, aesthetics pretty much bring everything together in terms of sound, visuals and gameplay.  I think DOA has some pretty decent aesthetics and it would be nice to see more animation rather then just building and dragon animations.

Dislikes and Criticism

I really disliked some technical aspects of the game.  Whatever server they were using was way too slow and the update timer for wait times and resources was painfully slow at times.  The game would state that it only would take 5 min to complete a task but with the server lag it would take 8-10 min to update.  Also at times your entire army would be empty.  They would be lost in a state of virtual limbo in-between your city and the wilderness where you can only wonder if your troops are okay and if they will come home safe.

However it seems like the technical issues are being dealt with, and occur the most in high populated servers. Since the game is free-to-play and seems to be in some hybrid beta-release stage where they are adding and fixing content weekly these bugs are expected.

I think their resource system could use a bit of a revamp.  Food is a pain to get during the first day and after that point you begin hoarding millions of bushels of food not knowing what to do with it.  Stone on the other hand you rarely use, but when you do, the game requires thousands of tonnes of stone to continue upgrade items.  Lumber and metal are needed throughout the game as they are the main resource needed for upgrading dragons and training your army.  It would be nice if they incorporated more food in that equation to equal out the metal and lumber consumption.

Since this is meant to be a social game, there are very few social widgets available.  For now there is just a world and guild chat box, marketplace and a simple guild menu.  There should be more options to interact and friend other players to add to the “social” aspect of the game.  The marketplace could use more options, as of now you can only trade resources for money, it would be better to trade resource for resources and add a few more options (haggling, gifting etc.).  The chat box serves a decent purpose however the guild menu needs a revamp.  Aside from browsing other players to send messages, resources and reinforcing their troops, there really isn’t a lot to do.  There should be some way for the Guild Master to communicate with the members and ways to coordinate attacks and create treaties and other items like that.

Battle highlights that show resources gained and troops lost

Closing Remarks

From DOA I have learned how important the technical side is.  The server issues are almost game breaking and lack polish, nothing breaks immersion more then a “sorry can’t load page” or issues with resources and in game items.  I have also seen the importance of balance, DOA does a pretty decent job of balancing the resources and maybe the influx of food and massive stone upgrades are intentional to let the player focus his time on lumber and metal.

Overall, DOA and social games are good to study for game designers because the design of these games is completely different from any other game I have seen.  There are several new parameters to take in as opposed to making a puzzle game or a first person shooter.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose