Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Introducing KitchenTable

Most likely because we've finally hit warm weather here in my hemisphere and Cicada Watch 2007 is in full swing, my desire to work on designs has slowed down. So I'm taking a break for awhile.

However, I've got a new project keeping my lunchtime busy.

Everyone on at BGDF seems to want a prototyping engine, something to easily playtest boardgames on. But, as one can expect, noone has really done anything about it, except to talk about what kind of features they want.

Sure, there are some amount of game playing engies out there; notably Vassal, Thoth, and Cyberboard. They all have their strengths, but for quick prototyping, based on my quick looks into their packages, they don't work very well. Since you actually have to "program in" the rules somewhat, it requires some amount of programming logic, and you really need to have a good sense of how the game operates before you even start getting into the meat of making a game for these systems. And so, making changes to rules as you go is VERBOTEN!

So, I've embarked on trying to come up with this application. And first passes at it have been promising. It works with a very simple mindset. Imagine a kitchen table where there are a bunch of game pieces strewn about. You can manipulate these in any way you wish, making up rules on how they are manipulated, or changing the rules, as you go.

This is pretty much what the software does. It's a "dumb" graphics engine, where users (through a network, local or online) can manipulate graphic objects in real-time on a shared visual table. And since it's simulating the above mentioned kitchen table, I'm eschewing all the fancy suggested names, and going with "KitchenTable" as it's name.

As a real-time example, imagine you want to play a game of chess. You simply load up all of the chess graphic objects, and your friend in another part of the world does the same. KitchenTable doesn't understand the rules of chess, but it allows you and your friend to play chess, in real-time, or whatever rules you want to use with those chess pieces.

You define want you want in your game by editing a simple .txt file (at this point, future plans would call for a drag-and-drop design module that creates the .txt file), which defines objects, and what type of object they are, and the graphics that you want associated with them.

You want to add some dice to your game? Go ahead, and create a die object in the game file. Your die object is simply a list of images that you want on each face of the die, so you can easily define how many sides you want on a die.

This is all being done in the almost-obsolete world of Shockwave. Actually, KitchenTable is a standalone executable program that is stored locally, and is not used in a browser. Why Shockwave? This is what we prototype games in at work, and I have become very fluent in it. Also, there is this thing called the Shockwave Multiuser Server (near the bottom of this link), also pretty much obsolete-d by Flash stuff, that handles a ton of the multi-user stuff. So it's fairly qucik and easy to send messages back and forth between multiple users.

As I've said before, initial tests have proven promising. So I'm now in the stage of cleaning things up from those tests and moving forward.

We'll have to see how long this diversion lasts, since this will most likely keep me busy at lunchtime for a while.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

The Great Canoe Race Challenge

In a rather surprising finish, I managed to snag 1st place in the May 2007 GDS at BGDF. I pretty much left this game for the dead, and even considered not spending the time to vote, due to the way that people typically vote.

It all starts at the beginning....

Last Thursday, when the contest theme and requirements were announced, there really was no genre announced, it was simply "create a canoe race" with some limitation regarding the thematic application of the race itself: simulate a long distance race, use canoes, and have obstacles to overcome.

And so, I quickly went about coming up with a game. But of course, as with all Game Design Showdowns, everyone is allowed one snarky comment about the just-posted conditions. (Well, if snarky comment rule isn't in the rules, it should be!).

And my comment was: "Is this supposed to be a game based on a canoe race, or for an ACTUAL canoe race?"

And I gleefully walked away, tuning up my entry. Which was then submitted.

This started a series of emails back a forth between Byrk (the guy who runs the GDS) and myself regarding my game; with him making suggestions about reducing it to tabletop form and such.

Normally, he doesn't make suggestions on these things. He just collects the entries, fixes some formatting, posts 'em, and collects the votes. Which all sounds really simply, but from my experience guest hosting, is a lot more work than one would think.

