Thursday, November 13, 2008

Procedures, Part 2 (The World)

Ok, part two. So, as a quick refresher, the design goal here is: by designing the game in such a way that data parts of the game are "built on the fly," we can keep our original component count low, while, in theory, making a pretty "big" game.

And so, with much ado, I present... Epic Solitaire Notepad Adventures. A grand solitaire adventuring game across vast wildernesses, with mighty battles, missions of intrigue, incessant looting....

...all on twenty cards. Which you can download by clicking here. All you will need is the cards, plus a writing utensil (a pencil) and a pad of paper. And a coin, I guess, if you want a token to indicate where you are.

A sample card is off to the left here. There's quite a bit of data point here, which are used to describe various aspects within the game, and to randomly build game data for use in the game.

The plan here is to discuss each system a bit individually, and how it relates to "on the fly" data components. The cards will most likely change somewhat as I get a bit further on in the development; in fact, there's always the chance, like most things of a design-y nature, that the damn thing just won't work, and it eventually gets tossed on the dusty shelves where all the other bright ideas that didn't pan out wind up.

ESNA is basically a solitaire fantasy world game; go around the world, go do missions, level up, beat up on monsters and steal their loot. There seems to be some calling for this kind of game on BGG on occasion. So, it's a good target to shoot for. As you will notice, unlike a typical Hack-n-Slash loot game, the cards don't have any flavor text, or names of fascinating creatures and such. What the cards DO have is the raw data needed for creating these things. It is up to the player to add personality to the things that get created on the way as the cards merely provided attributes to these pieces of data.

Anyway, this will become more clear as we go. For starters, let's get you building some worlds!

So, right now, the core gameplay, for all that we care out, is moving around in the world. The general deck action that we all know and love applies: draw a card, get the data you want off the card, then discard. If the deck empties out, reshuffle the discard pile and make a new deck.

On one sheet of paper, you will be drawing a map of the world. The map will be drawn as a series of land regions known as Kingdoms. Kingdoms are places that the player can move back and forth through, having completely fabulous adventures and such. Kingdoms have various attributes, most of which are assign by the ESNA cards, but some that are assigned, or placed by the player. The player aspect of this is important, as it grants a bit of strategy to the mix.

To begin....we need a Kingdom for you to start at! Draw the border of a Kingdom on your pad of paper. A Kingdom can contain A) a Name B) a certain amount of paths to other Kingdoms, B) two land types that describe the type of Kingdom it is, C) A Village, A Castle or a Temple.

Doing the easy part first, give the Kingdom a name. There's only one restriction to this...each Kingdom name must start with a unique letter, A through T. This allows the ESNA cards to "call out" a particular Kingdom when necessary by referencing just the letter (A,B,C...T). Sure, you could simply call your first Kingdom "A", but there' no fun in that. Let's go with "Alyndale".

Paths let you travel to neighboring Kingdoms. Your starting Kingdom starts with 4 Paths, which are drawn as dotted lines that extend to the border.

Each Kingdom has two different land types associated with it; in this case, the cards determine these attributes. So, draw a card off the top of the deck, and look at the land type in the large square sort of centered at the top of the card. There are Forests, Mountains, Deserts, and Farmlands. Draw the symbol in your Kingdom. Repeat this action one more time.

Finally, since this is your home Kingdom, there is a Village here. Draw a little Village icon in this Kingdom, and give it a Level of 1, by drawing a "1" in the center of it. In a later post, I'll get into the leveling system.

Ultimately, what you should wind up with is something that looks like the Kingdom off to the side here. Alyndale, in my world is a pleasant forested Kingdom! Oh, sweet Alyndale.

All cutesy aside, this is the basic data structure for a Kingdom. Generally, as you follow paths and go off exploring, you won't be placing Populated Landmarks (Villages, Castles, Temples) as those are added by a different means, but this is pretty much it.

So, let's do a little exploring. Following the example above, your hero decides to take the path on the upper right to venture off into the world. So, go and draw a new region for the shape you want this Kingdom to take, draw a path that continues into the new Kingdom, and give it a name starting with a letter you have not used. After this, draw two cards to determine the land types the Kingdom contains.

However, there's an additional card draw that's required when moving to a new Kingdom. After determining the land types, draw one more card, and look at the very upper right hand corner of the card, for the stat that lists "addl. paths." The indicates how many additional paths you can draw from with in the Kingdom. In the case of my example, "Beaverton" drew a card that lets me draw three additional paths. It should be noted that the borders between two Kingdoms can only include 1 path.

As your hero continues to go off and find new Kingdoms, there's a bit of trickiness in the way you build your world. Since you only are able to build a single "free" path in a new Kingdom when you follow a path to get there, trying to build a nice multi-faceted network of Kingdoms is risky. But at the same time, you don't want to be building a "single long chain" of Kingdoms. You don't want to be exploring Chile.

So, let's take a look at a further example of this; a new Kingdom called Caldwilly. Exploring from Beaverton into the new Kingdom of Caldwilly, we decided to draw Caldwilly close to Alyndale (in order to make a nice, easily travelled network), and drew our "free" path from Beaverton into Caldwilly. Then we drew our land types. Finally, we drew for additional paths.

And got "zero additional paths."

So, the path that we expected to connect Caldwilly to Alyndale doesn't exist, so we will have to cross out the "dead" upper-left path in Alyndale. And so it goes.

Anyway, this is the basic building blocks of building a world "on the fly." There's quite a bit of personalization going on, and a bit of strategy, with a dash of luck, so you won't be able to build the perfect network of Kingdoms. The important thing to concentrate on here is how player-created data filled up a "virtual template" for the game rules to understand. And of particular note, pay attention to the first-letter coding of the Kingdom name, as this will be used further.

Next chapter, the Kingdom's population grows, and monsters appear.

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Blogger Jeremiah said...


This is fantastic, and inspiring.
Speaking of inspiring, I owe you a copy of Zombie in my Pocket, as you were part of the inspiration for that.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Nunya Bidness said...

Hey doho,

Your PDF is missing card #15 (#14 is duplicated).


2:31 PM  

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