Tuesday, January 30, 2007


On a recent "Inside the Actor's Studio," Micheal J. Fox was being interviewed. He had a pretty funny comment about why he didn't like math. Why I can't quite remember the exact quote, it went something along these lines.

"Two plus two equals four. That's it. There's nothing else to it. No matter who adds them up, it's always the same. It's been solved."

And then he went on about how acting let's him explore new things, and how his interpretation of a character is going to be different than someone elses. Math is always the same.

The ability to play around with new, unique things is a fun part of design (and more than often, can be rough). At one point I was more than happy to try and design games around a certain mechanic or theme that I had seen in another game, just to muck around with it. Isla Margarita is a good example of this. I had seen the game called Bridges of Shangri La, and decided that I wanted to try my hand at a connect-things-with-bridges game. Then I mixed in a little of Puerto Rico-styled select-your-action game play. It still might feel new because of the changes I've made as the design went along, but I don't feel like there's anything TRULY unique about the game.

I've progressed beyond that now. Now I want to try and create new systems along with new games. While the final product may not exhibit any truly unique requirements from the outside viewer, a lot of my design process now is spent on trying to derive things that are entirely new.

Minsterpool reflects this. While it might feel like another typical political/area influence game, I really wanted to try and make a game in which characters and relationships died over time, and in that regard, the players also had some amount of control over the speed of their deaths. I'm not sure how much a player gets from this initial design challenge; hopefully, it feels new and fresh because of this. But it's also somewhat abstracted out to "just playing an action card."

Vegas Showdown is a game that is fairly interesting in this respect. Here's a game that gets really good ratings, yet also gets seemingly punished for borrowing too many elements from other games. First of all, while some of the elements might seem borrowed, there's plenty of differences. Most notably is the "lay out your rooms" mechanic, possibly borrowed from Prince of Florence. Aside from the basic description of placing tiles in a confined space, the actual usage feels completely different to me. Princes had all these weird odd-ball shapes that you had to contend with; made especially harder if you didn't bother buying up builders, which lessened various spacing requirements. It really was Tetris on a board. Vegas is different; it's more about connecting rooms appropriately, and placing certain tiles next to each other. Princes didn't care what was next to each other, just as long as you fit them in your little world.

Granted, the auctions are somewhat similar, but that's pretty much the way all auction games work. Overall Princes was more about building all this machinery to play your scoring cards; Vegas is a little more "pure" in the room layout respect; it's all about how you place tiles on your board, and how they connect. They are both strong games that share some similar aspects, but not enough similarity for me to complain. While I love Princes, there's a huge amount of headaches in that game, regarding things like the evergrowing minimum point value for creating a work of art and the shopping list of stuff you must be continually adding up. Vegas is happily streamlined.

Anyway, as I've said, I've tried to move on to trying to develop mechanics as uniqie as possible now. Since Comcast has put the halt on Restless for the time being, I'm now setting my sights on doing another solitaire project based on the Leviathan discussion at BGDF.

This has been rattling in my brains for some time, and I've sort of parsed the game down into a few distinct mechanics that I'm trying to approach with new ideas. Most notably, I've been trying to come up with a new way to resolve combat. No dice throwing, no charts of comparison numbers, etc. Yet something relatively simple and doable under the auspice of a solitaire game. And I think I've finally come up with something that I'm currently mocking up to test. This is definitely going to be a fairly unique approach to handling battles (at least in my mind).

Additionally, there's a few other mechanics that I'm dealing with, as outlined below:

As the discussion in the BGDF thread boiled down, the goal of the game should be mostly about spreading the tales of terror of the terrible monster (you) that has attacked the ships, so the real goal of the game is to create Tale points at various ports around the Atlantic Ocean. However, as ports grow wise of the terrible creature out at sea, fleets from those ports will start to include warships to battle the monster below; large amounts of fame and famous monster hunters will start joining in the chase.

As a side note, I want the monster to "evolve" as the game goes. But the monster will evolve somewhat randomly, based on the ships the player has taken down previously. The Evolution system will take place, at least in my initial thinking, as a set of captain's logs, telling tales of the horrible beast. Fun flavor text that will hopefully create a nice little story that changes with each play. I think that I'm going to borrow somewhat from the Betrayal at the House on the Hill mechanic of determining the Haunts in the game.

So those are my three major systems I'm looking at: Battle, Tales, and Evolution. And they need to intertwine. And I think I've got all the pieces in my head.

There are obviously many lower level systems at work, as in any game. These include things like player movement, determining the ship types in an area of the ocean, etc.

Time to get to work.

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