Anyway, a later post revealed what had happened. Due to my snarkiness, he added the "card or board game" restriction. And my design is a lawn bowling/dexterity/croquet variant. And therefore, was was disqualified for not meeting the requirements.

Not having enough time to come up with something new, and still really liking the idea of the lawn game, I suggested that he just put a disclaimer on the entry. At one point, it did qualify after all. Well, before my smart mouth. And so it was resolved, at least on that end.

However, asI said, I figured the game was a dead issue at this point. Typically, the way I THOUGHT people voted is that noone bothers to even read entries that don't meet the requirements; such as those entries which go over the 800 word limit. So I figured that everyone would go "Hey, it's not a board game, I won't bother with it."

Not that I think this is a wrong way to do things. You have to narrow out your best games somehow when voting and it's a good way to start, so you can spend your time where it's needed; trying to parse through the 4, 5 or 6 games that you think are special and deserve votes.

Alas, I was proven wrong.

As a historical side note, the story of Major John Wesley Powell is pretty interesting, if only due to the fact that not only was he in command of the first group of Europeans to raft down the Grand Canyon, but he did it with ONLY ONE ARM which he lost in the Civil War. That's pretty hardcore.

Major John Wesley Powell's Lawn Rafters

After being the first to river raft through the Grand Canyon, Major Powell takes on his next great adventure--your backyard!

A Lawn Rafter Kit Includes
  • 4 flags to designate Campsites.
  • Each player gets 3 Explorers. Each Explorer has a clickable Health Ring. Also, when tipped upside down, there is a Magic 8 ball-like die hidden in the base (explained later).
  • Each player gets 8 Supply blocks.
  • Each player get one Canoe. Canoes are little larger than the size of an American football,they have large wheels, and there is a recess at the top for placing Explorers and Supplies.

Place the Campsite Flags throughout your yard, preferably faraway from each other. These are effectively race checkpoints.

Each player loads up his Canoe with Explorers (up to 3) and Supplies (up to 8). It should be noted that the recess of the Canoe cannot hold all 9 items; there is limited space, and it is up to the player to determine how much of what he wishes "to pack" and how to pack it effectively. Explorer's Health Rings should be set to 2.

On a player's turn a player may do one of the following:

A player can pick up their Canoe (filled with Supplies and Explorers) and roll it (like a bocce ball or a bowling ball) across the yard, trying to hit the Campsite Flags in order. Players must be careful when rolling their Canoes, as hitting large bumps may cause Suppies and/or Explorers to fly out of the Canoe, rendering them Lost.

Any Lost Explorers should have their Health Ring clicked down 1 spot. If a Health Ring points to X, the player flips over Explorer, and looks at the "Magic 8 Ball" window, which randomly determines if the Explorer has "NO INJURY," or "BROKEN LEG." An Explorer with a Broken Leg is removed from the game.

If a Canoe hits an Abandoned (explained later) Supply or Explorer, the player may Rescue it by picking it up and placing it in their Canoe if they wish. Non-Abandoned? (Lost) Supplies and Explorers can only be Rescued by their owner.

Lost and Abandoned Explorers that are hit by Canoes should have their Health Rings clicked down minus 1. And again, if a Health Ring is at X, check for a Broken Leg to remove the Explorer from the game.

However, if a player does not wish to move his Canoe, he can simply pass up a move to simply pick up one lost Supply AND one lost Explorer and put it back in the Canoe, without moving the Canoe. However, if a player decides to move and leave Explorers and Supplies that have recently been lost, then those are considered to be Abandoned, and can be Rescued by any player with a carefully aimed move.

The player Abandons Explorers and Supplies to "the River" by moving his Canoe. Abandoned Explorers and Supplies are left in the yard where they were lost.

After hitting Campsites 1,2, or 3 a player can HEAL or EAT:

A player remove Supplies from his Canoe to add points to his Explorer Health Rings. For each Supply removed, he can "notch up" 1 Health.

Whether or not a player Heals, one Supply MUST be removed from the Canoe to feed the Explorers. If there are no Supplies left, the player must remove one of his Explorers from the game (mmmm, cannibalism).

Once a player hits the fourth and final Campsite, each player has one more turn to make the final Campsite. If noone else hits the fourth campsite, the player is the winner.

If other players hit the fourth Campsite, then the winner is determined by:
  1. First, who has the most Explorers in their Canoe.
  2. Second, who has the most Supplies in their Canoe.
Out of the Game
If at any point, a player has no Explorers left, he is out of the game.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Movie Review - Peter Pan

Strangely enough, it's usually pretty tough to get my nearly 4 year old daughter to watch the old Disney classics. Typically, it usually the newer 3-D fare, or "educational" Nick shows.

However, for some reason, she's fallen in love with Peter Pan.

I think she gets a kick out of the crocodile.

Anyway, I think I might have seen this once in my lifetime,probably wayyyyy back on the Sunday Wonderful World of Disney show. Maybe when I was 8 or 9 or something. And I was left very unimpressed with it.

But, now, I have had a chance to revisit it on numerous occasions between showings of Cars and, God Forbid, SharkTale.

Looking at Peter Pan from an adult's viewpoint in the year 2007, there are some pretty notable things about the movie.

First and foremost, the most recent run-ins I had with Pan-lore, aside from the very good "Wonderland," would clearly be "Hook," the Spielberg over-produced Robin Williams inner-child lovefest. It came off to me as fairly bad movie, but harmless enough where if there's nothing else on TV I would usually just leave it on as background noise.

But the thing that struck me the most about Hook was the over-the-top presentation of Captian Hook by Dustin Hoffman, which just seemed way too zany at the time.

Now that I've been able to watch the Disney version, my opinion has changed. Dustin Hoffman completely nailed Captain Hook. Hook in the Disney version is, boiled down to one word, schizophreneticinsane. He goes from a complete self-destructive obsession with finding Pan's hideout to completely losing his mind in hysterics when the Tick Tock of the crocodile faintly glides next to the ship.

So, hat's off to Mr. Hoffman.

And it should be known that while Hook seems like a complete loon in the cartoon, he commands a pretty serious set of bad-ass LOOKING pirates, as shown when he commands "ALL HANDS ON DECK" when we first see Pan apporaching Neverland with his London escapees in tow. You would think that at least one of these pirates would be thinking about that, maybe, it would be worth mutineering the ship or something. It's not like Hook is really into pirating anything aside from blantant revenge on Pan.

Secondly, the opening sequence contains another moment from a classic Disney film that no one in their right mind at Disney would try to film today (such as Pinochio smoking cigars). We see the parents putting the three kids to bed,and then, mindboggling for today's times, head off for a good night on the town!

Try that today, and your kids wind up not in a Neverland otherwise known as "The Department of Child Services."

Anyway, in the most recent viewing, I've caught on to something that will annoy me completely for the rest of my life every time I see it. It turns out that when Peter Pan is trying to teach the kids to fly, a good section of this sequence before the big "You Can Fly" musical interlude is spoken in rhyme. DAMN YOU, DISNEY! Now I'll only be listening intently for the rhyming patterns.

(As a side note, this has happened recently to me watching Cars. I now spend the ENTIRE length of that movie staring at the mountains and landscaping in the background, looking for shapes of fenders from old 1940's roadsters. DAMN YOU, PIXAR!)

Thirdly, given the yearly flap that one hears about Song of the South and how it's racial overtones make it unfit for release from the Disney vaults, it's pretty amazing that noone bothers to give the same treatment to the Indians (Native Americans)in Peter Pan. Maybe because it's they exist in the sort of fantasy world that is Neverland with other wacky stereotypes, such as pirates and mermaids. Or for some reason, 1950 stereotypical 'Red-men' are quaint, compared to stereotypical black plantation workers. Or simply, there isn't enough Native Americans around to cause enough uproar and protest, or to grandstand.

Fourthly and finally, for years and years, Disney has used Tinkerbell as part of their corporate image, "dinging" logos and castles with her magic pixie dust. What's surprising is that Disney has chosen as a major face of their corporation a complete and total jerk! At least Mickey is a nice guy; too bad his popularity faded away with the advent of Donald in the 40s. I mean, geez Mickey NEVER went out and deliberately went out of his way to try and KILL and major good chracter, which Tinkerbell does in the movie.

From the black pit of her jealous rage (which never really wanes throughout the movie), she tricks the Lost Boys early on into actually trying to kill Wendy. Holy cow! And this is the character that Disney has chosen to "show the magic" of the brand!?? Someone who could be put on trial for conspiracy and attempted murder!!??

Maybe Jack Bauer should be the corporate face for Disney; at least he tortures and kills for the good guys to protect us. Tinkerbell is just a jealous ticking time bomb. THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE MOVIE!

Of course, the jealous rages of the mermaids weren't any better either; attempting to "playfully drown" Wendy while man-child Peter looks on naively.


Anyway, these are things that really stood out to me in Peter Pan. They sure don't make'em like they used to.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Critical View

Through Yehuda's blog, I found this link to be interesting: a blog post from Digitally Disillusioned about how geekdom destroys the things they love. Well, to a point anyway.

So, just to fill up some space here with some critical reponse, here's my take on a few aspects of the post.

Comparison of sales between EuroGames/Designer Games and Monopoly:
This is a false comparison. You might as well be comparing the sales of Eurogames to little carved Tiki statues from Hawaii. Here's why.

I've worked on a Monopoly-licensed product in the past. One of the more distressing things to come out of the meetings was the finding that most (by a wide margin) of the Monopolys sold (and their licensed brethen, ala Star Wars Cantina Monopoly) are NEVER opened and played. They are simply bought as gifts for people targeting a hobby. "Chuck likes old cars, let's get him 70's Muscle Car Monopoly".

In other words, they are bought not as games to be played, but as mere trinkets, like non-posable (and thereby non-action) "collectible action figures." So while they are "games" in the sense that, yes, they have tokens and rules and boards and things to play with, in reality they aren't really purchased for their gaming qualities. Which is why Hasbro keeps churning out licensed versions of the game along with Clue and their other well known titles. It's a commodity, not a game.

Euro-games, on the other hand are typically bought to be played. However, even if you remove all of the gift sales from Monopoly and counted up the games that were pruchased to be played, they are still much higher.

There are obvious reasons for this: well-known brand, shelf space at popular stores, and cheap price. And all these wind up getting factored into the Great Circle of Sales Life. If you can sell many, many of games that don't get played due to the branding, you can get your price point down, which also gets you the shelf space, which gets you more eyes, which gets you more sales, which gets your price point down, etc, etc. Simpsons Carcassonne anyone?

That's not to say it's a bad thing. I've always thought the Starfarers of Catan would be a perfect fit for Star Trek with it's emphasis on exploration and (mostly) helping out various other ships in need. Acquire themed around the Las Vegas strip would be pretty great, too.

And in hindsight, building the town of Springfield with little colored Meeples that looked like the Simpsons would be fun. And more importantly, more interesting to someone who would have trouble pronouncing "Carcassonne."

The Geeks destroy the industry that they love:
In regards to the podcast issue, I've sort of watched this kind of thing happen to another product, pinball. It's a case of where the manufacturers probably started putting a little too much credence in what the 'rabid, but vocal' fanbase wanted. Really, the only outside feedback from a player's point fo view are these people with a passionate grasp on their selected hobby, and the last thing you want is to have the vocal passionate ones sounding off on how a particular game sucks. In addition, from a company standpoint, when you are hiring for new people, you usually wind up hiring the passionate ones, because, frankly, they'll be the ones that care the most.

(For those with prying eyes who want to check out pingeekdom, since pinball really has no equivalent website, the pingeeks are still in the dinosaur age of communities at the newsgroup known as It's a pretty active newsgroup in terms of daily posts, considering that's there's only one manufacturer or pinball left.)

Of course, the dark side to this, and it happens everywhere, is that you wind up losing focus on the "silent base." This is the vast majority of the world who may play your product once or twice, or more, and may or may not develop a following, but they aren't going to shout what they think about things to the moon. More product is moved through the silent base; it's just that they aren't passionate enough to let their feelings be known. It's not going to become an ongoing dedicated hobby or obsession for them, but it will keep them busy when there's nothing else to do.

And the nature of the internet makes it worse.

First, it's REALLY easy to have your voice heard. Just send off that email or post it to a message board! Anonymously, even!

Secondly, the internet allows "Villages of Village Idiots" to become a reality.

I can't remember where I first read about this concept, but it's pretty true. At some point, before the wonderful connected world of the internet, any person who was alone in their thinkings amongst their peers could be considered the Village Idiot. Imagine the scene of one guy in the medieval village, spewing out various conspiracy theories, hanging around the fountain in the village square, spounting out ideas that only he considered to be important. Sure, he was harmless with his opinions. And he was lonely. Bravely trying to get someone, ANYONE, to agree with him.

But now, online, all of the lonely Village Idiots can search each other out with similar opinions. And create their own virtual villages that can zero in on their own little passions. A Village of Idiots! A place where anyone with a crazy notion can find someone to help prove that their own notion is correct!

(Of course, I really don't try to mean that anyone who geeks out about a particular subject is an idiot. Well, some are. But I use the term more as someone who has a niche interest that falls outside of the norm.)

This is one reason, and a very big one, that I feel we'll never get away from the hyper-partisan politics we now experience. You still think that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and were minutes away from launching them from space satellites on the dark side of the moon? Well, without the internet, you have a hard time finding those people. Now you can find a whole community of like minded people who agree with you, and therefore, it MUST be correct. And if you thought the whole World Trade Center Catastrophe was some zany Canadian/Jewish plot -- well, that's not so tough to find either. You want to spread a nasty rumor around about someone else that you know the rest of your Idiot Village doesn't like, well it's pretty easy because noone in your village is going to refute it.

It's fine to think for yourself. But it's dangerous when it's not tempered with the force of opposite opinions.

Anyway, I don't think that the nature of the board game business has too much too worry about this yet. There are too many micro-niches within the niche. And there are plenty of publishers focusing on those niches, including niches that belong to the silent base which the geeks will routinely ignore. Or at least give off a passing kudo to before they focus on another shiny object from some report garnered at Essen.

Examples that I can come up with would be maybe Gamewright, who is always putting out new games aimed at little kids. Or Out of the Box (the Apples to Apples guys).

And one shouldn't be surprised about there not being a lot of cross-over success stories. How many boardgame throughout modern history have really been big, successful stories anyway? The fact that Settlers, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne have made any traction at all within the short time frame of the last ten years is probably pretty good.

In fact, virtually all of the new mainstream boardgame success stories have come from small publishers. Well, except for Heroscape, which I think will have a nice ride.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Minsterpool comes home

So, the results are in. Minsterpool comes in 3rd place of the GCOM Game Design Competition, scoring 12 points out of a possible 15. 1st and 2nd place went to games that were being demo'ed by the designers, so Minsterpool winds up being the highest scored game that was presented by a 2nd party.

One of the nice things is that I got a lot more feedback than I was expecting (with apparently more to come when the game actually show up back at home). Plus, numerous suggestions on making the game better. So, my hat's are off to the GCOM people!

Looks like I'll be re-writing up a new set of rules soon based on these suggestions. It appears that the major flaw in the game was the way I implemented the turn order, which is basically: the player with the highest score goes first, and then everyone takes their turn going arund the table. Since the player who goes first is at a disadvantage, this helps even the game a bit by quietly slowly down the leader. However, this really winds up screwing the player who sits directly to the left of him (the person who goes second).

So, in the next pass, I'll be doing a bidding system for turn order. You want the advantage to go last, you better pay for it!

Of second concern, is the ability to play two cards on a turn, which puts you at a severe disadvantage in most circumstances.Which in reality, isn't that many circustances at all. One of the suggested fixes for this, and it's a good one, is to have some cards do double duty. This would get rid of the whole "play two card" option, which would clean that part of the rules a lot.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007


When I get the chance, I've been play-testing a basic version of Leviathan a bit, tweaking some values and such, and putting the rules into some kind of understandable form. As a recap, this is a general overview of how things currently work, based on what I've fleshed out so far.

The object is to get as many Tales in each Port as possible. Your final score is based on the 2 Ports with the lowest Tale count.

When a player runs out of Strength, the game is over. A player gains Strtength by taking down ships (eating the sailors). But a player also loses Strength when doing this, and due to weather events.

Game Play:
The player first decides how much Strength to apply to an "At Ready" Strength. This is the amount of Strength he expects to expend during this round. All unused At Ready Strength is discarded at the end of the round. However, if the player did not assign enough At Ready Strength to cover "losses" during the round, he must cover start sucking up his Strength reserve with a penaltly of using 3 Strength for each Strength that is required to be paid.

The player may move to a new location.

The player checks out what he has discovered at this location.

If he finds a Fleet, he Battles them, using up Strength in the process, or attempt to run away.

Strength and Tales are awarded for sunk ships.

And then round finishes, all excess At Ready Strength is discarded.


Playtesting at this stage, I'm currently smoothing out the Battle system, and getting a feel for how the balance between using up Strength and awarding Tales feels.

And without the Evolution system, the game feels fairly dry. It's completely playable for sure. The game as it stands right now, is basically the player making decisions pretty much based on making decisions based on Strength/Tale conversions. And that's essentially the sole "motivator" right now.

Most motivations that move a game along are pretty simple, and they are typically all tied to "Winning the Game." Whether that means the most points, or getting rid of your cards first, or first across the finish line, or whatever, it's pretty much all tied to winning.

Usually, though, there are a lot of secondary motivations you can find in games. These things are a bit more varied, but they usually more exploratory in nature. These things are usually along the lines of finding the best strategy in order to win, but they can also be more about just trying to mess around with the game's systems and see what becomes of it if you don't follow the obvious path, like attempting to go the 100% corn producer path in Puerto Rico, or playing Princes of Florence without building ANY buildings. Or playing Tikal solely for chasing the masks and idols. A big part of the CCG allure in is this; often, it's not so much as winning the game as it is trying to get all of the cogs of some infernal machine together to come out of your deck just right.

Anyway, in my experience with PocketCiv (and really with games in general), you really need to have something more than a design that is simply "best points win." Or in the case of a solitaire game, just a running total of points. Sure, you can "beat the game," but the flexibility of the PocketCiv turned out to be much larger than I thought; there's a lot of things to explore in there.

Which leads me to Leviathan, which, in it's current form, doesn't have the same amount of flexibility. As a game design, it's pretty static, and the player has only a few real choices; these things I are Player Movement, Player Battle Decisions (which includes the At Ready/Reserve mechanic), and a player's decision to keep fighting or to run away after each sunken ship. There really isn't that much to explore.

And so, my next step is introducing the Evolution system into the mix.

Generally, the concept is this: When a player sinks a "good" ship (one that has a certain value), the player is awarded with a power-up (he Evolves). However, the fly in the ointment here is that giving the player an option of what he wants will most likely allow him to beat the game easily. PocketCiv controls this aspect by it's costing structure: more interesting or powerful technologies simply cost more, or have preresiquites before you can obtain them. Additionally, I need to have some control over the Evolution to keep the player coming back to explore new routes.

I don't really want the player to "target" a certain power-up, I would like him to discover it somehow. So if a player wants to follow a certain Evolutionary path he hasn't been down before, he can find something new.

Of course, this sort of relies on a certain amount of trust in the player in that he simply doesn't just read the entire menu before he plays the game. On my end, I sort of have to hide the power-ups as best as I can, so the player can't just happen along something cool that he isn't supposed to get.

In a nutshell, that is the design issue I'm out to solve, and here's the first pass. I think it will work out well, with the exception that I note after the description. The Evolution system requires the need for two additional grids (on one or two boards), and a book or manual for the "Captain's Log."

Ships come in two classes for the purpose of Evolving. Once a ship is sunk, the next Battle Card is turned over, and based on the Ship Type (of the defeated ship), the player can determine if the ship is "Named" (a cool ship, one worthy of songs to be sung by sailors), or "Unnamed". If a ship is Named, you are awarded a icon; there will only be 4 different icons a player can collect. Additionally, a player can only have one of a particular icon at a given time; so if a player collects a "spyglass," and he already has a spyglass, then too bad, he doesn't get an additional one.

I would've liked there to be more of a theme to "naming ships," but at this point, I'm going to attempt a simple route to keep the current, overly large component count down a bit.

Anyway, evolving is based essentially on a probability tree. A player starts a pawn on the bottom of the tree, he may spend on icon to move on a branch to the next space up on a branch, provided he has the current icon to move there. At the new space, there will be an entry number of a Captain's Log that the player will be required to read.

The Captain's Log contains two types of articles. First, a Captain's graphic description of the sea monster that attacked his ship, which will end with another pointer to entry somewhere else in the book. This entry contains the power-up rules description; the new rules that appply to the player now that he has Evolved.

Ultimately, the Captain's description is fluff, but important fluff it is! It is the link that hides the misdirection between the entry number on the Evolution Tree (which can be seen by the player) and the eventual reward of the power-up (the entry that the Captain's description points to). So while a player may glance and read about a potential rules change; he will most likely not know how to get there, short of scanning and remembering other Captain's descriptions.

So, let's break this down a little bit more, in terms of a player's choice.

The player now has fairly limited control over exactly how he will evolve. He has enough control where he can decide to wait and spend his icon (in this example, the "spyglass") on whatever the next "spyglass" Evolution will be. Now, if he has played the game enough times, and decides that he has seen the "spyglass" Evolution choice enough at the start of the game, he may wait and use it further up the tree in the hopes of exploring a new branch on the tree, and finding a new "spyglass" Evolution that he hasn't played yet.

However, this comes at a possible price, as getting another "spyglass" is essentially a useless endeavor, since you can't carry spares. "Collecting" a second "spyglass" is giving up one Evolution. So, there's a bit of fun risk/reward in this. You can collect the known Evolution now, or you can wait, and try for a different one, in the hopes of spending it on a new, unplayed Evolution later.

While conceptually, I think the basic design is strong, the hard part on my end is this: I need to somehow come up with a rather large list off power-ups to make this a useful and interesting feature. And they need to be fairly unique, especially the ones further up the tree, as these will not be seen very often. They need to have a certain "hey that's cool!" about them, so the first time a player experiences something neat 5 levels into the tree, he'll want to come back and try a different branching route in the tree to see what else is at level 5.

I'm somewhat concerned that the "base game" isn't robust enough to really pull this off. Or at least, pull it off to the point of making the player's choice meaningful with the Evolution Tree. Here are the current "systems" I can power-up:
  • Player movement
  • strength/healing
  • Battle options
  • Awarding of Tales
  • Weather effects
And so, that's the plan of the moment. We'll have to see how it all comes out.

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